May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

We’re back in Barcelona, and our tour guests have arrived – let’s begin with a day filled with the unique and playful designs of Gaudi, Catalonia’s Modernista (Art Nouveau) master.
Towering above the adjacent park and apartment buildings, Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882, and we’ve never seen it without cranes higher than the existing towers as work continues on the structure, inside and out. Will it be completed by the hoped-and-planned for date of 2028? We shall see…
It’s often compared to a giant drip-sand castle – yes, I see the resemblance!
The details are overwhelming –  look closely to appreciate the joyful musicians on one side, the peaceful Holy Family or threatening Darth-Vader-like soldiers at the crucifixion on the other.
Inside the organ is playing as we quietly take in the immense space – it feels as if one is in a forest of pale columns, lit with beams of color from the windows. When we were last here the stained glass was being installed – fascinating to watch. Now it’s completed, and bathes the space in jewel tones.Beneath the nave are the studios, with models Gaudi constructed to design his signature parabolic arches. Modern technology, with 3D printers and more, has taken the place of centuries-old methods as work continues.
Fascinating Casa Batllo on Passeig de Gracia is our next stop – a quirky charmer inside and out.
Not a straight line to be seen – Gaudi worshiped the curve, said there are no straight lines in nature, and kept it that way himself.Wouldn’t it be fun to quietly sit in this nook and read? One seat is larger than the other, designed specifically for the owners, whose daughter and her fiancée could sit on the wider seat while the dueña sat across making sure they behaved themselves.
Life goes on in the occupied houses surrounding Casa Battlo – laundry’s hung out to dry on one balcony and the table is set for family lunch on another as we pause on the upper floor terrace off the dining room. Gaudi’s artistry continues all the way to the tip top of the roof – and off in the distance we can see the spires of Sagrada Familia. Even Passeig de Gracia, the main drag in this part of town, is Gaudi designed – right down to the sidewalk beneath our feet as we walk a few blocks to Cinc Sentits (Five Senses) for a memorable lunch. A stone is set in the middle of the table…we haven’t figured out why. But we’re soon distracted with a block of wood, in which are 4 heavy shot glasses. Our waiter describes the contents – maple syrup, a sprinkle of sea salt, a zabaglione-like layer, then cream – and suggests downing it in one swig, which we do – indescribably delicious!
And there’s more to come…from succulent scallops, to luscious chocolate – yes, our senses are delighted! And now we’re ready for more Gaudi…
Trencadis, Modernista mosaic composed of broken ceramics, is a defining characteristic of whimsical Park Guell, a playground of Gaudi’s creations.
Up to the market-hall rooftop we climb, to take in the view of city and sea from the colorful benches snaking around the edge – yes, all curves again!
The interior of those Hansel and Gretel like houses below are worth a peek – a colorful playhouse feel.
We’ve sampled just one of Barcelona’s unique highlights – the Modernista creations of Gaudi.
A harpsichord concert completes the day. The tuner has his work cut out for him during intermission – harpsichords don’t stay in tune like pianos do.
More adventures in store tomorrow – we’re going to the Wild Coast – the Costa Brava!

A Day for the Senses – Gaudi and More

A Day for the Senses – Gaudi and More

Spring in Spain – – Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour in Provence or our featured (and expanded!) 2012 Amsterdam/Belgium tour!

There is so much we appreciate about welcoming Hotel 10 Montcada – not least of all the fabulous buffet breakfast that starts our day!

Oh and have we mentioned the fabulous rooftop terrace? Complete with jacuzzi?! No time to linger there this morning, though. We’re ready for a Gaudi- filled day!

First stop, his unfinished symphony, a work still in progress 86 years after his death, the Sagrada Familia.

A masterpiece outside,

and in – a stunning forest of graceful white columns,

we feel privileged to  see the work continuing before our eyes, as jewel-toned stained glass is fitted into place above us.

From this majestic house of worship, the symbol of Barcelona, we move on to a more intimate example of Gaudi genius, the extraordinary Casa Batlló.

What inspired this scaly, colorful, rippling delight? Was it the sea? the confetti of Venice’s Carnival -see those mask-like balconies? the dragon conquered by St. Jordi (George), the patron saint of Barcelona?

What fun to see Gaudi’s designs for living – such as this cozy nook, complete with a private fireplace

and an up-close view of  the dragon-spine crowning it all  – we’d have rooftop parties if we lived here 😉

After this feast for the eyes, it’s time to move on to our other senses, at the aptly named Cinc Sentits (Five Senses), where Stephen meets us for lunch. This Miró inspired tour was his idea, with the arrival of the Joan Miró exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, which we’re all looking forward to enjoying for ourselves when we return to the DC area. Stephen had to play at a Sunday evening concert at the Gallery, so was unable to depart until Monday and we’re glad he didn’t have to miss what we know will be a fabulous lunch!

Our tasting menu began with a spectacular layered concoction that included sabayon, warm maple syrup and flaked salt in a shot glass – we were advised to drink it all at once, and you could just see everyone’s eyes widen as we did – indescribably delicious! And the tastes kept coming… risotto with cod and a crispy wafer

foie gras with a sweetly crunchy crust

sorbets and fruit, followed by divinely decadent morsels of the finest chocolate… don’t miss this experience when in Barcelona!

Senses delighted, some of us retire to the hotel before tonight’s concert, and the rest of us continue our Gaudi Day, stopping at one of his first commissions (which must have been designed before he decreed that straight lines are of man, curved lines of God), Casa Vicens, a moorish pastiche that’s a private home.

