Wednesday Wander – Casa Batllo, Barcelona

I know, I know. You thought I was going to continue with my epic trip from last month. And, I am, definitely. There’s still so much to see in New York, from Rockefeller Plaza to the Chrysler building, Central Park to the Art Deco architecture of Fifth Avenue. Plus all the other places we visited…

But this week my mind has wandered to Barcelona, and an architectural masterpiece by one of my favourite architects, Antoni Gaudi.

I was last in Barcelona a couple of years ago. The weather was lovely while we were there, not too hot and perfect for walking around the city, which we did every day. I made sure to go and see as much of Gaudi’s work as I could, as I’d missed some on my previous visit, so we took the train up to Parc Guell, marvelled at the twisted spires of Sagrada Familia, and pondered the construction complexities of Casa Mila.

Not far from Casa Mila, on the Passeig de Gracia, is Casa Batllo or, as the locals call it, Casa Del Ossos, the house of bones. Looking at the extraordinarily intricate facade, one can see why – vaguely skeletal pillars hold curving window frames, while balconies look like the skulls of some strange sea creature, dried out in the sun.

Gaudi worked with colour and fantastical form, and I think this house is probably one of the best examples of his particular genius. The humped roof with scaled tiles was designed to evoke the idea of a dragon, with scaled tiles and a knobbly spine. There is a theory that the turret signifies the lance of St George, the patron saint of Catalonia, plunged into the back of the dragon.

The house was created in 1904 for the Batllo family, who commissioned Gaudi to design and build a new home for them. However, Gaudi convinced them that the existing building on the site, built in 1877, could simply be renovated instead. The Batllo family lived there until the 1950s, when the house was purchased by an insurance company and used as offices. It has since been renovated and restored, and is now open to the public (through ticket purchase) for tours and private event hire.

It was a thrill for me to see the house – what a joy it must have been to live there, in this wonderful ornate city where even the pavements are etched with flowers. Barcelona is one of my favourite places, and the art and architecture are a big part of the reason why.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next week, when we head back to America again…


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Wednesday Wander – Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Hello, everyone. I’ve been on a few wanders of late, most recently a trip up to Scotland for a Silent Eye weekend, a trip I’m still processing before writing it up on here. So this week I’ve decided to wander to a place I visited a few weeks earlier – the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

The first sight of the Museum is a moment of wonder, the kind you get when seeing iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time. It is an instant of disconnect, when you wonder whether what you’re seeing is real. Perched on the edge of the river running through Bilbao, the building seems almost to float upon the water, like a magical ship or giant sea creature, metallic scales reflecting the sky.

A museum of modern and contemporary art, the Guggenheim was designed by the architect Frank Gehry, known for his unique vision. When you come into Bilbao from the east, as we did, the Museum is one of the first things you see, a tumbled cluster of gleaming shapes on the curving edge of the river.

The museum was inaugurated almost exactly twenty years ago, on October 18th 1997. Prior to that, the riverbank was an industrial area, home to piles of curving steel and machinery, said to have partly influenced Gehry’s design. The architect said that ‘the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light’ and they certainly do so, reflecting light and water and shade so that the angles constantly change, each step as you move around the building revealing a different viewpoint.

I particularly liked how the walkway and reflecting pool are positioned to look, from some angles, as though the river runs up to the edge of the building. I also like the red archway that sits astride the road into Bilbao, bringing you immediately into the design.

When we visited, there was a huge dog sculpture covered in real flowers at the front of the building, which we all loved. The spider sculpture, visible at the bottom right of my photo, is permanent and seems to be a popular image associated with the museum, if the tourist trinkets for sale nearby were any indication. Personally, I’m not a fan of spiders, especially huge ones like that!

This is not my first Gehry – I visited the EMP in Seattle a couple of years ago, and also saw El Peix, a fish-shaped canopy on the beachfront in Barcelona. Like most of Gehry’s works, the Guggenheim is impressive, extraordinary in its complexity. We spent ages just walking around the outside, taking in the shapes, wondering at the mind that could create such wonders.

Gehry’s style of architecture has been described as ‘desconstructivism’ though Gehry himself says he does not associate with that movement. Post-modern it certainly is, form without any other function than to catch the light and beguile the eye. Clad in titanium, at times it appears silver, and at others gold. Extraordinarily for a building of this type, the Guggenheim was completed on time and on budget.

Overall, it was a spectacular building to see and experience. I took loads of photos, as you can imagine, and these are some of the ones I liked the most. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Wednesday Wander – El Peix, Barcelona

I’ve been to Barcelona twice, and both times I visited the beach. Yet, before I visited, I’d never thought of Barcelona as a ‘beach’ city. To me it was a place of dance and food and architecture, home to Gaudi, one of my favourite architects. I knew it was on the coast, but Barceloneta beach was an unexpected delight.

