Tag Archives: Barcelona

Park Güell Barcelona — Antoni Gaudi’s Jewel

imageFrom the terrace of the park, you are afforded a breathtaking view of Barcelona, the ocean, and its port

Who visits Barcelona and doesn’t see Park Güell? I am guilty of this, having been to this Catalan city twice, and in both times, was only able to see the surroundings of the park because I failed to secure an entrance ticket.

Lady luck is definitely on my side, however, as just last month, I was able to travel again to Barcelona.

And this time, I opted for RENFE, which meant I reached Barcelona in no time at all. Indeed, it was a fast travel for me. While before, it took me some 7 to 8 hours to reach the city by car from Madrid, I was there via train within 3 hours.

By 8 am, I was up and about, ready to head to the park. It was a weekend, so I presumed Guell would have more visitors. In a hurried pace, panting and all, I climbed up the Montanya from the Metro Lesseps to arrive at the entrance gates at around 9AM. There was hardly any visitor at the entrance booth, and so we easily got our tickets and rushed to enter Guell.

imagePerhaps one of the most popular parks in Barcelona, if not the most popular, Güell is found within another natural park, sitting on top of the Carmel Hill. For me, it is more like a huge, attractive garden where one can roam around to his heart’s desire. What makes it unique from the other Spanish park is that it is filled with spectacular works of art by Antoni Gaudi, Spain´s premier artist. Needless to say, Guell is a true testament of Gaudi’s artistic genius.

Original plan for Park Güell

Eusebi, aware of the brilliance of Gaudi, commissioned him to head the park’s construction that started in the early 20th century. They planned it as a residence park for at least 50 families. When the plan fizzled, Gaudi continued his work on the park, utilizing and playing with numerous colors and designs that are found everywhere within Guell.

My impression of the park? When in Barcelona, Park Guell is one place you mustn’t miss to see. In fact, as soon as the group entered and started to gaze around, every spot, and every nook and corner of Guell is breaktaking. All of us are one in saying that the park is one that will never fail to astound.

What to see inside Park Guell

2017_111118_1653_474Marvel at these structures along the hill of the park — rough, arcaded walkways tourists can leisurely promenade through as they wander and examine the park.

2017_111111_0939_015There is beautiful, randomly pieced tilework in the park, full of life and color, on the creatures living there and on the grand sinuous benches surrounded a large open square

2017_111523_3831_818The best entrance to access to the park was the one situated in Carrer d’Olot, in front of the beautiful stairway where the lizard can be found, and the Hypostyle Room.

2017_111111_0930_727Its roof forms a vast terrace with a view of the city. It’s surrounded by an undulating continuous bench, the back of which forms a balustrade, its entire surface encrusted with ceramic shards of all colours, some randomly arranged, some in patterns.

imageThe beautiful edifice, another great masterpiece of Guadi, is the Hypostyle Room, where found are around 86 Doric designed columns serving as support to the roof.
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How to reach the park

By Car–

From La Rambla, it is more or less half an hour drive from Placa de Catalunya. Go past the Tivoli Theatre by turning right, and continue to ride straight ahead until you reach the Tetuan Plaza. From here, you will have to turn left and then go straight until you pass through the Travessera de Gracia. A couple of meters more and you’ll find yourself within the vicinity of Park Güell.

By Metro–

Take Linea 3. Here you get off at Vallarca, and walk some 15 minutes, including the use of the Baixada de la Glòria escalators, until you reach the Avinguda del Santuari de Sant Josep de la Muntanya. Walk further up to the end portion of  Carrer d’Ot, where located is one of the entrances to the park.

You may get also off at the Lesseps station (also on Line 3), then head to the Sant Josep de la Muntanya passage by foot, which is also equipped with escalators.

Admission Ticket Prices

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General price: 7 euros

Kids 6 years old and below: Free

Kids 7 to 12 years old: 4.90 euros

Adults 65 years and over, persons with disability: 4.90 euros (subsidized ticket price)

 

Trivia about the park:

2017_111111_0956_6691. Inside the park are two houses, one of which served as the residence of Gaudi himself. This is what was created out of the original plan of building some 60 residences inside the park — but apparently, only a few were interested.

2. Park Guell was declared by UNESCO as one of the important World Heritage Sites in 1984.

3. Paying for the entrance fee, you simply gain access to 5 percent of the park and its most important portion — the terrace. All the rest, the 95 percent of the park, is free to see.

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia: Heart of Barcelona, Spain

imageIt was a pleasant surprise that I got an online message from a favorite aunt based in California, who was excited because she learned I visited Barcelona. She told me about her own trip to the Catalan city, which I was more than happy to hear.

She gushed about her Spanish experience, euphoric about her tour of Sagrada Familia. Traveling halfway around the world was by no means an easy feat and their trip to Spain came with serious expenses, but she swore seeing Gaudi’s mammoth of a masterpiece more than compensated all this. If given the chance she said, she and my uncle would love to go through it again, if only to relive the experience.

