Spain Barcelona 2000.12.22 - 12.27

The City of Antoni Gaudí

Barcelona is a city full of fabulous and completely unique Gaudí architecture. So mesmerizing is Antoni Gaudí's style that other leading architects and artists such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró are left in his shadow.

Another strong presence is the desire for independence. Barcelona is the largest city in a region called Catalunya that has its own language (Catalan) and flies its own flag. Rejection of Spain and strong Catalan identify are common. "No Espanish. I Catalunya," the hotel receptionist tells us. "Freedom for Catalunya" banners in the city are a regular sight.

Without Gaudí, Barcelona would be an average, large, dirty city. Petty theft is rampant. Make sure your valuables are tucked and hidden under your clothes before disembarking your train at Barcelona Sants station. The area around the Sants train station is littered, covered with graffiti, and generally a place you wouldn't want to walk around after dark. Take the metro (line 3) to Liceu station and find lodging between it and the Barcelona Cathedral. You should expect to be pick-pocketed at the metro station, on the metro, and on the main road, La Rambla, at Liceu station.

La Rambla is where you find sidewalk flower shops, newsstands, souvenir junk, scam artists, and pickpockets. To the west of La Rambla is a Muslim area. To the east is shopping, Internet Cafés, many of the cheap hotels, and the Barcelona Cathedral about 300 meters away.

Prices to the west of La Rambla are much lower than on the east. I'm not talking great distances; maybe within 100 meters of the main street. Head east down Carrer de Sant Pau to find a tasty chicken restaurant called Pollo Rico (which means Good Chicken). A quarter chicken with fries is less than PTS 500 (US$2.75). A half chicken with fries is a hair above PTS 700 (US$ 3.90). Don't bother with anything else on the menu - it's all cheap, but only the chicken is good. A few paces further east along Sant Pau is a good Indian restaurant. Don't bother walking even further east. The neighborhood continues to degrade into a trash and dog doo ridden slum.

West of La Rambla, expect to pay premium for mediocre food. The best deal here is: free Internet use for 15 minutes at a bar on Carrer de la Boqueria; absolutely no purchase necessary. Unfortunately, the bar only has iMACs; that means no floppy drive. Also along Carrer de la Boqueria is the Internet Cafe BCN with floppy drives but no way to FTP-send files to our web server (FTP connection from DOS works but we get socket binding errors when trying to send). Interestingly, BCN also specializes in body piercing, just like many of the shops in the area.

The Barcelona Cathedral is the largest we've ever entered. The interior is separated into several mini chapels interconnected with passageways. One section is an atrium, again with chapels along each wall. At night, the cathedral is lit from within making the stained glass windows visible from outside.

The back face of La Sagrada Família shows Gaudí's eerie modern-Gothic style.

La Sagrada Família from afar. Started in 1882, today 8 of 18 planned towers stand. Even with the on-going construction, a journey to Barcelona, if only to see La Sagrada Família, is worthwhile.

Gaudí's architecture throughout the Park Güell is like the drawings in a Dr. Seuss children's book. These pillars lean inward and spiral upward.

In the Park Güell, an undulating terrace wall in typical tiled Gaudí style, overlooks the Casa-Museu Gaudí (Gaudí Museum) and the rest of Barcelona.

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