What a day! It was full of tourists, tapas, art nouveau and hats.
It all started with a visit to the Palau de la Musica Catalana, a concert hall (basically) designed to within an inch of its life by the same guy who designed the hospital we saw yesterday. Lluis Domeneche i Montaner (who, incidentally, taught Gaudi), wanted to create gardens in Barcelona where there were only buildings. Rather than getting a whole load of pots and sticking plants in them, he used ceramics, glass, sculpture, in fact just about anything he could lay his hands on.
The building itself really started with the formation of the Catalan Choral Society, from which seeds came the Orfeo Catala founded by Lluis Millet and Amadeu Vives both of whom loved music more than beer…more than sausage…more than anything. That was in 1891. Then, in 1908 came the grand opening of their own home, the Palau.
According to the guide, it is “…a perfectly harmonious marriage of different materials: the exposed bricks, the glazed tiles, the glass and the iron…” and I agree. The whole place is beautiful. It ebbs and flows like a sea of music.
Most amazing is the use of natural light. In the ceiling of the auditorium is a huge glass droplet made of different coloured glass panels. It spills multi-coloured light all over the room.
Montaner’s garden is everywhere you look. Flowers climbing up columns, depicted in lead light glass, roses dotting the ceiling…in fact the rose is an emblem of Barcelona. The patron saint of the city is St George and, after he’d slain the dragon, the creatures blood fell to the ground and a single red rose grew from it. The rose can be found everywhere in the Palau.
The tour started with a video which set the scene and gave voice to the many artists who have performed here. It is not a museum, but a live performance space.
We had a tour guide, a woman who is proud to be from Barcelona (she told us so) and who clearly adores the Palau. Our group was quite large but she managed to shepherd us all around quite expertly.
After the tour we sat in the wonderful little cafe for a coffee and then, of course, we went to the shop to spend some money…as you do. We were going to buy some tickets to a musical concert on tonight but the ticket office seemed to be in a bit of a daze, ignoring the rapidly growing crowd of would-be audience. So we gave up and went to a hat shop instead.
I’ve been on the look out for a hat to replace my Czech hat; a good winter hat that not only keeps my head warm but looks a little more stylish than your average Peruvian would wear. As we approached a hat shop, Mirinda ushered us both in and we were expertly accosted by an extraordinarily efficient shop woman.
She measured my head and then started dropping hats on it like I was in a Marx Brothers movie. The one I liked the most was rapidly discarded after she told us the price. It was, after all, made from cashmere. The one I decided to buy was a third of the price and a much better idea given my propensity for losing hats. I also bought one of those stylish collapsible walking sticks which should make my life easier…well until I get some robot legs and feet. It will also serve to get me a seat on public transport.
It was then time for lunch and we ate outside at the Divine Tapas restaurant. While not necessarily divine (because I’m not sure what ‘divine’ tastes like) it was pretty delicious. They even had berenjeras though without the cane honey. Still, it was a lovely lunch which set us up for the touristical melee to come.
But before that we went to La Casa Museu Amatller. This house, next door to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, is no less an exquisite place. It is designed in the Moderniste style which, if you ask me, is anything that comes straight out of the head of any architect who discards convention for fantasy. And that’s just fine by me. Lots of swirly bits and warm wood. In the case of this place, it also lots of mosaics. And I am quite fond of a good mosaic.
Designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch (which is not the most pleasant of names), the result is a wonderfully warm family home…albeit unaffordable. It was built for a chocolate maker called Antoni Amatller and they still brew and sell his chocolate downstairs – we were given a piece at the end of our tour.
Now, the tour…what a shame. You are handed a pair of blue booty things to put over your shoes which is fine because it protects the floor then you are handed a small tablet device with headphones attached. You then wander through the rooms, pressing play on the tablet device. This would be fine except that the guy follows you around anyway so you wonder why he doesn’t give the tour. Also there are lots of extra bits on the tablet device but you feel a bit loathe to listen to them because you’re holding the others up. Not that I let that stop me.
The thing was, it was a lovely house and should have been better organised. The tablet thing was just silly. It’s not like you’re going to look at something visual when you’re actually in the place anyway – you may as well be watching a documentary. If they wanted some form of electronic guide then a simple audio guide would work perfectly. Still, the place was lovely as was the chocolate sample at the end. The best thing (possibly) was the fact that there were only three of us as opposed to the three thousand at the next place.
Casa Batllo was designed by Gaudi and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also extremely popular…with an awful lot of people. It is so popular that they have decided to give everyone augmented guides so you can see what the room would look like if there were no people and furniture in them. It’s quite strange watching a load of people looking at a room through an electronic device. At one point I thought I was caught up in a Pokomen Go convention.
The whole place is amazing. Like the woman on the recording said, it’s like being in the sea, water and fish all around. It’s a glimpse into the mind of an artistic genius. There are no straight lines, only swirling fluidity. It’s incredible, though nothing like the Sagrada Familia. Except for bits, I guess.
Going up through the floors does not prepare you for the roof, which is presided over by chimney pots disguised as clown hats.
While it was something amazingly amazing, the sheer numbers of other tourists was almost enough to spoil it…almost. In the end it’s the Gaudi that matters and not the pushing and shoving of a few thousand visitors who wouldn’t know a Gaudi if it smacked them in the face with a wet fish…which you kind of wish someone would.
It was then time to retire to the hotel for our siesta.
A lot later, it was time to head out for dinner. Tonight it was my choice so I chose somewhere close. It served tapas. It was delicious. Actually it served berenjeras which means we had it twice today. This time with cane honey. It was very yum. And that has got to be a good thing.
Home ridiculously early (10:50) for a change. Tomorrow we’re off to Park Guell and a chat to the lizard.