22 August 2010

Barcelona the Beautiful: A Fitting End to Our 2010 Tour of Spain

We left Haro on July 23, heading east to Barcelona for the final five nights of our tour of Spain. Our drive took us through numerous wind farms, with turbines whirling as far as the eye could see. They reminded us of the storks we had to leave behind in Haro.

We made an unscheduled stop at Lleida, prompted by an article favorite daughter Belén had spotted in the day's edition of El País. Citing fire concerns, the city council had ordered a mosque (actually a garage converted into a prayer hall) closed. The city had earlier prohibited the wearing of full veils in public. Check out Belén's article on the controversy here.

Once in Barcelona, we were able to navigate fairly easily to the Eixample neighborhood, where we had rented a two-bedroom apartment full of Modernista architectural charm but also plagued by a few problems with the hot water heater. Fortunately, another apartment became available . . .

We fell in the love with the neighborhood. Incredible architecture (photos here) was all around us, thanks to Gaudi and his peers. We were reminded of Buenos Aires, but with a thorough steam cleaning and some expansion of sidewalks and streets. We were close to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia (photos here), whose trademark spires we could see from our window, and to the Barcelona city park, or, as it's called in Catalan, "parc de la ciutadella." (Park photos here.) This gem of a green space also houses the Catalan parliament (photos here).

Unlike the Basque language, Catalan is a romance language and similar enough to Spanish that we could understand at least the written version. Try your hand at deciphering this important billboard. Twenty extra points for naming the event it celebrates!

We walked and walked and walked and walked some more. A memorable excursion was our long walk down La Rambla (which quickly became NOT our favorite part of the city) to the port and then over to the Barceloneta neighborhood and the beach. Photos of the port here; photos of the beach here.

And, of course, we made plenty of excursions to restaurants. Our favorite was de Tapa Madre, where we spent one evening catching up with Kurt's niece Sofia and her boyfriend William, who happened to be enjoying their own memorable vacation in Spain before starting college. (Politico Buck Dean also stopped by the table, trying to round up a few votes, but this wasn't a "lock and load" crowd.) In addition to great dishes, de Tapa Madre serves Blanc Pescador, our favorite Spanish white wine and a product of Catalunya. Just a little fizzy, thanks to a short second fermentation. You gotta try it.

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