Sunday, May 22, 2016

Jean's Excellent Spanish Adventure

Last week at this time, Jean was hanging out with friends in Barcelona, Spain, after the Formula 1 Grand Prix race.  (More about the race itself in a future posting.)  Here is her story:

Here I am on the roof of Gaudi's Casa Mila listening to the audio-guide and contemplating my next move.  The weather was spectacular: upper 60s during the day and mid- to upper 50s at night, with a mild breeze and low humidity.

Barcelona is in the Catalan region of Spain. Architect Antoni Gaudi's works dominate the city's psyche and its skyline.  I met 3 friends from California for sightseeing and to see the Formula-1 Grand Prix race on May 15th. We stayed at a wonderful 4-star Hotel Murmuri (aka "Whisper") in a beautifully appointed two-bedroom apartment on a side street around the corner from the main hotel with living room, dinning area, outdoor terrace, full kitchen, washer and dryer and dishwasher.

Antoni Gaudi i Cornet was a Spanish Catalan architect from Reus and the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. Gaudi's works reflect an individualized and distinctive style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Familia.

Influenced by architecture, nature and religion, Gaudi integrated crafts into his designs such as ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging, carpentry and plasterwork. One of the most iconic Gaudi buildings is Casa Mila at 92 Passeig de Gracia. Although revered today, Gaudi's work was very controversial at the time.

Nicknamed "La Pedrera" or "The Stone Quarry", Casa Mila is an apartment building commissioned by Pere Mila and Roser Segimon. As I toured it, my thought was "This man does not a straight line like."  Everything is curved.  Metalwork surrounds the balconies and the roof features stone and ceramic tile covered towers. His new techniques for treatment of materials included trencadis which used waste ceramic materials. Constructed from 1906 to 1912, the building still houses private apartments.  The museum lobby on the first floor, the rooftop and the Mila family's apartment are open to the public.  This model shows the rooftop towers.

A curved ceramic tile covered tower is in the background, while the towers in the foreground (some of which conceal stove pipes) have been described as topped by warriors' helmets or ladies' veils.

Many of the details in the family apartment like bed frames and furniture are also curved, echoing an art nouveau look.  This curved tea set caught my eye.

Check out the curved plasterwork framing the door and the window and note the pocket doors. The woodwork in the flooring and the gramophone add warmth to the surroundings.

Next stop?  We went to see Gaudi's still-incomplete basilica, Sagrada Familia, which is the most visited monument in Spain. Influenced by neo-Gothic and Oriental styles, Gaudi became part of the Modernista movement which peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He and his work eventually transcended mainstream Modernisme, creating an individualized and unique organic style influenced by nature.

Estimates are that construction will continue through 2026.  [Valerie interjects: I was there in 1991, and it was replete with cranes even then, so that gives you some idea of the magnitude - or the endlessness - of this undertaking.]  Although numerous parts of the exterior and interior are construction sites, crowds of visitors swarm the exterior and interior.  Advice to travelers: If you are planning to visit Barcelona, book your tickets in advance online.

The interior of the basilica is illuminated by vibrant stained glass windows.

Although the altar area was walled off during our visit, the crucifix was visible overhead. One visitor commented that it looked like the cross was suspended from a giant, golden jelly fish.

Food in Barcelona features lots of ham -- and seafood.  Restaurants are crowded with happy, satisfied, well-dressed diners.  Outdoor cafes are also very popular spots for relaxing and people-watching. Nightlife is thriving.  Lots of bars and nightclubs thrive in downtown Barcelona.

Men in kilts:  Across the street from our apartment was Boca Grande - Boca Chica, which had a jam-packed rooftop bar filled with many race fans, including Fraser.  Our quartet had spotted him earlier in the afternoon on the street. He's hard to miss, with long blond locks, kilt and boots.  Fraser was sweet enough to pose for a photo.

After our rooftop nightcap, my friends and I descended in the elevator with these 3 adorable young ladies who insisted that I had to check out the ladies' room and escorted me there forthwith. The large, brightly lit white tile covered unisex space featured stand up cocktail tables, lots of big mirrors, communal sinks, large stalls and beautiful people.

Teaser for Wednesday night's Formula-1 race coverage: a group of more than a dozen British gents combined their trip to the race with a bachelor party.  They chose a hilariously novel way to celebrate at the racetrack and after: dressing as matadors, flamenco dancers and senoritas.  Tune in Thursday for the full story!

On a related note:  On Sunday evening as we were walking home after dinner at Balthazar, we met this group of 5 ladies celebrating the upcoming nuptials of the lady in purple.  The bridesmaids dressed in red outfits matching the bride's purple one, including net skirt, feather boa, headband and feather, combined with black sweaters and tights.

All good things must come to an end. All too soon, my trip was over. At the airport, waiting for my flight back to JFK, I was recognized and approached by Manuel who lives in Mexico City.  That he would know me from our blog and from the Advanced Style documentary was wonderfully flattering and so much fun.  His sister obliged by taking photos of us with both of our cell phones.  What a sweet ending to a marvelous trip!


  1. Fun, fun, fun....thank you for the tour!

  2. Denise and I love Barcelona so much. It is great to see the pictures which bring back so many memories. Gaudy is amazing!

  3. I find Gaudi's architecture fascinating, so am envious of your opportunity to see it in person! Looks like you had a wonderful time.