Recently I flew home from a 24-day solo trip to Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Seville, and Lisbon again. I'm blogging excerpts from my travel diary and illustrating from memory the memorable and not-so-memorable meals I had...Start from the beginning here.
Last night's rest was quickly obliterated by this morning's epic walk up to Gaudi's Park Guell and around its curved, sandy paths:
The impressive lookout across the city was very neatly ringed by these mosaic-ed, wavy benches, their colourful tiles provided a lovely little perch while I took in some Spanish sun. I'm now taking a break in a park across from La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's breathtaking cathedral (I actually think it's now a Basilica, but I might be wrong.) Two moments in this church brought me near to tears - first, when I took in the entire light and expanse of the interior, and second, when I took the elevator up to the top and looked down from the outdoor lookout. (I don't know why I insist on doing those things - every time, I forget how afraid of heights I am!)
I am not a huge fan of churches in general, but I think that if I was religious, this one comes pretty close to my ideal place of worship. The clean lines, the white, the space, the air inside really does make you feel humble and full of awe. And Gaudi's aesthetic - that forms in nature bring joy, inspire happiness - I really agree and am inspired by that. It's truly meant to exalt, not oppress.
I hopped over on the Metro to see the Jean Nouvel Torre Agbar, which was pretty monument, rising up from an otherwise unremarkable intersection of elevated roadways and construction barriers, then rambled over to the Barri Gotic to have tapas at a really lovely place. I struggled through a story in a Spanish newspaper an luxuriated in crab, deep-fried queso (cheese), some small fish on little baguettes, and, of course, red wine.
Tonight: El Discurso del Rey! (The King's Speech - English with Catalan subtitles). It will be nice to hear a bit of English, I have to admit.
This morning I flew up to the Museu de l'Historia de la Ciutat and saw Roman ruins from the 4th and 5th centuries underneath the centre of Barcelona. Then, after the history lesson it soon became the comedy of what's closed. I did have success at the mind-boggling Mercat de la Boqueria - such fresh food! such variety! - but the MACBA? It's Tuesday, it's closed. CCCB? Also closed. Palau Guell? Closed for renovations.
(MACBA - Barcelona's Contemporary Art Museum)
So, change of plans, and fun and extremely short funicular ride later I was halfway up Montjuic to see the Fundacio Joan Miro and a really excellent exhibition of British painting from the '40s - '60s. Lots of inspiring images and new artists to file away. The Miro paintings themselves were sadly beyond my comprehension. It's almost exhausting to see so much of one artist's work all at the same time. It all starts looking so similar I feel I can't keep up the enthusiasm throughout the entire exhibit.
Then, a very, very fun and not at all short trip up to the top of the mountain via the Teleferic, which brought out a kid-like wonder in me: the height, the view, the reach of the city. With Tibidabo in the north, you actually can contain most of Barcelona in the basin between the two mountains. After seeing the castle at the top (and the working port down below) ambition overtook me and I decided to walk down the mountain. Though I'm glad I did - otherwise I would never have seen the eerie, empty, and giant Olympic stadium and plaza - I was happy to finally get back on flat ground.
Dinner was its own comedy of errors. I had fixed on seafood, and though I had researched a good tapas place not far from me, at the last minute I decided to try to find somewhere in La Barceloneta. My nervousness, ok, downright skittishness led me up and down the tiny streets, then down to the beach and all the way back up again, only to end up at the first place I thought had looked promising. Intrepid, I am not. But it did work out - baby octopus in its own ink, cod carpaccio, and the house pudding with dulce de leche so tangy that my tongue tingled. Oh, and a glass of cava to make my friend Jenna proud.