Saturday, October 16, 2010

Passport to Barcelona ...

It was my very first trip abroad, so long ago, yet so fresh in my memory. Along with my newly printed passport, travel guides and language books, I should have packed an excitement meter to keep tabs on my anticipation level. I was off to Barcelona, Spain for my first glimpse of a European country, and my zeal was hard to conceal.

The fortress of Castell de Montjuic, now a museum, overlooks the Mediterranean sea.

Spain's second largest city sits along the shores of the Mediterranean and was founded as a Roman colony in the second century. So, its history and culture have deep roots that influence the architecture and ambiance of this city by the sea with a very Gothic core.

Placa Reial is a grandiose square with arcades and classical facades modeled after the squares of Paris.

Everyone strolls La Rambla, the promenade where people go to see and be seen. Stretching from Placa de Catalunya to the waterfront, La Rambla is a place to linger, dine, sip drinks, watch street mimes, rendezvous and take in all the favorite stops along the half-mile ramble.

Take note: The paella served at sidewalk cafes along La Rambla is excellent.

The striking Arenas de Barcelona, a former bullfighting arena, stands at the perimeter of Placa d'Espanya.

Barcelona's modern history is closely associated with the work of renowned visionary Antonio Gaudi, who left a legacy of distinctive architecture and art throughout the city. Gaudi began construction of La Sagrada Familia (below) in 1883 and work continues even today.

Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's Temple of the Holy Family, is perhaps Barcelona's most famous building.

The round and flowing forms of Casa Batllo (above) contribute to the Gaudi masterpiece. Mosaic ceramics on the modern outer walls give the building a 'fish scales' appearance.

Casa Mila, designed by Gaudi and completed in 1912, has a facade that looks like a stone coral reef and a rooftop with surreal chimney pots. (To me, they look like knights wearing jousting helmets.) The seven story, steel-framed structure was one of the first with an underground parking garage.

And, one of the most important bits of travel knowledge came from a good bottle of Spanish wine. It's always good to know how to decipher the labels from Spain ...

I think its about time to plan a trip to neighboring Penedes, where Catalan wine is produced. Maybe, I'll even take in a tour of the Museu de Vi (Wine Museum). Adios! I have a trip to plan. 

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