Barcelona, Spain – May, 2017

Barcelona, the capital of the Catalan region of Spain, is a beautiful city.  In 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona but it was only for 4 days.  This visit was for two glorious weeks!  This city has so much to offer – beaches along the ocean, nearby mountains, history dating back to the Roman empire, modern art and architecture.  Barcelona has it all!

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In the foreground of this photo is the old section of Barcelona.  The green row of trees is the famous pedestrian street La Rambla.   About halfway up on the right, is the open square of Plaza Reial.  Behind the plaza, the cathedral with the two towers and dome, is the Barcelona Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia.

 

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Looking out to the ocean.

I will start by walking down La Rambla, which is the famous pedestrian mall.  It is visited by tourist and locals.  Plaza Catalunya is the beginning of the walkway.  IMG_6028

This plaza is located in the center of Barcelona and connects the ancient city with the 19th century neighborhood of L’Eixample.  In the back area, are large twin fountains, surrounded by flower.  IMG_6229

There are plenty of pigeons.  David loves feeding any kind of bird.  There was a vendor selling bird food and of course, David bought some to feed the multitude of pigeons.  We both had a turn and when it was time to leave, David still had some bird food left.  He saw this cute little boy running among the pigeons. David offered the bird food to the parents hoping the little boy could feed the birds.  He did and did he have fun!

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I had to share the photo below because I thought it was cute.  It is a little blurry because I was rushing by when I clicked it.  It kind of reminded me of the time David and I drove through the state of Wisconsin during deer hunting season.  We were traveling along the interstate in farm country.  There was an old truck parked off an access road that ran parallel to the interstate.  It was obvious to us that it was a hunter’s vehicle and he was off hunting for deer.  Well, there were about six deer around his truck….we both had a good chuckle over it.  IMG_6232

In this photo, the large bag, the bird is eating from, is bird food.  The vendor had just received a delivery of it and was getting ready to divide into one and two euro bags to sell.  I thought this bird was quite smart to go directly to the source.

Walking from the fountains to the end of the plaza, will bring you to the beginning of the famous pedestrian walkway, La Rambla.  La Rambla divides the ancient neighborhoods of El Raval and Barri Gotic.

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La Rambla is always very busy!

There are a variety of vendors….flowers, gelato and souvenirs.

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For the hungry or thirsty, there are plenty of restaurants.

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Artist ready to capture your image.

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A variety of human statues that move for a tip!

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At the very end of La Rambla are the horse and buggies waiting to give you a ride through the streets of old Barcelona.

To the east of La Rambla is the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarters) neighborhood.  These streets date back to when the Roman’s had control over this land.  This is just one of the many, many narrow streets in the old part of Barcelona.Narrow Street of Barri Gotic

There are some ancient ruins from the Roman times and part of the Roman wall is still visible near the Barcelona Cathedral.

The Barcelona Cathedral

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This is the Barcelona Cathedral.  Part of the Roman Wall, built in the 3rd and 4th century, is in the front right side of this photo. The cathedral was built between 1298 and 1460.

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As with most cathedrals of that era, the ceiling is lofty and there is the central nave with an isle on either side.

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The apse.

It was beautiful inside but honestly, my favorite part of the cathedral was the cloister. This ambulatory went around the open cloister area that had fountains and a flock of 13 geese!IMG_2884

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There are 13 geese that reside in the cloister and they  have been there since medieval times.  They represent the age of St Eulalia who was tortured for not denying Christ and standing firm in her faith.  She was martyred in 304.  The geese are certainly noisy!

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Inside the cloister with the statue of St George slaying the dragon. St George is the patron saint for England and Catalonia (the region of Spain that Barcelona is located in).  He died a torturous death in 303 because he refused to deny his faith in Christ and worship the Roman gods.

Plaça Reial

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Not far from the cathedral and off La Rambla, is one of the nicest squares in Barcelona.  The center of the square has a fountain and on the perimeter are several cafes.  It is a nice place to “escape” from the crowds of La Rambla.  It is very busy on a sunny day, though, as people gather at the cafes for tapas (appetizers) and beverages.   Tapas are a Spanish tradition.  People will meet at the end of the day to have a few appetizers and socialize before heading home for their typically, late dinner that is served between 9:00 and 10:30.  There are several squares throughout these ancient neighborhoods where you can find a bench or a cafe to relax.  I think Plaça Reial is one of the nicest, though.

