Getting lost in the city’s cleverly-designed grid system
“Allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona; an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and future.” Perhaps the future is now and the past is the present, but whichever way the city speaks to you… It definitely speaks everyone’s language.
Within Barcelona’s city walls and shores, a fusion of intellect, creativity and architectural genius greet you with open arms in the hope that when you are released from its warm embrace of serenity, you leave inspired, drenched in the romance and prosperity the city soaks in the memory.
Some years after Le Corbusier’s quote of Barcelona came the visually stunning and Catalonian centre for art, ‘Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya’. Situated on Montjuïc Hill at the end of Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, lies the St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City, Rome) inspired ‘Great Dome’ which gracefully presents itself to the many travel photographers and tourists that jostle for position along the magnificent illuminated fountains below the structure. The view through the four pillars lining the foreground of the building create an imaginative gateway to the historic feel of the Romanesque features within the museum.
Barcelona is full of historical landmarks for tourists to salivate over, but many people often refer to this museum as a ‘must see’ monument. I have to agree and with its location on top of Montjuïc Hill, it’s easy to see why. With views stretching deep into the Catalonian mountains, landscape photographers feel rich with opportunity with such a vast wealth of scenery on offer.
The colourful city is steeped in history. We are familiar with Barcelona’s coastal location, Gaudi’s touch of Catalan modernism splattered around the city and the countless amounts of people trying to sell you fake watches or hassle you on Las Ramblas, but I find something else to take an interest in. ‘The Eixample’, a pioneering grid system designed by Spanish urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, forms a 7.5 square km district, praised for its improved living conditions for inhabitants and space awareness. An area where sun beams seamlessly through the octagonal design of the blocks and where ventilation is at a premium to the gasping breaths of the constant surge of sight seeing tourists. Colours of all the spectrum follow you in your path and it’s impossible to not get lured in by its charm.
I will mention however, it is possible to get lost within this ‘maze’ of a system, as I found out to my despair earlier this year.
Ok, so I was slightly on the tipsy side of life and made an attempt to find my hotel unaided walking back from Las Ramblas. I wandered around the streets for nearly four hours before slumping down besides a tree in despair. Minutes later, I heard the sound of a car horn and someone shouting out the window. “Joe! What the hell are you doing there?” I was saved. My brother, of whom I had left hours earlier because I wanted to get back to the hotel to have an early night (the irony), had found me. The conclusion to this is that although the grid design of Eixample is a masterstroke of urban planning, many of the streets look identical and it is quite easy to get lost if you don’t remember the street name you are staying on. No one wants to look like a drunk idiot slumped up against a tree at 4am!
These are only a couple of examples as to why visiting Barcelona is an exciting experience for anyone. The hope is that we are able to visit as many of Europe’s amazing cities in our lifetime, but if you haven’t yet made a visit to this magnificent city as a tourist, photographer or writer, then get your diary out and start to plan a trip.
Think art. Think beauty….. Think Barcelona.
Words by Jo Miller
Photos by Matthew James (except the aerial grid system)