We now resume our interrupted broadcast of our travels from Spain. It was just two weeks ago that our three brave heroes found themselves in the capital of Catalonia…
The road to Barcelona is well-trodden, and every tour of the city includes its iconic monuments to Antoni Gaudi, the well-known Spanish Catalan architect. This might as well be the city of Gaudi, we had to conclude after three days of wandering around. Our first stop was Park Guell, on a hill in the north of Barcelona that affords a picturesque view of the city. Gaudi designed and built the park in 1914, and it has come to be known for his signature touch of modernist and naturalist architecture, built of strange, organic shapes and encrusted with mosaics. The winding park terrace which is also covered with mosaics are well-known to me, and recall to me the films like L’auberge espagnole and Vicky Cristina Barcelona where I first saw them.
Sit down, pour yourself some cold sangria, and put on some Counting Crows. I’ll tell you about what we’ve been doing in the seaside city of Barcelona. When I started writing this entry this afternoon, Steve and I were sitting in our Airbnb apartment watching the sun set on the city. Our large window opens up onto a giant city-block sized courtyard space dotted with countless balconies, terraces, and laundry racks. Beyond that, the city of Barcelona slowly fades north into green hills and mountains. The air is a little dry but it has attained the perfect balance of being a warm and comfortable breeze.
Barcelona is at once what I’ve expected from all those movies (I loved L’Auberge Espagnole but rather hated VCB) but also not quite. The subway felt warmer and stickier, at once more gritty and real of a place, but more earthy than grungy. The Eixample district we are staying in is fairly upscale, the neatly gridded streets meeting at diamond-shaped intersections that allow for parking in each corner. Spanish is not everywhere — this is the capital of Catalonia, and feels like a natural continuation from our time in Perpignan. Catalan is the language of choice and the language of state, from subway signs to top billing on restaurant menus. Thankfully, between the Catalan term for something, its Spanish (or Castellano) translation, and the French equivalent, we can almost always make out what items are on the menu. Continue reading Holiday in Spain.→
Written on the TGV Narbonne, France to Barcelona, Spain Saturday, June 7, 20h00
I am writing from the train once more. At the underground station where we are stopped temporarily, “Benvenidos a Girona/Benvinguts a Girona/ Welcome to Girona/ Bienvenue a Girona” scrolls across the display screens. We have crossed into Catalonia, the region of Spain at its northwest which some would say overlaps with French territory as well. I haven’t seen “Salida” on an exit sign since we left Chicago, and the signs in Spanish simultaneously convey that we are in a new country, but somehow echo memories of walking around Pilsen or Little Village in Chicago, where the Mexican community is the majority.
Outside, at first glance, the landscape does not look different. Our train has tunneled through the Pyrenees that divide the two countries, but it is still hilly and mountainous, with small villages and towns. Our train is full of English speaking visitors, some young college-age girls and some older English retirees. Steve and Lele both look tuckered out by our travels, and doze a little despite the bright evening sun. It is 8 pm, but of course, because we are traveling further west in the same time zone, we can look forward to more and more hours of sunlight in the evening. Tonight, I predict the sun will set around 10 pm. Continue reading Crossing the Pyrenees.→