Thursday, April 21, 2016

Barcelona Revisited

Barcelona was the McGriff family's first European vacation.  It was the first vacation where we learned to integrate learning, travel and fun.  My kids started learning and using another language.  We were introduced to Antoni Gaudi, Picasso, Miró, and amazing European markets full of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, sausages and lots of other sights and smells.  
Barcelona is definitely a city that imprints in your memory- full of colorful modernist art and even more colorful people- so when Wilson and Camille chose it as a "we are finished with Spanish II" destination we were thrilled.  And while a LOT has changed in the last 5 years, the city still holds much of the same charm that we remembered.  And to share it with good friends adds another layer of good memories.

Since our last trip here, Barcelona has grown.  One cab driver told us the population is over 8 million and it has been the most visited city in Europe for the last two years.  The traffic has taken its toll.  Las Ramblas is crowded and many wonderful sites that were previously open are now paid admission with controlled entries of a certain number of people per hour.  Those situations did not diminish the fun, just called for a little more planning...

 Camille and Wilson were excited to see that those CRPs from Spanish really do pay off- in fact, all their Spanish did.  Even though the region of Catalonia is determined to keep their native language, Catalan, alive- most signs and most people will speak to you in Castilian Spanish.  They both hit the ground talking to taxi drivers, waiters, hoteliers, and vendors.  I was amazed by their comprehension, big vocabulary and proper use of tenses!  Bueno trabajo Señora Holt y Señora Hicks.  Camille worked hard to start conversations with several cab drivers and we got great insights into their opinions on Catalan independence, the 1992 Olympics, tourism in their city, and one cab driver ended up becoming half tour guide sharing his 1992 Olympic stories and making sure we found the Olympic Stadium and saw the torch.  His comment...."en television mis amigos dicen muy grande, per yo estuve por mirar- esta muy pequeño!"

Both our families had great memories of La Boqueria from previous trips.  It is not easily forgotten and is the polar opposite of the Cours Saleya that has become our daily shopping spot in Nice.  The Boqueria is loud, crowded, and packed to the roof with loads of fresh everything.  For some people it might be a lot to stomach early in the morning but if you can get avoid spending lots of time next to the seafood, there is beautiful fruit, fresh hot tortillas, churros, juice, and coffee.  A good start to the day with hungry teenagers.  

and for 7 people, figuring out public transportation is a must, and a celebration...

      La Sagrada Familia-Fall 2010                                                La Sagrada Familia-Spring 2016

Over 130 years ago, the Catalan cathedral was begun by a devout Barcelonan bookseller, Josep Maria Bocabella, who acquired the land in the Example and planned to dedicate the temple to the Holy Family.  A diocesan architect was originally put in charge of the project but within 10 years had resigned over differences with the builder.  In 1883, Antoni Gaudi, at age 31, began working on the structure and it was to become his life's work.  His mathematical mind is reflected in the hyperboloids, parabolas, and in the basic module which is 7.5 by 7.5 meters and every other interior measurement is a multiple of that.  Gaudi was influenced by Moorish, Mujedar, and Oriental art and all of this blended to him becoming one of the leading artists of Catalan Modernism and Art Nouveau.

The same things that enamored me with this city continue to glow.  The absolute genius of Gaudi's architecture, his forward thinking designs and innovative ideas continue to amaze.  Trencadís was a form of mosaic tilework he created that allowed him to tile his curved space.  Before central air-conditioning he created an attic in Casa Batlló that moved air throughout the attic and down the central staircase.  The glazed tile walls of the staircase are a darker blue at the top and lighter at the bottom so that when light shines in, they all appear to be the same.  Everything he created, from the vented doors to ergonomic doorknobs are evidence that he was truly one of the greatest minds of his time.  And his range was broad.  Whether working on an apartment building for Barcelona's elite, a housing development outside of town, or a cathedral that will serve to glorify God for centuries, his ingenuity and playful style show through.  One of the quotes in our book says that his professor upon bestowing his architecture degree said of Gaudi, "I don't know whether we are giving this degree to a genius or a madman."  Maybe, I think, to be that far ahead of your time, you are a little of both.

I had never seen the schoolhouse outside La Sagrada Familia.  It was built for local children and those of the workmen on the project.  Its simple lines, no square angles, and bright spaces would have provided a perfect environment for learning.  
"When the building simply has what it needs with the resources available it has character, or dignity, which is the same thing."-Antoni Gaudi

And the food- not forgotten- and happily repeated.  The chocolate so thick you could eat it with a spoon and hot churros.  The tapas bars where you eat what you want and they charge by the toothpicks.  And my favorite, jambon iberico, Iberian ham that is so flavorful that two paper thin slices are enough for a whole bocadillo.

And while this trip had the undertones of familiarity and the next layer of exploration of favorite spots, we also found time for some new things too.  The Musee Maritim where Pete got to see the first Snipe ever built and the Flying Dutchman that took gold in the 1992 Olympics, and the Olympic stadium and museum which were so fun, educational and UNCROWDED.

So, al fin de la viaje, I am joyful that we had the chance to rediscover Barcelona.  The city that sent explorers to the New World and fostered artists that charted new territory.  Maybe each of us can take a little bit of that with us.

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