Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Barcelona - Montserrat and Park Güell

Barcelona!  A place I had wanted to visit for more than twenty years!  It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to visiting it this time at the end of our 12 day cruise.  Our ship docked in the port early in the morning and since it's to early to check in at the hotel, we took a small group tour to Montserrat and Park Güell.  The driver also took us on a quick tour around the waterfront and up to Montjuïc to see the panoramic view of the city before we headed out to Montserrat.

Montserrat with its spectacular mountain backdrop was awe-inspiring.  We had planned our visit to coincide with the boys' choir concert at 1 pm but the church was way too crowded before it was even time for the concert, literally packed from door to door, with hardly room to allow people to leave if they wanted to.  It became more of a spectacle than a spiritual experience. 

We returned to the city and visited Park Güell, another crowd experience and one almost had to learn to be skilled crowd dodgers, with practice, to survive and claim a right to enjoy this magnificent piece of art without always having someone posing in front of it.  It was a challenge but lesson learned - visit first thing in the morning or put up with the crowds - and we got very good at it, as there were crowds everywhere in Barcelona.  According to the word on the street, Barcelona was experiencing an unprecedented influx of tourists because of the fear of terrorism in the other parts of Europe. And of course, it was also thanks to the many cruise ships that either started or ended in Barcelona throughout most of the year.  I knew it would not be our last visit so we did not rush to see everything in the four days that we were there.

Panorama from Montjuïc, the hill in Barcelona with the Olympic stadium and a couple of art museums, including the Joan Miro collection and the Catalan Art Museum, neither of which we got to see - but one had to leave some good stuff for another visit!

Sculpture depicting Catalan national dance the "Sardana"
Barcelona Face sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein at the old port
Montserrat was an hour's drive out of Barcelona - these mountains are over 4,000 ft. high with trails right to the top

The Benedictine abbey and the church Santa Maria de Monserrate, reachable by road, cable car, or rack railway - and of course, by hiking trail!

The trail and the rack railway

Inside the Santa Maria

The loggia between the church and the abbey

Arthurian myth? 

Boys' choir in concert

Park Güell entrance

Gaudi built this as the Porter's Lodge of the estate - this is now the Barcelona History Museum
The "monumental" flight of steps up the Hypostyle or Columns Room
The star attraction here is the dragon - absolutely everyone must have a photo with it!

Uncluttered view
Detail beside the stairs
Ceiling of the Hypostyle Room - the room has 86 columns - directly above this is the ceramic undulating bench of the upper square

This was quite a photographic feat - finding a patch with no one sitting on it!
The gardens

The outside of the Hypostyle Room

Dinner tonight at a Basque tavern, with a nice surprise on the menu, was a great way to wrap up our first day in this great city!  Please visit Foodsparks to read more about the meal.

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