June 27, 2007

Poble Espanyol

This 'Spanish Town' was originally built for the 1929 International Fair which was held in Barcelona. The idea was to create a space similar to that of any town in Spain by compiling buildings of very different and distinct architecture from each region and/or area of the country. The compilation would be like any town in Spain because it would have all of the elements: plaza, church, town hall, living quarters, restaurants, offices, streets and entry gate. It would be different because each of the 117 buildings would come from a different place. It would be a Spanish town, but not any Spanish town in particular.

The concept was not a new one; most countries attempted to represent their whole self in some manner at international fairs and expos. Barcelona was the first to organize the presentation in such a way that it was easily followed and immediately obvious which area or town a particular section represents. The plan was to demolish the area at the end of the fair. Luckily for all of us, the town was so popular that it was decided the town should stay. If I were one of the architects and artists who spent two years traveling to 1600 towns in Spain in order to recreate their buildings and streets to scale, then I would have been mighty upset indeed had they torn it down after only six months.

One enters the Poble Espanyol through a gate, Puerta de San Vicente (Ávila) that looks much like any walled city's fortifications. A brief stop at the audio-guide desk provides each person with a device that contains about an hour of commentary on the buildings. After the desk, the first stop is the Plaza Mayor. This huge area includes a bandstand for concerts, a church in the corner, and even the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). The audio-guide, though too involved at times, was highly interesting here in the Plaza Mayor. It told of a time when the Poble functioned as a real town does today. There was a saint's day, a mayor, businesses, church services, etc. - the only difference was that no one slept there overnight.

A walk through the Poble Espanyol would be interesting, but the audio guide provides some much needed information for those who haven't traveled extensively throughout Spain. I imagine that is pretty much everyone reading this right now (If not...why are you reading my silly blog?). The area I most recognized was, of course, the tiny white-washed streets from the Andalucian region. It was spot-on with accuracy, which causes me to believe that the whole thing is done with a high level of accuracy. The rose-colored building above is Besalú from Girona. I love the painting on the building for texture.

The whole experience is full of detail and surprises around every corner; this falls right into step with all of my experiences in any town that I have visited. There are secrets in every town; you simply have to wander to discover them. In the Poble, there is no wandering; everywhere you look is a discovery.

I know there are those who think Poble Espanyol is a waste of time and not the real-deal. On the latter I completely agree. What makes a Spanish town come to life is the people living in it; without them it is simply a shell. I do not, however, think that visiting the Poble is a waste of time. Granted, I am speaking only from the young-couple/no children point-of-view, but we quite enjoyed it. There is no way we are going to visit anywhere close to all of the regions of Spain while we are here, and this way we were able to see different architecture, which we enjoy.

As an aside - I am not saying children wouldn't enjoy it; there is a children's program and I've read that they can even participate in hand-craft workshops (that would be cool). We simply have no idea what those things entail because we didn't participate in them or research them.

Apart from being a life-size museum of sorts, Poble Espanyol also houses about forty workshops of various hand crafts. There were some pottery places with workers at their wheel (one even had a small child learning), a couple of weaving shops and a wood-carving place with some fabulous Don Quixote and Sancho statues (a bit pricey, though...El Quixote always is).

Our favorite was the glass blowing workshop. In part because we were able to watch men take blobs of hot melty glass and turn it into something beautiful via an assembly line of sorts, but if we're honest, the best thing about it wasn't the product but the men themselves. Señor CC loved the outfits (the sweatbands especially) and I loved their down-to-(this-hot-mess-of-a-)business attitude about the whole thing. Not once did they look at us to pose for photos or flash even a hint of a smile. No siree; they were busy. My favorite is the man holding the rod with the red-hot glass sliding off; he had a cigar in his mouth the whole time. It was dangerously close to the end, but there it was, in its place, for what appeared to be all time.

