Thursday, April 26, 2007

Where You Going? Barcelona. Oh. - Day 9

On my final full day of the trip, I slept in until 9:30, got ready for the day, had breakfast at the corner café and headed off to the Barcelona Zoo. The parentals wanted to stay in to pack and get ready for the day, so I was on my own. I took the subway down to the Olympic Village and, while crossing over to the entrance, almost got hit by a tram, but that didn’t deter me from seeing some animals. The Zoo here is most famous for it’s albino gorilla, who unfortunately died a few years back, but they’ve got over 400 species to make up for it.

Once in the park, the sounds of animals waking and making noises filled the air. As I approached the giraffes I noticed peacocks wandering around freely. It was a little alarming at first, but it was interesting to see how close I could get to them. They didn’t seem to be scared of anything much and I got some good shots. It was amusing to see them scare little kids, though. And little kids there were- there was at least 12 sets of preschool-aged children making all sorts of racquets. I love children individually, but being in the middle of a sea of them was a little like Tippi Hedren walking out of that house at the end of “The Birds.”

Another attraction the zoo is known for is its dolphins, and they have shows a few times a day. Honestly, that was the primary reason for going, since I have a thing for them. They’ve got a total of five dolphins, three adult females ranging from 3 to 45 years old and two male calves that are less than a year old. The show was your typical dolphin spectacle and, as always the cute factor was high.

After hitting the rest of the animals (not literally, natch), I got back on the subway to meet up with Roz and Al and the train got stuck for 10 minutes. Luckily I wasn’t in too much of a hurry, but still kinda annoying. Once back at the hotel, we met up and walked our way up our side street to a local movie theatre. They went to see “Madrigal,” a Cuban film and I (finally) saw Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine”- in English and subtitled. While predictable, it was still an engaging sci-fi thriller in the vein of “Alien” and I enjoyed it more than his “28 Days Later.”

Afterwards, I went back to my room and started packing my suitcase. It’s amazing how much heavier it is once I put all purchases & gifts in there…

After taking a break and calling some friends in the US, we went out for some dinner and I ended our stay here at the same place we started- in a café with churros for dessert before trekking back to the hotel and finishing up my packing.

It’s been a wonderful stay here. The city is marvelous, the people generous and the climate was super. I’m gonna miss it.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Where You Going? Barcelona. Oh. - Day8

On the bridge that splits Girona from the old city (right) from the new one (left). (enlarge)

It turns out that Girona isn’t a coastal town like it was described… it’s more of a town on a hill kinda place surrounded by a wall that’s as old as 100 B.C. It’s more of a representation of the Catalonian country than Barcelona is, natch, due to it’s un-metropolitan-ness. That’s not to day it wasn’t full of views and architecture to be taken in. Once we got off our tour bus, we were taken on a walking tour of the old city (much to Roz’s chagrin) that included visiting the Arabian Baths (not in use for 600 years) that’s been in pretty amazing shape due to nuns taking over the property centuries ago. Check out the great fountain in the changing room.

After stopping for lunch, we made it to the museum of Cinema, which had a vast archive of moving picture techniques going back to the 18th century. I sort of forgot that no pictures were allowed and inadvertently recorded some early animation/silent film techniques (see here, here, and here). After that, I had to book it (Roz & Al already had a head start) to our bus for our trip to Figueres and a visit to the Theatre-Museu Dali.

And I thought that he was just a surrealist! His breadth and mastery, IMO, almost rivals the sampling of Picasso’s oeuvre from his museum. Not only that, but he also designed the entire building to his quirky specifications, like the eggs, bread and female Oscars(enlarge). Many installations were here as well as lots of the jewelry he designed and kinetic artwork, too (like a rolls Royce that rains on the inside when you put change in a meter). I put change into a crucifix-mirror thing and a choir of voices began chanting and the whole piece started swaying, much like those dancing cacti of the late 80s. Pretty fun stuff!