Playful Park Guell is our last stop,

and surprisingly it seems a little less crowded than it was when we visited in November… perhaps everyone’s enjoying the beach on this warm day!

In the evening we gather in the lobby for a pre-concert chat with Stephen, whose insights into “The Grace of Schubert” make this first concert of our tour, the Barcelona Symphony, even more of a pleasure.

Day to Night in Barcelona

Day to Night in Barcelona

Sunday, November 19, 2011, Part 2
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: New Year’s Jazz in Italy

We’ll continue the music with a Spanish guitar concert tonight, so explore further in the Barri Gotic to find Santa Maria del Pi church, where the concert will take place. The plaça fronting the church is filled with artisan food stalls – honey, breads, cookies and more.

Across the plaça is a beautifully sgraffito-ed eighteenth century guildhall.

The one area we do remember from our short overnight here about 5 years ago is this charming Barri Gotic, and once again we stop to read a few of the ceramic signs on the narrow lanes – a favorite memory from our previous visit. This one says “From sunrise to sunset, all day the people pass”.

Walking towards the Eixample, we see a Quatre Dauphin fountain, similar to the Aixoise beauty we love. This one has a definite Spanish flair, though, topped with a flirting damsel with a fan.

In fifteen minutes or so we’re back on Bailen street, and there’s our apartment, the one with lots of greenery on the balconies. It’s on the first floor, but up 7 short flights of stairs! Fortunately there’s an elevator, which we used when we brought our luggage, but we usually climb the stairs. There’s the Entresol, then the Principal, and FINALLY the Primero (1st).

The compact studio has everything we need – excellent wifi, a very comfortable bed and sitting area on the other side of a shelf/closet/drawer divider. Raimundo, the owner, met us when we arrived at Lorca, the apartment, and showed us how everything works, and described the neighborhood and how to get to different places we wanted to visit, where the closest metros and train station are, etc.

We recommend this place highly and would be happy to stay here again!

Just around the corner from Santa Maria del Pi is Taller de Tapas, and we enjoy a couple of plates of delicious seafood – razor clams and calamari, and a mound of paper thin artichokes, crisply fried. Accompanied by a flute of cava and some more of that tomato rubbed bread that’s a yummy staple of every meal, it’s a satisfying pre-concert supper.

In a simple side chapel with rough stone walls, we’re seated on the first row of the balcony – a great view, and super acoustics,

the perfect spot to appreciate Manuel Gonzalez’ artistry.The intricate melodies of Albeníz, Mozart, and Asturias are a wonderful intro to our Barcelona week.

Remember how we mentioned the changing façade of Casa Battlo? Here’s the night- time view of the house on Passeig de Gracia that we passed on the way home – a contrast to the daylight vista of this morning.

The Barcelona Dance

The Barcelona Dance

Sunday, November 19, 2011
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: New Year’s Jazz in Italy

I’ve heard and read about Barcelona’s Sardana, a circle dance, for decades, and today we finally have the opportunity to see it!
It’s about a twenty minute walk from our apartment in the Eixample (expansion) District, the area that was designed and developed in the mid-1800’s when Barcelona burst through its medieval walls. Modernista (Catalonian Art Nouveau) architects, the most famous of whom was Gaudi, designed sinuous masterpieces for their wealthy clients, and his shimmering Casa Battló greets us this morning as we walk down Passeig de Gràcia toward the old town. This wondrous building changes color throughout the day and night, depending on how the light hits it.

Mask-like balconies dot the scaly façade – sometimes the house looks like a dragon, sometimes like an undersea fantasy. Amazing!

What a difference as we enter the Gothic Quarter, closer to the Mediterranean. Traditional ceramic tiles adorn exteriors and palm shaded courtyards.

Sunday morning mass fills the Seu, or Cathedral, with alleluias, and incense fuzzes the altar as we peer through the intricately carved marble choir screen.

On the Cathedral steps the band is tuning up, with several unusual instruments unique to Catalonia (Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, which is one of Spain’s regions that clings strongly to its own language and customs).

I am sorry to say that none of my videos of the unusual music and dance came out… I so wanted to share it! There was one large circle, and several smaller ones. As people entered the circles, they would bring their coats and bags into the center, then join the ring and the slow and intricate steps, raising and lowering their hands, sometimes jumping up and down together. I could have watched for hours!

There was no dress code, but several of the ladies changed into ankle-laced espadrilles to dance.

In stark contrast to the ancient buildings (even a portion of a Roman aqueduct) surrounding the Plaça (plaza) is a modern high-rise, the Architects’ Association, decorated with graffiti-style Catalan folk scenes designed by Picasso in the 1950’s.

From the celebration in the front of the cathedral, we walk to the peaceful palm-shaded cloister in the rear.

A lovely place, a little noisier than most cloisters, since thirteen geese, representing the thirteen years of Saint Eulàlia, Barcelona’s martyred patron saint, live there!

Down the winding narrow lanes behind the cathedral are further traces of the city’s Roman origins – four remaining columns of a first century BC Temple of Augustus.

Through the centuries the city’s been built around them – how would you like to hang your laundry out beside an ancient Roman pillar?!

Didn’t see any of these Spanish dancing shoes in the Sardana rings….

Can Culleretes has been dishing out traditional Catalan cuisine since 1786.

Multiple rooms decorated with huge oil paintings, colorful ceramic tiles and vintage bullfight posters (I liked the one trumpeting “6 Hermosos Toros” – 6 beautiful bulls) are filled with families enjoying Sunday lunch.

We begin with tasty salads – mine with smoked duck breast – and continue with duck and plums. Usually we choose different dishes to get a better feel for the menu, but we both really wanted that duck!

To be continued….