Barcelona: three times a charm!
My 2014 trip to Barcelona was fantastic - my best ever there.
It was my third trip to Barcelona, and my third attempt to make this third
I had tried to go to Barcelona last year, needing it in particular after a horrible
professional experience in Brussels, but French air traffic
controllers went on strike, European pilots therefore would not fly over
France, and I ended
up in Antwerp instead, one of the most over-rated cities ever, without
even the art museum for comfort (closed for renovations). Then, when Stefan
and I booked our Germany vacation for this year, I intended to go to
Barcelona for a week of that two weeks abroad - and then the
Ireland opportunity popped up, and I went to Dublin instead.
you, Poland, for bringing me to Europe so I could FINALLY see my
Catalan sister after seven years apart! Even better: I got to meet her newly
adopted daughter from Brazil, who had been with her for two months when I
arrived. Oh, yes, we danced (see at left). Because - BRAZIL. I taught her
the bump. They don't have the bump in Brazil?! The definitely have the
My Spanish got quite the workout in Barcelona. When
I came in 2001, I didn't speak much Spanish at all. When I came in
2004, my Spanish was quite good. This trip, my Spanish was somewhere in
between - but good enough to have a long conversation with my honorary
Catalan cousin about his Africa Twin, my KLR, et. al.
My jet lag, however, was horrible. I've never handled time differences
particularly well, but this trip, it's been awful: almost falling asleep in
the late afternoon and early evening, no matter what I'm doing or how late I
slept that morning, and then my eyes popping awake the closer to midnight I
get after supper. None of my tricks worked this trip.
Each day, I got up after Alex and Ketlen left for work and school, and spent
the morning in their apartment doing a little work, having some cereal, and
writing. Then I would navigate the city on my own, meeting up with Alex
somewhere for lunch. She's working just half days now, using her family
leave time now to be with her daughter. It worked out SO WELL - I started
joking that I would stay and Ketlen could have two mommies.
I took a bus every day, using just Alex's written directions. Mass transit
without a map. It's like doing the trapeze without a net. I did end up
picking up a couple of maps from a tourist kiosk, and it's a good thing I
did, because one day, I missed the stop for Alex's mom's apartment, and
ended up at the port of Barcelona. Luckily, I was able to figure out where I
was supposed to be and how to get there by underground - something I'd never
taken in Barcelona before. I hate getting lost - but, wow, I get such a rush
from figuring out mass transit and getting where I need to be. I was
triumphant when I got to Momma Sol's - Alex's Mom's.
It was fascinating to see Alex as a mother herself. It's a role that is
absolutely natural to her. I don't want to say too much, because I don't
want to violate her privacy in any way, but were I a stranger to this
situation, I never would have guessed that Alex and her daughter have been
together just two months. They already have a rhythm to their day, to their
relationship. There is a lot of boundaries being tested, there are
challenges, there is conflict, but is it any different for a mom of a
seven-year-old she actually birthed? I didn't see much that I haven't seen
with my sister and her daughters. Ketlen is so much more content than I ever
expected - often, she loves just sitting and coloring while Mommy talks with
friends and adult family, just happy to be there. I can't wait to see what
she's like a year from now.
previous trips, I've been to Sagrada
Familia (twice), Las Ramblas (twice), the waterfront
(twice) and Montserrat on previous trips, so this trip was focused on just
being with Alex and her mom and her daughter, for the most part - but I did
go to the Barcelona Opera House to see a performance of Mozart's Requiem, to
celebrate the 25th anniversary of Fundació Esclerosi Múltiple. Gorgeous
opera house, and lovely performance (though I found the Requiem a
bit rushed at times). Another day, I had some extra time and was able
to see two exhibits at the Paulau Robert, Centre d'Informació de Catalunya:
Mujeres Women Afghanistan" was about the violence and poor health care
for women in Afghanistan, presented through photos of Afghan women and their
stories. As I walked through the exhibit, I suddenly thought, "I bet there's
going to be a photo of Rangina Hamidi somewhere." Yup, there was. She
was very amused when I told her on Facebook. The other exhibit was on the
journalism and political career of Eugeni Xammar, whom I'd never heard of.
Don't look him up - the information on the Internet in English doesn't even
begin to touch on who he really was. The info on the Internet, compared to
the info of the exhibit (in Catalan, Spanish and English) is so bad that I
tweeted the exhibiters and begged them to improve at least the Wikipedia
entry for him.
I admire so much about Barcelona, and Catalunya in general. Firstly, because
it's a beautiful, livable city. That comes from the right priorities as much
as it does from prosperity. Catalan nationalism is a celebration of their
language and culture more than it's a protest against the Spanish. It's not
an angry nationalism, for the most part. No one ever gets upset if you speak
Spanish, not that I've ever seen or heard anyone talk about first hand, and
most everything - museum exhibit information, bus information, etc. - is in
Catalan and Spanish (and, often, in English as well). I find it interesting
that Spanish politicians talk more about how they love Catalunya, as a way
to entice the citizens to stay a part of Spain, rather than talking about
them as misbehaving rebels (though some of the laws Spain wants to impose in
Catalunya regarding language in schools are outrageous, IMO). In
Ukraine earlier this year, I frequently wondered how Ukrainians might
feel about the Catalan situation: if one frames it as Ukraine is Catalunya
and Spain is Russia, I'm sure they would support Catalan independence; but
if one frames it as Ukraine is Spain and Catalunya is the East of Ukraine, I
doubt they would. I'm not saying the Catalunya situation perfectly matches
either circumstance, nor am I saying that Eastern Ukraine should be a part
of Russia - I'm just thinking out loud. Cultural identity, national identity
- it's so complicated. And anything I say or think is going to piss someone
- EVERYONE - off when I try to discuss it. So I usually don't.
After four days, it was goodbye to Barcelona: I took the bus from in front
of Alex's flat to Placa Catalunya, near Las Ramblas, and then the express
bus to the airport (Barcelona airport gives you a whopping 15 minutes of
free Internet access. #fail), on yet another beautiful Catalan day… then back
to Warsaw for one night, and then back to the USA… and I'm ready to be
in Oregon for the rest of 2014.
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