By Antonio Malara
The trip to Barcelona was the craziest and weirdest I’ve ever done. It was planned by the same people who planned the trip to Budapest with the same format (over ten hours of bus from my city to Civitavecchia) but this time with a “bonus”. To make the trip more captivating, they have decided to also include a cruise. In fact the plan was to use a ship to cover the distance from Civitavecchia to Barcelona. Even though it was a big ship with cabins, restaurants, swimming pool and even a casino, it wasn’t not exactly a cruise ship. The program was to arrive in Barcelona within nineteen hours after the departure from Civitavecchia...it was a long long trip.
This was the first bad thing about the trip, the second was that I couldn’t find anyone who come with me so I decided to go alone but knowing that there would be a large group of young people. The weird thing was that I brought with me my new camera that I had bought only a month before. I’m talking about the heavy and expensive Nikon D3s, I didn’t even know how to use the camera at that time. In other word I was ready for the most unpredictable trip of my life. There was a serious risk to be alone once there but I’ve been lucky. Days before the departure, while I was waiting one of the planner to discuss with him some details about the trip, I saw two guys looking around and I knew they were waiting for the same reason. I approached and talked to them and in fact they were two students but they didn’t know the planner and actually they thought I was him. We started talking, they were so friendly and they had decided to do the trip even if they didn’t know anyone in the group. We agreed to spend some time together during the trip so I came home knowing that at least I wasn’t completely alone.
I really forgot the entire journey we took by bus, my memories begin when we arrived at the port of Civitavecchia. Once on the ship, they assigned our cabins and with my new friends we decided to be in the same room together. Maybe it was the adrenaline because the trip was just started but we really had nice time on board at the beginning. We explored the various levels of the cruise, we spent time at the bar, we visited the pool, we had dinner and the first night we also had a big party at the disco. At the party, most of people were from our group but there were also foreign people.
Unfortunately the day after, while cruising we’ve been hit by strong roughly sea. For me being on the ship which was moving strangely it was only a funny thing, like in a playground. But that day I saw lots of people who was really scared, even boys crying. Those scenes weren’t nice, those people really thought that they were in the final day of their lives. In a way or another after lots of crying and hysteric scenes we arrived in the port of Barcelona. I don’t remember so much after we arrived, I had some random memories of us outside the hotel, and our first tour in the city at night, nothing more.
At the hotel I signed on a paper the places to see on the first day, we went out late in the morning and we started to discover the city going to “La Rambla”. This street is the heart of Barcelona, it’s a big central tree-lined sidewalk with two small streets for cars on both sides. Lots of people told me great things about this street but actually I didn’t like it so much. Of course there, is full of restaurants, cool street artists who entertain people but not such a great street, too dark because of big trees and then definitely a popular street. I don’t like when a place is full of different kind of people. We walked the way from “Plaça de Catalunya” till the end where there’s the “Mirador de Colom” a statue dedicated to Christopher Columbus. Even here nothing special, this big statue in the middle of a big road and the cars running in circle. Wile we were walking back to Plaça de Catalunya we discovered a small access that was a street that led to a square. It was “Plaça Reial”, a cool squared place with palm trees and a small fountain. I liked there, the yellow buildings all around, the pieces (trees, fountain) where in the right place, it was a tiny calm place just a step away from the messy Rambla.
Before to get back to Plaça de Catalunya we saw the “Mercat de la Boqueira”, just from the outside because no one was interested to to take a look inside.
Plaça de Catalunya separates the old district from the new Barcelona. It is essentially a square with green that works as a big intersection for six roads. Inside the buildings all around there are stores, restaurants and a huge “El Corte Inglés” (the big Spanish mall). From one of this corner you can take Passeig de Gràcia. This is a very interesting street, here are the major fashion stores and two buildings designed by “Antoni Gaudí”. If you walk in this street in the direction of Avenida Diagonal, you’ll find on the left side of the street, the first opera by Gaudí which is “Casa Batlò”. We stopped here to take a look. This building is a sandwiches between other two. Of course it is a very personal design, totally different from the other buildings that surrounded it. To me it looks like a horror house, in fact on the first floor there are some columns on the windows that look like skeletons. Btw the design changes to the upper floors, here we have what looks like floral prints all over the wall. We didn’t see the house from the inside because I wanted to see and dedicated more time to “Casa Milà”, also known as “The Pedrera”.
