Easter crept up on me this year, because I spent the greater part of the week leading up to it doing the day job in Barcelona. I was last there in November, when the weather was very similar to how it is now (How I envy the Spanish their short, mild winters!). Long-time readers may remember that I wrote of an earlier visit, in April 2013, when I was lucky enough to be there during the St George’s Day bookshop celebrations, the inspiration for our own World Book Day.
As it happened, there were more opportunities for down time in November and so last week’s distinct lack of them may be compensated by a selection of 2015 photographs of one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting cities. They aren’t in any particular order, but reflect visits to Antoni Gaudí’s inspirational work at Casa Batlló,
and Palau Güell
and to the Fundació Joan Miró.
There are some pictures, too, of places I wandered around and the people and animals I saw as I went. There were cats everywhere: scrawny cats crouching in alleyways, suspicious cats craning their necks from the tiled roofs, a family of sleek, well-fed black and white cats living in a courtyard at the university. Dogs were on and off leash, living happy doggy lives; being an English pointer owner, I was delighted to find a rescued black and white pointer playing on Carmel Hill (Park Güell) with her mum.
Anyway, as I’ve said, this is just a selection, which doesn’t really need much explanation, but I hope you didn’t expect too much in the way of classic views – you can find those in the guide books! Here’s a tourist picture to finish with: woman in Park Güell.
As it has been some time since I posted about a grand sculptural project, I have decided to take advantage of a current opportunity to rectify matters. I’m enjoying a brief respite from the pressures of work and find myself in Barcelona, where today I have visited the remarkable Casa Milà, better known perhaps as La Pedrera, the apartment building designed by Antoni Gaudí and finished in 1910.
For someone who spends a great deal of time reading and thinking about the dark side of life, walking into this magnificent architectural accomplishment is a spirit-lifting contrast like the gladdening of the heart that comes with the warmth of the sun after one of the bleakest winters I have ever known. And Barcelona is blissfully warm, too, its trees already covered in fresh green leaves and its beaches full of sunbathers.
Those of my readers who have toured La Pedrera will, I hope, indulge my hugely enthusiastic response to Gaudí’s work here. All ripples and curves and fanciful challenges to the dismal straight line, the building is, in fact, a temple to the harmony of art and practical purpose. Its roof, a miraculous sculptural garden of delights, turns chimneys, stairways, ventilation ducts and water-management into elegant figures and organic forms, rising and falling above the exquisite catenary arches of the loft beneath. Gaudí designed this latter to be insulation for the apartments from both the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Following the loft galleries around the two internal courtyards (which, lower down, allow natural light to enter the rooms), has the feeling of walking around the caves of some grand champagne house, though windows at intervals permit light and air to enter.
The apartments themselves, one level of which is open as a museum to visitors, are still occupied by private families and various businesses, in keeping with the original intention. I could live here! Original parquet and marble flooring, completely flexible space (the pillar and steel beam structure means that none of the internal walls is load-bearing) and an almost complete absence of four-square normality, together with calm natural lighting, all inspire a sense of peace and joy. I do not exaggerate.
The views from the roof are spectacular panoramas over Barcelona, to the hills and to the sea; those from the windows are down to either the cool interior courtyards or along the bustling streets outside. Balconies, with their hallmark black and scrolled wrought iron balustrades, encourage a desire to watch the world go by below.
I spent some happy hours there today, leaving with a lightened heart and the strong sense of well-being that comes from exposure to something incredibly beautiful and superbly designed. La Pedrera is a marvel.