Day 1: Wednesday, May 18th. This date is always free museum day all around the world. It was a great day to be a tourist in Barcelona. After storing my luggage in the lockers at the train station ($10, ugh), I walked to Museu Nacional d’art de Catalonia, passing on my way the Mies Van Der Rohe Pavillion and a monumental fountain. Once in the museum, I walked straight to the modern art wing to see pieces by Dali, Gaudi, Picasso and a special exhibit of Torres Garcia, a Uruguayan/Catalan artist. The view from the museum stretched out to the sea and back to the hills. A flamenco band pleased the passerbys out front.
I made speedy passes through the ethnology and archeology museums, immediately feelings as if I had already seen them before. Then I arrived at the Joan Miro Foundation museum, where I slowed, captivated, by a temporary exhibit on music and a temporary exhibit drawn/created from cardboard. I enjoyed this wonderful museum and seeing the playful paintings and sculptures of Joan Miro.
From those four museums, all very close together, I walked 40 minutes to the contemporary art museum. I hardly found any art in that museum that inspired me. I don’t understand the popularity of those noisy, violent video exhibits that seem to be the contemporary theme and I never feel like taking a second glance at them. However, the museum was free that day! And the building itself was quite cool to explore, all white, glass and angles. The courtyard out front serves as a skate park where youth collect on the concrete on bikes, boards and butts.
A further 15 mintues of walking brought me to the wonderful Picasso museum! I especially loved the temporary exhibition featuring WWII war protest and related themed artwork, not only by Picasso, but also by graphic artists who have inspired my own work, such as John Heartfield. It was a treat to see so much of Heartfield’s photomontages up close. The path through the Picasso Museum is so well-layed out and it is easy to follow Picasso’s life and stages of paintings, much like in the Georgia O’Keefe museum, which follows her life/growth through her paintings. The museum showed Picasso’s art changing styles and influences, moving as O’Keefe’s did from perfectly realistic to expressively abstract. Both artists also picked up sculpture and pottery mediums along the way.
After this museum-saturated day, I walked an hour back to the train station, popping in the perfume museum en route (not good, boring, but hey, free on that day) and stumbled upon one of Gaudi’s houses right next door. Then I picked up my luggage and took the metro to my couchsurfing host, Carol’s, house in the city center – close to the Sagrada Familia Gaudi cathedral/building.
Carol and I formed an immediate connection. I love it when that happens, as it frequently does, with couchsurfers. Carol is warm and friendly, a year older than me, and a native Barcalonean born in the hospital Gaudi designed, Hospital de la Sta. Creu Sant Pau.
The following day, I visited this hospital first thing in the morning, along with the the Segrada Familia and the magnificent Park Guell. It was a Gaudi day. Park Guell, where Gaudi lived some of his life and where a number of his architectural manifestations and sculptures exist, was one of my favorite places in Barcelona. I spent the entire morning traversing the park. I found the Gaudi courtyard to be an excellent place to purchase affordable gifts and accessories: earrings and scarfs for only $2!
With plenty of energy still, I walked from the park, one hour down toward the sea to see the arc de triumph and the serene, mythological parc de la ciutaella. Here stands a magnificent greek fountain with a sculpture of gold horses and their chariot. I read and rested here before walking 40 minutes back to Carol’s and going to bed since she was out for the night. I walked everywhere in Barcelona, never taking the metro except from the train station and back to the airport.
Day 3: Ahh, my favorite day. A leisurely morning in the casa catching up on laundry, drinking tea, playing with Carol’s kitten, all before walking down the bustling high-end shopping streets of La Rambla and Pg. Gracia. I only looked and did not buy. I stopped in the maze of old streets at La Boqueria market to sample affordable and delicious food – a huge plate of mixed, tropical fruits for $2, aisan rice noodle/veggies and 2 potstickers for $4. I brought this food with me to the beach, only another 15-20 minutes walk away. I stayed at the beach for almost 2 hours, taking in sun and watching surf, sailboats, cream parasols, tan skin, sand, and blue blue sky.
At 4:30, I had a date to meet two girls at the cathedral. One girl, Leona, I had met previously, a year ago exactly, when I was in Taiwan. (It had been my third or 4th day in Taiwan and I was traveling solo still at this point, walking through Taroko Gorge, the most amazing natural wonder of limestone cliffs and jungle. Taking the bus, I got to talking with Leona and her boyfriend who had come to Taiwan for a wedding and to travel and I ended up tagging a long with them for the next 5 hours, grateful for some company. Leona is from Ireland, but she lives in Barceonla. I had forgotten this fact and it was only because she saw my facebook posting this week that I was in her city, that we came to meet up). The other girl, Nuria, I was to meet for the first time. Nuria is a native Barcelonian. We found each other on the couchsurfing site last week when I sent her a couch request. She had guests lined up already, but while she could not host me, she did want to meet up. So, we all ended up being able to meet at the same time! I love the power of the internet to connect people. Now Nuria and Leona can be friends too in the city they share. Nuria guided us to a really cool, funky, and hidden non-touristic bar/café a block or two from the cathedral. We went up the 2nd story seating area and spoke in Spanish for a few hours! Then I spoke in Spanish (with English mixed in for words I lacked) for an hour more after Nuria left and Leona and I wondered around the narrow, old streets with cute shops. I enjoyed every minute of the meet-up!
At 8pm, I walked home and experienced a last wonderful night with Carol, talking mostly in Spanish/English. We cooked dinner together. I made miso soup and Carol made a vegan Spanish omelet, so delicious. Her recipe:
Sauté 1 large zucchini, 2 small onions, and 2 extra-large potatoes until soft and mash them all up. In a separate bowl whisk together about a cup of water with 1.5 cups of garbanzo bean powder/flour and some of that salt that comes with herbs mixed in already...then stir in the vegetable mixture. Pour everything back into frying pan and cook thoroughly on both sides.
We shared a chocolate ganache cake Carol’s friend made for desert. You never know what you will get with couchsurfing, but in my experience, it is nearly always sweet. Goodbye Barcelona, for now.