This building was built for a rich family at the beginning of the last century, even if it was an home, it was huge and it extends on an entire block. I discovered this building watching the movie “The Passenger” by Michelangelo Antonioni. When you see something for the first time through an artist’s eye, the beauty of this thing is implemented. So my image of the Pedrera was so dreamlike, something beautifully unreal. I have to say that seeing it for real was so magically, maybe better than in the movie. The “curved” design of the exterior is so cool that you can stay there hours looking at it. In fact I took many pics there. In the inside the place is not so beautiful as I expected but there’s a central courtyard which gives lots of light inside the rooms. These rooms are connected through an aisle which circles all around the courtyard on all the levels. Inside the rooms there’s the original furniture design. It is a little ancient so in order to appreciate it you have to see it with classic eyes. In the building there’s an upper floor which is dedicated to an exposition, there you can also find a big model of the Predera itself. The real masterpiece of the place is the roof. Here you can walk all around the building. There are different levels connected by stairs. The curved design, the yellow tone color and chimneys, give you a dreaming experience. Every chimney has the top that looks like a mask but if you look closely the design is alway different. Walking along the roof gave you many perspectives, sometimes you only see what’s on the roof, no other modern buildings or other things in the background. I have to say that being there gave me the sensation to be in a kind of desert, for a moment you think you’re between dunes not in the middle of a big city. I really liked the roof, even here many pics and the desire to stay there as much as possible. When we live I was so pleased like all the time I see an unconventional opera. T
After that, we stopped in Diagonal street for lunch and then we continued our tour by walking. The next destination was another structure designed by Gaudí, our next place to visit was “The Sagrada Familia”.
The Sagrada Familia is a complex opera designed by Antoni Gaudí, despite they started to build this Basilica in the year 1882, it is still under construction. Composed by two facades and many towers, they’re still finishing building the third facade and the last and taller tower. We haven’t been so lucky about the Sagrada, at that time the opera was in the middle of some kind of renovation in the inside. Talking with some girls of our group, they warned us that visiting the Sagrada in the inside was a waste of time, because everything was under construction, the floor, the roof. They say that was full of dust and you could only follow a small path (normally people in line) only to see a building site. We took those words for granted and we arrived we decided not go inside. We started to take a look at the “Passion Facade” which represents the death of Christ, this side was more “clean” dominated by a huge arch with pillars. Then we move to the back to see the “Nativity Facade”. This facade represents the birth of Christ, and it was the first one to be built under the direction of Gaudí himself. Here there’s more the artist’s style, tiny and curved lines forms the figures, it is more complex and dark than the other facade, you have to look with attention to see the scenes that are represented. Of course the opera is huge but I think except for the details, is not yet a perfect view with all the cranes all around. I think they still need a decade to complete it but then it will be a pleasure to look at the Sagrada from every corner and from the best panoramic view. I have to say that the “work in progress” disappointed me, that’s why we didn’t spend so much time there.
Following suggestions by some girls of our group we went to visit the Torre Glòries which was not far away from the Sagrada. This tower has been built in order to modernize an old neighborhood. Well I liked the tower because is a modern perfect cylinder, with regular windows which are mainly blu, red and grey. When you look at it from distance, the color tone give you the impression of a rainbow. The point about this tower is that for me actually looks like a giant dildo, I don’t think this was the intention but at the end it’s a cool building. The tower host mainly offices, is possible to visit only the ground floor but there’s nothing except some small stores.
We back to the Rambla to see the Cathedral. You get there taking a small way from the Rambla that is actually the nicest thing to do. The church haven’t impressed me, we also visited it in the inside but after a while we left.
We back to the hotel to get ready for the night. The plan was to have a dinner based on paella with part of the group and then all together to the Razzmatazz which was one of the biggest and popular disco club in Barcelona. Even if I have some pics, I don’t remember so much about that night. I remember a long line to get in, and a three floor disco with lots of rooms playing different music. I remember some moments together with the group and then lots of “trash” people smoking joint. In other words it wasn’t the disco for me, I prefer formal parties. It hasn’t been a long night, I think we left around three AM.
