Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mmmmmm, Barcelona

Wednesday morning saw us boarding the train for the two-hour trip to Barcelona, getting off at Placia de Gracias. We hadn't been to Barcelona for a while and  we're always up for a trip there. Mention Barcelona, even to the Spanish, and you get a mmmmm and this far off look in their eyes and I know I'm the same.

We stay in the El Born neighbourhood, which has everything: great restaurants, bars, shops and parks, and it's own unique atmosphere. Barcelona is a great city for walking and we walk and walk with some shopping breaks. It's busy but not the Christmas frenzy we're used to. Many people are at the Christmas markets buying holly, mistletoe, tree decorations and little caganer statues of many different personalities. Few people are carrying parcels. By the time the evening came we decided that we had run out of time for the things that we wanted to do. There's a way around that: we'll stay another night. Tomorrow, Miro.

We decided to visit the Miro exhibit, the Ladder of Escape, before it moved on to the National Gallery in Washington. This involved a bit of a trek on the metro and then the funicular up to Parc de Montjiuc. The park is massive and is also the home of the Barcelona Olympic facilities. Today we headed to the Joan Miro Foundation museum to see the exhibit.

Miro lived through the turbulent times of the Spanish Civil War and his works display his reaction to the events that were particularly devastating to Barcelona, where he was born. The first  have links back to the family farm before his move to Paris at the beginning of the Civil War. Later he returned to self-imposed exile in Mallorca. It was interesting to see how his art changed and became more charged during the time of Franco. His grand abstract works in the 70s and 80s were his way of showing resistance as he couldn't make his political views known. I loved the pictures and found the link with Spain's history particularly interesting as we haven't seen much mention of Franco in our travels.

After leaving the Miro exhibit, we walked down the mountain, through the gardens and eventually to the theatre district, which is in grand buildings constructed for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. By the time we reached  Placa Espana we decided to visit Pobles Espanol for lunch just a short walk away.

Pobles Espanol is an architectural museum built for the 1929 exhibition to display the various types of architecture from around Spain. Here is a little village but no one lives there. We entered the main square, which fortunately for us was ringed with restaurants. We sat in the beautiful sunshine sipping wine and eating our lunch: hake - in a very light  batter - and chips; and  lovely veal sauteed in wine and served with those same great chips and brussel sprouts. After that, were ready to tackle the town.

In addition to architecture, the village includes an art gallery, where we admired more work by Miro, along with pieces by Dali, Picasso and contemporary Spanish artists. As we wandered the narrow streets we stopped and watched the glass blower for a while. I think this is an incredible art  that this man made look incredibly easy. There were more artisanal shops with some lovely things, leather belts and purses made on the premises, cheeses, honey, ceramics and glass just to name a few.

For us it was back to the hotel via Placia de Gracias for a bit of shopping before returning to the hotel. Who can resist the buzz on this street? There are always lots of people usually dressed very stylishly, no  cars, major stores and this time a couple of fellows playing their classical Spanish guitars.

We thought we might go to  a magic show in the evening set to Michael Jackson's music. The ticket lady was thoughtful enough to suggest that although it was a magic show, there was also a lot of speaking in Catalan, which would be beyond us of course. So, nothing for it but to head back to El Born and enjoy another fabulous meal at Cuines Santa Caterina. 

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