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Barri Gothic Cathedral / Parc Guell, Barcelona

Updated on April 21, 2009

I walked in and the temperature halved. The sound of about a hundred people Morris Dancing down Las Ramblas (I don't know) was replaced by the sound of a dirge-like chant from the prayer chapel. It was a typical Catholic church - oil paintings, gloom, candles burning in red plastic sheaths which coloured the flames - except there was a huge TV screen, like the ones in betting shops, hanging from the ceiling. It was a bad anachronism, and as I walked around, I saw it was not the only one. There were nuns standing next to yellow-hat tour groups; lines of tourists were tramping past occupied confession boxes; there were alcoves for saints and alcoves for martyrs, many alcoves for TVM, and one corner alcove that had been turned into a gift shop. It made me feel uncomfortable and intrusive, and that was before Mass started.

I think maybe Gaudi meant Parc Guell as a joke on anyone who visited it. I'm sure he was messing me around. There is a courtyard with three tall, wavy buildings, and, directly on from the entrance, a very broad staircase. Down the centre of this staircase is a watercourse, which starts from the jewelled mouth of a giraffe's head and runs to a massive ornate marble basin, like the bath of a sultan. You think, There will be something amazing at the top of this long and actually fairly steep staircase which I would not otherwise climb in conditions of 100 Fahrenheit plus. A golden palace, or a zoo. But what you get, once you've climbed to the summit, is a colonnade of about fifty pillars and nothing between them. You think you've been cheated. You think, Fuck you, Gaudi. Then you go onto the roof and find he put all the interesting stuff up there. That kind of trick kept being pulled. If I were six, I'm sure it would have been the best thing ever, better than a Maximus Prime Transformer Toy even. But now I don't like to be overwhelmed the same way. There was nothing in the Parc that struck me as quite so fantastic as when I first came into Barcelona, and walked by a square, and saw two bright, green parrots in a sea of pigeons.  


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