There’s nothing like sitting in the summer sunshine in a UNESCO-recognised garden and watching the world go by. The garden in question is Parque Güell in Barcelona, Gaudi’s outdoor masterpiece in the Catalonian capital.
This is the first full day aboard Windstar’s gorgeous Star Legend, for a week-long cruise from Barcelona to Civittavecchia, for Rome. Being Windstar, the itinerary is extremely welll thought-out. Board Sunday but no sailing until Monday afternoon, which gives Sunday as time to unpack and settle in, explore the ship, work-out in the seventh-deck Technogym (open from 6 a.m.) and generally acclimatise.
Monday, one of the wide choice of excursions left the ship at 0745 to allow five and a half hours to do at least minimal justice to Antoni Gaudi, 1852-1926, the most recognisable architect not only of Catalonia but Western Europe of the last two centuries. The guide, Bettina, had eleven to look after and she was a real pro. First we walked around the entire exterior of Sagrada Familia, above. Gaudi wanted 19 towers, she explained, in between pointing out the challenges he faced, financially and politically in his quest for excellence. His work became his entire life – at one point he was sleeping in his office. He never married, and he eventually died from injuries sustained in a traffic accident.
What a sad man Gaudi must have been. Towards the end he wrote: ‘My good friends are dead; I have no family and no clients, no fortune nor anything. Now I can dedicate myself entirely to the Church’.
Bettina herded her charges back on the bus to go to Parque Güell, a nearby hilltop development which Gaudi envisioned as multi-use living, with houses and a market set among woods. Sadly it was impractical for anyone to consider living up above the city. One of the three finished houses, where Gaudi actually lived for a time, is now a gift shop. Girlahead relaxed in the sun, on a terrace bordered by a 200-metre snake-like meandering parapet of ceramic shards. See the image below.
This is very definitely the ideal time to study Gaudi’s work. There were crowds everywhere, but only fraction of those found throughout the long summer months (for this reason, by the way, apparently Windstar’s Winter 2024-2025 schedule will also include Venice – what bliss to see that beautiful destination without being smothered in half of humanity). No, this is all very leisurely, and well thought out, and timing is such that when we get back from this Gaudi immersion lunch will still be available and laundry will shortly be coming back – prices are so reasonable that even those who did not opt for the laundry-included package will not feel the bank is broken.
Ah, Bettina, and Gaudi, call….