Thouroughly Moderniste

September 4, 2017 - Barcelona, Spain

Our tickets for St Pau are for the 10am to 2pm time slot and the Sagrada tickets are for a 6pm entry so we took our time getting started this morning before walking along the Carrer Ferran to the Restaurante Ferran for an English Breakfast (in the Spanish Style - as per yesterday). Juice, bacon and fried eggs with toast and excellent coffee, and then more coffee. After that we felt ready for the day and we walked back to the hotel for our tourist kit, read cameras and cash, before slipping back out to the Metro Station.

After our familiarisation yesterday it was a breeze to get tickets from the machine and catch a train out to St Pau. This time we had to change at Diagonal station onto Line 5 for the final couple of stops. When we emerged from the Metro into the daylight it was difficult to establish our orientation but a short walk revealed the towers of the Sagrada Familia in one direction and the brickwork of St Pau in the other.

As we entered the gates we could see people entering the building to our right and there we exchanged our tickets for a sticker to show we were entitled to be in the grounds and buildings. You are supposed to wear them on your shirt but in my usual way I stuck it to my camera case and was never questioned about it after. If you are beyond the ticket desk you must be OK.

The hospital itself was established in the late 15th century to ensure access to health care for all the citizens. A very enlightened idea for the time. By the end of the 19th Century it was obvious that the practice of medicine and the requirements for hospitals had changed dramatically and a new design was necessary. Construction of the new design began in 1903 and was completed in 1910 and was of Art Nouveau style.

The design incorporated large wards with high vaulted ceilings, operating theatres with large areas of glass to allow plenty of light, large garden areas between the buildings and tunnels for ease of access between buildings. A very enlightened approach to public health. Within the buildings the walls and ceilings were all covered in glazed tiles and decorated with mosaics, stained glass windows and fancy tiles. The outside of the buildings have large domes with glazed tiles and decorative finials all with a distinctive and colourful Spanish feel. We spent at least two hours just looking around and were reluctant to return to the busy streets and the heat.

It had to be done though so we walked back toward the Sagrada Familia. A bit difficult to miss such a landmark. As we walked along the Avenue de Gaudi we found several tempting cafes and bars with tables and brollies and we gave in to the temptations and stopped for a refreshing soft drink. Most pleasant to sit in the shade sipping a cool drink and watch the world go by. While we sipped we looked at our timing and decided that rather than hang around the streets waiting for our entry time at the Sagrada Familia we would catch the Metro back to Liceu and catch up on siesta time and the pleasure of our journal work before coming back out on the Metro. Trade €8 for a bit of relaxation.

That was easier said than done. We consulted our map with the Metro stations marked and walked down one block and across two blocks to the appropriate intersection. Not a Metro sign in sight. 'Well', we thought, 'there is also a symbol on the map near the next intersection back towards St Pau'. No, not there either. Just what were we looking for anyway? We knew the stations have a red diamond symbol but we couldn't see one anywhere, or any steps down, or lifts. Surely they would be obvious. Margaret asked a woman where the Metro was and she pointed up the road and gestured that it was around the corner a bit. Off we headed then, probably still looking very confused as we were very confused. When we almost fell down them we discovered the Metro steps, and the signs, Oh, and there's one across the road as well. How could we miss them?

At least the routine with the tickets was second nature now and we were soon on board and back in the crowds on La Rambla after a change at Diagonal. Simple really.

After a bit of a break and a siesta for some, we braved the Metro system once again for the two-part journey to Sagrada. This time the train was more crowded, and more crowded again when we changed at Diagonal. These major junctions of lines on the underground systems get busy at the end of the day, whichever city you are in.

We were a bit early for our entry time even now so we did a complete circumnavigation outside before deciding to present our tickets at the timed entry lines. We were still early but that didn't seem to be an issue and we joined the crowds inside the fences rather than those outside the fences. The whole think is just mind-boggling in the amount of decoration; the architecture itself with all the decorated towers and carved facades, the amount of colour and right down to the depiction of nature on the doors covered in sculpted brass leaves, spiders, beetles and lizards. We had to stop there for a photo or two (or maybe more).

The interior is really the beautiful part. There is not so much overt 'glitz' but rather the building structure and design is its own decoration. The towering columns designed to look like trees spreading into branches toward the heights of the ceiling are stunning in themselves but it is the use of stained glass and coloured light that is the most arresting thing. It is almost impossible to do justice by simple photography but we tried. Image after image after image.

Our tickets also included a visit to the towers on the 'Passion Façade' and although we were early for our timeslot again there did not appear to be any issue about it. We were pointed towards a lift (thank goodness) where a dour faced woman ushered us inside with hurry up motions after we had followed a disabled access ramp almost around the entire lift. I will comment later about the ramp! Once we were inside, from the back of the lift and with still more space available, through the open front doors our 'guide' held up a stern 'STOP' hand to the next people in the entry line, closed the rear doors, exchanged some documents and comments with the official controlling the line, and then shut the front door. Our lift then whisked us up into the heights of the tower.

Before she opened the door, our guide showed us a bit of a map, and pointed us down a few steps, across and up some more steps, onto the bridge between towers, down some more steps, around the back of a tower, through a door and finally descend by a spiral stair back to floor level of the cathedral. What could be easier, but why the ramp to the lift when the only high exit to any sort of view includes several steps?

Our group followed the indicated path and we were soon on the bridge with views of the city where we all tried to get photos through the heavy wire grid intended to stop us hurling ourselves to our death, I presume, but also effectively stopping most cameras from shooting between the bars. Thankfully my lens barrel would fit between although it was difficult to do anything other than shoot straight out. The views of the city were worth the trip up here and then we began our descent. It seemed confusing but there was only one way to go really and so narrow it was almost impossible to pass anyone. We all waited patiently as people attempted photos from different vantage points along the way and squeezed in to 'lay-bys' to allow passing whenever possible.

Back in the main area again we took a lot more photographs, took a seat to listen to the audio-guide and then walked around to absorb more of the atmosphere. Some of the audio-guide was hard to listen to with its almost breathless commentary but the explanations of the interior and the light from the stained glass seemed to fit the mood. It is all supposed to represent a forest, hence the leaves and insects on the doors, the soaring and spreading of the columns and the filtered nature of the light.

We left the Sagrada area about 7.15pm and decided we would walk back to La Rambla via the Arc de Triomf so we headed southwest along Carrer de Provença until we reached Passeig de St Joan where we took a left turn and followed it all the way to the Arch. After several attempts to photograph the arch from the middle of a bicycle lane on the median strip and from the side of a roundabout as the light faded we found a sign directing us to the Palau Musica. There was something that would link up with our mental map, so off we went. A few twists and turns in the Gothic Quarter finally took us around the Parròquia de Sant Pere de les Puelles and on to the Palau and we trudged our weary way back to the hotel. I don't think we expected to have spent so long on our feet over the course of the day or to have walked so far at the end of it.

We kicked off our shoes and took a quick break as it was almost 9pm, then headed up the Alaire bar and rooftop pool. We sat in our usual spot and Koka brought us beer and nuts and we ordered some olives and ensalada tamate. Our salad was slow in arriving and when it came Koka also brought a turkey club sandwich in apology. It was almost all we could do to finish those and another round of drinks. It was also 11.30 pm so it was definitely time to turn in.


The connecting tunnels at St Pau hospital
Exhibit of mosaic patterns at St Pau
Decorated ceiling dome and lamps
Windows in the administration building

1 Comment

Judy Crewe:
September 14, 2017
Very evocative, reminding me of my Barcelona visit a few years ago. Continue to enjoy.
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