I told her that I had already been to Barcelona, but was not able to tour the Sagrada due to time constraints. Hearing this, she was clearly frustrated, and wished I had the chance on the first visit. She egged me go back soon, and with entry tickets to the basilica.

Finally, Sagrada Famila

The first time I went to Barca, I only had half a day to spend there, which meant being content with the more easy-to-reach Barcelona attractions like La Rambla, the port, the beach, New City of Arts and Sciences, and the Old town. Like other Spain attractions such as Santiago de Compostela and Valencia, Barcelona was such a beautiful city that I found myself planning for a revisit in the future, albeit, nothing was definite.

Now, the recent talk with my aunt got me fired up and really committed to seeing Sagrada that it must have caused the Universe to heed my inner desires to return to Barcelona. To make a long story short, I was presented with another great opportunity to go there. Friends are going to the city and I was asked to come along.

It’s a coincidence that like the first, my second visit to the place proved to be unexpected as people decided on another spur-of-the-moment, car-travel, eight-hour-long trip. But this time, everyone was more excited as the main reason for going there was to see the basilica. And so it didn’t matter that the trip was a total of 8 hours, which was probably that long because of the number of stops. In my case, such long trips are burdensome as they always render me sleepless (I could hardly get a decent shut-eye during long travels, even if it happens in the middle of the night).

I’m back, Barcelona!

And so, the revisit happened at last. Early morning we passed by at the Philippine consulate in Spain at Plaça Reial, wandered through the area as we waited for the time of our scheduled entry to the Sagrada, and saw another beautiful Barcelonan church , the Catedral de Barcelona. We then went back to the plaza for some lunch, and finally 30 minutes before 1PM, went straight to the basilica.

Always, the sight of the basilica is mesmerizing from afar. But this also led me to wondering when its construction will finally be completed.  This time, I contented myself with just a few shots of the facade upon finding out the battery charge of my mobile phone had gone down to almost half empty. I needed to save as much battery as I expected to make tons of shots once I went inside.

After just a few minutes of staying in line, my group was able to go inside and see La Sagrada Familia. One of the most noticeable features inside the church is the hanging Crucifix, below a yellow umbrella that seems to glow. Everything inside church, the altar, walls decored witg stained-glass, the religious sculptures — everything is simply amazing.

La Sagrada Familia is one reason why people would want to visit Barcelona. While it can be disappointing that the basilica is in perpetual construction, with scaffolding here and there, it sseems that total completion is within just a few more year. I’ll make sure I’d be back to see again and witness the basilica’s full and glory when that time comes.

Facts about Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia

image1. Antonio Gaudi was assigned the construction of the church in 1884, but did you know that he was not the original choice, but another Spanish architect Francesc del Villar? Gaudi was offered to replace del Villar after the latter had major disagreements with the people in charge of the project.

2. One reason why Gaudi’s own vision of the church has not been followed is because of the fact that portions of the basilica were damaged during Spanish Civil War. Likewise, after Gaudi’s death, work was continued by a number of Spanish architects, such as Lluis Gari and Francesc Quintana. Another famous artist, Josep Subirachs, was assigned to work on the facade.

3. Antonio Gaudi has a religious reason for getting involved in the building of the La Sagrada Familia. To be specific, he wanted it to be the last place sanctuary of Christendom.

4. The beloved Barcelona architect made sure the basilica is filled with Christian symbolism. For instance,once the holy edifice is finished, 18 towers will have been finished, representing the 12 Apostles, the 4 Evangelists, the Blessed Virgin, and Jesus Christ. The tower representing Christ will be the tallest of them all, and on top of it, a gargantuan cross will be placed.

5. The towers representing the four Evangelists – St Luke, St Matthew, St. Mark, and St. John will be capped by their respective symbols — an angel, a bull an eagle and a lion.

6. Antonio Gaudi lived to see the completion of the Nativity Facade. His death in 1926 was both tragic and senseless, as the master was hit by a tram on his way to the Sagrada.

7. Gaudi lived much of his life within another one of his creations, the Park Guell. He enjoyed his walks from his house located inside the park to his work at La Sagrada Familia.

