The Boqueria Market is one of the dozen open air markets in Barcelona. The logo and entrance archway in stained glass are considered to be moderniste.
Since there are more than 100 structures considered moderniste (anything not strictly classical), I’ll keep adding interesting images. Stop back again. The rounded corners at the top of this storefront are covered with mosaic tile, a feature of Gaudi-era (Catalan modernisme) structures (1880s through the early 20th century). The original occupant was a pasta maker. Today it is a bakery. The close up shows the stained glass peacock between the doors.
The Antigua Farmacia Nadal is still a pharmacy.
This was a store selling umbrellas. There are medallions on the facade that are the tops of umbrellas.
El Indio is not a politically correct name for a store, and the depictions of “Indians” on the facade are highly romanticized (note the beards and mustaches). The detail is attractive, and the politics of the time seem to have indicated that wool, silk, lingerie and accessories came from an exotic locale.
Another accessories store,
This was the home of Dr. Genove. It has obvious Moorish influences, another element in Catalan modernisme.
We watched a projection called Awakening the Dragon, at the Casa Batlló, one of Antoni Gaudí’s bests known architectural works, the night before the end of the festival.
It does look like a big lizard is crawling around the roof. The roof line, altered by Gaudi, is an undulating form that was said to be reminiscent of a dragon. The park Gaudi designed, Parc Guell, has a fountain with a centerpiece of a huge tile-spangled iguana (ish) animal. Hence the images in this show.
The structure, the Casa Batllo, is among the showiest of Gaudi’s works, with undulating balconies that are depicted in one video as frog mouths. The group that runs this house has the strongest social media presence of all Gaudi’s work in Barcelona, including these periodic projection nights, photo contests and family activity days. It may be a case of survival of the media-savvy.
We saw a lively musical group Sabor de Gracia, on Placa Catalunya on Wednesday evening on our way home from Casa Batllo. They’re on Apple music.)
The next day at noon we watched the parade of ALL the city’s giants. Part of the time we were sitting in a cafe while we watched, an almost perfect venue. The giants ranged from highly realistic figures to fanciful Sun and Moon figures. Every stereotype you can imagine is presented. (If you dance down the street, then it’s not a bad stereotype, it’s just a…….big puppet!).
There were kings and queens
(Is that the Gatsbys?)
(Is that Putin?)
Is that a friend of Putin? (or was it Berlusconi’s friend?)
Local celebrities (I guess),
and folk dances,
And a lot of others.
The final element was the fireworks, music and colored fountains. It was the biggest fireworks display and the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen, estimated at 108,000, packed across a large plaza and all the adjacent streets in front of the Palacio Nacional (the National Museum of the Art of Catalonia). After it was over, we were surprised at how well-organized the subway was, with personnel letting people into the station in waves, then holding the crowd until the station was clear and continuing. Trains arrived every 2-3 minutes. We were home in less time than it took to get from our viewing spot to the subway, shuffling along with the crowd. Below is the youtube video. There are others more professionally done, but this one gives you a sense of the fireworks, searchlights, tubes shooting flames, smoke, and the fountain changing colors.
And that, was the end of the festival. What a week! The city’s patroness should be well satisfied for the coming year.
Barcelonans are fearless. They make human towers up to eight people high:
Keep in mind that the people you see at the bottom of this photo are the second tier. They are all standing on people underneath.
Barcelonans also take small children to the Correfoc, the Fire Run, where they are likely to be scared out of their wits.
It is night. There is a big portal covered with horns, or flames.
It opens to admit so many drumming groups that the area becomes a single wall of deafening sound. Then the lights change:
This is followed by a series of large fireworks that are exploded over everyone’s heads. You’re supposed to know to bring something to cover your head from the sparks and floating bits of carbonized paper. The smoke can’t be helped.
It was a wonderful display–I’ve probably never been so close to fireworks. Since we were about 20 people deep around the plaza at that point, it’s probably a good thing no one caught on fire from the falling debris.
Next, the demons emerge and are set alight. They spit sparks and blow off fireworks at the crowd. It looks like the neighborhood is igniting. These burn out about every 3 minutes and have to be charged again by a guy with a box of fireworks who wheels along after each demon… This is a very slow parade but very showy. The entire route is three blocks.
