A Weekend of Barcelona Tourism: Part I

This weekend may have been my busiest yet in Barcelona.  I had Friday off from work – well, everyone did – it was All Saints Day. I decided to take my long weekend to do some long overdue Barcelona sightseeing.

It started Thursday night with a trip to Temple Roma d’August, a 1st Century Roman temple, all of which remains are four columns. They were awfully well preserved.  A building had been built around them, and in one green painted room, you see these columns and a small plaque detailing their known history.

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The next step on the journey was Palau Reial. I only walked through the courtyard. The inside had been converted into a museum, and I wasn’t up for that Thursday evening. I moved on to Plaça del Rei, not remembering if I had been there before. It isa small plaza, bounded on three of the four sides by the same building.  The building held another museum.  I again skipped the museum, deciding I would come back to it Sunday when entry was free.  The next stop was yet another museum – this one I decided to check out. It was La Cultura Oficial de la Barcelona Franquista, part of L’Arxiu Historic de la Ciutat (Historic Archives of the City), all housed in La Casa Ardiaca (House of the Arch Deacon), a cool building with a very old, very tall palm tree in the center courtyard, and a fantastic view of one of the bell towers on La Catedral.  The museum was cool, although there were no English or Spanish descriptions of anything – only Catalan, which still baffles me as a language.

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The next stop was something I stumbled upon,  Palau de Lloctinent (Palace of the Viceroy).  In the main courtyard, every wall was covered in grape vines. Apparently they began from a clipping planted in 1857. Cool things. Inside the Palau, there was a small exhibit on the start of the Columbus voyage. They had, on display, the Capitulaciones de Santa Fe, the letter from the king and queen permitting Columbus to make his voyage. The letter and other artifacts were part of the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon.

And that was Thursday. I’d say pretty productive sightseeing for an after-work sort of deal.

Moving on, Friday was jam-packed with touristic adventure. It started at the Palau de Musica Catalana.  I bought my ticket for a 1:00 tour, which meant I still had an hour and fifteen minutes to do something else. I walked down to the El Born section of the city and made my way down a popular street with lots of little crafty shops, called Carrer Montcada. I walked back up to the Palau for my tour. What a beautiful building it was!  Everything this pinky color and flowers designed into everything. The most beautiful part was a stained glass windowing in the ceiling of the main hall, shaped as a drop of water about to fall. They even played a bit of organ music for us all to hear.

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Next was a return trip to El Born to see if la Eglesia de Santa Maria del Mar was open for a visit. It was not. So I walked down Passeig del Born to El Born CC. The CC stands for Centre Cultural. I have no idea what this place is.  But it did have an interesting archaeological site under the floors.  The next destination: Montjuïc.

Montjuïc is like someone decided to put an ancient version of Central Park on top of a huge hill. It’s pretty nifty. I took a local bus up to Castell de Montjuïc and walked around. The castle was used as a watchtower over the city in past, more oppressive times. The castle was interesting, and so was my walk back down the hill.

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I got very turned around – some might say lost – and ended up no longer in Montjuïc, but instead, in Poble Sec, another section of Barcelona.  I walked along Poble Sec until I reached a metro station. I took the metro back to Plaça Espanya, where the Montjuïc experience began.  It was now 6:50pm, and I had ten minutes to walk up to the Magic Fountain (See older posts). The fountain puts on a show every fifteen minutes, that night starting at 7:00pm, in which the water is augmented with lights and colors and then set to music. It was very cool looking, although I got extremely wet from the fountain – I was standing downwind.

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With that, Saturday began.  Saturday was another awesomely busy day.  It started with a return trip to La Ribera and El Born.  The church was open for visitors on Saturday, so I went to see it. (Eglesia de Santa Maria del Mar.)  It was beautiful.  The stained glass windows allowed a colored, patterned light to seep in to what was otherwise a fairly dark building.

