An art history education is a slippery slope. With children, you never know if they will grow to hate something because you overdid it when they were young or if you are fostering a passion that will grow. A trip to Europe has the potential to do either of these.
Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia, the northeastern region of Spain, is a great place to start. Fueled by the independent nature of the region and it's the close proximity to more modern French thinking, Barcelona cultivated some of the most fabulous, forward-thinking modern artists. In addition, the city has idolized these men, creating lasting monuments, beautiful museums and celebrating their successes with pride.
Home to two "single artist" museums, Barcelona supports the Museo Picasso and Fundacion Miro.
In a totally different setting, a cable car ride across the beautiful harbor and a short walk along a wooded road surrounded by public park space, is the Fundacion Miro. Joan Miro, born in Barcelona into the family of a goldsmith and watchmaker in 1893, began drawing at 7 years old. He studied art at the academy La Escuela de la Lonja in Barcelona and found a small group, "Agrupacio Courbet" that was interested in charting new territory with Catalan art. For the next 50 years he progresses from realism through surrealism to the point of abstraction where everything realistic disappears and the forms, shapes and colors take on more meaning. In this modern museum made of large windows, white walls and modern staircases, Miro's art takes shape and begins to move. It is easy to become a fan of abstract art with the wonderful audioguides to lead you through the process.
In addition to wonderfully curated museums, there are works of art scattered throughout the city. Parc Guell, a wonderful outdoor park full of sculptures and modernist architecture was designed by Antonio Gaudi. Originally designed to be one of the first "suburbs" of Barcelona, the project failed since no one was willing to move that far out of the city in the early 1900's. However, throughout the park you can see Gaudi's creative hand at work. Beautiful mosaic tiles line the great staircase entrance which at first glance reminds one of the ribs of a great fish. The longest bench in the world wraps its way around the large plaza area overlooking the Mediterranean. And Gaudi's hand shaped many areas of Barcelona.
No matter where you go in Barcelona, you are surrounded by the energetic art history. This is not the stuffy art from the classical wing of the Louvre but art in motion, colors that jump off the canvas, buildings that seem to talk to you with their playful designs. It's easy to appreciate.
At the end of the day, a nice break is to sit in an outdoor cafe, with a glass of red wine and enjoy some tapas and people watch. I will add an article with tapas recipes but for now. Know that many Spaniards enjoy a few green olives, some small dill pickles, and some slices of bread and cheese suffice. If children are with them, patatas bravas, russet potatoes cut into thin shoestring slices, fried(but not greasy) with a spicy mayonaisse(maybe add chili powder, fresh garlic and salt?) are a good addition. More importantly, SIT DOWN with family and friends and TALK about your day- OUTSIDE if possible.