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The Music Featured in This Show

Much of the spanish guitar music featured in this show is written and performed by Antonio Martinez.


Find out more about Antonio Martinez at www.antoniomartinez.org.


Introduction top

A Mediterranean marvel, this European metropolis simmers with beautiful beaches, medieval mazes, eye popping art and hypnotic architecture. Next up, Barcelona and the Costa Brava on Smart Travels.

Barcelona bowls you over with its charm, audacity and style. Tradition and daring mingle to create a thoroughly unique style that sings out in the streets, in the art and in the cuisine. Architecture is the Catalan medium and bricks and tiles its palette. The city enchants with playful forms, shapes and colors. From the waves that lap at the city’s doorstep, to the fanciful parks, to La Rambla, the city’s lively thoroughfare, Barcelona dances to a beat all its own.

Barcelona is a series of delicious, delightful treats to be sampled and savored. Art overflows from the museums and palaces onto the lively streets. Unique shops, charming restaurants, sizzling nightlife and passionate people inhabit this colorful city. To truly experience Barcelona, jump in with both feet.

We’ll explore Barcelona’s old gothic quarter, the modernist architecture in the section known as Eixample, (A- shamp-la) and the museums and views on hilltop Montjuic.(mont-jweek) We’ll also make an excursion to the Costa Brava for some sun and surrealism.


La Rambla top

We’re starting out our exploration of Barcelona with a ramble down La Rambla, the city’s main thoroughfare in town. I’m joined by my friend Ana and her daughter, Natalie.

This famous boulevard, named for the sandy riverbed that once skirted the city, changes character as it flows a mile from Placa (platha) Catalunya to the port. Along the way, you’ll encounter every type of street performer possible. The street abounds with tourists, fragrant flower stalls and there’s never a dull moment.


For a guide to some of the markets you'll find along the way, check out www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com.

La Rambla’s food market, La Boqueria, offers a dazzling array of products and some great bars for lunch.

Just step off of the northern half of La Rambla and you find yourself in the historical heart of the city.


Thinking about strolling La Rambla yourself? Prepare yourself with the help of a number of safety guidlines at www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com.


Barri Gotic top

This is the old gothic quarter is known as Barri Gotic. Barcelona flourished in the thirteenth century, a result of seafaring conquests and trade. It was a time forever imprinted on the Catalan soul.

For back then, Barcelona was the capitol of Catalonia, an independent region in Northeast Spain. In the middle ages, a powerful merchant class built the city with wealth from trade. Catalonia’s fortunes waxed and waned, and eventually the region merged into the Spanish empire. But the people never quite followed, and a fierce independence still marks the Catalan spirit.


If you're planning to explore the quarter on foot, check out this brief guide to what you'll find there.


Santa Maria del Mar top

In the fourteenth century this was the city’s beachfront and here the Catalans built their most glorious Gothic church, Santa Maria del Mar, a symbol of the prosperity born from their sea trade.

The first thing you will notice inside the church is the wide-open space. The lofty bare columns support gothic arches with a pure plainness. This was the sailors and merchant’s church, built by every able body in Barcelona in the 14th century.


Flamenco Music top

Barri Gotic is a warren of narrow streets and sudden, peaceful placas. Anything can turn up from a hole in the wall restaurant, to a unique little shop, to a local musician practicing for a show.

TIP Feel like sitting down for a Flamenco performance? Visit www.barcelona.com for a rundown of Flamenco clubs.

Flamenco music has its origins in the music and dance of gypsies of Andalusia in Southern Spain. Guitar was added in the 19th century. Antonio Martinez plays classical flamenco guitar with a modern, soulful twist.


Find out more about Antonio Martinez at www.antoniomartinez.org.

In recent years, traditional Flamenco has given way to what is known as "Fusion Flamenco." Find out more about this flavor of Flamenco at www.npr.org.


Churros top

Barri Gotic is also home to cafes serving a traditional mid morning snack.

We’re indulging in a Spanish favorite – churros dipped in delicious hot chocolate.


Want to make your own Churros with Chocolate? Go to www.xmission.com.

