We hit the ground running in Barcelona. Thanks to yours truly’s amazing sixth sense apartment locator, we lucked out and found a bright, spacious, modern apartment with a huge sunny terrace! Three metro stops (3 different lines: the red, the green, the yellow…) within a few blocks: north, south, and east.
The weather was perfect: hot, sunny, Mediterranean!
Barcelona became a modern city in 1992, when the Olympic Games put it on the world map and jumpstarted a major urban transformation. The world rediscovered Barcelona: a city teeming with cultural vitality, its peoples inheritors of a millenary tradition of open-mindedness and cultural tolerance. Africans, Jews, Arabs, Christians coexisted in the busy port, an early trading post on the Mediterranean, and they still live here side-by-side today!
Did you know Cristóbal Colón (in the states he’s called Christopher Columbus) returned from his third and final voyage to the New World in chains? Crazy as a cuckoo. They don’t tell you how, on his last voyage, his ship anchored off another uncharted Caribbean island, and he made his crew swear on the Bible that he had discovered yet another New World.
This awesome structure is la Aduana, right on the waterfront. That’s where you pay your taxes on whatever you bring into the country… like all that silver and gold they stole from South America!
Yea, royalty is so high-maintenance! How come the rest of us gotta keep forkin’ it over to pay their keep? If that ain’t the rich folks’ Entitlement program, then what in the bleep DO you call it?? I know, I know, calm down, after all, somebody’s gotta pay the upkeep on these beautiful luxury yachts! They deserve to be maintained in the style to which they’ve become accustomed… don’t they?
We decided to go on a Jazz Chill-Out Sunset Cruise. Our catamaran was more like a third world transport vessel: no luxury, no bar, and as packed as a feedlot.
The aquarium is also right on the docks, right next to the Maremagnum. The Barcy Tango community hosts a milonga there called la Acuarilonga. How cute is that name? We danced till early morning one night under the towering rooftop, as a salty-sweet breeze caressed us and kept us cool.
The building in the background below is the Maremagnum, a huge 3-story mall where we tango’d one evening on the deck overlooking the water. My intrepid photographer Benjamín took this gorgeous shot:
and this one of the harbor:
On our way back to the dock we passed a stunning sailing ship lit up like Christmas Eve.
Let’s let this tall sailing vessel anchored at the harbor plaza take us back in time to explore the oldest part of Barcelona:
The oldest part of Barcelona is the Quartier Gótico, the Gothic quarter. Here medieval towers and churches cast long shadows over the remains of the early Roman city.
We spent a long hour one afternoon winding our way around the raised walkways that skirt the various archaeological sites underneath the plaza. They excavated an entire block underneath the Plaza Real. You can see the old Roman baths, like modern-day spas, with separate men’s and women’s dressing rooms, hot tubs and lounges, workout areas… the vintner’s shop with grape-presses, tasting rooms… shops where fabrics were dyed in huge vats, and hides were processed… apothecaries… don’t forget your love potion No. 9 and poison for your enemies; hey! what about some sleep potions like Romeo & Juliet used? and of course they had all kinds of stuff for your bi-polar melt-downs and romantic delusions… all natural, and USDA certified organic!
The mosaic floors! The frescos! Man, those early Romans were interior designers! Their living spaces were so gorgeous, no sheetrock or aluminum trim in their neighborhood! Down under the plaza you can even see their old clay water pipes and sewers. Exploring the underground labyrinth takes time and energy, an hour at least, and when you finally glimpse the light of day through an open doorway, you’re on the opposite side of the plaza from where you started!
You emerge, not just into the sunshine, but time-travelling at warp speed a thousand years into the future!
This ancient portal could be your own personal time machine! If only those doors could talk….
Right across from the museum entrance is a tiny little fan shop, packed floor-to-ceiling: all colors, sizes, materials from plastic to wood to paper to silk, adorned, unadorned, from plain to ornate, affordable to outrageous, cheap to elegant; in short, a fan for every woman!
Barcelona is a mix of all of these elements: the millenary history, fast-forward to twentieth century modernist creativity, mix in the personality of each neighbourhood — you’ve got a really special place. Barcelona is like no other city in the world!
A certain 20th century caped crusader really goes for gothic… Gotham City Chic. He probably took his first flight out of that tower… or maybe this one.
Barcelona has fabulous food, cafés, nightclubs, la Rambla… which is so crowded by day it reminds me of pedestrian streets in Buenos Aires, like Calle Florída, which used to be full of manteros, people who spread a manta (blanket) on the ground and pile their wares on top. After some violent clashes with local law enforcement, the manteros were driven out of the tourist zone. Things were a lot nicer and quieter, and you didn’t have to walk with your hands in your pockets to keep the pickpockets out of them. Barcelona has similar problems, but their street-hawkers have stalls and permits. Barcy, to its credit, has enormous recycling containers on every block. And like Paris, Barcy has public water spigots on just about every block.
Back in the days before indoor running water, people filled their jugs and buckets and water skins every day from the public fountains. The Romans are generally credited with building aqueducts to bring water to where it’s needed; pretty cool idea! Arabs also have a history of bringing water into their homes, and they bathed a lot more than the Christians! Legend has it you could smell a Christian trading ship from way across the water, by the stink of the crew! Couldn’t they at least bathe in salt water?
Ahhh, refreshing! This beautiful fountain can be found at the Alhambra, the exquisite Moorish palace in Granada, in southern Spain.
OK, readers, listen up. I have to tell you there is so much to see in Barcelona, I just can’t squeeze it all into one post! Tango shows, Flamenco shows, Gaudí, early Catalunyan art, the best milongas of Barcelona, the Magic Fountain…. and then there is our road trip along the Costa Brava, the Big Sur of the Mediterranean coast. So I’m going to close now with a sunset photo of the harbor… can you make out the statue of Cristóbal Colón?