"" Writer's Wanderings: Barcelona, Spain

Friday, April 22, 2011

Barcelona, Spain

A shuttle bus from the pier where the Queen Mary 2 pulled into the port dropped us off at the end of the busy center street of Barcelona, Las Ramblas. Behind us was the World Trade Center and to our right slightly ahead stood Christopher Columbus on top of his tall pedestal. Columbus was supposed to be pointing to the new world but whoever set him up there had his finger pointing south rather than west. Maybe he explored the African coast first?

This was our third visit to Barcelona so we opted out of any ship excursions. Instead we ventured out on our own again and located the nearest metro station. Bob had researched the system online so we knew where to go and finding it was simply a matter of walking up the street from where our bus dropped us.

We were very impressed with the subway. Easy to understand directions and cleaner than most. Our destination was the Familia Segrada, the famous cathedral begun by Gaudi in1882 and still under construction. The architect died in 1926 when hit by a tram. His plans for the cathedral were so detailed that work was able to be continued and goes on today. It is expected to be finished in about 20 years. Why so long? Because the detail is so infinite that the work cannot be done quickly.

You can see in some of the pictures here the elaborate designs that Gaudi created to adorn this building he began as a monument to God and a place of worship. We stood in a long line to get in and then paid for our entrance fee and audio guides. With a senior discount (sometimes getting old pays off) it cost us a total of 27 Euros.

As we entered the sanctuary the most obvious change we observed since our last visit was the absence of scaffolding and cranes. We were able to enjoy the immensity of the main area that seems to go on forever both up and down. The columns are magnificent and the stained glass windows beautiful.

My eyes began to glaze over after a while of listening to all the explanations of Gaudi’s designs and plans. What I find most interesting is below the cathedral. There is a model workroom where plaster models are still made of portions of the unfinished designs to be sure they agree with Gaudi’s drawings before they are made final in the material that will go into the building. This day there was someone working in the model room.

The other display that amazes me is the series of strings and weights that Gaudi used to calculate the correct dimensions of the arches and supports that would hold the cathedral up. The model is inverted so that the weights create the arches. Somehow from all of this he was able to determine how to construct the foundational parts of the cathedral.

After our visit, we again navigated the subway system to find our way back to Las Ramblas, the center of all the tourist activity in Barcelona. It is fun to stroll down the center park-like pedestrian area and enjoy the activity. This day there was a larger crowd than on our last visits. A lot of young people which led me to believe there was some sort of a school or university holiday.

Las Ramblas holds all sorts of shops and sidewalk cafes and characters. Souvenir shops dotted one area and then flower shops and then cafes offering tapas and sangria. We have heard a great deal about the thick rich chocolate and pastries that are available but weren’t sure we were up to all the calories and sugar—maybe next time.

We did take a picture of one of the characters that was dressed like a statue and came to life when we deposited some coins in his brass spittoon. He reminded me of Will Rogers. Others were dressed like strange mechanical birds or other types of statuesque figures.

Barcelona is one of our favorite ports of call and someday we hope to return and stay a while longer to be able to enjoy all it has to offer. But for now, it was on to Southampton.

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