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Updated: April 22, 2011 15:45 IST

Bohemian rhapsody

Hemamalini Sukumar
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STRAIGHT OUT OF A FANTASY NOVEL Sagrada Familia
STRAIGHT OUT OF A FANTASY NOVEL Sagrada Familia

Watching Barcelona wake up on a Saturday morning is like watching an oil painting stir and slowly come to life. White yachts flutter against the crisp blue water, struggling for freedom. An old woman walks towards the fruit market, and inspects bright red melons for their juiciness. Kids in green and blue sweaters skate around on boards, leaving streaks of colour in their wake. And, the Catalonian sun moves into the horizon, turning everything it touches into gold.

Ciutat Vella, the old part of Barcelona has something for every type of traveller.

Whether you like getting lost in the world of Picasso's art at his museum, or to ogle at ancient churches with hallowed interiors, or to simply sit on a sun-drenched bench like a snoozing cat and watch sparrows play hopscotch with bread crumbs — this is the place to be. Although the carnival atmosphere of the streets of La Rambla is touted as a main tourist attraction, I rather liked walking around the laid back streets between the churches and getting lost in the whimsical music that seemed to start and stop around street corners.

The legend of Gaudi

As I stood looking at Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous church, I couldn't help wonder if this was the most otherworldly church I'd ever seen.

Gargoyles, snakes, armadillos and fruit baskets are intertwined with towering spires of the church making it look like something straight out of a Gothic fantasy novel. If you can't get enough of the sheer genius of this architect, there are some more installations in Barcelona designed by him.

Park Guell, quite unlike the Familia, exudes a childish exuberance. It is strewn with tiny pieces of luminescent, coloured tiles that make your eyes swim with colour as you take in the mosaic patterns on the benches shaped like little waves. With a sweeping view of the city, this park, like all Gaudi's architecture, quite defies convention.

We managed to catch the beach of Barceloneta on a bad weather day where the drizzling skies made the entire beach look misty. However, when some of the clouds parted and the sun sliced through to touch the intense blue of the ocean, I could see why this could stand up to its claim of being one of the best beaches in the world.

The landscape of this city is quite unusual in that, it has mountains on one side tumbling into the city that ends up meeting the ocean.

For a view of this spectacle, we climbed Mount Tibidabo as well as Montjuic that offered a plane's eye view of the city and the seascape beyond.

With Spanish food, I think it's as much about the taste as it is about the experience of eating it. Like having a steaming bowl of paella, made with seafood or vegetables, sitting by the pier with seagulls pecking at your feet. Also, like sipping a glass of cava on a bench under the summer sun while watching children practise for a play.

This entire experience of the Spanish food, art and culture — I realise after coming back — is like a colourful bohemian rhapsody that keeps playing in your mind long after the song is over.



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