It was a beautiful day in Barcelona. We took the Airport Bus to the Placa de Catalunya, just as few blocks from the Hotel Continental Palacete on the Ramblas. As we were trailering our luggage to the hotel, lo and behold we ran into Ginny McCaffrey. Mac’s nephew and niece were coming from Ireland to visit them for the weekend so that was the last we saw of her until we got on the ship.
The hotel is absolutely delightful, pink rooms and all. Peter from England and Vivianne from Cameroon were the best desk clerks, so helpful. We would definitely stay there again despite the sort of hard beds. But we were raring to go. First we purchased the Tot tickets for our visit to Montserrat the next day at the TI. We got round trip subway, round trip train, round trip funicular and unlimited upper level funiculars plus lunch for 40 euros a piece.
We walked up the Passeig de Gracia to see the Casa Batlló, a key feature in the architecture of modernist Barcelona. It was built by Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1906 having been commissioned by the textile industrialist Josep Batlló. The spectacular facade is an iconic landmark in the city. The house, now a museum, is a true masterpiece which seduces visitors by its exceptional design, its refined succession of artistic details, and its creative use of materials and color.
We continued on passing the Casa Mila, another Gaudi creation, built during the years 1905–1910, being considered officially completed in 1912. It was a controversial design at the time for the bold forms of the undulating stone facade and wrought iron decoration of the balconies and windows, designed largely by Joseep Maria Jujol, who also created some of the plaster ceilings. Architecturally it is considered an innovative work for its steel structure and curtain walls – the façade is self-supporting. Other innovative elements were the construction of underground car parking and separate lifts and stairs for the owners and their servants.
But we didn’t have time for a tour because of our 3 PM tour at Sagrada Familia. In 1882 the foundation stone of a project conceived by Francisco de Paula del Villar, the first architect of the church, was laid. A year and a half later, Antoni Gaudi took over the work and turned the initial project around to create, over forty-three years, and outstanding, innovatory church which is still being built today according to his models. Now that the naves have been closed, the church consists of 4500 square meters where 8000 people can worship. The construction is well past the half way stage and is ready to raise the four towers dedicated to the evangelists, the tower dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the highest, erected at the center of the crossing, which will recall the figure of Jesus, and the four bell towers on the Glory façade. On November 7, 2010 the church of La Sagrada Familia was solemnly dedicated and declared a basilica by the Holy Father Benedict XVI and became a holy place open for worship.
The Passion façade represents the passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus. At the opposite end of the church, the Nativity façade expresses the joy of all creation at the birth of Jesus and recounts the main events in the lives of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The third and main façade is the Glory Façade. Construction of this façade - the most monumental of the three - started in 2002 and is still ongoing. This façade, on the south side of the church, will picture life and death. When finished, the Sagrada Família will have a total of 18 towers. Four towers on each of the three façades represent the twelve apostles. The towers reach a height of 394ft. Another four towers represent the four evangelists. They will surround the largest, 558ft tall tower, dedicated to Jesus Christ. The last tower, dedicated to Virgin Mary, will be built over the apse.
We bought a ten-ride subway pass which we shared and rode the easy-to-use Metro to the Placa d’Espanya, dining unfashionably early at Monja. Specializing in high quality Iberian products, Monja is a small dining space that has a corner dedicated to selling its products. The menu offers excellent tapas and small plates that can be paired with the different wines of its extensive wine list. It was yummy!
From there it was a short walk to the Font Magica de Montjuic or the Magic Fountain. This is a spectacular fountain which is very popular because of its water arrangements, sound and lighting. 2,600 litres of water are pumped through this great fountain per second in three concentric pools which have a water recirculation system. It was built for the 1929 World Fair by Carles Buïgas on the site where The Four Columns by Josep Puig i Cadafalch had stood before being demolished in 1928. Using extremely artisanal methods, up to thirty water arrangements could be used with different colors. In the 1980s music was added, and shortly before the 1992 Olympic Games it was completely renovated; despite this, the fountain still has a large part of the original mechanisms. We were so close to it that occasionally we got wet.