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Last updated : Nov 2009
Adventures in Catalonia Country
Rating : (4.9) (118 Votes)

Pros : Fabulous Tapas!
Cons: none

Barcelona, Spain
June 28, 2004

Barcelona is a fabulous city; I love Antoni Gaudi´s architecture, and I was really excited to show all of his creations to Phil, a tepid appreciator of mosaics at best. After meeting up with Libby (insert shrieks of excitement), we wandered randomly around the city, killing time before our true adventure of the evening: underwater hockey. Some friends of friends of Libby´s live in Barcelona (with fabulous views of the Sagrada Familia from their terrace! to be read with envious tone), and Jordi and Laia, an unfairly gorgeous brother and sister duo, invited us to join their team for a practice session. It´s really hard: you have to hold your breath while whacking a puck along the bottom of the pool and trying not to get hit in the face with someone else´s fins. It is not my sport (but I am still searching...maybe something that involves noodles), but Jordi and Laia´s teammates are extremely gracious, and forgiving, people. Phil´s travelog discusses the rules and other specific bits; I spent less time listening than trying to keep Laia´s suit from riding up to my tonsils. She´s quite a bit more petite...

Over the next few days, we did some of the "Gaudi route": visited the Sagrada Familia (Gaudi´s cathedral masterpiece, begun in 1883 and expected to be completed in 2041, kind of like the I-94 construction...), the Park Guell with it´s amazing wavy mosaic benches and gnome-houses, and Casa Batllo (beautiful beautiful beautiful! wait until I post the photos!!!). Gaudi has been described as ground-breaking, creative, genius. Don´t forget absent-minded: he died after walking into the path of a tram in 1926. Phil was impressed, but isn´t convinced enough to mosaic tile the exterior of our house, or put a giant sculpture of Christ on the cross on a Gothic basilica in the front lawn. Maybe another visit...

We spent a whole afternoon with two of the Spaniards we kept stalk... I mean ¨running into¨ in Vietnam. Sonia and Enric took us on a Barcelona walking tour, complete with a fabulous tapas lunch. It happened to coincide with the Day of Music put on by the city for summer solstice; since it was our one year anniversary (confetti! applause! gifts!), we convinced ourselves that this was the city´s way of saying congratulations, by providing randomly placed musicians around the neighborhoods of Barcelona to serenade us. The next day, we took the train to Monserrat, a mountain famous for a collection of ancient hermitages cut into the mountainside, and a sculpture known as the Black Virgin.

Sonia collected us at 5 pm and drove us to her unreally picturesque village, where we met her brother and sister-in-law and got a tour of their intensely cool several-hundred-year-old stone house. They were in the process of jack-hammering out the old kitchen floor so that someone taller than 5 feet could go in without suffering a closed head injury. A jack-hammer for house remodeling! They sure don´t make houses like they used to.

We traveled a little farther west for the Day of St Joan, which as far as I can tell is a Catalonian holiday expressly for the chance to bonfire huge amounts of flammable materials in a public space. More large group festivities should involve fire, in my opinion. Sonia´s sister-in-law´s sister (stay with me here) works for a museum dedicated mainly to glassware and wine making, and we were invited to a dinner party in the museum, which is a cool venue by any standards, but even cooler because we got to see a 200 year old mummified cat that isn´t part of the regular exhibits. It was scary, but I am telling myself it was a learning experience; that is what happens when a cat gets stuck in an attic for a really really long time, so I don´t have to experiment with that myself. We didn´t get to set anything on fire, but we did see the town´s fireworks from the courtyard of the museum, and the curator took us on a somewhat tipsy hands-on private tour of the museum´s glass exhibits, which made the less-tipsy assistant curator a wee bit nervous. We did get to extinguish some fire: Sonia had bought a "1" candle to light atop a St Joan´s Day pastry, in honor of our anniversary. We have been so incredibly spoiled by the wonderful people we´ve met!

The last day with Sonia, she drove us to Figueres to see the Dali museum. The man was an amazing artist, but I sure wouldn´t have trusted him to babysit my kids without warping them in a profound and need-lots-of-therapy way. Some of his stuff is incredibly twisted; some is just odd. For example, he seemed to have an obsession with wearing bread as hats, especially ludicrously long baguettes that wouldn´t fit through a doorway, and he made a hologram of Alice Cooper with an exposed brain. This seems somewhat optimistic considering Mr Cooper's years of reputed drug use; maybe it would be more realistic if Alice had nothing BUT a couple of stale bread rolls in his skull. The Dali museum also contains art by a Catalonian artist, Antoni Pixtot, who painted figures, mostly female, made of stones. We all really liked Pixtot´s paintings, and Libby bought a lithograph of her favorite. I wanted one, but Phil has prohibited the purchasing of any more posters since my buying spree in Rhodos. Wait until we get home and he is faced with the prospect of acres of bare wall space! Then he´ll be wishing for those posters, let me tell you (ignoring snorts of poorly suppressed laughter heard as Phil reads this over my shoulder)...

Keeping ahead of the threatening rain (this being Dali-ville, it might rain cats and dogs wearing hamburger buns), we headed to Girona to spend the night. Most of the shops were closed, it being St Joan´s Day, but there were some very cool arty-boutiquey places for longingly window-shopping. Libby pronounced the town as "hopelessly bougie", but we still caved to the capitalist beast and ate terrifically over-priced ice cream. Sigh...we are weak. Weak!

Back to Barcelona, but without much drive to do anything but eat late breakfasts on our terrace and wander the streets around La Rambla discussing the difference between the categories "prison tattoo" and "regret tattoo" (conclusion: it´s a prison tattoo if it is tackily done but still displayed proudly). Libby was meant to fly back to Madrid, but missed her plane´s boarding by 5 minutes (damn those stand-by vultures!) and had to hang around a few hours to catch a night bus there. I assured her that it really would be funny, in a few days. Just like the "stolen" bike in Vietnam is almost funny. Almost.