Since we’ve come back from Barcelona, I have got a bit sidetracked, what with fireplaces that smoke and snow in March. But I still have a couple more posts to write, and one of them is Gaudi’s La Pedrera. I’ve already talked about the chimneys and the façade.
You may remember that La Pedrera was built between 1906 and 1912 by Pere Milà and Roser Segimon and is a six-storey apartment building of which they occupied the main floor. The building has two vestibules, both of which are big enough to allow vehicles to go down to the basement, amazing foresight when you consider the year of construction.
The Provença vestibule has a lift, a staircase going down to the basement and another going up to the first floor. It also houses the caretaker’s loggia. The ceilings and walls are decorated with paintings inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, especially the seven capital sins.
Today, the fourth floor apartment is the only one open to visitors. The home and life of a bourgois Barcelona family during the first third of the 20th century have been re-created, including all the original elements of a typical La Pedrera apartment, such as the door knobs, drawers, mouldings, doors and flooring.
Appropriate furniture, works of art, decorative elements, fabrics and household items of the time have been added to give visitors an idea of what it was like to live there.
As I mentioned in another post, Gaudi designed furniture as well, and a couple of pieces are exhibited, plus a video showing how to use them. He was into ergonomics way before his time!
The actual design of the apartment is open plan, with much larger volumes than usual. However, rooms such as the utility room and the maid’s room are surprisingly small.
The attic area, which was designed to house the water tanks and washing lines, consists of no fewer than two hundred and seventy catenary arches of different heights that hold up the roof. Today it’s used as an exhibition area for Gaudi’s life and work.
I loved Casa Batlló as soon as I saw it. All those lovely mauves and blues and pinks on the façade. I’m a romantic at heart and my favourite painters are the impressionists and art deco artists such as Mucha and the Nancy school. The inside has soft curves and beautifully coloured ceramics. This is Gaudi without being gaudy. To get a really good idea of the façade, click on the official website.
I loved the lovely wooden doors with their curved shapes and lead lights.
Top of double doors
Like Guell Palace, Casa Batlló also has a gallery overlooking the street below.
Front gallery overlooking the street
This wood stove and benches must have been a favourite sitting area.
The lovely wood stove in its alcove
The Battló’s had five children and I’m sure they all loved the appartment, particularly the cobalt-blue tiled inside stairwell which can be seen from the different rooms built around it.
Gaudi extended the inner courtyard to add more light and ventilate the rooms. It is big enough to take a lift. The azulejos tiling consists of 5 different shades that get darker as you go up the stairs to achieve a uniform colour. The darker tiles, which are closer to the roof, reflect less light, while the white tiles reflect more.
The elevated terrace at the back, with its ceramics and mosaics, is much more attractive than that of Guell Palace. I love the details up the top.
The house is no longer furnished but this wash basin looks extremely modern, doesn’t it?
Don’t you love the wavy walls?
When you keep going up the stairs, of course, you get to the roof with its wonderful chimneys that I described in a previous post.
As soon as you walk into the double vestibule designed to make it easier for carriages to go in and out, you are struck by the juxtaposition and opulence of the different materials: stone pillars, steel beams with visible rivets, wooden ceilings with intricate caissons and incrustations, massive doors with beautiful wrought iron work, coloured leadlight windows and embossed leather chairs.
A horse ramp takes you down into the basement with its stunning vaulted ceilings that once housed the stables. You walk up the stairs and find yourself in an antechamber from which you can see the central room with its parabolic dome and real organ! Gaudi had ten children, who were all very musical and he himself was a great lover of music. His daughter, Isabel, was a well-known composer and musicians often played in the palace.
Natural and artifical light penetrates the room through circular openings in the dome. While we were there, the organ suddenly burst into life, taking visitors by surprise. It was a magical experience.
On one side of the central room is the lobby in the centre of the gallery overhanging the street, with its parabolic windows.
There’s a chapel on one side that could be closed off to form an oratory or opened up for services. The walls are covered in sheet brass and the doors are decorated with slivers of bone and turtleshell.
All the furniture in the dining room with its beautiful polychrome leather backed chairs is original. The décor was designed by Camil Oliveras, who worked with Gaudi.
Upstairs are the bedrooms. Count Guell and his wife Isabel each had their own bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, most unusual for the time. Apparently they didn’t often live in the palace because Isabel didn’t like it very much. I can understand why. Even though the architecture is very avant-garde, it seems more like a showpiece than a home. I personally wouldn’t have liked to sleep in her bedroom.
There is a back terrace with a rather unattractive oriel window with louvres to protect the inside from the sun. There are several other small rooms that I haven’t mentioned, including the younger Isabel’s bedroom which is surprisingly on the main floor behind the oratory.
