Barcelona: Of Churches Old and New
This morning at breakfast we felt as if we were royalty. They had an amazing buffet with fresh fruit, cheese, meats, breads, eggs, and even cakes and fancy donuts. The sun was shining brightly in the clear blue sky so we wasted very little time before going out to explore the city.
Barcelona Cathedral has been the holiest place in Spain for over 2,000 years. Gothic in style, it's 300 feet long and 130 feet wide. Although we were not fortunate enough to hear it play, the pipe organ was 16th century. I had forgotten how much gold and ornamentation is used in Spanish churches. We saw an enormous 4th century marble baptismal pool that was used to baptise Native Americans brought to Spain by Columbus.
The cloisters were the most peaceful ones I have seen here. Inside the courtyard filled with palm and orange trees was a man-made pond for Snow White geese. They seemed perfectly content swimming in their private pool with goldfish protected by wrought iron gates. I am sure they enjoy an occasional handout of bread from tourists which we witnessed.
The highlight of the afternoon visit was a visit to Sagrada Familia. Gaudi's vision of the church has been worked on for over 130 years and when he died in 1926, only 20% of it was done. Much of it is still under scaffolding, but when finished it will have 18 towers.
I was really struck by the contrast between the outside and inside. The facade looks very old with intricately carved spires, gargoyles, stone tortoises supporting pillars, and the nativity scene with the holy family, kings, and commoners. It's dark from aging in the elements over time. Inside on the other hand is light and airy. The brilliant stained glass windows are in bold primary colors and the supporting beams resemble trees while the ceiling seems to have carvings of flowers or stars. Gaudi could not have envisioned the way some hand blown glass decorations were lit, but I think if he were alive today he would appreciate the tasteful use of electric light.
We took an elevator to the top of one of the spires and worked our way down the narrow winding steps with occasional balconies in a modernista style with grand views of the city. It will be an amazing piece of architecture when finished.
We had a late lunch in El Corte Ingles on the 9th floor with an astounding view. I remember this department store in Madrid when I was a student. It was fun to walk around and look at everything including school supplies. I noticed the most beautiful sets of colored pencils and paints, even for elementary students.
Tonight we went to Tavera Basca Irati. They had all the tapas on plates and charge you by the number of toothpicks you leave on your plate so it's an honor system. I wasn't sure what some of the things were, but I think I had crab, chicken, and a Spanish omelette with potatoes. Walking back to the hotel, all the plazas were busy with people just walking around or sitting on the steps of churches enjoying the ambiance. Men selling knock off sunglasses and handbags had all their wares on a sheet with ropes so they could bundle them up in a moment's notice and take off. Other vendors sold glow in the dark flying saucers they sent soaring high in the sky. It was a wonderful way to end a great day.