Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday, July 6th, Barcelona, Spain

Monday, July 6th, Barcelona, Spain

Pictures are HERE.

We were in the brown 4 group to get off the plane, so we met at 8:30 at Grams and Papa’s room. We had to leave the ship between 8:45 and 9:00, and we were right on time. It was a bit of a long walk to the baggage, and it had some uphill parts but Morgan did it all by herself.
Everyone got their baggage fairly quickly, but one of my bags didn’t come out for another 10 minutes. I was getting nervous, but then it came. We had a private tour today, and we met the guide outside of the baggage area. We were shocked to see that we had our own minibus – not a minivan, but a minibus. It had seats for around 30 people. J The funny thing was that we filled up the back with our luggage and had to put all the carry on stuff up front. J It was quite a sight.
We did a driving tour around Barcelona, and we stopped at a garden that had a beautiful view of Barcelona. Our guide, whose name I never did quite get, told us that the port area was a pretty icky place before the Olympics in 1992. When they hosted the Olympics, they refurbished and built all around the area to make it nice. Now, it is a popular spot for tourists and locals. We saw the twin towers like the ones that are in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, some strange but interesting pipe art, and a building that used to host bull fighting but is being redone as a mall. The bull fighting building was a beautiful red brick building with white stones offsetting the red brick. Very cool. We also saw some cool statues.

In the refurbished center area, the corners have buildings that slant in. It appears that the architect thought that every family would have a cable car to use and that having the slant would help others see oncoming traffic better. Over 150 years ago, he made a decision that is fantastic for cars without even knowing that cars existed. We also saw the balconies of the apartment buildings that were nicer on the 2nd level than the rest. The owners lived on that level and had a nicer balcony to show everyone where they lived. Also, they could sit outside and people watch or show off their new dress at that level. If they were high up, they couldn’t be seen. I had never really thought about the high floors of buildings being the best as a modern thing. The guide did a great job of painting the picture.

Next, we went to the Gaudi church. It was amazing to hear the story of this church that will end up taking between 120 and 140 years to build total. The story goes like this…A church was planned and designed. Then, they asked Gaudi if he would be the architect for the project. He said that he would on one condition. That condition was that he could completely change the plans and do exactly what he wanted. He also said that it would take 150 - 200 years to build his church. Even though they thought he was a bit crazy, they gave him the job. Knowing that he wouldn’t be alive for 200 years to oversee the project, he knew he had to be smart about the planning. He made plaster models of every part of the church. He did not worry about all of the statues and such as those were artistic pieces to him. He did describe the stories that he wanted told and gave guidelines such as 12 columns – one for each disciple and that the stained glass should help the church look like shelter in a forest with the top blue for the sky, the middle yellow and green for the leaves, and the bottom red and brown for the trunks. He left the details above that level of duty to the artists.

The outside of the church where we entered has fruit on poles on the left side, a Christmas Tree in the middle, and Four columns. It also has statues of many things that all have meaning. For example, there are two turtles out front that at first glance look the same. Then, you notice that one has short arms and one has longer arms and that the shells are different. The one is a land turtle and is on the part of Barcelona by land. The other is a swimming turtle that is on the side of Barcelona by the sea. Incredible details and stories everywhere.

Once we went inside, the columns on the inside look like trees made in stone. The have a long column that is based on geometry. The base of the column has 8 points in the structure, then it doubles to 16, then 32, then 64. By using “maths” as the guide said, the plaster could be built once and reproduced. Even if part of the plaster was missing, the math would give the proportions. In fact, there was a fire during a war that destroyed much of the planning done by Gaudi, but the project didn’t miss a beat when he was hit by a cable car crossing the street. Instead, they pieced together the plaster and could fill in the gaps. It is a long, painstaking process, but it has been possible. If the plans had been on paper only, they would have been eliminated.

The stained glass construction is just beginning, and only a few windows have been filled in. They are beautiful, and you can definitely see how the colors will help it look like a forest. With the stained glass and the tree like structures, the church was meant to represent a shelter to the congregation. It will seat 5,000 people and 800 choir or musical members. The inside of the church is slated to be finished this year and mass could actually be held there.

