During our holiday in Barcelona, my mother would never wake up past 8 am. She’d take a shower, have breakfast and the moment I’d wake up an hour later, she would be wearing her make up, almost ready to explore and take advantage of the day. For being such an early bird, we were always the first ones to get the worm. After visiting the Gothic quarter and the Modernist era buildings, we moved fast forward to the 20th century Barcelona by strolling around Montjuïc and Poble Espanyol, as well as observing the entire city from Columbus’ monument, sending my mother and her friend to the Golondrinas boat ride while I submerged myself once again in another museum, the Museu d’Història de Catalunya. (a new entry will be posted soon)
Purchasing the BCN Card right on the first day saved us from overspending for a week-long holiday. After all, the city was no longer as cheap as I had always thought. While some attractions offered discounts, a large number of museums could be visited for free like our first destination: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. MNAC houses the world’s largest collection of Romanesque frescoes, which have been carefully removed from the old churches in the region and brought to this museum for best conservation. This imposing building, the Placa Espanya and the rest of Montjuïc were once used for the 1929 World Expo together with the Andalusian capital of Sevilla as the host of the Iberoamerican Exposition in the same year. This showcased the rest of the world a sense of national pride as well as new innovations in Spain during those times.
The National Palace or Palau Nacional that houses MNAC is already an example of reviving architectural styles, which only meant that Barcelona did not stop reinventing itself even after Gaudí’s death. For example, the towers were drawn from La Giralda in Sevilla and the dome from St. Peter’s in the Vatican as well as some influences from El Escorial. As we went through the Palau, we marveled at the beauty of Romanesque frescoes, Gothic retablos, a few good Renaissance and Baroque paintings, photography, modern art, etc.
Though Barcelona is deprived of 16th and 17th centuries art, it boasts itself as the cradle of Romanesque and Art Nouveau in all of Spain. There’s also the Caixa Forum, the minimalist Pavilion Mies van der Rohe and although I’m not a big fan of shopping malls, I might as well include this mudejar-inspired bullfighting ring-cum-shopping center Las Arenas in this blog entry that could be of any interest.
We walked further back up the hill after our museum visit until we ended up at the Olympic Stadium. Truly, this massive area around Montjuïc is a symbol that showcases what this proud city has achieved and I can say that Barcelona has every right to brag about it. But in contrast to this grandeur there is also something modest that rests hidden behind Ávila’s fortress replica: El Poble Espanyol.
I’ve always considered taking my mother on a trip all over Spain and before we knew it, we were already wandering around the rest of the country without going further away. The Spanish Town (Poble Espanyol) exhibits different cities and provinces with different architectural styles from all its regions. The museum-park was also constructed for the 1929 World Expo as a symbol of Spain’s unity as a country. It was supposed to be demolished thereafter but through its citizens’ will, it remained intact. However, just like the one in Sevilla, it fell into disuse during Franco’s regime and it was only rescued back to life in the early 1990’s. Poble Espanyol is now filled with souvenir shops and locally made handicrafts and offers a wide range of sights without traveling extensively around the country. In the end of our long stroll, we stopped in the middle of the square to observe a collection of houses from different regions. It was truly delightful to see those varieties of buildings in a single plaza.
Finally going out of the little Spanish towns, we found ourselves a little bit lost within the area. But we somehow enjoyed the quietness and the sights that unexpectedly came along our way. Its surrounding park is a place I strongly recommend for relaxation without really losing contact with the crowd and the city life. A place for culture, sports, history, nature as well as shopping, Montjuïc is simply the place to be.