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Spain & Portugal - Day 3

Today is our 3rd and last day in Barcelona, and we still have so much of Barcelona yet to discover and experience! Anyway, with limited time on hand, we will have to make do with all the major attractions and leave the lesser known part of Barcelona to other times....i.e. if we go back again.

This morning, we kick start our day with a visit to the hospital. Urh...sick? Nope...touch wood! For many Asians, visiting the hospital as part of the travel itinerary is a big taboo. It doesn't set the whole trip on a right footing. For us, we believe if it is visited in good spirit and right mentally, nothing of the myths bother us.

So, here we go.....presenting....Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a UNESCO Heritage site. This public hospital designed by Domenech i Montaner truly deserve its UNESCO status. Read on and you will know why.....

Main entrance of hospital when it was first built. It was later converted into an Admin Block.

Pau Gil, founder of hospital.
He is a rich banker who funded the building of the hospital. Upon his death, he divided his fortune equally between his children and the hospital.
The other statues here signifies the mission of the help the poor and the vulnerable children.

During that era, as the poor are seldom educated and thus illiterate, and women and men are to be separated (unlike now where both sexes can sit in the same waiting room for their turn to see the doctor), the 2 entrances situated at the left and right side of this front facade are marked by a female and male statues to identify the entrance for male and female patients. How considerate!

This building used to be the A&E department of the hospital, but was later converted to the Administrative block. Today, it is the reception area for tourists. It is here that we register and put on our worker's gear for a tour of the hospital (it is undergoing reconstruction when we visited).

Upon entering this main block, the intricate and extensive carvings on the ceilings and walls immediately WOW us and took our breath away!

Stairway leading to 2nd floor

I'm sure these beautiful and artistic carvings will provide temporary relief
to the patients from their pain and sufferings back then

One of the walls of a huge hall on the 2nd floor

After a brief tour of this main block, we proceed to the rest of the hospital blocks.

The hospital occupies a plot equal to 9 city blocks of the Eixample, with 48 pavilions distributed among the spacious garden area for visitors to walk through (without being a patient).

With Christianity being the main religion, many statues of Saints, the Holy Mother and Jesus adorns the walls of the hospital to ease the worries of the patients who are very devotional at that era.

After 2 hours savoring the architecture beauty of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, we moved on to our next destinations....we've dedicated the rest of today to Gaudi's works.

Where else to best kick-start our Gaudi journey than to visit Gaudi's home! As there isn't a train (which we have come to rely on heavily) to our first destination, we were a little lost for a while but not for long. We were given lots of help from strangers rushing to work yet stopped to offer their advice; and on the bus, we met a friendly bus-driver who despite his lack of proficiency of the English language, keep on assuring us that we'll not miss our stop. We were so warmed by their friendliness.

After a short bus ride, here we are....home of Gaudi in Guell Park.

And here's how Gaudi (the genius of modernism architecture) looked.

Gaudi's home has been converted into a small museum displaying some unique pieces of furniture designed by who else but the master of the house! Enjoy....

The focus is the tall stools and the legs of the stools and sofa set....don't they resemble arrows?

Oh....this is our favourite....what a statement display cabinet! I am still trying to convince dad to build one for me!

The huge mirror is the focus point....not the man there!! How we love the curves!

Gaudi's talent continued to the garden surrounding his house. Guell Park, was originally envisioned as a residential English-style garden city.

The imaginative integration of architectonic elements in a natural setting holds many surprises for visitors.

View from Guell Park

As we stroll through Guell Park, we came to another part of the garden which houses another of Gaudi's creation, we called it Ginger Bread House.

The walls looks like Graham crackers and the roof like those buttery cream on cakes.....yummy

This part of the garden where the Gingerbread House is situated is extremely crowded. We practically have to push through wave after wave of visitors trying to get to the resting pavilion at the top of a flight of beautiful stairs.