One man pulled glass from the oven and held it over a mold for another to 'cut' it once the liquid glass had slowly drooped into the form. The 'cutter' then smoothed the edges a bit before he placed the top half of the mold into the goo. At this point another man (with the sweat band) joined him to push on the mold for a while. This formed a dish. After all of that, a fourth man took a clamp out of a second oven fire and grabbed the dish by its pedestal to fire it. I assume this smooths the entire thing. He then handed this rod to the last man who simply rolled that dish around and around until it turned from red-hot to clear.

Señor CC was so very excited about the glass-blowing workshop that we almost spent the day there watching them make that dish over and over. I suggested we move along and was met with great disappointment. It was pretty fascinating. He enjoyed it so much that we purchased a souvenir which you can see in the above photo. If you live in Spain, I guess you have to have a bull at some point, right? We chose this one (they are all different) because it has the red and yellow from the Spanish flag as well as a ribbon of blue, the accent color in the living room of our apartment here in Sotogrande.


June 26, 2007

Barcelona Overview: Day One

------------------------it's a long one------------------------

Also: the night-time arrival...

Señor CC and I flew from Málaga to Barcelona fairly late. We arrived, gathered our bags (woot! They both made it!) and exited the posh looking arrivals terminal. Taxis clustered to our right and people lines up towards our left; the latter was the transportation we chose. A special airport transfer bus, called Aerobus, carried us and our luggage to Plaça Catalunya. I had reserved a room at the H10 Plaça Catalunya, so we simply had to walk across the wide spacious pedestrian plaça and we were there.

It was late, but we were both pretty hungry so we walked out of the hotel, turned right, and immediately entered a tapas bar. Granted, the kitchen was closed, but there were plenty of pinxtos to choose from at the bar, and a few hot things had just been placed, so we had a decent snack. The only thing on the agenda after our trip and late snack was sleep.

Our first stop Saturday morning was the Tourism Office under Plaça Catalunya. There we purchased the Barcelona Card. When I was first researching our trip I wasn't sure if the Card would really be worth it since you don't actually get into many sights for free; you pay a reduced price. Once I priced everything I thought we would do and added it up, however, the Card was the cheapest way to go. It included free transportation on all metro, bus and funicular for the three days that we had it. Since I love using the tube, this was fantastic.

Las Ramblas

Plaça Catalunya sits at the northern end of the main street in central Barcelona: Las Ramblas. It is a lovely pedestrian street that follows what was the outer edge of the old walled city all the way to the port. We hopped on the tube to head towards the sea. Then we hopped right back off again because we got on going the wrong way. Oops! The situation was quickly remedied and we made it to the other end of Las Ramblas in no time.


The port was a beautiful sight on such a fantastic morning. We hung around for and watched the boats leave the harbor. There was a mercadillo with plenty of people shopping for trinkets. The port itself looks quite modern compared to most of what I have seen in Spain. I think this is in part due to the fact that the Olympics were held in Barcelona not too long ago. I also got the feeling that Barcelona is just a fabulous mix of the old and the new; there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Land ho!

Our destination was the Cristopher Columbus Monument that sits at the end of Las Ramblas. The statue on top is Cristóbal himself pointing out to sea. Ferdinand and Isabella welcomed him here in Barcelona when he returned from his trip. The monument has bas-reliefs around the bottom that depict Colón throughout the process of planning his trip, asking for money, sailing, landing, and returning with gifts and new people. There is an elevator in the monument, a tiny round one (max. 6 people), that took us up to the top for some fabulous views of Barcelona. We were able to see Las Ramblas, the Barri Gotic and Montjuic.

Our next stop was the mount you may recall from the Olympics. We took the tube and then the funicular up to Montjuic. We walked around to the Poble Espanyol, which I will write more about another time. You're welcome. The area on the hilltop is very nice and it was obvious that some thought and care had been put into planning the area. There are museums, the Olympic Stadium, Magic Fountains, and more.

