Friday, May 29, 2009

Trip to Iberia #3. Modernisme Part 2: Some Buildings Are Breathing Dreaming Things

Our day of Modernisme continues at...

Casa Milà

How can I describe to you this heavenly creature, beautiful beast, mysterious being, that is Casa Milà? Its flowing lines, breathing walls, striking ironworks, and whimsical chimneys... When you're there, you almost believe it is a living thing, and that the walls are listening and the windows are watching. I have yet to find out if it is a gentle or cruel being. But I know it feels and dreams. It loves and hates. But what kind of lover is it?

I love this gate. Absolutely gorgeous.
Once you enter the gate.
The famous chimneys on the rooftop.

Admire the flowing lines.

A model of Casa Milà.

Casa Batlló, an older building restored by Antoni Gaudí and Josep Maria Jujol, plays yet another fantastic chord.
A light fixture at the entrance of Casa Amatller (by Josep Puig) inspires a horror movie.

Lunch break. We practiced tourists' flexibility and had tapas for lunch at a random bar near the Block of Discord. Potato omelet, sauteed mushrooms, grilled seafood in skewers, and arrozo negro (photographed). They were fantastic!
Invigorated by good lunch, we gathered enough courage to take a trip to Park Güell, another lovely whimsical creation of Gaudí.

It was originally intended to be a residential community. (People were supposed to live in those fairy-tale homes.) But the project failed and it is now a park.

What a beautiful day it was...

After some rest at the hotel, we attended a concert at Palau de la Música Catalana (by Lluís Domènech) in the evening. The concert was a complete excuse to enjoy the architecture of the concert hall. We concluded that it would have been better if we took a tour of the building offered during the day instead. Anyway, the building was marvelous. Just beautiful, exquisite, and elfian, if I may. Taking Photographs is not allowed inside, but that was announced only right before the concert, so I had the benefit of ignorance.

After the concert, we had lovely tapas dinner at Taller de Tapas in Barri Gòtic. Braised octopus with paprika, potato with scrambled eggs, chorizo in Austrian cider, grilled vegetables with anchovies, and spinach with garbanzo beans. It was absolutely lovely.

The next day, we have an early flight to catch to Lisbon.


Antoni Gaudí

Trip to Iberia #2. Modernisme Part 1: Pilgrimage in Reverse

Being a tourist in Barcelona means seeing Gaudi. So we dutifully dedicated a whole day to a pilgrimage to Modernisme architecture. Little that we knew what we were about to experience.

One sees those strange amorphous buildings in photos and travel shows all the time. But walking into Gaudi's space is something different altogether. It is a transformative experience. It completely changed the way I see buildings.

Temple Expiatori Sagrada Familia

Climb out of the metro station, and simply look in the direction in which all the tourist cameras are facing. There, you find La Sagrada Familia.

The church makes an impressive presence, if a bit chaotic with all the ongoing construction.

The Nativity Facade, completed when Gaudi was still living, is a festivity of intricacy. It is obviously a work of somebody who measures love by the level of dedication.

The Passion Facade, constructed after Gaudi's death, poses a stark contrast to the innocent, delicate, and fluid Nativity Facade. I love Josep Maria Subirachs's grim, weighty and serious sculpture, but apparently there was a controversy in the early days over whether Subirachs work was compatible with Gaudi's intention and design.

Here are some sketches by the artist.

They remind me of Lord of the Ring.

Here are some interior pictures of the church.

As they say, the tree-formed columns compose a tranquil forest in the interior of the church.

Spiral stairways.

We climbed the claustro/acrophobic stairs.

You can see the famous Barcelona's landmark through the window: the enormous... middle finger. I bet the architect of that building knew exactly what he was doing. (I very much doubt it was a she, but what do I know?)

Below is how we worship in our modern world.

La Sagrada Familia is "scheduled" to be completed in 2026. That feels so far away now. But we all know how fast the date will come. Will S and I be able to come back to see it in its completed form? At least we have something to look forward to in our late fifties.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trip to Iberia #1. First time in Barcelona

Barcelona, bright and temperate in this particular afternoon, is filled with mystery to these two wide-eyed travelers*. On the Airport bus, we blankly stare at the city that passes by behind the window in quick dizzy blurs -- elaborate old buildings, modern structures with splash of colors, busy streets lined with beautiful green trees, and the iron-railed balconies with their shades. Balconies are everywhere here, as if in Barcelona interior aspires to be exterior.

The bus drops us at Plaça de Catalunya. Still dazed and not fully awake at this end of the ten-hour flight, we find our way to the hotel. The mixture of fatigue and excitement -- the feeling well known to all long-distance travelers -- infects us.

Two virgin travelers to Spain, we don’t know quite yet what Barcelona, our gateway to Iberia, has in store for us, or what this trip will reveal to us.

In the early evening hours just before the sun goes down, the whole Barcelona spills out onto la Rambla, turning it into a festival of a sort. Refreshed after settling in our hotel, we too join the procession and stroll under the shades of avocado-green trees, participating in the famed ritual in honor of easy living. The air is light, the temperature is mild, and all our worries are 3642 miles away.

Mercat de La Boqueria is a sight to see and a taste to have.

If you were impressed, as I was, by the charmingly gory scenes of Mercato Centrale of Florence, just visit this market. It is absolutely carnal.

I don’t know which is more grotesque, the animals’ bulging eyes or their bared buck teeth, both fixed at the moment of their dying agony.

Anyhow, make sure to enjoy some good eatery while there. We had some fried anchovies and baby octopus, as well as pieces of fruit and fruit juice.

We got off La Rambla to see Barri Gòtic (Gothic quarter)—its medieval churches, tortured gargoyles, Roman walls, and exotic trees.

Gargoyles of Carrer del Bisbe.

Late at night, we had a nice Catalan dinner observing the Iberian schedule. We had Arborro con sepia and stewed monk fish with shrimps at Agut near Santa Maria Del Mar, where we were served by a waiter who looked like Kenneth Branagh.

Our first night was a flare. We happily sunk into the sweet dream of the rest of the trip.