Way back in June, I came to Barcelona, with the wide-eyed hope of an Ohio State Fair beauty queen first arriving in Hollywood. I’m going to make it here! But… No need to flip back to that post; here’s an extract.
…“First thing I noticed: it is hot, humid and crowded. The streets are always crowded. Tourists and locals all pushing past each other in an ancient game of “who knocked over grandma”. If you’re wondering who did knock over grandma, it is likely to be another grandma, texting while riding a standup electric scooter. Feeling adventurous? Play the advanced game of “spot the pickpocket”. Aren’t crowds fun?”…
Now I’m back for two weeks in September. It is 20F cooler. They are half as many people. Pickpockets are going hungry. OK, electric scooters are still a problem. They are like bullets: you’ll never hear the one that gets you.
Barcelona is much nicer when I can explore the city without fear of being trampled. I visited the Barcelona Cathedral, the Museo Picasso and the Museo de la Xocolata, to name a few. No crowds.
Being free to explore the tiny streets of Barcelona is a good reason to avoid the high season. I stayed in the “Al Born” neighborhood this time. It’s filled with tiny shops, and by “tiny” I mean “had very little in them.” Rent must be cheap. Shops sold NBA jerseys, or sun glasses, or custom wedding dresses, or paintings, or ear rings, or cupcakes… Graffiti, by actual artists, have become tourist stops. Squares are lined with a few restaurants and lots of tiny, bedroom-sized cocktail bars, not one of them big enough to be an economic threat to the other. Oh, and a bar for cereal killers!
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, aka Barcelona Cathedral was, well, a cathedral. Just another 14th Century Gothic cathedral with lots of stonework in need of constant upkeep. Maybe I’m becoming jaded? On-line trolls scream (in all caps, the way the kids do nowadays) that admission is “OVER PRICED,” but how many stone masons do trolls have to pay? I note the cracks and water stains, scaffolding and tarps, and toss in a few euros in the construction fund donation box. Every little bit helps! I would hate for them to have to slap on corporate sponsors like NPR… This confession brought to you by the good folks at Memorex. Is it real or is it Memorex…
The Museo Picasso, or Picasso Museum for you homebodies, had a large collection of the artists early works. Sorry, homebodies… Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The museum had a lot of everything. Paintings by the 14-year-old Picasso. Etchings, sketches, bowls and tiles. And, I swear, a couple bits of rag where he wiped off his brushes; but I am no expert. If you are into Pablo, it is interesting to the evolution of a piece, from early sketches to multiple versions of the work, to the one you might remember from the ART 101 class you slept through.
The Museo de la Xocolata is a must see, because, well, it’s the Chocolate Museum! A bit of origin myth (murdered princess, Gods, that sort of thing), a lot of history (Spanish Galleons loaded with Cocoa Beans, more princesses, a dude named Nestlé, that sort of thing), a few old pieces of equipment, three films (refer back to origin myth and history), and lots of chocolate sculptures (in glass cases, so no nibbling). Oh, and your ticket, wait for it, is a chocolate bar wrapper. You can eat the chocolate bar/ticket AFTER the tour. They probably got tired of wiping off sticky fingerprints, and made an ‘AFTER’ rule. Ok, maybe it’s not a “must see,” but it is still chocolate!
I stayed in an Airbnb that was an old workspace, converted to an old live-work space, being used as an Airbnb. I was a bit worried about a bed in a loft, but it wasn’t much different than living in a camper van (down by the river). Know when to duck your head. Use only one pan when cooking. Put in park when you get out to take a picture.
Off to the airport! Time to leave the Schengen Region, as I can only stay for 90 days out of 180 days without a Visa. (You remember that June 14th, 1985, agreement signed 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg, leading to the abolition of inter-European boarder controls.) Anyway, I’d been in Spain for 84 days. Don’t push my luck—leave a few days in case a flight transits an airport in the Schengen Region. Walk to the bus stop. Bus to the airport. Trip the metal detector with the RFID shield sleave on my passport. Not exactly a dangerous weapon. Probably more metal on a stick of Watermelon Juicy Fruit gum, but… huh, maybe that’s why they wrap gum in paper nowadays. Catch a flight to Vienna, Austria, and onwards to Sofia, Bulgaria. And then…