A Weekend of Barcelona Tourism: Part II

Sunday was a busy tourism day, although I took it much slower than Friday and Saturday: the blisters on my feet forced me to.
I started by trying to see Casa Amatller, a building that is quite beautiful from the outside, but overshadowed greatly by Gaudi’s Casa Batllò right next door. The building was not open to visits, it was not open at all – typical of a Sunday in Barcelona.
The next stop was one that was long overdue: a trip to the Ajuntament de Barcelona: City Hall. I spent so much time during my first days in Barcelona in and around Plaça de Sant Jaume, the site of the Ajuntament and the Palau de la Generalitat.  It amazes me that I never took the time to go inside. The Ajuntament was very cool. And by cool, I mean interesting and gorgeous.  The ground floor was one of those open spaces with arches extending in all directions so typical of Barcelona gothic architecture. The ground floor was decorated by statues by famous artists, the most well known of which was probably the Miro. The second floor far surpassed the beauty of any other government building I’d ever been in. The first room I entered has red and yellow striped tapestries hanging from every wall – an obvious display of Catalan pride. The next room had a ceiling painted with the virtues respected in government and seats for the press at beautiful wooden desks. The following room was my favorite. It contained no ornate furniture or patriotic tapestries, but instead had every wall covered in expressive brown and white murals. No wall was left untouched – including the ceiling. Descending the stairs back from the second floor to the ground level, I passed another beautiful mural, this time bursting with color. The stairs brought me down to the ground floor near a spectacular stained glass window. I admired the window and the sculpture it framed, and made my way to my next destination.  After the Ajuntament, I stopped for a quick breakfast, a cafe con leche and a bocadito (small sandwich).
Moving on from breakfast, energized and ready to go, I walked to the Gran Teatre del Liceu. It was closed for tours, and I’m not sure I will be able to see it again, as it is only open from 11:30 to 1:00 each day. I tried going back to Casa Amatller just to check if it was open. It was not. So I was on my way to La Pedrera, officially known as Casa Mila, one of the famous Gaudi apartments on Passeig de Gracia. La Pedrera was very cool. The tour started by taking you up to the roof. The roof was very typical of Gaudi, with the chimneys being a definite focal point. My favorite of the chimneys was a set of three crowned with a mosaic of broken green glass from champagne bottles. The next stop was the attic level. The famous catenary arch stood out here. The attic level housed descriptions and histories of all of Gaudi’s main works, and was very interesting. The next floor down was the main living floor. The facts given by the audio guide about this section were interesting, but I think the area lacked the quirkiness of other Gaudi buildings that makes them so interesting.
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Leaving La Pedrera, I decided to go to a small church in Plaça de Sant Just, Eglesia de Sants Just i Pastor. The church was closed, but I hung around the outside for a bit.  The church is not famous for its location or beauty, but for being the place the Gaudi got arrested for speaking Catalan, instead of Spanish to a police officer.
The next stop was the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona.  Many museums have free entry for limited hours on Sundays, and I was determined to take advantage of that.  The museum was interesting.  It was housed mostly in Casa Padellas.  It spanned an archaeological dig site, with ruins dating back to the Ancient Roman settlement, Barcina.  The museum was predominantly a series of pathways leading over and around the ruins.  The museum ended in the Capella de Santa Agata – Palau Reial Major.
I walked down to La Ribera/El Born one more time to take further advantage of the free museum times. When I got down there, I saw the line for the Picasso museum that extended far beyond what I imagined it would.  So instead of waiting in line, I went to grab some lunch.  Lunch was great, I went to a nearby restaurant for pintxos – small, bite-size tapas, characteristic of the Basque region, that has recently gained incredible popularity in Barcelona.  You just go up to the bar and grab a plate, as you move along, you select which pintxos you want and put them on your plate and grab a seat.  Getting the food is up to you, but waiters and waitress circle to handle the drink orders.  When you eat the pintxos, you save your toothpicks.  When it is time to pay, your waiter counts the toothpicks and charges you based on how many you have.  It was a lot of fun, and very delicious.
After lunch, I got in line for the museum.  It was very long.  But I waited.  I had heard good things about the museum, and wanted to check it out.  The wait was worth it.  I am not sure I saw the whole museum; for the life of me, I could not figure out the floor plan, and mindlessly wandered from room to room.  If any of you ever go, I highly recommend paying for the audio guide – something I did not do.  My favorite exhibit was by far the one on Picasso’s interpretation of the famous Velasquez piece, Las Meninas.  I have studied the Velasquez version so many times in my Spanish classes, the image is all but burned into my brain.  But seeing Picasso’s take on it was very interesting.  (The first image is the Velasquez, and the second is one (of 58) of Picasso’s interpretations – photos courtesy of wikipedia.)
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That was the end of Sunday.
Monday and Tuesday were regular work days, but in the spirit of my weekend, I went to see a few sights after work. Monday I went back to El Raval and walked down a street populated with second hand shops. They were all very cool looking, and I will definitely have to go back. But the shops were not my destination, just part of the journey. I was on my way to the Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu, Barcelona’s old central hospital that has since been converted into the Library of Catalunya and a central courtyard garden. I had only walked by the building at night, when I must say, it looked very creepy.  But during the day it was very pretty. I walked around, but did not go in the library, as when I peeked in the the doorway, it did not look like a place highly accepting of tourists. And that was all for the day. I was very tired from my long weekend, so I went back to my apartment to rest.
Then there was Tuesday. Tuesday was another long day at my internship, the computer was not being very cooperative. But after work, headache and all, I went over to la Sagrada Familia. I have been here for more than a month and a half and I had yet to go inside the unfinished church! How?!  But I made my journey through the metro and waited in line for my ticket. If any of you ever go to la Sagrada Familia, let me highly recommend paying the extra few euro to go up into the towers. I walked around the church, taking in everything I possibly could. Seeing la Sagrada Familia again, after so many years, was like visiting an old friend after a long time apart. The church had grown, it had become more beautiful, but it still had an old friendly charm to it. I checked a construction timeline, and the vaults that make the building an enclosed structure were only finished in 2008, already after I’d last visited. Seeing to progress was amazing. So was just watching the church being built while touring the inside.  After seeing most of the sights on the ground level, I walked over to the elevator up to the towers. Wow. There really are no other words sometimes. I stepped out of the elevator and looked out – I was at eye level with the carvings that adorned the top of the “nacimiento” façade. I walked around the spiral staircase that filled the tower. Each time I passed a window, I peered out to see which part of the church I had a view of this time. For part of the trek down the stairs, I had a view of the construction that was happening. That was pretty interesting, as the concept of building something like the Sagrada Familia is so beyond my grasp.  I will put a variety of pictures in this post because, honestly, who doesn’t want to see la Sagrada Familia?
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