Tag Archive: Barcelona

Abuela Con Nieta

Traveled with my nieta over the holidays — her first time in Europe. We based ourselves in Madrid but made 3 night trips to Paris, Barcelona and San Sebastian. Paris was at the top of her list but she ended up loving San Sebastian best and Barcelona second best. I wasn’t surprised.

She loves visits to the art galleries and spent lotsa time there. And I mean lotsa time! San Sebastian has no museos in the league of Louvre nor Prado, but she digs the vibe in this Basque city so much that I’m convinced she can live there.

Traveling as abuela y nieta, our pair must have invited some attention. Or at least we were marked. Or perhaps SHE was marked. More than once, I was asked “Donde esta la chica?” She’d always find a vacant seat on the train where she can more comfortably sit, or stray away from me while we’re in line. She’d get free admission to some museos when the man at the window would ask if she’s a student. No student ID nor passport copy, but she gets in free or at a discount while her abuela pays the regular rate. She’s out of her teens now but still acts like a child like when I couldn’t get a decent shot of her without her tongue sticking out or her crinkling her nose.

Our vacation lasted a full month. She’d tease we didn’t quarrel as much as expected and laugh. I was happy to show her around, much that museos and art galleries were coming out of my ears. She discovered she’s a good dishwasher and that she easily forgets things. I discovered I can appreciate street and urban art too. We share food preferences and love bubblies. She likewise shops like me — quick, decisive and wise. Ahem.

I am certain “art appreciation” was the highlight of this trip. I have seen how she spent for art materials and art books, more than she spent for those fashion stuff. For sure, she has set her sights on a return trip knowing how she has enjoyed this holiday.

While in Madrid, she found time to meet with her friends now studying there. It was amusing to see her playing tour guide cum photographer. Their photos speak volumes on how much they enjoyed each other’s company, sticking tongues and all 😜 She loves Spain. And judging by how she’s been painting lately, mi nieta is inspired. 💕👩🏻‍🎨🎨

Travels with #aponimamu:(Just click on the link)

Around Paris

Louvre and Centre Pompidou

Bohemian Paris

Touchdown, San Sebastian

Txikiteo in San Sebastian

The Playas of San Sebastian

Traveling Paintbrush of Anna

Museo Guggenheim (Bilbao)

Museu Picasso (Barcelona)

Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid)

Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa (Madrid)

Gaudi and Ciutat Vella

To Montserrat and Back

A Pleasant Moorish Surprise

Not Segovia, But Alcala de Henares

Street Art In Spain

Some Musings and Ramblings:

Abuela Con Nieta

Happy Thoughts for Anna P

If I were traveling solo, I’d likely NOT pay much attention. But my nieta drew me closer to urban art. In my book, they are pure and simple graffiti. Except of course for the open air sculptures in brass or bronze. Not so, says my artist-nieta. So I looked closer. Yeah, there’s an element of “intimacy” in such a public art expression. A connection of sorts. Some make sense, others don’t. Like this piece in Barcelona near Parc Güell. A pair of eyes to “guard” the shop. A closer scrutiny reveals they’re Albert Einstein’s eyes. Or this piece in Zaragosa near the Mercado Central, just a few meters from the Plaza del Pilar. Shop for the bad kids? Hmmm. And it was Christmastime when we found this.

There is an area called La Tabacalera in Madrid. A venue for self-expression but we failed to visit the area as it rained, snowed or hailed the last few days of our Madrid stay. That would have been interesting. But walking home, we weren’t deprived of Madrid’s rebel spirit and creative permissiveness. The shops either sported these graffiti, or someone sneaked in to express himself while no one’s looking.

Atocha Station has some interesting artworks on display just outside the station’s Arrivals area. And there’s Tupperware — a hipster bar frequented by young locals. The bar’s front displays some artwork that changes from time to time.

In San Sebastian and Zaragosa, we found many walls, doors, defaced with graffiti. Like spray-painted Swastikas, Hitler images, or just plain messages.

I can imagine shadowy characters sneaking in with their stencils and spray paint cans, finishing the job in a few minutes lest they get caught. Mind you, my nieta was having all these crazy ideas herself to a point she had a stencil ready and a can of spray paint. Yay! Time to go home.

