UPDATE: I have done some editing and added some more details to this post, hopefully making it better. If you’ve already read this one, just pretend you haven’t and read it again.
Hello all, here is a long overdue update to the blog. I have been mostly away from the internet lately so I have not been able to keep you all updated on how things have gone. Here is part 1 of a very late update; covering my time in Barcelona. I hope to add more updates in the next day or two. I am typing this one in a hurry, so forgive any errors (as always).
Although I thought the book The Sound and The Fury was actually pretty stupid (sorry Faulkner) I chose it for the title of this post because that was the phrase that came to mind during an event you will read about in just a moment. I spent a total of 4 days in Barcelona and saw most of the major sights. The hostel I stayed in was in the southern part of El Raval, and just two blocks away from Las Ramblas, a famous street I will tell you about in just a moment. I had read that El Raval was actually the seedy part of town, but section I was in felt ok (but I was told the northern half of El Raval is not a good place to be after dark). On my first full day in Barcelona I went over to Placa Cataluyna, which is Barcelona’s main square, and something of the center of the Catalan people. As some of you know, the people in Barcelona and the surrounding lands consider themselves Catalan first, and Spanish a distant second. Just about everything you read is printed in both Catalan and Spanish (much like San Sebastian, where everything is in Basque and Spanish). After checking out the square, I walked down Las Ramblas which is a famous street (it’s actually several streets linked together) that leads down to the harbor. Las Ramblas is lined with all sorts of shops and outdoor eateries, and is infamous for pickpocketing, though I felt ok while walking it (but to be safe I kept a hand in my pocket on my wallet and camera). The only issues I had were with the various street salespeople, who were stationed every 50 feet along the street and were all using something in their mouths to give themselves extremely high pitched and squeaky voices. At the bottom of Las Ramblas is the Columbus monument, which I was going to go up, but the lift was broken. It is somewhat ironic that Barcelona honors Columbus, as the discovery of the Americas actually led to Barcelona becoming a much less important city in Spain, as the oceanic trade shifted to the Spanish cities on the Atlantic side of Spain. Leaving the monument, I walked the harbor front to one beaches on Barceloneta, which is a triangular wedge of the city jutting out into the ocean. Barcelona’s beaches are ok, but were very crowded when I was walked by. From there I went back to Las Ramblas by another route and then went back to the hostel for dinner. After eating I decided to go back out to Las Ramblas to see it at night, but this time I walked in the other direction, from the bottom back to Placa Catalunya. The street has a different feel at night and did feel a little shady, but not dangerous. It actually might be cool to eat outside there at night, if you can afford it. When I got to Placa Catalunya there was a protest going on by the Indignants (unemployed young people). I stayed for a few minutes but didn’t venture into the mob. A number of people were giving speeches over a loudspeaker, and I even heard a “viva la revolucion!” shout from one of them. There was a definite anger in the air, and from this sound and fury I decided to take the name of this post. The next day I went back to Placa Catalunya in the morning and found most of the protesters gone, but there were some tents and few booths that had been set up. The setup reminded me of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but on a smaller scale. From there I walked through Barri Gotic (old town) and eventually got to Barcelona’s main cathedral. Outside I got to see some people performing a Catalan folk dance while I band played music. The dance has people holding hands in a circle and slowly rotating around in the circle. It actually looks like the easiest folk dance ever. I looked around the inside of the cathedral for awhile, and then took the metro over to the base of Mont Juic (a big hill along Barcelona’s southwest) and then got on a gondola to the top. There’s an old fort up there, along with the Olympic stadium from the Barcelona Olympics and a few other things. Coming down the hill, I passed by a grand museum of Catalan art, which I had meant to go into, but I had gotten there too late and it was closed for the day. At the bottom I walked passed some sort of triumphal columns near a bull fighting arena, and then took an elevator up to the top of the arena since it only costed a euro. The arena has a dome on top, so I couldn’t see in, but it had decent views of the surrounding area. On the next day I went again to Placa Catalunya, (it really is the center of town, and a good starting point for walking to wherever you want to go) where there were now a few more tents than the day before. I then walked north into the Eixample, which is “newer” (1800s) Barcelona that got a grid layout instead of the tangle of small streets that characterize Barri Gotic. Antoni Gaudi, the famous architect, designed a number of the homes in this area, and while there I saw the more famous houses that he designed. I then went over to Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral that Gaudi designed. If you see just one cathedral in Spain, I would say to see this one. Gaudi, breaking from traditional designs, integrated geometrical patterns found in nature for the interior internal columns, ceiling and other sections. It’s really hard to describe this place, and I would encourage you to look up pictures of the cathedral online. The inside of the cathedral seems to be mostly done, and the cathedral is supposed to be finished sometime around 2030, but no one is counting on it. On the outside, two of the major facades and multiple towers are finished, but much work is still to be done. After Sagrada Familia, I went over to Parc Guell, which is the park that Gaudi originally designed (I think I’m seeing a theme for this day) to be a gated community for rich people, but no one wanted to move in so it became a park. The hill in the park has a good vista view of the whole city, though because it’s a bit far away from the main part of town you’ll have to zoom in to check out individual buildings. On my last day in Barcelona I checked out a few miscellaneous things that I had missed in the previous days. I went back to Barcelona cathedral to go up the lift to the roof (it was closed when I was there the first time) and also checked out a park in the east area of town. I also went to a place on Las Ramblas called Cafe Viena to try out a sandwich of theirs’ that became famous from a 2008 (not sure of the year) article in the New York Times where somebody raved that this sandwich was the best in the world. The sandwich has Iberian ham, bread that has had tomato rubbed into it, olive oil and some other stuff. It was tasty, but I wasn’t blown away by it. That was more or less the end of Barcelona, and also the end of my time in Spain.
Anyways, I am currently in Florence, Italy. I hope to have another update for you soon on my time in southern France.