We saw where the front door will be once the buildings next to it are destroyed. There are still people living there now, but the buildings were built there AFTER the church was started when the people knew they would be eventually destroyed. The back of the church is amazing. It has been finished for a while, and Gaudi almost got to see it completely finished before he died. It has the story of Jesus depicted, and the artist really tried to pay a tribute to Gaudi when he did it. There is a statue that has a head modeled after a picture of Gaudi right before he died. Also, the heads on the horsemen look like the chimneys of an apartment he designed. He also did a puzzle where all the numbers add up to 33 which was Gaudi’s age when he started the church. No matter how you add in a diagonal, horizontal, vertical, corners, you will always get 33. Also, by each of the statues depicting a bible story, the verses are noted by the statues so that you can relate them. Simply amazing and beautiful. I can definitely say it is the most unique church I have ever seen, and it won’t be finished for 20 – 40 more years! I definitely would like to go back and see it once it is completed.

Another interesting note was that Gaudi used human models when working on the statues and structures he did make. For example, the trumpet players on the back were from a band, and he had them standing there with their trumpets for hours until he was satisfied.

Next, we went through the museum where you could see the original building sketch, some of the original plans and plaster models, and other such items. It was very interesting to see how it was all designed. There is also a picture of what the final building will look like. They still build everything in plaster multiple times increasing the size each time until the plaster is actual size. They don’t build it in stone until the plaster is an exact replica of what will be built.

After the church, we went the park that Gaudi designed. It was an amazing place that Morgan would have loved a lot more without crutches. Grams, Papa, Mike, Morgan, and I stayed in the middle level, but the lower level looked really neat too. The middle level has the world’s largest bench, and it is all made in tile. It was designed to be ergonomic, and it is very comfortable to sit on. Also, the benches are curved to enhance conversation instead of straight where you can’t see and talk to the person next to you easily.

Gaudi lived in a pink building in the park, but we didn’t go inside it. It was supposed to become a residential area, but it never caught on because it was too far from the city center. Mikeo, Tracy, Mark, and the guide went down to the lower portion and went back to where we started. We didn’t understand the plan, and we were waiting by the pink house. Finally, Mikeo came to get us, and we rushed to the bus as we were almost out of time. Morgan wanted ice cream (shocker!), and I rushed at got her the Cornetto (like the one we saw in Oia). However, she couldn’t eat it on the bus so she had three or four huge bites and then it was thrown away. L
To end the tour, we went back into the downtown area to see the two apartments that Gaudi did. You can spot them right away. His style is definitely interesting. Mike wondered if that is where the word Gaudy started…interesting.

The driver dropped us at our hotel – the Renaissance by the airport. We checked into our rooms, put on our bathing suits, and headed to the pool. It was quite a unique pool. It had lounge chairs that blew bubbles like a Jacuzzi, water massage jets that poured down, and shower sprays. The rotated through each one every 5 minutes or so. Morgan, Mike and I swam while Mark basked in the sun, and then Mike and Mark left and Mikeo and Tracy arrived. Morgan enjoyed being in the water without the splint, but I had to be her motor so that she didn’t hurt it. Mikeo and I raced to the end of the pool, but Mikeo cheated and grabbed my legs so that I wouldn’t kick his butt.

We planned to take the hotel shuttle into town, but apparently you have to leave at 6 to do that. Bummer. Grams and Papa decided to stay back, but the rest of us took a cab van into Barcelona for dinner at the 7 doors restaurant. It was really good. We had Iberian Ham and Cannelloni for appetizers, and paella for dessert. The Cannelloni was the best I have ever had, and I was wishing I had ordered it for dinner like Tracy did. The paella was good, but Papa’s is better.
After dinner, we packed and got ready for the next day, and then we pestered Grams and Papa in their room. Poor Papa was in bed wanting to go to sleep, but we laughed and told stories for a while. I don’t think any of us wanted the time to end. The vacation was fantastic, but spending time like that with my family was something we haven’t been able to do in a long time. I will cherish it forever. It was definitely the vacation of a lifetime. I am so thankful that Grams and Papa gave us such a tremendous gift.

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