Mercat de la Boqueria

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It seems like this market has been in existence from the beginning of time.  In 1217,  a representative of the king, gave a piece of land to a citizen so that he could sell his goat meat (boc in Catalan) which explains why it is called Boqueria today.  The first stone for the market was laid in 1840 in the old St Joseph convent.  It was the beginning of the market that is existing today.  Beneath the cornerstone, an ounce of gold and some gold coins were placed to symbolize the wealth that the market would generate.

It was in 1914 that the open-air market was covered with a metal roof that is still there today.  It is the largest market in Spain covering 13,631 square meters (146,723 square ft) and is definitely a major tourist destination.  The vegetable and fruits are displayed in colorful and artistic ways.  There is something for everyone….even a few eateries where you know the food is just about as fresh as it can be.  IMG_6024IMG_6017IMG_6021IMG_6020

We ate at El Quim’s in the market.  It was recommended by my “foodie friend” Joan and we are glad that we listened to her suggestions.  El Quim’s has been in the market since 1987 and was just a small 3 meter (9.8 ft) counter with 5 stools.  In October, 2000 an opportunity to move to a larger area became available and the counter is now 16 meters long (52.5 ft) and has 18 stools.  Everything is fresh from the market. IMG_6015

David and I enjoyed glasses of Sangria wine and Cava – a sparkling wine that is popular in Barcelona, along with a plate of mussels that were so fresh and sweet.  Just delicious!IMG_6027

We were so lucky to get a seat!  There was a waiting line and they only serve from 7:00 AM – 4 PM.  I think we were the last ones to be served!

Picasso Museum

In the neighborhood of La Ribera (The Seashore), (still in the ancient part of Barcelona) is the most amazing museum of Pablo Picasso’s work.  IMG_6224

I am not a huge fan of Picasso’s modern work but after visiting this museum, I appreciate what a talented artist he was.  His paintings at 13 years old are incredible!  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the museum.  I took a couple of the building the museum is housed in because it was very beautiful as well.  The museum is located in five adjoining medieval palaces.  IMG_6223 (1)IMG_6225 (1)

Picasso spent a considerable amount of time in Barcelona and although he had a very nomadic life, Barcelona might be the place that he most considered home.  There is a whole wing that is dedicated to the study of Diego Velazquez’s painting, Las Meninas, that Picasso painted.  He painted this series of 45 paintings in 1957 and donated all the paintings in 1968 in memory of his dear friend, Jaime Sabartes who had died earlier that year. These paintings were more abstract than I really like but having the recorded guide helped me appreciate and understand Picasso’s interpretation better.

There were a few pictures that Picasso painted of the doves on his balcony in Cannes, France.  I really liked these and the simplicity of them….these paintings were created when Picasso took a break from Las Meninas paintings and stayed a few days in Cannes.

I am really glad that I visited the museum.  If you plan to go, I encourage you to buy your tickets well in advance to avoid spending time in a long, long line.  Also, even though the museum is free on the first Sunday of the month and every Sunday from 3 PM – 7 PM, you still need a ticket.  Go on their website and get one….it will save you soooooo much time!

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A five minute walk from the Picasso Museum is the Church of Saint Mary of the Sea.  Gosh, how I love this church.  Yes, it is so similar to many other churches, cathedrals throughout Europe but what I love the most about it is the tribute that is made to the people whose blood, sweat and toil built it.  Throughout the church, are pieces of art honoring these artisans and their hard work.  This plaque is on the front door commemorating the work of the laborers…..

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A porter (bastaixos) carrying a granite stone.

There has been a church on this spot since the beginning of Christianity.  It was built to support the small seaside Christian community in 303 AD and was called Santa Maria de Les Arenas (St Mary of the Sea Sands).

As the city grew, the area we know today as La Ribera (the Seashore) but back then was called Vilanova del Mar, was well-known for ship-building, imports-exports business and workshops of artisans and craftsmen. Montcada Street was where wealthy merchants and minor nobility chose to build their homes. (Picasso’s museum is located on Montcada Street and as I said earlier, is housed in several medieval palaces.)

It was decided that this area needed a more impressive church and efforts were made to construct one in 1329.  To make it happen, the Church gave its blessings, merchants donated money, King Pere III allowed the use of the quarry for the stones.  It was the fishermen, people of the working class who donated their boats to transport the massive stones from the quarry and “bastaixos” (porters) who unloaded the ship of these massive granite stones.  The basilica was consecrated on August 15, 1384.