Once we were done at the Poble we headed back towards the funicular and stopped in the Fundació Joan Miró. That is some crazy stuff. Señor CC and I aren't the most avid fans of Miró, but it was interesting to see his take on the world. I enjoy his sculptures more than anything. Perhaps one of the most fascinating pieces in the museum is the mercury fountain. When we first passed this piece, we didn't even think twice about it; unless you stop and look closely, it appears to be just another fountain. Upon further inspection, we could see that nope, that sure wasn't water - didn't move like water, didn't make things wet like water, didn't remain connected like water. It was very entertaining to watch how the mercury reacted to its path on the sculpture. We could see why people would come to the museum just to watch the fountain.

A temporary exhibit showed everyday objects in action on a very grand scale. In addition to the action, everything was taken in a very literal 3-D sense. One, a music composition, was crumpled a bit and not only had the paper wrinkled and mussed, but the staff itself appeared broken and smooshed off of the page. Notes fell off or were dangling. Another was a quill and ink pot along with paper and writing - this had the same sort of effect; the words themselves were 3-D separate from the paper. Why I enjoyed these two especially could be a whole other post, so I will spare you.

What's That Squirming in Mah Belly?

Señor CC and I have started a tradition. When we go to new places in Europe we find a well-reviewed and recommended sushi restaurant at which to eat. Nagano was the choice in Barcelona. I am not the biggest fan, although I can handle it. Señor CC, on the other hand...well - you can see for yourself.

The Barri Gotic was our first stop after our very filling lunch. We headed first to the City History Museum. This was easily one of our favorite experiences for the weekend. We went into the building, stowed our bags, and then took an elevator about sixty-five feet down under Barcelona. There we found the old city: Barcino. This old city was established by the Romans during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Our tour included the old city walls and watch towers, the laundry, salted fish production, wine production, as well as foundations for multiple other buildings. We walked through the old city ruins on elevated platforms that allowed us to follow in the 'footsteps' of those from long ago. We highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Barcelona.


Our next stop was the Cathedral. I have never been in a more crowded Cathedral in my life. I am sure that places in, Vatican City for example, are more crowded; I would expect them to be. I did not expect the Barcelona Cathedral to be so full. There was no admission charge, which was nice. We entered through the cloister, where the security team is kept. Oh yes, they are. There are thirteen of them, and they do indeed make a racket.

We timed our visit to the Cathedral so that we would be there at 18:00 for a chance at witnessing the time-honored tradition that is the Sardana Dance. Luckily, the band showed and the people, they didn't disappoint.

Slay the Beast!

A tube ride or two later, and we were in the Eixample. This area is outside of the Bari Gotic and just north of the Plaça Catalunya and our hotel. The neighborhood was planned in a grid format and is full of shops and restaurants and also? A little bit of extravagance. Oh yes - that is Casa Batlló, a famous building by Antoni Gaudí. I will rant and rave about him more another time, but I must tell you: George killing the dragon = excellent inspiration indeed.

This One is for You, R-Shelly.

We were a little tired at this point, what with all of the walking on Montjuic and general standing all day, so we headed back to Plaça Catalunya for a rest at the hotel before dinner. Luckily, the fountains were on and it was beautiful. We lingered for a bit, and then headed up to get off of our feet for a while. We ended our evening with yummy dinner, fabulous wine, and a failed search for churros con chocolate. No worries - we decided we'd have to search again on Sunday night.

June 13, 2007

June 12 of 12

It has been a while since my last post. I can't say that I have been particularly busy since May 12th, but for one reason or another, I just cannot seem to get it together to post anything. It is not a lack of information or ideas, but a lack of motivation. I am awaiting its return so that I can do a decent job of this blogging thing. Until then, I provide the latest 12 of 12. To see the rules as well as what other people all over the world are doing today, check out Chad's blog.

9:40; Sotogrande, Spain

First thing after dropping Señor CC at work this morning I donned these lovely items and went for a run. Today I did the Paseo del Parque circuit; I am guessing that my legs shall be tired tomorrow because of the hills.

