Sunday, December 18, 2011

Barcelona, day four

All power to the long sleep in, and waking up to glorious sunshine. Another wonderful day in Barcelona with a long sleep, some reading in bed, getting up with much stretching of limbs and jaws, and taking off when we feel like it. It was sunny (is it always sunny here? so happy). We had to go the train station. My rather glib statement about not caring how we were going to get to Carcassone was premature. Myles was actually sweating bullets over it, found the internet useless and wanted to go in person to get the tickets as soon as he could. I insisted on the metro. This walking everywhere thing has whiskers - big ones.
The train station was a stereotype as all train stations tend to be - all full with people yelling and trying to buy tickets and lots of other people with suitcases on wheels going licketty split towards you with fire in their eyes. After some false starts, we found the right line, got the right ticket and sat in to wait. This, of course, involved us moving to a cafe to fuel up the kids with all kinds of rubbish (this has to end; everyone is just bad mooded because of the food). Then we waited. What was great about this system is that the weak left with their tickets so that as the numbers rolled around, there were less and less people there to claim them. In 50 minutes we were at the counter, buying tickets. With them in sweaty hands, Myles was happy to begin his day. Sigh.
We were off to Park Guell; another Gaudi site.
So we surfaced from the metro at the right stop and followed the signs and a dozen other tourists. And Barcelona has thought through the problem of having so many (potentially lazy and overweight - not pointing fingers ...) tourists trapising off to this park which hangs high above Barcelona and even the suburb in which it sits. So there are a series of escalators that run up the roads that lead to the park that you ride. It is more American than America and the kids were enchanted.
The park itself is kind of confusing, but perhaps we are idiots. You walk in and see no Gaudi. You walk to the top and still see no Gaudi but there is an amazing view of the city. Then you walk down a series of steps that lead into a large open space and suddenly there is Gaudi all over the shop. It feels a bit Dr Seuss; loopy shapes and everything very dream scape. I (happily, what a nerd) had bought a book all about Gaudi at the Sagrada Familia so I had a whole lot of information about it. The Park Guell was originally planned as an urban development (not a park at all) with houses and services and all kinds of innovations. One of which, just by the way, was having a water collection point through the public square that funnelled water through the columns that were beneath the square and into a tank below that would be used for watering. Can you believe this? This was begun in 1900 (so architects knew about these possiblities) but what are we doing in our urban design, even now? Sad.
There are some houses here, but it is mostly a park with some lovely mosaics and aquaducts and funny little houses - and all among them now are dozens of buskers with violins (mostly) playing quietly ethereal music.
Zelda and I went into the little pink house the Gaudi lived in from 1906. The furniture was completely charming, most looked like it could come to life and jump up for a pat. One room looked like a cave with dark, brooding wardrobes and green glass in the panels. There is something about Gaudi's work that is so like a fairytale that I wonder if you could ever be unhappy in one of his buildings. It is somewhere between the gingerbread cottage of Hansel and Gretel, a recreation of the natural world in bold colours and (seriously) Dr Seuss.
Have I found my Barcelona narrative? Perhaps.
After being completely charmed by the architecture, we left to go back to the city. The kids were tired and wanted to go back to the apartment for a rest. I wanted to read some of my novel (obssession is a bold thing).
Then back into the old city for dinner. We were looking specifically for a place with heating because, while the days are warm and sunny, the nights are cold. But we ended up in a little square, in the open with no heating. The owner took pity on us and brought us inside his place (which was really too tiny for us). The square had a playground that Niccolo took much interest in. It was 9pm at night, but there were still lots of parents and kids playing around. They do social stuff here very well.
We ordered blind from the tapas menu. And it was so fantastic. The vegetable tapas of the day was some kind of cauliflower thing that had quite firm cauilflower scattered somehow with stinky cheese and cumin seeds and pomegrante seeds and then shards of heat that came from an unseen source and I couldn't get it into my mouth fast enough. The kids could barely eat the bread and hummous, and the fried potatoes with enough vigour, while the ham and the coquettes disappeared with the help of oily fingers. I washed mine down with beer. Myles decided on red wine.
We had fun window shopping for stuff; so much to love in the shops here. I have (to some shame) done some damage. Others are holding off (for what?). But I'm not sure that I'm planning on taking my foot off the pedal in this city. It is too good for words.
I really love it here. Really, really love it.

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