Sunday, September 12, 2010


I didn't need the twelve year old on the local news to tell me that it's raining - I can see that perfectly well from the window in my soul.  (Ha!  As if I have one.)  And the one in my living room, which is where I'm sitting on the first day since May 17 not to reach 70 degrees (OK, so the local news girl-fetus teached me something.)

But it's the perfect weather to finish the story of our trip - which we left off just as our floating homotel docked in Barcelona.

We departed the ship in a flurry of hugs and kisses and basically whole bunch of middle-aged men totally queening out.  Really, getting off that boat must look like the end of the Miss America pageant, which strikes me - in retrospect - as odd because I remember feeling like a Vietnamese boat person grateful for dry land.

Anyway, we dropped our bags at the hotel and went out to explore the city.

Here's a hint:  loafers without socks is a poor, poor choice for exploring Barcelona by foot.  It may have been a fashion plus, but it was a comfort minus as we tumbled over quaint, narrow cobblestone paths that shredded my soles to ribbons.  After exploring La Rambla and the gothic neighborhoods in the Old City and the Raval, we rode the subway to Parc Guell to see the Antoni Gaudi architecture.

Gaudi's signature look was white plaster with colorful ceramic tile chips embedded in it.  It's also because of Gaudi that we get the word "gaudy" - and gaudy it was.  Imagine Central Park (or your favorite local greenspace.)  Now pretend a kaleidoscope exploded all over it.  In the shape of the house where the witch held Hansel and Gretel hostage.  That's it.

Maybe I was just tired and cranky and tired of hobbling round like I just hung out with Kathy Bates in Misery.  It's possible.  It was about 450 degrees and I was getting frustrated with the fact that, even though everyone understands Spanish when you speak to them, they insist on responding in Catalan, an unholy blend of Spanish and French that basically sounds like you're talking to a drunk, retarded Charo.  So we headed back to the hotel.

Do you really need to hear that the hotel room that was definitely going to be ready by 2pm was still not available at 4?  Are you so mew to this blog that you don't know the type of grace with which I handled this situation?

Our complimentarily upgraded room was lovely.

After dinner with our friend Mike (who had been on the cruise with us, working through his Men of All Nations coloring book - tonight's country, Cuba! - which came in handy since the waiter only spoke Catalan) we headed home and crashed, hopeful that tomorrow would help us understand why everyone we know seems to love Barcelona so much.

Why is it that I spend my vacations in churches and museums - two places I never go to at home, and which I don't exactly associate with "leisure time?"

In truth, the cathedral we visited first on Friday was gorgeous - large and impressive with apses and stained glass and biblical scenes.  We followed it with a visit to the Picasso museum, where a retrospective of his earlier years was spectacular.  Only by looking at his work chronologically can you see the work that shows him learning his craft in the style of the impressionists and neo-impressionist who preceded him.  You can see him becoming great - experimenting first with factors such as color, as he begins to explore the boundaries of his art and express himself in a way that began the last important movement in the art world.  You see him move to shape and shadow and ultimately the abstract movement he became synonymous with - a precursor to the violence of Miro and the surrealism of Dali.

And then you begin to understand Barcelona, and with it, Spain itself.  The most important country in the world in the very late 15th and early 16th century - from the art and music of the Moorish period, to the Ferdinand and Isabella and Columbus period of exploration.  But Spain lapses into the shadow of Europe as the later explorers were Dutch and English and French; as the Northern Renaissance highlights the contributions of the Dutch and Flemish painters; as the reformation era spotlights Germany and France, and ultimately - by the late 1500s, the age of Spain and the Spanish Hapsburgs recedes to over two centuries of British and French dominance.  Yet, in the early 20th century, Spain re-emerges as the birthplace of the last great movements in art and architecture before the modern era of pop, revival and homage.

So now, we're liking Barcelona.  After the museum, a glass of wine ('natch) and a dinner at a tiny restaurant called Pla, on a narrow dead-end street in the old city.

On our last full day in Barcelona we took the train out to Sitges and hit the beach.  A combination of Provincetown and Puerta Vallarta, Sitges is a charming beach community with a narrow strip of sand (chairs, 5 Euro) and plenty of places to buy an ice cream cone, fried potatoes, and expensive jewelry.  You know, whether it's Rehoboth Beach, Delaware or the other side of the planet, I can't figure out why every gay beach resort pairs speedo clad muscle men with caloric snack treats.

Which pretty much serves as the tagline for this trip.  Too much sun, too much skin, too much ice cream.

When we return, it's back to America - whatever's left of it.

1 comment:

  1. No, we aren't MEW to this blog. GLAD you got the upgrade! Thanks for another vicarious excursion! Beautiful.