A Travellerspoint blog

Visiting Casa de les Punxes

An impressive modernist medieval fusion in Barcelona.

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On my last outing I made a visit to the spectacular gardens of Laberint d'Horta, so this time I decided to head back to the city centre and visit a very special and not so widely touristic building. It's one of the best examples of Catalan modernism, however believe it or not, this time the creator is not Antoni Guadí, rather Josep Ouig i Cadafalch. The building in question is Casa Terrades, which has been colloquially named as Casa de les Punxes (House of the Spikes in English)

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Right, let's begin. On Saturday morning I went to this beautiful building located on Avenida Diagonal in Barcelona, the largest street in the city. It's easy to find because it is found right next to Passeig de Gràcia and is also very close to La Pedrera. The nearest metro stations are Diagonal and Verdaguer, although there are also many bus stops nearby like the 33, 6, 34, or 15. It's a nice area, so if you're interested in staying nearby there is an apartment called Apartment Rossello II where you can literally exit from and view this urban castle from Puig I Cadafalsh.

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You can see this monument from a distance as it's a huge medieval style castle intended to unite three different homes owned by the Terrades sisters. With distinct neo-gothic features this house has 6 towers that end in iron spikes. It is as if the house is out of a medieval or Norse legend, made with red bricks and spectacular decorative details.

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The main entrance of the house that is closer to Passeig de Gracia has some of its windows seperated by slender white stone columns that are decorated in floral patterns. There is a ceiling with religious motifs that seem to represent an angel. The pictures that you can take around here are brilliant. I went on a particularly sunny day, but the photos didn't turn out to bad (I think).

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You can't visit the actual houses. All of the entrances lead to businesses (like a koisk, a clothing shop for babies), or they lead to offices (what homes are left remain private). It is a shame because I would have liked to see one of the homes from the inside, but seeing the outside is enough I suppose. What is more surprising are the very nice floral motifs of modernist character across the columns, windows, balconies, iron railings... and even on the bottom of the balconies

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Finally, one of the most important details is the panel that appears on the façade on Diagonal, which is a representation of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia, along with a phrase that says “Sant Patró de Catalunya, torneu-nos la llibertat” or in English “The Patron Saint of Catalonia will give us back our freedom”. It's a truthful depiction of the historic cultural relationship between Catalonia and Spain.

It won't take you long to visit this building so it's worth a quick look even if you're not too keen on the idea. For me, it took about 45 minutes after snapping a bunch of photos. You can make your little tour before or after visiting the modernist houses of Passeig de Gracia (La Pedrera from my earlier article is only 5 minutes by foot). You can also stop by in this area to eat at the Tapa Madre restaurant on Calle Mallorca 301. Good tapas that I found to be affordable.

Posted by hrtfreeman 25.07.2012 04:09 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture barcelona hidden casa neogothic punxes modernismo Comments (0)

Parc del Laberint D'Horta - Not a Jareth nor Sarah in sight

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After two lovely weekends admiring the works of Gaudí I decided to leave behind the hustle and bustle of the tourist route and opted for a more relaxed and quite day out. On this outing, I made it my aim to visit the “Parc del Laberint D'horta” or Laberinth Park of Horta in English, so-called due to its location in the Horta-Guinardó district of the city.

After exiting the metro station Mundet and searching for the labyrinth park, it became slightly ironic as I began to get lost trying to find this attraction. In the end, I admitted defeat and asked someone for directions to the park. Once I arrived I approached the small kiosk in which sat a contented security guard who doubled up as the ticket vendor. The normal ticket price here is 2.23€ but I also noted that on Sundays and Wednesdays that entry is free. You can also pay 1.80€ for a guided tour, but I didn't opt for this.

The first thing you notice about this park is the overwhelming tranquillity and peace, being surrounded with greenery and the sound of running water from the fountains, you no longer feel as though you are in a city, rather a small paradise. And with a limit of only 750 visitors per day, there was hardly a person in sight.

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To begin my tour I took a look at the gardens, particularly the romantic garden which was created in the 1800s. In stark contrast to its name this garden's theme was apparently death, though the replica graveyard that was once here is now long gone, and what remains is a sea of flowers that sit alongside a lovely canal.

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I arrived in the neoclassical section where I began to see signs of other visitors as well as two lion statues guarding the boxwood gardens which were unfortunately off limits as they are right by the seemingly derelict palace. This part of the park has the theme of love and contains temples to Greek gods, as well as the main attraction; the labyrinth.

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Putting on a brave face, I decided that it was time to step into the maze and test my luck. I'd never been in proper maze before, and there are no markings on the floor or hints about where to turn, but judging by the joyful sounds of children playing, it couldn't be so hard. Unlike finding the park itself, getting through the labyrinth only took a bit of logic and memory. The midway point is at the centre of the maze where there is a sculpture of the Greek god Eros.

