October 21, 2006

Barcelona Stories chapter 4

Barcelona by Day

Because there is no morning in Barcelona. It just doesn’t exist there.

Our first day was pretty much dedicated to the robbery and waiting for Jenn to arrive. Not much story there, but the following day we decided to walk the length of Barcelona to get an overview of the city. Joe wisely decided it would be the responsible thing to do for us since he and Mark were leaving us alone in a few days and promptly took us down to the waterfront. Officially it’s called Port Olimpic, which is what they built for the Olympics and is now a rather sparsely populated area of town on the water. Sparsely, because it smelled very strongly of over turned Port-a-loos. And we were downwind. We wandered a bit hoping to get past the stench but it just never left us so we abandoned a waters edge stroll for greener pastures. And then Mark got into a gang war with a little girl. Apparently that mini trampoline was her turf and Mark had invaded. Clearly it wasn’t the part of town for us to be in so we left and went to the Ritz for drinks. No seriously. The Hotel de Arts, owned by the Ritz Carleton, is the site of a great fish sculpture and the home of Pedro, tequila, and very large bar bills. We spent the remainder of the day swapping stories of love/relationships/sex (no, I’m not going to share them with you), marvelling about how much the drinks cost, and eating olives with potato chips until we ran everyone out. Well, perhaps they just had be elsewhere that afternoon. It couldn’t have been the fact that we were laughing loudly, taking photos, and trying to get the very hot Argentinean waiter to come dancing with us. Nope, couldn’t possibly have been that. Mark and Joe had martinis, Jenn had her first cava, and I taught them how to make a sangria swirl margarita, a Texas speciality that I’ve not been able to partake in since leaving Texas. I miss tequila. I miss margaritas. Where was I? Oh, right, getting kicked out of the Ritz at 7:30pm. It’s a nice hotel, but it’s a great poolside bar. Ask for Pablo.

After the boys left, Jenn and I were worn out so we decided to hit the beach for the afternoon. That was a great call I have to say, in spite of the beach being little more than a strip of sandbox sand along the water. Lots of twigs and rocks. But, near the water and that would have to do. So we hit the beach. And then we hit the water. I forgot how much I love floating in water, bobbing with the waves, staring at the sky, listening to myself breathe. It was absolute heaven and I could have stayed in the water for another 6 days. But then I would have been wrinkled as a prune and that’s just not a good look for me. I went back to lie on the beach. Odd thing though, I’ve never been in such salty water in my life. I’ve been to a few oceans before but this one fulfilled my sodium requirements for a year. However it left my skin amazingly soft. It was almost like the spa day I had planned to take Jenn on to pay her back for the kitchen care package she sent me. I couldn’t very well ask her to pay for her own spa day, so we went to the beach instead. No, I didn’t get a tan; yes, we went topless and no, you can’t see the photos. Personally, I love watching men on topless beaches, especially the young ones who have never been before. They always have the look of ‘free buffet’ until they spot their first old lady or saggy man. Then it’s horror followed by my laughter. Gentlemen, I hate to break it to you but there are no beauty requirements for topless beaches and people come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. You want perfect, check in Brophy’s guidebook for the strip clubs.

After I’d had enough of the beach (I’m pale, I can’t stay out that long) we were starving and decided to check out the restaurants just at the edge of the beach. I was sort of sceptical when Jenn started laughing. The first one we went to was the exact restaurant one of her clients recommended, quite highly, to her. We had no choice, we had to eat there. Fate chose it for us; it was our job to comply. As we were waiting for the waiter to point to a nearby table (nice hosting skills there sir), I watched him ladling a rich stew-like paella out of a hot pot. It had massive chunks of shellfish in it topped by a lobster. I turned to Jenn and informed her we were having that no matter what. She didn’t even blink before she shrugged and said ok. So we spent the day having lunch on the patio in our bikinis eating lobster and sipping champagne. Not bad for a girl who’d been robbed. We toasted my brother, his health and his safety, and his paying for lunch. Cause I sure as hell couldn’t. So thanks Dan! I know you hate lobster, so I really appreciate you springing for it.