On Saturday morning we woke up late due to the night out, it was around 11:00 when we left to the stadium direction. We started out tour seeing the Santiago Bernabeu. The stadium it’s not only a place for sport events, but it is a real icon of the city. The Bernabeu is also some kind of museum of the Barcelona Fc soccer team. Inside there’s the history of the team including all the trophies. Even if my friends wanted to see it inside, we decided to reschedule the visit because it was too late. We wanted to go to the “Parc Güell” which was far away and pretty big. When we left the neighborhood I noticed that it was really nice. The place was clean and ordered and the stadium was perfect integrated between the residential buildings.
On our way to park Güell I did a mistake that ended up being a nice surprise. I don’t know why but I didn’t choose the main metro stop for the park but one that brought us on the left side of it. From there we entered a way full of threes. After a little hiking we get to a promontory. With a big surprise the beautiful view of Barcelona was under our eyes. The path brought us there and till the top there were only trees. The park was under the promontory and we saw it entirely. From there you have the view of the city over the sea, is it possible to distinguish The Sagrada Familia, the torre Glòries and you see the difference of urbanization between the part of the Rambla (more density) and the rest of the city (large roads). After taking some pictures we decided to go down to the park. The heart of the park is the Greek Theatre, a large square in clay ground. On the side of the hill the square is surrounded by pillars made by stones and palm trees all around them. The pillars are part of the Gaudí opera, all the area is surreal, even here I had the impression to be outside the real world, like in a “Star Wars” location. We eat a sandwich there enjoying it and the place, after that we went to the exit (that was actually the entrance). Going down we found out that under the Greek Theatre there was another opera. It was like a gallery full of other pillars covered with ceramics. In front of that, the famous stairs brought us to the entrance. Here we did the last pics looking at “Casa Del Guarda” another building by Gaudí. Our visit was over, we went to the metro for the next visit. Leaving the park I felt that I had just saw a singular place, something special, maybe because I had nice time but since then, during the trip and when I back home, I always thought about the Parc Güell.
The next destination was the "Parc de la Ciutadella", to get there we decided to stop near the “Arc de Triomf” to take a look at it and then go on by walking. The arch is really cool, much bigger than I thought, it’s built in red bricks so really different from the other buildings all around. The arch is also in the center of a big road which is really nice with long trees on both sides. Taking that way you go straight to the park, and that’s what we did.
I think that every one has a symbol that identity a city, a monument, a road or a building. For me the symbol of Barcelona was the “Cascada Monumental” a big fountain that is inside the Parc de la Ciutadella. So I was really excited to see it, you can visit every corner of a city but if you don’t see what is the most important thing for you, it’s like if you didn’t visit the city at all. The Cascada didn’t disappoint me, huge, shiny and colorful surrounded by clay ground. The sunny day gave to the fountain a better yellow tone which improved the beauty of all the area. I started taking tons of photos as usual, from every angle. We also went up to the stairs that allowed us to see the top, we actually did a complete tour, from one side to the other. For me the most important thing of the park, was only visiting the fountain, stay there and see all the water going up and forming small rainbow in the air, but at some point we left the place trying to visit other parts. Walking around we discovered something really unusual, in fact at some point we saw a reproduction of a mammoth in his real dimensions. I never saw something like that, I saw elephants in a zoo but never something big. That opera is really interesting to let understand the dimensions. We enjoyed taking pics there pretending the mammoth was real, it was so cool watching the pic, I realize how small I was compared to him. After that we leave and we had no more visit for the day, the last mission was to visit the Louis Vuitton store. We back in Passeig de Gràcia and I bought the item that was on my wish list, the Montecarlo driver loafers. This shoe is an icon by Vuitton, I take care at the shoe even now after long time and I still wear them around five time in a year, I also featured the shoes in this post.
For the night we had planned a dinner with some girls of the group. We met at the Rambla, after dinner one of the girl brought us to see the MACBA which is the Museum of contemporary art of Barcelona. It’s really near the Rambla. The Museum is designed by Richard Meier. Once there I really liked the white modern building but I was also mad because I didn’t know the opera. This means that I also wanted to visit it but I hadn’t plan that. While I was there trying to film the building I was thinking when to plan a visit. We leave the place and we separated with the girls, we went out in a club near Plaça de Catalunya while our friends went back to the hotel. The club wasn’t so special, we spent a couple of hours having a drink then we headed to the hotel too.
