Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Now that I have become re-acculturated to the sunny California lifestyle, I have time to reflect on our travels and do some justice to the much-too-hurried vacationing we did prior to arriving here.

But first, on such a positive note:  My mom is doing well, as good as I’ve seen her since we’ve been here.  Maybe it’s being surrounded by the love of her powerful daughters that does the trick.

Mama and her cubs

First stop on the list:  Barcelona

As a non-soccer-fan (but an avid soccer mom), I had only really known “Barça” as the antithesis to Real Madrid.  Situated high on the east coast of Spain next to France, Barcelona is Spain’s second-largest city after Madrid, and increasingly its rival in terms of culture and economic impact.  Add the tension of a different language and proud history as well as an ongoing separatist movement, and I found myself somewhat protective of my adopted Andalucía and not sure what to expect of Barcelona.  


As we arrived that evening at the train station, it was unavoidable: every sign, every streetcorner, every shop,  EVERYTHING was in Catalan, with little or no Spanish translation.  How could this part of Spain not speak Spanish, with Catalan as an accompaniment?  But everywhere we went, the people were lovely, and communication turned out to be easy.

With Oralia, Yasmin, and Nasreen Nabizadeh

We stayed in a mediocre flat near Antonio Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia.  Accustomed as I am to the beautiful castle next door to us, and the gothic, baroque, and neoclassical architecture throughout southern Spain, I was both horrified and fascinated by this building. Why was everything a mishmash of every possible style from Art Deco through Bauhaus to Soviet-influenced proletariat Bible scenes?   With a little classical gothic thrown in?  What WERE those architects thinking, anyway???

What ARE those things on the tops of the spires?

Modeled after the Evil Trees in the Wizard of Oz?

But I absolutely fell in love with the Gothic quarter.  Barcelona’s el Gotic is grey-dark, gloomy, haunting, mysterious.  The narrow streets are bedecked with stonework and gargoyles, and it exudes medieval enchantment and past worlds. 

The cathedral was gorgeous, everything I was missing in Sagrada Familia, with exquisite detail everywhere you looked.

Pure 19th-century neo-Gothic

Ancient Gothic?

We spent two days exploring these twisting ancient streets, finding beauty tucked away in little nooks and crannies.

But Barcelona wasn’t all gothic.  The beautiful 19th-century Plaça Catalunya was home to hundreds of pigeons, fed by the tourists with birdseed supplied by enterprising vendors.  Tia and Sasha begged to feed them, and concocted a plan.

In Plaça Catalunya: Pigeons, watch out!

And see, their plan worked!  Those fat, happy, foolish pigeons were no match for these blond hunters.

Other parts of Barcelona held interesting sights:  eyeballs hanging in modern profusion down the façade of a building (Todd swore they were video cameras), or an old fountain juxtaposed with hip graffiti:

Here's looking at you

Old and New

With merely two days to spend in Barcelona, we only saw a fraction of what the city has to offer; this is a city we will revisit.  From the urban beach scene to the wide avenues to the marvelous onslaught of every architectural style imaginable to the casco antiguo, Barcelona charmed us.   But Paris beckoned, and we had to hustle to the downtown station to take our trenhotel to the City of Light.

Next stop:  Paris, France

Barcelona Sky

1 comment:

  1. Hi Stephanie, first of all I am very glad your mom is doing well!

    As usual, I very much enjoyed reading your insight about the different places of Spain -and Europe, Morroco, etc.- you have been to, as well as the pictures you post. It is amazing how sensitive you are to catch all the details, physical or not, of the places you visit and how you are able to describe emotions! Besos desde El Puerto :)


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