Friday, October 16, 2009

basking in barcelona

After a proper English breakfast (i.e. no ham), we set off for the local flea-market, which happens several times a week.

Navigating the metro was easy, and we soon joined the throngs, looking for treasures. We bought several things, Karenh once again proving that her haggling skills are superb.

After hours of examining everything in minute detail, we headed off for lunch, ending up at a neighborhood place for the menu del dia. I had a kind of casserole of mashed potato, cheese, bacallo, and paprika, followed by a bottifara (sausage) accompanied by a kind of eggplant fritter, a beer, and lemon ice-cream. Karen had a lovely salad with tuna, egg, olives ad a ham slice, followed by a grilled lamb chop that she pronounced better than the vastly-more-expensive lamb we had in Madrid, so long ago. I had a taste and, of course, she was right. 8,90 euros per person.

Satisfied, we walked the few blocks to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's astonishing, unfinished monument to obsession and religious experience. The crowds were preposterous, so we left the area soon, and headed, by metro, down to the old city, in search of the cathedral Santa Maria del Mar, which, rumor has it, is one of the best around.

It was closed for the afternoon break. We were feeling that we were striking out.

We walked the few blocks, through the dim, narrow streets, to the Picasso museum, which was actually quite fascinating, concentrating primarily on early work.

The rooms traced his development, with lots of biographical background. For example, there was one large painting that, at age 16, won second place (!) in a Madrid competition.

For me, the best gallery contained his many wonderfaul variations on the famous Velasquez painting we had seen at the Prado, 'Las Meninas'. Each brilliant variation was like a glimpse into a parallel universe. I loved it.

We returned to the cathedral - it was open and amazing. Begun in the 1320's, it is impossibly high and wide, with graceful vaulting soaring above the forest of massive pillars. There were 'a few' stained-glass windows, too, especially the western-facing rose masterpiece, from the 15th century.

After a bit we left, walked around the harbor, amid more amazing 19th century buildings, got a drink and some tapas, then returned to the cathedral, where we now sit, listening to a gorgeous vocal concert.

The voices of the two dozen singers are echoing soothing religious music, in this beautifully-lit, 14th century setting.

It's better than you can imagine.

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