Tuesday April 3, Barcelona

It rained all through the night – with some thunder included – and was still raining steadily this morning. Not an auspicious beginning to my last sightseeing day here in Spain. It’s a bit cooler today, too, around 50 degrees; still pretty mild for early spring, at least by Illinois standards.

Since the markets were closed when I tried to visit yesterday, I started this morning at the market. I don’t think I want to carry home any cheese or fresh produce, so I just looked around a bit, and took a few photos. Then headed up to Palau de la Musica Catalana, which I wanted to tour. Stood in line for a ticket, and the earliest I could get was a 2 PM tour. That was workable, I just had to readjust my mental schedule.

Headed down to the Picasso Museum. It had been mobbed on Sunday, because of its being free day, so I thought it wouldn’t be so bad today. Well. An hour and a half in line, but I did finally buy my ticket and get in. It’s a fascinating collection (housed, incidentally, in a string of beautiful old ‘palaces’ of varying styles), with an emphasis on Picasso’s early efforts. Several rooms of his paintings and drawings from early teenage years, including some where he doodled an unrelated sketch to the side of an oil-painted exercise. Reminds me of my brother. :-) His early work showed a command of realist painting, already an assured approach. It was fascinating to be able to follow his progress as he experimented with various styles – pointillism, impressionism, Toulous-Lautrec imitations, cartoons, graphic design, etc. And he kept everything – all of this early collection was given by Picasso himself in about 1970. There were a total of about 10 rooms of early works, up through about 1901.

Then there were examples of his experiments – his Blue Period, his Rose Period, the emergence of cubism, a large gallery dedicated to his studies of Velasquez, a collection of his ceramics (!), and a few late works. All in all a tremendous collection. I remember long ago seeing a handful of his early works, and I was fascinated then by seeing how his style developed. Much more so today, with so much more material to study.

When I finished at the Picasso Museum, it was time for my Palau de la Musica tour. And wow, what a place this is! Built around 1900, designed by Lluís DomPnech i Montaner in the ‘modernista’ style of the time, which pretty much equates to Art Nouveau. Like Gaudi’s work, a tremendous use of light. Most of the outside walls of the concert space itself are stained glass, and there’s a huge stained glass skylight in the center. Absolutely fantastic. The primary motifs are floral, but other nature images come into play as well. The central skylight, for example, has the three-dimensional shape of a drop of water just beginning to form, with the colors of the sun. The decorations are pretty over-the-top – huge red and white plaster roses all over the ceiling, muses of music literally popping out of the stage walls, Beethoven scowling as the Valkeries ride over his head on one side of the stage, while the master of Catalan traditional music is on the other side, sitting under a tree (all of this carved in stone); it’s pretty incredible. And I wish I could attend a concert! They say the sound is wonderful, and certainly the atmosphere would be something spectacular. Nothing is playing tonight, though, nor last night either. They were able to play the organ for us, though (recently refurbished and updated with a recording mechanism). The hall actually seemed pretty dry, but the sound carried beautifully. I can’t do this masterpiece justice – if you want to see a few photos, I recommend


(we weren’t allowed to take any photos inside, but I bought a couple of postcards that I will scan when I get home).

Oh, and this incredibly beautiful, 2,000 seat hall was built by the Barcelona Choral Society (well not exactly, but the equivalent in Catalan)! Quite an organization!!!

Well, after that anything seemed anticlimactic, but I did have some day left, so after regrouping at my hotel, I headed out in the rain again. So far today I was in walking distance of everything, but now I took the subway up to see one more Gaudi building, Casa Mila aka La Padrera. This is an apartment building that Gaudi designed and built in 1910. The nickname La Padrera is a reference to its outer appearance, which has been likened to a rock quarry. Certainly the rippling, greyish-tan surface looks rather like a fanciful rock formation, but as usual the design was very thoughtfully planned and executed. There was a very interesting museum in the attic, with a lot of information about Gaudi’s life and works, not only La Padrera but other buildings and smaller designs such as furniture. The grace and flow of his creations is masterful and logical, and the results are very livable, workable spaces. On a dry day we could have gone out on the roof terrace, but they have to close it in the rain (I guess the walkways get too slippery). We were able to tour one complete apartment, which has been refurnished with period pieces (though nothing designed by Gaudi). This was an interesting place to see, but if I had to choose one, I’d definitely go for Casa Batllo which I saw yesterday.

Then dinner at a restaurant on La Rambla – finally had paella, and I went for the paella negre, which is made black with squid ink! Very tasty rice and shellfish dish – including shrimp, cuttlefish, and I’m not sure what else. I wonder how one buys squid ink?! I don’t think I’ll try to carry any home. The thought of a leak is pretty scary!

Still raining tonight. It’s supposed to clear up tomorrow, just in time for me to leave. And I checked Bloomington weather – 68 today, high of 38 tomorrow! Carlyn the weather goddess strikes again. :-)

My next email should be from home – I’ll be there tomorrow night if all goes as scheduled. This has been an amazing trip, and I’ve enjoyed every day of it. I must say, though, I’m looking forward to my own house, my own bed, and my cats!

Love to all,


Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to richard.c@morenus.org