On my second visit we spent half a day or so there, hubby and the gorgeous girl in and out of the water as we looked for shells and soaked up the sunshine, eating fresh paella at one of the many seafront cafes before returning to our hotel sandy and happy. We also took a walk along the wooden boardwalk, heading towards an unusual structure we could see gleaming golden  in the distance.

It turned out to be El Peix, a golden fish sculpture created by renowned Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry for the 1992 Olympics. Built as a canopy to link a hotel, casino and restaurants, it’s now one of Barcelona’s most well-known landmarks.

It’s not the only Gehry we’ve seen – in Seattle we spent a wonderful day at the EMP, marvelling at the colours and curves of the extraordinary building. It seemed fitting to see another piece of his work in Barcelona – Gehry, like Gaudi a century earlier, twists shape and form to challenge what can be done architecturally, creating structures like no other. We’re heading to Bilbao this summer and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Guggenheim there, another of his famous works.

But for now I’ll leave you with Barcelona beach palms against a brilliant blue sky, a memory of a golden day. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

 

Wednesday Wander – Parc Guell, Barcelona

It’s Wednesday, and time to wander again. This week I’m heading to Barcelona, Spain, and to Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent Parc Guell.

High on a hilltop overlooking the city, the park is accessed via a series of escalators and steps up a narrow and very steep street. There may have been some complaining from certain family members on our way up the hill, but when we got there it was certainly worth it!

Built between 1900 and 1914, the park was the brainchild of Count Eusebi Guell, who wanted to create a luxury housing estate on the site, and worked with Gaudi on the design. However, only two houses were ever built, one of which Gaudi and his family ended up living in for twenty years – it is now a museum.

Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, the park is full of Gaudi’s signature design style, from undulating dragon-spine rooftops to stylised stalactites and sculpted pillars. The park is laid out across several levels, and can be walked in a circular fashion up to the topmost point (marked by a stone cross) before heading downhill once more.

I’m a huge fan of Gaudi’s design style, so a visit to the park was high on my list of things to do when we visited Barcelona. And I was definitely not disappointed. Although it was a bit crowded at times, the views, the design, the wonderful shapes and whimsy of Gaudi’s unique vision were all there to be seen and enjoyed. There is a freshness and modernity to his work which makes it hard to believe it’s over a century old.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Thursday Doors – Graffiti in Barcelona

I can’t believe it’s Thursday again already! Those time-management elves seem to be speeding the clocks up even more as the year moves on, or maybe it’s just me. 😉

I’ve missed a couple of Thursday Doors posts in recent weeks – not because I’ve run out of doors, but rather, a bout of flu and a trip down the editing rabbithole have meant that my blog posting has been a little less regular than usual.

Anyway, here we are, it’s Thursday and I have a door.

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Actually, I have a couple of doors.

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Both of these photos were taken in Barcelona, and the two doors are almost opposite each other in a central part of town. I think what struck me was the juxtaposition of the stickers and graffiti against the old doors and stonework, plus the fact that the graffiti is confined solely to the doors themselves, rather than spreading onto the surrounding walls.

And if you’d like to see some more doors, or maybe add one of your own, head on over to Norm 2.0’s blog and click the link. It’s nice to be back!

Thursday Doors – El Pachuco, Barcelona

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This week’s entry is yet another door from Barcelona – it’s my third one so far in this challenge. Barcelona is a beautiful city filled with art and history – we visited last year and absolutely loved it. We’d leave the hotel just after breakfast and walk all day, exploring the winding streets and golden beaches, returning late with dusty feet and full hearts.

This roller shutter door was in a back street near to our hotel and I just loved the imagery – very appropriate for a Mexican tapas place.

To see more doors, or to add your own, visit Norm 2.0 and click the link.

Thursday Doors – Barcelona

I’m really enjoying the Thursday Doors photo challenge and have found, as I’ve looked through my photos, that I seem to have a ‘thing’ for doors, as I photograph so many of them. This week’s door is another beauty from Barcelona, but whereas my previous Spanish door was an example of Gaudi’s genius, this one is a more traditional style of Art Nouveau.

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Isn’t it gorgeous? I do think the shopping trolley with pink bag adds a prosaic touch, and is also a sign that some lucky person gets to live here and experience this wonderful passage and doorway every day.

If you’d like to see more Thursday doors or add your own, visit Norm 2.0 and click the links – there’s a whole world of doors to be opened.