Barcelona was perhaps my favourite of the cities I had visited thus far. And it was hardly about “sights” either!
I spent great amounts of time rambling on Las Ramblas, which is the main street for walking, with only skinny little spots for driving, and a big grand tree lined alley for strolling. Other than the tons of people, there were also plenty of little souvenir booths, and the most impressive collection of “living statues” I’ve seen yet (those would be the people acting like statues…. if you aren’t familiar with the term). My personal favourite was the robot Michael Jackson statue who would spring into action with metallic sounding “he hee” and “Ow!” s if you put a coin in his pot.
There was also one section that they call the Ramblas of the Little Birds, which is apparently THE place to buy pets (and I heard Sundays are pet-buying days). No cats and dogs (many people are apartment dwellers, and these ARE just for sale in booths on the street!), but plenty of the usual little animals – mice, hampsters, rabbits, more chinchillas than I’m used to….. plus some different ones too. Like chipmunks! I pet one for the first time – the ones I have fed never let me pet them – very soft. I also tried to pet a chinchilla but it turned around really quickly and gave me a death stare, so I moved away really quickly. Another odd one was chicks…. odd because they turn into chickens! (which are probably not good apartment pets).
I visited the Placa Real (where my awesome hostel, Kabul, was located) as well as the Placa Catalunya, where I fed some pigeons my bread crust. I also spent several mornings navigating La Boqueria, the fabulously colourful market (lots of very fresh seafood and fruit, among lots of other things); and even made my lunch there a couple of times.
On the day after I sprained my ankle, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the beach. The laying down part and the swimming parts were fine… but getting out was nearly impossible! The tiny pebbly slope to get out was hard enough to navigate with my weak ankle, but light waves kept coming and knocking me back before I could get to the top. I eventually had to turn around, sit down, and shuffle backwards out of the water on my bum to get out. People were probably wondering what in the world I was doing. Although once I got out of the water it was probably pretty evident, as at this point one foot/ankel were huge and very “colourful”.
I also enjoyed some nightlife with increasingly large groups of people I had met at the hostel, or in earlier cities (mostly solo travellers, strangely). One night was a not-as-good-as-others organized pubcrawl, another was just chilling in the hostel pub, and another was pub hopping on our own, including one place, El Bosc de les Fades – the fairy woods – a super creepy place that apparently used to be the horror section of the wax museum, and is in a haunted-looking castle area, abandoned mine-looking area, and haunted woods area – where all the trees had faces. Definitely different.
And… the sites I did see were the Gaudi sites. (The modernist architect!). First I hit his famous – and still famously unfinished – cathedral, La Sagrada Familia with its towers that look like they are melting. Then it was to Casa Mila, a housing complex he did in the 1920’s. I actually went in this one (that looks like waves and seaweed from the outside). One apartment was set up as it would have been in the days after it was built, and then there were some fantastic art deco pieces (and some for sale in the shop) as well as a museum on Gaudi’s pieces. The grand finale was the roof, which is as wavy as the sides…. unfortunately, it had just started to rain, and it was a bit slippery – combined with the fact that my stair climbing skills were still sub-par (due to the ankle!) and that the roof is ALL stairs; up and down…. well; needless to say; my appreciation of the giant helmet like protrusions was less than it usually would have been (because I thought I was going to die).
Anyway; the next day I was walking somewhat better, and made it to Casa Battlo, another Gaudi house (with animal-skull looking balconies, bone-looking railings, waves, and colourful mosaic walls). The bonus is that this is on the “Block of Discord”, so named because there are 2 other modernist houses on the same block other than Casa Battlo, which was lovely for my viewing pleasure.
My last day of Spain wasn’t spent in Barcelona, but partially in travel…. and partially in Figueres, a town about an hour and a half (by train) up the coast. Why Figueres, you ask? Well, it is the location of the “Theater Museum” of my very favourite (and surrealist) painter; Salvador Dali. The Dali Teatro Museo also says it is the largest surrealist structure in the world. I believe it. It is situated in an old theater; which on one end is bright red and gold and lined with giant eggs. Near the entrance; there is a statue bust with…. a statue bust on his head. And if you were able to see my pictures from Florence with the many groaning lion statues with pigeons on their heads, you would know how much I appreciate that sort of thing.
And inside…. ah. A great deal of Dali’s paintings; some of his installations and sculptures (including the room that looks like Mae West’s face – the lips are a big leather couch; the eyes are paintings….); and a good deal of random surrealism. Oh, and Dali’s imposing tomb in the basement.
So my Spain was modernism, surrealism, markets, and warmth (palm trees and all).