Christopher Columbus brought cocoa beans back to Spain from the New World. The Spanish added sugar to the bitter concoction and chocolate drinks became all the rage in Europe.


Modernistas top

If the 13th century was Barcelona’s golden age, the late eighteen hundreds were its Renaissance. Barcelona once again grew wealthy, in part from the growing textile industry, and the city expanded beyond its medieval center to create the L’Eixample, or enlargement. Rich industrialists built houses here using architects who became known as the Modernistas. The Impressionists were still painting, electricity was new on the scene, Freud published his interpretation of dreams and a highly decorative style called Art Nouveau was sweeping across Europe. Modernisme was how the new trend was expressed in Spain.


Catalan Concert Hall (Palau de la Musica Catalana) top

Fueling this intense, fantastic work was an immense Catalan pride. The tradition of Catalan music was being reborn and a concert hall, the Palau de la Musica Catalana was commissioned from modernista architect, Domenech I Montaner. The theme is nature. Montaner wanted the audience to enjoy the music in a garden setting.

In their work, the Modernistas celebrate the Gothic heyday of their ancestors. The stained glass, arches and ceiling dome in the palace are gothic gone wild. The entire space is bejeweled with tile mosaics, another Catalan tradition. To fully experience this exuberant interior, try to attend one of the evening concerts.


Get ticket information at www.palaumusica.org.


Vincon top

Barcelona’s love of the modern, of style and design pops up everywhere. This shop, Vincon, is so cool that even the shopping bags are collector items.

Funky and fun, this home design shop is worth a visit just for the displays. Vincon has it all from kitchen wares and knick knacks to all kinds of specialty lights. And don’t miss the Modernista furniture on the upper floor – designed by some of Barcelona’s most prominent artists.

Now all we need is a Modernista house to go with all these furnishings.


You'll find out more about Vincon at www.vincon.com.


Antonio Gaudi top

Of all the Modernistas in Barcelona, one name rises above the rest, Antonio Gaudi. He is considered a genius and the most original architect of his time. In the late 1800’s, Gaudi teamed up with wealthy patron and art lover, Eusebi Guell. The result is several mind bending houses, a park and the world’s most fanciful church.

Gaudi’s Casa Mila has been compared to a cliffs or coral reefs. The Barcelonans nicknamed the building La Pedrera, the rock quarry.

Gaudi spared no expense on the Palau Guell, a home for his rich patron. The exterior is palatial, even forbidding.

But the rooftop is pure fantasy. Whimsical chimneys and ventilators mushroom out of the ground, covered with ceramics. Gaudi employed a technique called “trencadis” – covering surfaces with fragmented tile. Guell donated a set of fine white dinnerware to be smashed up and stuck on. Gaudi loved the play of the tile colors and how the light danced on the patterns.


Find out more about Gaudi's life and works at www.gaudiclub.com.

Take a walking tour of Modernista architecture. For a map of Gaudi's works in Barcelona, visit www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com. For some tips on getting around town, visit Barcelona Tourism.

For more on walking tours, check out the following sites...


Festa della Gracia top

Gaudi’s originality and playfulness have inspired generations of Barcelonans to expect the unexpected. Here at the Festa della Gracia, every august the streets and buildings of the Gracia quarter come wildly to life every August.

In true Barcelona style, the festa offers awards for the best dressed street in the neighborhood and the competition would make the Modernistas proud.

In one neighborhood I witnesses the Catalan sardanya (sar-dana’)dance. Hands linked, the dancers follow a series of simple steps. Newcomers enter the circle, drop their belongings in the middle and join in. The unity of this close-knit dance echoes generations of determined Catalans clinging to a proud past.

As evening grows near, giants from Catalan folklore parade down the streets. Small marching bands and traditional stick dancers called bastoners stop to entertain the crowd. Under General Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, Catalan festivals were banned. After Franco’s death, the Catalan language and culture experienced a joyful renaissance. The procession is capped off by dancing demons and wild firework displays that leave you breathless and slightly deaf.


