Archive for March, 2010
On a completely unrelated note, some pictures of the kinds of alien clouds I was talking about in my last post (as requested by Ashley):
Spring is here and the manpris are out. Which means I spend my hours outside along the berges reading and people- and cloud-watching rather than inside blogging. Seriously though, the clouds lately are so mesmerizing. They glow with afternoon sunlight like they’ve swallowed some kind of radioactive poison and make me feel like I’m trapped inside of a painting.
But it’s pouring now. I can hardly hear my music over the thunder rumble and heavy patter of rain against my kitchen window.
So let’s talk about
I rolled into Balenthia (as the Spaniards pronounce it) at night and the only thing motivating me to get off of the most comfortable train I’ve ever been on (thank you, Euromed) was the prospect of seeing Liz after months of failed European réunions. Seeing a face from home on this side of the pond is always so refreshing and has a way of shrinking the world, even if temporarily. In a nutshell, my visit to
For those of you unsatisfied with this brevity, here are some details:
- As we left the train station and headed by foot to my hostel, I immediately had the impression that
- Food: People eat late in
- Thursday night, we headed to the apartment of some of Liz’s amigos for a night of conversation and music. Red wine, Spanish, the orange incandescence of scalding metal: all of these kept me in a heightened state of vertigo. I was at once detached and present. I listened as seemingly accentless words poured like a steady flow of water from Liz’s mouth (seriously, Liz, yo’ español is impressive), understanding some of them, but mostly floating somewhere just beyond the walls, observing the scene as if through some distorted bubble.
As much as I hated the idea of leaving Spain, I was forced to hop aboard my train Saturday afternoon after drinking one last freshly squeezed zumo de naranja (orange juice) and saying goodbye to Liz. My train led me to Barcelona, where I met up with Denis, a Frenchman I’d found on covoiturage.fr (a legitimate carpooling website where you can find rides in people’s cars for nearly half the cost of other forms of transportation), who was to drive me the 7.5 hours back to Lyon (oops, I may have left this detail out when talking to you about my plans, Mom and Dad). After throwing my bags into Denis’ radioless ’93 Mercedes-Benz, he and I set off. The time passed remarkably quickly; night fell and the headlights came on somewhere among the Pyrenées Mountains, and we spent most of the time talking, comparing and contrasting the two countries (Denis had lived in Spain for three years and was in the process of moving back to France) among other things. We stopped at a typical side-of-the-highway service station to grab a couple of sandwiches and cafés for dinner, and entered the familiar
And for some reason I never thought that nearly a month and a half later I’d still be writing about it. ¡Adios at last, y’all!
Here’s a recap of my morning:
Woke up naturally at 9:00 (what?! on a Saturday?!) and had breakfast with Paul (toasted baguette topped with olive oil and coarse salt à l’espagnole) before he set off to
Went for a short run along the berges (third time this week!) and headed to the market for a pastry and some fresh cheese.
Showered and then took my time over a cup of coffee while reading articles from Le Figaro and Courier International and listening to the smooth rhythms of Ratatat playing on repeat in the background (thanks to Sarah for the sweet recommendation).
There’s a cool breeze coming in through the open window. It’s raining but it’s warm. I think I’ll spend the afternoon au cinéma.
Is this what they call “growing up”?
Brain’s off. Sitting in the Brasserie du Midi hoping that the caffeine from my grand café will kick in soon so I can continue relaying my Spanish adventures to you guys. My fatigue (a definite symptom of oversleeping and not the opposite) is making it hard for me to tune out all of this French, so I apologize in advance for the inevitable broken English.
Having learned my lesson the previous day, I woke up Wednesday morning with the rest of
Walking to the metro station, I relished in a brief moment of blue skies before descending into the city’s underworld. Of course when I resurfaced several minutes later at Vallcarca, a metro stop on the other side of the city, I was surrounded by nothing but (surprise!) rain and grey skies. Ignoring the bad weather, I looked in vain for signs I hoped would lead me to the park (signs that the guy at the front desk of the hostel assured me existed), but finding nothing of the sort and knowing that the Parque Güell was supposed to give me an incredible panoramic view of the city, I made an “educated” guess and picked a hill to climb. Makes sense, right?
I proceeded to get lost for over an hour, hiking up an increasingly steep hill that led me not to the Parque Güell, but to the Parc Turó del Putxet, some other, lesser-known green space several kilometers (hardly an exaggeration) from my intended destination. You may be saying to yourselves, “You idiot, why didn’t you turn around when you realized you were in the wrong place?” To be completely honest, I made this realization long after it was too late to turn back. In fact, even when I entered the illustrious “Parque” (probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Barcelona) and saw absolutely no one, I was certain I’d somehow just discovered some secret side entrance known only to locals. Entertaining a whole host of these kinds of justifications (perhaps it’s the weather? or maybe it’s still too early for these people? is the park closed to the public today so that they can shoot another sequel to L’Auberge espagnole?), I climbed and I climbed. I followed a series of signs sporting pictures of cameras along narrow, winding paths, and happened, every now and then, upon the occasional runner or Barcelonan dog-walker. It wasn’t until I reached the summit, sweaty and out of breath, that I stubbornly admitted to myself I was lost, at which point I proceeded to descend the hill, realizing only when I got to the bottom that the park’s exit was, indeed, back at the top. What a way to start the morning!
Miraculously, I was able to find my way back to the metro station, where, with a bit of luck, I discovered the most pathetic excuse for a “sign” I’ve ever seen and headed in the direction of the real Parque Güell. Looking back on the experience, I’m not sure I truly appreciated this part of the city. Disheartened by my camera’s inability to cooperate with the cloudy weather, slightly discouraged by the events of the morning, and momentarily sick of being alone in a city of millions, I enjoyed the park’s splendor, but only superficially. Along with the hordes of tourists, I flocked to the colorful, mosaic-filled serpentine walls to get my share of photos of the city below me and the two gingerbread-house structures framing the park’s entrance. I waited there timidly, hoping to find a friendly-faced English-speaker to take my picture, but quickly gave up, and decided, instead, to leave the park and head back to the metro. (Rest assured that the next time I go to
My negative attitude changed the second I walked out of the Sagrada Familia station twenty minutes later. This has got to be the most perfectly placed metro exit in the history of the world (L.’s words, but I completely agree). You walk out and immediately run into Gaudí’s world-famous cathedral, which, even 100+ years later, is still under construction. This thing is incredible. The product of true genius and unparalleled imagination, it’s one of those buildings you have to see in person before you can even begin to understand it. Like a dripping sandcastle, it towers far above any other edifice in the city and is so profoundly elaborate that you could stand in front of it a thousand times and still discover some previously unseen detail. Like so many of Gaudí’s pieces, neither words nor pictures can do it justice. And if the Sagrada Familia sighting itself wasn’t reason enough to raise my spirits, it came – at last! – with BRILLIANTLY BLUE SKIES.