The chairs in the pavilion at the top are specially designed by Gaudi. Heard and assured by dad & mom they were very comfortable....too bad we didn't get to sit on was way too crowded.
From here, we head off to our next destination, Casa Vicens. As Guell Park is not near to any train station and Casa Vicens is just a couple of roads away, we decided to walk rather than crack our heads on which bus to take.

From Gingerbread House, we walked with many others along a sloppy road dotted with a couple of shops selling somewhat overpriced handicrafts and souvenirs, to the main road. Once on the main road, it is not difficult to navigate our way to Casa Vicens and we were glad that we chose to walk as we had the opportunity to walk through neighbourhoods, i.e. out of tourist area! Isn't that the best part of any free & easy trip? Another advantage is the price of food. Along the way, we came across a neighbourhood bakery managed by an elderly lady. Though it does not have the glamour of the bakeries found in Barcelona's tourist center, it serves a wide range of tantalising pastries at almost half the price of those found at the tourist center. Of course we couldn't let go of such good find and bought some chocolate-rich pastries for lunch. It was extremely delicious! we miss them.

Just as we were crossing a junction, we spotted an interesting house. After confirming the location on our tourist map.....Viola! we've reached Casa Vicens by Gaudi.

Isn't it a beauty? It would have been picture perfect without the modern buildings surrounding it. These buildings may make Casa Vicens stand out, yet at the same time they spoil the overall beauty of that street.

Does the architecture of Casa Vicens looks somewhat familiar? Well, its style was inspired by Moorish Mudejar art and artistically combines stone, brick and ceramic tiles.

After walking for the whole morning and a good half of the afternoon, our stamina are running real low. We needed a rest!! From Casa Vicens, we dragged our tired feet to the nearest train station and took a train to our next destination...Passeig de Gracia, the main upmarket shopping belt in Barcelona. Having spend a good half of the day out of tourist zone, returning to the main tourist hub was both exciting yet dreadful.

Whatever it is, we'll be in this hub for the rest of the day since most of the remaining of architectural works by Gaudi are situated around the tourist hub. Stepping right out of the train station, the first outstanding building that greeted us was Casa Batllo. Apart from the Basilica of the Holy Family, this is the piece of Gaudi's work that we loved most.

Inspired by the human skull, this piece of art to us is simply marvelous and expressed its designer's extraordinary creativity. Most people would shun the human skull. Who would want his/her building to look like a skull, which somehow signifies death? In Asia, it would be viewed as a bad omen and an extremely unlucky building. But, Gaudi was able to view the human skull in a different perspective. Isn't it lovely?

Just 10mins walk away from Casa Batllo is Casa Mila or La Pedrera, yet another beauty though its real uniqueness lies on its rooftop and not so much on the building itself.

Built between 1906 & 1910, Casa Mila is Gaudi's last civil architecture. How we love those grills for the balcony that comes with design.

The uniqueness of Casa Mila lies on the multi-leveled roof that has artistic chimneys and ventilators, and the loft that is formed by 270 parabolic arches of flat-laid brick. Well, we don't have any pictures here to show...the queue to visit snake all the way down to the next building and we felt that the entrance fee was somewhat overcharged. For those of you who doesn't mind the queue and cost, it is definitely worth the visit....according to mom and dad.

From Passeig de Gracia, we took a Metro train back to La Rambla, a street where all the actions were (or so it was advertised). Our next destination, Palau Guell was hidden along one of the quiet side road from La Rambla. Based on the tourist map, it should be a piece of cake to find it yet we took a good half an hour walking from one end of La Rambla to the other end several times before we finally found it. Wondering why? Well, road signs in Barcelona (and the other parts of Spain which we later on find out as we move on our tour) were extremely rare. And when there is one, it is almost well hidden! Hmm....we're sure cost of installing road signs is definitely not an issue in Spain...maybe they wanted their citizen to know their own country at the back of their hand, and at the same time add some excitement (or frustration) to tourist? Anyway, here it is.....Palau Guell.