Parc Guell top

Barcelona wears a festive air all year long. No city park anywhere can compare with Gaudi’s masterpiece, Parc Guell (guay), located just north of L’Eixample (A-shamp-la). In 1900, Gaudi designed the park for his patron, Eusebi Guell (A– ew –say – vee – guay) who wanted to lure buyers to an upscale housing development here on the outskirts of the city. The development failed, but the park shines as Gaudi at his most playful.

Don’t just look, have a seat. Gaudi designed the benches for comfort as well.

Workers on Gaudi’s buildings all over town were instructed to pick up bottles, plates and tiles found in the street and to bring them to the park to be shattered into little pieces. Gaudi especially liked the blue rosewater bottles popular at the time.

This magical park hardly seems the work of a conservative, extremely religious and rigid man who, in his later years, became a recluse. This is the paradox of Gaudi and in some ways of Catalonia itself –serious, even somber at times and at other times, playful and wildly innovative.


Beachfront top

The Modernistas must have taken inspiration from the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean or at least been cheered up by them. Barcelona’s beachfront is livelier and cleaner than ever before and everyone is out taking advantage.

In anticipation of the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona spruced up the waterfront with high rises and a sparkling new beach and classy marina.


Hotel Arts top

One of the best places for a bird’s eye view of the waterfront is the stylish Hotel Arts.

This 44 story hotel with its beachfront pool, is a Ritz Carton property and offers comfort, elegance and rooms with stunning views of the sea. The sumptuous two story apartments come equipped with kitchen, spacious bath and sweeping views.

And it’s all just a few steps from the surf.


Out of Barcelona top

Some beautiful beaches and towns lie just north of Barcelona on the Costa Brava. Oh, there’s lots more of Barcelona to explore before we’re done, but let’s do as the locals do and take a break on the sands.

On a day trip north of the city, you can find mind blowing art as well as sun, surf and secluded coves.


Salvadore Dali Museum top

The town of Figueres is less than two hours from Barcelona by car and a must for Salvador Dali lovers. Then on to Cadaques for some stunning coastal scenery.

Dali himself created this museum in the ruins of the theatre in the town Figueres where he was born.

To embrace Dali is to enter a dream world, disturbing because the incongruous, nightmare images are rendered with such intense realism. Calling him shocking, perverse, and incomprehensible, the critics of his day were often offended by the art. What shines through in this collection is Dali’s playfulness. From his unflattering portrait of Picasso to a foreshortened ceiling painting of himself and his wife ascending to heaven, Dali’s humor is irresistible.

He was a master of the trick of the eye paintings where one thing looks like another, like this picture of a nude on the beach which from a further distance mutates into a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

Dali created exhibits especially for the museum. The Mae West room seems a mere collection of objects until viewed from the right angle.


Visit the museum's website for more information.


Salvadore Dali's House top

Dali vacationed and later lived on the coast near Figueres in one of the most beautiful parts of the Costa Brava. At the height of the season, in July and August, the Costa Brava can get quite jammed. June and September are ideal times to visit.

Once a bohemian outpost for artists, Cadaques is today a chic resort for wealthy Spaniards. Dali, Matisse and Picasso all painted this picturesque town. Dali was known to host celebrities, artists and itinerants at his home here.


Dali's house in Port Lligat is open for visits.


Cap de Creus top

Out at the tip of the peninsula on which Cadaques sits, the wind swept Cap de Creus (cap de cray – euse) offers secluded beaches in lovely coves. Fisherman and sailors inhabited this rough beautiful landscape, often venturing as far as Cuba and America on their journeys. Pirates also cruised these waters, hoping to cash in on Catalonia’s profitable sea trade.

After a surreal day of fun and sun, we’ll be back in Barcelona by dinnertime.


Estrella de Plata Restaurant top

Imagine having the chance to sample several delicious bites of all the best dishes in a gourmet restaurant. That’s exactly what’s in store at the restaurant Estrella de Plata.

