Barcelona: La Pedrera, Cripta de la Colònia Güell, Sagrada Família, and Parc Güell

One of our goals for our trip to Barcelona was to explore the art and architecture of Antoni Gaudí.

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born June 25, 1852 in Reus, in the Catalonian region of Spain.  Gaudi is renowned as the leader of Catalan Modernism.  A true free-thinker, Gaudi’s original and innovative style of art and architecture is concentrated in Barcelona, including his masterpiece, the Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (Sagrada Familia), which is still under construction today.  Gaudi’s passions of religion and nature are reflected in all his works.

With limited time in Barcelona we made use of a tour company to have the service of a English-speaking tour guide and an air-conditioned bus to quickly reach several Gaudí locations.

Our first stop was Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera (the Quarry) located on Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona.  Built between 1906 and 1912, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1984.  La Pedrera is a famous example of the Modernista or Catalan Art Nouveau style and one of Gaudí’s most ambitious works. The facade is curving white limestone looking like undulating waves of the ocean with wrought iron balconies invoking an image of the spray at the tips of waves.  Gaudí designed the building as well as innovative furniture, fixtures, and textiles.

Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera. (Wikimedia Commons)
Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera.
(Wikimedia Commons)
Adam, Liz, and Tracy on the roof of Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera
Adam, Liz, and Tracy on the roof of Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next example of Gaudí’s work involved a half-hour drive from Barcelona to Colònia Güell in the town of Santa Coloma de Cervelló, another UNESCO World Heritage site.  Colònia Güell was originally built in 1890 as a self-contained textile mill and “company town” complete with homes, schools, and stores. Gaudí was commissioned to build the town’s church.  By 1914, the lower nave of the church had been completed, but the Güell family facing business set-backs were forced to stop funding the construction before the church’s completion. The church, now known as Cripta de la Colònia Güell (Church of Colònia Güell), included many of Gaudí’s architectural innovations being used for the first time. The Church is designed with catenary arches, the outer walls and vaults in the shape of hyperbolic parabolas, decorative broken mosaic tiling called “trencadís”, and the use of re-purposed, recycled, and local natural materials. The bell tower was added later by the towns people who still use the church today.

The Church of Colònia Güell (Catalan: Cripta de la Colònia Güell) is an unfinished work by Antoni Gaudí.
The Church of Colònia Güell (Catalan: Cripta de la Colònia Güell) is an unfinished work by Antoni Gaudí.
The Church of Colònia Güell (Catalan: Cripta de la Colònia Güell) is an unfinished work by Antoni Gaudí.
The Church of Colònia Güell (Catalan: Cripta de la Colònia Güell) is an unfinished work by Antoni Gaudí.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next exploration is considered to be the crowning glory of Gaudí’s achievements, the Basílica y Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (the Basilica of the Holy Family) or more commonly known simply as Sagrada Familia. The Basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated Sagrada Familia and proclaimed it a minor basilica.

Sagrada Familia.  View of the Passion Façade (Western side) in September 2009 (cranes digitally removed) (Wikimedia Commons)
Sagrada Familia. View of the Passion Façade (Western side) in September 2009
(cranes digitally removed)
(Wikimedia Commons)
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Tracy, Liz, and Adam in front of Sagrada Familia
Tracy, Liz, and Adam in front of Sagrada Familia

Although the construction of Sagrada Família had already started in 1882, Gaudí took over leadership of the project in 1883, combining Gothic and his own unique curvilinear Catalan Art Nouveau style.  Gaudí supervised the construction until his sudden death at age 73 in 1926.  Less than 25% of the Basilica was completed at the time of Gaudí’s death. The construction of Sagrada Família’s has progresses slowly due to its reliance solely on private donations and construction was stopped completely during the Spanish Civil War.  The current anticipated completion date is 2026, the centennial anniversary of Gaudí’s death.

Tracy and I have wanted to visit Sagrada Família for years and Adam and Liz had studied Sagrada Família in their Spanish classes and were anxious to finally see the Basilica in person.  It did not disappoint.   Sagrada Família was absolutely astonishing and breathtaking.  Its size, unique organic elements, colors, innovative architecture was stunning.  Our only regret was our limited time.  A person could spend days picking out and appreciating all the details in the Basilica’s design and construction.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On our final day in Barcelona, Adam led us to Parc Güell (Park Güell) in the Gràcia district.  We took a quick ride on the subway with a pleasant stop at a Barcelona dog park for Kiara.

Liz, Adam, Tracy, and Kiara at the Dog Park
Liz, Adam, Tracy, and Kiara at the Dog Park

Parc Güell was built between 1900 and 1914 by Gaudí’s frequent patron Count Eusebi Güell in an effort to duplicate the English garden city movement for a housing development.  Today the park is a public municipal park and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Colorful and whimsical, Gaudí’s work here is reminiscent of a synthesis of Dr. Seuss and Disneyland.