8. His abrupt death in 1926 derailed the making of the Pasion facade, and the construction of the basilica in general. Eventually, another Catalan artist, Josep Maria Subirachs i Sitjar, was commissioned to continue with the construction. Many argued that his work was a world different from Gaudi, his being mainly straight and linear, while the latter´s were of curves. Debates subsided when the work of Subirachs proved to be impressive.–

Great photos that will make you want to visit La Sagrada Familia:

Facade of the Church showing the birth of baby Jesus. The Nativity facade faces the east of Barcelona. Gaudi’s vision of the church includes 18 towers. So far, eight has been built — these are four at the Nativity and another four on the Pasion facade.

imageWhen touring the interior of the basilica, you will surely not miss the prayer door that’s made of bronze. Inscriptions of the powerful and meaningful prayer phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” in 50 languages fills the door. Found the tagalog translation in the bottom part.imageTourists marvel at the stunning interior of the Sagrada Familia

imageChrist on the cross hangs under an illuminated umbrella, which for me suggests a floatng jellyfish, suspended in midair over the main altar. It is located in the apse of the church, the area of which is filled with columns or pillars resembling trees bountiful with branches seemingly reaching out to the heavens. The thick, solid columns are obviously meant as strong support to the whole structure of thr basilica.

imageThe stained glass windows of predominant red, orange, and yellow colors are so beautiful you simply couldn’t take your eyes off them. All you wanted to do is take your time in examining their details. The hues are bold and intense as the stained glasses are kissed directly by the rays of the sun during that time

Holy water font baecelona's sagrada familiaThe holy water font of the church in the shape of a shell or oyster

imageA closer look at the holy inscriptions in the basilica door

Passion facade Sagrada FamiliaFacade of La Sagrada Familia deficting the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. Includes the suffering of the Lord as He was cruxified. This part of the church is meant to reveal the sins of men.  According to stories, Antonio Gaudí magnified the suffering and death of Jesus, intending to make everyone realize the graveness of his sacrifice just to save mankind.

imageThe four towers over the Passion Facade, facing the Barcelona city center. Note: Access to the towers (including those at the Nativity) is not included in the regular entry ticket. Tickets to the towers can be bought inside.

Address:
La Sagrada Familia
Calle Mallorca 401
Barcelona 08013 España

Opening hours:
November – February: 09:00 – 18:00
March: 09:00 – 19:00
April – September: 09:00 – 20:00
October: 09:00 – 19:00
25 and 26 December, 01 and 06 January: 09:00 – 14:00

Tickets are on sale until half an hour before closing time

Disabled Access: Yes

How to get to La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona Metro System: Sagrada Familia, Blue and purple lines (lines 5 and 2 respectively)

Hop on hop off tourist buses (Barcelona City Tour) will also drop you off the site,

How to enter the premises:

1. Main access — Entrance is at Calle Marina, at the basilica’s Nativity facade, whether you’re touring as an individual or as a group.

If you belong to a primary or secondary school group on a guided tour, entrance is at Calle Sardenya.

Getting Tickets:

Regular entrance tickets are bought at Calle Sardenya. Persons with disabilities and their companions, as well as friends of La Sagrada, can have their tickets bought at Calle Marina.

Note: The schedule when La Sagrada Familia is open to the public isn’t fixed and be be altered depending on the important activities happening within the church.

Sagrada Familia Website

Buy tickets online

Map:

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu of Real Madrid

In Madrid, Barcelona, and anywhere else in Spain, football is the game popularly played, which is understandable as it is the country’s national sport. Football is arguably this country’s biggest passion, and I dare say that the Spaniards live and breathe this sport. When it comes to football associations, La Liga, meaning The League, is the crème de la crème of them all, and recognized in all of Europe as the most prestigious.

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium – Home of Real Madrid

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
The fact is that football is of utmost importance in Spain. Nobody will dare miss an important match — people will either rush to the stadium in droves, or watch the game on TV. Discussions about the outcome among friends and family is commonplace. It seems like everyone loves to analyze and give a piece of his mind about a game. And while nights are still quiet when the favorite team loses, horns are honked and bars are filled post-game and long after just to celebrate a win.

The most popular and the winningest team in the history of the sport is Real Madrid – with almost 80 local and international titles under its name. The last Championship that it won is the Champions League the year, beating another Madrid team, the Atletico Madrid. Both fought a contested game that ended at the score of 5 to 3 in a penalty shootout.

Real Madrid has as its home the popular arena known as the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, or simply the Bernabeu. The team club also owns and manages it.

One can imagine the scope of the sport facility in terms of area – it’s huge, and easily occupies a whole block. In fact, the Bernabeu Stadium is the third largest in Europe, and second in Spain. In terms of accommodation, it has a seating capacity of 80,000 spectators at any given time.

Bernabeu Tour

Side view of Santiago Bernabéu

If you’re visiting the city proper, it is a must that you see Estadio de Bernabeu. Consider it the icing on the cake of your dream Madrid vacation. It is true if you are a football aficionado, and more so if you’re a fan of the city’s famous Real Madrid team. While there is a guided tour, going their own your own and touring it at your own pace, a self-guided tour, in other words, is quite a thrilling experience as well.

The stadium imparts to visitors the rich and exciting history of Spanish football. You will learn and be amazed as you tour around; as a guest, you will be delighted to find out you given access to various areas in the stadium. Indeed, the money that you will pay for the Real Madrid stadium tour ticket is well worth it if only for the thrill of being within one of the capital’s most beloved sports edifices.

