Although I think of myself, essentially, as a country-girl, I love cities. I love their quirks, and their ability to change, and to mix modern with traditional, and how there is always something new to discover, and above all their energy. I need to feed off that energy just as much as I need to feed off the peace of the countryside or the seashore.
I especially adore Spanish cities. I have yet to find one I don’t like, and want to return to – Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Malaga, not forgetting Santa Cruz de Tenerife – all have their special charms, and lots of soul.
Maria and I went to Sevilla this time largely because Cirque de Soleil was there. Temperatures were in the high thirties and locals all said it was a freak heat wave, even by standards of a city known for its summer heat. It was a magical few days, as I’ve already noted, but leaving Sevilla wasn’t that hard. It was time. You don’t always get that feeling, but I had it, despite that I was standing on a street corner at 5am waiting for a taxi, I knew it. I was happy to be on the move again. I’d had a wonderful time, and I loved her to bits, I really hoped to return but I wasn’t in love.
Speeding to the airport you could see that there were wide, modern thoroughfares and smart office blocks outside of the historic and touristy heart of the city. Avenida Kansas City for goodness sake, there must be an interesting story behind that name, surely.
It doesn’t take long to get to Barcelona, you’re still in Spain, but the difference is palpable in the first whiff of air, even at the airport. There is that vibe of a city on the move, an energy which, I’m sorry, I missed in Sevilla. I’m very aware it’s possibly because we stuck to an area which radiated roughly from the cathedral. We only crossed the river once, and I know I still have much to learn and discover. = Reason to return!
Barcelona is more familiar – this was my fourth visit, and, not only that, but it’s Maria’s hometown, and you can’t do better than to be with someone in their hometown if you want to really “get” a place. That said, I had a couple of requests; places I’d missed on previous visits. On my last visit I’d kind of “done” Gaudi, but got distracted by Roman ruins and a chocolate museum (no surprise there, then, for those who know me!), and I missed Parque Güell. Since then I’d watched “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona” a few times, so I really needed to experience it.
Seeing the famous architecture and sculptures I couldn’t, actually, believe that I hadn’t been there before. I had the same reaction when I went to New York. It was all so familiar (but no less impressive for that), because I’d seen it so often on the screen.
The vista from atop the park is stunning. The city meanders over the foreground like a miniature village, and landmarks like La Sagrada Familia (still encircled by cranes) tower above the mass of other structures with authority. We couldn’t resist the corny photo ops – afterall, it’s the fact that something is so good that makes it popular!
As for Gaudi? His vision, his surreal take on the world is beyond words. So many public spaces, worldwide, copy his style these days, it’s easy to forget just how avant-garde he must have been. Happily for us he and his imitators have brought much color and humor into our modern lives!
Alas the photos here are all that remain. It’s looking very much as if I’ve deleted the rest by mistake, and I could cry! If I find them hidden somewhere on this p*ta computer I’ll post them as a photo essay, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely :=( Most of these have been recovered from Flickr and Twitpic, so if the quality is lacking, that’s why. = Reason to Return!
I also made my best-ever Bookcrossing release in Parque Güell. I left the book about Gaudi which I’d bought on my last visit, lying on a park bench for the next reader. I figure you can’t get much more apt than that!
What I hadn’t realized from movies or books (I read Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s “The Angel’s Game” as my preparation for this visit, perhaps I should have stuck to guides?!) was just how extensive the park is, and that there is more to it than just a pilgrimage to Gaudi. I love to have reasons to revisit places, and since we’d hightailed it straight down there after arriving in the morning, and a lovely lunch prepared by Maria’s sister, we didn’t have enough time to explore it all = Reason to Return :=)
My other requests were the Palau de la Musíca and La Boqueria Market. The latter was to elude me yet again. The last time I attempted to visit was a bank holiday (January 6th, the Day of the Kings) and, as luck would have it, so was the day we chose this year! It was October 12th, Spain’s National Day, and the market was all closed up, save for a few bars around the periphery, which, of course, were chock-a-block. BUT another Reason to Return!
As for the Palau de la Musíca, well, it kind of half-eluded me. From the pictures I’d seen of the Music Palace I imagined it to dominate the surrounding neighborhood, but I’d forgotten about how narrow the streets of the old city are, and we rounded a corner, and there it was, before us. Very impressive, nevertheless, and now protected by a glass façade, which does detract from its beauty, but with which you can’t argue. History has to be preserved and protected, and this is probably the best way. The entry price was just too much for the current state of my bank account, so we had to content ourselves with a stroll just inside the ground floor bar area, and then we trotted around the corner to snap the lavish exterior. The building, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and inaugurated in 1908, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it so epitomizes an era which fascinated me for many years that I could almost have cried. One day I WILL be back to see the elaborate interior and the famous stained glass! =Reason to Return!
Barcelona is one of the best cities I know for just strolling around. I’ve been in all sorts of weather, and even at its coldest or wettest I haven’t been deterred.
Outside the cathedral there is a new photo-op. I have to say again how much I love this blend of ancient and modern that you find in great cities. It’s a sense of life continuing and evolving, appreciating the beauty of the past, but loving the present and looking forward to a bright future. The times I’ve hated cities have been when I’ve visited ones which seemed to be stuck in their past, however fascinating that might be!
We were intrigued, as were dozens of others, as we snapped away, by the red water, looking like blood, oozing from this fountain. It was pretty gruesome, and a couple of weeks to go to Halloween, so not for that. We couldn’t find out if it was intentional, it was Spain’s National Day, a day when the sacrifices of its military are honored, so perhaps, but Maria’s sister thinks it was probably a prank.
There was so much more to this day, but I was relying on the photos as memory prompts…..so I guess I’ll just have to go back to relive it all….maybe it’s one of the joys of travel always having a Reason to Return?