Nov 11, 2014

Park Guell

Monday arrived leaving us with two full days left to absorb the biggest things on the "to do list" we had made for our trip to Barcelona. This was to be our Day of Gaudi. Our first stop was Barcelona's fantastic playground, Park Guell situated on the edge of town and offering one of those high vistas that make a city appear to stretch on forever.  I love finding myself at such high points in big cities.  You almost feel the history of a place when you see so much of it at once. Our own home town has nearly doubled its population since I was a young teenager but it will never have the "weight" of a massive city.  Raleigh is very spread out and mostly suburban.  Whenever I've traveled with the band I have made it a habit to look for the tallest building, usually a cathedral, and walk towards it if there was time before soundcheck.  Sometimes those walks only took fifteen minutes and other times they took an hour or more.  Often I would wind up at the highest point in the city, or close to it, and be able to look out at millions of people and centuries of history.  It's an exhilarating experience every time.  Park Guell offers several views of the capital of Catalonia, but what makes it so unique is that you have already spent so much time wandering around in what I call Gaudi's Playground that you forget where you are until you crest a hill or find a clear view of the city. It really is the icing on the cake.  Being able to see so much of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea makes the park even more magical, and I can't imagine how inspiring Gaudi must have found his creation while he lived right in the middle of it for most of the last twenty years he was alive.  Hopefully you'll see what I'm talking about in the next few minutes.

The Entrance 

Park Guell Is tucked into the back of a neighborhood at the top of steep hills with very narrow streets.  You'd never know what lies behind the wall that keeps it a secret until you peek through the front gate

A bizarre mix of gingerbread house, Roman columns and walkways that looked like they were designed with The Flintstones in mind, the park has something different around every corner

This lizard fountain is an iconic figure in Barcelona, at least in the keychain, stuffed animal and postcard world of tourist shops.  A welcoming face as you climb the steps to the covered columns just inside the entrance

Monica snapped this one without realizing that I was the tourist on the steps trying to see what there might be to gawk at just behind our new lizard friend.

Inverted egg crates for upside down aliens?  Sounds as good as any other guess.  Maybe it was just a way to see how many people Gaudi could get to lay on the ground and snap pictures of something with no identifiable purpose

This undulating tile bench sits atop the doric columns at the top of Park Guell's entrance. From here you have an inspiring view of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea

Park Guell is very large and once you get outside the heavily tiled entrance you find yourself in a series of paths made of rough stone walls and columns with palm trees, flowering vines and plants that remind you that you aren't in Kansas anymore.  I have an aunt and uncle who live in the dessert in Arizona, and it was weird to have a slice of their mountain home so far away in Spain.  If that kind of landscape is your thing, Park Guell is definitely a place you need to spend some time walking through.  We watched some parakeets and pigeons have a little turf war centered around a puddle in the middle of one of the walkways.  How strange, I thought for the desire to draw boundaries to be so strong that you have that confrontation despite the fact that dozens of other creatures ( namely tourists ) one hundred and fifty times your size are gathering around just to watch.  There must have been an ongoing issue with the rival bird clans.  

The Paths

The rough stone features throughout Park Guell make you wonder if you are on the set of a live action Flintstones movie or in some parallel universe where cavemen had seriously advanced building techniques. Every few seconds you find yourself thinking "That is so cool!"  We could have spent almost the entire day there and never gotten tired of what the place had to offer.  A truly one of a kind spot 

Marcus and I should probably have refined our approach to asking people for change.  In hindsight, this seems a bit aggressive, and maybe even menacing.  Park security were really cool about it though, especially given that the two little old ladies who beat us back with their purses ended up being checked out for shoulder injuries 

Between being harassed by two long haired panhandlers and waiting for teenage girls to stop their "selfie marathon" so she could finally grab a shot of these stone columns without giggling brats in the foreground, Monica proved to be quite the patient photographer.  Is it wrong to hope that oblivious teenagers make that one, possibly fatal step off the edge of a walkway while marveling at their own beauty?  They probably wished we'd make that erroneous step too, so to hell with 'em!  It's a battlefield out there when you have a camera

Seriously, these paths just kept going and going.  We didn't even get to see them all because we were running out of time to make it to La Sagrada Familia. The last big feature of this particular path led us to the entrance pictured in the section above.  Once we finished with the entrance we backtracked via an outer trail to get to a point with an enormous view of the city.  Then we high tailed it to the house Gaudi lived in right in the middle of the park before grabbing a bus to get some lunch and a ride back to our last destination for the day

There is a house in the middle of Park Guell where Antoni Gaudi lived for twenty years until shortly before his death in 1926.  It's a quaint house that has a lot of really interesting features and a lot of windows to take in the breathtaking view of Park Guell.  As with all Gaudi designs the attention to detail is remarkable.  If you are a great fan of the art nouveau movement of the late 1800's through the early 1900's you'll get a kick out of touring the house.  If you aren't sure what that means think about the JOB Rolling Papers girl that is so famous from Alphonse Mucha.  Loose, flowing subjects adorned with tight, repetitive patterns with a very strong sense of design and composition often created an interesting contrast that I have always liked, especially when I thought I might be an illustrator.  The house is subdued for Gaudi, but still reminiscent of fairy tales.  As we walked around it I couldn't help but feel that Gaudi had created a tiny sliver of Paradise for himself.

