Tag Archives: Europe

A Stroll Down Memory Lane: Barcelona 1954

13 Sep

Marie’s Europe Trip Photo Album

It’s a great day!  I found out today (3 months later- hello Spanish efficiency) that I passed the DELE Spanish certification exam I took right before moving home.  I have that excited, happy feeling in my chest I get when I think about Spain and how grateful I am for the six years of my life I spent there.  It’s the same feeling I get when I am blessed with having a dream in Spanish, which is happening much less often nowadays.  Or when I hear people having a conversation in Spanish and weirdly get a sense of being home.  I have to say that one of the best parts of moving back to Boston has been people’s excitement over sharing their European memories with me.  Many people have taken me for a stroll down their memory lanes as they reminisce about their own European travels.  Some people I’ve spoken to have visited recently and we’ve compared notes on different bars, restaurants or neighbourhoods we visited in different cities.  But some of the most interesting conversations have been with people telling me about their trips at a time when many of the places I’m familiar with were very different.  A college professor I randomly struck up a conversation with in a Dunkin Donuts (don’t judge me- I’m unemployed and a little lonely) was telling me about two seperate trips to Rome, one of his favourite European cities.  He first went in the early 1970s before the Sistine Chapel had been restored and then visited again in the early 2000s after the restoration.  He said it was incredible how much more vibrant all the colours were, but felt very lucky to have been able to have two distinct experiences with one of the world’s most breathtaking works of art.

Marie’s plane
notice the simple chain link fence for security

One of my mother’s coworkers, Marie Antoinette from Québec, was kind enough to share her photo album from her 1954 trip to Europe.  It had been sitting on a shelf for years and it was so exciting to be able to turn through the crisp, browning pages and look at the black and white photos.  Marie travelled around France, Belgium, Monaco, and Spain, but the photos of Barcelona were unsurprisingly the most captivating for me.  There were photos of many of the plazas and streets that I had walked through during the time that I called Barcelona home.

Barcelona is a city full of history and some of the changes that took place in modern times are incredibly intriguing.  Barcelona had what you could call a renaissance in 1992, when the city was revitalized for the summer Olympic games.  Catalans speak of 1992 as if it were the birth of Christ, with events happening either before or after one of the most important years in recent Barcelona history.  It’s always incredible to imagine that many of the beaches from Port Olympico on did not exist and that that part of the coast used to be inhabited by gypsies.  The photos from Marie’s album takes us back even further.  Enjoy!

 (click on photos to enlarge)

Marie walking the streets of Madrid in 1954

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The center of the city and the top of the main tourist street La Rambla,  Plaça Catlunaya has been the spot for many a Barça football celebration, occupied by protesters months before anyone thought to occupy wall street (with protestors making themselves at home by making tree houses and vegetable gardens in the square), and always overrun by tourists, many of whom strangely put birdseed on their children’s outstretched arms so that they are covered in pigeons for one of the strangest photo opps I’ve ever seen.

Plaça Catalunya 1954

Plaça Catalunya today

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Catalan Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpiece has been under construction since 1882, Gaudí coming onto the project a year later.  He combines Gothic and Art Nouveau styles to create this melting sandcastle rising up above the buildings of Barcelona.  My friends and I have made a pact to have a Barcelona reunion when the Sagrada Familia is finally finished, though it’s unclear if that will even happen during our lifetime.

La Sagrada Familia 1954

La Sagrada Familia today

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At the foot of Montjuic, Plaça Espanya brings together some of Barcelona’s most major streets. It’s the spot of the Magic Fountains and finishes out one of my favourite festivals, La Mercé, with one of the most incredible firework shows I have ever seen.  This will be my first year missing the show so my Barcelona friends better put up lots of photos!

Plaça Espanya 1954

Plaça Espanya today

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Parc Ciutadella is the biggest and most popular park in Barcelona.  Full of lots of green space, the zoo, musicians, circus performers (picture people walking on stilts, juggling, etc.), and people doing capoeira, Parc Ciutadella is the perfect place to welcome Spring and lie around on lazy summer evenings.

Fountain in Parc Ciutadella

Fountain in Parc Ciutadella today

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My old neighbourhood!  I lived off of Plaça Universitat my second year in Barcelona with my two friends Annie and Angela for one of my best years in Spain.  Close to the center, it gets its name from the Universitat de Barcelona whose main campus is at the plaza.  The starting point for many a student protest and one of the most popular locations for skateboarders, Plaça Universitat is always lively.

Plaça de la Universitat 1954

Plaça de la Universitat today

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Mount Tibidabo has some great hiking, the oldest amusement park in Barcelona, and a church topped with a grandiose statue of Jesus overlooking the city with outstretched arms.

view from Mount Tibidabo 1954

view from Mount Tibidabo today

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The triumphal arch of Barcelona, Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona.  It’s interesting to see a tram driving past in the older photo, since there aren’t any tram tracks there today.

Arc de Triomf 1954

Arc de Triomf today

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The Christopher Columbus statue (Catalan: Colom, Spanish: Colón) is located at the end of La Rambla and the site where Columbus returned to Spain after his first voyage to the Americas.  It is supposed to depict Columbus pointing toward the new world, but he’s actually pointing South-Southeast toward Algeria.  Oops.  There is a small elevator that takes tourists to the top, but be careful- right before I left Barcelona a group of tourists got stuck at the top and had to be rescued by a crane.  Fun times.

Monument a Colom 1954
(Columbus Monument)

Monument a Colom today
(Columbus Monument)

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With starkly different opinions from Spaniards of many other areas of Spain, many Catalans are morally opposed to bullfighting.  It was recently banned in Catalunya.  I have to say, I never made it to a bullfight, based mainly on many people’s reports that seeing the way the bulls were treated made them sick to their stomachs.  I do understand the history and cultural significance of the tradition, however, and the beauty of these postcards from 1954 is undeniable.

A ticket to the bullfights in Toledo

postcards from the bullfight

more postcards with Marie’s notes in French

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Marie in costume in Madrid

Thank you Marie for sharing your photo memories.

Bonus Check out this video of Barcelona taken from a tram in 1908.

YouTube: Barcelona Tram Ride 1908

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