Throughout the years, this remarkable church has suffered damage due to social and political strife experienced in the Catalan region.  The worse damage occurred on July 19, 1936, during the Spanish civil war, when fire was set to the church and burned for 11 days straight.  The fire destroyed the original baroque alter and historical archives.  The walls, upper level and stain glass windows escaped.  Over the years, restoration has taken place to pay tribute to the beauty of the Gothic style. IMG_5925

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This alter replaced the baroque alter that was destroyed in the 1936 fire.  The sculpture of the Virgin Mary was originally above one of the doors of the church.  I love the sculpture of the ship at the Virgin’s feet.  It honors the roots of the neighborhood from the time the church was built.

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A side view of the alter….

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Behind the alter – notice the cross hanging towards the top of the ceiling.

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The stain glass windows at the back of the church.

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This is the most recent stain glass window in the church.  It is to celebrate the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona.

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This window is a tribute to the local workers.  In the bottom right, is a porter carrying a stone on his back.

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Close up of the porter with the stone in the stain glass window.

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This plaque was on the wall.  Yet, another tribute to the porters for their contribution to the building of this lovely basilica!

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On the inside perimeter of the church were 34 chapels.  Each had statues and windows representing various stages of Christ’s life or honoring a saint.

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This is the statue of “Our Lady of Montserrat.”  The original “Our Lady of Montserrat” is found in the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery which is located in the Montserrat mountains. (I will write more about the monastery in a separate blog.)  Black Madonnas were created in Poland during the medieval period.  In 1844, Pope Leo XIII declared the Virgin of Montserrat the patroness of Catalonia.

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This statue is of St Ignatius of Loyola – the patron saint of soldiers.  He spent time in Barcelona and sat on the steps of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar begging.

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This eternal flame is over the Mulberry Cemetery where Catalan resistance fighters were buried.  This was in 1714, in the War of the Spanish Succession, where the siege of Barcelona ended in defeat.

Parc de la Ciutadella

Also found in the Ribera neighborhood is the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella.  David and I spent an afternoon exploring it.  It is a nice place to stroll and take an afternoon off from sightseeing.  The entrance to the park is the Arc de Triomf (Arch of Triumph) that was built for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.  Entering through the arch you walk along the wide promenade which leads to the park.

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The Arc de Triomf from 1888.

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The view of the promenade

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Looking down the promenade looking toward the park.

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This is the Cascada (Waterfall) Fountain.  One of the features of the park.

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A close-up of the flowing waterfall topped off by Venus rising out of the open clam shell.

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Near the Cascada is this little pond for boating.

Along one side of the park are three impressive buildings that are of the Modernism movement.

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This is the Castell Dels Tres Dragons building that was originally built for the 1888 World’s Fair and was used as a cafe-restaurant.  Today, it is the zoological museum.

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This is the Hivernacle (Greenhouse) that was built in 1883-1887.  Today, it is used for social events.

Beyond the Greenhouse is the Umbracle (Shade House).

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This building wasn’t open but peaking in through the slats, I saw it was full of lush plants. Notice the roof is made out of wooden slats.

All three of these buildings are wonderful examples of the modernism style which Barcelona is well-known for.

Barcelona Waterfront

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Barcelona is located on the ocean.  David and I never made it to the beaches but we walked along the water and took a short boat ride to see the city in a different perspective.

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Walkway along the waterfront.

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The marina with a view of Montjuic Park in the background.  You can access the park by a cable car near the marina.

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Some of the beautiful private yachts moored at the marina.

This is a floating sculpture by Robert Llimos.  It is inspired by the poem “El Saltamarti” (Tumbler ) by Joan Brossa.  Here is the poem….I love Llimos art created from his interpretation of Brossa’s poem.

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A doll that has a weight in its base and that, 

tipped from its vertical position, 

rights itself again.

 

Our boat ride was a quick 45 minute spin around the harbor.   It was a beautiful, sunny day and gave us views of the beaches and a cruise ship that was in port.

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Heading away from Barcelona

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Passing the marina

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Cruise ship in port.

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Barcelona beach

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Coming into port, the statue on the column is of Christopher Columbus.  It was built in 1888 for the Universal Exposition.  The brown building in the left of the photo is the Maritime Museum.  We didn’t go to this museum but the photos I have seen of the inside, make me want to go to it my next visit to Barcelona.

If you are reading this blog because you are searching for a place to visit for a trip, I highly recommend Barcelona….there is something for everyone in this beautiful city!!

I wish you blessings…….

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