Barcelona

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Barcelona is a very beautiful city, thanks in large part to its famous architects.  My favorite is Gaudi, who conceived the Sagrada Família, the church in the picture above, about 130 years ago.  We’ve been through quite a few churches in the last month, but nothing prepared us for this one.  It’s still under construction and won’t be complete until 2026 (they hope!) but it was, hands down, the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen.  Awe inspiring, humbling, enlightening, staggering . . . these don’t even begin to describe this incredible structure.

But before we get to the Sagrada Família, there are other things to talk about.  Let’s do that with pictures.

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Okay, yesterday (the day we arrived in Barcelona) was our wedding anniversary.  We celebrated by finding a quite little restaurant with the Grand Prix race on the TV and these ginormous sangrias.  They were absolutely delicious.

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Another thing to check off my bucket list:  I tried paella in Spain.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I took Spanish in high school.  I have to say it was … okay.  It wasn’t bad, but I can move on and try something else on the menu.

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This morning we took a tour of some of Gaudi’s buildings, including the Casa Battló.  It’s really just an apartment building, but an incredible one.  Can you imagine what the people of Barcelona thought when this was done back in 1906?  It was quite a shock and many people thought Gaudi was insane.

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I loved it.  It’s what a Hobbit would build if he lived in the city.  Actually, I’m sure the people who designed the movie sets in those movies were hugely inspired by Gaudi.  The top picture is looking out the windows featured in the pictures above.  I wish more of the color showed in these pictures.  Everything is very colorful and organic.

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This picture shows a bit more of the color on the outside of the building.  The whole thing was meant to be a tribute to St. George, the guy who slew the dragon.  In fact, the dragon is on the roof and the cross on top is meant to be the spear that killed the dragon.

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All the rooms were different and interesting.  Even the hallways were parabolic arches.  I got a kick out of the “chill out area” sign.

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Here’s the roof.  It was used for laundry and it held the water tanks.  I liked the chimneys.

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Here are some pictures of the back of the dragon on the roof.  They show a little more of the color.

To see more of this incredible house, take a look at the Wikipedia page; it has many more pictures.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Batlló

Or, better yet, take a virtual tour.   http://www.casabatllo.es/en/virtual-tour/

They also made one of those “movies,” using the front of the building as a backdrop, in honor of the remodel that was done in 2012.  It’s very good.    http://www.casabatllo.es/en/videos/

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Our next stop was the Sagrada Família.  Wow.  You must come here some day.  Bob and I agreed that we’ll be back again.  I really want to see it completed.  From a distance, it almost looks like a mud slide.  But if you pay attention, there’s a ton of detail.

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For example, this side of the building is dedicated to the birth of Jesus.  The entire story is told in the facade.  Can you see it?  Here are some close-ups.

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This is the Holy Family.  They are at the top of the pillar right above the doors. To find them in the picture above, look just to the left of the date stamp, right at the top of the doors.

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To the right of them are the shepherds.

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To the left are the three magi.

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Above them are the angels.  See the Holy Family on the top of the pillar between the doors?  By the way, the greenish door on the right is the new bronze door that was just hung in the last couple weeks.  An identical one will be hung on the left as soon as its finished.

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You can walk up the spires.  It’s hard to see, but there are little balconies where you can sometimes see people standing.

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Okay, here’s a close up.  See the lady dressed in white at the dark opening just to the left and above the date stamp?  We didn’t have time to climb up, but I wish we had.  As I said, we plan to come back.

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Here we are!

Okay, the main entrance of the church is under construction, so we entered through the side door.

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This is what we saw in front of us.  This isn’t even the front of the church, it’s the view of the side transepts.  Gaudi designed the church to resemble a forrest.  Because every tree is different, so is every pillar.  None of them are straight, they all lean.  They also branch off at the top like a tree and they have branching roots under the church, some as deep as 50 feet down.  They need to be very strong because when the church is finished, it will have 18 towers, the largest of which will be three times as tall as any of the towers that have been built so far.

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The stained glass windows are beautiful.  They are also modern, having been installed in the last couple decades.  In fact, they are still a work in progress because there are some places where the windows are clear glass, waiting to be replaced with the colored ones.

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The ceiling is also beautiful.