The other rooms are not open to the public and I described the chimneys on the roof in a previous post. Guell’s oldest daughter Mercé inherited the house but eventually turned it over to the State because she couldn’t afford the upkeep. It was declared a National Monument in 1969 and added to the World Heritage list in 1985, the first modern building to receive that distinction.
Like so many others before us, we’ve become Gaudi fans and fascinated, amongst other things, by his chimneys. All of the houses designed by Gaudi that we visited included the roof with their marvellous chimneys. Gaudi believed that all things useful should also be aesthetically pleasing. Some of the chimneys are used to evacuate smoke while other are for ventilation. They are often highly colourful, and sometimes made with salvaged materials, including broken champagne bottles!
We visited the inside of Guell Palace, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila (also known as La Pedrera) and the Guell Pavilions from the outside only. Our home exchange host, Pep, who’s a musican, tells us that they hold concerts on top of La Pedrera. It must be a truly unique experience.
Ok, just forget what I said yesterday about not being sure what I think about Gaudi’s basilica. It is the most wonderful construction I’ve ever seen. Inside it is absolutely dazzling, breathtaking, overwhelming. There are no words to describe it and no photo to do it justice. It is the most amazing well of light imaginable. The brightly colourful stained glass windows which anywhere else would be gaudy, are quite superb.
Gaudi was just only 31 when he began working on the cathedral in 1883. It evolved considerably during his lifetime, becoming more and more audacious. Sadly, he was run over by a tram at the age of 73. Some of the mock-ups and nearly all the plans were destroyed by fire during the Civil War in 1936.
Although it felt like the biggest church I’ve ever been in, it’s amongst the highest but not the longest. The longest of the five naves is 90 metres long and 45 metres wide while the transept is 60 x 30 metres. The highest point is 45 metres from the ground. In comparison, Notre Dame is 127 metres long x 48 m wide, the transept is 48 x 14 metres and the height is 35.5 metres. Beauvais in the north of France holds the world record with 48.5 m.
The pillars, which split into two halfway up to remove the need for flying buttresses, represent trees in a forest with leaves at the top but the symbolism isn’t all that obvious. The pillars themselves have a special spiral design with fluting that increases in number as it gets higher.
Although the inside is fairly complete and two of the façades – the Nativity and the Passion – are finished, there is a still a third façade, the Glory, under construction along with the central spire. Up closer, the seemingly naive statues on the Passion façade are true works of art by a controversial Catalan sculptor and painter, Josep Maria Subirachs. Those on the Nativity side are much more conventional and characteristic of Gaudi’s naturalistic style, very ornate and decoratd with scenes and images from nature.
Surprisingly, the crypt, which was built first, by another architect, is very classical. It can be seen through glass walls. We didn’t visit the towers.
In the photos, I’ve tried to convey the impression of height and light, but it seems impossible. Even when we went back inside after looking at the two façades, we no longer had the same overwhelming impression that we had when we first went in. It’s difficult to take photos of the outside because you can’t stand back far enough. It’s a pity there isn’t an esplanade around it. There are parks across the road, but traffic in-between.
On a purely practical level, given the very long queues, it’s best to buy your ticket on-line. There are lots of different websites, all of which charge a lot extra. You need to go to the official website of the Sagrada Familia which takes you to www.ticketmaster.es. Either you print out your tickets or you go to a Caixa bank with a ServiCaixa machine. You insert the bank card you used to pay on-line, then follow the instructions starting with « Collect tickets ». We went to the bank just opposite the very helpful tourist office next to Plaça Jaume but there are plenty of others.
The tickets were 14.80 euro per person without the audio guide, slightly more than you pay if you queue for an hour. In retrospect, I think we should have taken the audio guides because they included the underground exhibition. We decided not to because 1 ¾ hours seemed a long time, but in fact we spent more than 2 hours there altogether. You are given a one-hour slot during which you must enter at a special gate just next to the regular ticket office and there is absolutely no queue.
There is a queue for the toilet however but I discovered a second lot right down the far end of the underground exhibition where I could go straight in.
The trip with Easy Jet went perfectly and we even arrived early at our home exchange which gave us time to have a look around us. We’re just across the road from the former Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in the El Guinardo neighbourhood, built between 1901 and 1930 and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It ceased to be a hospital in 2009 and is undergoing restoration for use as a museum and cultural centre.
When you turn your back to Sant Pau you are looking straight at Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia cathedral. Our flat is on the 5th and last floor and a small flight of stairs leads onto a terrace where we have a spectacular view of the hospital. Unfortunately it’s a little cold to take our deck chairs up or we could have breakfast there!
