Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 11.22.19
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL & Kathy Cavanaugh
All photos courtesy the authors


Thursday was the last full day of our stay in Barcelona, and we were on our own until dinner. Kathy, Mary and I decided to walk in a different neighborhood and visit the Casa Batlló Gaudi. Dave had a painful leg due to a banged shin and chose to give it a rest.

The Casa Batlló Gaudi is a redesign of an unattractive building built in 1877 and bought by the Batlló family in 1900. In 1904 it was completely redesigned by Antoni Gaudi as a residence and is considered one of his masterpieces. Gaudi was one of Spain's modernist architects, who flourished in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. He was inspired by Islamic and Mudejar styles as well as nature, from which he took shapes, colors and textures.


The Casa is located in the Eixample district, and forms part of a row of houses known as the Illa de la Discdòrdia, which consists of four buildings by noted Modernista architects of Barcelona. The ground floor has unusual tracery, irregular oval windows and flowing sculpted stonework. There are few straight lines, and much of the fa&ccdil;ade is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles as shown in the left picture. The right picture is the Casa Amatller designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and built as a residence for chocolatier Antoni Amatller. It was completed in 1900.


We bypassed the line for Casa Batlló Gaudi and entered because we had gold tickets from our hotel concearge, very nice. We proceeded up the stairs to the main or noble floor of the house. The windows for this floor have curved outlines casings, sills, and muntins.


The stairway is narrow opening on to a spacious landing on the main floor. This provided views into the building well with blue tiling up five floors to a skylight, left picture. The building well also contained an elevator with some very interesting ironwork; unfortunately we had to use the stairs. On the street side is Mr. Batlló's study, a secluded spot for courting couples, and the main solon.

The elaborate and animal-like décor continues throughout the whole noble floor. We exited in the rear of the house to an elaborate patio where everything was covered with tile; most of the floor was blue and white in waves, this was broken up by tiled walkways with contrasting designs and colors. Large blue and white ceramic pots served as planters and low walls enclosed two small pools. Every floor had a balcony that overlooked the patio and extended the full width of the house.


We proceeded up the stairs to the roof terrace, which is one of the most popular features of the house due to its famous dragon back design. The roof is arched like the back of a dragon reaching its highest point behind the four chimneys. Gaudi represents an animal's spine by using tiles of different colors, on the right the arch of the dragon's spine starts with green ceramic tiles for scales and comes down on the left with orange ceramic tiles.


This shows some of the pinkish dragon's scales and the tower, which is one of the highlights of the façade. The tower is a bulbous, root-like structure that evokes plant life that Gaudi modeled. It is topped with a cross of four arms oriented to the cardinal directions that are buds announcing the next flowering. The tower is decorated with monogram of Jesus (JHS), which can be seen on the side in the picture, which is made of ceramic pieces that stand out golden on the green background that covers the facade. This and other symbols show the deep religiosity of Gaudi.


On our way down from the roof we went through the loft, which is considered to be one of the Casa's most unusual spaces. It was formerly a service area for the tenants and contained laundry rooms and storage areas. It is known for its simplicity of shapes and its Mediterranean influence through the use of white on the walls. It consists of a series of sixty catenary arches that creates a space which represents the ribcage of the dragon's spine that is represented in the roof.

We linked up with Dave for lunch and visited the Vinitus Petit restaurant, which was light fare offshoot of Vinitus. When we entered there was a long display on our left with an amazing array of sandwiches, small plates and other choices. The décor was very pleasing and it was not noisy. We each proceeded down the counter and picked out our selections, requested a drink and paid. We chose a comfortable table and enjoyed a delicous lunch with a refreshing glass of Albarino.

After our lunch, Kathy and I continued on for a visit to the Musau del Modernisme de Barcelona. This small museum included furniture as well as paintings and sculpture. It had a number of paintings by Claude Monet and other French impressionists. There were many Spanish impressionists represented with whom I was unfamilar, including Laureano Barrau and Joaquin Sorolla. To my untutored eye, they were the equal of those produced by the French Impressionists. Time flies in museums, and we had to return to our hotel for the Vantage Tour welcome dinner.

The Vantage Tour we were to begin was a small ship cruise all around the Iberian Pennsula. This ship accommodated 44 passengers, and we all were gathering for dinner and to meet and greet. Our stay in Barcelona up to this point was a pre-trip extension.

For a trip, such as this scheduled cruise, Kathy and I like to arrive a couple of days early to explore the city. Also, this is a precaution in case something unexpected happens in transit. On this trip this worked extremely well because our scheduled flight's aircraft had an engine problem, which cancelled the flight.