The House

Gaudi's house almost sneaks up on you because it's one of the first things you pass as you wait to enter the part of the park for which you must purchase a ticket.  You are still looking up at everything  when you notice that there is an odd, pinkish orange house that you have stumbled upon.  I could definitely retire there, and maybe I'll look into it.  If there ever is a zombie apocalypse I think I could hole myself up in Park Guell and be pretty happy

Once you get closer to Gaudi's house the detail begins to jump out at you.  It isn't just a sherbet monstrosity.  It's a fantasy home with an amazing yard. I wanted to grab a cup of coffee and sit in every corner of the garden 

The windows were a lot of fun, and each one had some pretty impressive trim. The trim is not just painted.  It's also a relief.  The white part stands out about a quarter of an inch from the house and from the darker pink area within the trim.  It made me wonder what the Spanish equivalent of Hansel and Gretel might have been.  Was some witch about to snatch me up while I stood there slack jawed, marveling at the house?  I would not have been surprised

Many of Gaudi's creations used shattered tile for decoration.  I cannot imagine the man hours involved in assembling these motifs.  Some were full tiles that were shattered once set in place but many used random bits of broken tile that didn't match like the long, winding bench at the entrance to the park.  I think I would have let the tile men drink on the job if they wanted to

I had to throw at least one flower shot in this post since the park was full of them.  This ice plant and the tile panel above were part of the garden around the house.  Interesting things were just waiting to be found everywhere we looked

Sadly, we had to leave Park Guell before we were ready so that we could see another of Gaudi's creations, La Sagrada Familia.  We will make it back there, and we will be just as awed as we were this time

We were told that we could see all we wanted in Park Guell in about an hour and a half.  Fat chance!  We were there for about four hours and we could easily have stayed for another two.  There was so much to soak in, and I knew Monica was in heaven.  The look on her face and her reactions to everything around us were worth every bit of the time and money that went into this trip.  Hell, we still had La Sagrada Familia and the Dali Museum ahead of us.  Having shared interests with your better half ( in my case, my MUCH better half! ) is a wonderful thing and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to guide Monica through a city I knew she would fall in love with.  You guys have been very patient, and I promise that after two more posts I'll be done with this amazing trip to Spain.  Maybe a few of you loyal Pounderers will think about heading to Barcelona after reading about our own adventures. For those of you who may be sick of all these travel posts, all you have to do is book us in your own home town.  Let the bidding wars begin!


  1. Hey Steve,
    I'm a Confessor & Loincloth fan and been reading your blog for a while but have never commented before. You might consider travel writing as a career endeavor. I'm not joking. Your writing is articulate, informed, colorful, and often poetic. On top of that, it's interesting. Not that you would want to copy him, but look at what Neil Peart has done with his travel writing. Of course, he has his mega-stardom to boost his readership, but your writing is at least as good if not better.

    Tim Batten
    Jonesborough, TN

    1. Wow! Thanks, Tim! That is quite an unexpected compliment! I do thoroughly enjoy writing all of these inane posts for The Poundry, even more than I thought I might when I started the blog. I wish I had more to write about, but events come in waves. Right now I have plenty to catch up on, and I could expand the things I write about which is something I have been considering. I fell in love with Barcelona when I went there the first time in '96, and I'm a much bigger sap than I ever was back then, so that may come through in these posts. My only approach to writing is to keep from sounding like a moron while never trying to write "above" the levels of common speech. I hate how condescending movie and music reviewers can sound, and if you have to look up every fourth word to understand what they are describing the writer has failed to communicate effectively. I have strong opinions but I try to keep from sounding mean. Hopefully these posts are more fun than anything else. Seriously though, thank you so much for your kind words. Very encouraging! Chime in anytime.

  2. Barcelona looks amazing Steve. Keep these posts coming! 
    And I 100% agree with Tim about your writing - creative, funny and everything in between. Not to mention the awesome photography! 

  3. Aww... both of you know how to make a girl blush! I have to give Monica credit for some of the photography in these last few posts about the touristy part of our trip. I have credited the other photographers I've used on the blog, but I think that seven of the photos in the last two posts, including five in this one, have been Monica's. She and I both took art classes in high school and she has a really good eye. I do love playing around with a camera! Thanks for hanging in there through all of these! Two more, than it's on to Steve Shelton related news and maybe one about last week's Carcass show. Thanks for the compliment... your check is on its way!