936 Chapters
Medium 9781628870046

1. THE BEST OF MADRID & BARCELONA

Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

1

THE BEST OF MADRID & BARCELONA

Madrid and Barcelona are the yin and yang of Iberian identity. Madrid sits on an arid high plateau in the center of the peninsula, while Barcelona clings to the Mediterranean shore. The two metropolises are great rivals in politics, sports, culture, and even language. This book brings them together to highlight two different—and equally fascinating—faces of Spain. For a trip that you will never forget, plan on seeing them both.

Although Madrid is paradoxically one of the youngest cities in Spain, it represents the culmination of the sweep of Spanish history. Felipe II moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid in 1561 just as the Spanish empire came into its own. Even today, Madrid remains the imperial heart of Spain, with the monumental architecture, royal palace, and regal art collection to prove it.

Barcelona, by contrast, is an ancient city with a mythic past. Founded by Romans, it has been a crossroads of Mediterranean cultures for 2,000 years. It rose to grandeur in the Middle Ages under the banner of the great warrior king Jaume I and became the capital of a far-flung Mediterranean empire. Nearly 8 centuries later, Barcelona’s pride in its independent Catalan heritage and language remains undiminished.

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Medium 9781628870046

3. MADRID & BARCELONA IN CONTEXT

Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

3

MADRID & BARCELONA IN CONTEXT

Different as they are, Madrid and Barcelona are both products of a land that the rest of Europe once considered beyond the pale. One of the few things that the French and English used to agree on was that “Europe ends at the Pyrenees.” In a sense, they were right, for the mountains kept Spain in splendid isolation, where it developed on its own path. It developed customs, art, architecture, and even cuisine that owed as much to Arabic North Africa as to its onetime sister provinces of the Roman Empire. Consequently, Spain does not look like, sound like, or even taste like the rest of Europe. Nowhere else is quite as rich, or quite as demanding. When you go to Spain, you must surrender to Spain.

You must accept the rhythms of daily life—so unlike the rest of Europe—and think nothing of going to dinner after 10pm and then closing down the flamenco bar after the 3am final set. You must spend the evening in a seafront promenade, walking and talking and nodding at the other walkers and talkers. You must not be bashful about elbowing your way to the bar, pointing at the tapas to order, and having your fill. For that matter, you must resolve to eat something new every day that you would otherwise spurn: blood sausage, roast suckling pig, squid in their own ink. In many places, shops and museums close in the heat of the afternoon, and you must be patient and while away the hours with lunch in a cool, shady courtyard. Do all that, and you will be ready for everything Spain will throw at you.

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Medium 9781628870725

1 THE BEST OF BARCELONA & MADRID

Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

1

The Best of Barcelona & Madrid

Madrid and Barcelona are the yin and yang of Iberian identity. Madrid sits on an arid high plateau in the center of the peninsula, while Barcelona clings to the Mediterranean shore. The two metropolises are great rivals in politics, sports, culture, and even language. This book brings them together to highlight two different—and equally fascinating—faces of Spain. For a trip that you will never forget, plan on seeing them both.

Although Madrid is paradoxically one of the youngest cities in Spain, it represents the culmination of the sweep of Spanish history. Felipe II moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid in 1561 just as the Spanish empire came into its own. Even today, Madrid remains the imperial heart of Spain, with the monumental architecture, royal palace, and regal art collection to prove it.

Barcelona, by contrast, is an ancient city with a mythic past. Founded by Romans, it has been a crossroads of Mediterranean cultures for 2,000 years. It rose to grandeur in the Middle Ages under the banner of the great warrior king Jaume I and became the capital of a far-flung Mediterranean empire. Nearly 8 centuries later, Barcelona’s pride in its independent Catalan heritage and language remains undiminished.

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Medium 9781628871487

4 MADRID

Harris, Patricia FrommerMedia ePub

The cafes of Plaza Mayor.

You’ll never forget your first sight of Plaza Mayor. As you emerge from a shady stone portico into a vast sun-struck plaza, you are greeted by a very large and very royal equestrian statue of Felipe III. Surrounded by three-story buildings, Plaza Mayor seems the grandest imaginable stage set, where more than 200 balconies become regal box seats on the scene below. The perimeter is marked with the umbrellas of cafe tables that lure people to while away the afternoon over cold beers or strong coffees. Children race back and forth across the paving stones, flushing pigeons into flight. Travelers with backpacks lean against the plinth of the equestrian monument, eating ice cream. Plaza Mayor may be important—just look at its name, the Major Square—but more than that, it is alive.

It is Madrid in a nutshell. Spain’s capital is at once real (“ray-AL,” as the Spanish say “royal”) and real (as English speakers put it). Families row on the lake in Parque del Retiro where kings once staged mock naval battles. When football club Real Madrid wins a cup or league title, the players wrap their team scarves around the elegant Cibeles fountain. People recline in the grass on the green center strips of the paseos, the boulevards built to the king’s order. Dog-walkers with packs of canines strut past some of the greatest museums in the world. Tapas-hoppers make the rounds of bars beneath the sculpted visages of Spain’s great playwrights. And, yes, Felipe III continues to ignore the backpackers eating ice cream beneath him.

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Medium 9781628871326

2 The Best Special-Interest Tours: Modernista Barcelona, Ciutat Vella-Ancient Barcelona, Barcelona for Modern Art Lovers, Design and Architecture, Gourmet Barcelona, Barcelona for Kids

Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

The chimneys of La Pedrera.Modernista BarcelonaBarcelona is renowned for the wildly original modernisme, or Catalan Art Nouveau, style of architecture that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Best known are the stunning works of Antoni Gaudí, but so many talented architects left their mark on Barcelona that it’s a big task even to do a greatest hits tour in a single day. START: Metro to Lessep, then a taxi or 15-min. walk uphill to Parc Güell, the first stop on the itinerary. Parc Güell. In 1900 Gaudí’s lifelong patron, the Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell, envisioned a real-estate development in a garden setting. Although never completed, the project bears Gaudí’s visionary stamp and reflects the naturalism beginning to flower in his work. The architect set out to design every detail in the park, but much of the work was in fact completed by a disciple, Josep María Jujol, best known for the park’s colorful splashes of trencadis (designs of broken shards of ceramics). Yet the unique man-made landscape is all Gaudí. At the main entrance are fairy-tale-like gatehouses topped with chimneys resembling wild mushrooms. The covered marketplace, with an extraordinary tiled lizard fountain at the entrance, is supported by 86 Doric columns (not the 100 planned). But most famous are those sinuous, mosaic-covered benches that trace the perimeter of the plaza above.  45 min. See p 54,

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