Mercado de la Boqueria

The Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona is a fascinating place. The intro on the website says “Welcome to the best market in the world.” I’m not going to argue. With over 200 vendors selling everything from Iberian ham, to chocolate covered strawberries, to exotic spices the Boqueria is a feast for the eyes and ears and likely to pique your appetite as well. And as a photographer, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities. Well worth a visit if you are in Barcelona, and it’s something you can do on a moments notice, unlike many venues that require buying tickets in advance. The market does close for a number of holidays, so check the schedule before you visit.

The market is open from 8 am until 8:30 pm and easy to get to on foot or the metro. We visited the market on two occasions and made it our lunch stop. We noticed that many of the stalls, particularly the fish vendors start to close up shop in later in the afternoon. We feasted on Iberian ham, bread sticks, fruit salad, empenadas, oysters on the half-shell, chocolate dipped frozen fruit bars and a variety of other foods. The fish market offers every kind of sea food you can imagine; fish, sea urchin, clams, shrimp, octopus, squid, mussels and more.

It’s a busy place with both the locals buying food and tourists taking in the visual feast. I went crazy with my camera capturing the vendors, the stands and people shopping. You can see more photos here.

Palau de la Música Catalana

While Barcelona is not without it’s share of architectural wonders, one that is worth a visit is the Palau de la Música Catalana, the Palace of Catalan Music. We visited the Palau on May 29, our first day in Barcelona.

Concert Hall of the Palau de la Música Catalana

We bought our tickets online well before arriving in Barcelona. Best to buy tickets ahead of time since this is a poplular tour.

This structure is basically a jewel box for musical performances. The main concert hall is surrounded by stained glass windows with a spectacular stained glass ceiling over the middle of the hall. The hall was intended to be a garden for musical performances.

Built between 1905 and 1908 by the architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner, the Palau de la Música Catalana is an example of Catalona modernist architecture.

Adjacent to the concert hall is the Lluís Millet Hall with a large balcony with columns symbolizing flowers of every kind, in a tribute to nature. I only wish that we had had time to hear a concert here.

Barcelona at Night

Av. de Gaudí and Sagrada Familia

Towards the end of our Catalonia trip we decided to return to Barcelona. I had been intrigued with the idea of photographing the Sagrada Familia at night and our previous visit did not present the opportunity. We had one discretionary night open so we booked a room at Hostemplo which was a 10 minute walk away. Before our trip I had studied the map to see if there were some obvious locations to capture a view of the whole facade. There is a park facing the Nativity Facade, Placa de Gaudi. There is another park facing the Passion Facade the Placa de la Sagrada Familia. The Nativity Facade captures the morning sun and the Passion Facade the evening sun. Both of these locations offer good views, although not entirely unobstructed. You’d need to get in the air above the trees in the park, or on top of one of the apartment buildings opposite the park for an unobstructed view. Nevertheless, it’s always fun to look for a new angle and a new perspective. I found a location on Av. de Gaudi that I thought captured the feeling of Barcelona at night.

On our previous stay in Barcelona I had the opportunity to explore La Rambla and some of the area around the Cathedral.

For night photography I put the camera on a tripod and I typically capture multiple exposure to process using an HDR program on my laptop. Blending multiple exposures gives a bit more control over the extreme contrast range you can have at night with streetlight or spotlights and dark shadows. Blending images where people are moving can be a challenge, but one of the programs I use, Photomatix, has some powerful tools for dealing this ghosting.

Sagrada Familia

May 29. 9:00 AM. We’re in line for the tour of Sagrada Familia. We purchased tickets months ahead of time and I did some research to figure out what would be the best time to photograph the project. Photographing the whole building is a challenge. This is a work in progress with construction cranes towering over the structure. In looking at photos in tourist information I can only assume that some effort went into removing the construction cranes and other construction infrastructure in Photoshop.

The Nativity facade faces east, which where we found ourselves for the start of the tour and the best light is morning. The Passion facade faces west, which is best photographed in the afternoon.

