It’s almost over, 2011, and I was looking back over the things I’d filed away to post “later” and never did get around to doing. Considering that my only trip this year was a mere three or four weeks I can’t believe how much of it I missed posting about. Probably because so much of it was very personal time, and I have, even now, a lingering sense of sadness about the trip.
That aside, Barcelona, was, as always, a very vibrant memory, and I deliberately didn’t write about my favorite places because I wanted to take my time and do them justice. However, it is now time. I always like to at least try to begin the new year with as many ends as possible tidied up, so here are some more memories from one of my favorite cities:
Barcelona might be the richest city in the world architecturally, and many of the inspiring buildings are churches and cathedrals. When you say “Barcelona,” for many people the image which first springs to mind is Gaudi’s still-unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, others will register the word “Gothic” and think about the Cathedral and its surrounds, but the two images which first flash across my brain are these:
Santa Maria del Mar
The church of Santa Maria del Mar may not be as grand and flashy as La Sagrada Familia or the Gothic Cathedral, but it’s one of the few churches I know which make me feel the way I think I should feel in a church…..peaceful and happy.
The first time I came across it, knowing nothing about it, was by accident. I had been in the city for a few days, and was recovering from the worst food poisoning of my life, so I was strolling very gently, sin rumbo (without direction – love that phrase in Spanish), when something drew me in. From the outside it really didn’t look very impressive, but when I entered it was like crossing the threshold to another dimension. To eyes perhaps wearied by Gaudí’s opulence, and a heart jaded by Gothic religious overkill, the church was a haven of light and elegance.
Although it was under construction during the same period as the city’s cathedral in the 14th century, and the style is Gothic, there is a simplicity to the interior which makes me feel as though, if “God” had to choose somewhere to live, this would be it. The lack of clutter, an open space without transepts, and columns which really seem to be reaching to heaven give it a graceful majesty, but the stained glass windows give it warmth. It’s accepted that this church is the church of the people, (whereas the much more showy Cathedral was for the nobility) and, of course, of the sailors and fishermen who made up so much of the population of that time.
Santa Maria del Mar is on the tourist beat (where inBarcelonaisn’t these days?) but it’s less crowded than perhaps better-known places. My second favorite place is a haven for both tourists and locals, and it’s Port Vell.
Having stuffed ourselves on tapas yet again in wonderful bars which look so uninviting from the outside, but which open out into quirky or cosy or chic interiors, Maria and I thought we might take in an IMAX movie in Port Vell on the city’s stylish waterfront to finish the day. There were certain distractions, though, a street market and a quirky fountain to photograph! In the end we were too late for the movie, so we bought waffles from a kiosk and perched on a bench to scoff them.
Port Vell as it is today was created for the 1992 Olympics, held in Barcelona, but surely must have paid for itself in the tourism it’s attracted since. I adore IMAX movies, so it’s somewhere I always want to go just for that alone, but over the years I’ve eaten some great seafood there, visited the excellent aquarium, done some serious shopping and, on this occasion, had my breath taken away by a stunning sunset.
For a short visit we packed in a lot of on that trip, and there is yet one more place, but I’m saving that for another post…..so it may yet be 2012 before I am finished with all my notes and snaps from this year!