Late night, late morning. The day after we leave the hotel around 11 am to the next destination which was Barceloneta. We got there by metro which left us near the touristic port. We walked along the ships berthed there and we arrived at the beach. From here looking on the right you can see the famous hotel “W”, after some pics we moved to the promenade. Along the way which was a huge beach with yellow sands, we saw many artists. Their operas were some statues made by sands, they were really big. I stand a little looking at them because actually they didn’t look so real to me, I had doubts at that moment and I still have doubts now looking at the pics. They were really beautiful but I don’t know if it’s possible to do that kind of thing and btw it should require lots of time. Once on the promenade, a beautiful and big sidewalk with palm trees, I noticed many similarities with the promenade we have in my city. This place was really similar, the palms, the view over the beach and the people jogging all around, same style. I thought at the potential that my city has but how bad we use it, I mean those who rule the city who don’t promote it and those like me which many time don’t enjoy the public space, it’s really sad. We walked all the way till the end, where new tall buildings were under construction I think to renovate all the area. We had a sandwich there and after that we move back to the the metro station. This place was really nice and I think it is more populated during the summer, with more bar and clubs for daily and night live. I leave the place thinking about this and how nice it was.
That afternoon we headed to the last place that was on our list, the Montjuic area. We arrived at Plaça d’Espanya, we stopped at the Torres Venecianes, which are two twins tower. They have been build for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The design reminds to St. Mark Campanile in Venice, maybe it’s not original but those towers are really cool. From there we walked a little bit passing through the “Font Magica de Mountjuic” first and “Plaça de les Cascades” later. When we reached the top we were so satisfied because of the view. In fact from here you have another beautiful view of Barcelona which is exactly the opposite of what you see from Park Güell. Even if this view was cool, personally I preferred the view from the park because is opened over the sea.
After ten minutes walk behind the building which was on top of the hill, we reached the “Parc de Montjuïc”, here there are the structures which hosted the Olympic Games of the 1992. I remember that edition because I watched everything on tv. For the occasion and for the first time ever, the USA brought at Olympic Games the “Dream Team” the pro basketball players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson ecc. I had started following basket a couple of years before and I was so excited to see this stars playing. I really enjoyed those games so I was happy to walk all around the “stage” where all happened. I have to say that all the place was deserted and it reminds me to a De Chirico paint, that huge space with structures but no people. I took many pics but I dedicated more time to one beautiful structure, the “Torre de Comunicaciones” by the great architect an engineer Santiago Calatrava. The tower is simply beautiful, the design is futuristic, it’s not a classic stand still tower. Here we have a tower with a shape, an inclined pillar, circular component on the bottom and another middle circle on the top that seem to be “attached” to the rest of the tower by gravity. As you may know I love futuristic design and this is a great piece, it is also so huge and very impressive especially with no one around it. Even here I had the impression to be in another dimension for a while.
On the way back I was glad to had visited that place which I dreamed but at the same time I thought that some dreams needed to be realized as soon as possible. In this way your reaction is different, you don’t have the same enthusiasm when lot of time passes by the moment you have a goal and the time you realize it.
It was over for our visit to Barcelona, we back to the hotel where everyone was getting ready to back home. We thought we had seen all but something unpredictable was around the corner, it happened exactly the morning of our departure.
There was a rumor about bad weather for the morning of our departure, in fact was really cold and cloudy. Once the big group was ready we got to the bus, while we were in the traffic it started to snow. It was unreal, in fifteen minutes the snow covered all the road, it was white all over. We were all surprised, someone said that it was like twenty years that ain’t snow in Barcelona. At the port we took our last unusual pics under the snow. Other rumors were about some delay of our departure but fortunately we left on time. Unfortunately we hit really bad weather during our navigation, the return trip last over 29 hours, we had to stop in Sardegna for some reasons that I don’t remember. I lost the concept of time and definitely I hated cruises. I promised to myself that would have been the last (in fact it still is). The long cruise just to get to Civitavecchia and then other ten hours by bus.
For sure this kind of travel is not a good one but I still remember only the good things and the nice days I had in Barcelona. It was March 2010 and except for the last day, I remember the city like something exotic. The beach, all the palm trees in the street, the beautiful views over the sea.
This trip started with many doubts but at the end I collected beautiful memories and new experiences, for sure Barcelona needs a new visit, to see again my favorite places and to discover new ones.
Photo: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D3s