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Upon exiting the maze you reach a terrace where up the stairs and to each side you will find a temple, one to Danae who Zeus impregnated, and the other to Ariadne who married the god Dionysus, both carrying on the theme of love in their own ways.

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The last place I toured was the pavilion, beside a beautiful pond which was overlooked by the water nymph Egeria. You can imagine society's elite gathering here for events and celebrations. The park was often visited by nobles, and in its history has been visited by three different kings. After walking alongside the canal behind this building, accompanied by some ducks and swans, I realized that I had lost track of time in this Eden, so I made my way to the exit and thus returned to reality.

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I can imagine that this park wouldn't be particularly interesting for most tourists, however, if you need some time to relax and forget about your worries, whilst taking some lovely photos or even having a peaceful picnic with your family... Well, I couldn't think of a better place than here.

Posted by hrtfreeman 16.07.2012 23:37 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona park labyrinth horta laberint d'horta mundet parc_del_laberint_d'horta labyrinth_park_d'horta Comments (0)

Now taking a look around Casa Milà

After enjoying Casa Batlló I thought that I'd take a tour of Gaudí's other work that can be found on the same street.

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After visiting Casa Batlló last week, I liked the quirky modernist style of Gaudí so much that I decided that I would visit Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera) this weekend, another house worked on by the famous Catalan architect. A little tip; they are currently showing an exhibition of ceramics on the first floor of the building until September which you can view for free, like all of the temporary exhibitions that they put on in this beautiful building. In spite of all this, it's a shame that the entry ticket price is a monument in its own right... Entry will set you back a colossal 16.50€. Still, cheaper than Batlló I suppose.

La Pedrera and Casa Batlló are only a few minutes walk away from each other and both can be found on Passeig de Gràcia. With La Pedrera being accessible via the metro station Diagonal and Batlló being accessible via the metro station Passeig de Gràcia. It's not difficult to find at all, especially since the facade of the building stands out in its environment.

La Pedrera (or The Quarry in English) was constructed by Antoni Gaudí between 1906 and 1920 for a wealthy family, the Milàs, and was his last commercial project in the field of architecture. After this project, Gaudí when on to dedicate his time to the completion of La Sagrada Familia.

After my experience in the not-so-little queue which is always inevitable for this monument, I entered through a heavy door to the courtyard of the building. Here the 'rippling' of the structure is very present, with straight lines being kept to a minimum.

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You can also note this when you reach the fourth floor, which is open to the public. There are other floors where families still live and there are even some offices (I imagine the rent is quite high here). On this particular floor though, the interior of this apartment is styled in an early twentieth century manner including all the of the preserved decorative elements. Unlike Casa Batlló, this house still has all the furniture. Because of this, you can see the pictures, bedding, carpets, and even the old appliances they would use. I got the feeling as if I was visiting a friends apartment... Only 90 years back!

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The floor that followed was devoted entirely to the works of Gaudí. The models and drawings, quick sketches, photographs and videos. Each one of these things helps us to understand the artistic mind and vision of the architectures that he created. The floor is split up into seven distinctive areas, one of which is dedicated to the house itself.

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After inspecting every nook and cranny of the house, it was time to take to the roof. The terrace is absolutely amazing, personally it was probably the best part. With chimneys in the form of soldiers, mosaics, railings that pulsate across the summit of this house, and of course the wonderful views that cover practically all of Barcelona.

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After experiencing both of the famous Guadí houses, I can personally say that I preferred touring Casa Milà. Give it a go yourself!

Drop me a comment.

Posted by hrtfreeman 10.07.2012 02:43 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture barcelona travel spain gaudi casa_mila la_pedrera casa_batllo Comments (0)

Taking a look around Casa Batlló

Entering the domain of Gaudí's most recognised piece of architecture.

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I have wanted to visit Casa Batlló for a long time. The truth is I pass by this building almost everyday because this impressive piece of architecture is located in the centre of Barcelona, yet I'd never actually been inside. Though let me be the first to say; I had my reasons for this. For a start the entry fee isn't exactly what you would call cheap, they never open in the evenings nor other occasions... and well... there's almost always a queue.

But this weekend I decided that the time had come to make a visit to this monument by Gaudí, and after getting the entry ticket online to avoid the queues (which cost 18.15€), I went to discover what was within this iconic modernist building.

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The building is found on one of the a main streets in Barcelona - Paseo de Gracia, just to the side of the metro exit, so it didn't take much time to find, even if you don't know Barcelona very well. At the entrance they give you an audio guide without any additional charges so that you can begin touring the museum without losing out on any of the details.