Needless to say, the massive size of the sports stadium is just amazing, its sheer size and the attendance that it enjoys every time a game is played there are a reflection of the great love that the Spaniards have for the sport.

Prices of Santiago Bernabeu tickets:

Bernabéu stadium fieldI was part of the big-sized crowd that enjoyed the December 2o15, Copa SM El Rey match between Real Madrid CF and UE Cornella, the first and only [so far] football game I’ve watched in Spain

Cost of Santiago Bernabeu stadium tour tickets are as follows:

1. Adults: 20 euros

2. Children: (up to 14): 14 euros

The tour comprises:

A. Entrance to the stadium

B. Self-guided (tour at your own pace)

C. Access and tour to stadium areas such as the locker rooms, presidential box, press room, the Best Club in History room, the pitch, the dugout, Real Madrid’s official store

D. Beautiful panoramic view of the field and the whole stadium

When to tour to stadium:

1. The Stadium can be visited any day of the week.

2. If you plan on going there on a weekday or Saturday, they entertain visitors starting 10AM up to 7.30PM.

3. If you want to tour on a Sunday or a holiday, time of tour of the site is between 10:30AM and 6.30Pm.

How to buy Real Madrid game tickets:

Stadium of Santiago BernabéuIntently watching the game between UE Cornella and Real Madrid, where the latter won. The win further strengthened their standing at the Copa S.M. El Rey

1. You may purchase Real Madrid tickets directly at the stadium’s ticket selling windows.

2. La Caixa Banks sell game tickets. Go to one nearest your area.

3. Purchase tickets online, via the Official Website of Real Madrid. Tickets bought on the Internet are priced higher. While more expensive, you are assured of an entrance to your choice match.

[Note: Avoid buying tickets sold outside the stadium during game days as these are fake ones.]

How to reach the Stadium:

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Autobus: Take Paseo de Castellano via car or autobus, and just before you reach Cuzco (if coming from Nuevos Ministerios), you will be treated to a magnificent sight of the stadium. Auto buses that pass through the estadio are 27, 5, 147, 40, and 150.

Madrid Metro: To reach the place via Metro system, take the Linea 10, and get off upon reaching its own station, Metro Santiago Bernabeu.

Map:

Faces at MADO Madrid Orgullo

This could’ve been a more thorough blog post had I attended the stiletto race for men, an awaited part of Madrid Orgullo.  MADO for short, Madrid Pride is undoubtedly the most popular gay pride event in Europe.

I always wanted to feature Madrid’s gay-friendly barrio Chueca, where the run will be held, but unfortunately, I didn’t learn about the event in time. In fact, I almost missed the whole MADO affair if hadn’t been for its advertisement with event details plastered inside ad street panels along Bravo Murillo.

So last Saturday, I took the Metro Line 1 that passes through Atocha station one and a half hours before the parade’s supposed start at 6PM. I didn’t witness the whole event since I left way before it was finished; still I made sure that I collected fine photographs for my blog.

I took shots immediately as I reached Calle Claudio Moyano in front of Plaza Emperador Carlos V, the roundabout near Retiro Park. People were everywhere and in a perpetual motion, running around and waving their flags, securing the poles to the sides of their banners, and watching other people.

Participants focused on their makeup and costumes, prepping like they never prepped before. It was obvious that everyone was excited for the parade to start.

What’s also apparent was that people appeared bold and unabashed – an effect of Tinto de verano (a popular Spanish alcoholic beverage), I suppose. Some walked back and forth, and then back again, in the middle of the street like it is a catwalk, excited to show off their costumes and look. After one strutted down in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd, another would follow and try to outdo him by performing out-of-this-world antics.

And, just when you thought you had seen the craziest costumes, a naked pair arrived, each parading a prosthetic reproductive protrusion that dangled from his waist, to the amusement of the crowd.

I saw at least two groups with members in revealing outfits, a few of them stripped to their underwear. The most popular materials for costumes at the event were mesh cloth and leather, and anything that carries the LGBT colors.

Many loved to use the rainbow flag as an accessory, draping it on their back like a cape. A few others wrapped the flag around the waist like a skirt. One wore a small-sized flag like a headband, which was the right thing to do considering that afternoon’s intensely hot temperature. It was indeed fun, even exhilarating, to get shots of the crowd.

Overall, many looked really fabulous, except for a few, which to be frank, didn’t look so fabulous at all.

One thing that quite surprised me is that people willingly posed for anyone who requested to take photos. People did have the right to refuse, but in my case, everyone was accommodating. Those with cameras must have had a field day since every other person in the event was a beautiful subject of photography. I myself had a hard time in choosing which one to shoot first since there are just too many. It was a prolific day for me, having gathered enough  blog-worthy pictures from the MADO event.

