We are lagging in our postings, so I am going to attempt to distill our time in Spain to one post, without the aid of a safety net.
We arrived in Barcelona in good spirits, and hopped in a taxi to take us to our hotel. Here we experienced a phenomenon common to road traffic in the rest of Spain, not so much stop and go, as screech and hurtle. All Spanish cars are fitted with special devices which enable them to go only at 300mph, and come to a dead stop at the touch of a button. There is today, a taxi in Barcelona with an imprint of my face in the back of the drivers seat. As a pedestrian, you notice this at crossings, when crossing at the green man cars race from nowhere to stop an inch from your knees. When that man turns red, the cars will GO, crossing empty or not. Don’t attempt to cross on a flashing green!
Back to Barcelona. The hotel was well located and adequate, if a little odd (lots of doors to nowhere), and as we have learned with most of our other stays, not remotely like the website. We headed straight out to find some maps at the busiest tourist information center in the planet hours of queuing later, we decided to hop on the open top tour bus. There are two circuits in Barcelona, but both basically offer the same. Sit stationary in traffic and then head off to the outskirts to see not a lot, accompanied by a nondescript europop soundtrack and commentary such as “the building to the right is an office!”.
I make the city sound bad; there are fun things to see and pretty buildings, but unlike most of Europe, they are not concentrated in a small city center, instead you spend a lot of time in non-descript areas built for the Olympics.
We went to the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona’s oldest building site, a church under construction for over 100 years and not near completion. It was an impressive sight, but perhaps not so as Gaudi’s finished works (which we also went to see).
We also visited the Poble Espanyol, a typical spanish village, with typical spanish buildings, with typical spanish tat shops. It was built in Barcelona for the 1929 International Exhibition and is not as naff as it sounds. A little like Epcot without the rides. There were no people there so it was worth it just for that.
Now on to Madrid. It is overall a much more picturesque city than Barcelona with ornate buildings and wide boulevards. But we suffered here from the tradition in spain of Siesta. This is the ritual of opening and closing your establishment whenever you please to irritate me. A few things are certain, you will close for at least four hours in the afternoon, and you will not serve food before 8:30pm. I do a disservice in describing the complexity of siesta; it requires organization of the level of air traffic control to coordinate museums, galleries, stores, and restaurants in such a way that it is impossible for a visitor to do more than two things in a day and spend at least six hours a day figuring out what is open and when.
We ate cured ham (a pastime in Spain), possibly the only food available in the country, and decided to see three shows.
Flamenco at Casa Patas, Flamenco at a theatre and “Jesucristo Superstar”
The first was incredible, down a dank alley, to a restaurant you would not go to on just passing by; dinner at 10pm, and at 11:45 a little door in the back opens revealing a stage the size of a postage stamp and some little tables. The show was an onslaught of synchronized machine gun fire and splinters of wood. Two guitars strummed violently, two singers performed a sort of islamic call to prayer, and two men and a woman dazzled us with lightning fast precision moves, a lot of sweat and a fare amount of testosterone. This is where the locals go!
The second show was in a theatre and was like riverdance light, and a little more Dame Edna, than Ernest Hemingway. You can see my enjoyment in a photo in the Madrid section. The show is called Espana, and while entertaining, paled against the previous experience.
Jesus Christ Superstar was excellent and sung in Spanish. He dies in the end which came as a total shock to me!
We had two day trips, Toledo and Palma de Mallorca.
The first involved a 30 minute train ride to see a fortified hilltop town. The second involved an hour flight to see another church!
Both were fun, but I am hungry now so you will have to wait for more….