On Sunday we made our second run at Sagrada Familia, the “new” cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi and which has been under construction since 1883. If nothing else, the crowds that gather there now are spectacular. This time, though, we purchased timed-entry tickets via app, so we weren’t deterred by the 4 hour wait for non-ticket holders. Success!
To get there, we walked from our apartment. Which was lucky because on the way we chanced on the lovely plaza de la virreina, which offers (1) on the west side the 18th century church of St. John the Baptist, looking very stark and Romanesque with its plain arched door, (2) on the south side (on our visit), about 25 couples dancing the Charleston to recorded music, and (3) on the northwest corner “Choc,” whose motto (imprinted on the window) is”Life’s too short for bad chocolate.” So true. So wise, these Spaniards.
After filling ourselves with chocolate and the “beautiful curious breathing laughing flesh” of the dancers (Whitman, Body Electric, ba-da-BOOM), we went on in search of less-earthly delights.
Which meant a sweaty walk, a bag check, a security scan and a rope line, plus the $25 in ticket fees. And then we were inside, along with what felt like around 2,500 fellow travelers. All looking up. Because the cathedral exterior and the space inside are both really magnificent. On the outside the usual gargoyles are replaced with snakes, snails, turtles, birds and lizards. And on the inside the tall columns look like palm trees and the stained glass is thin enough, or so delicately stained, that the inside glows with bands of color.
We walked through the space and then sat for a while in the pews, where we learned that no photography is allowed.
So that was great, but this is Gaudi-town, baby. We weren’t done!
Over to Park Guell, which was designed by Gaudi for wealthy friend and patron Count Eusebi Guell. It was initially a real estate scheme on land that Guell bought on a baren hill that overlooked Barcelona and the sea — a garden city that would have had 60 pie-shaped lots — but there were no takers so it was turned into a municipal park. The central elements — the entrance gate, the serpentine bench, the viaducts, the main “market” pavilion and the walkways — that Gaudi and his collaborators designed are still there, but they form a small part of the overall park. We loved the mosaic tile, and the way that the viaducts and walkways and other structures made use of the local stone in natural condition.
And finally home again, from the Park Guell hill to our own Park Puxtet hill. The streets are so steep there are escalators. (OK, I admit it; Benji, Ibby and I took a cab).