To Montserrat & Back

Home of the Black Madonna. Just an hour’s journey via R5 from Placa de Espanya Station in Barcelona heading towards Manresa. One must decide before the train ride whether to ride the “connecting” cable car or funicular Cremallera up to the monastery. If you’ve decided to take the cable car, you need to get off the R5 train at the Aeri de Montserrat. If you are taking the funicular, you get off at the next station, the Monistrol de Montserrat. Slightly longer but cheaper. Combined tickets (train+cable car OR train+Cremallera) can be purchased at Placa de Espanya.

Either way, the ride guarantees stunning views. Montserrat literally translates to “serrated mountains”. The train weaves through the mountains as it climbs, and the cable car or cremallera gives an even more panoramic view as the short ride transports you right on Monastery grounds. The Black Madonna sits inside and at the top of the altar inside the basilica. We waited in line with other pilgrims for half an hour to go up and touch the Black Madonna. We also heard mass where Gregorian chants were sung by a boys’ choir from the monastery’s boarding school. On Saturdays, the chants are sung by the monks. We came on a Friday and the singing was heavenly!

Either before or after the visit to the basilica, you can linger around to appreciate the stunning beauty of Montserrat. Or light a candle and say more prayers. We did both. But we couldn’t stay longer outdoors because it was friggin’ cold! We could even hardly go past the beautiful square & courtyard of the Monastery, because of the freezing weather. Then and there, I ditched plans to check out the footpaths and hiking trails. Not even a funicular ride to reach higher grounds or to check St. Michael’s Cross or Santa Cova could lure me to engage in any adventure. Besides, it’s way past our feeding time 😩

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And so we’ve decided to have our adventure inside the Hotel Abat Cisneros Montserrat instead. The hotel is right beside the Monastery. Other lunch options include the Cafeteria which I’ve tried twice before. Nothing fancy. But a peek into the hotel’s dining area and a browse-through of its Menu convinced us that we’re ready for a proper meal. Lamb for the nieta and pulpo for the señora abuela. And a small bottle of vino blanco between us. Purrrrrfect!

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Gaudi and Ciutat Vella

My nieta said she can live here. She had her entire face nearly pressed on the window as we trained into Barcelona Sants Station, then hopped on the metro for Liceu Station in La Rambla. A short walk to our hotel….. and La Boqueria. We knew we won’t grow hungry in this part of town.

It was reassuring to find many policemen and patrol cars every so many meters in this part of town. We felt safe walking out of our hotel right into La Rambla. We made trips to La Boqueria for breakfast and lunch, only to find that the resto beside our hotel serves very good paella negra. I kid you not. Just don’t order the sangria which is exhorbitantly priced! We were happy with our meal till we asked for “la cuenta”. And so we justified that bill by saying we got a good discount from Museu Picasso, viewed/stepped on a Joan Miró artwork for free, and discovered the pleasure of strolling past Barri Gotic and enjoying La Ribera and El Born. Swell.

La Rambla is a strip that joins Placa Catalunya at one end with La Rambla del Mar on the other end. If you care for fountains and doves or need to get on a hop on/ hop off sightseeing bus, walk towards Placa Catalunya. If you want the sea breeze and errr, more doves, proceed towards the waters. Along the strip itself, you have La Boqueria, Liceu Theatre, and Palau Güell Museum on one side and on the other side, Barri Gotic which includes the Placa Real, and Barcelona Cathedral.

Farther on, you reach the La Ribera and the less touristy El Born neighborhood. Still part of the charming Ciutat Vella, without the hordes of tourists. Having spent time in this area, enjoying quiet dinners, one is inclined to think 80% of the tourists are either in Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, La Rambla, La Boqueria, Casa Batllo or La Pedrera.

After all, Barcelona is largely all about Gaudi. Many on every tourist’s list are creations of Antoni Gaudi. No one takes the blame here — the man’s a genius! My nieta can’t have enough of him.

