As pleasant and smooth as it was, the six-hour train trip into Barcelona gave me the urge to spend the first day in town with boots on the ground. It was a fifty-minute walk from my hotel to the Sagrada Familia basilica and that seemed doable. I need a lot of walking on this trip to make up for not taking my daily walk/jog along with me. I wasn’t in a picturesque part of the city, but as I approached the $300 per night Hotel Majestic, they’d set up a piano on the sidewalk as a way of drumming up some walk-in trade. It made for a nice rest break. I also observed that the clean sidewalk and streets are maintained by hand with straw brooms and oversized dustpans.
As had happened before, I managed to stray from the straight and narrow of GPS, and the street names weren’t quite lining up any longer. I confirmed my destination with some young locals, who, having apparently rendered an opinion of my overall fitness, suggested I take the Metro the rest of the way (one stop). I like Metros as a rule, so this was a good opportunity to learn Barcelona’s.
Emerging from the Metro, the thing hits you smack in the face. Like accidentally tripping over a sand castle at the beach. At first glance, the Sagra Familia looks like a sandcastle built on a beach. There’s not a line of form or function about it, something a four-year old would construct out of a box of Legos and no supervision. The square that surrounded it was a carnival of gawkers, trinket hustlers and swarms of tourists milling aimlessly, looking up and bumping into things -- like me. I was going to measure my visit in seconds rather than minutes. But it is photogenic, and had Carolyn been along, there were at least several cafes surrounding the square where I could have alighted, while Carolyn completed her meticulous photo portfolio. As a solo traveler, though, I was able to find a spot with the sun in the right place, and I got my shot in one take, and then beat feet to one of those cafes to quaff a beer and settle my nerves.
I don’t like crowds generally but there must be a special ring of Hell populated by tourist crowds just for sinners like me.
My trip north to Figueres and the Salvador Dali museum the following day was far more satisfying, first because it involved a one-hour train trip. My lifelong fascination with the artist was sufficient to brave the horde of sub-millenials overrunning the exhibit halls. Class trips on a Sunday? Man, these Europeans take education seriously!
I consider myself a functioning philistine when it comes to the fine arts, and I don’t get modern, abstract or surreal art at all. But I’ve always gotten Dali. Maybe it’s because I don’t have to think about his images. They are simply renderings of my dreams, especially the ones when I’ve eaten pizza too late at night, or have taken Benadryl to help me sleep.
On the trip back, I took dozens of shots trying to capture the ice creamy snow-capped peaks on the Montserrat mountain range to the west. You’ll have to trust me that they’re there. Turns out though that one of my random clicks accidentally may have captured a not too shabbily framed shot of the well-known Montserrat Benedictine Abbey in the foreground. What is that saying about blind squirrels and nuts?