Monday, 3 June 2013

Follow the graffiti, it knows the way.

Barcelona is a beautiful city covered in graffiti. It's on walls, old doors, new doors, security doors covering storefronts.  Everywhere.  And it's not like some of the graf-art I've become accustomed to at home, it's tagging and it's ugly.  It also makes it difficult to navigate.  Is this a good area to be wandering through or not?  Well, it seems to be well lit and there are people around so it must be safe, right? And luckily for us we felt safe the whole way through even if at first we hesitated a little before wandering the streets of Barcelona.  And if you can look past all the graffiti, then you're in for a real treat. Barcelona has a lot to offer spiritually, artistically, socially and tastily.   

Thanks to a hectic travel schedule, we could only spend a few days in Barcelona, so we had to hit the ground running when we arrived a few days before an election and about a week before Barcelona FC was to win the championship.  Timing is everything, but I digress. 

We began our adventure in the Gothic quarter with a visit to the Picasso museum.   To be honest, I had never really "gotten" Picasso until this visit. The museum does an excellent job of taking you through Picasso's work.  You can see his sculpting, sketching and painting and you are taken on a journey through the progression of his work.  You are given the opportunity to see how he evolved from a more traditional style to the wacky colourful style that has become synonymous with his name.  My favourite part of the exhibition was the comparison between Velasquez's painting "Las Meninas" to Picasso's series that was inspired by said painting.  It was here that I finally started to understand what Picasso had been trying to show me all along.  It's this new perspective on Picasso that makes this museum a must-see for me.  And even if you're way ahead of me in your art knowledge, you'll get to see some really cool stuff that you've only read about in books and you'll have a whole new appreciation for it too.


It seems around every corner there's an opportunity to observe art in the form of architecture and in Barcelona, Gaudi is the big player.  From the Gothic quarter we made our way to Gaudi's masterpiece in the making, the cathedral of Sagrada Familia. It is spectacular! And it has taken them so long to build that they are actually restoring some sections as they are trying to complete others.  It is total craziness and a mix of many different styles and times, but it is beautiful.  Entering from the older side of the catherdral, you would never expect the inside to look as modern as it does, nor would you expect the other side of the cathedral to be as clean lined as it is.  That Gaudi fellow sure did have an imagination.  They even gave him his own park to create in and that's where we were headed next. 

From Parc Guell you get a fantastic view of Barcelona.  You can see all the wayto the ocean with the cathedral standing tall amidst smaller structures.  Gaudi's work in Park Guell reminded me of the drawings in the Dr. Seuss books I used to read as a child.  His work is whimsical, colourful and brings about a sense of freedom and carelessness while still maintaining a purpose.  It's a really fun place to stroll through if you don't mind strolling with the loads of tourists that are dropped off by the bus-load.  We ended up there mid-afternoon as it couldn't be helped, but if I were to do it again, I probably wouldn't go until later in the day when most of the tourists were back on their buses. 

And who could go somewhere with a beach and not at least check it out?  Beach culture is always interesting and in a big city it has it's own special charm.  A stroll from the marina and along the boardwalk would be a romantic way to end a day of sightseeing with your bu or that super fly guy or gal staying at the same hostel.  (Look at me giving you dating advice)  Just off the boardwalk in Port Veill there are lots of places to stop and have something to eat or drink.  Maybe some tapas and some rather expectantly delicious, yet potent mojitos? Barcelona is a party city after all so why not indulge a little?  I would give you some pointers on bars to check out, but I'm pretty sure the "hot spots" change almost as frequently as I change my underpants, so I'll leave you to do a little exploring of your own. 

What I will suggest is that at one time or another you sit down for some paella.  This is the traditional rice dish from Spain, often made with seafood.  It's hard to resist seafood when you're a stone's throw away from the ocean. And while you're at it, have some sangria too.  Heck, have some sangria right now to get  in the Barcelona kind of mood. 
Here are two recipes I got from a bartender in Barcelona.  
Red Wine Sangria:
1 tablespoon sugar
equal parts gin, brandy, quantro (this guy used his finger on the side of the pitcher to measure)
orange juice (nothing too thick and definitely without pulp)
lemon fanta
add red wine and orange slices.
Cava Sangria
Equal parts gin, triple sec, brandy
Orange juice (nothing too thick and definitely without pulp)
add cava (Spanish Champagne)
add some cut up fruits, like strawberries
After a couple of glasses of this magical concoction you won't even notice the graffiti. 
There was graffiti?