Thursday, January 12, 2012

To Barcelona to see a Mexican suitcase

This is the last week of the 'Mexican Suitcase' exhibition at the Museu Nacional D'Art De Cataluyna in Barcelona, a good enough reason to go into Barcelona for the day. But first, to get there. Driving is convenient, but there is the cost of gas, tolls and parking, and it is not very relaxing. Trains are an option for us, but there are two choices and they are not equal. In order to leave from the closest station to us (Llanca) at a reasonably early hour (8:40) we had to take the 'regional' train. We didn't enjoy its hard seats, the countless stops, and having to sit next to someone who definitely didn't know that "coughs and sneezes spread diseases!"

A coffee and croissant on bustling Paseig de Gracia helped us recover from the train ordeal and then it was back underground to take the metro to the museum. We were shocked to discover that a single metro fare is now 2E - it had been only 1.45E. On the other hand it's a great system and that ticket would have taken us from one side of the city to the other if we had wanted.

Four or five stops later we exited at Playca Espanya. A broad boulevard pointed the way to the Museu Nacional D'Art De Cataluyna, looking down on us from the slopes of Montjuic. Workers were busy cleaning massive fountains, which are apparently quite a sight when lit up at night.

The exhibition's title refers to 4,500 negatives shot by pioneers of war photojournalism Robert Capa, Chim (David Seymour) and Gerda Taro during the Spanish Civil War. The negatives went missing in 1939 but reappeared, in a battered suitcase, more than seventy years later in Mexico.The negatives were reproduced in the form of contact sheets and displayed alongside selected larger prints, as well as the magazines in which the photos were originally published. It was fascinating to see famous images in the context of other photos taken at the same time. They showed key political figures, battle scenes, and the devastating effects on the civilian population. This is the first time these negatives have been shown in Spain, and we wondered what memories the photos evoked for some of the older visitors that day.

The Museu Nacional D'Art De Cataluyna is perhaps best known for a collection of Romanesque church murals removed from their original locations in the 20s. The murals are displayed on mockups of church interiors giving the visitor some sense of how they originally appeared, but with the added benefit of perfect lighting. We tried to imagine what it must have been like for Christians looking up at these stunning images up to a thousand years ago.

Having pretty much museumed ourselves out for the day, we returned to Las Ramblas for late lunch at Bar Lobo. It was busy as usual but we were seated quickly and then served even more quickly, almost too quickly! For Eleanor, the   menu del dia: green salad with goat cheese,  a big piece of grilled merluza or hake with colourful grilled peppers and onions, and a dessert of carpaccio of pineapple, which is very thinly sliced pineapple with a drop of not too sweet strawberry sauce. For Seamus:  wild rice with mustard sauce and vegetables. All very tasty.

After synchronizing watches and agreeing on a rendezvous, we went our own ways. Seamus went to a bookshop in search of an English language history of Cataluyna, which he found, while I headed to the stores of Placia de Gracias, a huge pedestrian shopping area.  In Spain, many stores hold big sales from January 7 to the end of February. After a quick trip into a few of my favourites and a T-shirt later we met up and headed to the station to catch our homeward train. For the return journey we took the faster and more comfortable (but more expensive) 'medio distance'. We were home in a short two hours to be welcomed by the lights of the village and a beautiful starry sky.

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