For thousands of years Spain has been a cultural hotbed in Europe. Its cities, villages, architecture span centuries – offering a glimpse into past, present, future eras. Location Manager Joni Coyote had an opportunity to tour the northeastern part of this fascinating country, Catalonia, and shares her photographs and insights with us.
My sister Elizabeth and I are both avid hikers and one of our childhood dreams was to hike in the Pyrenees. We decided to begin our journey in Barcelona, a favorite haunt of Hemingway’s and the city where Picasso spent his formative years.
Barcelona was flush with EU investments at the time. I was struck with how contemporary the city felt but at the same time ancient. One moment glass & steel construction and then with a turn – medieval days of narrow cobblestone streets barely wide enough to fit a horse and cart.
I’ve always been a big fan of modernist architect Antonio Gaudi so to see his work in person was a special experience. I was struck by his audacity, his daring to stand apart. Seven of his masterpieces were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. One of which is Casa Batllo.
Gaudi was commissioned to redesign the Batllo family residence that overlooks Passeig de Gracia. Some of the characteristics of his style can be seen in my photos of the ceramic tiles, glass panes, wrought-iron and carved wood. The building is crowned with a spectacular roof which, being composed of large scales, looks like a dragon’s back.
Renting a Citroen we began our journey to the Pyrenees for several days of hiking. As we drove north I sighted some stone structures perched high above our road and decided to check it out, only to discover a little hamlet and not one soul around. In fact, there was no evidence that anything motorized other than a farmer’s tractor had ever passed down the tiny cobbled-stoned passage way, hardly qualifying as a street. Walking among the few stone buildings we searched for clues to the fate of the villagers. Later that day we drove to Andorra, a little country situated in a valley between France and Spain, where we stayed the night before heading into the Pyrenees.
Driving out of Andorra early the next morning we came upon a man selling mushrooms from the back of his pick-up. I purchased an entire flat of the the unusual mushrooms. Upon checking in at Hotel Saurat in Espot, the main portal to the central Pyrenees, I offered to share our bounty with the owner of the hotel. Not knowing that he was also the chef, he accepted my offer and much to our surprise, prepared and served the delicacy with our dinner that evening.
After a hearty breakfast, we doned out hiking boots and headed for our long-awaited hike in the Pyrenees. As we began our ascent we were graced with a beautiful cool mist and the occasional views of the magnificent spires peaking out from the clouds.
We ended our adventure in the futuristic landscape of Frank Gehry. Frank Gehry designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao which we visited, and he also designed a wine hotel in the heart of the Rioja wine region, about 80 miles from Bilbao. The hotel, the Marqués de Riscal, is set at a 150-year-old winery, and some of Gehry’s touches are evident in the roof — constructed from curved plates of titanium suspended at different angles and tinted rose, silver and gold — symbolizing a grapevine just before the fruit is harvested.
Spain is truly a portal to the present, past, and future, all within a couple hours drive.
Joni Coyote is a commercial and print location scout based out of Pasadena, CA.