The Sunday porch: Barri Gòtic

Balconies in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, Spain, earlier this week.

The Quarter is the oldest part of Barcelona, with foundations in the Roman and medieval periods.  However, many of its current structures were built or significantly reconstructed in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its streets, however, remain narrow and winding, sometimes opening up to small squares.

We spent five days in the city, after almost two weeks in Toulouse, France. Toulouse is all about the 13th to 15th centuries, while Barcelona glories in the late 19th and the 20th, so it was an interesting shift after a three hour train ride. As tourists, our energy levels were winding down, however. We rode the hop-on hop-off bus (without hopping off) and toured Gaudi’s Basilica Sagrada Familia (reserve tickets in advance; it’s remarkable) and Casa Amatller (they give you good hot chocolate and bread at the end), and watched the red rose and book selling of Sant Jordi’s Day on April 23. But mainly we just walked around and soaked up the perfect spring weather.

We stayed at Hotel AC Irla (a Marriott affiliate) in an upscale section of the Eixample district with easy public bus connection to and from (the V11 and V13, respectively) the waterfront and the Gothic Quarter (buy a T10 ticket from a magazine/newspaper stand; it will give you 10 rides* for about one euro each).

My only food tip: if you tour Sagrada Familia on a Wednesday to Sunday, book the 11:30 a.m. time slot and then have lunch at Arepamundi, a small Venezuelan arepa place a couple blocks south of the basilica. Order the small size arepas so you can enjoy more than one filling (get the Venezulana and the one with shredded meat, beans, fresh cheese, and fried bananas). Barcelona brought back some memories of living in Caracas in the 80s.


*Validate it each time you enter a bus, subway, or tram. If two people are using the same card, punch it twice each time. If transferring within an hour and a half from subway to bus (or bus to bus), punch it, but it won’t count as a new trip.

The Sunday porch: Independence Ave.

Independence Ave., Washington, D.C. G. Parks, Library of CongressUpper porch of a house being torn down on Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., June 1942, by Gordon Parks for the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This picture is one of a series taken by Parks documenting the “demolition of private property along Independence Avenue opposite the Smithsonian Institution. . . to make way for government housing.”

Today the location is filled by some particularly unappealing government office buildings, built during the 1960s.

Up — or out? — here:
a problem of preposition,

my uneasy relation
with the world. Whether I’m

above it or apart. . . .

Jameson Fitzpatrick, from “Balcony Scene

The Sunday porch: iron lace

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: iron lace in New Orleans“A vista through iron lace, New Orleans,” ca. 1920-26, by Arnold Genthe, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This is a covered third floor balcony, and it has a wonderful view of the back of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter.

The 1836 house still stands* — wrought iron intact — at 716 Orleans Street. It is now light pink with dark green shutters and is known as the Le Pretre Mansion, for one of its first owners.

It was on the market as recently as this past April — for $2.65 million.  Here’s a 1937 photo of the entire house.

An exotic horror/ghost story goes with the mansion:

In the 19th century, a Turk, supposedly the brother of a sultan, arrived in New Orleans and rented the house. He was conspicuously wealthy, with an entourage of servants and beautiful young girls — all thought to have been stolen from the sultan.

Rumors quickly spread about the situation, even as the home became the scene of lavish high-society parties. One night screams came from inside; the next morning, neighbors entered to find the tenant and the young beauties lying dead in a pool of blood. The mystery remains unsolved. Local ghost experts say you can sometimes hear exotic music and piercing shrieks.

— “Walking Tour in New Orleans,” Frommer’s(.com)

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: iron lace in New OrleansThe view above, from the same balcony, looking northeast on Orleans Street, was photographed in 1936, by Richard Koch for a Historic American Buildings Survey, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: iron lace in New OrleansThis privacy panel along the second floor balcony of the service wing, overlooking the courtyard, is interesting too. Photo also by Richard Koch for HABS.