Piece of cake taking the train to see Dali in the nearby town of Figueres. Silly me, my favorite travel sweater I didn’t fasten very well to my little purse when I was in the train station and just before boarding the train realized it was gone. So very sad, I decided to trace my steps backward as far as I could before the train came. The first place I went was the little café where we bought a pastry for breakfast. And serious joy when the lady produced the sweater from behind her counter. Some nice soul had turned it in. This is the second time I’ve lost it and had it returned. Perhaps that means it’s really ugly and no one would want to keep it if they found it. Ha. Fine by me. My sweet little sweater back in my possession. Perhaps I should keep Erik’s wallet in its pocket, then it would always get returned when it goes missing.
So anyway, the Dali museum. Lovely. Lots and lots of small paintings, drawings and jewelry. Yeah, I had no idea about the jewelry. He said that what he wanted to do was buck the idea that jewelry-making should have consideration for the cost of materials and the nature of its use (i.e. wearability). There were definitely some interesting pieces, including a beating heart of rubies. Here is some Dali jewelry. The eye is perhaps the most famous, and the only souvenirs I brought home from Barcelona were a t-shirt with that image on it and a funky Gaudi-designed tea cup.
Valentine's Day jewelry, no? Nothing says romance like a brooch of skulls.
Below are a couple of my favorite paintings.
And here we have a ceiling fresco in the Palace of the Wind ... kind of like a Dali Sistine Chapel, ha. Maybe not such a benevolent heaven here ... we are about to be stomped on! But in a joyous manner, claims Dali. The feet in blue are his (notice his moustache at the top), and the feet in red his wife, Gala's.
And a fun stairway in the museum. Very Dali-esque when you understand his flamboyant personality and tireless self-promotion, his indulgent belief in his own genius.
This is the main courtyard as you enter the museum. You could put a coin in a slot on the automobile and music would play from the front grill. There were several displays throughout the museum in which you could contribute a coin to watch it move or play music or something. Erik naturally couldn't resist, and only he and a British kid were (a) observant of the coin slots and (b) curious enough to slip in the coins.
Dali had a thing for eggs. The top of the Figueres museum is festooned with them, and we would see them a few years later sprinkled around his home in Port Lligat.
We are now sitting back in our hotel room drinking the array of liquor we just bought and Erik is trying to convince me that the absinthe is complementing the Moritz beer. I’m not willing to see if I agree. I went to an absinthe tasting at a conference in San Francisco (travel writing/photography/food) just for the novelty of it, and the maker had won awards for basically the best in the world. Other than that, I’m not a fan. Shortly, we will delve into our 2-euro bottle of red wine…. “la mancha.”
But back to Dali. The museum building is very interesting also in and of itself. There weren’t really any of his super famous originals, but I thought it was nice to see so many other things (better collection than the one in Barcelona we saw the other day). And we’ve seen a number of originals in other museums in the U.S.
So we took the train back to Barcelona and went to another Gaudi museum, the Batllo, a private residence he designed. (I don’t have a guidebook, so if I misspell places, forgive…. I gave up collecting brochures a few years ago and now it’s just habit not to pick them up.) This was probably the most expensive admission fee, but it is supported primarily by this fee as a private institution, and is totally worth the price of admission. When we first entered there were a lot of other people and it was hard to take any worthy photos without hordes of humans. But by the time we finished walking through the whole place, it had cleared out a lot so we went back through the whole place again with much more serenity. Yep, it’s worth going through twice. At least in our opinions. Also interesting in the audio guide (automatically included) were many quotes from Dali about Gaudi. More Gaudi photos out of my collection of roughly a gazillion.
Gaudi considered rooftop landscapes to be a very important feature in his architecture. They are quite, quite magical. La Pedrera was unique for its smooth wooden sculptures on the roof ... these tile mosaic ones at the Batllo are more iconic of Gaudi's style.
Meandered home. Found a nice out-of-the-way place to have a reasonably-priced beer (impossible on the Ramblas) and yummy crepes. Mine was mint-marinated chicken with carrots and mint yogurt. Mmm. So now here we are back in our room. Erik’s just gone down to reception to ask if they by some odd chance have a cork screw so we can sample our 2-euro wine and see if it’s worth bringing some home.