From The Archives:

So Much To Thank Gaudi For

Museu Picasso (Barcelona)

We didn’t even have to discuss it. But the lines, the crowds, the noise, got to us. Gaudi had many fans, judging by the crowd that stood in line for Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, La Pedrera and Casa Batllo. There was an area in Parc Güell where we nearly had the spot all to ourselves. But not for long. As for the rest of Gaudi’s masterpieces, one simply co-exists with the rest of adoring fans. My nieta and I wanted some quiet time. Ciutat Vella is charming but the La Rambla y Barri Gotic areas are littered with camera-toting humans. A few more meters away and we settled in La Ribera. Still teeming with a vibrant vibe, but less touristy. We liked it better here, including El Born area.

My nieta had Museu Picasso in her bucket list but we failed to buy tickets online. We missed the one in Paris so we just had to check this one out. The line for the museum was tolerable, thank God. Housed in 5 of La Ribera’s centuries-old medieval palaces, we were eager to get in and view Picasso’s earlier works. I have to confess I enjoyed the collection better in San Francisco’s MOMA, but I guess we needed to understand that the collection should be appreciated from another perspective. As I said, these are the master’s earlier works and one traces how his art evolved from the traditional and academic to modernist and contemporary. Imagine his works at age 14. So young, yet his brush strokes spoke of his genius and artistry.

Although born in Malaga, Picasso chose to have this museum in Barcelona presumably because he likely feels more connected to this Catalan city. His good friend Jaume Sabartés had quite an extensive collection of his paintings, prints and drawings but Picasso himself added, albeit donated, much of the museum’s extensive collection. More donations were acquired — from Picasso’s widow, friends, other art collectors and various art galleries. Although the major works on exhibit included early Picasso works like the First Communion and Science and Charity, I am more intrigued by the artist’s portraits of himself and beloved father as well as his 58 “versions” of Velasquez’ Las Meninas.

I am a big fan of Diego Velasquez. His Las Meninas is prominently displayed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Pablo Picasso must be a big fan too. But why the 58 versions? What was he thinking? He donated his “recreation” of this major artwork when his good friend Sabartes died in 1968. And this is a quote from Picasso himself:

If someone wants to copy Las Meninas, entirely in good faith, for example, upon reaching a certain point and if that one was me, I would say..what if you put them a little more to the right or left? I’ll try to do it my way, forgetting about Velázquez. The test would surely bring me to modify or change the light because of having changed the position of a character. So, little by little, that would be a detestable Meninas for a traditional painter, but would be my Meninas.

— Picasso

Frankly, I still don’t get it. I mean, 58 versions kind of smack of an obsession, IMHO. The pieces jump out in vivid colors, unlike the original piece. But Picasso surely made them “his own” in that “distorted, cubist style” so prevalent in his art. Quite prolific, this artist. Well, he did live to a ripe, full age with not an ounce of passion lost through his many (20,000!) works in an astonishing range of style. Maybe it pays to keep inspired? For sure, he had several muses but I’m not going into that. 🙄

Indeed, Pablo Picasso is one significant artist of the 20th century. He started off being trained by his own father, copying many major artworks, and later inventing and reinventing his art. The world became better. He left us with many creations. As well as notable quotes. Quite a man, this Picasso!

“The very act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

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A perfect day. Gaudi surrounds. Gaudi abounds in the city. You see it. You smell it. You almost taste it. Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia. There’s more. A Gaudi overload.




Rooftop. Casa Batllo. Barcelona.


Parc Guell. Barcelona.



It should have been a perfect day for my girls. Barcelona does not disappoint. Gaudi overwhelms, but you can break the sensory overload with a visit to the Black Madonna. Such a trip to Montserrat is both a pilgrimage and a bonus adventure.




Interior Shot. Montserrat Basilica.





My girls must have been so carried away with the “serrated” (thus MontSERRAT) mountain scene that they’ve lost track of time. The line to see the Black Madonna up close, the aisle view from the top, the lighted candles in varied colors, the cold breeze — all these add to the spirituality of the shrine.




The Black Madonna.




Lost in time. Wrapped in their thermals. The last funicular just left and my girls must be lighting more candles, whispering their prayers.




Twilight in Montserrat.




Just one option left to return to the city. A downhill hike. An hour in the cold with only the serrated mountains as company. Stony buddies.








Well, they got back well before dinner. Huffing and Puffing. And darn COLD. 🙂

What’s all the hype?




