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October 30, 2015: I spent my last afternoon in Barcelona visiting the Museum of Catalan Art Nouveau, where I discovered still more exponents of Modernisme. I was especially taken by furniture by Joan Busquets i Jane, but there were also paintings, stained glass and even a cloisonné table, by a number of different artists.


The next morning, Halloween, I got up at an unpleasantly early hour and trekked through the Eixample to Placa de Catalunya to catch the airport bus. I flew economy class on American (or possibly rebranded US Airways) via Philadelphia and the flight was chiefly notable for the fact that all blinds remained down for the duration of the daytime flight so people could spend their time watching their screens. And for an actually edible meal – I thought the flight attendant might cry when I complimented her on the improvement in the food!


One reason it has taken me so long to catch the blog up to this point is that I developed seriously low energy after I got home. I even visited an endocrinologist, which proved a complete waste of time and money. She decided my thyroid function was fine, but had no other suggestions. Fortunately, doubling my Vitamin B12 intake and adding a multi-vitamin have improved matters to the point I am now busy working on my next trip. In the meanwhile, I still have the two and a half weeks I spent in England between Oslo and Strasbourg to write up.


 

The east facade, showing stylistic differences

October 29, 2015: In all, Gaudi spent 43 years working on Sagrada Familia, for the last twelve years of his life he worked on nothing else. After his fatal accident in 1926, work continued, although the Spanish Civil War caused some disruption, and some parts look less “Gaudi” than others. Although work remains to be done, principally the west front and the central towers, the building was consecrated in 2010, and the interior appears complete.
As with other Gaudi buildings, everywhere you look there is something of interest, but what particularly struck me on this visit was the quality of the light inside. The stone itself is pale, and perfectly reflects the colored light from the stained glass windows.
Of course, Sagrada Familia is on all the Barcelona “must see” lists, and I encountered crowds inside as well as out. I had bought a timed entry ticket, and there was no limit on how long I could stay. However, a little checking online turns up the information that not only can there be a very long wait to buy tickets if you turn up without one, there is a limit on the number of people admitted at any given time.





One might think that the Palace of Catalan Music, a UNESCO World Heritage site that I wrote about in my last post, was the pinnacle of Domenech i Montaner’s career. Instead, I would suggest that a second World Heritage site, the former Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau is even more impressive. For one thing, it is considerably larger, consisting of a main administrative building and two rows of satellite buildings linked by underground passages and formerly used as wards. The buildings remained in use by the hospital until 2009, are currently undergoing restoration, and are open for visits.
The administrative building, with a sweeping main staircase, is particularly impressive, but wandering the grounds, everywhere I looked I noticed fascinating details. Only a couple of the former wards are accessible, and look rather forlorn, but if you are going to be sick I can certainly think of worse places to do it.

The Hospital also has a restaurant, just inside the impressive main gates. I had spent the morning visiting Sagrada Familia, but thought the area too touristy to provide a good value restaurant and had taken the bus over to the hospital, only to find myself in a residential area with little commerce. I had to sit outside, as the main room was reserved for a group (it looked like a professional conference, not a tour group), but the weather was comfortable and the food remarkable. I ate a portion of suckling pig with melt-in-your mouth flesh and deliciously crisp skin, so good that I sent my compliments to the chef. Then I spent a couple of hours admiring the buildings, sending posthumous compliments to the architect.

 

A model of the complex

 

 

A corridor inside tha main building

 

 

Inside one of the wards

 



  
October 29, 2015: As a corrective to the idea that Modernisme was all and only about Gaudi, it would be hard to beat the Palace of Catalan Music, or Palau de la Musica Catalana, designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner (who was responsible for the Casa Lleo Morera I wrote about earlier). I might have skipped this building, not being musical, had I not read the description – and seen the photographs – on another blog about Barcelona. That would have been a mistake, and the guided tour was well worth the eighteen euro I paid – in advance, as the palace is deservedly popular. It is also a working concert hall, and if I were not tone deaf I would definitely have tried to attend a concert, as the space is magical. (But I see on the website that some events include dance – flamenco in those surroundings must be breathtaking. Next time…)
The palace was financed by popular subscriptions as a home for the Orfeo Catala, a choral society, and finished in 1908. 

  

  

  

  

   
 

  

Barcelona: Casa Mila


October 30, 2015: I am a huge fan of Art Nouveau. I am a big fan of Gaudi. But Gaudi’s Casa Mila/La Pedrera left me cold. Really, it is all about the roof of the building, and while it’s interesting, it’s not that interesting. And the visitor is fobbed off with a secondary apartment furnished more in the style of the late nineteenth century than the early twentieth. All three of the houses in the Block of Discord showcase the owner’s apartment, on the piano nobile, but not the Casa Mila. And yet the price is still stunningly high at 20.50 euro for general admission (no senior discount) and 27 euro for “premium” admission, which allows you unscheduled entry through the front door instead of timed entry through a side door.
I paid for premium admission, and showed up just before the place opened. This did get me in the front door, with a good look at the main courtyard/air shaft, and I was on the first elevator to the roof. Certainly, if you want photos of the roof that don’t include your fellow tourists, you need to beat them to the roof, but the advantage didn’t last long. I did get to tour the apartment mostly alone, but after the gorgeous apartments I had already seen it was a disappointment.

I would recommend saving your pocket book and your feet and visiting the three Block of Discord buildings rather than doing a Casa Battlo and Casa Mila combination. Just admire the outside.



  

Barcelona: Casa Battlo


October 29, 2015: The Gaudi sites in Barcelona have become major stops on the tourist trail, and these days are priced accordingly. Visiting Casa Amattler, which boasts a fully furnished apartment, costs 15 euro, or 13.50 for students and seniors, including a guided tour, a guided tour of Casa Lleo Morera is 12 euro. Visiting Gaudi’s Casa Battlo, with no guide and no furniture, is a full 22.50 euro, or 19.50 for students and seniors. Add another five euro if you want a Fast Pass that gets you in at any time.
Even though I had already seen Casa Battlo back in 2004, when it was both cheaper and less popular, I opted to revisit, and to pay for the Fast Pass. Since I was sleeping only a couple of blocks away, I arrived right at opening time, went right in, and had the apartment and the roof almost to myself for ten or fifteen minutes. When I walked back down from the roof the apartment was already full of people.

The sinuous curves that Gaudi could coax out of apparently rigid materials were remarkable. Every inch had clearly been carefully considered, from door handles designed to fit the hand, to the shading – dark blue to light blue – of the colored tiles on the interior light shaft. Everywhere I looked there was something to admire, although I wish I could have seen the apartment when it was furnished.






October 29, 2015: Sharing the Block of Discord with Gaudi’s Casa Battlo and Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller is Lluis Domenech i Montaner’s contribution to the visual feast, Casa Lleo Morera. My guidebook lamented the fact that the interior wasn’t accessible, but it was wrong. Just as with the Casa Amatller, I was able to buy a ticket for a guided tour the morning I wanted to visit, and was shown round by a well-informed guide with just a handful of other visitors. In fact, it was this guide who told me I could visit Casa Amatller and that it was fully furnished.
Originally constructed in 1864, the building was redesigned for the Morera family in the early 1900s. Morera means mulberry tree, and mulberry trees can be found in the decorations, as can references to contemporary inventions such as the camera and the telephone. Again, this is not my preferred style of Art Nouveau, but I thoroughly enjoyed my tour.


  

Looking towards the courtyard

 

Looking towards the house from the courtyard

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