Sunday April 1, Barcelona (No fooling!)


Here April Foolís Day was definitely overshadowed by Palm Sunday. I saw so many people today carrying around long palm fronds, or intricately woven things (not sure just what to call them Ė scepters?) made from palm fronds. Children especially tended to have the fancy ones. There were vendors out in front of the cathedral selling them. Out on La Rambla too, though not so many there.

I didnít go to church Ė sitting through a mass in Catalan didnít pique my interest sufficiently. Instead, I headed for the Picasso Museum. Big mistake, as it turned out! I didnít realize that itís free on the first Sunday of the month, and it was mobbed! There was a line a block long outside the ticket office, waiting for free tickets, and another long line to get in after getting tickets. I decided it wasnít a good day to go there!

So after wandering around a few narrow streets, I found the entrance to the Museum of the History of the City of Barcelona. Might not sound all that exciting, but it actually was. Barcelona dates back to Roman times, and the area of the museum has been excavated to various levels, so one can see several different periods in the cityís history in the 45,000 square feet of excavations. Unfortunately they didnít allow photos, so I can only describe it.

All of the levels are right under the modern buildings (keeping in mind that modern might mean anything from 1300 to 2000 AD). You donít walk directly on any of the excavations, there are raised walkways of metal gridwork or sometimes plexiglass, from which you can view extensive Roman-era city areas, dating around 100-200 AD. The various places are well-described with signs (including English, either on the signs or sometimes on a separate handout). Laundry, dye-works, wine-making, houses, streets, original town wall, lookout tower, etc. Very interesting and a bit mysterious, since itís all underground now. Think Pompei on a very small scale, except with a lot more explanations along the way (and of course no volcano ever covered this!). There were a few sections of mosaic tiled flooring, and one or two bits of wall frescos. And then there was another, higher area, dating to around 600 AD, when the city became Christian and they built churches on top of the old Roman buildings. Finally, we came back to current street level to see parts of the 14th century palace, including the expansive main hall, with unreinforceded arches spanning a remarkable 50 feet Ė home to the Inquisition, later became a baroque-era church, now an exhibit space (but no exhibit there right now). And the somewhat older chapel, which used the old Roman town wall as one of its walls. Beautifully painted wooden roof beams.

Seeing all that, plus the attendant artifacts (bowls, coins, needles, dice, jewelry, etc.) took several hours, after which I was hungry! So I had lunch nearby, first stopping to watch people dancing on the Cathedral square Ė obviously some sort of traditional dance, done in large circles of people holding hands Ė they cleverly piled their purses, coats, shopping bags, etc. in the middle of the circle so nothing would be lifted while they danced! There were a lot of these circles, and a little band was playing, it was fun to watch.

After lunch I decided to do some more outdoor walking stuff while the weather was decent Ė it was supposed to rain, but hadnít thus far. So I returned to La Rambla, and this time took it all the way to the bottom, by the waterfront. Thereís a tall column there with a statue of Columbus that I wanted to see, as well as the interesting buildings near the water (the Victorian-era Port building, for example). Here again, there were hordes of people, but cheerful and relaxed, enjoying a Sunday afternoon. A lot of tourists, but a lot of locals too. I liked the figure of Columbus, looking out to sea from his high perch. All sorts of other human figures at the base of the column, including I presume Queen Isabella. And eight big bronze lions on the pavement around the column, mostly being climbed-upon by people wanting tame-the-lion photos.

Thereís a big marina between the streets and the actual ocean Ė this probably isnít a good spot to get down to the water. At any rate, there were so many people it didnít really appeal to me, so I headed back inland. Since places mostly close early on Sunday, it was too late in the day to attempt going to another museum or tour place, so I shopped a little and wandered back towards my hotel to rest my weary feet for a while.

Back out through the rain to La Rambla for dinner, found good food (baked cod au gratin, over spinach with pine nuts and mushrooms, a casserole of aubergines, red peppers and onions, and grilled bread topped with minced tomatoes, all yummy), friendly atmosphere, and beautiful decor at a Spanish restaurant that is for some reason called Egipte. Theyíve been in business for 45 years or more, so presumably there was a good reason for the name in the beginning. My waiter said he has relatives in Illinois and San Diego.

And thatís the day! So far the daily rain has come late in the afternoon Ė I hope that will continue to be the schedule, I can live with that!

Love to all,

Carlyn

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