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!

Gaudi and Goodbye

Gaudi and Goodbye

Saturday, November 25, 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

Our last day in Barcelona, and we’ll fill it with Modernista sights of Gaudi et al. On our way to view a lesser-known early Gaudi commission, we’re once again drawn in by a market, along with the entire neighborhood, it seems. There’s a holiday charity event going on, as locals bring in donations for those in need, and a youth jazz band entertains the shoppers.
Displays of fresh vegetables decked with strings of dried peppers and intriguing shellfish – such as percebes, a type of barnacle that’s harvested by brave rock scramblers as the surf crashes around them, and those razor clams we enjoyed a few nights ago.

We metro to the Gracia district and ascend to streetlevel, where we’re greeted with an impressive Modernista building with artful dragonfly grilles on the sinuous windows.

Gaudi’s Moorish- influenced wonder, a private home, is very different from his later works – more straight lines here, a surprise from the man who declared that God makes curved lines, straight lines are man’s idea.

It’s fascinating to note how every detail is an essential part of the whole – from the bougainvillea – laden balconies to the fence design to the tilework.

Fanciful Park Guell is a few minutes walk uphill, with its Hansel and Gretel inspired houses at the entrance

and the fabulous terrace lined with curving benches strewn with intricate designs of broken tiles (a Gaudi technique – trencadis – he instructed his workers to pick up every stray piece of broken ceramic they could find wherever they walked).

We laugh to see a Coca-Cola vending machine in trencadis– creative and pinpointed marketing for sure!

Next stop, Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia. One day we’ll see it without construction cranes, but for now work continues, as it has for over a century. The goal of completion is the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death, 2026.

Time to pack for our early flight home tomorrow, and then one more seaside dinner and a stroll along the beach, where the W gleams across the surf… Hasta la vista, Barcelona!

Tapas and Modernistas in Barcelona

Tapas and Modernistas in Barcelona

Tuesday, November 22, 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

Kirk takes me on a mini- Modernista walk on our way to dinner, past yet another impressive example of the genre just a block away from our flat: a confection of brick and sgraffito inspired by the Alhambra in Granada.

The Moorish keyhole shapes and decorative ceramic show up in unexpected places, such as atop the windows of the pharmacy on the ground floor.

We’re tempted once again by a market, and just have to peruse the colorful stalls… artfully stacked fruits,

the requisite jamón ibérico

and sausages of all shapes and sizes.

There are several Modernista pharmacies throughout the Eixample district, and this one boasts fanciful glass panels – shopping with a monkey???

A lace-y more traditional Art Nouveau doorway graces this façade

Then we see an inimitable Gaudi doorway – HIS unique take on Art Nouveau

on the craggy, cliff- like La Pedrera on Passeig de Gracia.

Even the pavers on the sidewalk of Gracia are Gaudi designed.

Our eyes are sated… now to give some attention to our stomachs!
We’re going on a Tapas Crawl in the hip Born district, and our first stop is Euskal Etxea, its counters laden with tasty Basque bites,

each one a work of art, and each one only 1.80€!

Next stop, Xampanyet, another Basque spot, and quite a contrast to sleek Euskal Etxea.
They’re advertising fresh beer from the barrel,

and we can hardly get in the door!

The jolly guys behind the counter urge us to try one tapa after another and after a few raucous minutes, filling our mouths with tasty morsels, we seek out a quieter spot to finish our evening.

Bar del Pla quietly satisfies us with roast suckling pig, fried artichokes, and the ever-present pa amb tomaquet (bread rubbed with tomatoes).

Buenas noches, Barcelona…