Barcelona in Times of the Flu and Quests for Independence.

Barcelona Novembre 2017

We arrived to Barcelona from Rome…without my backpack. I honestly feel like I could write a whole entry about how horrible Vueling is (they make Ryan Air and United look like they have top-notch customer service), but I’d rather not waste energy being negative about this company and just say: DON’T EVER FLY VUELING. Llegamos a Barcelona desde Roma…sin mi mochila. Creo que podría escribir una entrada solo sobre lo malo que Vueling es (Ryan Air y United parece tener la mejor atención de cliente del mundo en comparación), pero prefiero no gastar energía en ser negativo sobre esta compañía y solo decir: NUNCA JAMÁS VOLAR CON VUELING. 

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Then we got to the hotel at 18:01. If we arrived after 18:00, we had to go to the hotel’s other location a few blocks away. My poor mom was exhausted, and of course, when I arrived, I had forgotten her passport, so I had to return and then go back to the other hotel. Después, llegamos al hotel a las 18.01. Si llegáramos después de las 18.00, tendriamos que ir a la otra oficina del hotel a unos manzanas del hotel. La pobre madre estaba agotada, y, desde luego, cuando llegué al otro, se me había olvidado su pasaporte, y tenía que volver y ir otra vez. 

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We also arrived the day of a massive protest about the current crisis (clusterf***) going on in Catalunya. I haven’t written about it as I know a lot of people need a political break, and the situation is so complicated that it would turn into another Quijote. It is the cumulation of centuries of political conflict, made worse by the prohibition of Catalán during the Franco dictatorship, the inequality of the current Spanish constitution (the Basque Country has more autonomy than Catalunya), and the ineptness and corruption of the current Spanish government. I would prefer a unified Spain, but I also understand the frustration of the Catalan people. The Catalan politicians and Spanish politicians have worked together to ensure that the complicated situation has got a million times worse. También, llegamos el mismo día de una manifestación gigante de la crisis catalana actual (un gran lío total). No he escrito de ella porque sé que a mucha gente les hace falta un descanso de política y la situación es tan complicado que la entrada sería tan largo como el Quijote. Es la cumulación de siglos de conflicto, empeoraba mucho durante los años de Franco cuando hablar catalán fue prohibido, la constitución española actual no se trata todas las CCAA igual (Euskadi tiene mas autonomía que Catalunya), y los ineptos y corruptos del gobierno español actual. Prefiero una España unificada, pero también entiendo la frustración del pueblo catalán. Los políticos catalanes y españoles han trabajado juntos para asegurar que la situación delicada sigue empeorando cada día. 

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The Barcelona portion of the trip was not off to a good start. La parte barcelonesa había empezado de mal pie. 

Sunday was better, as I returned to Montjuic for an afternoon of meandering the mountain. The mountain name comes from “Mount of the Jewish” and is 173 metres (567 feet) high. There is a famous castle that was one a prison, and it also is home of the Palau Sant Jordi, Olympic Stadium, an art museum, and various other activities and things to see and do. Domingo iba mejor. Volví a Montjuic para pasar una tarde de explorar el monte. El nombre del monte viene de “monte de los judíos” y tiene 173 metros de altura. Hay un castillo famoso que erase una vez una prisión, y también se encuentra el Palau Sant Jordi, el Estadio Olímpico, un museo de arte, y mucho más. 

Barcelona Novembre 2017

Monday I already wrote about here. That evening, however, while meandering the mean streets of Barcelona, I began to feel really cold. I got back to the hotel just before vomiting. Tuesday was spent unconscious. Wednesday, as we had to change hotels, I was at least mobile enough to take my mom to see the Sagrada Familia before checking into the new hotel and going to the doctor. The doctor said it was just a virus (what American doctors would say was the flu, but Spain always says “virus”, which the flu *is*) and would run its course. Ya he escrito sobre el lunes aquí. Este lunes por la tarde, sin embargo, mientras estaba caminando las calles barcelonesas, empecé a tener mucho pero mucho frío. Llegué al hotel justo a tiempo, porque empecé a vomitar. Pasé el martes durmiendo. El miércoles, como tuvimos que cambiar de hotel, estaba un poco mejor, suficiente para llevarle a mi madre a ver la Sagrada Familia antes de hacer check-in en el otro hotel y ir al médico. El médico me dijo que era un virus y iba a estar bien dentro de unos días. Era un virus del gripe, pero en España, siempre dicen “un virus”. 

