It’s no secret—Barcelona is mad about Gaudi. There are Gaudi T-shirts and Gaudi mugs and from our older son’s window we can see smoke stacks created by Gaudi in the shapes of baskets of fruit and other improbable things. Our window, alas, faces two walls… but there is a lot of Gaudi to go around.
We arrived three days ago, a family of six adults and three youngsters. Having only four days to spend in this city, we decided to ignore jet lag and to stay awake by eating a record number of tapas and paella and by walking all around the Ramblas, the famous street that runs through Barcelona and which offers everything from living statues to food, drink, stalls full of flower, and countless tourists. Oh, the langauages that flowed past as we sat and enjoy our tapas! Oh, the sights and sounds and… was that a man dressed up as a ladybug?
We are told that in Barcelona there seldom is mention of east, west, north and south… only of the mountains and the sea. New visitors that we are, we can see why, for Barcelona is placed on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea and flanked by the Collserola mountain range. On our second day in Barcelona, we had decided to spend the day at the beach, Alas for sunscreen… it not only rained, it poured! Thundered! Stormed! Not to be defeated by weather, we gathered up our traveler’s umbrellas and hot footed it to the very nice aquarium which features Mediterranean fish. Afterward, the sun returned, and we returned to Las Ramblas once more, walking toward the Cathedral, a grand 14th century edifice with magnificent façade of statues. But were we thinking of art? Not when a duet of street artists were playing flamenco rhumbas on Spanish guitars! Of COURSE we had to dance, to the delight of tourists. Our grandson suggested that we pass the hat!
At night, the World Cup soccer match between Spain and Italy was aired. We holed up with our family, brought in subs beer and chips, and had a grand time shouting and cheering to the accompaniment of huzzahs and fireworks that were going on in the streets below us. When Spain brought Italy to its knees, we ventured out into the street and found that the city had gone mad… cabs honking, citizens wrapping themselves in flags and hanging from every lamp post and statue available proclaiming the glory of Spain! Eventually, the police moved in…. but only to control traffic. We left the crowd cheering and dancing and sounding ready to party till all hours.
Today, blearily, we stumbled to join a Gaudi tour and learned from our guide that he was often arrogant, mostly difficult, but that he has revolutionized the concept of art. His Parc Guel—a strunning concept of natural stone forming aqueducts and walkways, gardens and woodlands— and of course the Sagrada Familia are amazing. Gaudi believed that Nature was the only true way in which the Craator should be worshiped. His Sagrada Familia has an interior with columns that are meant to be trees and which are topped with styalized leaves, an interior so alight and welcoming that the spirits naturally seem to lift to the Gaudi inspired ‘stars’ above.
Gaudi is a legend and a genius—and his death is therefore particularly tragic. One day he was returning from this daily walk when he was struck down by a trolley. Because he was in his customarily poor attire, he was taken to be a homeless man and carried off to the indigent’s ward in the hospital. By the time his assistants found him and had him transferred to a better section of the hospital, he was beyond hope.
Would this great man of vision have lived with better care? No one knows. It offers a question, though. Why should any nation in this world of ours offer better help to the wealthy and famous and deny that help to the poor and defenseless? It is a question that Gaudi himself might ponder.
On our last day in this Spanish city, we walked. And walked. And walked. We visited the grounds of the 1992 Summer Olympics, shopped for handmade chocolate and beautifully woven shawls, rode a cable car up to the Castle on top of wind-blown Mont Juic, and… in the evening… ate biquini sandwiches (really!) and were served an enormous pitcher of Sangria before attending a farewell flaminco performance. Ah, the energy! The thrumming of heels! Ole, and Ole again!
With her hands held high
And heels that thrum with passion…
Tomorrow we leave Barcelona and travel on to Paris, the city of light….