Our day started slowly. Late in the morning, the metallic, mechanical sound of our room’s Nespresso coffee machine ejecting spent cartridges filled the room. We were tired and Becky was brewing an excessively large number of shots of coffee. A shower soon followed ourcaffeine binge. It seemed simple enough, but learning to operate the controls of the ultra-modern shower without flooding the lower eight floors of the hotel occupied a surprisingly long period of time, even in our fully caffeinated state.
From our room we headed out to see Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. First we stopped by Café Vienna on Las Ramblas to eat a sandwich that New York Time’s food writer Mark Bittman says is “…the best sandwich I have ever had.” The sandwich features thinly sliced Jamon de Iberico de Bellota on a length-wise sliced, crusty baguette, the inside of which was smeared with a tomato. The sandwich was good. How could it not be with the buttery nuttiness of Jamon de Iberico de Bellota? But was this the best sandwich ever? Perhaps it was for Mark Bittman but it wasn’t for us. Maybe we just resented anything, even the good tomato-smeared bread, that diluted the intense, savory flavors of the Jamon de Iberico de Bellota.
After a convoluted but well marked subway to street to subway connection, we were at Sagrada Familia. My last visit to Gaudi’s cathedral was about four years ago. In the intervening years, the progress towards the completion of the building has been surprisingly noticeable. Sagrada Famlia now looks much more like a cathedral than a construction site and portions of the interior are scheduled to open for worship services in 2010. Construction started in 1882 and the cathedral is on track to be finished in 2026. It may seem slow, but the building time is comparable to the amount of time it took to complete the Washington National Cathedral, which was completed in 1990 after 87 years of construction.
Inside, Sagrada Familia the nave has been covered. The canopy-like ceiling is supported by columns that branch and spread near the top. What results is an open and airy space that feels surreal and modern while at the same time having an organic, almost living look. We spent about an hour touring the towers and both Gaudi’s Nativity and Josep Maria Subirachs’ Passion façades before we continued on. Sagrada Familia is a fascinating building. It will be interesting to see when it is finished.
It was her first visit to Sagrada Familia and Becky liked the cathedral also. In her words, “The iconic ionic capitols are ironic.”
When my head stopped spinning, all I could say was “Uh.” I feared even asking her to repeat what she had just said. I didn’t even try to repeat the line myself lest I leave my tongue in an irreversible knot.
From Sagrada Familia we continued along Barcelona’s Ruta del Modernisme, which leads the tourists past some of Barcelona’s most famous Modernisme buildings. Modernisme is Catalan for modernism and references the art movement that occurred in Catalonia roughly from 1888 to 1911. The most famous practitioner of the Modernisme architectural style is Antonio Gaudí. Along the route there are numerous interesting buildings, often with distinctive convoluted, surreal exteriors.
For a pricey entrance fee, we were able to tour two of Gaudi’s buildings along Ruta del Modernisme– Casa Milà (la Pedrera) and Casa Batlló. UNESCO lists these buildings, along with other works of Antonio Gaudi including Sagrada Familia, as a World Heritage Site. La Pedrera was built as an apartment building. Casa Batlló, known locally as Casa dels ossos or House of Bones, is a typical house owned in the late 19th century by a wealthy businessman, Josep Batlló i Casanovas. Batlló enlisted Gaudi for an extensive remodel. The interiors of these Modernisme buildings mirror their exteriors with convoluted lines, curved-smooth woodwork, and colorful tiles. Even now the interior spaces of these buildings look to be comfortable and livable. There’s one problem, though. Buying furniture would be real a challenge. The rooms have no straight lines.
At the end of our tour, we wandered back towards our room. Along the way we happened by a vibrator store, Sensualove, and went in. As Becky was contemplating whether an expensive vibrating rubber duck would be a good addition to our extensive collection of non-vibrating rubber ducks, I tried to decide whether I should ask the other patrons if I could be of assistance. In the end, I figured that the attractive female customers who were at the store shopping for personal amusement devices would not value my earnest offer of assistance. It seemed to me that even asking if they needed help was poor idea on multiple fronts.
With some remaining personal dignity but without a vibrating duck, we left the vibrator store. The good news was time was that it was time for tapas and cervezas on the way back to the room. And yes, we did have another plate of pimientos de Padron. Our day would not be complete without Padron’s little green peppers.