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updated: Nov 08, 2009, 6:39 AM
by John McCafferty
Barcelona's fun. One of the goals of this two-month trip was to scratch names off my travel Bucket List, and I was glad to arrive in . . . how should we say it? Do these Catalonian people want us to lithp the S sounds, as in the rest of Spain, which they don't like? Should it be Bar-tthhay-lona, with a bit of high-toned slobbering on the TH soundtthhh, as in the other Ethpana?
More research is needed.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed:
--The quirky, almost bizarre, architectural stylings of Antoni Gaudi, a 19th-Century architect, way ahead of his time.
--La Rambla, a long doublewide street that features a river of gawking adults and flirting youths, shopping, and all manner of foods. And blazing sunshine down the middle.
Unfortunately, we landed there at mid-day.
--Most important to us: the world-class art museums featuring Picasso, who spent his teen and young adult years in Barcelona, and Joan Miro, a native Catalonian (we missed Dali, but caught up with him later in Bruges, Belgium).
In a couple of days we felt well-educated in these artists' works, although in Miro's case, I looked, studied, laughed, enjoyed, and then went out the other side into cynicism, thinking, "I could do that." But of course, I didn't, and he did. (The name Joan is pronounced Zho-an in Catalan; it's not Joan, as in Rivers. And Miro's face was intact until he died.)
But, Getting There is half the fun, and as is often the case with us, half the battle. The adventure portion of this segment of our journey:
Exiting the train station, we couldn't find a directional sign to the nearest metro stop, and the only person who seemed to know wasn't much help: He pointed up the street (or down) and across the street and said in halting English, "quite long, either way." Great.
We hoofed it for what seemed like a couple of miles, turned right and fumblingly got a ride to the next underground system, per our very confusing hotel directions. Rode that train (paying another few dollars) to what seemed like way out of town, although it was night by then, and we couldn't be sure.
Clutching our "directions", and gasping (from fatigue and a little fear of the unknown neighborhood), we walked directly out the NE corner of the station, hoping to see "Einstein Avenue". Yeah, right. In the first place, what kind of name was that for a street in Barcelona? Sharon pointed out, "This isn't Barcelona. We're in the next state."
We peered into the darkness and saw one corner, and it didn't have a street sign. We decided to ask someone in the bar-café on the corner, a "clean, well-lighted place."
Two waiters conferred and one cheerily directed us "just up there," pointing into the darkness. "See that light?" Sure I could see that! Only maybe a mile away! "The hotel's just to the right."
We thanked him and promised to return for food and drink (which we did the next evening, and it was very good).
We set out for what we hoped was our last hike of the day, and found nothing at the intersection but more dimly lighted streets. Very discouraging.
But Sharon, being younger and braver than I, with my bad leg and leaning on a cane, said to wait and she'd trot down the street to the right and check. She did so, and the longer she was gone (probably as much as half a minute, but it seemed VERY long) the more I worried. What kind of man would agree to have his beloved walk off into the night in the suburbs of ANY city, but especially an unknown one?
I started hobbling after her and heard her yell "Yea!!!!!" standing near a streetlight, arms outstretched like a cheerleader's. Over yonder you could see the "Hotel Ibis" sign rising into the night.
A few more confusing turns onto short nameless streets, and we were home, gasping, sweating and grinning at the counter.
Gasping and grinning . . . it was turning into that kind of trip.
NEXT STOP: Five cities across Spain.
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