Day 34 – Barcelona from above and below

Day 34 = Saturday, April 14, 2012

It’s going to be a miracle if we see any of Barcelona at all. This napping-all-day thing has messed up my internal clock. I got up at 6:50 AM and blogged until 9:00, then went back to bed. David got up at 10, Q and Christine at 11:30, and I rose again at noon. Thanks to our slow going, we didn’t leave the house until 3:00.

By this time, Christine was dying for a cup of tea, so when David stopped to take photos of another Gaudi building, we ladies waited patiently on a bench for about five minutes before heading to a tapas bar.

I did go back to let David know where we’d gone. The apartment house – Casa Batlló was pretty awesome. You will note that I am now going to buck the trend I was trying to establish through this blog and start italicizing foreign words that are not in common English usage. Yeah, I know… we both liked it the other way… but it is for the best. Or it is just for now… I haven’t decided.

I love the detail of the windows and balconies. I especially love the contrast with the building next door to it.

Ahhh… lovely. David joined us at the tapas bar when he was done snapping photos, and when we were done, we headed downtown.

We stopped at the cathedral briefly and took a few photos. I almost called it the , because I have figured out Portuguese, but instead I will call it by its official name: Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia.

I love church doorways. I find the details of the carving incredibly fascinating. The scaffolding? Not so much… but it is ever-present, especially in these months leading up to tourist season.

After stopping for camera batteries, we went in search of the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona, where Christine had heard there was an excellent exhibit of Roman ruins. This was an understatement. Let’s just put it this way: Quinland, who supposedly burned out on museums after a month in Portugal, came running back to me at one point, saying, “This place is awesome! Come here! You have to see this!” This is the highest praise a museum can get. They do not let you take photos, but cut and paste the museum name into Google images and feast your eyes.

Until then, I’ll give you a verbal sneak preview. After going through a typical museum upstairs, with its statues and maps and artifacts (and a film about Barcelona’s growth over time that was surprisingly good), you take an elevator down through time. When you walk out, you are in an underground ancient city.

The space is sizable: around 40,000 square feet. You walk on catwalks through Roman streets, beside the old city walls, around the old commercial area of Barcino, the former Roman outpost here. The ruins were not discovered until 1931, when a medieval palace was being moved to this location to save it from road construction elsewhere in the city, so the complex had been left in peace for centuries.

After walking along the outer wall of the old city, you enter into a laundry (fullonica) and a fabric-dyeing shop (tinctoria). These were identified not just by their structure, but also by the remnants of substances in the basins. Super cool. You then get to see the intricacies of a condiment factory. Yep – apparently, the Romans found a fish paste called garum mighty tasty, and Barcino was an excellent place to get the fish to make it. A good place for grapes, too; the final factory you walk through is a winery, complete with the remains of huge wine storage jugs. (Huge is not a foreign word. This is why I hate that rule.)

Upstairs in the museum, I snapped a photo for you board gamers: a paving stone with a game board carved in it for a game called “Five In Line.” Yep, gaming was alive and well back in the 5th century B.C.

As if this day could get any better, we walked out of the museum, got some ice cream, and strolled back through the plaza in front of the cathedral to discover a multitude of people dancing La Sardana, the traditional Catalan circle dance. It was all I could do not to join in. (By that, I mean that I was warned by my entire family that I had better not join in as I am not Catalan and furthermore, I do not know the steps. They know I am impulsive like that and prefer not to subject themselves to the embarrassment.)

Got some gorgeous shots of the cathedral in much better lighting conditions, too. Isn’t it amazing how a blue sky can make a picture look so much better? But hey, we’re Oregonians, so we accept the grey sky photos when we get ’em.

From the plaza, we walked down to see the undulating colored-tile roof of the Market Santa Caterina. Very cool. There is a lot of undulating architecture in Barcelona, which is excellent, because I love the world undulating. (We didn’t get anything at the market, but I picked up a corkscrew at a shop across the street.)

Poor Christine. I mentioned earlier how we deprived her of caffeine, but on this particular day, we also deprived her of eating food in a timely manner. We are accustomed to the whole bread/cheese/meat-carried-around-in-a-camera bag (with a side of warm-water-from-a-water bottle), but she is used to eating like a regular human being. We struck out in search of a place to get paella and ultimately found one, after a detour past Sant Felip Neri church. (Gotta represent for the home parish!)

Whew! What a day! Of course, since we slept half of it away, we all managed to stay awake for a while after we got home. I blogged, while D and Q played Dominion.

Expenditures: Tapas lunch, tickets into the Barcelona City Museum, postcards of the ruins since we couldn’t take pictures (Oooh, good thinking, museum people! I see what you did there!), ice cream, corkscrew, some food at the paella place.

Experiences: More Gaudi and undulating architecture (hooray!), Roman ruin extravaganza, Catalan cultural splendor. A very good day.

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