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Feb
26

Grab That Cheap Ticket to Barcelona and Run!!!

Food and Art Barcelona Style!

Not to be deep or anything, but travel is really the window onto the soul of human kind. And how else does human kind express itself other than, yes, you guessed it, we’re back to food and art.

In a Rut

You know that Rut?

I was in a rut, needed to escape Valentine’s day. I wanted to go somewhere, somewhere I could travel alone and feel safe, somewhere I could afford and somewhere that would open my heart and mind. But, it had to be cheap. Fortunately New York is a great springboard for travel, but where? What would ease my pre-Spring blues?

I saw a thing on TV, Mario Batali, the cook of the orange croc fame, and Gwyneth Paltrow traveling through Spain in a convertible, passing through the windmills of Don Quixote, on the way to make manchego. I could see myself in that car, I could, and in it I looked just like Gwyneth, I did.

I don’t like popular travel websites, I find them garish and for some odd reason I don’t trust them. Then there’s the problem of not knowing what you’re getting, not being protected and of course having no one at the other end if there’s a problem. I don’t want trouble when I’m traveling. I don’t want to be armed. I want to be open. Then I stumbled across this website, www.bt-store.com which is why I’m writing this here.

This is the first non-flashy, non used-car salesmen like travel website I’ve ever seen. It almost felt like walking into a neighborhood travel store. You can choose your own seat, manage your itinerary and if you need to talk to an actual real person, a travel professional, there’s on at the other end. Hard to believe, right?

And here’s the irony: The fares are cheaper than on all the popular sites. Weird, huh?

Barcelona

Barcelona

barcelona flat

my flat

I flew into Barcelona, the land of Picasso, Gaudi (I hate Gaudi) and Dali (not a big fan either), whimsical and rule breaking.  It’s also the land of cheap rentals. From my apartment in New York I found www.rentals-barcelona.com and booked a one-bedroom in the heart of Barcelona for about $80 a night. In this perfect apartment with one bedroom, two bathrooms, wi-fi connection and two balconies on the wide streets of the city I felt like I had slipped into someone’s very cool skin.

So I have two days here and two days in Madrid. In Barcelona, there are three things I must do:

1. Miro Foundation

2. Picasso Museum

3. Attempt to understand why people like Gaudi

4. Find a seriously hunky Spaniard, settle down and get married.

First things first, wine, bread and cheese. I got my map out and decided to check out La Boqueira market first, after all the fridge needed filling.

boqueria fruit market

barcelona's boqueria fruit market

My apartment happens to be on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s main drag, taxis are easy to find. Here people are out and about, La Boqueria market feels like a food carnival. Candied fruit, meats, breads, fish, cheese, breads, meats, all so beautifully stacked. I’ve been to food markets in Paris, and they are spectacular, but here, here there’s the Latin vibe to it all, which makes it so much more fun. Less, art more life. I hit a cute little bar called Bar Pinoxto, crowded with seriously good-looking people, dressed like they’re about to hit the runway. For some weird reason, the waiter puts a plate of octopus in front of me.

After the octopus, which tasted kind of like a piece of sea-Trident,  I went back to my apartment and sat on the balcony with my bottle of Roja, slab of Manchego and guidebook. It’s a warm night, and though the city is full of people I can still smell the sea coming in from the old port.

The next morning, I wake to the sun, I pad around my new apartment, checking email, switching on my TV for some good local news I do not understand, but love the sound of. Today is museum day. But not before I enjoy breakfast at a milk bar. Pastries here are something else, I go for an almost crunchy cinnamon swirl. The coffee is thick so is the milk. Kids drink hot chocolate and whipped cream.

Picasso, The Master

Picasso, The Master

And then it’s off to my hero, Picasso. Seeing Picasso here in different than seeing him in Paris. And I’ll admit that one of the main reasons I wanted to come here was for Guernica, which I’ll see in Madrid. Here in this newly expanded museum, old brick archways lead into stark walls hung with Picassos.

Picasso Museum

Picasso Museum

Next, another one I love. Joan Miro. Miro feels like a national hero here, and he is everywhere. From the moment you land in the airport there are murals, even on the streets, you see his work. The museum is white, airy and open and his work looks more light because of it. Almost playful.

Miro museum

miro museum

For a late lunch I take my cue from Mr. Batali and head to Inopia for Tapas. When traveling alone, lunch becomes my dinner, it’s the best meal to indulge in, there’s always a table for one no matter how busy the restaurant is. I go for the patatas bravas and try to the waiter’s weird suggestion of pineapple with lime zest and molasses.

Day 2

I put on my Nikes, and start the day at the old port.  Here, where I can smell the fish being pulled from the sea, and see the weathered faces of the fishermen, I see the Spain of old. After all this was the great maritime nation, the ones who footed the bill for Columbus’ fateful journey. I sit and drink my coffee and cream. It’s going to be warm today, the sun is already hard and hot, and so I run. I run to figure out why people like Gaudi’s buildings because for the life of me I can’t understand them.

First off, the Park Guell. Back in the day, people didn’t like this Catalan designer much either. He had one very wealthy patron, an industrialist by the name of Guell, hence the park’s name.

Park Guell Barcelona

Park Guell Barcelona

I must admit, running through this park, what he has done is pretty amazing. He’s transformed rocks  into beautifully tiled, terraced walls that are meant to imitate the trees that sit on them. There are no hard edges anywhere, even the benches undulate in their mosaic. Carefully crafted birds nest hang in trees, tiles with sunflowers peek down upon you and buildings looks as though they were made from candy. It’s very much of a wonderland in here, an exit from the city.

Casa Mila, Gaudi’s other massive project, stands out in Barcelona. Originally, built for Rosario Segimon and Pere Milà. Rosario Segimon was the wealthy widow of José Guardiola, an “Indiano”  which was what they called Catalans returning from the American colonies with huge wealth. Her second husband, Pere Milà, was a developer who loved money and excess. Enter Gaudi.

Gaudi Casa Mila

Gaudi Casa Mila

In  the eighties, this building was painted brown and had fallen into total neglect.  Fortunately it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and looks beautiful, especially at night. It’s the oddest feeling to walk down a huge boulevard, stores side to side and then see a Gaudi building like the Casa Batllo, with its highly art nouveau curved roofs, tiles, it looks like its dripping with seas weed, it takes your breath away, the contrast of it all. His vision is so unique and so total, it’s as though he’s created a fantasy land right here, within and without. I can’t believe it, but I love Gaudi. I’m not kidding.

And then the largest (and still incomplete) project of them all, the Sagrada Familia, and enormous Catholic Church in the middle of Barcelona. Gaudi was a very catholic man, and his devotion to God kept him living in the Sagrada Crypt while he worked on the church.  Sadly,  he was hit by a tram while still working on it.  Funny thing, when he was hit, he looked like an old, poor man, with no money and shabby clothes. No one would pick him up, or take him to the hospital.  He was eventually taken to Pauper’s Hospital and when finally recognized the next day, he refused to be moved to fancier digs. He said, “I belong here, among the poor.” He died three days later and taken to be buried at the Sagrada Familia. They expect to finish the church in 2025.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Here, in Spain, there are so many young people. It feels like a youth culture on steroids. Spanish film, design, art, literature is really on fire. Though the economy has taken a hit, as the rest of Europe has, Spain as been good at getting young college graduates into career programs so that they can be trained.

And they should. The population is on fire. The city never sleeps. But I do. Tomorrow I am off to Madrid, I cannot wait to feel the difference. Perhaps the man is there too, waiting, just for me.

Until then….

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