in Catalonia Country
Pros : Fabulous
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
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.