Photo Tour: Barcelona Parks and Museums

New York may be "the city that never sleeps" -- or one of those cities, at least -- but Barcelona gets my vote for the city where "the celebration of life never stops." Take a Spaniard's exuberance and add Catalan pride to it -- along with nonstop art, great architecture, and those late late nights out -- and you've got, well, you've got Barcelona.

(I've mentioned Catalan above and also in my first Barcelona page, but I should explain a bit more. Catalunya covers the northeast corner of Spain, the very southeastern corner of France -- and Andorra, too. Many people here consider themselves to be Catalan first and Spanish or French next, if at all. In Catalan parts of France, I mostly saw and heard French... but in Catalan parts of Spain, like Barcelona, the first language was Catalan. I got along fine with French and Spanish, though.)

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 here.

Montjuïc, a hill at the southwest edge of Barcelona, is where the 1992 Olympics (which, many people will tell you, "put Barcelona on the map") were held. One big attraction -- when they're running, at least -- is the huge series of fountains that spill down the city side of the hill. You can see one of them in the photo at the right below. The left-hand photo is a close-up view of the right-hand one. Guess which flag is in front there? Yup: the Catalan flag. (For another view, see the photos of Céret, France.)
on Montjuic

Toward the other side of Montjuïc you'll find a huge courtyard with a tall white tower -- for telecommunications, I think -- and some of the main buildings for the 1992 Olympics. (Oops, those photos should both have the same colors of pavement and columns. No time to fix that now, though!)
tower and columns on Montjuic
Olympic facilities on Montjuic

Antoni Gaudi, the architect and artist, almost never left Catalunya. He didn't follow the styles of artists and architects outside: he adapted them. Gaudi also loved nature -- and studied it since he was a child. When he covered land with a building, his work would often replicate the plants that were there before. I'm not sure how many straight lines he used in his designs, but there aren't many! His Park Guell, on the northeast edge of Barcelona, was open land when his massive project there started in the early 1900s. Now it's a tourist magnet -- and a fantastic complement to the order of the rest of the Barcelona, which now surrounds it on all sides:
Entrance to Park Guell
Barcelona from Park Guell entrance

A more-traditional park -- with several museums in it, including the interesting Museu Nacional d'Art Modern de Catalunya -- is Parc de la Ciutadella. It's pretty close to La Rambla, so it makes a good break. (It's actually a bt more relaxing for me than a park by Gaudi because there's nothing special to look at!)
Outside Museu Nacional d'Art Modern de Catalunya
Reading the paper in Parc de la Ciutadella

Across the La Rambla area is the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. These people have a lighthearted approach that could make this a good place to visit if you don't especially like modern art. The work at the right below, for instance, is by Piero Manzoni. Called Corpi d'Aria, this is an "instantaneous pneumatic sculpture." (It's a balloon, folks.) As the sign next to the work explains, you could buy one of these beauties for thirty thousand Italian lira. They come with a certificate of authenticity which guarantees that the sculpture contains the genuine breath of the artist. (Wow! How can I get mine??)

The photo at the left below is part of a huge display called hiCat -- room after room of charts, videos, computer consoles, and more -- supposedly about evaluating what Catalunya has and where it could go. Almost everything was in Catalan, so I can't tell you for sure. Some parts of it seemed so bizarre to me, though (like a picture of giant cruise ships sailing through the middle of a city), that it gave me a delicious idea. What if this were a totally bogus research project, full of fantastic charts and figures that were almost completely plausible, with just a few things (like the picture of ships which flashes on the screen for a moment) to clue you in that it isn't authentic? A lot of people were paying a lot of attention to the displays, though, and I was the only person who seemed to be smiling a lot, so I'm not sure...
hiCat display
Corpo d'Aria by Piero Manzoni

If you don't think you're into abstract art, you might try the Fundicaó Joan Miró (it's on Montjuïc, the hill I showed at the top of the the first page). As you can see below, it's got lots of Miró -- and usually a temporary exhibition by a new artist, too. What makes this place good for non-abstract (and non- Miró?) fans is the audioguide that's included with admission. It describes each work in plain language; most don't require any background in art. Many of Miró's works are like poetry, and you'll hear (and maybe see?) why -- though whether you agree, of course, will be up to you!
Miro sculpture, Barcelona in the distance
Fundacio Joan Miro

You can read more about Barcelona art in the 2007 New York Times article A Charming Jumble of Art and Artists.

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(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.)

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