une fois encore
They're Going Again!
Thursday - Saturday
Something there is about Catalonia that reaches inside our unsuspecting emotions and announces, "Bet you've never experienced anything like me before, have you?" And for myself there is only one answer: no. Except for that one shortened week a few years ago during a visit to this very place, that is. It was low-key, anything but the grand-tour experience that Viator brochures promise, or a procession of cruise ship excursions with private limo driver and dedicated guide. It was just a couple of Americans renting an upstairs apartment near one of the parks, finally getting around to opening a bottle of red wine toted in luggage from Idaho, of all places. Uncomplicated, without flamenco hoopla playing. And yet you could feel it, the odd electricity of the culture. I want to revisit the place, maybe receive another jolt of that peculiar Iberian cultural amperage here.
I don't really suppose it's all Belle Époque grand galas and modernista architecture in Barcelona. Or not quite all. Yet so many of the old neighborhoods survive within walking distance, remnants of roughly Europe's impressionists era around the turn of the last century. Even
Each culture has, I think, its larger than life exemplars: one person or maybe one cadre of persons, from time to time, whose life and style have profoundly affected/shaped the look and feel of a local era. Here in Barcelona that would have to be the visionary individual Antoni Gaudi. He happened along at a time when little pockets of intellectual and artistic personalities began to coalesce here and there in Europe. That he happened to arc towards both artist and intellectual, moving easily within both circles, still amazes me.
where buildings are new, there exists a kind of reverence for this arguably romantic style. A cynic would remark the motivation has been commercial; my own belief is the reason for this style's persistence has been mostly that Catalunyans here haven't lost the ability to see such beauty—to perceive and enjoy it. To revel, even.... The humble inset is my street.
And here is a glance at La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's amazing basilica. One's first impression is it's a section from an Escher print (surreal illusions, where stairs seem at first to go up, then down as you continue to peer at the oddly connected lines). I love the explanation the architect gave when asked if it bothered him that project completion was taking so long (is, in fact, still underway a hundred years later).... His reply?
"My Client is in no hurry."
A few more observations about chief modernista Sr Gaudi. Above is a tiny view of an average room inside the Batlló House. A wealthy local industrialist, Sr Batlló had the good sense and taste to hire this brash young architect to refurbish (and indeed to re-imagine) a large and otherwise unremarkable house he had purchased downtown several años earlier. So over the course of several years young Gaudi lived here—thought and supposed and explored and imagined. Finessed everything to reflect not merely a habitation, but indeed the beauty of the Creator's cosmos (the ocean is the constant motif throughout).
Girona is a medieval-era suburb of Barcelona. Quieter and filled with ancient and scenic buildings. Parts of Game of Thrones were filmed on the grand stairways and down twisted alleyways here, especially of the 12th century Jewish Quarter. The red bridge was designed by Gustav Eiffel (of the Parisian tower fame).
I've added this video of nearby Girona in its old timey glory. It's easily worth its own week.