Barcelona Novembre 2017

The Sagrada Familia is a minor basilica designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Construction began in 1882 and is predicted to be finished between 2026 and 2028. I had never been inside, and I went inside Friday afternoon. I might be the only person on the planet to have this opinion, but I disappointed by the interior. It’s a far too expensive ticket (18€) for what it is. I think a lot of Catalans might agree with me about the price. Of course, the tickets contribute to the work, but I really am against paying to enter any house of God, no matter what the religion is. I’d feel the same about a mosque, a temple or any other place to worship. La Sagrada Familia es una basilica “menor”. El arquitecto de su diseño es Antoni Gaudí. Las obras empezaron en el año 1882, y dicen que acabarán entre 2026 y 2028. Nunca he entrado, y fui el viernes por la tarde. Puedo ser la única persona de la planeta que opino así, pero me decepcionó dentro. La entrada es demasiada cara por lo que es. (Quizás algunos catalanes estén de acuerdo conmigo sobre el precio.), Claro, las entradas contribuyen al precio de construir el edificio, pero estoy de contra pagar por entrar una casa de Dios, no importa la religión. Opino igual de una mezquita, un templo o cualquier otro casa de Dios. 

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Thursday my mom and I made it to the Picasso Museum, which has free entrance on Thursday afternoons. I had been in 2003, but I enjoyed it a bit more this time. They had a wheelchair so my mom didn’t have to walk. It was crowded, but a must for any fan of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. El jueves por la tarde, mi madre y yo fuimos al Museo Picasso. No sabía, pero hay entrada gratis todos los jueves por la tarde. Había estado una vez antes, en 2003, pero me gustaba más esta vez. Dispuso de una silla de ruedas para mi madre, y ella estaba contenta de no tener que caminar. Había mucha gente, pero es algo que los fans del artista español Pablo Picasso tienen que ver. 

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Friday afternoon, after finally going inside the Sagrada Familia, I made my way to the Bunkers del Carmel to see the sunset. The view was made famous in the 2010 Spanish film A tres metros sobre cielo, and it was quite crowded with tourists. The views were worth it. El viernes por la tarde, después de entrar la Sagrada Familia por fin, fui a los Bunkers del Carmel para ver el atardecer. La vista se hizo famosa después de la película española de 2010 A tres metros sobre cielo, y había muchas turistas. Las vistas valen la pena. 

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Saturday morning, I was finally feeling completely better. I finally visited a place I wanted to see for YEARS, el Poble Espanyol. Poble Espanyol is an outdoor museum dedicated to the various regions of Spain and their culture and history. This was well worth the 14€ entry! It even had a part dedicated to the Camino del Santiago in the section for Galicia. I loved travelling through the various regions of Spain so quickly. It’s located on Montjuic and was built in 1929. It also has places that make wordworks from the region and shops where you can try and even purchase various foods from the region. I was quite content to have visited. Sábado por la mañana, por fin, estaba 100 por 100 mejor. Fui a un sitio que llevaba años queriendo ver, el Poble Espanyol. Poble Espanyol es un museo sin techo dedicado a las comunidades autónomas de España y su cultura y historia. Eso sí, valía la entrada de 14€. Incluso tenía una parte dedicada al Camino de Santiago en la parte de Galicia. Me encantó viajar por las CCAA españolas tan rápidamente. Está ubicado en Montjuic y fue construido en el año 1929. También tiene tallares de artesanía de la región y tiendas donde se puede probar y comprar comida típida de la región. Me alegro mucho haber visitado Poble Espanyol al final. 

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I had wanted to revisit and take my mom to Montserrat, Sitges and go to a village in the Pyrenees called Puigcerdà. I have a few visits to Barcelona planned in the next few weeks, so hopefully I can make it then. Being sick while travelling is no fun a’tall, but at least it happened in a city that I know so well, and I made the most of it. Quería visitar de nuevo y llevarle a mi madre a Montserrat, Sitges, e ir a un pueblo del Pirineo que se llama Puigcerdà. Tengo unas visitas pendientes a Barcelona en las próximas semanas, y espero poder ir. Estar malito mientras estás viajando no es nada divertido, pero al menos me lo pasó en una ciudad que conozco bien, y intente aprovechar lo que podía. 

I was fully recovered the next day for the first part of the road trip! Estaba recuperado para el próximo día para empezar el viaje de coche. 

A continuación…

Barcelona Novembre 2017

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Barcelona. You are a dream.

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At the Lady Gaga concert in Barcelona at Palau Sant Jordi this Saturday evening (Nov. 8), the diva said something very true that hit home when taking a break from dancing and singing her hits.

You are a dream, Barcelona. A f****** dream.

It was in 2003 when I first visited Barcelona, and I have been there ten times now. I have had a lot of close calls with almost being able to live there, but so far nothing has panned out. I now have a B1 certificate in Catalán and am preparing the B2 next year. (My degree is in Hispanic Studies (Spanish), but I’d probably have a C2 if I had money to take the DELE). Everything about Barcelona is a dream. Despite being a city of over a million people, Barcelona has incredible mountains like Tibedabo and Montjuïc, and it has an awesome beach in Barceloneta (just don’t go there alone at night.) It is more international than the Spanish capital Madrid, as you can find any language being spoken here. I’ve read that Barcelona is the second most visited European city now after either Paris or London. It’s overtaken Rome (and the other city) for good reason. It is at once an extremely modern city with a very close connection to its past.