Construction of The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família began in 1882 under the guidance of Antoni Gaudí. The goal is to complete the construction by 2026, the one hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Security to get into the tour is on par with airport security. No knives, liquids, and such. Backpacks go through an x-ray machine, and you walk through a scanner. My knee brace set off an alert and I was pulled aside. Staff was very courteous.

After picking up our interpretive handsets and putting our day pack in a locker we took the elevator up the tower and climbed back down a never ending spiral of stairs with occasional impressive views of the city below.

Inside the basilica one needs to keep in mind that this is a working Church and some sense of reverence is required. Here the genius of Gaudi’s design becomes apparent. The columns of multicolored stone rise up like trees and branch into smaller supporting limbs. Gaudi referred to this as the forest. Gaudi’s inspiration in the architecture of nature and natural forms and his devotion to his faith become apparent wherever you look. A stunning example of Gaudi’s architecture. And even with the construction there are so many interesting details to photograph that there is no shortage of subject matter for the camera.

Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator. – Anoni Gaudi

La Pedrera

May 28. Our first day of touring in Barcelona starts with a tour of La Pedrera, one of the architectural wonders created by Antoni Gaudi. Casa Mila, or La Pedrera as it is commonly known was built in the early 20th century. Construction began in 1906 and the building was finished in 1912. Well worth the tour if you are visiting Barcelona. Get your tickets ahead of time though. We arrived at 9:00 am, a little flustered since we started off on the wrong direction on our walk, and then discovered that we had left the tickets in the motel room. Internet connection was sparse so we had trouble pulling up the confirmation email on Joann’s iPhone. It seems that the clerk at the counter was gracious enough to believe our story and we were able to tour. The tour is self-guided with handsets to listen to narration about the features of the building. Gaudi in known for drawing inspiration from nature and his devotion to the Church.

The tour starts on the roof of the structure with the fanciful design of the roof vents. From there you go down the the attic where you can see the rib like structures that support the roof. The attic served as the work area for servants. The building itself was designed as an apartment building.

From the attic you go down to one of the apartments which is furnished as it might have been in the early 20th century.

Watch your Pockets

May 31, 2019. Waking up from a sound nights sleep. I’m wondering what time it is. I look at my phone and I’m flabbergasted. 10:40! I had no idea we had slept that late. For the previous two days we had tour tickets for 9:00 am both days, so we were up at 7 am to grab a bite to eat and then off on foot to find our destinations. On Tuesday it was La Pedrera at 9:00 am then on to the Picasso Museum at 12:30 and the Palau de la Musica Catalana at 3 pm. At 9 pm we went out in search of Tapas, having our first taste of acorn fed Iberian Ham. On Wednesday it was Sagrada Familia for our 9:00 am tour, followed by a spontaneous walking tour and then a bus up to Park Guell at 6:30 to see more of Gaudi’s work. We logged 10 miles on foot over the course of the day and decided we’d forego the alarm in the morning and get up when we felt like it.

We had numerous warning about pickpockets in Barcelona, both prior to the trip and and while touring. We did have an experience that bears sharing. While learning to navigate the Metro we got on the wrong train. After getting off and feeling a bit disoriented a young woman came up to us and told us we needed to take the elevator up a level to get to the right train. We were on the elevator with her and two of her friends when one of them attempted to access Joann’s purse. She thought they might have taken a notebook , but on later inspection nothing had been taken. Just a lesson to be careful. We’ve been traveling lightly. Leaving our backpacks in the room. I carry my small Sony RX100 camera in a Ripoffs brand holster on by belt with a strong Velcro flap. My pants have zippered pockets and I keep my iPhone in one of those pockets. Even so, I feel a bit bare without the camera support items like the tripod and such, and on both Tuesday and Wednesday I exhausted my camera batteries with the spares in the my backpack in the room. Passport, credit cards and such I keep in a pouch that hangs around my neck and kept inside my shirt. Probably not foolproof but so far so good.

La Pedrera, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Sagrada Familia and Park Guell will require separate blog posts so stay tuned. Pacing myself between touring, editing photos and writing is a challenge.

Gaudi’s Lizard at Park Guell