Barcelona is a Feast of Modernity
Laura and I managed to sneak a whirlwind tour of three European cities in May: Rome, Bingen am Rhein, and Barcelona. This post shares a few snapshots and perspectives from our Barcelona visit.
I studied Spanish while in high school and college, and during this time my family hosted a dozen Spaniards from different cities, with visits lasting between two weeks and six months. We really enjoyed learning about different parts of Spain and I benefitted in being able to practice and improve my Castellano. In 1984 we hosted our first student from Barcelona. In school we’d not been introduced to the proud heritage of Catalonia and its capital, Barcelona. Our exchange student quickly taught me that more than a few words in Castellano are nothing like the Catalan: dog in English = perro in Spanish = gos in Catalan. Growing up, my family’s cocker spaniel’s name was “Gus” so that made Catalan all the more intriguing!
Exiample, Gracia, Sarria…
My first visit to Barcelona was in 1986, while I was studying in Madrid. Madrid is the nation’s capital, and Barcelona’s arch-rival in futbol. I quickly fell in love with one of Barcelona’s many charms: the Eixample, a well-planned late 1800’s expansion connecting the old city and waterfront area to Sarria, Gracia, and other communities…combined into one Barcelona. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s several architects designed and built breath-taking buildings throughout Barcelona: Domenech i Montanyer, Puch i Cadafalch, and Gaudi. Gaudi is probably the most well-known to Americans for his unfinished temple to the Holy Family (Sagrada Familia) – truly awe-inspiring. Construction on the temple continues to this day! I fell in love with the breathtaking views and perspective over the city tothe Mediterranean from Tibidabo and Montjuic. The food was delicious. The fashion was…more European than peninsular. And the language…I couldn’t get enough of it! I visited Barcelona one more time in 1986 before my return to the US. Thereafter, I visited a few more times to stay with friends and get to know several small towns throughout Catalonia.
The following are some snapshots from our visit. The food was as wonderful as I recalled—tapas of all types, as well as the ubiquitous pan am tomaquet (shown here) and cava. Also shown is una racion at La Flauta: delicious layered tower of grilled eggplant, green peppers, onion, potato, and cod.
We rented an apartment through “vrbo.com” in a delightful neighborhood called “Gracia”. Gracia is 10 minutes away from many of the “modernist buildings” of the Eixample, but also contains many modernist examples of its own. Further, Gracia is a bit less touristy, a bit more working class — filled with artists’ workshops, bakeries, talleres, and small shops. It has many one-way and pedestrian-only streets, with families relaxing at the end of the workday around the perimeter of small plazas while the children play futbol in the center area. It was great to reconnect with Barcelona, explore a neighborhood I had previously not visited, and especially wonderful to have dinner with and meet the family of good friends whom I had not seen in many years!
Laura was delighted with the prevalence of balconies in Barcelona. Laura’s favorite building is Palau de la Musica Catalana, by Domenech i Montanyer. The concert hall was designed and built in the modernist style between 1905 and 1908. The Palau is a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, and really, all senses. For those who love Gaudi, a photo of the Sagrada Familia from Laura Tanzer’s Instagram.