Saturday, December 17, 2011

Barcelona, day three

Gaudi. I'm not sure much can prepare you for him. I'd seen photos and knew that the buildings were strange; mesmeric, but not on the scale of standing in front of them, or indeed inside them. I had promised Paris a church that would be like no other he had seen. He is sick of churches, and has refused to go into some we have stopped at. This one, I said, was different. We were going to visit the Sagrada Familia. 'Is it in the shape of a chicken?' he asked. I said I didn't think so. 'Well, if it's not in the shape of a chicken, I think I've seen it before.' No, I insisted. No. You have not seen anything like this. He remained unconvinced.
We left the apartment at our usual hour; this suits Spain by the way. Nothing gets going here until 10am, and even then. (Later in the day we went to a tee shirt shop that we thought Paris might like. The hours of this shop were 4.30pm until 10pm. Paris was impressed. I seriously see him moving here.)
We walked in a completely different direction - I had it on good authority that we needed to catch the metro from Sant Antoni and this took us somewhere quite away from what we had seen to this point.
Barcelona continues to enchant us. Every little alleyway is another joy, and everyone seems to be happy or at least relaxed here. We found the station and made our way to the Sagrada Familia.
You come out of the metro and you feel (really, you do feel it) that something is behind you, something almost alive. I turned first and practically on top of me was the Sagrada Familia; the Nativity Facade - the side that genuinely looks like it is melting. I told the others to turn. We were all stunned (including Paris). It is incredible. And then you begin to look at the detail. On the top is the Tree of Life and then around that are short towers topped with different kinds of fruit. It is funny (and fun) as well as brutal (the slaughter of the innocents is there is full gore) and the whole thing is a fantasy that Gaudi dreamed, and for some reason the Church and government decided to indulge. Three cheers for that.
We found it difficult to locate the opening (building work going on all over the place) but finally went in. Zelda suddenly said: 'I know this building. We studied it at school. The inside is like a forest.' Hmmm, I thought. Doubtful. But no. Absolutely true. The inside is exactly like a forest with all the columns branching out like trees and the light is somehow liquid and mysterious. There are flowers poking our from columns and vine-like staircases winding up to the ceiling. The iron railings are like kelp, and the skylights are like suns - the skylight over the altar is the most incredible thing I have ever seen - it is somehow paved with gold and is completely hypnotic. Architecture that is alive; breathing.
The stain glass windows are equally amazing, but there is an equal (at least) number of windows that are plain glass (to bathe the whole thing in light).
Our camera didn't work. I hadn't put the battery back in. We have no photos (I did buy a book).
There was a little explanatory vault off to one side to explore what Gaudi did, and what his architecture was about. A little bit about his childhood and growing up among trees and nature. But then everything else appeared to be about mathematics. Luckily Paris was at my shoulder (not luckily, he was humming a hardcore tune and doing the snare drum), and could explain some of the mathematics and the shapes that Gaudi was working with. Not being a mathematician myself, or even a fan, I thought how I might be able to fall in love with maths had I sat on the floor of the Sagrada Familia and done maths equations that explored the shapes he was working with. Suddenly, maths was incredibly beautiful (where in the past it has been all about creepy numbers that sat on a page, ready to confuse me, or trip me up). If maths can create such a dreamlike building, I'm all for it. Myles speculated that had Gaudi had access to computers, he might have done even more amazing work. Zelda disputed this. She said that half the beauty was in the labourious calculations and the kooky, not-quite-where-you-might-expect-it arches or fruit. I love the fruit most of all. I love that this church has taken more than a century to build and that they keep at it, building with faith on Gaudi's details designs and instructions. I love that serious looking men in orange hard hats are taking this mythical building utterly seriously. Magic, real and in front of us.
Zelda said she thought this might be her favourite building in the world - then she qualified that and said it was her favourite church in the world. Niccolo liked that the floor was slippery enough to skid on (he and I had words about this). Paris said that had I taken him here first, he might have felt differently about churches. We all liked that some of the pillars were set on the back of turtles, that there were dogs on the facade, and donkeys wandering around in the background of the tableaux.
It is clear that I don't have good words for this experience.
We are seeking out further Gaudi tomorrow.
The wind had come up when we left and we escaped into a restuarant for lunch and to get out of the dust. Then we went to the bus station to try and buy tickets to get to Carcassone. (Not yet successful on this front; strangely - for Myles in particular - we are unconcerned about this state of affairs). We found a park and Myles and I sat for a while on a sunny bench while the kids played about with a toy Niccolo had bought from the market the night before. Then we all saw a dog that was the perfect hybrid of Shimmy and Cassie - we practically followed it home it was so good. Zelda and Paris speculated that it was named Shassie. Who can say?
It was time to head home for a siesta. Or a bit of shopping; whichever came first. Turned out it was shopping. I couldn't talk Zelda into anything - including the greatest coloured teeshirts I had ever seen. I'm thinking I'll buy them in a larger size so she can have them when she is older ...?
It was treat Friday too so there must be ice cream somewhere in the world (or our hands).
Then it was siesta time. I can see how, with a siesta, you might be less done, but you are incredibly happy and rested. Mind you, I'm seriously concerned about how it is that you do work. How do you fit in all the things you have to do? Currently, I can fit in some blogging in the morning, a bit of a walk, some lunch, some reading and a siesta, and dinner. Can't find any hours there for work or housecleaning or any related task.
After the siesta, Myles and I decided to go to a bar for a drink. We walked a decent way, for some reason, nothing spoke to him (and sometimes it didn't speak to me). We ended up in a tiny place called Cian in a tiny laneway with very groovy and young Spanish lovers. The bar was run by a bloke (Cian?), and his mother. We ordered tapas (and in my defence, tapas to this point have been little plates with little amounts of food) and it came to the table with such abundance that Cian had to pull up another table. 'Too much,' he queried, smiling. Perhaps. But I did my damndest to finish off the food; the best guacomole I have had, and excellent ham. I also had too much beer, but I love the beer here. Myles had a mojito. He is a bit of a girl.
Visibly scattering crumbs and flecks of beer, we left and swanned into the mild and busy Barcelona night. So much going on, such fun. We had to get home to kids. In addition, I had become a little obsessed by The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo (I do realise that I'm the last person in the world to read this novel; but not any more) and I wanted to finish it (I did; most disturbing. Those Swedes ...).
Tomorrow promises to kiss us again with sunshine but without wind. We will go the park to see more Gaudi.
Sorry about the no photo thing. Tomorrow I will stack the site.

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