We were welcomed on our arrival in Barcelona by an encounter with the city's most flamboyant street 'Las Ramblas' which presented its vibrant canvas of explosive colour. Within its famous Boqueria Market a vast array of fruit, vegetables, fish, breads and textiles stalls also formed a rich canopy of alluringly bold hues, as if an inexhaustible artist's palette.
Having had our first experience of true Catalonian vitality we strolled along to the sea front and, with the crisp sea air blowing our hair into a frenzy, we made our first eagerly anticipated sketches at the pier. During our first evening, the lustrous sunlight bounced off the flawless glass façades of the buildings near Las Ramblas; lending an iridescence and serenity to the bustle of skateboarders and our art students.
Valentine's Day was filled with exploring Barcelona's intriguing architecture. In the morning we ventured to Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece La Sagrada Família; the church before us seemed impossibly large. One side of the building displays clean cut slabs of stone, whilst the other exhibits a juxtaposition in style, bearing a resemblance to the texture of cascading lava. This remarkable contrast in design exists as the Basilica has been under construction since 1882 and is still ongoing.
La Padrera, or The Quarry, gave us our second opportunity to experience Antoni Gaudí's innovative designs. The main thrill of this residential building was the undulating roof terrace that offered a variety of captivating sculptural chimney stacks and an incomparable view of the streets below. A visit to the Fundació Antoni Tàpies had also been organised for the end of the day, to view and sketch the Catalonian artist's paintings and finely crafted drawings.
We took a coach trip to Figueres the next morning, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, to his extraordinarily imposing building the Teatre-Museu Dalí. Its scarlet exterior was typical of the surrealist painters eccentricities. The interior equally exhibits an eclectic mix; ethereal drawings, inspirationally audacious paintings and sculpture similarly display his absolute flamboyance.
The picturesque town of Girona was investigated on our way back to Barcelona, where the boundless stretch of river remained so still that it formed almost perfect reflections. Only a slight glimmering quiver on the water's surface set it apart from a mastered watercolour, inviting us to sketch; the hues of the buildings being of warm fiery tones, yet appearing mellow in the afternoon sun. After trying to capture the last moments of the illuminated waterfront through determined sketching, we found our way to the heart of the town, where ice-cream and sweet shops were numerous and so headed home full on delicious and exotic flavours.
We embarked on a Ghost Hunt after dark, through the lamp-lit streets of Barcelona. Historical tales were told by an eccentric ghost hunt guide with great vigour and left everyone appropriately spooked and beguiled.
Our fourth day commenced by touring Parc Güell, through the carefully rendered stone edifices and colourful mosaic sculptures. The wondrous park created by Gaudí embodies both organic and artistically vivacious elements. Colossal columns and arches constructed from a mass of fragmented rock held up the vast terrace and were popular subjects for drawing for their deep, shadowed grooves. Gaudi's house, now a museum and his distinguished lizard sculpture were also memorable features, as was the incessant sunshine.
In the afternoon, after a leisurely lunch, we headed to our next destination. Within the Museu Picasso situated amongst the beautiful Gothic Quarter, we spent a couple of hours drawing, before being treated to an evening performance of Flamenco dancing and Spanish music. The expressive, yet precise movements and hypnotic velvety tones from the singer, fused with beautiful Spanish guitar notes and the rhythmic clacking of heels, created an ambience that was unforgettable.
The Funicular railway led us through the hill of Montjuic on our last day, from which we could see all corners of the city. We walked a short while to the Fundació Joan Miró where an extensive collection of his art, in an impressive, open-plan Mediterranean gallery is housed. Its vast stone walls and Rationalist architecture hold an extensive exhibition space for Miro's work to appear appropriately eye-catching. Being our ultimate gallery visit within the art trip, our final group photos were taken on the roof terrace amongst the Miró sculptures, before heading back to the hotel to pack.
Our sketchbooks, were full with copious drawings, souvenirs and observations reflecting and celebrating this sensational city. Finally, thank you to Mr Parnham for organising such a superb trip and also to Miss Broughton, Miss Haines and Mr Hawkins who provided such good company.
Emily Taplin (MO L6)