In the evening, at Pep’s suggestion, we went into the Barri Gotic which is the historical quarter of Barcelona. We decided we’d walk and it took an hour and a half! We were justly rewarded though. Pep had recommended a tapas restaurant called Bilbao Berria on the corner of Plaça Nova with its beautiful Gothic cathedral. We weren’t able to visit the inside because it was just closing.
We found the restaurant and it was so good that I have a sneaky suspicion that we are going to be disappointed wherever else we go. Theoretically, they weren’t tapas, but « pintxos », which are hot or cold finger foods with a skewer through them which you choose yourself from the bar. They all cost 1.65 euros a piece and from time to time, the waiter comes around and puts the skewers in a glass. At the end, he counts them all up. So much easier than looking at a menu!
After all that walking, I stayed put and let Jean Michel choose the tapas. The variety was amazing. There were even mini hot dishes, one octopus and the other veal. My favourite had two sea scallops and 3 prawns! I have to confess we had second helpings, then I went and chose a couple of desserts! We decided to take a taxi home. They’re very reasonably priced here.
Next morning we went and had a closer look at Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral but when we saw the queues of people waiting to get in, we decided to get tickets on line and come back another day. I’m not sure yet what I think of the cathedral. It’s very impressive, like a series of enormous stelactites but I’m not sure I like the naive sculptures and gaudy colours. I did wonder whether the word comes from the artist, but apparently it doesn’t.
We then took the very modern metro to Guell Park, also decorated by Gaudi. A 10-ticket card that can also be used for the bus costs just under 10 euros, which is much cheaper than Paris. It took about 20 minutes to walk up the hill to the park from the metro station but despite the cold, the sun was out.
I really liked the park, which was never finished, like a lot of Gaudi’s work, because Count Guell eventually ran out money. When we got there, there weren’t many people but by the time we left, it was crowded. Initially though it was very still and peaceful, with musicians scattered about playing classical music and Spanish guitar. From the top there are sweeping, though a little hazy views of the city of Barcelona and the sea. So when we left the park, that is where we headed.
Bilbao Berria, Plaça Nova 3, Barcelona 93 317 01 24, Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 12 pm, Friday and Saturday, 9 am to 1 am, Sunday 9.30 am to 1 am.http://www.bilbaoberria.com/en/home
The posts on my Wednesday Bloggers’ Round-Up today are all by Australians (or people with Australian connections) and all on the subject of Barcelona. Kathy Stanford from Femmes Francophiles has suggestions for both fine dining and casual dining in Barcelona, Craig Makepeace from Y Travel Blog offers lots of insider tips on things to do while Laurence from Finding the Universe offers us spectacular photos of Gaudi’s monuments that I can’t wait to visit! So let’s go to Barcelona!
Barcelona: Gastronomic Dining
by Kathy Stanford from Femmes Francophiles, an Australian who an ongoing passion for France and the French language just back in Australia after a holiday in Europe
I visited Spain for the first time in 2001 as part of a whirlwind tour around Europe. I couldn’t understand people who raved about Spanish food. The food served to tourists on bus trips is generally lacking flavour and unexciting. All this changed last year when I stayed with Isa and Julio in Andalusia. What a revelation.
In January this year, in addition to tapas, I was fortunate to dine in the Michelin starred Cinc Sentits restaurant in Barcelona. Read more
Things to do in Barcelona
By Australian blogger Craig Makepeace from Y Travel Blog, who, with Caz, believes that life is about creating great memories and making it a story to tell, and they do that through travel.
Looking for tips on things to do in Barcelona? As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Mariana Calleja from Travel Thirst who has been in Barcelona since January 2010, fell in love with the place, and decided to stay longer. Mariana shares with us her insider tips on the best things to do inBarcelona plus where to eat, sleep, drink, shop and explore. Why Visit Barcelona? Barcelona is a very rich city in many aspects. The easiest way… Read more
by Laurence from Finding the Universe, of British origin who, with German-born Vera, are both travellers, into writing and photography, slowly exploring the world.
Gaudí. It’s kind of hard to visit Barcelona without spending your time gaping in awe at the architectural and artistic genius that he left behind all over the city.
A great deal of my week in Barcelona was therefore spent, gaping in awe, at his many truly incredible constructions. As well as gaping, I was also taking the odd photograph, which I’m sharing with you today. I wasn’t able to visit every bit of work he did, but I’d like to think that I took in the serious highlights.
In a future post I’ll be going more into the details of what to see and do in Barcelona. For now though, less detail: more eye candy.