Hard to believe tomorrow is our last day already. Erik has returned with a corkscrew. “It seems drinkable,” he says. “You can see the legs on the plastic. That’s the sign of a good wine.” We are drinking from the tiny opaque plastic cups provided in the bathroom of our super budget hotel.
And I did indeed sleep late. Began the day watching policemen arrest a shirtless drunken man on the steps of the Metro. Much to my relief, despite a spirited birthday celebration, I did not end up in a similar situation at the end of my night. Spent pretty much the entire afternoon wandering around the Gothic Quarter trying to get back to the 1st century BC Roman pillars we stumbled across the previous day, and charting out paths for our sightseeing book idea. We started to get a little frustrated when we just could not for the life of us find the pillars. We found every other place we’d been to and either taken photos or stopped for a beer or whatever. But somehow couldn’t find the last turn. But finally we did with a great sense of accomplishment. (When we turned around without going inside to the pillars, a French couple standing outside started exclaiming at us, “You should go inside! Go inside!” We explained we’d already been inside the day before. They were quite concerned for the welfare of our historic knowledge of the city.) A couple shots from the Temple d'Augustus ...
It was Sunday, a great day to explore this part of the city because many of the shops were closed. Might sound like a bad thing, but this enables you to see all of the street art. Many of the garage doors that pull down over the store fronts are painted. There are some great paintings. (If you know anything about underground street artists, you might be interested to know we found a “calling card” from Space Invader. That was fun.) I would definitely recommend exploring this area at a time when many shops are closed.
We made it to the Picasso museum and by pure chance it happened to be free admission. I guess Sundays after 5pm (until 7) admission is free. We were initially daunted by the line to get in but it moved fairly quickly. The museum didn’t have any of his famous pieces but it was a good exhibit and very interesting with many of his drawings and paintings from his youth, and a great little film showing something like 48 permutations of the same painting ... he was “copying” a painting by someone else -- a common activity of course for aspiring painters to try to emulate the masters by copying some of their pieces as precisely as possible. Picasso, though, “copied” the painting using his late characteristic cubist style. The film overlays Picasso’s copies one at a time on the original painting (Les Meninas) (or something close to that). He also had an early propensity toward scenes with people attending the dying in their beds. (I don’t know what that’s about.)
Then it was time to get ready and head back my friend’s flat for happy hour drinks around 9, then we went out to dinner for my birthday at a restaurant near their place. Good times. A little champagne to celebrate.
Then Erik and I decided (or at least I did and Erik went along) to act significantly younger than my age and go find a club or two. We found a somewhat quaint and small club to hang out in. Until about 4:30am. It got just a wee bit ugly at the end when I kept running into the people I was trying to dance with. There was a little group of us pounding the floor until closing time. It had been quite crowded earlier and made for good people watching. (young folks are always especially interesting/often unfathomable to watch)
Next day was a bust (for several reasons). Seems like we usually have at least one of these in a trip, but too bad we had one during such a short trip. So now only two days left with much yet to do. We’ll see how far we get. But I certainly wouldn’t mind stopping over here again some day to see some more. There is a prodigious amount of sightseeing available to do here. We did rally in the late evening and strolled down to the waterfront. The sea water is the most beautiful blue. The exact same color as the post-sunset dark-blue sky. Gentle waves hitting the shore. A nice boardwalk follows the beach for a long way. A few catastrophes have hit us in the last few days. For one, my beloved G9 camera quit working. Fortunately I brought my SLR also, though I almost didn’t. It’s not as convenient to carry around but at least I’m not cameraless. Tomorrow we will try to get to the Dali museum by train.
Wow, it's actually before midnight today when I finish writing and misc business. But I'm quite exhausted, so probably you've had to wade through many typos and bizarre wordings... However I'm more interested in sleeping and dreaming than going back to read and fix them.
