Gaudí's Barcelona

After three trips to the Orange store on La Rambla Catalunya to get my Spanish SIM card up and running (I guess the saying really is true), I was desperate to see the city beyond the confines of my Airbnb host's apartment near Plaça Espanya and the touristy shopping area where pickpockets are known to thrive. So I headed to Plaça Reial and joined a free walking tour of Antoni Gaudí's most famous works. Once upon a time I did a presentation for Spanish class on the famous architect, but as I followed my guide around it became evident that all that knowledge had long since disappeared.

Here are five of the most interesting things - in no particular order - that I learned on the tour. And a few photos. (I took a lot more but upon closer inspection many of them turned out to be shit. Oh well, it happens).

1. Parc Güell was originally supposed to be a commune for the wealthy. But when it became apparent that the only people who actually wanted to live there were Gaudí, his patron Güell and one of their mutual friends the space was converted.

2. George Lucas once visited Barcelona and was quite inspired by Gaudí's work. In fact, rumor has it that the "masked" smokestack on top of Casa Milà provided inspiration for the look of Darth Vador and the Storm Troopers.

3. The architect created models upside down by using string and weights proportional to the actual building materials, then set up mirrors so he could draw the structure right-side up.

4. Towards the end of his life he became increasingly eccentric, refusing to buy new clothes or refurnish his apartment despite the healthy commissions he received. He died as a result of injuries sustained from being hit by a tram - the driver thought he was just a vagrant as did passersby, who didn't bother to help because no one recognized him as the famous architect. Gaudí was eventually taken to a hospital but by then it was too late, and he passed away shortly thereafter. His funeral was attended by thousands.

5. Gaudí designed the tiles paving the Passeig de Gracia. Inspired by the sea floor, they were supposed to be for the Casa Batlló, but when they weren't finished in time he donated the molds to the city council.