Sunday. This means we read in bed until twelve. Enough said.
I was keen to see either Picasso or Miro today and it was decided it would be Picasso. Barcelona is cuddled by what appears to be four genuises of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries - Gaudi, Picasso, Miro and Dali. They are all completely kooky in their own ways (lucky thing they are all dead; I'm not sure any of them would think kindly about being kooky). And I want to say that you can see this in the cityscape, but - with the exception of the Gaudi buildings - I don't think it is that straight forward. What there does appear to be here though is lots of the unexpected. It is not uniform (I've already said that) but neither is it completely unplanned or random. The buildings all look to be around the same height, and everything is quite high density. But then the buildings themselves are all different, with interesting features that make you want to inspect each and everyone individually to see what is going on. Down our alley, for example, there is a whole mural of great photographers (the only reason I know that this is what the mural is about is that I recognise some of the names - Margaret Cameron, Man Ray, Richard Avedon). This is a very narrow alleyway and to see all the way to the top and the mural in its entirety is almost impossible. But there it is. Some buildings look Persian (and I use that word with some hesitation; Persia no longer exists and the whole idea is kind of fairytale now, but I guess that is what I mean), and there are great, dark, hulking buildings like the university just up the road from us. And then there is a little garden just around the corner that seems to be dedicated to cats. The whole thing is fenced and there are about thirty little houses that have cats in them. People dress here quite differently to how they dress in other cities - many more individual shops that sell one offs and the people seem to embrace this.
Why this description? Well, when we went to see Sr Picasso, the exhibition had whole rooms in which he had explored a rethinking of something, and in particular a Velazquez painting called Les Meninas. In this, there were versions of the whole painting and then of individual figures. And Barcelona feels a bit like this. That each building, and laneway is an experiment in thinking about the structure and how it should look, and what it might respresent. And I don't really believe that has been done consciously. But it is kind of like a culture - that these artists have set a pattern of re-thinking what things should look like and how they might be explored and it can been seen in every laneway and alleyway and pair of pants and (importantly) tapas dish. The lack of uniformity (though a kind of plan is evident) is the charm here and I think why you are never bored by what you see (or eat). You can get lost here not necessarily because you can't find you way around, but because you are being lured down alleys to the next interesting thing. We have started to identify the city through detail ('Oh look, we have found that cafe with the good chairs', or 'Ah, I know where we are, it's the building with the umbrellas'). I have also begun to shop for some quirky stuff and bought a skirt that is great from a market in our local square (Raval). Myles was desperate to buy some quite nutty pants but they weren't quite his size. He is pursuing them quite vigorously however. Emailing the supplier and so on. You have to admire it.
It might also be a lack of fear of exploration. Spain is the great exploring country - off to the New World and all that. And the artists too seemed destined for new worlds without fear. So it would make some sense that the people themselves are happy to do this in their own world, on every possible scale. The tiniest, crappiest bar has its own way of cooking and presenting potatoes, or ham, or artichokes. And they don't brag about it, or make a fuss. This is the way things are done.
Picasso was great (the kids were not fans I have to say) but Myles and I loved it. It is down another tiny alleyway and in an amazing building. Seeing the scope of his work from early teens until just before he died was really eye opening.
I cooked lunch. This is because the kids are not enjoying the tapas and I'm a little worried about the extent of their food groups. It appears to be limited to sugar, chocolate and wheat. After lunch (at 4pm, how Spanish are we?) we walked up to the castle on the hill. There was much protest about this, but up we went regardless. Everyone slept well. Myles and I went out later for a drink at the local bar.
How do I make this lifestyle my own?