Palau Guell was built between 1886 & 1888 by Gaudi for his most prominent patron, Count Eusebi Guell as a residence and was declared a UNESCO Heritage site.

To us, it is a nice building but somehow looks caged-in, like a jail, mini fortress or large size bird cage.

Intricate sculpture at main entrance of building

Even the roof are not thoughtful
With Palau Guell, we end our mini "On the trail of Gaudi". Of course, they are a couple more of Gaudi's creation that we would love to visit but were not able to due to the lack of time. Nevertheless, we have visited few of his top hits! So the rest will have to wait till we return to Bacelona again...

We walked through the Old City (its a nicer walk with lesser pollution compared to walking along the main road) to reach Palau de la Musica Catalana, another UNESCO Heritage site.

Palau de la Musica Catalana was designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner (does this name sounds familiar? Clue: Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant it? The same guy!) and built between 1905 & 1908.

One of the facade

Was it giant ferns in a forest or giant corals in the sea?
With all the MUST VISIT crossed out.....we can finally relax our more rushing against sunset! On our way back to La Rambla, we stop by Plaza Mayor hoping to catch a drink. Gosh! It was crowded. But then, why shouldn't it be? It is the most hip place to be both day and night!

The whole Plaza Mayor is full of food outlets...definitely a nice place to catch some rest.

Our disappointment of not being able to enjoy people watch in Plaza Mayor went off as fast as it came when we suddenly remembered Columbus.

We head back to La Rambla and had an entertaining (there were many street buskers on this street) walk towards Barcelona's Waterfront or Rambla del Mar where the Monument to Columbus was situated.

Mirador de Colom (Monument to Columbus)

Rambla del Mar....Barcelona's waterfront. Across the bridge is the L'Aquarium and Maremagnum, a shopping complex that offers a wide variety of food including international chains like McDonalds, Ben & Jerry's etc.

As we stayed close to the beach back home, seeing the sea, the sun setting over the water and the seagulls flying towards the dock for their rest was refreshing to our soul and immediately calm our senses from the hectic touring we had throughout the day. We stayed on to enjoy the beautiful hue of violet and sea breeze till it was dark before heading back to the Gothic Quarter to catch the weekend market held every 1st and 3rd Friday to Sunday of every month at the Placa del Rei. We manoeuvred our travel dates to coincide with this market!

It is a small market selling fresh produce from these sellers' own farm. Kind of like a trade fair thing. It was a lovely market where sellers were very knowledgeable and speak with passion.

There was a wide variety of cheese, honey, sweets etc being offered and buyers are welcome to taste and see before buying. We couldn't resist and after pondering between rosemary, rose and our all-time favourite lavendar, we decided to give our new love rosemary honey a go. We also bought a bottle of mixed-nut-filled honey.

Verdict: the rosemary honey has very mild, almost non-existence rosemary smell and taste unless you take a really deep breath from the bottle. The mixed-nut honey was more like a sweet dessert. For nuts lovers, if you like your nuts the crunchy way, you probably wouldn't find any kicks eating these nuts. For us (hubby is picky on the texture while I'm not so particular), the sweetness from the honey and the not-so-crunchy texture of the nuts was an interesting contrast from what we used to eat, so it was a refreshing change. If you were travelling to Barcelona and happens to catch this market, we encourage you to buy the sweet snacks....they were delicious and till now we still miss them a lot.

As it was our last night here in Barcelona, we went back to the shopping street near the Basilica of the Holy Family for some last minute shopping before finally falling to our temptation and bought for dinner a juicy and succulent roast chicken which we had set our eyes on since our first day at Barcelona. It was sold by one of the many Turkish shops. With so much competition, naturally comes discount. The chicken was really good and the discount made it even better!

This post first appeared on Carefree And Off-the-beaten Tracks Travels Around The World, please read the originial post: here

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Spain & Portugal - Day 3


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