Saturday March 31, Barcelona


First of all, mission accomplished! My primary reason for coming here was to try to find some Spanish pedaling texts, totally unobtainable in the US even through interlibrary loans. I got a lead last night on a good sheet music store nearby, so that was my first stop this morning. And lo and behold, he had all three things I was hoping to find. Plus, another more substantial text just recently published, also Spanish and unavailable elsewhere. This is very exciting for me from a research perspective, because it gives me new opportunities to pursue related to my dissertation topic. And with extra time available from now until August, some time to work on them.

The corollary good news is that now I can spend the rest of my time in Barcelona having fun. I wasnít sure how hard it was going to be to track down these works, so I gave myself several days in which to accomplish the task. But it became so easy once I was here!

So, on to my first day of play. The music shop was on La Rambla, a long primarily-pedestrian street Ė pedestrian up the center, that is, with a lot of kiosks and street vendors along the way. There are traffic streets on either side of the center, with shops lining them as well, so one way or another you can do a lot of shopping! I walked pretty much the whole length of it this morning, just getting a feel for whatís there and enjoying the atmosphere. Morning isnít so crowded, so itís easier to see things. For example, there are a lot of human statues Ė street artists dressed and made up to look like bronze statues or other such things, performing for passersby. A whole section of stalls with caged birds for sale, everything from parakeets to roosters. Many flower stalls, newsstands, food stalls, etc. And the inevitable souvenir stands, of course. But the atmosphere is lighthearted and fun.

Sometime in the morning I checked out PlaÁa Sant Jaume, not far from the Catedral, with the City Hall (Casa de la Ciutat) and Catalonian regional government buildings (Palau de la Generalitat) impressively flanking the square. Also PlaÁa Reial just off La Rambla, lined with handsome buildings and sporting Gaudi-designed streetlights. And everywhere Iíve been, there are balconies on all the buildings, almost always with wrought iron railings, often very elaborate and lovely Ė itís easy to see why we call it "Spanish Lace" in America!

The weather forecast had been rainy, but the sky was blue and it was getting warm, so I took a break to unload my morning purchases and discard my raincoat. Then headed via subway to Parc GŁell, a famous city park by the equally famed Barcelona architect Gaudi. His style was fanciful and nature-inspired, with lots of color, whimsy, curving lines, and colorful mosaics. Youíll be hearing more about him in future emails, because there are a number of important sites in the city that I hope to visit. For a few Parc photos, look here http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/gaudi/park-guell.html

The Parc is at the top of a hill, a rather steep hill. The subway stop I used fortunately led (eventually) to a series of escalators that took some of the sting out of the climb, though there were still plenty of stairs. But it was well worth it. My entry was, I later learned, sort of the back way in Ė I didnít see the Gaudi parts until the end of my visit. But that was fine. I wandered through the park, up the hill to the tip top where there are spiral stairs (dirt and stone) leading up to three stone crosses at the very top. Outstanding views over the city. Regrettable graffiti on the crosses. (Thereís a ton of graffiti all over this city.) Then I worked my way downhill, eventually reaching the Gaudi section of the park, where thereís a remarkable plaza partly on the hillside, but about half supported by enormous columns below. And a wonderful serpentine bench winding all around the edge of the plaza, with colorful mosaics adorning it all. Thereís really too much to describe, but some other highlights were the giant mosaic lizard fountain, the fanciful buildings, and Gaudiís house, now a Gaudi museum. Really a fun place to spend a nice afternoon.

When I was finishing my visit, the promised rain did materialize. No big deal, since Iíd already seen everything in the park. Long walk to the subway (1.2 km, almost a mile) but I had an umbrella and the wind wasnít blowing, so I didnít get noticeably wet). Took a break and put my feet up for a while, before heading out again.

After the rain stopped, I went across the square from my hotel to see the Catedral. The front is enclosed in scaffolding at the moment, but the interior is lovely. Soaring arches with ribbed vaulting. A rather unusual octagonal dome at the rear of the nave (Iím used to them being at the crossing), just after entering the cathedral. A seriously annoying big-screen display right in the center of the nave, obscuring the view down the central nave as well as some of the choir screen. A mass was eminent; there was live organ music and a priest was clearly getting things ready in the pulpit and at the altar. I didnít get to see the choir today, but I can easily go back another time.

At 7 PM, I decided I would just have to find a place that served Ďearlyí dinner. Went back to La Rambla, and quickly found a very nice restaurant that was serving, so had an excellent meal at a fairly decent hour! Also, not expensive. So much for the hotelís advice!

Wandered a bit more after dinner Ė remember, things really heat up here after dark! But Iíve walked an awful lot today, and so I soon came back to the hotel. The streets here in the old part of town are narrow, pedestrian, winding, and unpredictable, so I sometimes donít quite know where I am, but I have acquired enough familiarity with landmarks to be able to find my way without difficulty. Itís really quite charming to follow a street just to see where it will lead Ė often to a charming little courtyard, or a beautiful old church, or a cute outdoor cafť. I havenít encountered a dead-end yet; they donít seem to exist here.

Rain is forecast again for tomorrow Ė hopefully it will be as benign as todayís, but if not, I have several museums in mind and tomorrow is a good time to see them, since Monday they will all be closed.

Love to all,

Carlyn

Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to richard.c@morenus.org