Saturday, May 23, 2009

5.23.09 Barcelona

Today as we sat on the Metro, exhausted but also excited about our great day in Barcelona, I apologized to Sammie that we had come so far, spent so much money, gone through so much trouble, made so much effort, and my favorite memory of the trip was going to be his strut around the pool doing the moonwalk, lawnmower, and sprinkler. As I sat by the side of the pool watching the first contestants, I reflected that I had NO idea what Sammie was going to do. I just knew it would be funny. When he broke out into his super-cool dance moves, I was the only one by the side of the pool not clapping and cheering—because my head was between my knees, trying not to fall off from laughing.

Today at lunch I asked him why, in our almost 4 years of marriage, I never knew he could do the moonwalk, the lawnmower, or the sprinkler. He replied that the moment had never come when he thought the best way to strengthen our marriage and deepen our relationship was to break out in the moonwalk. I asked him if everything he did, then, was to strengthen our marriage and deepen our relationship (if you read this blog with any sort of regularity, you know what a scary thought that is!). I asked him where he learned that stuff. He then told me all about the break dancing lessons he had in 3rd grade. Apparently he can also do the backspin. Sure would have been nice to know all this about 4 years ago…

ANYWAY… Barcelona is awesome! Sammie said it very well on the bus back to the port – the geography of Barcelona is not as scenic as Monaco or Tuscany, but it’s PACKED with culture! We began the day (and I made Sammie leave the boat early so we’d have lots of time!) by walking up Las Ramblas (or, in some guidebooks La Rambla). It’s a wide, tree-lined street running up the middle of the city and filled with all sorts of shops, markets, and street performers. Actually, most of them don’t really perform. They dress up and pose as “live statues.” It’s pretty cool. We’d been told we could buy almost anything on this street, including squirrels. I proposed buying a squirrel for Phoebe and letting the two of them loose in the basement. We never found squirrels, but we found baby chipmunks and lots of mice, hamsters, chicks, birds, etc. (No, we didn’t buy one for Phoebe.) We veered off the street at the Mercat de la Boqueria. It’s a crowded, crazy market that included entire dead pigs. My already queasy stomach lurched a few times at the meat stands. Back on the street, we wound our way through the Gothic Quarter towards the Picasso Museum. Barcelona is OLD! The Gothic Quarter has old houses with narrow, windy cobblestone streets. In fact, the Picasso Museum is in one of these old houses. On the way to the museum, we stopped for a while in another market—this one medieval. The vendors were dressed in period costumes and they were selling medieval items—pottery, herbs (culinary and medicinal), calligraphy, all sorts of meats and cheeses, perfumes, etc… And Belgian Chocolate! A medieval band strolled through while we were browsing. We intended to go back later in the day to buy souvenirs and see some sword fights, but we didn’t make it back.

The Picasso museum is awesome! I’ve never paid much attention to Picasso. I’m not a huge fan of modern art. I love the stuff right before modernism—impressionism, post-impressionism, expressionism, and even some early cubism. After that, it just gets too weird for me. But this museum focused on Picasso’s early development as a painter and I was struck with his early styles. A lot of his early work resembles van Gogh and some of those guys that I like. (And he was influenced by them while he was in Paris.) It was interesting to see the evolution of his work.
After Picasso, we sat down for lunch at a sandwich shop. We had yummy sandwiches and sat for a while, resting. Unfortunately, we both got off the ship with stomach aches (maybe a little sea sick from our day at sea) and by lunch also had headaches. I remember on previous trips abroad when I would run around hot and humid cities all day for days at a time and hardly feel it. Getting old… (Joe reminded me on my last birthday that I am now as close to 40 as I am to 30. Thanks Joe – you wanna die, clown?)

After lunch we walked through the City History Museum. It was basically a walkway and audio tour through Roman ruins that have been excavated underneath the city. What I liked most about it was the explanations of different occupations in the city. For example, while we looked at ruins of the local laundry and dye place, we learned that they used urine to disinfect their clothes. In fact, the launders paid a city tax so that they could put buckets out for people to urinate in so they could use it for the laundry. The doctors in my family have always tried to tell me that urine is sterile. But my definition of something that is sterile, laundered, or in any way considered clean, is that it doesn’t have urine on or in it. Call me OCD… Anyway, we also learned how to dry fish to make a popular fish sauce and how to make wine. It was a very interesting museum.

Our next stop took us an hour to walk to. The guidebook said it was the MUST-SEE of Barcelona and we took their word for it. And boy were they right! La Sagrada Familia is a big—no, enormous—Cathedral that has been in progress for over 100 years and won’t be finished for another 20-30 years. Its main architect is Gaudi, a popular and innovative Spanish artist who made this Cathedral his life’s work but, unfortunately, died while working on it. It’s based on traditional Gothic cathedrals but with a modernist twist. For example, the shape is a Latin cross, and it has the traditional facades, naves, apse, cloister, etc., but they’re modern rather than gothic. Two facades are completed, one representing the passion and, the other, the nativity. The passion façade is very stark and bare—symbolic of death—with scenes from the crucifixion—beginning with the Last Supper and ending with the burial. The sculpted figures are almost cubic—very angled and stylized. But the effect is staggering! Inside, the columns are made to look like tree trunks and the tops of the arches spread out, not into a typical vaulted ceiling, but into what looks like tree branches! So as you sit in the Cathedral (and it can hold up to 10,000 people) you feel like you’re in a forest and can quietly meditate. It’s amazing! The nativity façade, in contrast to the passion façade, is filled with all sorts of signs of life—flowers, plants, animals, etc. It celebrates Joseph and Mary as well as Jesus and assigns each of them a virtue—charity to Jesus, faith to Mary, and hope to Joseph. The first thing I was struck by when we finally found the Cathedral was its height. But the main tower, which has not been built, will rise quite a bit higher than the 8 already built. I think I’ll need to return to Barcelona to see the completed Cathedral. Anyone wanna come?

We hopped on the Metro after leaving La Sagrada Familia and then had a ways to walk, back down La Rambla, to catch the shuttle bus back to the port. La Rambla was chock full of people. Of course, it was 8:00 on a Saturday night by this time. There was some kind of a parade with lots of traditional dancers. That was fun to watch, but also made for a lot of crowd-jostling. We also saw some of the more colorful aspects of Barcelona—including 3 local cross-dressers out for an evening stroll. (I joked with Sammie that they made me nostalgic for my mission—I met a lot of transvestites in Campinas).

We got back to the ship just before 9:00, had a yummy Italian dinner, then made it an early night. In fact, Sammie is in bed next to me snoring, already—his red hair beginning to stand on end in preparation for the morning and his toes wiggling where his feet are sticking out of the covers. (He’s cute!)


Julie said...

I'm enjoying reading about your adventures. I only have one thing to say, perhaps in an attempt to lift the pressure from Joe, "Oh, to be 40 again!"

Ben said...

20-30 to finish the Cathedral--hmm, I want to go with you to see it. Papa Ben

cath said...

it is amazing how quickly i can tell which one of you is writing the update - even without any idea beforehand!!

so jealous for your adventures (what else is new?), and so happy for your adventures! thanks for sharing ...