My wife, interior designer Cami Weinstein, surprised me for my birthday with a trip to Barcelona. She knew it had been on my list of places to visit for a long time. Although my birthday is in December, we decided to go in early summer. I am so glad we did: the weather was perfect, all the better for seeing Antonio Gaudí’s work, which dominates the city.
Cami selected the Mercer, a hip boutique hotel housed in a 14th century structure with modern interiors in the Gothic Quarter. The quarter was the original walled city, a quieter part in the center of Barcelona, but only a short walk to many sites, including Museu Picasso and the Rambla Market. It hit the right note.
Although Barcelona is a great walking city, there are some places where you need to cab it like Park Güell, one of Gaudí’s masterpieces. Perched on a hill, it is one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Gaudí originally designed it as a residential park for 60 single-family residences for entrepreneur Eusebi Güell. The project failed and only two houses were built. But it is imaginative, colorful and playful. My wife and I spent hours there, each of us concentrating on different parts of the park. I photographed for the pure pleasure of seeing the way the light and forms played against one another. Cami focused on details – doorways, the repeating patterns, the flora forms. When we shared and compared our photos later on, we enjoyed seeing the different and in some cases the same things that were inspiring each of us. The different things that captured our imagination and interest were evident throughout the trip.
Next up was Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall designed in the Catalan Modernista style by Lluís Doménech i Montaner and built between 1905 and 1908. It is gorgeous. While there, we saw a show, “The History of Flamenco through Opera.” It was quite a magical experience.
We also went to the La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral that was begun in 1882 and is still being built and worked on today. A year after it was started Gaudí became the director and architect and continued working on it until his death more than 40 years later. Walking into the cathedral is a jaw-dropping experience. Not only is it staggering scale but it is so modern in a “Metropolis” kind of way. Once again, my wife and I were focusing on the many details that Gaud. envisioned. Nothing escaped his perfectionistic eye. No detail was too tiny to ignore. Gaudí loved organic forms and that is clearly evidenced throughout his work and indeed in this cathedral. Even the holy water font is a giant clamshell edged in silver and encased in simple but elegant ironwork.
Those organic forms were on full display in two residential Gaudí buildings – La Pedrera and Casa Batllo – as well. They include reptile shapes, bat wings, bones, undulating snakes and sea and land plants.
Needing a change of pace, we visited La Rambla. This street is home to great markets – and a huge tourist draw. The open air market was wonderful. Fruit, vegetables, meats, eggs, chocolates, fresh fish: It was wonderful to see all of the different foods displayed and for me created another opportunity to photograph an interesting part of everyday life in Barcelona.
We decided a day out of the city by the seaside might make for a fun adventure. A short train ride away is Sitges, right on the Mediterranean. It’s charming, with winding streets and cafés that are right across from the beach. We had a wonderful seafood paella while watching the waves roll in at the beach.
You cannot go to Barcelona and not see the Picasso Museum. The place itself is terrific as it is in a medieval mansion. There you can get a sense of various periods in his career, as he grew up and studied art there.
We spent a lot of time wandering the streets of Barcelona and photographing all of the things that interested us. I found myself drawn to the colors and shapes of city, the light and forms that were everywhere I turned. Cami’s pictures were more focused on the design details that she likes to reinterpret in her work. I think for both of us our shared experiences and photos allowed each of us to explore the city and then share together our mutual love of color, forms and details.