Lit up against a dark sky with its towering stone pillars and jagged turrets, lights faintly visible inside some windows and others glowing a menacing red because of the stained glass, the Sagrada Família at night evokes memories of the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast. Although construction began under Gaudí’s supervision in 1882 this cathedral is scheduled to be completed by 2026; its construction may not be a ‘Tale as Old as Time’ but is certainly a long time in the making. Visiting it the next day, I was stunned. I would even go as far as to say ‘I’ve never felt that way before’.
The cathedral is unlike any other I have seen. The pillars are shaped like tree trunks and are intertwined with each other at the top creating an impression of a rainforest canopy. When sunlight filters through the branches it hits the white trunks creating an iridescent pattern of greens and blues replicating the patterns of light formed naturally in a forest. One side has stained glass in the green-blue colour spectrum and walking in this section is like being ‘Under the Sea’ whilst the opposing wall burns a fiery red before smouldering into burnt orange. Gaudí’s aim was to incorporate nature into his designs; even the vessel containing holy water is made out of a single giant clam shell.
Casa Batlló is like something seen ‘Once Upon a Dream’. The tiled roof merges from turquoise to aquamarine to navy blue to moss green to ochre to bronze – and that’s just from one angle! The colours change depending on the light and where it is viewed from adding to the mythical element of the roof. Its shape resembles a dragon’s back. Locals have termed the building casa dels osso (house of bones) and casa del drac (house of the dragon). The outer wall is equally impressive with coloured tiles winking in the light and window frames that simultaneously resemble waves and bones. Casa Amatller designed by Puig i Cadafalch is another extraordinary building and is next to Casa Batlló.
Another example of modernista architecture is Casa Milà, dubbed "La Pedrera" which is Catalan for stone quarry. This building has a stone façade which captures the movement of waves and contrasts with the chaotic tangles of wrought iron that make up the balcony railings. The commissioner of the building Pere Milà was one of the first individuals in Barcelona to own a car and Casa Milà was the first building in the city to have parking space built into it.
[The above phrases in quotation marks are titles of or phrases from Disney songs.]
• I would buy tickets online. You beat the queue, it is slightly cheaper and buying on the door carries the risk of turning up and finding out it has sold out at a particular time. The display board at the entrance also seemed to indicate that tickets were sold at specific times (for entrance on the hour).
• Look at the stunning bronze doors designed by Etsuro Sotoo to complement Gaudí’s nature theme which were added in 2014.
• Most of the restaurants and cafes in this area close by 20 00 with a few exceptions such as ??? which is open from 08 00 to 23 00 and has paninis, quiches and a few hot dishes including lasagna and curry. Free of charge is excellent advice displayed on a board: everything is better with chocolate.
• During the Christmas period there is a market near the exit with stalls selling Christmas items including baubles and nativity figurines.
• There are tapas restaurants everywhere and there are often good deals to be had on set menus.
• Not many people speak English fluently so a vocab book would be helpful when asking for directions.
• Try a ham or cheese cone. Jamon, you know you want to.