Tapas are delightful samples that often come in two sizes, small and large. The choices are seemingly endless – fish, vegetables, meat – a bite sized piece of heaven. Tapas means cover and some theories suggest that 19th century barkeepers covered wine glasses with bread or saucers with little snacks to keep insects out of the wine. The edible covers became tradition. My waiter and I discussed another theory.


Joan Miro top

The next morning, we head for Barcelona’s park on a mountain, Montjuic. The cable car ride includes spectacular views of the city.

Montjuic is Catalan for Jewish Mountain, because the hill was once the site of Jewish cemeteries. Today, parks, gardens, the Olympic stadium and a variety of art museums grace Montjuic.

The Joan Miro Foundation, housed in a spectacular modern art building, contains thousands of paintings and drawings by this surrealist painter who predated Dali by 10 years.

Miro grew up in the Catalan countryside and he brings a childlike freshness to his art, a joy in nature, bright color and intense detail.

Miro’s paintings need time to be absorbed. Each detail in itself tells a story, a joke or casts a particular spell. Trying to see the titles in the paintings is great fun. This one depicts a hare chased by two planets...and this one is entitled "Woman and Bird."

The collection of Miro drawings show the constant, laborious studies the painter made for his canvases. Miro believed both in the spontaneity of the image captured in a moment and in recreating that spontaneity painstakingly in his finished works.

The result of his labor is poetry in paint.


Visit the Joan Miro Foundation for more information about the artist. To visit some of the other museums on Montjuic, purchase a Montjuic Card at the tourist office.


La Sagrada Familia top

I’ve saved one of the best for last: Barcelona’s Taj Mahal: Gaudi’s modernista version of a medieval church, La Sagrada Familia.

On June 7th, 1926 at 5:30 in the evening, Gaudi left work on the church that he had been obsessively building for some 43 years. Walking home, his head full of spires, he crossed in front of a tram and was struck down. Two days later, Barcelona’s genius was dead.

Gaudi never finished the church, and anti-religious anarchists sacked his workshop in 1936, destroying his models and plans. Since his death, La Sagrada Familia moves slowly to completion, amid much controversy about Gaudi’s original intent.

Gaudi was a young man with little work to his name when chosen for this commission. But by the end of his life, he was celebrated for his work and nearly all of Barcelona turned out for his funeral.

The Nativity façade on the northeast side of the church with its dripping gothic style was mostly supervised and crafted by Gaudi before his death.

The Passion façade on the opposite side of the church is a somber testament to the sorrow of death constructed many years later by local sculptor Joseph Subirachs – and the artwork was both praised and condemned.

The interior of the church is largely unfinished, except for tall structural columns that resemble a forest of trees and great modern gothic windows.

In the crypt of La Sagrada Familia there is a small museum dedicated to Gaudi. You can learn how he worked with models and how he tested architectural stresses using stones and string.


A great read about Barcelona and Gaudi is "Barcelona" by Robert Hughes. For more about La Sagrada Familia, visit the official website. For more about its architecture, visit www.greatbuildings.com.


Barcelona's Night Life top

When you’re ready for the wild side of Barcelona, there are lots of hot late night spots.

Barcelona’s night life is legendary for its intensity and variety: discothèques, lounges, samba bars, tango emporiums, poolside parties and concert halls. Why ever go to sleep?

Bar after pounding bar line the waterfront at Port Olympico. There are no cover charges and no one minds if you just come to dance the night away. The only trouble with Barcelona is that you need to burn the candle at both ends to truly experience it all.


A Zest For The Future top

Barcelona. At once reserved and outlandish, traditional and progressive….. this Catalan capitol embraces the spirit of the past and a zest for the future. It’s a dream of a city that boldly creates its own version of reality.

I don’t ever want to go back to the real world. For all I care, the beach can turn to Abe Lincoln, stone mushrooms can sprout from the ground and church spires turn to marzipan. I’m along for the ride. So, from Barcelona, buonas noches and wild dreams.


Interested in planning your vacation to Barcelona?
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For a guide to some of the markets you'll find along the way, check out www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com.

Dali's house in Port Lligat is open for visits.

Visit the Salvador Dali's Museum website for more information.