Cool and Cozy in Catalonya

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
Trip End Jan 16, 2010

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

After all the warnings I received about this lovely city, I am happy to report that I have been having a fantastic time in the capitol of Catalonya. Not being able to speak either Catalan nor Spanish (well, only the few key words I recall from Sesame Street), I´ve still fared very well in this lively city by the sea. Because this was my last city on my journey, I treated myself to a very nice hotel at the marina close to where my boat for America leaves on Monday, the start of a new adventure. From the marina it is only a short walk to the spire hosting famed explorer Christopher Columbus, who points west towards my home. I have mixed feelings as I explore prepare to explore my last city of my world tour, but this doesn't last long because Barcelona captures my heart immediately. Las Rambla, the famed pedestrian main street of town, is an entertainment zone unto itself. A fun walk past the many street performers leads to Placa de Catálunya, a huge square with fountains, statuary and a big plaza, where major streets intersect. Upon noticing that there seemed to be a lot of motorscooters and motorbikes parked here, I later learned that Barcelona has indeed the most motorcycles of any European city, due to the constant good climate. They also have over 100km of bicycle lanes, so the traffic here is not nearly as crazy as other big cities. I have explored the city by foot, on the bus and only as a last resort by affordable, speedy taxi drives to get me to my destinations like the hotel and the boat terminal. I saw a fantastic Flamenco cultural show and sat next to a woman from Cape Town, SA. We hit it off and went to enjoy some tapas and drinks after the show at a delightful little tapas bar hidden in amongst Barcelona´s ancient, winding alleyways. We had a lovely time walking around the area after listening to the delicious sound of the Spanish guitars and the flameco dancers´ rythmic feet. I was wowed by Antoni Gaudí´s tremendous tributes to nature and his incredible designs at the apartment building Casa Milà "La Pedrera", the famed, sandcastle like cathdral yet to be completed, the Temple de la Sagradra Família, and my absolute favorite, the Casa Batlló. This storybook apartment house, which was rebuilt by Gaudí, is the most wonderful piece of art I have ever had the privilege to walk through. I was enchanted, delighted and smiled at his love of nature, his sense of humor and his sheer design genius. I visited this house at night, seemingly while most people were out having dinner or changing for dinner, and I almost had the house to myself. This was a refreshing retreat from the city´s crowds and gave me time to linger and gawk unobstructed. This house was a fantastic emblem to art, to ease of use, natural light, nature and imaginative playfulness. I adored it. I then made time to stroll the marina and the crowded alleyways, view Barcelona´s gothic cathedral, illumined by hundreds of red glass candles as well as devout pilgrims and parishioners attending mass, walk through the fantastic fruit and vegetable markets where butchers slice meat directly off the leg of whatever meat you want to buy, visited Gaudí´s masterpieces, ate my fill of luscious local anchovies, the soft and strong Manchego cheese and discovered the most decadent chocolate and hazlenut covered waffles, yet feel I only scratched the surface of this artsy place. I also toured Monseratt, the monastery in the mountains about 50km north of here which is home to another much venerated Black Virgin. The surrounding views and rounded mountain tops were more than worth the sometimes funny, interrupted journey to the mountain. Four days here was definitely not enough to see all Barcelona has to offer. My new friend told me her mother always said you must leave one thing to come back for, and in Barcelona´s case, it will be more than one, as the numerous museums, parks and surrounding areas are all great reasons to come back.
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houdiniswiss on

Great writing
I enjoy the way you write, wanting to visit the same places myself. Where are you now?
Rgds Eric

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