Monday, 2 May 2011

No Fandango

I've never been to Spain before. In fact, it was only the second country in Europe I've ever been to. Victoria and I took off from Orly airport on a Spanish airline for Barcelona. Knowing nothing about the country or city, I had an open mind.

We were attending the launch of an important project. Victoria speaks four languages so she was always going to feel comfortable in this country. She used all of them over four days. I only had about 5 Spanish words so that meant I was dependent on her for transport and food advice when I wasn't being independent.

The main street, rather the equivalent of Paris's Champs Elysee, is La Rambla. It's wide and lined with trees and tourists. But in amongst it all are pickpockets. Barcelona is rife with them, thieves too who think nothing of knocking someone over to steal from them. We even saw this happen down one of the narrow streets.

Our hotel could best be described as a hostel for researchers so the rooms are small and very basic but at least the wifi worked well. We needed it as the days were long and we worked late.

Meals were late too. In Spain things grind to a halt for hours in the afternoon and then get going. People eat at 10pm which was way too late for me. The hotel was noisy inside and out and located in the red light district which is going through a bit of urban renewal. Staff were friendly but a lady on our floor had her laptop stolen from her room. Makes you wonder about the staff and security. I was pretty concerned about my own laptop when I heard that as my whole life (what's left of it) is on it.

I'm sorry to report that I think Spanish food is atrocious. I had only one decent meal and that was a lunch in a Moroccan restaurant. Breakfast for me was bread jam and butter- all of them interchangeable in that there was no taste at all-I don't know how they achieved that. A sandwich was equally tasteless. I only ate to keep alive as there was no enjoyment.

For the last evening I decided to try a traditional dish so I ordered a vegetable paella. After waiting for quite a while on my own it arrived. Some of the vegetables seemed rather frizzled and overcooked and found some of it was impossible to swallow. That's because it was plastic. Yes, I soon located three good-sized pieces of hard plastic (from packaging most likely) cooked in my food. I was not impressed.I ended up leaving, paying only for my fruit juice. Disappointing effort Spain.

For a few hours before we flew out Victoria and I decided to walk around the city and look at the famed architecture and maybe a monument. The architecture to which I refer is that of Gaudi (born 1852). Where would Barcelona be without his bizarre ideas and use of gravity-defying edifices.he was influenced by forms of nature and often decorated his constructions with mosaics. Gaudi must have suffered chronically from a tortured soul because his designs are, in my opinion, weird, depressing and macabre in places (for the most part). I guess a city has to have its defining difference and this seems to be it for Barcelona.There was an odd beauty to some buildings and they are certainly captivating in their way. I'd never have imagined buildings like that except perhaps in a Tim Burton movie.

Outside the most visited monument in Barcelona, Gaudi's La Sacrada Familia I discovered rows and rows of women making lace, quite the tourist attraction. Lovely to see that at least in this country it's not a dead art. A social event for the women and an opportunity to supply the nearby markets.
The beach is nothing to write home about and not worth bothering with except to wonder why they have some sort of leaning tower there.

Lacking money I was limited to buying myself a Ppanish fan at a dance shop, a couple of bottles of wine and a T shirt for Jean-Claude. It was interesting, I was pleased to visit Barcelona but it's not impressive to me. The locals are as stresssed by the crime as tourists are, I could never fit my lifestyle into the Spanish cultural ways of living.

As I flew back towards France I could see the differences from the air. North of the Pyrenees everything becomes green, orderly. A patchwork quilt of precise browns and greens and, as you near Ile de France, yellow too. The fields are so exact it's beautiful. Trees and green everywhere. I saw the Eiffel Tower pushing through the haze in the distance as we touched down and I breathed a sigh, I was home.

Photos cover the rooftops at sunrise, La Rambla, the infamous paella, the beach, buildings by Gaudi including Casa Batllo and la Sacrada Familia, other architecture and the lace-makers.


Alison said...

Interesting! I've never been to Spain, and for some reason have never felt any urge to go. Anyway, you have had another interesting time to add to your life experience! :-)

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