Sunday, July 12, 2009


Adultos Mayores

We took the Renfe from Barcelona yesterday and arrived in sunny, hot, beautiful Alicante. It is a smaller city, about 300 thousand people, directly on the sea. Our hotel is an older one that has been renovated and our room on the 18th floor overlooks the sea. Needless to say, it's incredible. Instead of writing a lot, I'll post some photos which are probably more interesting.

From our room

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sus amigos nuevos

We found the people here to be quite helpful and friendly, especially if we engaged them in conversation. Unlike Costa Rica, we did not hear ‘Buenos’ from everyone in the morning, but this is a busier and larger city than San Juan. We would, however, like to introduce you to our three new friends.


On Wednesday we walked all over the city and found ourselves on La Ramblas in late afternoon. This is a perfect place to sit and watch the pedestrians ambling up and down from the city to the sea. Two of the wooden chairs opened up so we took them and engaged in conversation with a woman, Soledad, who told me she is 78 years old. We talked about our children and grandchildren, what to do in Barcelona, and her apartment near la Sagrada Familia.

She was impressed that two women would travel so far from home and that we were continuing to Alicante for a second conference. She repeated cinquenta cinco numerous times and we figured out that 55was the number of the bus we would take from Placa Cataluyna to see la Sagrada Familia or her home.

Tonight (Friday) we once again saw Soledad with a friend on the street as we walked to supper and we hugged each other as if we were old friends. She gave us her address and phone number to come visit on our return to Barcelona. Kathy and I both commented that we could have missed seeing her if we had waited another 10 minutes in the room to leave for supper or had taken a different route. So, as Earl would say,…Karma must have meant for us to meet again.


On Thursday we returned to an area of Eixample where we had seen the Alexandra Theatre. The sign featured Desayuno en Pelicula (Breakfast and a movie) and we thought that sounded like a unique experience. We arrived to find a small common area with a bar and bartender and a few tables. Carlos prepared café con leche and a package pastry served in china cups and plates.

Carlos took his job very seriously and attempted to explain the schedule which we eventually understood. There was one movie we could see with breakfast for 5.5 euros or approximately $8.00. What a bargain! He was very surprised that I asked to take his photograph and also quite pleased at how he looked. Carlos: “Es bueno.” (It is good) Netta: “Es guapo”. (You are handsome).

The movie, Cerrezos en Flor was wonderful and we highly recommend it, maybe from Netflix. Although it was in Spanish without subtitles, the story unfolded rather slowly with excellent character development. There were only 6 other people in the small theatre which once again emphasized the importance placed on service and tranquil activity here in Barcelona.

Breakfast and a Movie

On our last day today we decided to return to the Catedral Gotic to have a longer look around, especially because Owen loves todos Goth. We toured inside the church and were heading back toward Placa Catalunya when we saw the Trixi Tour vehicles. Although we thought might be a bit awkward to be pedaled around the city, we also thought it a perfect way to see this unfamiliar area. So….we commissioned Oriol for 30 minutes and it was one of the best uses of our euros yet.
He took us through nooks and crannies we would never have found and also to see the Arch de Triomphe and Palau de la Musica Catalana, all the while providing historical and political commentary. Oriol said his name is strictly Catalan, but he was pleased we knew the Oriole bird. He happened to be in San Francisco during the Presidential election and spoke fondly of the celebrations upon Obama’s victory. We learned to never pass up an opportunity due to feeling conspicuous and Oriol earned a little income and, we hope, enjoyed our company.

And so, tomorrow we’re off for Alicante, hopefully toward additional memorable new friends and experiences.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Everything Gaudi

Inside Casa Batllo

La Pedrera (somehow uploaded sideways; not able to rotate in blog)

Rooftop at La Pedrera

When I mentioned to anyone that I would be traveling to Barcelona they immediately commented about Gaudi’s architecture and now I know why. He was a visionary before his time with a great emphasis on recycling materials (broken pieces of ceramic and glass for accent pieces) and ergonomic design in furniture, flooring, door knobs, etc.

On Monday, Kathy and I walked to the section of Barcelona called L’Eixample (eye.sham.bluh) where Antoni Gaudi created two large buildings, Casa Mila La Pedrera (the guarry) where Gaudi lived and a house commissioned by a wealthy industrialist, the Battlo House. Both were extremely fascinating and beautiful because of their unique design and decoration. There are no right angles in Gaudi’s works as the walls and windows are curved. Gaudi used lots of recycled materials and was ingenious with light and sound within the structures.