It’s really just a pedestrian path bordered by 2 narrow streets. One attraction is the market in La Boqueria. A convent used to stand on this site. Now it is a busy market bursting with camera-toting tourists snapping photos of fruits, vegetables, Jamon y Quezos and such stuff in lively colors. There are dining places within the market. Not the most comfortable, if you ask me. But we felt compelled to do this touristy thing so we can strike it off our list of must-do’s and must-experience. For the rather steep price we paid, I would rather eat someplace cleaner. 😒






Fruits. We found many exotic fruits here, including mangoes and pineapples. My niece bought a pack for us to eat as appetizers while waiting for our paella, pulpo ala gallego, boquerones, and patatas bravas. We ate with our bags on our laps, while listening to an altercation 2 tables away. The diners there were complaining about their “cuenta” or bill. So much for “ambience” dining here where floors are as dirty as can be.






Thick with tourists, we easily found tables here. Not as many tourists eat here, I guess. After all, you can have your fill ordering bocadillos while walking along Las Ramblas. This weekend was particularly crowded as even local tourists are here to add numbers. The red, blue and green “hop on, hop off” buses are almost always full. We decided to do the whole route for the red and blue tourist buses rather than hopping off every so often. Besides, not too many sites invited our attention outside of the Gaudi stuff. For sure though, those buses unloaded many tourists here in Las Ramblas. And many stayed till nightfall. The noise in the nearby hotels must be unbearable.







Just like back in Madrid, there were policemen spread around the area. This is a haven for pickpockets and scam artists after all. Am not surprised. Every 3-4 persons I met along the path walking from Catalunya all the way to Licieu needed no intro as tourists given their cameras, belt bags and Barcelona maps. My advice? Be sure you have decided where to go before stepping out of your hotel. Commit the directions on the map to memory. Or take a photo with your phone cam. Checking your cellphone invites less attention than spreading a map in the middle of a street. Remember that they don’t just pick pockets here. They can snatch your bags too. I should know. A friend of mine lost a bag containing cash, passport and travel documents here some 10 years ago. Hard lesson to learn.





Gaudi. When he graduated from Architecture School, the school director said he’s either a fool or a genius. We all know now how he turned out.





Sagrada Familia is in everyone’s list when visiting Barcelona. Gaudi’s spirituality, religiosity and love for the environment manifest in all his works. His understanding of nature and how he integrated it into his art or his architecture is simply beyond imagination. Unfortunately, Gaudi never taught nor left any written documents of his work.





Inside the Sagrada Familia, one senses Gaudi’s religiosity most profoundly. While his work remains unfinished to this day, this genius spent over 40 years on the Sagrada Familia until his tragic death in 1926. From a well-groomed “man-about-town” given to gourmet tastes, Gaudi’s last few years were marked by frugality. When he was accidentally hit by a tram while crossing a street and lost consciousness, he was mistaken for a beggar and was not given immediate medical attention. Such a sad ending for a man whose works now give Barcelona unparalleled pride.






And the details. All of 18 towers representing the 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. The Nativity facade and all its statues. Inspired by the organic shapes of nature, the interiors integrated Gaudi’s architecture with other crafts where he gained skills like ceramics and stained glass. This modernist style also finds expression in Casa Battló, La Pedrera and Park Guell, to name a few.







Gaudi’s style is so distinct, so seemingly unrestricted to a point of flamboyance. You don’t need a tour guide to spot a Gaudi when walking the streets of Barcelona. Casa Batlló is a prime example of Gaudi’s art. The “wavy” structures, ceramic-filled towers, stained glass windows framed by intricately-designed ironworks.. For sure, Gaudi raised a lot of eyebrows during his time!







And then there’s Park Güell. Like a fantasy land with all those vibrant colors! My only regret when I visited the park was that I didn’t go much earlier. The crowd was so thick it diminishes one’s delight over this lovely park. Nearly all benches were taken. The grand staircase is so thick with tourists snapping photos of the dragon which has since become a Barcelona landmark.






There’s so much more of Gaudi in Barcelona. But be warned. There are long lines. I strongly advise you go early to the Park one morning. Line up early for either Casa Battlló or La Pedrera the next morn. You can fill up the remainder of each day with “non-Gaudi” activities such as Las Ramblas, La Boqueria, Port Véll, Fundacio Joan Miro, Olympic Site, etc.