Caspar Institute logoitinerary   < Barcelona Architecture   16 May Collioure >

Barcelona 15 May 2016

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Sunday in Barcelona

Our Barcelona routine: Up with the first church bells, and when the bakery across the street opens, I go get the croissants. On my way there this morning I took a picture of our Plaça. That would be Ramon Berrenguer le Gran on his horse, Count of Barcelona (which at the time included all of Catalunya) from 1111 until 1132. He was married to the second daughter of El Cid (among others.) We're on the third floor (they count floors funny -- there's a ground floor, then a mezzanine, then the piano nobile ...and then you start the count.) 

During the waking hours, the square is in constant ferment. It isn't the most peopled square, but with 1.6 million people in the city, plus the new onslaught of tourists, at least half from within Spain, here beside the cathedral and on the edge of the Barra Gotíc, this is a very busy place.

Sunday is very seriously observed here. Restaurants and foods stores and tourist shops are the only things open. I don't get the sense that there's a whole lot of serious Sunday worshipping going on, even on Whitsunday. The Spanish simply appreciate their holidays. Tomorrow, Whitmonday, is another one. Why not Tuesday, too?

<p>Plaça de Ramon Berrenguer le Gran</p>

Plaça de Ramon Berrenguer le Gran

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We retraced our steps to the harbor, crowded with market stalls selling antiques and vendors with their wares on blankets, and escaped into the Barceloneta neighborhood, a reurbicación (what we would call urban renewal) of what used to be the tumble-down shacks of Barcelona's fishing village: narrow tall apartments in long rows on a grid of streets. We were looking for Bodega La Peninsular, reputed to be be a friendly-to-outsiders local pub. We had a simple lunch (and forgot to take pictures): papas bravas, the local take on french fries, tasty sausages, and a tomato and garlic salad. By the time we were done, the place was full of locals in full cry. 

We notice that the interpersonal space here is half or less what we reserve in California, while the volume of normal conversation is about doubled. We recognize that we are no longer fitted for this kind of urban living. "This is a place for young people," observes Rochelle a little later.

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In 2001 we noticed, and were surprised by, the sharp internal divisions within Spain. Expecting Spanish to suffice, we discovered that in the two upper corners, on the west with San Sebastian and Santiago de Compostela, the culture is more Basque than Castillian. Here, in the northeastern corner of the country, there's a strong identification with their Catalonian history, even though it was effectively expunged in the late 18th Century, when the symbols of Catalunyan pride were burned by the Hapsburg victors and a sixth of Barcelona was razed to make room for the oppressors' citadel. 

Recent history hasn't helped. The Franco years were deeply resented here, and Spanish nationalism still runs very shallow. Recognizing this fervor -- that's what all those red and yellow striped flags are about; you see them everywhere -- the present Spanish national government recognizes Catalunya as a semi-autonomous region, with its own legislature and government. Less formal than our organization according to state's rights, and so bordered more fuzzily, but very possibly stronger because it is based more on culture than geography. The X-rich Catalunyan language is making a strong comeback; in the restaurant, that's all we heard.

Catalunya historically included the lands to the north of the Pyrénées, and so we expect to see those traditions preserved in Collioure and Perpignan, where we travel tomorrow.

<p>Locals outside La Peninsular</p>

Locals outside La Peninsular

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<p style="text-align: center;">Playa...

Playa de Sant Sebastiá
in the distance you can see two of the towers excoriated yesterday,
and Gehry's fish sculpture.

We wandered through the Barceloneta, alive with people enjoying a sunny Sunday, and out to the beach. Barcelona's beaches are all trucked in, but they are much enjoyed.

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On our way back, we stumbled on the Mercat de Born. "Oh, goody, another market!" But this is a different story. In 1925, La Boqueria, the original market being overrun, the city decided to move the wholesale fruit and vegetable market to the neighborhood razed by the Austrians for their citadel .. and so it was until the 1950s, when markets had sprung up in the burgeoning neighborhoods and the old barn was falling apart. To make a long story short, when they did trial excavations for a new library, they discovered extensive and well preserved Roman ruins that had just been filled over by successions of heedless forebearers.

It is hard for us to imagine the layers of culture that underlay a city that has been a city for more than a millennium.

Mercat de Born now; mouse over for 1925 view

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<p>Maybe it

Maybe it's the climate or something in the water, but I think it's in the culture. We have been seeing much more beautiful, wild, natural hair here than ever we do in the US. This is a sample just from today, and just of people who happened to walk in front of me.

( more Spanish hair . . . )

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Out across La Ribera to a restaurant recommended by our Host, across the street from Mercat de Born, Llamber -- means "to lick something (or someone) to taste" or "to eat purely for flavor." Very up-market and self-conscious, but delicious food and very attentive, tolerant, humorous service. If one works in the service industry here, one has at least three languages, Catalan, Castillian Spanish, and English (usually with an American accent.) We and our servers mutually amused each other with our Spanglish and Englañol.

We were looking for vegetables, so we had a pisco sour; a salad of aromatic greens with a very gentle mustard vinaigrette; a basket of lovely artisan breads (they brought us extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper); a beetroot carpaccio with shrimp, raspberries, and pistachios; and a lovely paltino of roasted vegetables over a romanesco sauce. I forgot my camera -- sorry -- and the presentations were painterly. Hard lesson. Second time today. Damn. I want to reproduce that beetroot carpaccio.

We have been trying to remember when we were last in a big city for six days at a stretch. Does three days in Vancouver and three in Seattle count? I don't think so: compared to Barcelona, those are both pretty mellow and familiar. Next transmission from a small town in France. 

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