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More views of the main body of the church.  Can you see the plastic draped around the middle?  That’s the choir loft which surrounds the main space of the church on three sides.  When it’s finished, it will have room for 700 singers.  The church will also have 4 organs.

In the bottom picture you can see the clear windows on the left that will eventually be replaced with stained glass.

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This is the front of the church, the view of the altar.  The circular thing is an umbrella that hangs over a large crucifix.  It is all suspended over the altar.

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Close-up of some of the stained glass.

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These are views of the back of the church where the main doors will be someday.  Can you see the spiral staircase in the first photo?  Not sure if its for the choir loft or one of the towers.

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This is the opposite side the church from the nativity entrance.  Here is the story of the crucifixion.  It was only completed in the last few years and it was hugely controversial since it is so different from the style on the other side of the church.

What’s interesting is about 10 years after Gaudi died, his workshop was purposely burned down by a group of anti-religious radicals.  They thought if they destroyed all of Gaudi’s plans for the church, it would bring construction to a halt.  And it did, for about 15 years.  While all of Gaudi’s drawings and plans were destroyed, the clay models he built of various aspects of the church survived . . . kind of.  They were smashed by the radicals and it took the workers about 15 years to piece them back together, figure out what to do, and proceed with the work.

Gaudi knew he would never see the church completed (he worked on it for 46 years of his life) and it was his hope that succeeding generations would add their own spin to his plans.  So he’d probably love what they’ve done on the crucifixion side of the church.

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Just behind the church they are building one of the two sacristies that Gaudi planned for the church.

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The little chapel/crypt below the main altar is too small for tourists to visit.  But I found a picture.  Here is where Gaudi is buried.

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In the museum under the church, we found the workshop where they still build models of what they plan to build.  Every since Gaudi’s day, this is how the church has been built because it is so outrageous, architecturally speaking, this is the best way they can make sure all the math is correct and what they plan will actually bear the weight of the towers.

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Gaudi wanted the workers’ children to be educated, so he built this school for them right next to the church.  It looks like a hobbit school and its very charming.

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The construction has picked up in the last couple decades because it is completely financed by donations.  That’s why it has taken so long.  Now that millions of people visit every year, the money to finish the construction is finally coming steadily and that’s why they can project the 2026 completion date.

Remember, when it’s done, some of the towers will be three times as tall as the current towers.  It will be the tallest building in Barcelona.

For more, check out these links. http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia      or  http://www.sagradafamilia.cat

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This is another iconic building in Barcelona.  I don’t remember the name of the building, but it houses the water district.  As you can imagine, the building has a few nicknames.  I don’t know what you were thinking, but bullet and rocket are the most common.  : )

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Tapas for lunch!  I tried these little peppers because my mom raved about them after her trip to Spain.  At least, I think this is what she described.

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Bob ate the squid.  I’m not normally squeamish, but I’m just not interested in squid.

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We found this square near our hotel.  Pigeons were everywhere.  It reminded me of what Abby said about the stray cats in Madrid.  She said there was one stalking a pigeon in a city square there and she and her friends thought he was so cute . . . until he pounced on the pigeon and shredded it!  She said it was more than a little horrifying.

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Cheese!

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We stopped at the Apple Store on the square because we haven’t seen the new iPhones yet.  I had to laugh because they’d installed these steps with plenty of seating for anyone who wanted to take a break and use the free wifi.  The main floor had all the tables of gadgets to play with and the balcony upstairs had the line to buy the new iPhone.  Well designed.

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Okay, this store–El Corte Ingles–is an amazing place.  It sells everything, literally.  It’s also HUGE.  The footprint is at least as big as Costco, but it’s NINE FLOORS!

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I love the whimsy found in so many of the buildings.  Here, a tree was built into this brick building.

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This one is hard to see, but there are little balls sticking out of this building.  It looks like a pin cushion.

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This is a music museum and performance theater.  It’s a monument to artistic tile work.  I loved the little ticket booth.  Again, kinda Hobbit-like.

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This store made me laugh.  Everyone could use a happy pill!  If you don’t read Spanish (and I barely do) some of the ingredients of these happy pills include blue sky, British humor, black humor, “I love Barcelona,” ho ho ho, and a good nap.

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