Day 7: The Rain Came

I am very glad I did the beach yesterday. Also, GO HAWKS!!!

Today was a light day. I spent most of the morning reading and walking in Parc de Cuitadell (Barcelona’s largest park).

  
Then when the rain came I found a nearby bakery/cafe to hole up while I read and gorged on pastries for a few hours. 

Finally, it poured really really hard at night so I did not travel far for dinner and the quality of the Caesar salad showed that mistake. 

Tomorrow is the journey home. 

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Day 6: This Is Happiness

Cal Pep is the second best restaurant that I have ever been to (the first is Lucius in Amsterdam). Every last tapas (anchovies and calamari, bread with tuna tart, creme brûlée, mussels, cheese bread, etc.) was to die for. If you ever go to Barca, you must go. Prepare to wait in line. I stood in line for an hour after getting there at 7:30pm when it opened. But be strong. It is worth the wait! And be sure to sit at the counter and let the staff decide what you eat. I cannot thank my friend Eliot enough for recommending this to me. 

  

And that was only part of a really really great day, I spent the afternoon walking the Barcelona beach. If I had to choose only one place to spend the rest of my days, it would be that area of a beach where the sand is firm and the waves wash over your feet (and sometimes even more than that) and the air is salty to the taste. That is the place where I can instantly be in the moment and know nothing but the sound of the waves, the feeling of lapping water, and the beating of the sun. (I had to move up the beach time from Tuesday to Monday because of a projected rain storm. The water was pretty chilly but there is something deeply humbling about swimming in the Mediterranean Sea – that same body of water that many of humanity’s ancestors crossed at one point or another.) Now if I only I could convince the cat that he would like that place, too…

Tomorrow (2015 May 19) won’t beat today (2015 May 18) and there is nothing wrong with that. But some day in the near future will. 

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Day 5: Flamenco!

It did not seem proper to come to Barca and not see Opera y Flamenco at the Palau de la Música Catalana. The hall is pretty spectacular – not Queens Theatre spectacular granted. The performers did not disappoint. Having recently seen two different ballet events, there were a lot of similarities and contrasts. Of course, the story being told in Spanish meant I didn’t really know what was going on aside from the pretty obvious. It makes me wonder how knowing what the story is would have changed things.

The language barrier is probably the theme of the day as one of the two museums I went to – the Barca history museum – did not have English on most of their placards, which is perfectly fine (although they did not have any audio guides either) but again it definitely changes the perception. Most of the museum is subterranean – like the excavation beneath Notre Dame that one can visit – as it takes you through old excavated parts of the area from Roman times through the mid-second millennium. There is a bowl from Roman times that had reliefs on it (chronicling some sort of achievement). It really makes me want to have bowls that have reliefs on them.

The other museum was the Maritime history museum, which was supposed to be finished being renovated – but as my luck with European museums and renovations (Orsay in Paris, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam) would have it the museum was not done being renovated. The coolest thing in the museum was the 1:1 replica of a royal galley from the 17th century. That ship was HUGE. Sadly, visitors could not go inside it.

By the looks of the score, it looks like it is really good I was not able to watch the Blackhawks game.

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Day 4: All The Noms Are Belong To Me

About halfway through the day, I realized it was Saturday and that the famous Mercado de La Boqueria (a huuuuuge market) was going to be closed on Sunday so I changed my plans and was I ever thankful. Here is a picture of the market:

photo

I don’t actually know how big the market is, but I did eat my way through it: fruit, chocolate, churros, pizza (with Catalonian meat), empanadas, fish, etc. Near the back there was a spice vendor and I seriously could’ve stood their all day. The Indian spices were so amazing! I would’ve bought some but I had no air tight containers and neither did the vendor. The only disappointing part was that none of the fish on ice that I passed were blinking at me (this was not true in Hong Kong). If you value experiencing markets like this, then I highly recommend it, but do remember that the best one is in Sanur, Indonesia, where you can barely walk through because the vendors are so many.

Today’s dinner was at Cerveceria Catalana, which is the first restaurant I can honestly say I would choose to go back to if I ever come back to Barca (as I suspect I will one day). Most of the others I’ve dined at have been enjoyable but not memorable. The mussels in particular (I had the assorted tapas plate) were delightful. My only complaint was the albarino wine – who in their right minds would make a sweet albarino?!

Most of the day before the market visit was spent at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which is on Montjuric (which has the better views of Barcelona than Sagrada Familia). I did not intend to spend so many hours there but the museum went on and on and one. It is most well known (I think) for its medieval murals, which it rescued from churches in the Pyrenees decades ago and then reconstructed where they had been placed in their respective churches to try to give as much of an original feel as possible. The murals do not disappoint. There was an exhibit on political art during the Spanish Civil War, which was sadly too short (the exhibit, not the SCW).

