It is almost three years to the day when I noted here the few hours that we spent in Barcelona, but this month we have made a second and longer stay at this jewel in Spain’s golden crown, the flight path to the airport giving us a breath-taking view of the coastline and the wonderful experience awaiting us.
We had the added pleasure of spending some of the time with very special members of our family including our twelve year old grandson, a devoted Barcelona F.C. supporter. There was also our daughter’s birthday to celebrate, and this fine city does celebration as a matter of habit. There was the added advantage of being guided and escorted around the city by a family friend, now resident here for some years.
Most cities are seen to best advantage on foot, and we did a lot of walking! The city is laid out on a grid system, its fine buildings mostly some one or two hundred years old, although there are parts of the city which still show their Roman and medieval origin. Transport is well regulated: motor bikes are encouraged and there are racks of bicycles owned by the city for hire (20 Euros a year for two hour trips),taking advantage of the wide streets and given a respect by car drivers unusual in my own country.
The buildings of the architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), and the fantasies and imagination that inspired them, are the pride of Barcelona. Described by one of his early teachers as either insane or a genius, perhaps he was both those things and although influenced by the European Art Nouveau movement and in particular by John Ruskin and William Morris, he was entirely, uniquely, himself.
The Sagrada Familia is quite astonishing. He spent the last forty three years of his life supervising the building of it, and until his untimely death as the result of a road accident,he lived for a year in a studio on the premises.
His dedication has been honoured by the city and his unfinished work is now at last nearing completion, although cranes still vie to catch the eye with the high cathedral towers. A deeply religious man (although he was critical of the clergy), the Christian story as well as his love for nature are evident on the facia with its many carvings, many telling their own stories. Inside the building – which has room for 8,000 worshippers – there is a wonderful sense of light and space.
‘Awe’ is the only word that can begin to explain its emotional and ascetic impact.
More about the city in my next blog, enough now to say that together with his mother and father we went with our grandson on a tour of the Barco’ museum and stadium, and we have the photos to prove it!