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El Palau de la Música Catalana

Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.

I guess the third time is a charm. It’s taken me that many visits to finally get into the Palau de Música and I’m so happy I did. We did it all, a performance and a tour. We saw a fabulous evening performance in the theater – this one featuring four very talented Flamenco dancers.  If you have never had a lesson is this classic Spanish style or tried to play the castanets while moving you may not truly appreciate this precision-oriented, graceful, and expressive form of dance. Tappers might appreciate the rapid-fire footwork and core control. We were treated to a variety of Flamenco styles during the 90-minute performance. It was a magical evening.

The following morning, we returned for a daytime tour. You really need to see the facility during the day to appreciate the magnificent stained glass and incredible tiled pillars and interior workmanship.

Domènech Montaner designed the theater in 1908 as a daytime venue, so it’s important to really appreciate the dramatic details, artistic details, and the way he channeled light into such a tightly configured space.  Montaner was Gaudí’s teacher and the father of Barcelona’s modernista movement.

English language tours are held every hour and during the week you can usually arrive 15 minutes early and get tickets.  You can also buy them online.  Our tour guide was excellent and at one point turned on music by the 4,000-pipe organ so we could experience the remarkable sound quality. What an amazing combination of artistry.

Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.Stained glass ceiling at Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.Details at Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.The artistry continues outside at Barcelona's iconic El Palau de la Música Catalana.

Gaudí’s First House – Casa Vicens

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I was super excited to learn that Gaudí’s Casa Vicens is now open to the public for tours.  Up until a few years ago, it was a private home to the second family to own it (after the Vicens). Now privately owned by a bank it is being run as a museum. The cab driver didn’t understand where we wanted to go, which gives you an idea of just how “new” and unknown this property is today.  Located in Gràcia, it was once considered a country house.

We bought tickets online for one of the two daily English-language tours and joined a couple from Hong Kong as we explored the incredible house. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this home reflects so many influences and is a testimonial to Antoni Gaudi’s incredible obsession with details.

Built between 1883-85, the home uses stucco, plaster of Paris, ceramics, iron, wood, and paper mâché in design elements on walls, floors, and ceilings. Nature, as always with Gaudí, was the inspiration for many of the designs, from the chrysanthemums used on tiles to the fan palm design on the fence and gate and the ivy pattern etched into the wall over the dining room fireplace. Color is everywhere and function is never forgotten with external panels that rotate to maximize breezes, areas that can be closed in the colder months and Gaudi’s first accessible rooftop, so charming who wouldn’t want to visit.

With my husband Fred on the walkable rooftop at Casa Vicens.A portion of the property had been added in an expansion that Gaudí had approved in 1925, and that area, as well as the attic, are now used for exhibits explaining worldwide residential architecture of the era, details of the workmanship in the home, and the former uniquely landscaped gardens long lost to the sell-off of the surrounding land. The original kitchen was housed in the basement, now repurposed as an eclectic gift shop and the outside features a small café.

Add it to your list of ‘must-see while in Barcelona’.

 

 

Barcelona: You’ve Walked, Now Take a Ride

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Being blessed with beautiful weather, we decided to take a ride on a Hop-on bus. We didn’t plan to “hop-off” but just want to enjoy the pretty day, fresh air and cityscapes. I also wanted to take an updated picture of the famous Gaudí cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, under construction for more than 100 years and still not complete. I was curious if there were the same number of cranes as when I visited a few years ago. The cranes were certainly not as visible as before, although still in use.  To visit this site, you now need an advance purchased ticket due to the large daily crowds. You could also rent a car or hire a cab and I’ve done both, but it is enjoyable to sit up high in an open-air vehicle to view the area. Be sure to ride through the beautiful Gràcia, Pedrables and Sarrià neighborhoods and get up to Montjuic for some great views of the city and surrounding area.

Crowds waiting to get into La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.