No point getting up early in Barcelona. Everything, and I mean everything is closed until 10.00.
OK, you can get juice and a chocolate croissant and eat it in the Placa de Reial but they won´t even have cleaned up last night's rubbish by 8.00am. Barcelona is definitely not the city for early birds like me.
I wandered around the empty streets until 10.00, then bought a Barcelona card at an Information Kiosk. The Barcelona card gives you free travel all around the city and discounts on entry to all museums, sometimes 100% discount. I bought one for two days. At only 20 euros it was a bargain.
Then onto the metro to a stop called Lesseps which looked pretty close to Gaudi's famous Parc Guell on the map. It wasn´t and that park is up a rather steep hill. At least I burned off the chocolate croissant. My fellow-writer Robert Muchamore told me I had to visit Parc Guell. He said it was one of his favourite places in the world. It was amazing, but also depressing in a strange way. All the beauty of Gaudi´s organic shapes, fairytale houses, broken tile mosaics, slanting columns and what do the Spaniards do with it? They spray graffiti on it and leave their empty rubbish lying around. It is such a shame. Also, it was crowded at 11.00 am on a sunny Friday. Very crowded.
I used my Barcelona card to get a bus down to Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family) Gaudi's piece de resistance, the great cathedral he spent his last years working on. I got off the bus and was looking at my map working my way towards where I thought it should be. Suddenly I looked up and there it was, at the end of a long street called Avenguda de Gaudi. Absolutely breathtaking. I sat at a cafe and sipped a bitter Kas and read my guide book, then went in.
The cathedral is stunning. It is essentially a building site and has no roof but in a strange way this makes it all the more impressive. They are still working on it, building four or five more towers to compliment the eight existing ones. Down in the basement, in the museum, you can look through a glass window to the workshop and actually see the architects and builders going over blueprints and handling white plaster models of the towers. Amazing.
The controversial western facade, with its depiction of the last hours of Jesus's life, the passion, was amazing, too. So many images to look at and touch and meditate on. Very bleak and very powerful. This has got to be my favourite cathedral in the world. I can´t wait until it´s finished.
After that I took the metro back to the stop nearest my flat, Liceu. I had my felafel at 3.00 and a nap like a proper resident of Barcelona.
I surfaced at 4.45 and wandered down Carre Ferran which I now realize is the decumanus maximus of Roman Barcino. And the Placa Jaume was the forum. I even found four huge marble columns that formed the facade of the Temple of Rome and Augustus. They are well hidden behind the cathedral. If you keep going down the street several metres above the decumanus maximus it becomes Av. de la Princesa and if you are lucky you might find the Picasso Museum.
It is a very odd collection in five beautiful converted townhouses. It has a lot of Picasso´s early work, especially from when he was 14 to 19 years old. Then a few works from his twenties, up to 1917. (Picasso was born in 1881).
Then there is nothing until 1957! So we skip forty years.
But stepping into the later rooms is like entering another universe. A great one!
I usually hate pigeons but there is a whole room of pigeons from the dovecote of Picasso´s villa in Cannes. The next room is full of his wonderful interpretations of Velasquez´s Las Meninas. What struck me with huge force was how much he was enjoying himself in all these big bright paintings. They are full of colour, confidence and most of all a wicked humour.
In one of his interpretations of Velasquez's masterpiece he has made the infanta scowl by giving her a V above the two dots for her eyes and the dot for her mouth. And the dog in the picture appears to be squatting to do his business. Very clever. Very funny. I do love Picasso.