19 November 2009

From Nar to Bar

One of the many many wonderful things about Europe is how easy it is, in the matter of a few hours, to be in an entirely new place.  Hopping the train from Narbonne to Barcelona, we felt this immediately.  When we stepped off onto the platform in Barcelona, everything was just so different.  A different language, different customs, different attitude, different cuisine, different landscape.  

We only had a short stay in Barcelona, but it made a strong impression.  From what we saw, Barcelona is a vibrant, diverse, relaxed, and fun-loving city.

Perched between the Collserola mountain range and the shores of the mediterranean, Barcelona is a visually impressive city.  City planners have definitely taken advantage of this asset -- there is lots of green space all over and a great beach front.  

Barcelona seems like the kind of place where people are going, going, going all the time, but also understand the importance of taking it easy (sometimes even in the middle of the street?).

While many of Barcelona's buildings are quite modern, there are definitely some grand old places like the kinds you'd expect to find in a big European city.  This is the National Museum of Art of Catalonia.  

One of the centers of activity in Barcelona is La Rambla, a long pedestrian street through the center of the city leading to the shore.  Markets, shops, restaurants, and lots of people...

The Cathedral of Barcelona, constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries.  

In stark contrast to this imposing, serious old building is all the funky modern art all over the city.

Catalan modernisme art and architecture left quite a legacy in Barcelona. The style was dominant from about 1880 until the 1950s and its mark is everywhere in the city, like this prominent sculpture near the beach. 

The best known modernisme artist was Antoni Gaudi.  The movement he helped to define was defined by Catalan nationalism and a rejection of bourgeois values.  Gaudi's work is characterized by rich decoration, bright colors, inspiration from nature and whimsical curves.

Park Guell is one of the best examples of Gaudi's creative genius.   

It is an enormous park on a hill with architectural elements both blending in with and extenuating the natural beauty of the area. 

A great thing about Park Guell is the buskers playing really good music around every corner.  These guys were maybe the best street musicians we've ever seen.   Very Barcelona.

One of the best parts about Barcelona is its water front...where residents and tourists alike come for a fun time.