Monday, 10 October 2016


Wonderful friends, wonderful time

Barcelona is full of wonders. On a recent trip I went with Sally, Nick and Graeme. I was lucky enough to visit about ten years ago one New Year’s Eve when Spaniards smashed many a bottle around us on La Rambla as we stuffed grapes in our mouths (all in traditional celebration of course) and drank Sangria (we meaning Sally, Emily, Harriet, Sue, Brian and me.) On that occasion Sue and Brian (moored in the docks there) wanted to show us the Magic Fountains but they were turned off for the night so on our return visit last month, the fountains were on the to-do list.

Magic Fountains of Montjuïc

Retirement joys

I don’t think I will ever underestimate travelling during school term time. It is a privilege and feels a bit illegal and I can’t be the only retired teacher to feel so. Our holiday base overlooked the hill of Tibidabo with its retro fairground and the spires of Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. Sally, Graeme, Nick and I stayed in a stylish AirBnB apartment with a terrace for continental breakfast and evening beer. Thank you, gracious hostess, Anna.

Blowing the cobwebs away

I probably over-use the phrase “blowing the cobwebs away” but it’s an image that works for me. Disrupting routine and walking somewhere surprising is a great way to look back, be in the present and look forward.
Docks of Barcelona

Tourist times

On the first afternoon we did an orientating bus tour round the eastern part of the city and admired the sea front, the gothic quarter, the bold architecture and the brash, youthful city centre. Plenty of people-watching even though my pics are all of buildings and scenery (discretion, you know.)


Eating and drinking was on the itinerary, of course, and tapas was the order of the day most days, though there were some fish dishes that were as tasty as any I’ve known.


Antoni Gaudí i Cornet’s work dominates the visual side of the city, although there are plenty of other bold and successful architectural statements. Gaudí’s work is so very distinctive. I love his references to the natural world, his use of colour, ceramics, stained glass, ironwork and swirling, pouring materials.

La Sagrada Família

If I’m alive in 10 to 20 years time it would be great to come back and visit the (hopefully by then) finished basilica of the Holy Family. It’s hard to take it all in – the soaring vaults, the fluted columns, the remarkable colours, the mix of straight lines with spheres, fruit, foliage and animals, the sense that the whole building is dripping upwards.

Miracle of design, engineering and building

Visiting a cathedral in the final years of its building is a mind-bending experience. I found myself thinking about the visitors who saw the laying of the foundation stone in 1882; and the visitors 500 years in the future who will wonder how long it took to build.

The Quarry

Equally impressive was La Pedrera (The Quarry) or, officially, Casa Milà, named because of the couple who commissioned it: Pere Milà i Camps and his wife Roser Segimon i Artells. The astonishing outside and inside contains algae-coloured designs, curves, waves, balconies from fairy tales, ergonomic door knobs, fancy lintels, suggestions of bone and an attic space that feels like the skeleton of a snake.

The garden of warriors

The undulating roof with its primitive steps, warrior chimneys, skylights, tiles and embedded broken champagne bottles is a magical space and it was hard to leave the aeriel wonderland.


The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art is an austere white temple to performance and abstract art. There was a fascinating exhibition of 100 candid photographs by Hans-Peter Feldmann showing black and white portraits of different individuals (twins in one case) at each age, from 8 weeks to 100 years old. Some looked to have secrets; all had stories to tell. One exhibit involved putting two ice cubes (one sweet, one salty) in your mouth and walking into a gigantic wooden cylindrical tunnel whilst a fan blows you from the other end…. Very contemporary….

Nudity beneath the snowstorm

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (aka Barcelona’s Gothic Cathedral) was a total surprise. The remains of St Eulalia are grandly presented in an ostentatious crypt, the least the Catholic church could do for someone who the Romans stripped in public but then, were so angry when a miraculous snowfall obscured her naked body, that they pushed her into a barrel, stuck knives through it and rolled it down the street now known as Baixada de Santa Eulàlia. Just to be sure she was fully violated poor St Eulalia was then decapitated, but, to the Romans’ surprise, a white dove flew out of her gushing neck! If all that truly happened then she deserves the magnificent cathedral that has now been raised in memory of her martyrdom. I’m not sure I entirely understood why geese were occupying the cloisters, but the Roman Catholic church is full of surprises....

Two pieces of music

Like Paris or Rome, I hope to revisit Barcelona one day. Two pieces of music have been playing in a loop round my brain since returning: one is Ismael Lô’s Tajabone from the score of Pedro Almodóvar’s film All About My Mother (a transition point in the film when the story moves to Barcelona) and the other is the theme from the Barcelona Olympics sung by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé. You can hear the first one HERE and the second one HERE.
Lyrics for Barcelona (by Freddie Mercury and Mike Moran)

Barcelona – Viva (Barcelona – Live!)

I had this perfect dream
    Un sueño me envolvió (A dream enveloped me)
This dream was me and you
    Tal vez estás aquí (Perhaps you are here)
I want all the world to see
    Un instinto me guiaba (An instinct guided me)
A miracle sensation
My guide and inspiration
Now my dream is slowly coming true

The wind is a gentle breeze
    Él me habló de ti (He told me about you)
The bells are ringing out
    El canto vuela (The song flies forth)
They're calling us together
Guiding us forever
Wish my dream would never go away

Barcelona - It was the first time that we met
Barcelona - How can I forget
The moment that you stepped into the room you took my breath away
Barcelona - La musica vibró (The music vibrated)
Barcelona - Y ella nos unió (And she joined us)
And if God willing we will meet again, someday

Let the songs begin
    Déjalo nacer (Let it be born)
Let the music play
Make the voices sing
    Nace un gran amor (Born a great love)
Start the celebration
    Ven a mi (Come to me)
And cry
    Grita (Cry out)
Come alive
    Vive (Come alive)
And shake the foundations from the skies
Shaking all our lives

Barcelona - Such a beautiful horizon
Barcelona - Like a jewel in the sun
    Por ti seré gaviota de tu bella mar (For you I will be your beautiful sea gull)
Barcelona - Suenan las campanas (Bells ring)
Barcelona - Abre tus puertas al mundo (Open your doors to the world)
If God is willing
If God is willing
If God is willing
Friends until the end
Viva Barcelona (Live Barcelona)