Hopefully, I have chosen well and posted the best, most colorful, and most fabulous photos in my Madrid blog.

imageThis Gothic beauty walked down the whole route of the parade to the enjoyment of the spectators.  She strutted with a fierce look on her face, stopping only whenever photographers requested to shoot her

imageThe water looked inviting, and it really was a hot afternoon, and so this lady decided to cool down by sitting at the water fountain along Paseo del Prado

imageThe girl on the left, with the alpha and omega tattoo on her belly, thought I wanted her to take my picture. They gamely posed when I told them I wanted theirs. An attractive pair with comely smiles, brought close together by a beautiful lei of rainbow colors

image Flags flashing the LGBT colors were everywhere and used as capes or what they’re intended to be – like in this picture

image I requested this gentleman to close his eyes for a better look at his eyelashes. It was a colorful work of art that’s meant for everyone to see

imageAlthough there are many other Pride parades happening in different regions in Spain, such as Barcelona and Ibiza, the Madrid Orgullo is recognized as the biggest and most colorful parade event in the country
image This pair wears the attire that suits the occasion – a pair of sunglasses, glitzy ties, and nothing else

imageThe Madrid Orgullo is recognized as the most celebrated and attended pride event of them all.  It is everyone’s observation that MADO has become more and more conventional throughout the years, in the sense that not only members of the LGBT community attend it but those with straight orientation as well

imageThe Plaza de Cibeles above, an hour before the event. The whole area was filled by onlookers by the time the parade passed through it. Notice the LGBT flag hanging at the facade of the Palacio de Cibeles

imageGirls just wanna have fun! Notice the girl on the left holding a glass filled with the wine-like beverage known as Tinto de verano, very popular in the country and often compared to sangria. La Casera, a top brand, was sold in many corners along the parade area

imageGroups position in the street upon the announcement that the parade is about to start

imageFour sailors and their muse

imageThis lady projects her exquisite look for the camera. Apart from the stilleto race and the gay parade, activities were also held at Barrio Chueca, known as the gay district of the city and the biggest one in Europe

imageGiving their best smiles, they strike me as cool, strong, and independent young women ready to have some fun at the event.

imageThe winged man! Vive y deja vivir – Live and let live. Use Google Translate if you want to know what the second line means

imageRainbow flag flies high over participants as they march along Paseo del Prado. The parade passed through Plaza de Cibeles, with Plaza de Colon as the final stop, where parties, dancing, and fun activities happened through the remainder of the day

Todo Sobre Mi Madre, Biutiful, and Barcelona

Who here has not been bitten by the travel bug? Everyone must love to see the world. I myself have my own travel goals, drawing them out while in complete disregard of my financial capacity. My wanderlust has become strong as of late that what I wish for now is to see tons of different places for the rest of my life.

Dreaming of Barcelona

In a bucket list that I created a long time ago (and has seen revisions ever since) I included a trove of cities I’d like to see – Berlin, Colombo, Vaduz, and Milan, to name a few – places that I thought I must visit before I bite the big one. Among them is Barcelona, a fascinating city which I had been yearning for a long time. Even if I just realize Barcelona from this list of places, I’d be happy and would gladly have the travel goal in my bucket list crossed out as fulfilled.

Much of my life, however, I’ve been living halfway around the world. And so I always believed that seeing Barcelona in the future, whether near or distant, is quite a challenging, next-to-impossible task. I’m almost resigned to the fact that pursuing Barça will remain as it is – a dream. (Barça is an alternative name popular among non-locals, but the Catalans themselves actually refer to the city as Barna.)

Until it was two years ago when fate decided to intervene in such a way that would abruptly change my life. Everything went fast, and the next thing I knew, I was in Madrid, Spain.

imageSuddenly, I found myself living a new life in a European city – Madrid

I love this Spanish capital! Madrid is the city of promise, and of love and romanticism. It has now become my safe harbor, my source of comfort, my refuge. Madrid is also a city of excesses (but in a good way), a place where plazas, museums, and churches abound. It is the land of countless cafes, bars and restaurants, where people live to eat, and not the other way around (Spaniards do enjoy life – and their Jamon – to the fullest!). Madrid is a city so beautiful that every other place in it is a worthy background for photos and selfies.

Still a world away from the Catalan Capital

But what truly excites me now that I’m in Spain is that it puts me in a situation where I have better chances of seeing Barcelona. I live in the midst of Madrid. Just between this city and Barcelona are a few other Spanish cities and regions. Both are found within the same land boundary. In other words, it’s clear as day that I have moved closer to realizing this particular goal – or so I thought.

As I started to settle in Madrid, what actually became clear was that going to Barcelona will be no easy feat. After being told of the long hours of travel time, it made me realize that I am still a world away from the city. To be specific, travel time is more or less six hours by car, around seven by bus. Time by plane might be less, but with the expensive tickets, it’s out of the question. And so, while the possibility of seeing the Catalan city is greater – doing it is not a walk in the park. That trip isn’t going to happen, not in the near future at least.

