Sunday, July 31, 2011

Relaxing Sunday at Guell Park

After yesterday's torrential downpour, the humidity was way way up today and Saturday's shut-ins were out in force. Given that Guell Park is up a substantial hill from where I am staying, and much of the 15 hectares are hill-covered I had the, sad to say not unusual, experience of sweating worse than a construction worker. Hill upon hill, followed by stair upon stair, but the view of Barcelona toward the sea was worth it.
Although this park was designed by Gaudi, much of it reminded me of the Flintstones.
But there was still classic Gaudi to behold.
Let's not forget it's an actual park with nooks and crannies (one where I came upon a man ostensibly urinating, although he was facing the walkway and vigorously shaking...sadly, my unimpressed expression was obscured by my oversize glasses), birds to make even Alfred Hitchcock blanch, and many actual beautiful flowers.
Tonight I believe I am going to head back downtown to catch a blues act, Big Mama and the Crazy Blues Band. Here's a song from YouTube, Don't Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down (word to my sisters, yo).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Perfect weather....

....for a lazy day.

This, just off my balcony, at a little after 4 in the afternoon.
Now it's a torrential downpour.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dinner in Barca

First, I apologize for talking about a meal with no accompanying photos.

Second, yesterday was a special commemorative day for me but I was feeling none too celebratory. But today I treated myself to that dinner that I'd planned to have yesterday. I went to a resto that serves traditional Catalan food, Origens. (They's got food pics!)

Lastly, my eats.

Salad: figs, goat cheese, roasted almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, vinaigrette, and mixed greens. The mixed greens were a little too "weeds from the neighborhood park" for my liking but the rest of the recipe made up for it.

Main: baked rabbit with rosemary, along with stewed tomatoes, potatoes and onions.

Dessert: cava with lemon sorbet. This was a like a traditional float but oh so much better. And perhaps I am a rube but prior to my visit here, I was unknowledgeable about cava- essentially the champagne of Catalonia.

A treat: the adorable waitress with the sides of her head shaven brought me a little glass of mistela- a sweet dessert wine almost like a brandy....sort of. I know it may sound silly but this waitress's little gesture almost made me cry.

And we're walking, we're walking.

Yesterday I planned to venture to Montjuic- a large hill here in Barcelona. Initially I'd planned to subway it there but as it was a lovely day and my running has gone to pure crap, I opted to walk. Here's my entire path from yesterday.
On Montjuic, there are the Olympic swimming venues, as well as beautiful parks and, most notably, the Catalonia National Museum of Art (MNAC).
My plan was to enjoy time on Montjuic, then spend a leisurely afternoon strolling the museum and then enjoy the setting sun and take some pictures from its magnificent lookout. Alas, after looking at a millenium's worth (seriously, they have art from the 1100s) of crucifixions and crying Madonnas, I was done. So this picture is as close to sunset from Montjuic as it got for me.
Although there was one piece of art in MNAC that made me smile. This piece was quite large, about 8 feet by 8 feet.
"I'm with stupid."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Day at Montserrat

Montserrat is a holy place in Catalonia, both for the monastery with its revered monks and because it houses one of the patron saints of the territory: The Virgin of Montserrat. The setting, high in the craggy rocky mountain tops, shrouded in mist, along with breathtaking views and beautiful little hidden paths make this a very enjoyable and worthwhile day out of Barcelona.
View from the base train station looking up toward the monastery.
After a 10 minute (slow) train ride, we were at the top. This is the backside of the basilica.
The front of the basilica. Mass was scheduled for 20 minutes later so we had to boogie to get inside to see the Black Madonna.
The path to the Virgin of Montserrat.
Just a few more steps, you can see the statue there at the top.
The Virgin of Montserrat, also called La Moreneta or the Black Madonna. This statue was discovered on Montserrat in the 11th century and has since been housed there.
She's mostly enclosed in glass except for the small part of the sphere in her hand. It is customary to kiss it or touch it for a blessing. While I'm not religious, I figured I could use all the luck I could get. I kissed it.
The view of the church from the Madonna's vantage point.
Next I decided to venture to the very top of the mountain. In this picture you can see the cable car line that takes people up- it's between the two rocky crags off to the left.
The very top of Montserrat.
One of the other singletons on the tour, Gabriel from Hungary who lives in the Netherlands. It was nice to have somebody to pal around with, even just for the day.
I believe this is a northwestern view from atop the mountain.
Me and my hunter orange safety scarf. Nobody shot at me so I must be doing something right.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Barcelona Tidbits

First, this.
My Catalan is far far worse than my Spanish but between the two I gathered, "In Barcelona, 1 in every 3 traffic mortalities is a pedestrian. Look where you are going."
The warning does fair little to dissuade those crossing against the light. And, once you're here a day or two, you'll be crossing against the light with a brief glance to ensure all is clear.

Some other things I am noticing:
-mullet dreads have fans in Spain. For boys.
-MC Hammer pants are in as well. For girls. Kind of a gypsy look.

Oh, Spanish Guitars!

Rather than leaving it to fate to find some interesting cultural things to do, I looked up the Barcelona Tourism website. From there I linked and linked and found an evening with Barcelona Duo de Guitarra, a man and woman who play classical Spanish guitar. I attended the rather intimate show last night, the setting at Iglesia de Santa Anna couldn't have been more perfect.
The show lasted over an hour with a couple of encores. I linked to a video of them playing on YouTube (click on their name in the first paragraph) but, I have to say, they sound much more beautiful in person. I don't know if it was just the ambience of the 15th century church, or if it was the warm Spanish night, or if it was something in the air from all the couples surrounding me, but last night had a magical quality about it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Barcelona Parade (for lord knows what)

Walking through the city yesterday, and coming upon the Placa de Jaume, I heard music playing down the Carrer de Ferran. I was about to walk down that street until I realized the music was moving my direction. I looked up and saw giant heads. It was a right fit parade! There were large characters, and musicians, and grumpy looking old men in odd garb, along with inexplicable man/animal figures. Alas, no candy was thrown, so I went off in search of gelato.