When in Barcelona, one has to pay homage to its most famous son, Antoni Gaudí. I make my way to Park Guëll, where there are many Gaudí buildings and breathtaking vistas across the city.
Although this imaginative, early 20th century housing development in the swish Gracia district was never completed, the hilltop park is today a Unesco World Heritage Site, thanks to the magic touch of a great architect.
When I first came here 20 years ago, I sat on the Wave Bench, an exquisite stone parapet encrusted with millions of mosaics, undulating like a serpent around a raised platform overlooking the entire city. I drank a coffee while reading the Sunday papers in the sunshine.
Gaudí once said: “There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. So buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.” His masterpiece, Parc Guëll, testifies to that. It is the peak of his naturalist phase, when he drew his inspiration from nature and organic shapes.
But today, Park Güell has changed. It often seethes with tourist groups, pouring off coaches in a relentless stream. Gaudí’s mosaic dragon statue, one of the great icons of Barcelona, is completely consumed with people clambering on its back, mashing their faces up against its reptilian smile, flinging their arms around it for more pictures. The Wave Bench is swamped by a tsunami of people.
But don't despair! Set your alarm early to make sure you will get there by 8am when the park opens its doors, and you will beat the tourist crowds by at least an hour.
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