Watching movies set in Barcelona

If I can’t go there now, what’s the next best thing to do? See it on films is what I do. Anyway, I love movies, and besides, watching Spanish films about Barcelona, or ones that are set in it, will familiarize me more to the place, a boon once I finally visit it.

Recently, I watched two — these are Pedro Almodovar‘s Todo Sobre Mi Madre and Biutiful by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Two movies that tell totally different stories, yet both are poignant enough to touch my heart. Needless to say, they are cinematic masterpieces of filmmakers respected by their peers. What made them more interesting to watch is the participation of two of Spain’s finest thespian-performers – Penelope Cruz (for Todo Sobre Mi Madre) and Javier Bardem (Oscar nominated for Biutiful). Incidentally, Cruz and Bardem are married, and a couple still to this day.

The City becomes a Film Character

Of course, a big draw to these films for me is the setting. Barcelona wasn’t used as a mere location, and its famous tourist spots didn’t just serve as pretty backdrops that would have otherwise turned the films into well-crafted travelogues. Both directors were careful not to commit such a mistake. In these films, Barcelona proved to be an indispensable character around which the rest revolved.

Toda Sobre Mi Madre

Barcelona’s portrayals in the films were quite contrasting. In Toda Sobre Mi Madre, Almodovar was able to inject, albeit subtly, some of the city’s important sites. In a way, it was like the director giving the city its due recognition, but it was palpable that the focus of the film was on the story. Many categorize Todo Sobre as a melodrama, but there’s no doubt that it’s tame compared to Inarritu’s work.

Biutiful

A brutal tale of woes and crimes, Biutiful has as its protagonist Bardem’s Uxbal, a sick man who accepted every burden throw at him up to the story’s end. He was dying, to his chagrin as it meant leaving his children behind. He calmly comes to terms with his imminent death, realizing that doing so will help him focus more on making plans for his kids. Bardem’s acting was superb and his performance razor sharp that his character – crooked yet innocuous – earned my sympathy. I actually wished that he would survive his ordeal still living, with heart and soul intact.

Along with the tear-inducing story is a raw depiction of Barcelona’s dark side. The movie dares to expose it as a city of old and decrepit, and reeking in poverty.

What places were featured in the films?

Todo Sobre Mi Madre tells about the story of Manuela, a woman in search of her ex-husband, a transsexual, in Barcelona to let him know about his son’s death. Some of the most popular attractions of the city were featured in the movie, like the La Sagrada Familia, Columbus Monument, Palau de la Musica, and Plaça del Duc de Medinaceli.

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This photo and the next one are screen shots I grabbed as I watched the movies online. Above, Manuela’s taxi, the yellow-and-black cab that the city is famous for, passes through the roundabout at the Monument a Colom. Also, you can see the base of the monument and the silhouette of one of the lion statues

In the case of Biutiful, it is a dark movie, so naturally, even if the director wanted to, it didn’t feature the fun, touristy places that make the Catalunya capital a top destination of millions. A lot of scenes were dark and filthy, like those at the sweatshop where the Chinese worked and the apartments of the characters. The alleys where the cops and Uxbal met were sordid. It didn’t help that the character of Javier is able to communicate with the dead.

The city’s familiar streets and squares were used in some of the important scenes such as La Rambla, Playa de la Barceloneta, and Plaça de Catalunya.

imageIn the photo is just one of the many cadavers of Chinese workers that got washed ashore at the Playa de la Barceloneta, a popular beach in the city. Let’s try not to get caught up with the dead in the picture, but focus on Barceloneta being one of the popular Catalan beaches. In fact, it was awarded the title of the Best Beach in the World in 1992

Unexpected Invitation

After watching the films, the more that my desire to see Barcelona intensified. It’s like the city itself beckons aloud. It reinforced my resolve to see it, albeit when and how, I have no idea. Little did I know that these films were actually sorts of a harbinger of a good thing to come.

Not everyone gets invited to go to Barcelona, and so I was elated when friends had some business to do in the city and they asked me to come along to keep them company. We would stay around for just a few hours, but they assured it was good enough to see much of the city . The thought of the long hours of travel crossed my mind, but it was fleeting.

“The heck,” I muttered.

Finally, the opportunity I’ve been waiting for is here, I mustn’t let it pass.

Barça – here I come

At 5AM, everyone gathered at the corner of Capitan Haya near Melia Hotel. Paseo de la Castellana is just a block away. It’s an area where many spectators from the nearby Bernabeu Stadium would pass via Rosario Pino every time it´s a game night, and the corners of which the ladies of the night would hang around from late in the evening till the early hours of dawn.

Thirty minutes later, the vehicle arrived. Immediately, we sped off to what would be a great day of adventure.

