So much beauty out there

April 30, 2009

Barcelona

Filed under: All,Dear Diary,Travel — Josh @ 4:15 pm

Despite the shambolic nature of my trip preparation, the last day went smoothly. I managed to clear everything out of the house, and still get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Because of trying to sort out practicalities of the move and trip I hadn’t really had time to come to terms with what the impact on my life would be. The plane trip seemed an ideal time for quite reflection on my life-changing decisions, or at least planning an itinerary for Barcelona. No, too scary. Better try those Kakuro puzzles for the first time. Tricky buggers they are too. Was half way into Barcelona city centre before I finished it.

Still, in Barcelona now – initial impressions? Very good, they have realised that 5-6 storeys is the optimum height for urban buildings. Nice weather too. But don’t want to rush too fast into this tourism lark, first business is to find a bar to watch Man U vs Arsenal. Success. Hmm, didn´t they introduce a smoking ban in Spain? Doesn’t appear to be being followed here. Not sure how they’d deal with a raid from the authorities. I guess the fags could be put out and the ashtrays hidden, but I don’t see what they could do about the huge cigarette vending machine right in front of the bar. More interesting to wonder about than watching the game at least. Tomorrow, we’ll do some culture.So, fresh start in the morning. Out of the hostel at 8 am (given the time differences, effectively 7) and ready to go. Except that nothing is open until at least 10. Shocking indolence. Plenty of reasons have been advanced for Spain’s decline from being a world power – dogmatic catholicism that led to a refusal to build canals on the grounds that “if God had wanted water to flow there, he’d have put a river there”; royal inbreeding that meant that the always pronounced Hapsburg chin became so pronounced that Carlos II had to eat through a straw. Actually it was simple laziness.

So, instead I walk down to the seafront and looming up to the right is Mont juic. It’s stunning to see so prominent undeveloped greenery so close to a city centre, even if it is obviously unpropitous building land.

Montjuic viewed from the city centre

Montjuic viewed from the city centre

There is a lovely walk up the sea front side of it, which is practically deserted. I’m amazed it’s not been totally taken over by walkers and joggers – further clear evidence of Catalan indolence. Sceptics may suggest that on a Thursday morning the denizens of Barcelona were probably at work. Tish and fipsy. They probably don’t even start work until the afternoon.

City viewed from Montjuic

City viewed from Montjuic

Incidentally the slogan for Montjuic is “Montjuic really is Montjuic” which seems a little odd as it translates as “Jewish hill”. I’m not sure how a hill goes about showing it really is Jewish. Does it suffer from centuries of persecution? Make jokes about its mother?

Hope you’re appreciating these “humourous” asides by the way, as basically every sight I’m seeing, I’m thinking “well, that’s all very well, but can I write anything witty about it?”

 Spent the next few hours wandering around Montjuic, which is great. It has awesome views of the city, as well as being very pretty itself.

Started off at the Botanical Gardens, wanting to make the most of the lovely weather -still to see my first Spanish cloud – which was all very pretty. And judging on the evidence of them at least reports of the extinction of the honey bee have been greatly exaggerated. They were omnipresent.

Next up was the Stadio Olimpico, which was also rather impressive. It was free to get in, so I wandered in to have a look around. One of the things that surprised me was how close you felt to the track. I’d always imagined that in an Olympic stadium the athletes would just be dots moving around, but instead I think you must get a good view. The football pitch in the middle did seem miles away though. The other noticeable thing was that the merchandise on sale at the ground was overwhelmingly for FC Barcelona, with hardly any for RC Espanyol. Now, I know that Barcelona are a bigger club, and practically incarnate Catalan identity, but it’s Espanyol’s home ground! I can’t imagine the City of Manchester stadium (to take a similar example) flogging Man U gear to the near exclusion of City merchandise.

Stadio Olimpico interior

Stadio Olimpico interior

Stadio Olimpico exterior

Stadio Olimpico exterior

Next up, walked past (though didn’t have time to go into) the National Museum of Catalunya, which is another great building.

National Museum

National Museum

Finally a trip round a gallery devoted to Joan Miró. This was a bit of a disappointment as it faithfully showed his entire painting career, and I wasn’t too impressed with most of his early work (he started doing sub-Cézanne landscapes after World War 1) and it’s not until the 60s and 70s that he started producing consistent work that I like. Still, there was enough of that to justify the visit, even if his most famous works are scatterd around the world.

Phew. Tough day. Time to go back to the hostel and spend some time online…

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