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Next, was the Parc de la Ciutadella, a huge park, created after the destruction of the much disliked Ciutadella. The Parlament de Catalunya is situated in the park, and sometimes on weekends it is open for visits.  I tried to visit, but it was closed.  The outside of the building was beautiful though.  Also in the park there is a fountain, in the form of a waterfall, called Cascada.  It was co-designed by Gaudi.  And, wow.  The water started at the top, under an arch topped with golden horses.  It then cascaded down rocks covered in bright green plant life.  The water moved down to a middle level, where is speed out into a pool dotted with small fountains.  It then went over another small layer of rock into the lower pool, also dotted with fountains.  I couldn’t stop watching it.  After the park, I went to get a coffee, as I had yet to eat breakfast.

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From there, I took a bus to Pedralbes, another part of Barcelona.  In Pedralbes, I went to visit a monastery, Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes, a quiet, beautiful monastery far from the busy city center.  The whole courtyard of the cloister was covered with a medicinal herb garden, and pathways lined with orange trees.  There was a room with dioramas depicting scenes from bible verses, as well as the monastery in its prime.  They were really quite interesting, and extremely detailed.  The monastery was wonderful, and after I’d carefully examined every room, I left.

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I walked down a main road hoping to come upon a bus station, as I had no idea really where I was.  I checked my guidebook, and it told me that just a little way down the road is Finca Guell, another building commissioned to Gaudi by Eusebi Guell.  I could not go inside, but the outside was very cool.  It was two main buildings connected to one another by an iron gate embellished with a dragon of the same material.  It would have been awesome to go inside, but I continued on.

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I walked down to Palau de Pedralbes, an interesting building housed in a beautiful park.  The palace usually hosts the Ceramic Museum, but it was closed, as the museum was moving.  I walked around the park a little bit, and then got on the metro for a trip back up to Plaça Catalunya.  I found the Eglesia de Santa Ana, a small church in a plaçeta, just between Plaça Catalunya and La Catedral.  The church was very beautiful, but the man at the entry desk kept handing me cards of different saints with prayers on the back.  I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that.  I accepted them and said thank you.  What else was I supposed to do?  I left the church and went to Palau de la Virreina, a building on la Rambla that I had walked passed a thousand times and never thought about.  It was an interesting building, you couldn’t really go inside, but the main floor was comprised of archways leading out to the street in all directions.  Moving on, I walked to Plaça de la Vila de Madrid, a large plaza distanced just enough from the main road.  In this plaza there is an excavation sight, which has unearthed a selection of gravestones from the Roman period.  It is called Via Sepulcre Romana.  It was pretty cool, they had pathways and bridges to walk all around the sight.

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I took another metro ride, this time getting off at the Paral.lel metro station.  (Yes, that is how it is spelled, with the period between the two letters.)  I walked less than 100 meters to the oldest church in Barcelona, Eglesia de Sant Pau del Camp.  It was a simple church, with a small cloister connecting the entryway with the main church part.  The inside was simple, and dark, but it had a certain beauty to it.  You could hear a group of men singing from behind a door marked no entry.  The sounds, coupled with the ancient history made for a very beautiful experience.

Leaving the church, I checked the time – 7:30.  I still had time to maybe do one more thing, before calling it a night on the tourism.  I took the metro up to Passeig de Gracia, this time, not aimed at going home, but at Casa Batlló, the famous dragon-roofed Gaudi apartment.  I bought my ticket and went inside.  As first I thought maybe it was not a good idea to go at night, the light won’t be right in the very windowed building.  I was wrong.  The building was beautiful.  The main stairwell spiraled upward with what looked like an animal spine supporting it.  Once up the stairs, I came upon a mushroom-shaped fire place, and doors carved to fit funky-shaped spaces.  Even the ceilings were incredible.  There was one that spiraled like a shall shell to a central point, where the light fixture hung.  Moving on, the tour took me up a stairwell in a blue-tiled shaft to the roof.  From the back side of the roof, you could see the chimneys so characteristic of Gaudi.  You could also see the dragon façade from behind, a very interesting perspective.  I stood up on the roof for nearly 45 minutes, admiring everything.  That was it for the day, I think I saw a lot of the city.

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I will leave Sunday, Monday and Tuesday until the next post, as this one is getting very long.

You will be hearing from me soon!

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