This is an exploding mosquito with glowing red eyes.
Groups of people dressed as devils take turns lighting their super-giant sized sparkler holders and then twirl them as they move down the street. The sparks cover everyone.
Here’s where I’m glad I’m not right along the route.
Tell me that doesn’t look like the building going up in flames.
There is never a tranquil moment. It’s all out noise, drums, sparklers crackling, explosions and chanting. Groups take turns to enter through the gates, light up, and scare everyone along the parade route. Just another fun evening in Barcelona during a religious festival.
(They fear nothing.)
From the title, you get the idea. La Mercé is the annual festival of Our Lady of Mercy, one of the patronesses of Barcelona. It spans a week, this year Sept. 18-24 and there are more events than one person could get to. We went to see the giants and the giant heads before they emerged. They don’t march in a parade, they dance down the street.
The attendants are “Big Heads”
Music is provided courtesy of the Middle Ages, a chorus of oboes, bagpipes, and other loud and squealing things.
Maybe that’s why she carries a pig. It was part of the band!
This was the first parade. The next parade was monsters and devils. We saw some of them in advance:
They looked more threatening at night in the street:
Several of the dragons, including the angry dolphin, squirted water on the crowd.
There was a drum group with almost every dragon, a group of 10-16 people, more than half of them women. They made a wall of sound and danced at the same time, some groups more choreographed than others. Impressive.
Barcelona’s wonderful museums include many that focus on artists and architects of the early 20th century. We are starting to make the rounds and may make return visits to both the Picasso Museum
and the Miro Foundation.
A great deal is made of modernism, but what that is remains puzzling. Definitions suggest that it was a movement that wanted to break with the past. In Barcelona, that meant a rejection of classical and Gothic architecture OR its reworking. Modernism include everything from Gaudi’s extravagant organic shapes to the boxy, white cubes of the Fundacio Miro designed by Spanish architect Josep Lluis Sert.
That’s a lot to put between one set of brackets. I’m starting a page of Barcelona architecture that I will add to from time to time that includes images of interesting things that I see–not all will be modernist, but many will be unusual. Take a look.
The Miro museum doesn’t allow photography in the indoor areas. The collection, donated by Miro, his wife and close friends, is spectacular. Really unusual. Some of Miro’s earlier pieces have emotion jumping off the page (joy, anger, disgust) in a way that I don’t usually feel from looking at art in museums. It’s startling to look at a painting and get a sense of what the artist was feeling at the time. It was a wonderful visit. Before we got to the museum, we made a brief stop (between subway and bus) at the Joan Miro park, where one of his pieces is installed. It is wonderful, really tall and overlooks the entire park. Though there are apartment buildings around most of the park there are a couple of places where you can photograph the sculpture with the sky as your background. The title is Woman with Bird.
I commented on the events of Catalonia Day, but there’s more! Riding the escalator to the subway the next day, what did I see, but a left over arrow from the demonstration. This lone survivor (dark pink, for equality) is now living on the wall of our apartment. I am very happy with my artifact of the demonstration. The tens of thousands of its companions (see previous post) have probably been recycled already.
To learn the suburban train system we took a trip to the beach, visiting Caldes d’Estrach, a town about 40 minutes ride northeast of downtown Barcelona. Getting there was the easy part. It took us almost as long to find out where to purchase our “Tarjeta Dorada” (Golden Card) that gives us a 40% discount on all train tickets all over Spain just because we are over 60. With that and assistance at the ticket machine to find the tab to use it (Other), we bought round trip tickets for 4.90€ each. We managed to miss the train while finding the platform, but the information people were helpful and showed us that another train departed the same place only 15 minutes later. Trains along the coast are rarely more than 20 minutes apart. The train station in Caldes d’Estrach is a few hundred yards from the beach.
The beach on a Monday.
The sand is full of tiny shells, miniscule limpets, mussels, scallops and sea urchins smaller than a drop of water. They look white in the sun, but at home, some were pink, lavender and striped in shades of tan and brown.
Yes, it turned out to be a nudist beach but no one minded us. It was Monday and even nudists were thin on the ground. We had our picnic, bought drinks and chips, beach combed, read books. It was great. I even went in the water, briefly. (Our chairs and umbrella cost 15€).