After that, we boarded the bus and came back. I don’t know what it is when I’m not driving, but I pretty much pass out on trips like that, so it was almost all a blur. I can’t believe that this is already coming to a close… one more day of activities before our long trip back. *le sigh*.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Where You Going? Barcelona. Oh.
- Days 6 & 7

Thoughts on the bullfight last night: Welp, I have to say my feelings are a little mixed here. On the plus side, it was amazing watching this technique of having the matador get as close to the bull as possible and there is a definite art in doing that (centuries of it, actually), but it was also v. v. gruesome. So much so, that I couldn’t take it after the fourth fight and I left forgoing the final two. I ended up cheering more for the bull than the matador sometimes but I still wasn’t able to applaud like the rest of the audience when the bull was put down. There’s a lot of pageantry beforehand, which was nice to experience and before the actual matador comes out there’s plenty of assistants that play with the bull without hurting him and that’s where the art comes into play here (IMO). With waving the material the closer the bull gets to the person, naturally, the harder it is to get away from his horns but each time the bull gets closer, the crowd erupts into a big “Ole!” (Which was fun) and then the guy runs behind a barricade before he gets hurt. Once the stabbing began, I was pretty much over it. I did make a video of the whole ole thing, which you can see here (no bloodshed at all).

After some comfort food for dinner (chicken), I looked up bullfighting on wikipedia and found that there sure was an alternative to violent bullfighting and I think that I would see that but not the ‘real thing’ ever again.

Welp, before all that, Sunday was a day off from the parentals! They went to church and I wandered anywhere I wanted to go, so I ended up at the Plaza D’Espana convention center to a… comic convention! It was a multigenerational affair here in Spain- there were old folks as well as kids and every age in between, which I guess shows the breadth of graphic novels is much more expansive in other parts of the country than the US. The reason I went was because there was an exhibit in honor of a new Asterix book, and I’ve been Asterix-crazy since I was 8, so it was a no-brainer for me. There were a lot of people there, and after about 2 hours I was pretty much done, so I left and walked all the way back to the Plaza Catalunya (about 3 KM) going through many side streets. It was calming and, once I got back to my hotel room after the bullfight, I crashed.

With no need to wake early today, we all slept in (well until 9) and just went to the center of town (Plaza Catalunya and the Ramblas, which is a long promenade of hotels and shoppes and restaurants). Today was also Sant Jordi’s Day (St. George, who is the patron saint of Catalonia), which meant that you were to give your significant other a rose and they are to give you a book in return (it’s also the day of books). Needless to day there were booksellers galore with tables as well as people selling different colored roses.

I was pretty impressed that we walked down the entire length of the Ramblas and Roz didn’t think too much about it, although we did take a few breaks here and there. Along the way, We went to try and tour the Grand Theatre of Liceau (what the Kennedy Center is to DC), but the tours are only in the morning and then I wanted to see more of Gaudi’s work at the Guell Palace (he’s all over the place), but that was closed for reconstruction, so then I parted ways with the parentals and went to go see Danny Boyle’s (28 Days Later, Trainspotting) new movie, Sunshine. I got to the theatre and asked the ticket-taker if the movie was subtitled in Spanish and she told me that it was dubbed, which defeated the purpose (to me) and she basically told me that I had to get used to it, or just not see any movies here at all. How rude!

Well, then I just wandered the city for a bit before heading back to the hotel, because we’ve got an early day tomorrow. We’re going on another day trip- this time to Girona, a coastal town and to nearby Figueres, which is Salvador Dali’s hometown (the one trip I wanted to take while here). I’m looking forward to it!

Oh, and this guy below was sliding into a grate in the park today, as part of the festivities...


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Barcelona Tonight: A Bullfight!

So, I don’t necessarily condone bullfighting, but there is something about it that fascinates me. Although I don’t follow the sport or know who the matadors are, it’s probably as brutal as one would think it might be, but from reading about it since I was young I’ve always wanted to see one.

And tonight’s the night!

Hopefully, I won’t get too grossed out. Wait, I did have a hamburger for lunch today…

Update tomorrow.

