Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The France & Spain Tour 2011 - Day 8

The story continues...........

We'd checked out the Barcelona travel ticket the evening before so after leaving the hotel (the oddly named U232 in the heart of the city), we headed to the nearby metro station, got our daily tickets and went down to the almost deserted platform to wait for the train to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. Take the link to read about it as it's a must see if you ever visit Barcelona.

The idea was to get to the basilica before it opened at 9am in an attempt to miss the worst of the lines. Well if that was the case, then I'd hate to go there later ! We had a very long walk to get to the end of one line but once the basilica opened, the lines moved quickly and we were inside the gates by 9:15.

The outside was surrounded by ridiculously tall cranes as, of course, the basilica is a work in progress. This gave me the idea that the inside would be like a building site as well so I was very pleasantly surprised when this was not the case. Very few areas were screened off and so the views I got upon entering were simply stunning.

The immensity of the basilica and the colours created by the light streaming in through the hundreds of stained glass windows combined to take my breath away.

I've been in huge religious buildings both here in England and abroad but nothing in my experience prepared me for what I saw inside the Sagrada Familia. Even inside the Vatican or St. Paul's cathedral, I never really got a sense of how large those structures were. They were very ornate, had lots of side chapels, were rather dark and their very antiquity somehow managed to conceal their dimensions.

Not so here. Being a 'brand new' building, the towering stone columns were clean and bright and designed to not just support the ceiling, but add to the rest of the visual delights all around the basilica. Everywhere you looked, there were carvings, reliefs and mosaics to see. Clearly Gaudi's design was to have a light, bright, uncluttered building with multiple soaring vaulted ceilings and an abundance of natural light coloured by numerous huge stained glass windows.

I'd say that his plan has been spectacularly successful.

I love this first photo because it shows a feature I thought would only be visible to the naked eye. The light coming in at the very top created heavenly rays suggesting a divine presence was listening to any prayers offered up by the congregation below.

The last photo above shows one of the open sided spiral staircases leading up inside the spires. Later on we decided to take the easy way up, via the lift, and take the staircase for the return trip.

This next set of photos gives an impression of the stunning colours bathing the inside of the basilica.

Up inside one of the spires, there were many openings where we could go out onto small balconies and look over the skyline of Barcelona. We were also able to get up close and personal with the outside details of the building and see just why the construction was taking so long.

The second photo was taken looking into the sun so it didn't come out so well. The colours were pretty much bleached out so I decided to remove them altogether by making it a black & white image. I'd probably have deleted it but I liked the view of the iconic Torre Agbar (see a previous blog). Whilst in black and white mode, I decided to make the background buildings in the subsequent photo black and white as well as they were a bit bleached too.

I don't 'do' bleached !

After our time 'up top' we descended via the spiral staircase which wasn't as claustrophobic as many we'd taken. In the first photo, I used a slow shutter speed to try and get an impression of movement but as I was moving myself, the whole image is a bit blurred. Oh well. Once back outside, I took a photo of the spire we'd just been up inside and that's the 3rd photo below.

We'd only spent 2 hrs inside the basilica but it was long enough to be 'suffering' from sensory overload and it was good to be out in the fresh air again. Quite the most remarkable and memorable religious building I've ever been in and that includes the Vatican.

It was time to head back to the metro for the short trip to the start of La Rambla, the most famous pedestrianised street in Barcelona which leads down to the city harbour. This wonderful tree lined mall has everything for those tourists walking down for their first view of the Mediterranean. From high class speciality stores to typical souvenir outlets, from clever street entertainers to even more clever scam artists, La Rambla has them all. Enjoy the entertainers and avoid the scam artists and you'll have a wonderful stroll along this delightful street.

I assume most of these street performers were painted to resemble bronze statues but to me they'd overdone it a bit and looked more like they'd been tango'd.

La Rambla ends down by the harbour at the 197ft tall monument to Christopher Columbus, that well known Italian American who discovered Spain. No ? Ok then, that well known Genoese explorer who was hired by the King & Queen of Spain to go off and find the New World or a McDonald's - whichever came first. No ? Well Google it then, if you're that bothered !

I loved the harbour area. Clean, bright, open. Unlike any harbour I'd ever seen before. And plenty to see and do.

We wandered about for hours, had a snack, wandered some more and then went looking for somewhere to have supper. This meant walking back alongside the beach area and although it was close to 9pm and so getting quite dark, the weather was still great and it was lovely to see locals and tourists out enjoying it.

After a pizza supper we left the harbour area and with a final (for that day anyway) photo of the beautiful sail like W Barcelona hotel, it was also time to use that day's metro card for the last time and head back to our hotel. By then it was close to midnight so it has been a long, tiring but very enjoyable day.

Finally here is a video which hopefully shows off the splendour of the Sagrada Familia, the atmosphere along La Rambla and the beauty around the harbour better than the still photos. The next day, Day 9, would be spent going to even greater heights, literally.

To be continued...........


Daphne said...

Great post about a wonderful city. Your photos and video really capture the atmosphere and remind me how lovely it is. And the Sagrada Familia is absolutely stunning.

Jennyta said...

Amazing photos and video, Ian. I'm intrigued by the 'reprobates' though, who seem to have attached themselves firmly to you. Were you able to shake them off at all? ;)

rhymeswithplague said...

This is a great post, Ian. I'm going to link to it in my next post on Saturday.

Helsie said...

Thanks for that. Wonderful photos and a great video that really gave you the feel of the place. I might never get to see it in person but if I don't your video made it come alive.

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