Story in Photos cont'd  GAUDI & Costa Brava

Self-portrait in a Medieval library courtyard, in La Born district of Barcelona

I know of no other city so influenced by one architect as Barcelona is by Gaudi. His Cathedral, sporting 5 construction cranes and scaffolding both inside and out, dominates the city skyline.


His surreal, wavy, almost psychedelic designs, like a lover, beg to be caressed and photographed,

with each warped art nouveau detail completing the otherworldly picture,

 until even the rooftops become a landscape of mosaic chimney pots and helmeted airshafts,

in what has to be the most bizarre and endearing architecture in the city.

Quell Park is where Gaudi lived out his live. It is now a public park.

Spanish Tourist Office

We were two days in Barcelona accomplishing all that and more. Monday the museums are all closed, but the tourism office opened the Mirador restaurant in the Palacio de la Musica so we could sample their excellent menu. Once again, it was a series of artfully prepared and constructed courses, with tastes and textures varying as much as the colors. I had the best foie gras there, and my first taste of the cod Catalonia is famous for. Just before the trip started I  read the book "Cod, A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World", so I knew the historical importance of cod, and the Catalanís significant involvement with it. But even if I hadnít, the fish was superb in a moist and can-it-really-be-cooked flaky honesty, with no sauce to hide the delicate flavor. Those guys could cook! 

The meal was a huge success, and the Minister of Tourism was a witty and engaging hostess. I tasted each of the wines served with the courses, but she assured us all that it was customary to drink cava throughout the meal. So - thinking "when in Spain" -- I imbibed, until I had a rosey glow on when desert was over. What fun!

Then, with the rest of the afternoon and evening "free", we walked several miles to Quell Park (pronounced "way" Park - Iím not kidding!) to see Antoni Gaudiís home. The park itself was conceived as a residential community, but when no one purchased the lots to build upon, he stayed on in the only house, and lived there, increasingly as a recluse, until his death. David Stein told us over dinner that Gaudi had "let himself go" to the extent that when he was hit by a bus and killed, the police thought him indigent, and were ready to bury him in a pauperís grave when someone finally recognized the body of Barcelonaís most important architect. He was buried in the crypt of the incredible cathedral he designed, the one pictured here still under construction, and his home is a park open to the public for all Barcelonans to enjoy. It is built up the lower slope of Mount Tibidabo, with mosaic pillars supporting the walkways, and creating a huge subterranean room under the "village square". It is below this that his famous frog sculpture sits, the throne for countless children to sit upon while their parents immortalize them on film. It was fun to watch for awhile, then we strolled the maze of paths upward, admiring the plantings and the view. I identified my first cork tree here, where a thin piece of the telltale bark was stripped away exposing the deep cork layer underneath. The rest of the vegetation was an odd mix of tropical and temperate, with many trees that grow at home. We exited the park higher up the mountain slope, and continued exploring the neighborhoods above it.

I "discovered" a lovely pastry shop on the walk up to the hotel. My dinner that night was the most sensible of the entire trip. I had a white Calalan wine from the fridge in my room, with the complimentary bowl of fruit and those fantastic pastries. I was so hungry that it was as good as any gourmet meal. Afterwards, I opened my laptop and tried to upload images from my digital cameras. That is when I found out both my memory cards were full, but the camera wouldnít let me delete any pictures. On top of that, my backup digital camera was just plain dead. All of that dayís pictures were lost! That was the real catastrophe of the trip.

On the third morning I had my, by now,  usual swim, and then walked around the mountain top. Next to the nearby cathedral was an amusement park, quiet on an early weekday morning, with the entrance at the foot of the churchís front steps. I wonder if people go from one to the other on a Sunday, passing back and forth, seeking the excitement of the service when the roller-coaster pales, and vice versa? Maybe the cathedral is included in the one-price-for-all admittance fee the playland advertises. There was little time to ponder odd things like that because breakfast beckoned. 

The typical Catalan breakfast is toasted bread, rubbed with a clove of garlic and smeared with the juice of a crushed tomato. Some of their great "acorn" ham (more about that later) and cheese can be added, and the whole meal is washed down with strong black coffee. That is - if one is a purist - and oneís traveling companions donít mind the smell of garlic-breath permeating throughout the bus. (They did! Thank goodness for Altoids!) Good thing there was more than enough other food spread out in a smorgasbord of calories and cholesterol, running the gamut from fresh fruit and yogurt, to platters of cheese and processed meats, with a steam table of sausage, bacon, eggs and home-fries for the Americans. In a grand finale, pastries and jams complemented an array of juice and coffee on the beverage table. We were advised to eat a big breakfast because lunch is always served late. I didnít have to be told twice.

More to come . . .

Costa Brava / Vic / Gerona & Begur

Spain Tour Bilbao