Labels: ,

Where You Going? Barcelona. Oh- Day 5

Today was a more laid-back kind of affair (although, it always turns out less so). All we had planned was to go to the Palace of Catalan Music, the Christopher Columbus Monument and Aquarium. After having breakfast, we took the metro (no transfers this time) to the Palace, where the next guided tour was almost 2.5 hours later. So, my parents wanted to sit there the whole time and it was a little chillier than previous days, so I decided to hit the Corte Ingles (CI) for something a little warmer. Turned out that the CI was maybe 10 minutes away, so I had some time to kill there and I just wandered around, after finding a sweater that I sorta like (kinda not my color but I’m sure I’ll get used to it).

The tour of the Music Palace was neat, although I could only take a picture of the exterior due to it being a private building and there are no pictures allowed. Lots of beautiful flower imagery and statues evoking muses and valkyries and some nice stained glass work on the ceilings. On the trip to the metro to get to the Columbus monument, my parents wanted some warmer clothing as well, so we stopped at the CI (again) before heading out again. By this point I needed to grab lunch, so we stopped at (OMG) Burger King- the only place with not much of a wait- for a kid’s meal.

Once we made our way to the subway, we got to the monument and it was almost 6. We went up to the top and looked around (it’s not too dissimilar to the Statue of Liberty, probably not as tall), took pictures and went back down. On the way around I did take this picture of a tourist posing underneath a lion’s nads, though.

Afterwards, we walked down to the harbor and finally made it to the Aquarium. Luckily, since it was early evening, there wasn’t much of a crowd (which worried me, it being a Saturday), so we went in saw the various exhibits and then watched a half hour documentary. This place was nicely designed- v. similar to the Atlanta Aquarium, but on a smaller scale- and had a couple of automated walkways that go underneath the main tank that housed no less than 7 sharks. There was also a display of penguins and reminded me of Happy Feet and I got a little sad (if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean).

Then, on the way back to the metro we hit a Chinese place for dinner, back here to the hotel and I’m on my way to a bar (and hopefully have a NSFW* story).

*Not Safe For Web (or work, for that matter).


Where You Going? Barcelona. Oh- Day 4

Luckily I didn’t oversleep yesterday, since it was our (much-anticipated by Roz) day-trip to Montserrat. We had booked a special trip that included transportation to the train station via subway, the train trip to the city of Montserrat, a train to get up the mountain to the monastery, funicular trips to a couple different places on the mountain and return trips back to Barcelona- oh and free lunch, too (well, we didn’t take advantage of that, but it was still nice of them to offer, LOL).

Did I already mention that my mom doesn’t like walking? Well, I think we actually doubled the distance from Park Guell’s trip the day before. First, we had to switch subway lines to get to the train station (lots of stairs), and then it was just the sheer amount of things to get to that required walking at Montserrat. Luckily, the parentals slept on both train trips (I think I even caught some winks there, too).

The monastery was pretty cool- all up on this mountaintop that the Virgin Mary appeared in a cave and was discovered by monks centuries ago. Like any old cathedral, the architecture was made of stone and v. detailed (sadly, no geese like the last one). There is also an art museum up there (that was also included in our package, natch) with some little seen pieces by Degas, Monet, Dali and lots more of Picasso, so that was a cool bonus.

The best part was taking the funicular (is there an English word for this?) up to Sant Joan (97,010 meters above sea-level). Click here for a video clip I took going up. Once up there, there are various places to hike and I, stupidly, took the longest hike that took me up to one of the summits and then (unknowingly) took me back down to the Monastery, leaving my parents waiting for me up on the mountaintop, so I took the funicular all the way back up to get them and then we took the other funicular down to the Holy Cave (where this Mary appeared/was discovered). By that point, my legs were kinda tired so I walked about halfway down to the cave and turned back. Afterwards, we did some shopping (and I got some chocolates made by the nuns and monks there), where my mom basically cleaned out the store, and then we went to get our free food (there was nothing much by the time we got there, so we didn’t get anything) and then trekked back down the mountain to meet up with the train (the final one of the day, I later found out, luckily).