This trip wasn’t the best trip I’ve experienced. As so many other creative types are, I am prone to anxiety and depression, and I’ve been fighting a major bout with both for the past several months. This trip also coincided with the news that back in the States, my aunt (who is only 45) is in the hospital after a stroke. (Her prognosis for recovery is super good, but it’s still scary and worrying). It rained Saturday morning, the time I had set aside to explore La Ruta de les Aïgues close to Tibedabo. And there were problems with the pensión I was staying in. Great location in Plaza Urquinaona, but when it’s cheap, you get what you pay for. Runners who don’t speak Spanish, Catalán or even English. Yet they can find a job there, and me who is an English teacher bilingual in Spanish and halfway to being trilingual in Catalán can’t get jack? Yeah, it’s a bit infuriating.

However, I made the most of the situation. I got to visit a beautiful village (look for its write-up next week as I look for the Set Meravelles in Barcelona province outside the capital) called Arenys de Mar. I found a great new gay bar called Museum decorated like a Renaissance Art Museum (hence the name). I successfully avoided Les Rambles, that all-too busy street which can be overwhelming at the best of times. I did miss out on some of my favourite neighbourhoods like Gràcia, Barri Gotic and Born. But I’ll be back soon, I know.

Barcelona is a city that has something for everyone, even bitter, jaded, travelers like me! It’s hard to decide on only Set Meravelles for this incredible city. But I’m going to try! Try by cheating on how I write it up. Plaça de Espanya can be Montjuïc, right? I am dying to visit Poble Espanyol, but I haven’t yet, so it doesn’t make the list.

Set Meravelles de Barcelona Ciutat

1. Montjuïc

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Montjuïc is the mountain (or hill) right next to the port. There is a funicular that will take you halfway, and you can walk or take a skylift the rest of the way. It has a castle that was a prison during the Civil War where many atrocities took place. It offers stunning views of the city and Mediterranean. And it is also the home of Palau Sant Jordi, where I have seen Lady Gaga twice, the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic flame. It also is the home of an impressive (from the outside at least) art museum and if you climb the steps from Plaça de Espanya, you can see more incredible views of the city. I found out this trip that there is a water fountain show to the tune of Freddie Mercury’s “Barcelona”.

2. Tibidabo

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Joey Tribbani may not have actually hiked here, but it does exist. There are more incredible views, plus that Ruta de les Aïgues I’m dying to hike. There is also an old amusement park still in operation (but don’t expect Port Aventura!)

3. Sagrada Familia i Parc Güell (Gaudi)

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The Architecture of Gaudi is present all through the city, but these are the two most famous places. I’m lucky that I had already visited Parc Güell twice before as now I hear it comes with an entrance fee. I know Spain and Catalunya are in crisis and need the tourism money, but it is still sad that they will make a Euro when and where they can. The Sagrada Familia remains impressive and unfinished. I haven’t ever entered, but it is on my bucket list.

4. Les Rambles del Mar

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Barcelona built a cool shopping centre and a cool wooden drawbridge right on the sea. I usually indulge in a Starbucks and sit and people watch or sunset watch and daydream of a life in Barcelona with a decent job and a great husband and two golden retrievers. One of my fave places to visit.

5.  Barça y Camp Nou

Més que un club, Barça is a great football team. They have a great stadium I have yet to visit as tickets are about half of my monthly paycheque. Força Barça!

6. Barri Gotic i Barri Born

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These two neighbourhoods on the right side of Les Rambles are a fantastic place to lose oneself in. You can find the Cathedral of Barcelona, the Cathedral of the Sea (the one that Falcones book was written about), town hall and tons of chill bars to hang. There’s a reason why the tourists love it. I have to give these barris credit where credit is due. Picasso has a museum here too.

7. El Cementerio de Libros Olviados

One of my top 10 reads ever is La Sombra del Viento/The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. While I’d rather forget the third book ever happened, the Cemetary of Forgotten Books inspired me when I first read the book in English in 2007. I read the sequel in Spanish in 2008 (El Juego de Ángel) and was once again transported to the cemetary of Forgotten Books. On one of my 10 trips, I found a bookshop designed to be the cemetery (I like to think it is as real as Hogwarts (Hogwarts is real, right? I hate being a muggle!) in el Barri Gotic. However, I have only found it once. I regret never buying anything there. And I hope to find it again one day.

Note: I have so many much better photos of BCN, but they have been lost over the years. Darn.