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While Nella did some last-minute shopping in the Old Town area, I returned to our hotel on La Rambla to drop off the
chocolate we’d purchased, and then continued down La Rambla toward the harbor. On the way I took a slight detour to
check out a building called Palau Güell.
Palau Güell was built in the 1880’s for an industrialist named Eusebi Güell by Antoni Gaudí. This would place the Palau’s
construction before Gaudí’s works along the Passeig de Gràcia, but after the beginning of his work on the Sagrada
Família. The building was home to members of the Güell family until 1945, when it was sold to the provincial government
of Barcelona. The inside of the house is filled with many of Gaudí’s strikingly original decorative elements, at least
according to the Internet. I wasn’t able to verify this personally, as the building was undergoing restoration as I
walked past it, and was not accessible to the public. Apparently the work has since been finished, and information on
visiting the house can be found at its official website.
But the building wasn’t entirely covered with scaffolding, and I was able to see some interesting ironwork, as well as
some distinctive chimneys.
I resumed my walk down La Rambla, eventually reaching its foot where it meets the harbor. At this point, in the middle
of the street, is the 197-foot-tall Columbus Monument, built in 1888 as part of the Barcelona Universal Exposition, to
commemorate the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. Apparently King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were in Barcelona
when Columbus reported to them following his return. The monument consists of an elaborate base which is covered with
symbols and renderings of people and events, atop which is a tall Corinthian column that holds up a 24-foot-tall statue
of Columbus pointing out to sea.
There has been some question as to exactly what Columbus is pointing at, and none of the literal answers are very
satisfactory. It would make sense to point west, as this is where the New World was, or maybe east, as this is
where Columbus thought he was going. But instead he seems to be pointing a bit east of due south, roughly in the
direction of Algeria. There isn’t any record of Columbus visiting Algeria, or of having any particular interest
in going there, so the simple answer to the question is probably that Columbus is pointing "out to sea", an homage
to his naval expertise. Or maybe someone just spun the statue, and this is how it ended up.
There are some interesting old buildings in the vicinity of the monument, including a Customs House and
the Old Port Authority Building.
After passing the Columbus Monument and the waterfront buildings, La Rambla continues out into the water itself, along a
walkway called Rambla de Mar, which connects La Rambla with the Maremàgnum shopping mall. The Rambla de Mar appears to
block egress to a substantial population of personal watercraft which are parked in Port Vell, but there is a segment of
the walkway that can swing open to allow boats to get out.
At the end of the Rambla de Mar is the Maremagnum mall, with an
open area in front of it where people can sit and watch the world go by.
I visited the mall and didn’t see anything particularly striking about it. It seemed to be a pretty basic mall, with
mostly typical shops and some restaurants, but no food court. There are an IMAX theater and a large aquarium nearby,
but I didn’t really have time for either.
I retraced my steps to La Rambla, but this time took a detour to a square called Plaça Reial, located almost directly
on the other side of La Rambla from the Palau Güell. The Plaça Reial was built in the 1850’s and has lampposts that
were designed later by Gaudí. It is very popular at night, as there are several restaurants and nightclubs located
there. I was there during the day. There were some people there, but it wasn’t especially crowded. It was a pleasant
place to spend a few minutes.
After my few minutes I continued up La Rambla to the hotel. Nella arrived a few minutes later, carrying some new
acquisitions. We rested awhile and then started packing. We wouldn’t have much time for packing the following
morning, as we had an early flight. We took a break for dinner at a Chinese restaurant just off La Rambla, did
some more packing, watched some TV and made an early night of it. The next day promised to be eventful, as we
would be switching back to our usual continent. But it seemed as if it would be simple enough, with a short
layover in London, followed by a non-stop back to LAX. What could possibly go wrong?
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