Barcs as it is lovingly called looks like a dream at an elevation of 10,000 ft. Yes from the aircraft. The city in the early morning shines next to the aqua blue waters as the largest metropolitan on the Mediterranean Sea. My fellow passenger, a soul from a distant Catalan town of Girona couldn’t contain his excitement to show-off the city and its landmarks. Gaudi was an oft-repeated word in the conversation. But naturally.
Upon touch-down, the airport hosts a warm welcome. It boasts of the fine lines and heavenly details that the contemporary Spanish architecture scene is famous for. Soon to realise that it only marks a beginning. Going by the fact that the taxi drivers welcomed us with a ‘namaste’ it didnt take us long to love the ‘scam city’!
Christopher Columbus stands proof of the great journeys that the sailors of the land took, one of which found us the ‘land of opportunity’ too. With just 24 hours to spend in Barca, what would one do? Call friends in the city for sure!
Settling into our hotel at La Rambla, we dug into the warm Spanish Omlettes comprising of potato cubes folded into the whisked egg mix. And rightly raring to go, we hit the streets. Our first stop – the Cathedral, upon reaching the plaza in front of the Cathedral we were greeted with bustling people holding hands and doing a traditional dance. Little children in costume posed for pretty pictures, the carnival mood was surely on. Making our own little circle we danced as well soaking in the festivities.
A quick peek into the Cathedral later the agenda was to hit the town. A walkathon would rightly describe it. Our hosts quickly made a route taking one through all the landmarks of the Grand city. Such a pity that the city stays largely shut on a Sunday, the Spanish surely know how to relax and rightly chill. The public buildings though (read the Gaudi buildings) are fortunately open. As Pranay and Natalie walked us through the innumerable plazas and surprise by-lanes, narrow cobble-stone streets, the city came alive as the day drew on. Loving long walks would only add to one’s delight in Barca. La Rambla during the day is no different than the night. Yeah yeah the regulars will disagree but hey it was a Sunday. In the cool wintry climes, trees bare to reveal architecture in all its might.
The first thing that strikes me is the uncanny resemblance the urban planning first seems like that of Paris. Well actually the impeccable grooming of the French Capital takes a hike here. Its just a bit more chilled, a bit more relaxed, cutting, well all the corners. The octagonal junctions with chamfered corners make the junctions and nodes that bit more friendly, the pavements as the centre stretch flanked by roads and then again by walkways literally put the pedestrian in the spotlight. And the pleasure in walking in made kinda obvious. On the blessed day with blue skies, the sun up and cool breeze we made our way to Marmalade (a special entry on much recommendation). Graffiti on the inner lanes may exhibit a lot of vandalistic tendency, but the people surely had a lot to say. I wouldnt imagine why one would spend all their talent to spell out ‘idiot’ so artistically. Political agenda, maybe.
Marmalade is a typical brunch place, an obvious favourite with the expatriates in town. Spectacularly I stuck with a Hot chocolate and filled in for the Gaudi revelation.
Walking across town, the Le Pedrera came first. All is well but from afar the skull shaped balconies were definitely a little creepy. Gaudi lovers please dont pick up the vase yet, I do have a lot of amazing things to say. The Pakistani and Indian stores that remain open on SUndays are a boon! Just saying. Anyway the cranes surmounting the unfinished Sagrada can be sighted from a lot of places in the city, we discovered as we walked. Something that was quite endearing about Barca is that unlike Paris, the urban design does not seem to dictate the vocabulary of the architecture. There are quite a few startling examples that wedge between erstwhile buildings. The architects do seem to have the much loved ‘free hand’.
With all shops shut, the Land of MANGO and ZARA put me on a single minded agenda thereafter, it was called Gaudi.
The Sagrada is quite unassuming in terms of its location, a turn here and a bend later there it was located right in front of a foyer of a green. A long Que. and an audio book later the lift took us up to one of the completed towers. The view of the city from atop is simply spectacular. And the beach looks inviting. And the breeze, super. There is that something about having the wind in my hair that I can absolutely not get enough of. Sigh. ANyway. Climbing down isn serious business!
But once down, entering the Sagrada made an indelible impression on me. The quality of light, the arches, the windows are all at a completely different level. It is definitely one of the best examples of architecture, I would rate it close to the Pantheon, my personal favourite. As I tuned in the audiobook and soaked in the magnificent church I felt the b of bliss. Losing oneself in architecture is inevitable here. Remarkable how Gaudi spent over 40 years on his labor of love. Just as my ‘non-architectural’ Husband nodded his head in disbelief and disapproval. The facades are not all completed, Gaudi decided to give the younger architects a chance to leave a mark on his church.
The front elevation is the last one that I finally saw, and well I didn’t really take to it. The skulls, bones and a romanticising couple, really Mr Gaudi??? on a Church front??? I get it, Gaudi is inspired by nature, I am too. But skulls on a building, quite dark I would think, quite twisted. AFter about a month now, while writing this I realise that skulls, bones et al are all a part of nature. Maybe Gaudi did have a point. How straight is the world really? But I must say, all great architecture may make you hate it or make you love it, but the reaction is never indifference. Thats where Gaudi wins. Over all the people who come to see his labor of love.
Next stop was the Guell Park and a dekho at the lizard (????!!!) that Gaudi lovingly designed. The Park was great, another place the Barcelonians love to take a hike but the lizard, not for me. The Souvenier shop is cute though and highly fantastical. After the heavy dose, Gaudi is quite daunting, it was time to get some Paella and a bite of Tapas. La Rambla was the agenda. At the mercy of a cocky chap on La Rambla, we got scammed into a terrible Paella experience, since it tasted like Maggi! With that and a wonderful walk to end the day, the ‘scam city’ of Europe took its final bow as the curtains fell for us.
P.s. One can never be the same after a brush with Barca. Even with a backdrop of impeccable historical vibe it doesnt overwhelm you, instead it tells you to chill, it inspires you to breathe, to slice into life with your passion, whatever it may be.