I’ve been in enough medieval cities or the remnants thereof throughout Europe to love these old, labyrinthine parts of town and to feel a sense of nostalgia for them, so whenever I get back to one it’s like reuniting with an old friend. Barcelona has a lovely quarter, known as the Gothic Quarter (or Barri Gotic), of narrow, curvy alleys and courtyards of varying sizes. Today is Saturday so it was packed with people except for the alleys that were utterly void of people ... just like everywhere as a tourist, there is the beaten and the unbeaten track, and it always amazes me the proximity of one to the other. But thank goodness for the latter. Always so refreshing. The Barri Gotic is a big enough quarter that having not paid a wit of attention when we entered and then wandered utterly without aim, when it came time to head for home we were a tad lost. Yay. I love being lost. Except when I’m really hungry or I really have to pee. Here are some scenes from the quarter. The giant bubble guy was pretty fun to watch with the children all trying to catch the bubbles.
Parts of the walls are very interesting and you can see the centuries of continual building over and on top of previous structures. The oldest parts of the city are several columns dating from 1st century BC. They are preserved in a glass shelter and by now are far below the general street level. Here is a photo that somewhat shows this stratification and hodge-podge, as the pigeons are perching in an area with several different layers of building materials from different time periods.
Oh, and we’ve moved digs. We spent the morning and afternoon with our most agreeable friends/hosts of the opulent flat and have now left them to a couple quiet days to themselves. We’ll see them again tomorrow for dinner. So after checking into our new budget hotel (yes, it’s quite a drastic change) we went out for our meander. Along the way we also stopped in a Dali museum. Quite a nice one; we’ve been to several around the world. It was fun to see some photographs of Dali standing at some of the Gaudi places we’ve been to. So, my brilliant theory that Dali was influenced by Gaudi was proved correct. I’m sure no one else has ever had the insight to put the two together before, and I can assuredly claim and publish this mind-blowing theory as my very own. ;-) On the right, an interesting Dali creation of a 3-D scene of wooden figurines.
I guess I’m narrating backward. Now I will tell you about our morning still spent with our friends (the 5th party member flew back home this morning), so was just 4 of us. We took the subway to a flea market and walked through briefly, then walked through a very pleasant part of town with lots of open park space and an arboretum. Erik was extremely pleased with himself when he managed to jump up high enough to pluck an orange from the laden trees in the park. His pleasure turned sour, literally, after tasting it and puckering up. Thems not eatin’ oranges.
There was a beautiful arc de triumph, like ones you’ll see everywhere ancient conquerors patted themselves on the back for a successful (or at least perceived successful) military campaign. This one was made of red brick, however. And again more beautiful scenes of the city. (I ran out of camera battery.) I think my friend has broken a Guinness record for number of stitch photos taken in a single location or a single week, stitching together numerous panorama shots. I will have to steal some from him and post them to you.
Somehow night has descended again with surprising rapidity and it’s after midnight already. Have to rest up for my birthday tomorrow. So off to bed I shall go and probably sleep late.
I think the best thing about today was our dinner. We had the gall to sit down for dinner on a Friday at the early bird hour of 9:40pm. The cook arrived about 5 minutes after we sat down. The restaurant was picked by one of our party who had read of it in a guidebook as a restaurant with authentic Basque cuisine. Seemed a necessary outing. Turned out to be a bit of a fiscal indulgence, but I’m sticking with the “necessary” clause in the interest of fiscal justification. The proprietor was great. We were the only people in the joint for the better part of 2 hours. The wine was nice, the appetizers were scrumptious, the main course delicious and the dessert decadent. And the apperatif shot floral and yummy. (and I don’t know how to spell apperatif correctly) The main course was codfish cooked in frothy olive oil. One might swear it was really 8 pounds of butter, but the proprietor insisted it was olive oil. And browned garlic. Mmmm. The dessert was pears soaked in red wine, and I think one must assume some sugar. Fantastic. It was a lovely evening.
But that certainly is not to imply the day was not similarly so. We toured another Gaudi, La Pedrera, first thing in the morning. It was very cool, because as you now know, I love Gaudi! It’s tempting to describe some of his architectural elements and landscapes as Seussian, but that would imply just a little too much random whimsicality. Gaudi is about producing “organic” qualities in his forms, but this often comes very close to Seuss’s fictional forms. Close, but it wouldn’t be accurate to formally make a comparison. At any rate, good fun stuff.
Probably a little too un-PC for today ... a lot of old advertisements and photos line the hallways.
