As you might know, every year for the past several years, I’ve had the chance to go to Europe. I thought it might not happen this year, but then I suddenly got a message from my friend about Barcelona.
I’ve been to Spain once, back in 2014 when we spent two weeks in Madrid and a couple of days in Barcelona. So I was excited to see what I had missed and to revisit some favorite places. And as with all my trips, some of those favorite places were the museums and other cultural spots.
La Sagrada Familia
During our last visit to Barcelona, we skipped La Sagrada Familia. We walked past it, but saw how long the line was and said forget it. Plus it was so frigging hot. This time we got the tickets even before we left.
In case you didn’t know, the Sagrada Familia is famous for its distinct Gaudi-esque style. Construction began in 1882 and is still going. It’s supposed to be complete by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
It was less crowded than I expected but still pretty crowded. We did a very quick walk through the church before going to the tower we had picked, the Tower of the Passion. Our other choice was the Tower of Nativity, but I read online the Passion one was slightly higher and perhaps gave a better view.
The view certainly didn’t suck:
After our time in the tower, we did an audio tour of the church itself.
I love how Gaudi incorporated his love of nature into his work.
Jewish Quarter and Ancient Synagogue
I loved visiting the Jewish Quarters of Paris and Prague so I thought I’d love Barcelona’s too. However, there wasn’t much to it, although we did get to see the oldest synagogue in Spain. It was teeny tiny because, back in the day, synagogues could only be as big as the city’s smallest church.
Museum of Design
We didn’t have plans to go to this museum, but it was in the vicinity of something else we wanted to see so we thought what the heck.
Because we hadn’t done research, we had no idea the David Bowie exhibit was there. I enjoyed it. Of course I loved all the different outfits, but I also liked learning about how he infused storytelling and his fascination with space in his songs. I mean, duh if you already know about Bowie, but I didn’t.
After I came home, I learned that the Bowie exhibit will be at the Brooklyn Museum early next year. My friend and I are so cutting edge.
Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona
Before we left I did some research on what exhibits would be open while we were there, and found this one on Bjork at the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB).
While I’m not familiar with her recent music, I’m still a Bjork fan. Back in college I was really into the Sugarcubes, specifically their Stick Around for Joy album. She was so incredible and devastating in Dancer in the Dark. Plus I love that she’s just an all-around nut.
I really liked the exhibit. Back in 2015, the MoMA had a form of it, which was widely panned. I didn’t go to it so I’m not sure how it was different, except, as The New York Times says, it included “ludicrously infantilizing and tedious” audio narration.
Thankfully there was none of that at the CCCB. The exhibit was divided into four parts. The first was a room playing her video for Black Lake on opposite walls and with surround sound. We were encouraged to walk around. I really liked the song, which seems to be about her split from the artist Matthew Barney. (Of course afterward I went down the rabbit hole of that relationship. He seems like a tool.)
The second part was a 360 degree virtual reality “experience” of Stonemilker. It was fun because she would disappear from view, you’d turn, and there she’d be.
The third part was VR again, but I couldn’t watch it. It was Mouth Mantra and it gave me motion sickness so I kept my eyes closed the whole time.
The fourth was also VR but Bjork was basically animated as a moth or fairy (I can’t remember the songs), and in that case seemed like she was really there. At one point I had no idea where she was. I looked down and she was at my feet. It was weird. Plus you had these gadgets where you could “draw” on what was basically her vagina. (Oh Bjork.)
The last part was just all of her videos. I watched one, Hunter, which was so weirdly charming. Those two words sum her up, I think.
Fundacio Joan Miro
We took a funicular up to Montjuïc (or “Jewish Mountain,” named for the remains of a medieval Jewish cemetery found there) to see this museum dedicated to Joan Miro. I enjoyed it since I enjoy most museums, but I can’t say I really “get” his work. The only photograph I took was off this TARDIS sculpture by a different artist.
We also visited the Montjuïc Castle, which wasn’t that impressive. But you kind of have to go if you’re there, and it’s only five euros.
To get back down, we took the cable car. That was pretty fun and not too scary.
National Catalonia Art Museum
This was my favorite museum the last time I visited, mostly because it was a very trippy experience. I had walked about five miles in 90 plus degree heat to get there and was delirious from thirst and hunger. Plus you have to go up what felt like three escalators just to get there, and once you do, it’s this incredible view of the city. In front of the building, there are all these waterfalls, and at the foot, the Magic Fountain.
This time was less trippy. The weather was cool, overcast, and raining off and on, and we didn’t have to walk very far to get there (we came from the cable cars from Montjuïc). Instead of a chocolate muffin with frosting inside, I got a croque monsieur, which kind of sucked, although I ate the whole thing.
I liked the art though. I love how the medieval section, with its church artifacts, feels like a church. This time I went through the modern art wing, which I thought I had missed last time, but it turns out it wasn’t open when I was there. My favorites were the art nouveau furniture and decor.
Gaudi Exhibition Center
This was the last museum I went to during my trip, and it was a spur of the moment decision. I really liked it, and not just because it provided A/C and peace and quiet on a hot and crowded day. It focused on what inspired Gaudi, and included an audio tour with price of admission. What I found most fascinating were the the 3D renderings of his models that were never built.
Next up: eats and drinks!