I haven’t been posting much on here of late, for the simple reason that I have been enjoying myself in the real world too much. The month of May saw no less than 3 public holidays falling on a Thursday, allowing me to take the Friday off and having a 4-day weekend in each case. Then there was another public holiday on 9th June, meaning I think I worked 3 full weeks out of the past 7. Nobody ever accused the French of working overlong hours.
The first weekend I spent in Barcelona, which was nice but I felt a little overrated. The weather was superb, and that in itself went a long way to demonstrate why it is such a popular city to visit and reside in, and there was a certain charm to the tree-lined streets which I saw in Madrid but nowhere else in Europe. The harbour area was nice, especially for this yacht enthusiast, but getting there required fighting through densely packed tourists who had arrived by the million on budget airlines from all over Europe. People just like us, then.
The place was packed. On our second day we took the open-top bus tour around the city and had to queue for half an hour just to get on the thing. When finally we did, we decided to stay on it for the full 2 hours until the bus had come back to its starting point in the main square, to avoid losing our spot. It was a nice tour, but we came away with the impression that there was not quite enough in Barcelona to justify such a comprehensive commentary. The way they spoke about the Barcelona Olympics was as if they were held last year, and not 22 years ago. And not being into architecture I didn’t quite get why the place was so popular. Sure, it’s a nice city, very nice…but I don’t think it comes even close to Paris. Being an engineer, one of the things which annoyed me was the reverence in which the construction site more commonly known as the Sagrada Família is held:
As Wiki says:
Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Which says more about the UNESCO criteria than the Sagrada Familia, which is basically a grander version of those loft conversions you see on TV programmes where the man of the house tears apart half the property before putting the project on hold after realising it’s not as easy as it first appeared, leaving the place looking as though a bomb’s hit it for the next 10 years. The church was designed by Barcelona’s most famous architect Antoni Gaudí, whose designs can be seen all over the city. This was supposed to be his masterpiece and he supervised the construction personally for the last 43 years of his life – leaving it a quarter finished when he was hit by a tram and killed.
Now I’m sorry, and I realise I sound like a bit of a heathen here, but I’m not impressed. Any idiot can come up with a grand design or a project that is not able to be realised, either through impracticability, lack of funds, or other reasons. The damned thing only passed the halfway mark in 2010, with the latest estimates being 2026 as the finish date. Although privately funded, why nobody – even the Spanish government or EU who has pissed away untold millions on airports nobody uses - could not have bunged them the necessary cash to get the thing finished is beyond me. If this was a loft conversion, either a TV station would have sent a crew in to finish things off or the wife would have issued an ultimatum to either get the bloody thing finished by Christmas or expect divorce proceedings. The building is impressive enough, I suppose, but is it worth having a giant building site in the middle of the city for nigh-on 150 years?
To be fair, Cologne cathedral took something like 600 years to complete, leaving a crane dangling over the unfinished construction for 400 years, so maybe the Catalans are getting off lightly? But then again the Sagrada Familia is in relative terms a modern building. The French built the bulk of Notre Dame in 90 years or thereabouts and Wells cathedral took about 300 years: but these were knocked up in medieval times and, crucially, were actually fucking finished! Looking at more modern cathedrals, St. Isaac’s in St. Petersburg is extremely impressive and took 40 years to construct. London’s St. Paul’s, a hundred years older, took 45 years. So what’s Gardi’s excuse?
Sorry, but the engineer in me says designs need to be feasible if they are to be considered any good, and a design which, in the modern era of construction, takes longer to complete than those of two centuries before fails to impress me. If I was heading the UNESCO panel, I would have turned up, taken one look, and told them to call me again when the damned thing’s finished. Otherwise any Tom, Dick, or Harry could lay a foundation stone and claim it will be a floating palace one day. Meh, I know everyone raves about Gardi, but I wasn’t impressed.
I was more impressed with the Nou Camp, which I visited to watch Barcelona draw with Getafe FC, which effectively cost them the league title. The stadium was magnificent, but looks a bit dated up close: seats faded, paint chipped, and the egress stairways narrower than you’d find in a modern venue. But it remains a great stadium nonetheless.
So that was Barcelona. Worth the visit, and the tapas food and sangria was excellent, but don’t hire me to write the tourist brochure.