Thursday, December 27, 2007

December 13, 2007

Maeve eating dinner in Barcelona 11/28/07

About Barcelona,

Well, I didn’t blog much about Barcelona, so this is 2 weeks after the fact some things I remember.

Our first full day there, we signed up for a walking tour of the Gothic quarter, where all the gothic buildings were built on top of the Roman ruins. This tour was great, except for the fact that the night before Mike had gotten a stomach virus and ended up throwing up halfway through the tour before we entered the cathedral. He persevered on through, but was not feeling well.

Mike missed some of the tour, as he sat down as much as possible, but generally, it was great. We saw some old sections of the aqueduct that had just been discovered when they tore down a building. In several locations, they had excavated below street level to see the Roman town, and several columns were still left from one Roman building. The Cathedral and cloister were part of the tour, as were interiors of a couple of government buildings that had courtyards. We also saw and old hall, one of the few works of gothic civil architecture in the city, and where they assume that Isabel and Ferdinand met with Columbus. We circled around the cathedral several times, looking at squares, gargoles, and buildings, and ended up totally turned around at the end of the tour in front of the town hall. Meaning, we had no idea where we were, but we were actually about 5 minutes from our apartment, where we headed for lunch and naps.

The next day we went to Sagrada Familia, an amazing construction site. It was well worth going up in the tours and walking down to get views of the city and the façade up close. The church is massive, and now you can walk around the inside, which is almost completely covered, but it’s the facades that are most impressive right now.

One day we went to L’Exaimple to see Casa Batlo, an apartment complex remodeled by Gaudi. We really liked this one. I thought the balconies on the façade looked like skulls, and our Modernisme guide later told us that one story about the façade is that it represents the dragon killed by St. George, the patron of Barcelona, and that the balconies are the ribs of the maidens the dragon ate. Anyway, it’s all wavy lines. Inside, also there are no straight lines. All the rooms flow organically into one another. There were also lots of nifty “modern” touches, like the vents in the doors to let air flow between rooms or the skylights to let light into the stairwell and all the way down to the basement. Or the fact that the stairwell tiles changed color from dark blue at the top to light blue at the bottom. We spent a long time on the roof – Maeve particularly enjoyed the broken tile pieces that Gaudi used to make the façade.

Later we took a second walking tour that covered Moderisme. We’d really liked the first (gothic) walking tour, except for Mike getting sick, but on the Modernisme tour, our guide wasn’t as good. He talked a lot, and didn’t get through the whole itinerary. However, we did learn about the Catalan Music Hall, Casa Batlo, and La Pedrera, another Gaudi apartment building. Apparently, with La Pedrera, Gaudi completely ignored city building code regulations, and pretty much got away with building the building too tall and over the sidewalk.

Another day we went up to Montjiuc and the Miro museum. I really like his swirly lines and blobs of color. Mike was less enthused. We then went to a lookout to take in views of the city and cut through a restaurant access road to walk back down. Excellent shortcut. On the metro, we lost the map that had our list of veggie restaurants, we first circled back to the metro station we’d lost the map at. Of course it was gone. So we took the metro back to the apartment and looked up the restaurant location again. We then took the metro way up in L’Eixample, the part of the city beyond Plaza Catalunya that was built in the 1800s when the city was allowed to expand beyond the medieval walls. It was after 2 by the time we got to the restaurant, which was lucky because it didn’t open until 2:30. We’re still not used to the crazy eating times here. So we wandered around the neighborhood for a few minutes and sat in the square before going to eat. Then back for nap time, and a wander down the Ramblas in the evening.

Our last evening, we went to the plaza in front of the cathedral because it was Saturday and Saturday at 6 they do folk dancing there. However, the Christmas market was in full swing, full of stalls selling Belen figurines (parts of nativity scenes) and there was no folk dancing. Too bad.

Interesting, we brought a cell phone that is 3-band and will work in Europe, but needs to be unlocked. We first asked in Granada about getting it unlocked, and couldn’t find a place. We finally found one our last day there when we walked past the university on our way to a monastery, and there was a shop that advertised unlocking. We went in and asked, but they couldn’t have it done for another day, and we didn’t have time. There were tons of unlocking places behind our apartment in Barcelona, but we never managed to take the phone out and get in unlocked. Then in Valencia, again we couldn’t find a place to unlock the phone, although several people we asked claimed such shops existed on Calle Colon. Here in Madrid, we finally got the phone unlocked, too late for it to be useful for us to get a SIM card and use the phone here in Spain. The unlocking cost 12 Euros and took 5 minutes. Geez!

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