In reality, the building was originally constructed by the Spanish architect Emili Sala Cortés in 1875 but was later reconstructed by Antoni Gaudí who was entrusted to the project by the homeowner at the time; the industrious Josep Batlló i Casanoves, between 1904 and 1906

The facade of the building is awe-inspiring. Made of sandstone from Montjuíc, it has been carved into a warped shape according to superficial rules. There are many different interpretations regarding the symbology of the main facade, but it seems that the most correct interpretation is that the construction represents the figure of a giant dragon - a favourite of Gaudí that appears in many of his works. The most curious thing however, is that when you consider the entire decor of the building, there are hardly any straight lines.

After scaling the stairs you enter the main floor, which is the principal dwelling of the building. Seeing it for the first time was a little sad as there is hardly anything left of the property in terms of furniture, so it's hard to imagine the lives of the more affluent members of Spanish society in the early twentieth century. Despite that point, you can still enjoy the views of Paseo de Gracia through the extravagant windows.

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Climb some more stairs and you arrive at a small terrace. It was there that I stayed to rest a little bit whilst observing the trademark mosaics of Gaudí before continuing on with my climb.

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Before reaching the roof of the building (the most beautiful part as you can see in the photos), you can take a seat in the media room where they show some documentaries about modernism and Antoni Guadí (you can even see his hologram!).

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Finally, before you leave this museum of sorts, you can stop by the gift shop! You'll find everything here. I couldn't resist leaving without buying myself a little souvenir of the visit; a red dragon.

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Posted by hrtfreeman 03.07.2012 04:09 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona gaudi interior casa batlló modernism decor casa_batllo Comments (0)

Weekend in the Costa Brava, Empuriabrava

A visit to the small town of Castelló d'Empúries

Weekend in the Costa Brava, Empuriabrava

After two marvelous day have passed, one in L'Escala and the other in Figueras, the last day had arrived and so we decided to visit Empuriabrava. And just like that we said goodbye to our lovely apartment in the pretty town of l'Escala, and begen heading to our new destination.

Empuriabrava is a maritime and urbanized locality of Castelló d'Empúries, a medievalesque town with a conglomeration of major tourist attractions ripe for visiting. The town is only 18 km away from Figueras, and can be reached by car or by bus (we went by car and it only took 10 minutes).

We found parking in front of Empuriabrava beach and, as usual, we found it too hard to resist and stopped by a typical marketplace. The coastline stretches across 10km and there are 3 beaches: Can Beach, Empuriabrava Beach (which boasts a blue flag award – a symbol of quality and wide range of services like beach and water sports), and finally, Rubina Beach, a secluded beach which is usually very windy.

Because it was so windy, we couldn't sunbathe, or hang around on the beach, but we did have the chance to walk through this maritime centre.

The most spectacular thing about this place are the canals that traverse the town. In fact, Empuriabrava has 35 canals, all of which are home to more than 5000 boats and vessels, making it one of the largest ports in the world.

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After the walk between the canals, we decided to go to the Medieval town of Castelló d'Empúries (I would advice you to get there by car or use the public bus services). In less than 5 minutes we arrived and were stood outside the entrance of the town.

Getting out of the car and seeing the narrow streets and stone houses, it felt almost as if we had travelled back in time.

I have to admit that the walk through those streets was a wonderful experience. The streets were practically empty and the silence resonated across the whole town, it was almost mystical. We had only come across one bar and it was occupied by some elderly people who were seated and drinking their beers, completely indifferent to their environment.

Upon entering the town centre, the square of Mossen Cinto Veraduer, we found the Cathedral of Santa Maria, very impressive. This church was built in the thirteenth century above the ruins of a Romanesque church of which you can still see some remnants, like the bell or the baptismal font. The gothic styled interior has three aisles and lateral chapels on each side, and is considered to be the most important monuments in Gerona after the Cathedral of Girona.

On the streets there are buildings of great historical significance, such as the convent of Santa Clar and “El Portal de la Gallarda” - a medieval gate from the 11th century. Indeed, we found a restaurant in a place not so far to the left of the catherdral entrance, with a very beautiful terrace: “La taberna de los cols”.

Here we ordered from a set menu of 13 euros; olives, french fries, bread with tomato, crepes with spinach and goats cheese, and salmon with salad and potatos, and to finish, an excellent Catalan Cream (a typical Catalan desert similar to a crème brùlée).

Satisfied and with our stomachs full, we walked for a bit more around town and at 5 o'clock we decided to return to Barcelona.

I have to say that this weekend had more than fulfilled my expectations. The Costa Brava has many places to discover and visit, and really, they are totally worth the visit. Very recommendable!!

Posted by hrtfreeman 27.06.2012 04:45 Archived in Spain Tagged beaches history medieval maritime authentic empuriabrava Comments (0)

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