Saturday, May 10, 2008

Barca! Barca! Barca!

We left Quentar knowing that all was well with Citi Riti and Efendi and that our friend Sean was meeting us in Barcelona the next day. After a short flight on the hippest airline (Vueling) we have ever seen, and a short metro to the Gothic quarter we moved into the first hostel of our stay. The hostel was perfectly located in the middle of many of the main sights and was housed in a fantastic old Gothic building. The downside? The room which was to house Kristi, Sean and I had just enough room to pull off the feat. The placing of a third mattress in the room effectively rendered such features as the door and window inoperable. No big deal, who needs to open the door?

Sean was due the day after we arrived, so we spent the afternoon getting to know our hood and, for me, remembering why Barcelona is one of my favorite cities. It has all of their architectural highlights, museums and people that make a city enjoyable. Plus, it is the home of my ultimate comfort food: the tortilla bocadilla. Apart from being an annoyingly fun rhyme, the combination of a potato and egg omelet and a baguette is unhealthy heaven.

Day two we set out to meet Sean at the metro station and get on with walking the city streets. Mistake one, we did not write down which metro stop it was. Mistake two, we only staked out one of the two closest metros. The upstart was that we stood on Las Ramblas for two hours while a jet lagged Sean stood at Jaume One for two hours. Not an auspicious beginning. After collecting him and apologizing profusely, we set off for a wander around Guell Park, one of the many Gaudi imprinted landmarks that dot the city. Apart from affording a panoramic view of the city, the terraced park is replete with the amorphous shapes and intricate mosaics that make Gaudi´s architecture so recognizable. Caves are turned into strange cathedrals and benches are turned to psychedelic tile canvases. Perhaps a good way to introduce Sean, who hadn´t slept in 40-odd hours to Barcelona.

The next few days flew by in an enjoyable slew of sights, funny conversations, an unfortunate allergic reaction for Sean and a punishing cold for me. After a few days we moved to our new hostel that lacked the ambiance of the first place but had the advantage of beds that allowed us to move about. Plus free mints! Highlights of the next few days included wandering for hours through side streets looking for food, going to Sagrada Familia, seeing some mediocre flamenco dinner theatre and not seeing some wierd fusion flamenco at an upscale bar, being called a little girl by a drunk Spanish/Greek/Italian kid when I refused to take part in a game of footie, having drinks at a bar called the Manchester that played an upbeat combo of The Smiths and Joy Division, and spending a few hours staring at the Mediterranean.

After a few days, we sadly had to bid Sean adieu and soldier on without him. The combination of my cold and the utter joy of Barcelona led us to change our plans. Rather than hop yet another bus to Bilbao and feel like we were moving too fast, we decided to wander the city some more. After a morning of recovering and Kristi going to the Picasso museum, we decided to make a pilgrimage to Montserrat. Montserrat is a 19th Century monastery on a set of hills on the outskirts of Barcelona. The hills are a wonderful combination of sandstone forms and dense forest that allowed us to hike around for a few hours prior to visiting the monastery proper. Atop one of the hills sits a small chapel and about 500 meters away a hermit´s hut. Perhaps a well paved and traveled path isn´t the best place for a hermit to construct their hut, but who am I to say?

We finished off the day by visiting the basilica that is the spiritual home of the Catalan people (as well as supporters of Barcelona Football club). Seeing the Catalan flag flying over the basilica and the names of many civil war veterans (sweet anarchists) was quite cool. The church itself is a massive structure with soaring stained glass. Perhaps the highlight of the space is the Black Virgin that looks out over the alter. A short climb up the back stairs brought us to the Virgin where many people were praying while touching the globe in Mary´s hand. Do I sense some paganism? Hmm. Finally, we took a brief detour to see a small room where people have left all sorts of objects related to the miracles that the Virgin has visited upon them. Everything from beat up motorcycle helmets, baby pictures, wedding dresses and packs of (empty) cigarettes are piled along the walls of the alcove.

After a week in Barcelona, it was hard to say goodbye to a city that rivals only Tokyo in the Sophisticated Alpaca´s heart. But Madrid, and South America are calling. Until next time...


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this blog entry is #1, two thumbs up, was not written by las nin(~)as