The following day after seeing the Barcelona pavilion, which I had to do or they’d revoke my architects card, we decided to check out renting a car to drive into the mountains later in the week, and then we were going to have a look at Gaudi’s work. It didn’t really go like that however. We couldn’t find a car rental place and when we finally did, we’d been walking for quite awhile and it was a stinky garage with the least helpful staff. Then we found another one with actual people in it but it was quite a hike; we’d have paid pretty much anything at that point except they had no cars. Barcelona had no cars because of the festival that weekend. So much for that idea. Frustrated, we decided to walk back to the internet café and see if we could help ourselves. Upon arrival we were told they had no machines empty and it could be 10 minutes or an hour before one opened. Frustrated again, and more than a little pissed off, we decided to have lunch before waiting. And that’s how we found Casa Angelo’s. I’d noticed the sign when we walked by and so had Jenn, but we noticed different things. I saw the award for cuisine; she saw the award for architectural distinction. (I’m such a bad architect; they might revoke my card anyway.) It’s an ancient place and well worth stopping in to see. But I live in a crap climate so we settled ourselves outdoor next to a table of Danes, ordered a beer, a cava, just about everything the Danes were having, and let our Roman waiter salvage our crappy day. When we left a few hours later, it was a whole new day. Even if I didn’t manage to steal the trident fork or the cutting board. Unique cutlery in this city.

I’m bored of typing. Are you bored of reading yet? Because we still have all the Gaudi sites to talk about, not to mention our new friend Carlos and well, I’m lazy. Alright…

First up, the Gaudi houses, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. I have always loved his work, the mosaic tiles, the columns that look like bones, the dragons on the roof, but there is just nothing like seeing it in person. Such amazing work. We decided not to go in Batllo because it was crowded and expensive and then went up the street to Casa Mila. That one I paid to go in. Jenn sat on a bench and read the guide book much like she did at the Barcelona Pavillion. The apartments are rather typical for period apartments, really. Other than no straight walls, it was no different than seeing, say, an apartment in Paris of the same age. Yes the rooms all opened up to one another, each room was flooded with natural light, but there wasn’t anything extraordinary about the flat. Certainly not extraordinary enough to film each square inch of it while holding up the line of people behind you that only want to get out on to the roof. Yes, I’m impatient and no, I didn’t shove that man down the stairs. I thought about it, but thoughts aren’t actions. I left him documenting a pair of shoes I think and managed to make it to the roof. And what a roof it is. Gaudi was a chess player. There is no doubt in my mind of that. Take one look at the photos and tell me I’m wrong. Each shape on the roof has a different function, exhaust, fresh air, stairs, etc… so the roof becomes a sculpture garden of architectural parts connected by stairs and seating areas and amazing views of the city around it. It’d make a great place for Hide+Seek. Oooo, under a full moon! Anyone game for that??

After that we made our way to Park Guell. Brophy had warned me that the park, while being billed as very near a particular metro stop, wasn’t anywhere near it and that we’d be best taking a cab or just skipping it altogether. I don’t think she had a great experience there, especially as she described it as “one hell of a long walk”. As Jenn and I were discussing getting off at that particular stop, we missed it and had to exit at the next one. The one behind Park Guell. The one a mere 5 minute walk from the bank of escalators that ferry visitors to the top of Park Guell so they can make their way downhill to enjoy the sites. Sorry Sarah, you should have missed the metro stop. It’s was quite an easy trip for us. And a lovely park as well. There is something amazing about being able to carve out a section of a city and turn it back over to its natural state. All while imposing order and buildings and not ruining the effect. It’s something I sincerely doubt I’ll ever be able to do, which is why I stick to the building part of that instead of the landscape. We spent the remainder of the day wandering around the park, taking photos, remarking how it reminded her of Dr. Seuss illustrations. It does have that quality of it, that alternate universe vernacular. We need more alternate universe vernacular. Oh wait, we do; it’s called Amsterdam.

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