Wednesday, January 10, 2007

So you want to hear about Barcelona, eh?

I've been getting requests for a post on my trip to Barcelona. I'm not really sure why I haven't written about it yet. Perhaps because it wasn't the most typically touristy trip. Perhaps because I don't know if any story I can tell your or any of the pictures that I have can even begin to convey the feeling of the trip. But, because people are asking, I'm a tellin'!

Maria and I arrived in Barcelona on the afternoon of the 27th, checked into our centrally located pension, and hit the town. We headed to the nearby main drag, Las Ramblas (or La Rambla or Les Rambles . . . as you like). Las Ramblas is a busy street with a huge boulevard made for pedestrians. Along the way we stopped at a chic city market, where we saw both amazingly gorgeous fruit piles and very strange but also somehow striking candied fruits, both of which are shown below. One of the most notable factors of Las Ramblas is the abundance of pet store kiosks, but considering the strangeness of this phenomena, it'll get its own post in the near future. So we walked all the way down Las Ramblas, from the middle of the city to the Mediterranean, where we sat for a bit and pondered the greatness of the city.

Then we decided to give Maria's old friend Vincent a call. The two of them had met two years ago when Maria and Vincent were studying Spanish together in, of all places, Spain. Vincent now owns and runs a beautiful bar that goes by the name of Nakupenda which means "I love you" in Swahili. Vincent invited us to visit him at the bar right then and there and so the first of many evenings was spent in Nakupenda. When you're getting free drinks, it's hard to leave a bar in less than 4 hours . . .

Day two of our trip involved Gaudi and cooking. Barcelona is speckled with the distinct and stunning architecture of Antoni Gaudi (whose picture on Wikipedia is worth a look) and Maria and I spent most of our second day checking out the Sagrada Familia church, Casa Batlló, and the Park Güell. The next two pictures are of the two contrasting sides of the Sagrada Familia which was started in 1883 and is still deep in the midst of construction.

You can walk through the Sagrada Familia, even though the entire insides are under construction. Inside are large information boards about the many aspects of the church construction. Among the copious amounts of information about stones, I found this beautiful and thoughtful quotation from Gaudi.
Maria at Park Güell.

Barcelona and the Mediterranean from Park Güell.

This pictures brings us to the part in our second day which was most certainly occupied by cooking. Because our generous hosts had let us drink on the house the night before and because we were probably intoxicated at the time of negotiations, Maria and I had managed to commit ourselves to cooking dinner for Vincent and Eric. This is easier said than done. We were staying in a pension (a slightly more private version of a youth hostel) and had both limited ingredients (you know, no spices, no oils or vinegars . . .) and limited cooking tools. Nakupenda doesn't have a full kitchen. We tried to get out of cooking by arguing that we had no tuperware, but Vince whipped out two tuperware containers and our argument was defeated. So, with scant supplies and our outstanding cooking and problem-solving talents, Maria and I created a fantastic fajita dinner, which we managed to transport to Nakupenda (on the subway) in two tuperware conatainers (ok, it's true, I may have taken some guacamole in a mug in my purse . . . but I digress) and which was met with rave reviews. It was another late night at the bar . . .

Being the troopers that we are, Maria and I dragged our crapulent (horrid word) selves out of bed to go see La Virgin Negra, the black virgin. Here, Maria's blog entry on this part of our trip:

"Spain is sort of a funny place. On one hand you have the vibrant metropolitanism of Barcelona, where everyone looks way cooler than you could even imagine yourself looking. Fusion cuisine, avant-guard music and New Left social activism are norm. On the other hand, walking down the streets you will still see groups of young nuns coming out of dark doors, giggling among themselves. I felt like me and Claire's day at Montserrat summed up the sombre/moving side of what to me is Spain.

Montserrat, along with being the name of a neighbourhood where I briefly lived in Buenos Aires, is the name of a monestary nestled high in one of the oddest geological formations I have ever seen. It's on a mountain that looks nothing like the surrounding hills and more like someone inflated a deformed latex glove then put some trees on it. The monestary is the site of a famous icon: the black virgin of Catalunya. How they built it I haven't the foggiest - the mountain is so steep that we had to go up in a cable car. But once we were up we found ourselves in a little village that included an unbelievably grand cathdral. Inside were a number of wonders, from dozens of delicately welded light fixtures to the famous little lady herself. The black virgin is holding a globe in her right hand and the baby Jesus in the left. He is also holding a black mini-globe. I can't really explain why it's so potent but it is. I can understand why it's one of the top pilgrim destinations in Spain, a country of pilgrimages.

Claire and I were not in complete health when we went but we climbed up to the top of the mountain (slowly) anyway, where there was what I think were some monastic cells built right into the cliff side. There are times when architecture and geography merge in a harmonious way and coming down the hill with Claire at dusk, I felt like this must be one of them."

Here we see Maria in the cable car. Interpret this face as you will.


Me ascending the mountain, once again looking suspiciously similar to my toothbrush cover.

Outside of the cathedral where the black virgin is housed.

Inside the cathedral.

The Rest of the Trip

I don't actually have a lot of photos from the rest of the trip, probably because we weren't so much doing typical touristy things, but just walking around and enjoying the city. So here is a smattering of photos to show you just a few highlights of the end of our trip.

This is me angrily eating a chorizo sandwich (my last one) at Miro Park, which I thought would be a park in the traditional sense with trees and grass, maybe a flower or two, but which was actually just a slab of concrete with a phallic Miro sculpture

My new Dutch friends, Nicole and Roy, just after the strike of midnight on New Year's.

Maria's new slippers. The slipper on your left says: "Sometimes I think I have the worst job in the world" and the right one says "Yeah . . . right!".

So that was Barcelona. It may not look like much, but it's a hell of a city and Maria and I had quite a time there, quite a time indeed.

PS Does anyone know why the beginning of this post is 1.5 spaced and the rest is single-spaced?? It's driving me absolutely mad!


Maria said...

My blog is also giving me font trouble, but it's wise not to get angry at any Google subsidiary, at least not out loud. They can read minds and evaporate people with a click of a California-based mouse.

Despite being in the bag for most of it, I had a great time on our Barcelona trip. It would definitely a city worth going back to at some point, you know?

Rhiannon said...

wa wa waaaa...i can't see your pictures - what gives?!

Anonymous said...

What is the Gaudi quotation that you reference after the Sagrada Familia photos? Is it written in invisible ink?

Carlos said...
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Gabriel said...
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