On this second visit to Barcelona in the last two years, Jay and Tanya had to make some readjustments in our perception of the place. We try not to be influenced by popular opinion before visiting places, whether that opinion is negative, or as in the case with Barcelona, overwhelmingly positive. We take the approach that, “Hey, if everyone says Barcelona is so great, there must be something wrong. There must be some sort of faddish mass delusion going on here. It can’t be that good”.
So, we started with a re-visit to the never-to-be-completed Sagrada Famiglia, Gaudi’s enduring contribution to the Barcelona skyline and a sustainable source of construction employment for Barcelona’s workers. The completion date for this monstrosity, excuse us, work of art, is now set for 2026, but our money is on the timeline being extended. In our previous, and most controversial, blog posting on Sagrada Familia we noted that it looked more like the result of a bad acid dream, where roofs, walls and decoration kind of melt into each other. Most people marvel at its creativity, whereas we tend to think this was Gaudi’s big joke on the city. Okay, okay, we think we can all agree that whatever it is, it is amazing. Our critical opinion of the project didn’t really change on this visit.
We thought, “Maybe we just haven’t given Gaudi a chance. Let’s see some more of his work.” So, our next stop was Gaudi’s Park Güell, an unsuccessful residential real estate project envisioned by Eusebio Güell in 1900 as an estate for well-off Barcelona families. While the project was a terrific vehicle for Gaudi to show off his creativity, it was an economic disaster that was eventually acquired by the Barcelona City Council and opened as a park, a use that has proven to be much more successful than the residential project ever was. True to form were all of Gaudi’s trademark swirls, curves and overall whimsy. You’ve got to hand it to the guy, he was a terrific self-promoter who convinced folks with dough to pay for his ideas. In the end, we came away with an appreciation of this particular skill of his.
After looking at another Gaudi-designed apartment building, from the outside, eschewing the hordes of tourists waiting patiently in line to buy a ticket to go inside, we had just about reached the point of view that without the nice weather and Gaudi, Barcelona would be just another pretty former industrial town along the Spanish (Catalonian) coast.
Then, we noticed street signs directing visitors to the “Arc de Triomphe”. What? Did Catalonia have some war-time victory we’d never heard of? And where did the troops march from and to? After careful investigation, we came upon an absolutely beautiful arch set among gardens, artificial lakes, fountains and a large pedestrian walkway. Apparently this whole set up was built for one of the two world expositions Barcelona hosted in the late 19th century to promote the city. The arch was purely ornamental but what a terrific place to stroll and enjoy the afternoon.
Later, we drove up one of the hills overlooking the city to see the Olympic Stadium, Olympic swimming venue and the palace of performing arts.
Of course, one of the highlights of any Barcelona visit is the fabulous cuisine. We stopped at our favorite tapas place along La Rambla, but for others there is always the ever-popular, “El Glop” near a full-service business supply store.
OK, the end result of this visit is that, even including Gaudi, we really enjoy Barcelona and look forward to the next time we can enjoy an extended visit.