Then we walked about with our friends, went to the Olympic park where the Barcelona summer Olympics were held. This was far more interesting and beautiful than I would have guessed. Then we rode a gondola to the top of a hill where perches a fortress with some incredibly formidable cannons pointing out to sea. The gondola ride was the epitome of loveliness, and afterward we ate an overpriced lunch at a restaurant with a priceless view, overlooking both ocean and city.
K, well off to try to sleep and dream... though for once my vivid dreamscapes may be nothing special compared to the sights I'm seeing here in my waking hours!
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. As citizen of Barcelona. When they try to kick me out of this opulent flat in which I currently reside, I will barricade myself in. Tomorrow I’ll spend the day recruiting minions off the streets of Barcelona to help me defend my stay. In all my travels I have yet to cause an international incident. But one must move forward in their life…. perhaps this will be my 15 minutes of fame.
We flew in on US Airways, and as its name implies, it is a domestic airline…. a bit of a shock for those of us who travel abroad relatively frequently…. no flappy things on the head rest to lean your sleepy head against; no personal TV consoles; and most egregiously, NO FREE DRINKS! For some reason in the middle of the night when everyone was trying to sleep, they decided to fill the big screen at the front of the cabin with some TV show, which though I did not watch I could discern through my eyelids must have been something about the history and utilization of strobe lights. And of course, the obligatory fussy toddler.
Nonetheless, we arrived in Barcelona in good spirits. People ask me all the time as a trip looms near, “Are you excited for your trip?” The answer in all honesty would have to be, “No.” (Sometimes I answer “yes” for convenience, but I’m telling you now that if I say that, I’m lying.) I used to say that I only got excited once I was on the plane that was exiting the U.S. and in the air. But I realized driving in rush hour traffic from the Barcelona airport to our friend’s-friend’s flat in the city, that truly I only actually get excited when I’m in the taxi or bus or train, whatever, from the airport to my first on-land destination.
Taxiing into Barcelona brought back fond memories of riding sportbikes with our friends in Greece as the motorcyclists and mopedists (it’s a word, I’m sure) were lane-splitting all around us. Though here they are a bit more cognizant that speed limits exist. Still, it made me nostalgic for the naughty feeling that riding in Greece gave us Americans zooming between the cars at double their speed, lining up at stoplights in front of the cars like the starting grid for a race until the cars honked to signal the motorcycles to go. It would be so great if we could lane-split in the States.
Well anyway, we’re not in Greece but in beautiful Barcelona. Everyone I talked to who had been here raved about it and I can see why. I can also see that one week will be a paltry amount of time here. Barcelona alumni also went on and on about “Gaudi”…. love Gaudi, love Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi. And little ol’ me knew nothing about this Barcelona architect. Boy, do I feel silly. Because now I love Gaudi! Gaudi Gaudi! I’m a fan!
Yesterday after dropping our luggage off at the flat and reuniting with my friend from last year’s South Africa Earthwatch trip and meeting his wife, Erik and I just roamed the streets randomly. Since the guidebook I ordered off Amazon 3 weeks ago never did arrive, we struck out in complete ignorance, though our friends accompanied us for awhile with some tips. Then we parted ways for the rest of the afternoon. We passed several Gaudi buildings. Hope to tour the insides later in the week. Today we went to Gaudi’s piece de resistance, the Sagrada Familia cathedral, and Guell Park. The cathedral is an epic of architectural vision and ingenuity. Not at all like your typical European cathedral, it is shaped with Gaudi’s signature organic forms, and Christian iconography is minimal. It is all about soft lines, shapes and color. It seems obvious that Dali’s artistic visions must have a deep-seated inspiration from Gaudi architectural forms. (Hope to go to Dali museum outside Barcelona later in the week.) Here are some photos from the Sagrada Familia.
While our friends attended a soccer game last night, Erik and I took a much needed nap and waited to greet another arriving guest. So we are a party of 5 for a few days. Got a late night dinner (normal dinner time around here) around 11:30pm at a spot just behind our flat, came back and had beer and port at the flat. Wandered off to bed about 2:30am and got up at 9:30 this morning. (yawn….) Spring weather is lovely. Here are a couple photos from the market. Tons of peppers and tons of candy.
OK. Time for happy hour. Some random street scenes.