By letter only

Long summer evenings allow for time basking in the park and having a picnic. Enjoying a rare bottle of wine in which one must hand write a letter to the owner to get some of his produce. Local sausages and cured meats and cheese from around Europe. This is the reward and the celebration of the end from enduring months of bad management and borderline bullying behaviours.

Looking up at Gaudi’s creation

Gaudi’s most famous creation is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world with around five million visitors every year.

When the Sagrada Familia is fully built, it will have 18 towers to represent the twelve apostles, the four books of Jesus, the master tower for Jesus and another one for Mary.

Today only 8 towers are completed, four are part of the Nativity facade and four are part of the Passion facade. The Nativity facade was completed under the supervision of Gaudi himself in 1935.

Those with fear of heights can be at peace as there are no sudden drops or open spaces. The climb up is normally in a lift; though once you have checked out the views from the top, everyone must walk down approximately 400 stairs along a spiral staircase. For those brave enough make sure you step out into the little balconies and look up as well as down

Parc Güell

This park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. It was originally planned to be a housing estate with big gardens and green spaces for around 60 villas but only two houses were actually completed due to a lack of interest. One of which Gaudí lived in, though designed by architect Francesc Berenguer in 1904.

The park’s design, as all of Gaudí’s works, is built with the natural environment on which it was situated, taking advantage of the mountain it sits in, rather than fighting it. The park is in 17 hectares and includes rounded forms, columns that look like tree trunks, animal figures and mimics nature’s shapes. Most of the architectonic elements are decorated with mosaics made from colourful ceramic pieces with a technique called “trencadis” which Gaudí is said to have invented. The technique is used to cover structures with colourful mosaic, normally in odd shapes and pieces of ceramic, glass or marble tiles.

The park owes its name to Eusebi Güell who commissioned Antoni Gaudi for building Park Güell. Back in those days, the mountain was called “Muntanya Pelada” (bare mountain) because it was so barren. It is almost impossible to imagine what that might have looked like.

El mercado de la Boqueria

El Mercado de la Boqueria is a 2,500 square meter market that sits on the site where the Convent of San José was founded in 1586. La Rambla became very popular and in the 1820s when the Monastery was destroyed by a fire, the market was transferred to this location.

The market is a labyrinth with more than 300 stands that sell food and produce from near and far. You can have lunch or dinner there trying all sorts of things, from razorfish to cuttlefish, snails to rabo de toro. And any type of ham imaginable.

A day on Montjuïc

Montjuïc hill is 173 meters high and next to the sea. It houses the National Museum of Art in Cataluña in the Palau Nacional; which was designed for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition.

It is said that the word ‘Montjuïc’ comes from Mountain of the jews as there was a Jewish cemetery with medieval origins in the mountain. The other theory is that the name comes from ‘Monte Jovis’ as there might have been a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter.

The mount has historical importance not only for the events there occurred but also as the quarry that used to be there provided most of the stone for the historic buildings in Barcelona.

The easiest way to get here is by metro that connects to a 5 minute funicular ride. Advisable in hot summer days.

What would you call this building?

This building was added in 2003 to the Barcelona skyline. The tower’s name is Torre Agbar, Agbar being a made up word from the towers original owners: Aguas de Barcelona.

It is said that its architect Jean Nouvel was inspired by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and the Montserrat mountain in Barcelona. Might have designed it as a geyser rising into the air but the truth is that people see the tower and relates it to more common objects and has been named the suppository, the shell, the cock, the bullet, the cucumber and many more.

At 144 metres tall it is the third tallest building in the city and provides an imposing observation deck over the new Barcelona though it is not open to the public. It has a glass surface in which the colours of the Mediterranean (and many more) are reflected at night thanks to the 4,500 illuminated glass panels that serve as windows.

The tower has won prices for being a green building, one that harnesses solar power and groundwater to reduce energy consumption.

The tower has 32 floors, of which 28 can be used as office spaces. It is still unclear to me what the building is actually used for as the debate for a hotel license has taken years. It is true though that it is a good reference point and a spectacle by night.

Unexpected sightings

Part of the enchantment of living in the old country is bumping into old buildings randomly. The church of St Francesc de Sales, patron of journalists and writers, is a prime example. A brick building designed by Joan Martorell i Montells, one of Gaudís teachers. It suffered in the civil war and then, during the 80s, it endured a fire. It has been refurbished and now a great piece of architecture in the streets of this Catalunyan city.

Local commerce

To promote local commerce in the small village of Valdoreix, a small farmers and artisans market is set out every Saturday just outside the train station. 405 meters offer prepared food, produce, clothing, or even a vermut catalan and a nibble. Buy high quality jamon from a local producer and get it vacuumed sealed ready to travel!

A home then a cinema

Exploring Barcelona I bumped into this urban palace from 1887, Palau Marcet. The building on the right, until 1934, was a home, then it was sold and refitted to become a theatre, named Teatro de la Comedia, until 1960 when it became a cinema.