Liz and Adam pose with "El Drac" Gaudí's multicolored mosaic salamander
Liz and Adam pose with “El Drac” Gaudí’s multicolored mosaic salamander
Alan, Tracy, Adam, Liz, and Kiara at the entrance stairs of Park Güell
Alan, Tracy, Adam, Liz, and Kiara at the entrance stairs of Park Güell

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As our whirlwind trip concluded I realized I only shared a small part of our experience in Barcelona.  There were beautiful neighborhoods, excellent Sangria (and more Sangria), tapas, Adam and Liz demonstrated amazing Spanish language skills from their college Spanish studies, Kiara the Chihuahua continues to make new friends where ever she goes, Adam and Liz – our vegetarians- found some amazingly delicious vegetarian and Hindu restaurants in the midst of a meat loving culture – Adam even had a chance to try vegetarian paella, and there were many wonderfully friendly people.

We had a taste of Barcelona, which created the desire to return in the future and experience more.  There is so much more to see and do in this vibrant city.

Liz, Adam, and Tracy on the Barcelona subway
Liz, Adam, and Tracy on the Barcelona subway

Barcelona: Parc del Laberint, Passeig de Gràcia, Plaça de Catalunya, and La Rambla

One reason we wanted to retire to Europe was to have a central place from which to “springboard” to explore many different cities in Europe.  With Adam and Liz visiting we decided to do just that and spent a few days in Barcelona, Spain.  We found that Adam and Liz share our interest the work of Antoni Gaudí so it was time to make some hotel and train reservations and head to Barcelona. It is only about a three-hour train ride to Barcelona from Carcassonne.  The TER (Transport Express Régional) to Narbonne, the high-speed TVG (Train à Grande Vitesse) to the Figueres Vilafant train station (just inside the Spanish border) to switch into a RENFE (ReNacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles – Spanish National Railway Network) high-speed AVE (Alta Velocidad Española – Spanish High Speed) train.  The RENFE train was beautiful and we enjoyed the use of the club car for ice-cold Spanish beer.

Adam and Liz on the TER train out of Carcassonne.
Adam and Liz on the TER train out of Carcassonne.
Tracy, Alan, and Kiara on the TGV enroute to Spain.
Tracy, Alan, and Kiara on the TGV enroute to Spain.
A Spanish RENFE AVE Siemens Velaro (left) and a French SNCF TGV Duplex (right) at Figueres-Vilafant Station (Wikimedia Commons)
A Spanish RENFE AVE Siemens Velaro (left) and a French SNCF TGV Duplex (right) at Figueres-Vilafant Station
(Wikimedia Commons)

In very little time we were in Barcelona, sharing a pitcher (or two) of sangria.  Sitting on the Mediterranean Sea with about five million residents, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, the sixth most populated urban area in the European Union.

A panoramic view of Barcelona (Wikimedia Commons)
A panoramic view of Barcelona
(Wikimedia Commons)

We decided that while Paris is beautiful, Barcelona is gorgeous.  Stunningly gorgeous.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Adam led us to Parc del Laberint d’Horta (Labyrinth Park of Horta) in the Horta-Guinardó district in Barcelona.  The park is the oldest of its kind in the city. Located in the former estate of the Desvalls family, next to the Serra de Collserola ridge, the park combines an 18th century neoclassical garden and a 19th century romantic garden.  In 1967 the Desvalls family donated the park to the city of Barcelona, who opened to the public in 1971.  Liz had always wanted to explore a maze and was looking forward to exploring the labyrinth, so we lined up behind her and had her lead the way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Returning to our hotel room and realizing that it wasn’t cooling off very quickly, we decided to take an evening walk through Passeig de Gràcia, Plaça de Catalunya, and La Rambla.  Passeig de Gràcia is one of the major avenues in Barcelona, it is compared to the Champs-Élysées, Fifth Avenue, and Rodeo Drive and is one of  the most important shopping and business areas of Barcelona containing many of the city’s most celebrated pieces of architecture. Passeig de Gràcia is regarded as the most expensive street in Barcelona and in Spain.

Plaça de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) is Barcelona’s large city square and is considered to be the city center and the place where the old city and the modern city meet.

La Rambla is located off Plaça de Catalunya.  The tree-lined pedestrian mall stretches for 1.2 kilometers between Barri Gòtic and El Raval, connecting Plaça de Catalunya with the Monumento a Colón (Christopher Columbus Monument) at Port Vell (the Old Harbor.)  Even in the middle of the week there is tremendous energy and activity in the “Heart of Barcelona.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The following day was all about exploring Gaudi’s art and architecture and his contributions to Barcelona.