Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Barcelona: I Was Here

At Antonio Gaudí's Sagrada Família. Gaudí worked on it from 1883 to 1926, and construction is still underway.

Studious, witty, budget-minded and a born storyteller, I always bring Rick Steves along (via library book) as my personal tour guide. I'll be quoting from him throughout my visit.

From Rick Steves' Spain 2007:

"Part of Gaudí's religious vision was a love for nature. He said, "Nothing is invented; it's written in nature." His columns blossom with life, and little windows let light filter in like the canopy of a rain forest."

Gaudí's Park Güell. On this day, a city-wide transit strike was in place until the early evening, which meant walking everywhere. I walked uphill to this park, and a total of 12 miles for the day (I had a pedometer on to track it). Phew!

Citadel Park at dusk.

Elegant elderly ladies everywhere walking with their dogs socializing in tree-lined squares. Barcelona's senior population is some of the most smartly dressed I've seen.

In Parc de Montjuïc, the Sardana dancers statue, celebrating a dance performed by the Catalonia community where people join hands and dance in a circle in sync with the drum taps.

Also visited was the Picasso Museum. No photos were allowed (the same goes for the Prado in Madrid and some other attractions) which I prefer in museums. I've seen too many people in museums take a photo of the artwork, then walk away without even having taken a second to view the art standing right in front of them.

Rick Steves fans will recognize Juan at the Pinotxo Bar in La Boqueria. Rick Steves says he loves to flash a smile and give a thumbs up, but he looked, well, busy. As soon as a seat cleared it was immediately taken.

Women shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables just outside the La Boqueria hall. Disappointingly, flimsy plastic bags are everywhere in Spain versus this more idealized way of shopping with a reusable tote.

Hope: bicycles for rent.

Depressing: birds for sale along La Rambla. Why hold captive a creature with the gift of flight in a tiny cage for one's amusement? I love the beauty of birds, and have an outdoor feeder; the birds have their freedom.

No birds or other animals hurt in the making of this vegetarian paella at the Organic Market in the back of La Boqueria.

Tapas time at Tossa: a vegetarian croquette.

Button mushrooms in garlic and olive oil, and stuffed olives.

Bread with crushed tomatoes and olive oil. All washed down with sangria, some of the best I had in Spain.

Lunching with seemingly all locals at Cal Boter. They have a 10 euros lunch (appetizer, entree, bread and dessert). I was told it was no problem to swap a vegetarian item for a meat one, but I was charged (the first of many times I had problems with the bill in Spain). In any event, this all cost about 12 euros.

After onion soup (no cheese and no egg), I had the vegetarian plate and shared a carafe of the house red wine. The waitress said wine was included, which it wasn't.

Sweet endings: fresh melon for dessert.

Next stop, Granada.

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