Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

So this was another unplanned excursion.

Barcelona had a lot of scenic viewpoints. Like, a ton. From the rooftops of Barcelona Cathedral, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Palau Güell to the peaks of Tibidabo, Montjuïc Castle and Park Güell, it was everywhere. One recurring sight we often saw whenever we reached one of those viewpoint peaks was this art museum. So naturally, our curiosity took us there. It wasn’t in our itinerary, but I made it fit.

The architecture and the gardens were beautiful, of course. The domes from the inside were amazing and the artworks were intriguing. There were a couple of paintings, in particular, that I couldn’t stop staring at: “Woman in Evening Gown” by Romà Ribera and “Winter 1882” by Francesc Masriera. Sure, they may look like every ordinary painting to most people, but they captured my attention. There was just something dreamy, photographic and enchanting about Ribera’s piece. As for Masriera’s? I just loved the fur. So amazed by the fur.

Anyway, majority of the artworks we came across were by Catalan artists. Pretty spiffy.

Yay, art.

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Arc de Triomf: The Barcelona Version of Arc de Triomphe

This was more of an accidental stumble. We had a choice of either taking the metro to Sagrada Familia from La Rambla, which would’ve taken about 10 minutes or less, or take a 45 minute walk around Barcelona.

We, being the overly curious tourists that we were, of course, chose the latter.

So aside from seeing the quiet, non-touristy parts of Barcelona and tried some of their local diners and cafes where I had another one of their amazing, fudgy hot chocolate, we came across this: the Arc de Triomf of Barcelona. In case this you didn’t know (like me for the longest of time) triumphal arches are a common monument in most major cities, Paris being the most famous one. Even North Korea has one (bigger than the Paris one, according to North Korea).

It’s a neat stop. Took a buncha pictures. It’s one of those times when I’m glad I didn’t take the shortcut.

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Park Güell

This isn’t quite the last of Antoni Gaudí’s that I’ve seen. There’s at least one more.

Anyway, situated at the near top of Carmel Hill, the freakin’ steep ass hill that took forever to climb with that humongous amount of stair cases, Park Güell was originally meant to be a high-end housing development by Eusebi Güell, Gaudí’s wealthy patron and good friend. Five of Gaudí’s structures actually bears the name of Güell and this and Palau Güell are two of them. It was meant to resemble an English garden, hence the use of the English word “park” in its name instead of its Spanish equivalent.

In this particular project of his, Gaudí went crazy with the tiles and mosaic. It almost looks like some sort of candy land with two gingerbread houses. It’s a very interesting place to visit, but very difficult to photograph, considering where the sun shines and the ridiculous amount of crowd. But hey, I got some very hipster looking shots. Some people actually like sun glares. And I am definitely not one of them. I like my shots clean, gosh darn’t!

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The City of Girona

Welcome to the lovely, medieval city of Girona, the capital of the northeastern Catalan province of Girona and a region historically inhabited by Iberians, my ancestors.

Surrounding the old town of the city is an ancient, Roman wall that once protected the area, recently reconstructed in some parts. In another part of the old town is the Girona Cathedral (the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona), restored in 1015 and redesigned around the renaissance era. Next to the Onyar river are houses reconstructed to resemble houses by the Arno river in  Florence, Italy (I like the Italian ones better. More authentic. Peh).

Though it is a very picturesque town with a lot to offer, it is more famous being one of the locations filmed for scenes in Game of Thrones, episode 10 from season 6. Look it up because I won’t. I haven’t seen it. Don’t kill me.

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El Salvador Dalí

Just an hour and half outside of Barcelona is the town of Figueres, birthplace of Salvador Dalí. And since someone was a huge fan of Dalí, of course we had to veer a little off of Barcelona and visit the town.

There in middle of the town, is an old theater, once destroyed by the Spanish Civil War and rebuilt in the 60’s as the Dalí Theatre and Museum. Considering how theatrical and dramatic Dalí can be, a theater is quite a fitting venue to display his works. I’ve been to the Van Gogh museum and I’ve been to the Picasso museum, but dang, I’ve never seen a museum as kooky as this. Unlike Picasso and Van Gogh’s museums, this guy turned practically every the structure within the museum into a work of art. From the doorways and entrances to windows and corners. It’s bizarre, just the way he liked it.

Anyway, if you live under a rock and have never heard of Dalí or just need a quick pointer, he’s the Persistence of Memory guy. Now, hanging suspended and upside down at the courtyard of the museum is a boat called “Gala’s Boat” with water drops (made of, what I didn’t know then, condoms. He’s a surrealist, go figure), symbolizing tears. Below that is a car filled with water, supposedly underwater beneath “Gala’s Boat,” called the “Car-Naval.” Get it? It’s in a theater or carnival, but it’s also a car underwater so it’s also called “Car-Naval?” Yeah, it’s Dalí . Leave me alone.

