Museu de la Musica
We started day three of the trip, a Sunday, eating breakfast at La Biennal, the place where we had tapas our first night here. We wanted a substantial meal since we knew we were going to try to do Sagrada Familia and a thing at 3:30 at the Museu de la Musica and didn’t know if a proper lunch would be fit in there.
Sagrada Familia, amazing. Simply amazing. If cathedrals are meant to be awe inspiring, this is a space that when you enter it makes you feel as if you have entered another world. It feels like elves from Middle Earth built it. Or maybe the dwarves built it but the elves decorated it with glass and light and I’m getting goose bumps just remembering it. Photos do not do it justice.
One of the tickets you can buy is a special ticket to go up INSIDE the towers. You ride an elevator up and then you can go back and forth between two other towers on the way down. You can take as much time as you want. I think we were almost two hours climbing around in the towers. It takes some time because you have such borderline-vertigo from how out of your element you feel that you have to. At least, that’s how I felt. It’s not a rational thing. It’s a visceral thing where my knees get weak and don’t work right. You get amazing views of the city through the slots and even better ones of all the fruit basket sculptures on the roof of the cathedral.
After we climbed down we wandered the main basilica. A wedding was going on in a small chapel downstairs. And then, because it was Sunday I guess? everything closed at like 2:30, including the shop and the museum, so we didn’t get to see those. But we were pretty much “full” from the experience.
If you’re religious at all, I recommend it, because you will believe the holy spirit is filling every nook and cranny of that place. If you’re not religious, go to be awed by the intense beauty that human beings can create here on Earth. It was beautifully sunny when we went which was a great time to see it, because the whole space is alive with light and color.
From there we walked to the Museu de la Musica, which is inside a performance complex called L’Auditori. We found L’Auditori completely deserted, and the museum almost deserted. This meant we had the museum to ourselves, pretty much, which was delightful. The package we bought included a 30 minute tour and lecture about the guitar collection at the museum, and a 30 minute classical guitar concert.
What a delight. The tour guide named Isabel was funny and engaging, and with just three of us we could ask her lots of questions (and sometimes stump her on English). The guitars were of course amazing, drool-worthy, and I learned some things about the development of the guitar I didn’t know. For example, no one knows really when the guitar was “invented” and that the precursors of the stringed instrument we know of probably go back so far that we will never know. One reason we think it goes back so far in human history is that the word “guitar” seems to have ancient analogs in languages as disparate as Japanese, Arabic, and Spanish.
They have some early guitars that have parchment “lace” in their sound holes, like the wood carving on a lute, only more resonant. One of the guitars is made from an armadillo. Another one has a body made from cardboard because a famous Spanish guitar maker wanted to prove it was the wood of the top that made the difference in sound. They have several in the collection that are the equivalent of “Stradivarius” guitars, from about the same era and of the same quality, but she emphasized that at one time nearly everyone had a guitar. (Actually, that’s not that different today…) and that only the very best specimens survive through time. In the renaissance a guitar cost about what a pair of scissors did.
Then came the private concert where Belisana Ruiz played five fantastic pieces that were very representative of the classic guitar ouvre and of Catalan guitar. Pavane by Lluis del Mila, a suite of variations on the Magic Flute (Mozart) by Ferran Sor, a version of “Asturias,” made famous by Andres Segovia but originally written by Isaac Albeniz, and apparently originally a piano piece. Apparently ever since the Segovia version no one remembers the piano version anymore. If you heard it you’d likely recognize it. And a few other pieces.
That was really lovely and no bones about it.
It was probably 5:00 when we left the museum, and we decided to try Casa Batllo again. This time it was open, and bought our tickets, but then grabbed a quick snack at a “Pans and Company” a few doors down. Pans is a fast food chain but not bad. I had taken a flyer from a very very timid flyer-passer on the street the day before near the Mercat, and so I had some idea what it was. Kate had a nice long skinny salami sandwich. I had a pressed ham and cheese and corwin had a chocolate hazlenut cream filled “Barliner” (berliner) donut.
Then we spent the next three hours in Casa Battlo. The audio guide takes some time to do plus you want to wander around. Having just seen Sagrada Familia was really neat because you see the same architectural idioms of Gaudi’s style at work. The spiral stairs and the windows and nature. Another place that elves lived, but Victorian elves. The house has a lot of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea elements, as well as St. George and the dragon. I don’t even really have words to adequately describe the place. It was a house that Gaudi rebuil/redesigned for a wealthy businessman and his family. Now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and owned and maintained by a private family who have made it into a museum, though there are still some private apartments in the building.
We were totally exhausted by the end of that, but it was time to eat a real meal. So we took the Metro to La Rambla and wandered until we found a little rambla called Rambla Raval, where we found an upscale boutique hotel called Barcelo Raval, which has a sort of upscale gastro bistro in its lobby called the B Lounge. Very futuristic surreal decor in line with what you’d find in any other metropolitan city with retro-70s hipster cocktail culture. Miniature foie gras sliders, quail egg gazpacho, “faux” risotto (tiny orzo instead of rice) with a parmesan “cookie”, prawn carpaccio with spherified olive oil. You get the idea. Dessert was a “pina colada” which was some kind of pineapple gelee with chunks of pineapple, freezedried banana pieces, Pop Rocks, etc. Very fun to eat, which was the point. And a set of “ravioli” filled with chocolate and served with hibiscus salt and olive oil “roe” (spherified).
Then we came back to the hotel and all crashed super-hard. I’m writing this now the morning of the fourth day, and corwin and Kate are still asleep!
Today we rent a car, we’re going to try to see Park Guell, and then we drive into the mountains to Cardona where we’re going to stay in a castle tonight.