The Brilliant Madness of Mr Gaudi

I’ve wanted to see La Sagrada Familia from the moment I first saw photos, taken by an old boss of mine.  Of course, at the time, I had no idea that I would be doing so much travelling, or that I would ever in deed EVER make it to Spain.  So it feels wonderfully remarkable to be standing in front of this amazing piece of architecture, about to go inside, a piece of dream coming true.

I am posting only one photo here because La Sagrada deserves more than that, so a photo gallery will follow on the Facebook site afterwards.


Every piece of this church design means something from the pinnacles covered in fruit which symbolize the seasons of the year, to the spires of the temple shaped like cypress trees – the cypress being the ancient symbol of eternity.  There is incredible detail everywhere you look, and you could look forever and probably still miss something.

Buiding of the original La Sagrada Familia – a building designed by architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano – began in 1882.  However after disagreements with the promoters, Francisco resigned and the task fell to Antoni Gaudi.  He continued work on the crypt, completed in 1889 and after receiving a substantial donation, Gaudi proposed a much grander design for the church.  Construction of the foundation for the nativity facade commenced in 1892 and further design concepts were continued after that.  Gaudi only lived to see construction of the first nativity tower, finished in 1925.  He died in 1926 after being knocked down by a tram.

This incredible church is expected to be finished by 2026.  My 10 year old niece, who thinks this church is every bit as amazing as I do, is already making plans to see it when it’s finished, where she proudly informed me that I would be only 50 years old then and definitely not too old to travel back to Barcelona with her to see it completed.  Thank you Lola.

Eighteen towers have been planned for the Basilica and of these, eight have been completed. – four on the Nativity façade and four on the Passion façade.  The facades are not joined and have separate access points, only accessible by lift.  We splurged on tickets to travel up inside one of them today to get, what is supposed to be an incredible view of the city of Barcelona – the tower on the Nativity side has views over the east of Barcelona and those on the Passion façade face the city centre.  If you are interested in seeing how they were built, check this out:

Yet another Gaudi creation, Casa Batllo, was built in the early 1900’s at the request of textile industrialist Josep Batllo.  It would appear Gaudi was given complete artistic freedom to transform a once sombre looking building, into the magical façade that stands on the site today.  The Batllo family’s main home was on the ground floor.

It’s unfortunate that they let too many people in to Casa Batllo at once.  You can’t take any decent photos, you can can’t get around properly and I have to say you can’t really enjoy the home which is a shame.  This is probably the first time I have said – enjoy the photos from home and visit another site instead.

In the evening we join an Urban Adventures tour for a tapas en el barrio tour.  We meet our guide Dago in front of the Art Centre Santa Monica at the bottom of the Ramblas, and as seems to be the way with me, we are lucky to be the only two guests on the tour.  He is quietly spoken with a broad grin that spreads across his face.

First up Dago shows us a relic that most people travelling along La Ramblas would easily overlook – one part of the old medieval city wall remaining inside a traffic underpass.  These are the great things you don’t see unless you have the guidance of a local and something that adds an extra dimension to your travels.


Heading away from the touristy Ramblas, we head into some of the local neighbourhoods, like the once notorious no-go-area Raval.  These days the area features a mix of new architectural projects with the traditional, multi-ethnic life of the barrio.  This is where we have our first taste of tapas – battered zucchini straws with a honey sauce and a ham croquetta.


The next tapas bar awaits us and we navigate our way through a labyrinth of small streets, past Palau Guell – another Gaudi/Guell creation, before moving on to our next few locations.  At each, we sample different tapas dishes washed down with wine, until we come to the final place – a Vermuteria, where we finish off with a nice vermut (vermouth).

 We pass through the neighbourhood of Poble Sec and cross Parallel (once known for its Montmartre-style entertainment and still cluttered with theatres, music venues, and cabarets, all the while discussing typical life in Barelona with Dago.  It’s a great way to end our time in Barcelona and something I would recommend anyone who visits to do.

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