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Day 3: The Things We Can Achieve

Housekeeping note: I’ve obviously been derelict in writing each day, which contrary to popular belief was not because I became embroiled in a new Spanish Civil War. However, as I look at my notes for each day that I’ve not written about, I am reminded of why it is important to do this each day.

The subject of this post is in reference to today’s major sights: La Sagrada Familia and the Picasso Museum. There are lots of reasons to think resources for La Sagrada Familia could be better spent elsewhere — and that is true of a lot of things for varying degrees. It is seriously impressive and literally breathtaking. Two of my favorite factoids: 1) Gaudi never intended to finish it in his lifetime and had planned for it to take generations to complete with each generation adding their own to it (Gaudi died in 1926 in a tram accident); 2) the columns in the building are designed like trees so their supports for the ceilings branch out like forming a canopy. The columns are especially bad ass. Contrary perhaps to majority sentiment, I think the best views of Barcelona can be achieved from Montjuric and not La Sagrada Familia.

There are so many things one could say about the Picasso Museum. What perhaps surprised me the most was that there were relatively few paintings that featured Picasso’s cubism as most of the exhibits were showing works from different stages in his career. Another surprising thing was that there were displays of sketches for Picasso’s “Science and Charity” work (along with work itself) and in many of the sketches the faces were not even drawn out but were rather blobs of paint.

Also, one last thing: Catalonian meat is so so so so great. Nom!

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Day 2: A Good Plane Ride

Today was the first European day of the trip as Day 1 was spent on a plane. Speaking of the plane, I sat next to two of the nicest people ever. One of them signed me into the Delta club at the Amsterdam Airport as a guest so I got to spend my ~5 hour layover in peace and comfort. The Amsterdam Airport continues to amaze me by its sheer size.

The sun rises over Europe

As veteran readers of the blog know, I find binging on a show I haven’t seen before to be the best way to get through a long flight. This time I chose The Last Ship, which was shockingly good and quite entertaining.

I have to say that Barcelona could do a much better job of marking its streets and making its transportation signs informative. I just don’t understand why if you say “trains this way”, then you don’t have it on subsequent signs so people know where to go.

Much of the day was spent walking Les Rambles, which there isn’t a lot to say other than there is interesting architecture and a lot of stores that it is not all that clear how they do enough business to stay open.

I also went to the contemporary art museum since I didn’t have a whole lot of time before the museums closed for the day and I didn’t think I would need that much time – it is contemporary art after all (burn!). The most interesting exhibit was one on political art during 1970s political movements around the world. There several interesting pieces, especially from Nicaragua and Palestine. And the entrance to each exhibit involved going through a pretty narrow hallway.

Tomorrow is La Sagrada Familia!

 

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Day 1: You Can’t Take The Transatlantic Skies From Me

The first international trip of 2015 is underway and starts the same as 2012’s: layover in Atlanta. 

Not much more to say than Barcelona here I come! (Well, first, a five hour layover in Amsterdam.)

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Day 8: All Warm Things…

There are few sensations that I love more than the smell of sea water, the sound of waves, and a tropical sun beating down on me.

The trip was incredibly relaxing and the kind of trip I needed as 2013 comes to a close. We got to see some new countries and to enjoy a low key week. I also unexpectedly detoxed from caffeine this week as the cruise ship — like many places in the world — discriminates against noncoffee drinkers by offering free coffee but no other free source of caffeine. Dear coffee drinkers, you should show more signs of thanks because people like me subsidize your free or cheap coffee at many establishments. So we will see how the no caffeine thing works out.

Alas, all warm things must come to an end.

Here’s hoping your 2014 is your best year yet and your worst to come.

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Day 7: The Final Relaxation

Today was as expected: uneventful, as it was a day at sea. We watched a few episodes of the Prisoner and Archer but spent most of the day on the balcony reading.

I finished the Everything Store today. It was a well written book and the author kept me interested to the very end. It glossed over some areas that I thought deserved more attention, especially near the end (such as that Amazon still has razor thin profits and a terrible terrible employee review methodology that several tech giants are moving away from). Overall I think it is about as good a book that could be written today on the history of Amazon.

Jillian finished American Gods and said it was awesome.

Over the course of the last 7 days, together, we have used the Internet for only 250 minutes.

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Day 6: My Mortal Enemy Strikes Back

Today was supposed to be a great day at the beach. A day of relaxation and frolicking in crystal clear water. But after the first hour the skies opened up and it was a torrential downpour that lasted the rest of the day. There is one obvious and undeniable culprit: Winter. It struck back for us fleeing its wrath by ruining our day at the beach.

Tomorrow is the second and last day at sea. I intend to finish The Everything Store.

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