9:45; Sotogrande, Spain

Chompy-lones and I were attempting to play with shoe last night when the unthinkable occurred. Yes, the poor thing is ripped in two. I am not sure which end Cooper prefers as I did not throw it afterward. I searched high and low and finally beneath a chair to find shoe-two. Luckily he is only a doggy - as long as there is a shoe to play with all is well in his world.

12:04; Sotogrande, Spain

I spent some time going through my scrapbook items. I chose to begin with "Christmas 2005" since that is fairly thematic and will provide me with lots of pages (we did go see everyone that year). I have cut all of the photos and arranged them into appropriate pages. There will be 19 in all. Yes, nineteen...

12:05; Sotogrande, Spain

What does a lones do while one is working on photographs and ribbons? Why, he rests, of course! He has been making a trek to his night-time bed for naps during the day lately. I believe it has something to do with the neighbor-dog who cries all day long. No exaggeration.

12:49; Sotogrande, Spain

Once I felt crafty with the scrapbook items I decided to take it another step and try out my new long knitting needles (THANKS, MOM!). They are nice indeed; smooth enough to slip in the loops easily, but not so slippery that stitches attempt to make their escape. I knit, then took it apart, then knit once again, then took it apart, and finally knit to leave it in and make something...I hope.

13:40; Sotogrande, Spain

In the midst of the knitting and taking apart-ness that was my afternoon, I may have spent some time online looking at some options for a European vacation of sorts. Yes, it is a package tour. Yes, I live here and totally should just be planning it myself - I agree with you on that point. However. Oh yes, there is one of those! I would be going on this trip by myself. I would rather go with someone, and the best way is to go with a group and let someone else take care of the planning for once. I want to see eastern or central Europe...the brochures are in the mail!

17:56; Sotogrande, Spain

Okey dokey. So now I am obviously back to the knitting - towards the end of it all, actually. I simply cannot knit, cross-stitch, etc. without something else going on. Well, that isn't totally true. I can on occasion, but usually I like to have something in the background. What is better than some Scrubs? "Oh, and by the way - Bob...who doesn't get that?"

18:36; Sotogrande, Spain

I am on my way to pick up Señor CC so that we can meet his friend and visit the bike shops in La Línea. I was asked to be there by 19:00; he wasn't ready until about 20:00. Good times.

19:10; La Línea, Spain

After a quick call to Señor CC to let him know I had arrived...and an equally quick realization that it would be a while, I decided to take advantage of the extra time and take some photos. Today was a lovely day and fairly clear; we could see Africa quite well. I attempted to capture the view of the continent but was not particularly successful because I did not have my zoom lens with me. I was fortunate enough to catch these two surfing in the beautiful blue-green waters of the bay this afternoon.

19:13; La Línea, Spain

Round-abouts are hit-or-miss in Spain. Sometimes they have been decorated and sometimes they have not. Luckily for me, on the road that hugs the bay they are done up quite well. One of my favorites has this shiny sailboat in it.

19:59; La Línea, Spain

We finally made it over to the parking garage, complete with little red and green lights that indicate whether or not a space is free. Our friends were there to greet us and show us to the bike shops. We did a bit of looking, I managed to confuse the poor guy who worked there by mutilating some español, and then we scheduled a visit for Thursday.

20:02; La Línea, Spain

Every town or city I have visited in Spain seems to be full of lovely secrets such as this one. Usually I am walking through the streets where all appears to be like any (albeit old) city when I stumble upon a plaza or park. It makes exploring the best approach to any location, and the result has always been delightful.

22:10; La Línea, Spain

We dined at Moltobella restaurant, a member of the Grupo Patagonia. The food and company was fabulous. The translation on the English-language menu left a little to be desired in the accuracy area but more than made up for it in sheer entertainment. Savage Mushrooms were on the menu as were Turkey Buckets. I had the buckets and I must say that I certainly didn't taste anything fowl; rather, it was quite delicious and I highly recommend it.