Gaudi never married and lived quite simple, walking to work, eating vegetables, and taking cold showers, which our guide swore was purely for his health. He was hit by a trolley walking home from work one day and not even identified in the hospital for three days where he died. Truly a man before his time with a reputation for being both eccentric and quite unusual in design.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Picasso and Universitat

My friend Kathy arrived on Friday and will stay through the rest of the trip. The conference continued through Saturday and my presentation went well. I certainly am glad to have attended as there were so many interesting sessions and I met and talked with people from all over the world. The conference dinner was held on a beautiful evening in the University gardens where I ate with colleagues from Australia, Canada, Thailand, and the United States.

I am finding how different Catalan is from Spanish, but still trying to muddle through. At times I'm sure it's quite comical. I think I'll break down and get a dictionary since many of the words don't appear in the one I brought.

Barcelona is an architectural dream and I wish I knew more to fully appreciate the diversity and creativity. Of course art played an enormous role as well. My friend Kathy and I toured the Museu Picasso which featured a temporary exhibit about Picasso’s friend artist Klees von dongel. The building was beautiful with rooms and rooms of Picasso’s artwork from 1890-1968, much of which I knew nothing about. Of course there were some recognizable ones. He certainly was gifted, but also seemed troubled.

The museum also has a nice café and gift shop with lots of items (e.g., notebooks, book marks, magnets) with favorite works of Picasso’s art. I am impressed with the level of politeness around the city which the large museum crowd reflected. I haven’t encountered any rudeness and, aside from Las Ramblas which is noisy and bustling, pedestrian and automobile/scooter traffic move along quite civilly.

From the museum we walked to the Museu de la Xocolate which unfortunately was cerrado and then to see the Catedral Gotici. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera, so will have to return for photos of this magnificent structure.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Las Ramblas

Gen's postcards

Flower vendors

Bird cages

Caged birds and bunnies

At night from my hotel

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Barcelona Arrival

I am here after an uneventful trip. The shuttle was slick (1.5 hrs) and I passed the time (4 hrs) fairly easily in Hartsfield. In comparison to the Allegiant planes with large seats and plenty of leg room, the 767 was packed with really tight quarters making it worthwhile to be height disadvantaged. Individual TVs in the back of the seat kept me entertained as I slept only about an hour just prior to breakfast, Egg McMuffin style. I cannot recommend “I Love You, Man” and give mixed reviews to “Sunshine Cleaning”. Several episodes of a travel show by Andrea, a wine sommelier, and her tag-a-long husband John were much more entertaining. On our way out of the plane we passed through Business section where it appeared the seats converted to beds. Delta strikes again

There were several young adults on the plane and I sat next to a young man who is in Pharmacy school in Ann Arbor coming to observe a pharmacy here for a month. It won’t surprise anyone that I re-grouped my bits once more in the airport and purchased another Dash at Brookstone. It worked beautifully and I am a happy traveler.

I debated transportation options from the airport and really wanted to try to navigate on my own instead of in a taxi. The Aerobus was slick and I found the Jazz Hotel a short walk and one question for directions away from the bus stop. Hotel Jazz is centrally located, just off Placa Universitat and its modern façade in the midst of historical buildings. The room isn’t ready so I am sitting in the lobby now after walking around a bit and eating a breakfast of under cooked fried egg, greasy bacon, and French fries which the waiter and I settled on in our version of Spanglish, or maybe I should say Catalanglish. The café con leche was delicious.

Barcelona is large and sprawling, 1.7 million in the city proper, but it seems well planned and fairly easy to navigate. The plazas here are called Placas (plah.say.duh), and are the focal points for the city’s neighborhoods and business areas. The Ramblas (streams) is the very popular walking, shopping, eating, people watching avenue that serves both as a hub and a connection of city and sea. Smaller streets branch off of it and I plan to walk its 1 mile length as an introduction to my temporary residence. It’s bustling around here with tourists and locals interspersed. It’s good to see so much Spanish everywhere and I hope to improve skills by reading and speaking it these next two weeks exploring another grand city.