Wednesday, September 24, 2014

'R' In Barcelona

This time we wanted to make it right. We traveled to Barcelona several years ago ( and didn’t quite get the buzz. We liked it back then, but we only knew that there was a beach and major gothic Cathedral, because we saw it on the map. We felt like we missed too much.
We rented a tiny studio in the middle of everything: 10 minutes to the beach, 5 min to El Born and on the border of Barri Gothic. The studio is in a medieval building on the 5th floor walkup. It has an exposed roman brick wall,

a narrow dark staircase

and a view of a major very noisy intersection. Life is beautiful!

The Barcelona we saw this time was young and creative. The art was new and the setting was old.

 Chandeliers made from bicycles parts
The Picasso museum is housed in a beautiful gothic building. The most important part of the collection is a gift that Picasso gave to the city of Barcelona: 58 variations on the Velasquez ‘s masterpiece Las Meninas. It felt like a jazz concert performed in drawings and paintings
The art was everywhere, sometimes abstract
sometimes tacky
sometimes funny
 made from a shopping card
in form of a urinal
 sometimes high-tech (a 3D printing shop which scans live model)
sometimes nostalgic
strange and surrealistic

It was on the beach
just off the beach
on random buildings
on a chocolate cake

 and just simply vulgar graffiti (attracted my attention because of the Russian scribe)
It has the best tile work ever and most amazing chimneys (stunning Gaudi masterpieces)

and most ornate toilet we have ever seen
The Barcelona we heard this time had rich musical diversity. The grand Palau Musica Catalana was splendid with an ostentatious mix of Art Nouveau with baroque. We saw flamenco gala  of stunning virtuosity.

The same day we stopped by a no name coffee bar, because we heard live music playing. It was a free jazz concert. The musicians were young, enthusiastic, and very talented. They played American jazz standards and more native bossa nova compositions with great style and sensitivity  
The Barcelona we understood this time was moving towards Catalonian self­-determination and separation from Spain. Catalonians were celebrating the 300 year anniversary of it’s loss of independence (September 1714)

This was the most extensive celebration of a defeat we ever seen. The celebration included exhibits and cultural events and more amazing public art displays like this:

 These are separate photos with "moments of freedom"
 And this is how it comes together in a kiss:

The Barcelona which surprised us this time was desperate, trying to preserve the old way of life. The older folks enjoying the  game of bocce on the beach:
 La Barceloneta, the old traditional fishing district near the beach and fancy marina
  has several blocks of old working class housing
 with clear signs of resistance to the forces of global capitalism:
The Welcome note says: The rent of holiday apartments in this neighborhood destroys the local socio-cultural fabric and promotes speculation. Many local residents are forced to move out. Enjoy your stay.
The Barcelona we tasted this time was simply amazing. The markets are to die for


the wine is dangerously cheap, and the perfumed and silky hamon is omnipresent

 We had the loveliest lunches in our studio just to taste market’s offerings

The tapas bars are picturesque and tricky

They fool the naïve tourists and delight the pickiest of foodies. The old Bar de Pla has great reviews; the tourists are all queued to get in; a traditionally looking décor; expensive basic menu and waiters who don’t look you in the eyes. We learned a long time ago these are bad signs. The food was mediocre and the prices were outrageous.
The Tapeo bar located just down the street was so good, we wanted to try every dish on the menu and food disappeared from our plates before I could pull the phone out of my purse to take a picture

We befriended a waiter after visiting the place for the third time in two days

The Barcelona we left this time was warm Mediterranean urban beach in early morning; the sand is little dirty, but water is so clear you can see schools of fish swarming  around you feet. It is so beautiful, relaxing and inviting, you want to come back every morning and will miss it for the rest of your life