We expected to be at the city at around 1.30. Travel time could have been cut down by 1 to 1 ½ hours if the car hadn’t stopped for gas, snack, and trips to the Aseos. But doing away with all these activities was quite impossible, wasn’t it?
imageFinally, by 1PM we entered the ctiy. I found myself gawking at unfamiliar sights, and reading street signs written in a language quite unknown. We passed through Passeig de Gràcia and excitedly had a glimpse of Gaudi’s buildings. I perked up, got awaken by the fact that I’m already in the midst of what must be the coolest place in all of Spain. The fatigue that had built up in me from the seven long hours of travel began to fade. I felt my exhilaration turning to a major adrenaline rush – I found myself both inordinately excited and worried over what to do with the few hours of stay there.As it is, the pressure to make the most of the scant time was immense.

We got a parking space near La Rambla, just a few blocks away from Plaça Reial, where you can find the Philippine Consulate. And so, our first activity at the city was walking through one of its most famous (or notorious, if because of pickpockets) streets in the city.

I looked around and noticed a marked difference between Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid is, shall I say, orderly, tame, and conventional. On the other hand, Barcelona is fast-faced, loud, dizzying, and even flamboyant.

And just when you think Madrid is the most beautiful city this part of Europe, you see another place in Spain that bursts with so much art and culture. Barcelona is surreal more than normal, in my opinion.

It’s clear that this city thrives in a culture that’s rich in color, uniqueness, and vibrancy. Thanks to its most revered artist-sons – Antoni Gaudi, Joan Miro, and Salvador Dali, Barcelona is distinctly its own, a world apart from Spain itself.

The Barcelona that I saw

1. La Sagrada Familia

imageThe works of Gaudi that I saw were limited to his world-famous basilica, the Sagrada Familia de Gaudi along Carrer de Mallorca; and the Casa Mila (La Predera) and Casa Battló, both found at Passeig de Gràcia. In as much as I wanted to see the interior of the Sagrada, I had to content myself in taking shots of the façade to save time and be able to check out other attractions. It’s the same case with the Casa Mila – I decided against going up the rooftop to have a closer look at its chimneys and sculptures,

The lines of would-be visitors at Sagrada Familia are notoriously long. Entrance fees are expensive, 15 and 29 euros; the amount you pay depends on how much of the basilica you want to tour. Unfortunately, I only had a few hours and so, I didn’t want to waste it getting stuck in a queue under the hot summer sun. To be able to enjoy the sight of this amazing Gaudi creation from afar is enough for now.

2. La Rambla

imageThe streets and plazas of Barcelona are as fascinating as its beautiful edifices and structures. Finally, I got to experience walking thru La Rambla, a street that’s extremely busy, noisy, and almost chaotic from one end to the other. A road stretch of more than one kilometer, La Rambla is perhaps the most popular promenade in the city. I’d say it was a dizzying trek, with people – tourists and locals – filling with its entire length. Kiosks that sell souvenirs of all sorts occupy strategic parts of the street, along with terrace cafes, and food kiosks. On both sides are historic landmarks such as Reial Academia de Ciencies I Artes and La Boqueria. La Rambla starts at Plaça Catalunya and ends at Monument a Colom and Port Vell. I was advised to be extra attentive of my wallets and belongings — this beautiful, people-filled and fully pedestrianized street is riddled with pickpockets.

3. Passeig de Gràcia

imageEdificio Generali at Passeig de Gràcia 63 Barcelona

You must pass through Passeig de Gràcia if you want to visit Gaudi’s popular edifice-masterpieces, such as the Casa Mila and Casa Batlló. A wide and accessible street, de Gràcia is also famous for its upscale shops and boutiques, like Apple, Rolex, and Gucci, among many others.

4.Plaça Catalunya

imageSituated at the end portion of Passeig de Gràcia is the Plaça Catalunya, which must be the largest and most inviting Spanish plaza I had been to so far

More Barcelona photos

imageLa Sagrada Familia is perhaps the most visited masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi. Tourists go to Barcelona just to see it. This Roman Catholic Church in the midst of the Catalan capital is in a perpetual construction. It is set to be finished in 2026. Direccion: Carrer de Mallorca, 401
imageLong queues of visitors wait for their turn to tour the interior of the La Sagrada Familia basilica. A common sight in the area, especially during the summer season. Basic ticket is worth 15 euros. Tour of the basilica, including entrance to one of the towers, costs 29 euros imageWalk through Carrer de Ferran (the street in the above photo) from La Rambla until you reach Placa Reial by turning right to Passatje Madoz. The Philippine Consulate is found within this area. At the end of Carrer de Ferran is another plaza, Plaça Saint Jaume

imagePlaça Reial, a square at Barri Goti and near La Rambla, is a frequented landmark in the area. Here, tourists love to congregate during nighttime because of the many restaurants and shops found within. It is a major venue for important Catalan events. The Philippine Consulate in Barcelona is also found within the square

imageA performer mimics the look and moves of the legendary actress Marilyn Monroe, throwing kisses to the crowd from the window of the Erotic Museum of Barcelona. Pay 9 euros for entrance, and you will be treated to the fascinating history of man’s sexuality and eroticism. Find the museum at La Rambla, in front of La Mercat de la Boqueria

