Monday, November 26, 2012

Barcelona, Catalonia

First off, my apologies for breaking up my Academic Travel blog posts. But before I get to my last two blog posts about traveling to Strasbourg, France and Heidelberg, Germany last month. I am going to update you on my most recent weekend trip to Barcelona!

"She would be half a planet away, floating in a turquoise sea, dancing by moonlight to a flamenco guitar." 

Day Uno: Barcelona's Fashion Night 
We arrived at 6pm on Thursday night which was perfect timing for Barcelona's Christmas season kick-off held in conjunction with Vogue's Fashion Night Out.
From children's ballet performances, to ice skating, to photo calls, to special sales. It t'was a dream! Each section of the street had a special fairytale/christmas theme ranging from Swan Lake to the Nutcracker to the Christmas Story.
The christmas lights across the city were officially turned on for the first time at 8pm and from 8pm-1am Paseg de Gracia a 1.2km long shopping street was closed down to traffic and festivities ensued. 
Thanksgiving Dinner in Spain: Mushrooms, Risotto, Mini steaks, and Sorbet. yummy :) 
Day Dos: Gettin' Rowdy with Gaudi+La Boqueria
Palau Güell: The least assuming of Gaudi's residential structures in Barcelona but still a beautiful palace for the 19th century billionaire Eusebi Güell. Worth 70 billion Euros today, Güell was a good friend of Gaudi and asked Gaudi to build him a magnificent palace in Barcelona. No expense was to be spared, the only catch was that he wanted it built in the red light district of Barcelona. Why would a billionaire want to build his palace among the poor? Gaudi encapsulates Güells desires in the picture above. The main gates to the palace are marked with an orante E and G for its owner as well as a phoenix rising from ashes among flames. Güell loved Barcelona and built his palace in the dirtiest part of it hoping to attract other wealthy citizens and eradicate the poverty therein. Unfortunately this didn't happen within his lifetime.
Casa Batlló is a house with a story. In short, the white balconies and mosaics on the exterior of the building are reminiscent of Venetian masks and confetti at Carnivale, while the roof of the building is covered in "scales" and is coiled like the tail of a dragon, while the tower on top is meant to represent St. George's (the patron saint of the city) sword slaying the dragon. 
No shape, nor detail is without purpose when it comes to Gaudi's works. 
Casa Millá: a house with no right angles and a different size/layout to every single room.  
George Lucas says that he drew his inspiration for villains in his newest scifi movie while walking down the streets in Barcelona. The uncanny resemblance of the odd spires to two storm troopers (L) and Darth Vader (far R) is no coincidence. 
Gaudi's uncompleted masterpiece: La Sagrada Familia. Truly breathtaking, every single crevice has a story and a purpose. On this facade Gaudi tells the story of Christ's birth and upbringing. 
The nativity scene. Being the perfectionist that Gaudi is he would plaster skeletons to make molds for his statues so that they would be more lifelike.. he even went so far as to exhume the grave of a still born baby. 
The Passion facade of La Sagrada Familia. On the opposite side of Sagrada Familia this facade isn't completed quite yet but this portion depicts the death of Christ. 

Sagrada Familia. I can only hope that in my lifetime I will be able to return when it is completed and see it in all its glory. 
The view from Parc Güell with Gaudi's Gingerbread House in the background 
The cheetah girls take Parc Güell. 
intricate mosaics lining the bench at Parc Guell which is the longest park bench in the world
La Boqueria: was a feast for the eyes and the belly! So much color, so much fresh fruit! One of my favorite experiences in Barcelona.
Freshly squeezed fruit juices were everywhere you looked. I tried watermelon and mango, bueno! 

Day Tres: The Gothic Quarter + The Sea
The Royal Plaza, home to Gaudi's first piece commissioned by The Council of Barcelona, the lamposts.
A monument of George Orwell. Supposedly this piece of art depicts a bullet going through his neck (which really happened when he fought in the Spanish Civil war). Ironically, Orwell is most famous for his book 1984 and the idea of "Big Brother" yet this square is under 24/7 surveillance cameras.  
Where Pablo Picasso went to art school. 
The remnants of the old Roman wall 
The Barcelona Cathedral 
A beautiful day at the Mediterranean. 

One Last Note: I am sure some of you read the blog post title and wondered why I didn't label it "Barcelona, Spain" Well because I am fairly confident (along with the majority of people in Barcelona) that within the next 2-5 years they will no longer be a part of Spain. I will confess that upon booking my flight for Barcelona I thought to myself how great it will be to "check Spain off my list" so to speak. But traveling there and talking to people who live there made me realize how different it is from Spain. The Catalan language they speak is just as close to French or Italian as it is to Spanish. The people there proudly display the Catalan flag, the only time you will see the Spanish flag is on government buildings. The best context I can give you is: when spain won the Euro Cup in July there were big screens for watching and much celebrating across Spain but in Barcelona no one even cared. Elections in Barcelona yesterday resulted in 2/3 of parliament seats in the hands of separatists  and the president of the Catalan region has declared that he wants to secede from Spain.  With Spain's recent economic woes and a 25% unemployment rate, the long dormant separatist spirit in Catalan has reawakened and I am sure you will be hearing more about it soon from people far more qualified than I.
On the bright side: I guess I will just have to start planning a trip to Madrid or Valencia to get my "Spanish" experience!
The Government Plaza in Barcelona with the Catalan Flag, Flag of Spain, and the Barcelona Flag (L to R)

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