Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I'm glad I look like someone who isn't a complete imbecile with technology. Even though the truth lies somewhere south of that.

I am in Park Güell, late, very late in the day. I come to the vast balconied space where most everyone congregates. The view is good and of course, there are the mosaics. Antoni Gaudi's work.


A lively and ferociously happy group of visitors is posed for a photo. Someone hands me an iPhone and asks me to take it. I press the button and the voice of Siri come on.

I mean, who on this planet doesn't remember how to take a photo with a cell phone?

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The park is  my big tourist effort for the day. You would call it an architectural park. Built and designed by Gaudi just at the start of the twentieth century. Catalan Modernism. (The image I always have of Gaudi is from photos of him in his older years, when he developed a severe frugal streak and stopped caring about how he looked or dressed. So that when a bus ran into him on the street, he lay injured for a long time, looking so much like a pauper that no one realized he was the famous architect. They ignored him, there in the gutter. He died of injuries for lack of adequate care.) 

But this effort to do something big and grand on my half day in the city comes late in the day: I stumble out of my room after five, not even refreshed -- just a splash of cold water on my face, moving forward only on that croissant (with a slice of cheese) and one coffee at the Paris airport. And less than an hour of sleep.

Though it's my fourth stay at this particular hotel, I'd never been to the rooftop terrace. Always too busy, too rushed to be elsewhere. But I'm told there's free iced tea and cake  during the evening hour. Perfect.


The Park Güell isn't within walking distance, but I want some city strolling time. Window gazing moments. I don't do that back home, ever. Here -- it's different. That's the point, isn't it? To be different elsewhere.

I pass so many cafes! So many! And maybe it's Barcelona or maybe it's August, or the combination of the two, but there is such a casual feel in the air!

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Hard not to pick up that joie de vivre, even though it's probably called alegria de vivir here (I had to look that up.)

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And the first shop that looks sort of fun draws me in.

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And in five minutes, I walk out with a newly purchased dress that I think is absolutely perfect for my little girl's wedding next year. (Just so you don't think I'm feeling recklessly flush, I'll secretly tell you -- but shhh! no one at the wedding must know -- that I spent 63 Euros on it. That's $80. No! Not a rag! Silk! Made in Italy, actually. Check it out. Next June.)

And now, with dress in brown paper bag, a camera over my neck and the tiny purse I carry that fits nothing at all I catch a city bus for the park.

It's a long ride. And I don't know where to get off. A kindly gentleman comes to my aid and tells me how many somethings I must pass before I disembark, except I do not know what those somethings are. Five people are engaged in the effort to decide what's best for me and to communicate that collective wisdom and I curse myself for always relying on Ed in Spain, never bothering to pick up basic Spanish. (forget Catalan. Too late, too hard.) I can count and say thank you and goodbye. So now, on the bus, I alternate between French and Italian because I don't want to appear like the American who just hasn't bothered, assuming that the world will learn her language. (Even though that's exactly what I am.)

I get off. Gracias, adios!

The park. It was the right choice. Quiet. Unique.

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(A quintessential  Catalan picnic in the park: Cava and... nothing. Just Cava.)


And of course, the mosaics are just stunning.

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Everyone wants to be photographed with the lizard.

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It's nearly 9 when I leave. It's a long but pretty stroll to the subway and I pass another park -- or really just a small green space where people come to walk their dogs. Or, they come and their dogs come and everyone has a grand old time.

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The subway. It's efficient, it's clean, it's easy to use. To me, any metro gives a face to the city you're in. New York's subway is legendary, as is the Paris metro. Barcelona's offers great people watching. In a train heading in the opposite direction:

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And now I am in my old neighborhood and again I go back to a familiar restaurant -- La Clara, just around the corner from the hotel.

And the food is terrific -- the Catalan bread (with olive oil and tomatoes), the salad, the shrimp with garlic...

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...the orange flan...

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...but I'm not in a lingering mood. I'm tired and I want to stretch out on that big beautiful bed in a cool room and surf the Internet, bringing me just a touch of home.