Once back in Barcelona, we found a place for dinner and we took a taxi back to the hotel, where I crashed hard. And my dad’s lost suitcase was finally recovered, so he was v.v. happy (I’ll flash back to that later).


Friday, April 20, 2007

Where You Going? Barcelona. Oh.
The Next 2 Days...

The past two days have been a whirlwind, as I guess the rest of our stay will be, too. Yesterday we went to the Gaudi ‘Sagrada Familia’ Temple, which was a project that was started over 100 years ago and has yet to be completed (Gaudi, the architect, died by the time the first tower was built). I sort of conned my mom into walking the whole mile by saying that the metro was just coming up, but actually, while I did mean that, I also realized that the church was merely a couple more blocks further. Once we finished taking in the work in progress (project completion date: sometime in the 2020’s), we all agreed that the best way to take in more sights was to get a 2-day bus tour ticket that stops at almost every point in the central city.

We hit the Catalan National museum of Art, passed by some big monuments (the Happy Lobster, the Tower of Calatrava & Roy Lichtenstein’s “Face of Barcelona”- guess which one is which) and went to the church of Blessed Mary of the Ocean (Santa Maria del Mar for those of you in the know) and the Picasso Museum, which was amazing for the sheer expansiveness of his early years- it’s obvious the man was a genius but he had his photo-realistic technique down before he was out of his teens.

By the end of the evening, we all were super tired from the walking (especially my mom), so we had dinner and then took a taxi back to the hotel, me missing the 10:30 curfew for using the hotel’s computers and checking emails. I ended up passing out watching a DVD of Angel, Season 2.

Today, I actually overslept (by not updating the time on my Palm Pilot) but we made it back to the tour bus before noon and headed up to Pac Guell, which was another endeavor of Gaudi’s architecture. Turns out, the place is at the top of a steep hill (some would say small mountain and Roz (my mom) was having none of that. Well, actually, she did but we stopped a few times along to way to help her rest. This park was beautiful with the architecture complementing the nature surrounding it as well as the way mosaics were used. After getting a picture with the mosaic dragon, we grabbed a nosh and took a taxi down to the base of the hill back at our bus stop.

After that, we ended up in the Barri Gotico (Gothic Area) and wandered around, going to the Cathedral (Geese in the courtyard- CRAZY) and then walking through shoppes and the Royal Plaza (which was kind of a let-down- a big area with a teeny fountain. At the other side, though, was the center of the Ramblas- the famous area full of restaurants and shops where we stopped and had dinner. By the time we finished, there was no time to hit the other areas we planned, so we got into a cab to find out about transportation to Montserrat in the morning and a little more shopping at the Corte Ingles before getting back to the hotel and getting ready for the next day...


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where you Going? Barcelona. Oh.

So, the parentals & I made it to Barcelona at last! Our first day was good. Once we got out of the airport, we took a taxi to our hotel, checked in and I promptly passed out for four hours. After showering, we took off on a walk around the center of the city. Spanish architecture never fails to impress me (well, “Old” architecture anyways- those new apartment buildings that you see in Almodovar films are really ugly). All the buildings have wrought-iron balconies and just amazing woodwork on entrances.

We reached the Plaza De Catalunya, which had a huge fountain and I got distracted by the largest department store I had ever seen. El Corte Ingles is a huge chain across Spain, but this building was just jaw dropping more than eight floors of any and every department you could think of. I bought some bottles of water there and wanted to continue exploring but my parents wanted to sit for a bit, so I told them that I’d meet up with them at an outdoor café across the street. One could spend hours in this place. I went looking for a CD that BiWo asked me to find and then realized that I was starving, so since the CD search was sort of fruitless (no pun intended), I met up with my parents and had a ham & brie sandwich with churros for dessert- delish!


Friday, April 06, 2007

This is funny

Labels: ,

Monday, April 02, 2007

Touching Story

Over at Joe.My.God, I just saw this link to a New York Times article on how gay youth are coming out at earlier ages and, more significantly, how parents are more supportive. Read it and see if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye or at least warm your heart.

I dare you.