Luxury Hotels

WINDSTAR – 3

Yes, the final stop on Windstar Star Legend’s Gaudi tour was  Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia, home of designer shopping and regular haunt of this chic city’s super-chic. This is where Gaudi designed and oversaw construction of one of the 20th century’s first innovative multi-use buildings. Commissioned by the Milà family, its official name is Casa Milà but it is generally known colloquially as La Pedrera as it could be said to resemble a rubble of stones – but how many rubble constructions are, like this one, UNESCO-recognized?

The undulating eight-floor building, finished 1922, has a floor plan that is a lop-sided figure of eight, thus giving it two open-to-the-sky atria. It was intended to house residences, plus whatever else Catalonians needed a hundred years ago (today, two adjacent apartments are on show – the bathrooms are especially fascinating).

A major test of stamina is walking the rooftop, fortunately carefully cordoned to help anyone with vertigo. It’s not just walking around and looking down, into the two open atria or around, outside. You must also watch your feet as there are steps in the most unlikely places. Guide Bettina knew exactly which are the best photo spots – see above.

The image has Sagrada Familia in the distance, an illusion that is comparable to a famous spot near the Taj Mahal in Agra that purports to show the subject lifting the top of the tomb with a sleight of hand.

From La Pedrera’s rooftop, by the way, you look across the street at one of the city’s two most stylish hotels, Mandarin Oriental Barcelona. This is the hotel that is accessed via a fashionista runway. Direct from Passeig de Gràcia, walk the slip-free catwalk up to the arrival lobby. Former home of Banco Hispano Americano, the 120-room hotel has many differentiators. It’s been envisioned by cult designer Patricia Urquiola – and the high-personality guy who makes the hotel work, J.P. Moser, was once a Disney bear.  (Girlahead loves the hotel’s suite 324, facing out over Passeig de Gràcia – see a room tour, below.)