A few months ago when the weather was really
rainy and damp, we thought it would be a good time to plan a trip to
Spain where itís usually sunny and warm. We picked Barcelona on the
recommendation of friends who have been there and love it. As our
mid-January departure date approached, I checked out the weather.
They predicted temperatures in the low to mid 50s and sunny for the
four days we would be there. Outstanding!
They were wrong. The first day was as advertised:
cloudless blue sky and almost warm. By noon the next day the clouds
rolled in, the temperature plummeted, and it rained incessantly for
the rest of our time there. Europeans, though, are not weather
wimps. Lynn and I have taken our queue from that, at least while
traveling, and we keep on going. We get wet, but so what. Clothes
dry eventually and the sneezing and coughing subside.
Barcelona is in the far northeastern part of
Spain on the Mediterranean Sea, just south of the Pyrenees Mountains
and the southwestern part of France. This part of the country is
called Catalonia, Catalunya to Spaniards. They even speak
Catalonian, which is very similar to Spanish but different enough so
that Catalonians are compelled to point out the difference. The area
is different from what a tourist expects of Spain. For instance, no
bullfights. Thatís to be found in Madrid and Seville but not here.
Catalonians are fiercely independent and rebelled under the rule of
dictator Francisco Franco to the point that he made life miserable
for them for a long time. That situation has long since (officially)
cleared up, but thereís no love lost between people here and in
other parts of the country. Those other folks are sort of tolerated,
kind of like fans of the Jersey Giants or the Irving Cowboys.
One of the travel books we used described
Barcelona as being similar to Los Angeles in that itís built on the
sea in front of the mountains. Much of the center of the city is
flat but some of the more suburban areas climb up the hills and the
view can be spectacular. We know because we saw pictures of what it
looked like without the fog.
Thereís a part of town up on a hill next to the
Mount of the Jews. Near the top of the hill is the Catalan Art
Museum. We didnít go in because it was a day to stay outdoors; on
that day the sun was out and the view across the valley to the
mountains in the background was breathtaking. Scroll to the bottom
and click on the thumbnails, especially the wide angle shot at the
end. Also on this hill are the Olympic stadium and swimming pool,
and the diving pool farther down the road. The Olympic
stadium was built in 1927. This was not incredible foresight on
the part of the city planners; it was originally made for the 1929
Worldís Fair and, they hoped, would be used for the 1936 Olympics
which turned out to be the Jesse Owens Show in Berlin. You can see
the stadium at
I took all these same pictures but these are better.
Barcelona is pretty old. We stayed in an area
called the Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, where the book said
things were packed between "hard-to-be-thrilled-about 14th-
and 15th-century buildings." Packed they were, but the
older I get, the more impressed I am with old. Some of these
buildings are almost 700 years old and they work! Whatís not to
be thrilled about? You can see some of these old buildings at .
As in many old European cities, there was once a wall around it for
protection from enemies. The wall came down and the city expanded.
There is no physical evidence of the wall anymore but itís apparent
where it was from looking at a map. The area in Barri Gotic where
these old buildings are contain streets that run crookedly in all
directions and many are very narrow, maybe only 20 or 25 feet wide.
Beyond the site of the old wall, the city is more like a grid.
Nearby is the La Rambla. La Rambla is a lively
pedestrian street that runs for about three quarters of a mile from
the top of the hill to the waterfront. The top of the hill is PlaÁa
Catalunya, a ritzy part of town with high end stores. The bottom of
the hill is not. In warm weather and with lots of tourists, this is
a mecca for pickpockets, shell game artists, ladies of the evening
(and even the afternoon), and other evildoers. In between itís a
world of fun with open air markets everywhere selling food,
handicrafts, and even birds. Just off the east side of La Rambla is
Donít let the palm trees fool you. It was not even close to warm
when we had dinner there!
Before we left for this trip, I wrote to my
cousin Jule and told her we were going. She wrote back that
Barcelona "is pretty nice but Gaudy." I wondered why she said that
because wandering around the first afternoon, there seemed nothing
gaudy at all. Then we started to notice that Barcelona, while far
from gaudy, is plenty Gaudi, as in Antoni Gaudi. Antoni Gaudi was an
architect who was born in 1852. His influence in Barcelona is
everywhere. He did something called
which is on a street called the "Block of Discord" because also in
the block are
right next door, and
Casa Lleů Morera
at the end of the block, all of which are desperately trying to
outdo the others .
Just a block or so north is another Gaudi creation,
Casa Milŗ, also
Gaudiís greatest work has to be
Church of the Holy Family. This church aims to be the tallest church
in the world upon its completion. Gaudi took the responsibility as
lead architect in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926, the
last 15 years full time. There are estimates that it should be
finished around 2055. Or so. For those of you who work on timed
projects, imagine putting that puppy on a PERT chart! "Sorry, boss,
but weíre gonna be delayed another 15 years." "No sweat. Let me know
if you need any more resources." Think of the dedication of people
working on a project that most will not live to see finished. The
building will eventually have 12 steeples but only eight are there
now. Walking inside is going through a construction site with
building materials everywhere and walls yet to be built. The
ornamentation on the outside, however, is exquisite. I canít begin
to describe it but some of these
pictures will give you an idea. Also
So we got a little wet. Barcelona is a place
worth getting a little wet for. But when we go back, the sun better
damn well shine. Then I can show my own pictures better than the
ones that are here.