June 9th, 2010
We’ve all been to parks. From the simple neighborhood gathering places where moms happily sit on benches absently rocking their babies in strollers while watching their toddlers frolic on the swings and the now-rare merry-go-rounds. Some have shaded glens of oaks, pines, aspens, or a combination of trees that play a backdrop of rustling music while you read, or picnic or even loll romantically with your honey.
On Sundays in the states, we are accustomed to the smells of smokey barbeque pits and yes, even kite flying and impromptu touch football games. National parks offer a different type of wildlife, along with countless miles of trails to test endurance and boulders to engage precarious balancing skills.
Some parks even have sculpture gardens. I have fond memories of the impressive and extensive sculpture collection at the grounds of UCLA in Los Angeles, though my favorite memory of our family outings there were when I kicked off my shoes and splashed happily in a fountain that I’m sure, looking back, was designed by some world renowned architect. I’m sure the artist is perfectly satisfied knowing children are enjoying the anonymous blessings he or she has provided. Still…my happy memories have been overshadowed by the bliss I’ve enjoyed while walking through another “sculpture garden” by a celebrated Spanish architect…
Other parks are designated dog parks where dog “owners” beam proudly as their capricious canines determine the proper sniffing order and run their Alpo off. Some parks are even world famous, and a view of them, say, from a Manhattan penthouse, cranks the price of these coveted apartments by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Parks are a gift to the people.
Yes, parks in general are good things. A gift to the people. That is precisely how Parque Guell (Parc Guel in Catalan), a magnificent magical showcase of Antoni Gaudi genius in sculpture, design, benches, terraces, architecture and fountains, came about. Can you believe it was considered somewhat of a failure? Well, it wasn’t originally intended as a park. It was to be an exclusive neighborhood of homes for the affluent with views of Barcelona, commissioned by the wealthy Eusebi Guell in the early 1900s. In 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can read more about it’s history and how it came to be a blessing for the citizens of Barcelona, Spain and those fortunate enough to visit, here.
Don’t make the mistake of running out of time for this one-of-a-kind experience.
However it happened, I have twice been grateful for it’s existence. Many people put Parque Guell lower on their list of sites to visit in this culturally rich and bustling Spanish city, where it often gets neglected and crossed off by a lack of time. This omission is a grave mistake, in my opinion. Parque Guell is unique in the truest sense of the word. It is a place where Antoni Gaudi, who was inspired and motivated by shapes and forms and even, I believe, the wonders of nature, expressed his joy in colorful, creative, powerful designs, patterns and mosaics. It is also a peaceful, relaxed, harmonious place.
Please do find your way back soon for part II of Glorious Parque Guell, along with more photos of this, one of my top favorite daytime places in all of Spain. (Flamenco clubs are an entirely different pull!)
If you liked this post, you may also like: Oh My Gaudi! Being Broadsided by Casa Batllo
All Photos by G. Stark