Thursday, February 4, 2016

Basking in Barcelona Sunshine

View from the top of the arena mall.

After the cold of Vienna, we luxuriated in the warmth of the Barcelona sun.  We ate on our balcony as often as we could, which was an experience in itself.  

We were in a pleasant residential area, but from the balcony, the backs of the nearby apartments presented us with everything from modern apartments with pristine grass-covered lawns to graffiti-enscribed walls and jumbles of furniture and junk. 

Unfortunately, next door, a cockatiel and parrot shared a cage, and we often heard their protests. I felt very sorry for them--they should be free in the wild, not cooped up in a small cage. It made me sad, and I felt powerless to help them.

Near the apartment was a former bull-fighting arena that had been turned into a mall. It was one of the sleekest malls I have ever seen, with the usual shops and a movie theater, and we often shopped at the grocery store on its lower floor.

On the other side of the mall, a sculpture by native son Joan Miró overlooked a small park.

Picasso spent his formative years in Barcelona, too, and the Picasso Museum there gives a fine overview of his progression as a painter from his earliest days.  Visitors can't take photos of the artwork, but I did snap a picture of the inside of the medieval building. (Actually several buildings were joined together to house the collection.)

Of course, you must also stroll along the famous Ramblas, the pedestrian walkway in Barcelona that features mosaics by Miro. Barcelona provides many pedestrian ways, however, so I’m not absolutely sure if the photo below is of the Ramblas, or another walkway.

We were fortunate our stay in Barcelona included a Saturday, when the locals gather in front of the Cathedral de Barcelona to dance the traditional Catalan dance, the Sardana.  Everyone forms a circle, after first putting their* belongings in the middle, and then they make they make their graceful moves to the music of a band. 

*Recently a grammarian's group authorized the use of "their" rather than "his and her" for the singular "everyone." The Washington Post Style Guide also endorses this use, which to me only makes sense. We've struggled with "his and her" for too long!

The separatist movement is strong in Barcelona, with may Catalans favoring independence from the rest of Spain. But Barcelona is more prosperous than the rest of Spain, so the country would be devastated if the movement succeeded. Still, everywhere in Barcelona you can see the separatist flags, as shown here in the square at the dance. 

These two men were also near the cathedral, but I'm not aware of the significance of their costumes. (If you know, please tell me.)

The Barcelona waterfront bustles with activity.  It’s where the cruise ships call, and it also provides a pretty background for a walk.

Barcelona’s most famous building is La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece, which is still under construction.  I haven’t quite decided whether I like it or not. It is unique, and as a one-of-a-kind, I am warming to it, but I wouldn’t want to see a lot of buildings in his style. It isn't a cohesive whole; it's more like a multi-faceted sculpture with varied designs.

Gaudi’s other buildings in Park Güell (pronounced Park Gway), appear like something from a fairytale. We spent an afternoon at the park, which was full of locals and tourists, but we only viewed the architecture from the outside, not wanting to pay the high price of entry. The park itself was free.

Most of our stay in Barcelona was interesting and enjoyable. But unfortunately, that is also where we caught the cold virus that caused us—and me, particularly—so much trouble. It was that virus that made me ill for many weeks and left me with a hearing loss. (Fortunately, when we returned to Seattle, I recovered, and thanks to a good doctor, I recovered my hearing.)

But the first leg of our trip wasn’t over yet.  Next, we flew to Morocco.

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