I’m back from Barcelona long enough, now, to have
- sorted through the nearly 2000 photos I took, and
- gotten my brain back out of vacation mode for now.
A selection of my favourite photos are posted in a Picasa album (and click the thumbnails here to go to these specific shots). It also feels fitting to post this to these pages on the summer solstice.
The album doesn’t truly give the flavour of walking around the city, though, either in the old town area or elsewhere. How many photos of building architecture; building decorations; narrow alleyways full of shops; arrays of tapas, fruits, or pastries; and beach scenes could I put in there that would hold the interest of someone who wasn’t there to see it all live?
What I enjoy most about visiting a place is walking around it and admiring things like those in the list above. People out on their balconies or standing in their shop doorways fill out the scene. It’s all part of the memory of the visit, the long walks, and the good food, but it makes choosing which photos to share with the world a challenging task.
And how many photos can I include of any one thing? Casa Batlló (pronounced, approximately,
bahy-YOH), for instance, a house designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, could have taken the entire photo allocation all by itself. On the other hand, it’s something that you must see in person to really fathom. Gaudí’s designs are at once practical, sensual, and fantastic. His design of Parc Güell (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) goes along similar lines, and it’s fascinating to see what he did with the local stones to create paths and passageways.
A third major Gaudí landmark in Barcelona is the Sagrada Família church (
Holy Family). Never finished by Gaudí, nor finished since his death, it’s still under construction and is probably the single biggest tourist attraction in the city. In the current stages of construction, there’s little to see inside for the 12€ entrance fee, and yet one is drawn to pay it and go inside anyway. For another 2.50€, one can wait in an hour-long queue and ascend an elevator into one of the towers — frustrating to waste time in the queue, but worth going up.
The coast provides endless beaches along the Mediterranean Sea, and many restaurants are on or overlooking the beach, serving tapas, paella, fideuà (similar to paella, but made with thin noodles instead of rice), and, of course, beer, wine, and sangría. For breakfast, don’t miss the delicious xuxos (pronounced
choo-cho), a sort of cream-filled croissant rolled in cinnamon sugar.
Barcelona is in Catalunya, the local language is Catalan, not Spanish, and most of the spellings in this entry are the Catalan ones. There’s a very strong Catalan identification in the city: the Catalan flag is flown in addition to, and sometimes instead of, the Spanish flag; signs, advertisements, and such are often in Catalan only; and it’s very clear that the locals consider themselves Catalonians. At the airport, the first language on the signs is Catalan, the second is English, and Spanish comes third. There’s even a separate top-level Internet domain, .cat, which they use in preference to the Spanish .es (see, for example, the Casa Batlló link above).
Catalan feels like an odd mix of Spanish, French, Italian, and aspects all its own, and the spelling uses the letter
x a lot, the Catalan
ch. Sometimes it’s discernible, after some thought —
nou mon means
forn de pa is
bread bakery, and a mobile phone ad that says
parla a totes hores sense sorpreses is pretty easy. On the other hand, this sign, in Parc Güell, was decipherable mostly because of the silhouette of a dog (gos) at the top of it:
Els orins i excrements de gos fan malbé la gespa i les plantes. Utilizeu els pipicans i els espais per a gossos.