Barcelona (said Bar-THUH-loe-nuh, as the Spaniards do) was a relief
for me: I could speak the language!
(Well, I could speak the second
language, Spanish, called castellano
Catalan is the first language.)
pictures -- too many to fit on one web page. Here are the first; for
the others, there's a link at the end (or just click here if you can't
To get a larger version of any picture, click on it; a new window
should open. When you close that window, this window should still be
Antoni Gaudi is a famous Catalan architect and artist. Probably the most famous Gaudi project is one that's only part-finished: the Sagrada Familia, a sort of super-cathedral that has its own Metro (underground, subway) stop. If you were to walk out of that stop and look up, you'd see something like the top-right photo below. Cathedrals often take more than 100 years to build, and this incredible structure is no exception. If you visit Sagrada Familia, you'll be very aware of how much "in progress" it is. You can go way up, near the top, in the middle of all of it:
The Port Vell, a part of town that used to be seedy, was spruced up for the 1992 Olympics. The huge boardwalk is a great place to hang out, look out... and look up, too. (Cable cars run overhead, across the port, and you can go up there for a view down.) For some navigational help, you can always look up to Columbus (he's called Colón in the Spanish-speaking world), as he points the way from the top of his column... but if you're driving, be sure to watch those traffic lights instead!
The port is at one end of La Rambla, a long series of wide streets where everything happens... and everyone goes. And I mean every kind of person: tourists at outdoor cafes, sipping huge drinks while musicians serenade them... people out for a party, or just a stroll... and every sort of street performer you can think of (and some you can't think of, until you see them along La Rambla, that is). The man wrapped in white, below, was taking a break for some food that his friend brought him. I think he might be an angel and those are his wings. Maybe.
On either side of La Rambla is a maze of narrow streets where you'll find every sort of shop -- and, above them, lots of homes. See the photo at left below. Some of the little streets are elegant, some are lined with family businesses like grocery stores, and some are deserted and dangerous-looking. I stayed at a pension along one of those streets. Two of the things I enjoyed most about Barcelona were learning to find my way through those twisty passages... and watching the parade of people, and cars (and motorbikes and kids on skateboards and...) along the way.
Keep walking up La Rambla (and maybe stop into the top-floor restaurant at the Corte de Ingles department store for a great view over the city). The street eventually becomes the Passeig de Gràcia in the Barcelona district of L'Eixample. You'll see lots of traditionally-elegant buildings on both sides of the wide street. You'll also see some, well... Modernist architecture can be elegant, too, but a building with stylized human skulls for its balconies can take some getting used to. The first two buildings below, at numbers 41 and 43, are good introductions -- and the exhbition and information desk at number 41 can help you find much more of the same architecture around town.
Farther up the street, just outside the Metro station at Diagonal, is Gaudi's building called La Pedrera (the Quarry). You can't see it all, but you can tour around the apartment that shows modern life (in a Modernist building) at the start of the 20th century... and you can go up to the roof, with its surreal sculptures (and a bonus view over Barcelona). There's also an exhibit showing many of Gaudi's other works.
(These photographs are Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)