imageThe main entrance to the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (Mercado de San Jose), is popularly referred to as La Boqueria. The public market is one of the most sought-after landmarks in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella District. Direccion: La Rambla 703 to 707, 08002

imageFont de Canaletes (Fuente de Canaletas), the popular drinking fountain at the upper end of La Rambla, and near Plaça Catalunya. Tradition dictates that visitors must drink from the Canaletes fountain to be assured of a safe return to Barcelona Direccion: La Rambla de Canaletes, s/n 08002

imageAntoni Gaudi, the one-of-a-kind Catalan architect and recognized as the Father of Modernism in Catalunya, created the surreal yet beautiful Casa Batlló. This Modernistic building stands at Passeig de Gràcia, and is one of the area´s major tourist attractions
imageCasa Mila or La Pedrera is hailed as one of the best artistic works of architectural genius Antoni Gaudi. Experts describe it as one of the most beautiful edifices built during the modernist times

image This is a creation by renowned sculptor Josep M. Subirachs called the Monument to Francesc Macia (See the name written on the sculpture). Presented to the public on Christmas day 1991, it is located right in the middle of the city – at Plaza Catalunya
imageThe Columbus Monument, or Monument a Colom in Catalan, stands in honor of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. It is located at the lower end of the city’s La Rambla Street. Its construction was finished in time for the 1889 exposition at Barcelona

image La Reial Academia de Ciencies I Artes building was the headquarters for the city’s literary society, way back in 1764. In 1887, the edifice was dedicated to a Catalan group involved in the study of science. Shortly after, it was renamed the Royal Academy of Sciences & Arts of Barcelona, Catalonia. Direccion: La Rambla, 115

imageIf you walk the length of La Rambla up to its southern tip, you will reach the location of some of the city’s impressive structures such as Mirador de Colom and the Aduana building

imagePeople mill around the huge statues of the Lions found at the Monument a Colom (Colombus Monument). In the background is the Port Authority’s building

imageAn significant landmark in the area, the Govern military (Gobierno Militar) is found at the end portion of Passeig de Colom’s. A red Barcelona City Tour double decker passes by the edifice as it encircles the Monument a Colom

imageBehind me is the Port Authority building, where ply many of the city’s distinct yellow and black taxi cabs

image A couple sits by the Port Vell, Barcelona. At left is the Maremagnum, the mall at the port with its front wall made of reflective glass. Rising on the edge of the boardwalk in its front are thin columns providing support to narrow and elongated panels, convoluted in a way that they resemble waves. It is connected to La Rambla via Rambla del Mar Direccion: Calle Moll d’ Espanya, 5

The Barcelona I’ll see next time

I’m aware the city boasts of many sites and attractions, but I didn’t realize them to be of an immeasurable number. Barely did I scratch the surface, I must say. There are just tons of Barcelona sites that I missed. The famous Cascada Fountain, a Fontsere masterpiece situated within the equally beautiful Park de la Ciutadella; the Olympic Village and the following are but a few:

1. More Antoni Gaudi works of art

image
Above is a 3-euro framed picture of Gaudi’s Guell Park hanging on my wall. The Guell park and the Palau Guell are important Gaudi works that I must visit next time.

2. Picasso Museum

A must-see. Considered a son of Barcelona, Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga. He stayed there during his early years, and then transferred to Barcelona as a teenager. Many of his works are on display at the Picasso Museum at Carrer Moncada. Unfortunately, a number of his important masterpieces now belong to private art collectors.

3. The Cathedrals
imageThe Church of Bethlehem, built in 1680 and located along Las Ramblas, was one of the only two churches (the other being La Familia Sagrada) I saw in Barcelona

I’m disheartened that I wasn’t able to visit the city’s other important cathedrals. I had wanted to see La Catedral de Barcelona of the Gothic Quarters and Sant Pau del Camp, located in the Bohemian area of El Raval. You can tour the monastery of Sant Pau, the capital’s oldest church, for 3 euros. The cathedral, on the other hand, offers a stunning panorama of the city when viewed from its rooftop, also for an entrance fee of 3 euros.

Hasta luego, Barcelona!

imageI feel frustrated — I went to Barcelona, but hardly saw Barcelona. Truth to tell, it was a big let down for seeing only so much. I was hoping for the Parc Guell at least, a depiction of which in a form of cheap poster I am proud to have hanging on my bedroom wall. It would have been nice if I was able to see it in person.

Obviously, the few hours I spent in Barcelona were not enough to see everything there is to see. This only means a second visit is in order. Still, despite lacking in a significant immersion, I experienced a deep connection to the place. I fell in love with Barcelona all the more because of my own discovery – that it is historic, moving, and in many ways, other-worldly. In all honesty, Barcelona is one place I really couldn’t make of. If ever, I would say it is charming, awe-inspiring, and owns an unfathomable appeal, without trying to be.