Unlike the rainsodden ascent in Madrid, coming up the subway stairs in Barcelona was an entry into sun and light and warmth and the absolutely certainty that is where we should have been all along. We came up onto La Rambla, packed full of tourists and natives strolling past the boulevard shops and buskers. Every now and then there was a living statue – a recreation of Edward Scissorhands or a basketball player or a centaur or a living tableau from a knight’s tale (or even a bunch of fruit).
Normally such a glut of tourists would have been annoying but it didn’t seem to affect the overall sunny vivacity of the place. A long roll of sidewalk with flower venders, birds and birdcages for sale, chairs to have a glass of wine or beer and food, freelance artists of all sorts playing to the crowds, and everyone in a good mood.
Our art nouveau hotel was half a block off this drag. We would only find out later that the damp moldy airspace running up beside our room with its dripping pipes would at seven in the morning breathe forth the ambrosia of freshly baked croissants.
Barcelona is not unlike Vancouver in that it has hills behind it and ocean around. Unlike Vancouver, the architecture is both unique and remarkable. This is the home of Antoni Gaudi. If I had to pick the ten greatest artists of the twentieth century he would be near the top of the list. One thing I came to realize as never before was that of all the arts, architecture gave me both the most immediate and the most lasting pleasure. Partly you cannot hide it under a roof but also it is three dimensional and all enveloping, and ultimately, practical as well. And once you know Gaudi, you know that it can be as fanciful and astonishing as any painting.
Here is a taste: the house with a hat on:
But Gaudi comes on the next entry. Let me show you the sorts of streets we spent most of our time wandering through.
You would come to intersections of two streets, each of them no more than about six feet wide. When doors, some of them old wooden affairs, were open you would see manual labour in some, computers in another, shops, restaurants, homes. Sometimes behind a door would be a courtyard with a small tree in it.