Beach combing (my favorite sport) is somewhat different here. This beach appears to be groomed every day, probably to make the beach less steep, but this churns up the shell. Most are small. I look for beach glass with the added bonus of beach ceramics here in the Mediterranean where people have been throwing debris in the sea for thousands of years. I threw back far more beach glass than I saved, but found some interesting bits. I also found a small rectangle of tile that we brought home to use as a soap dish. I saw a similar one in a museum shop for 7.50€ (score!).
It was a great day in Barcelona. Open house at the Born neighborhood cultural center shared its extensive archaeological exhibit on life in Barcelona in the 1700s. Outside the Center, castellers built human towers. This is a Catalonian tradition that requires solidarity–groups create a huge base of people pushing toward the center and upward.
Group members climb over one another to create a tower six people high. Two children or small adults climb to the top of the tower, change sides and descend. The goal is to get the tower all the way up AND all the way down without collapse.
Applause greets both the highest point of the construction when the two smallest members pass one another and erupts again if the group succeeds in disassembling the tower without any collapse. Teams wear colored shirts, and other teams and members of the public help support the base level.
Perhaps most remarkable to us was the fact that the spectators aren’t cordoned off from the castellers. We stood at the base of the tower builders to watch.
We followed this with a cup of chocolate at the Xocolateria. It was so thick I couldn’t finish my small cup–me! We also got the last two croissants available today, important because these were voted the best croissants in Spain in 2014. They were excellent and my eating most of the cream-filled one probably had something to do with not being able to drink all my chocolate…..
Catalan government buildings were open for visitors and many people took advantage to file through or take their photo with door guards in ceremonial dress.
Street crowds were thick.
Many people wore white shirts because they planned to participate in the demonstration in support of Catalan independence. At 5:15 pm a major street Av. Meridional, was lined with thousands of people organized by region or neighborhood. Sections of the crowd held colored cards that they raised when a lead car drove down a center lane. Each color represented a political goal such as diversity or solidarity. It was an impressive sight, estimated to have included as many as 2 million people.
The aerial tramway from Barceloneta to the Montjuic hill is a great intro to Barcelona. You can see a little of everything.
First you have to wait to go up to the tramway in a very small elevator.
The views are spectacular.
There is sculpture, a walkway across a swing bridge, and a big mall.
Notice that the W hotel overlooks the superyacht harbor. We saw a crew of about 15 cleaning one yacht. I wonder how many passengers there were? Our yacht would have had to park in the “non-super” marina.
This schooner moors by the World Trade Center.
From the air, the main tourist destination of shaded shopping street, La Rambla, appears as a line of greenery.
Beyond the tram line is a fringe of palms along city beaches that are still packed all week in September.
Some Details: The tramway runs from 11am-5:30 pm through Sept with shorter hours in the off season (It may also not operate from 2-3 pm–lunch hour). One way ticket is 11€ one way and 16.50 € round trip. Only young children are free of charge. It is possible to travel one way by bus. The 13 bus goes up the Montjuic hill from the subway at Placa d’Espanya. The entrance to the tram is a short walk away, in front of the Miramar hotel. On the other end of the tramway, the 64 bus stops just a short way down the street from the tram tower. These connect with the Rambla, and everywhere else in the city.
We arrived in Barcelona after a very long trip from LA via Miami. We were delayed several hours by stormy weather in Miami and as a result didn’t arrive in Barcelona until 11:45 am local time. Our host Joan was waiting at the apartment and we settled in rapidly. I still have plenty of jet lag, but we went for a stroll and shopping at the Carrefours across the street before I lost all oomph. We began to see some of the famous and delightful antique architecture.
Barcelona is packed, jammed, full to the brim and approaching pandemonium (not really, but it’s a great word). There are more languages spoken in the street than in anywhere this side of Hong Kong. Tourists fill every street and store to overflowing. If you want to know the exchange rate, just listen for a minute and some American will be explaining it to the other members of his party. Cheapest bottled water in the grocery store? Same thing. Perhaps exchange students are moving in for the semester, perhaps cruise ships are in port, but this Saturday was a bit of a mad house.
After a stroll to salute the statue of Columbus looking out to sea, I was happy to return to our quiet 3rd floor apartment (elevator!) where none of the street noise can be heard.