Surrounding that courtyard area are golden statuettes, modeled after the Oscar awards. He was a fan of movies and film. From what I’ve learned in this theater, he did dabble into film several times and had even collaborated with a longtime fan of his, Walt Disney. Creation of their short film “Destino” began in 1945, but wasn’t released until 2003.

One of Dalí ‘s iconic images that was often reflected in his work (besides the melted clock, the long-limbed elephant, the ants, the eyeballs, etc.) are the drawers attached to the human body. This supposedly symbolized the unconscious and the secrets that are filed within every person. It’s Freudian stuff… and stuff. Once these drawers were pointed out to me, I couldn’t stop keeping an eye for it. Another one of his iconic images was his wife and muse, Gala Dalí. If you ever see a portrait or a painting by Dalí of a woman with double pointy, half-way up hair, that’s her. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

From what I’ve gathered from the museum, Dalí was an eccentric and vain narcissist and damn well proud of it. I mean, his body is buried at the front stage of the theater, just underneath a huge painting of Narcissus, fer cryin’ out loud. That’s a pretty big hint. Aside from loving the limelight, he was also extremely talented in so many ways, not just in paintings, but also in sculpture, jewelry design, photography and writing.

Now, going into Barcelona, I knew I will be seeing a s*load of modern art, which I confess, I wasn’t a fan of coming in. Coming from California where often times I ran into contemporary works by young, so-called artists, I’ve grown accustomed to really bizarre artworks created by people with very minimal (if not nonexistent) artistic skills, but with a lot to say, most of which are either very obvious or just so completely out there that methinks I am an extremely shallow person who just don’t get it or they have no idea how to reach their audience. But after coming across the early works of Picasso and now seeing the quality of Dalí’s hyperrealism, I saw how developed their talents were before they delved into cubism, surrealism or whatever form of modern art they chose. They got their mad skills down, no longer needing to prove that to anyone, and decided to venture off into a more cultural, layered level. They wanted to escape from the real word, the wars and all the crazy crap that was going on in their time so they dove right into their art. That concept gave an appreciation for the strange world of modern art. Now if only their contemporaries would follow suit…

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Palau Güell

So I only saw two houses in the Block of Discord collection. You know, the only two houses that were right next to each other?

The third house that I saw was a humongous mansion, designed by yours truly, Antoni Gaudí. It’s not part of the Block of Discord  as it’s not located on Passeig de Gràcia, but on a narrow street just off of La Rambla. It was, seriously, just right across the street from my hotel, like a two minute walk.

The house was designed for Gaudí’s good friend and patron, the wealthy industrialist and the same guy who owned Park Güell, Eusebi Güell. Although the place is much darker and edgier than any of Gaudí’s work, it’s not sinister nor gloomy. If anything, it still possesses that same whimsical, quirky quality that is very much Gaudí.  All over the house, from the stables’ entry way to every doorway and even the shape of the central hall, you’ll find Gaudí’s signature pointy arches everywhere. Lots of unusual passages and most of the rooms had a window looking right into the central hall. And if you look up at the very high, three to four-story ceiling on the main floor in the central hall, you’ll find a dark dome speckled with small holes, resembling a starlit night sky. Almost like a mini observatory. Pretty spiffy. Because of that, this is by far my favorite house. Dark, mysterious, but also quirky and whimsical.

I should also mention that when I visited this house, I was very much under the influence of some pretty strong MSG. That lunch I had must’ve been loaded with it because I was so out of it when I saw this place. Added a dreamy quality to it which I actually kinda like, but not really.

Anyway, It was because of this house that I discovered that I actually love Art Nouveau. I hate Art Deco (thanks a lot, Ayn Rand!), but I LOVE Art Nouveau. Anyway, Ima start a GoFundMe to buy this house. Wish me luck.

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Casa Amatller

On the street of Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, there is a block known as Illa de la Discordia or Mansana de la Discòrdia, translating to the Block of Discord. This term was derived from the fact that on this block are four of the strangest buildings renovated by four of Barcelona’s most well known modernist architects: Gaudi, Enric Sagnier, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

Now, lucky for me and pretty much all of the tourists of Barcelona, two of those buildings happened to be right next each other (yay!). Next to Casa Batlló is Casa Amatller, a pretty house refurbished by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Unlike the quirkiness of Casa Batlló, this house was a bit more on the traditional side. The outside façade was inspired by the houses in Netherland (yay, funny looking, Dutch houses!), and the inside is more on the gothic side.

The house was once owned by Antoni Amatller, an industrialist and chocolatier. He was also a photographer and collector of Spanish art which were on display at the house. The tour consisted of only one floor of the house which was his residency. The rest of the house is currently being rented out. The lower level was a chocolate shop and café, Chocolate Amatller, dedicated to its founder.

One of the most interesting part of the house was how the water faucets were connected  to the fireplace, thus being one of the first residency in the world to have a water heater. Neat stuff, neat stuff.