Europe 2010: Off to Barcelona! – September 26

The train ride from Montpellier to Barcelona passed smoothly by splendid views of the bright blue Mediterranean to the left and the foothills of the Pyrenees to the right. We chatted a bit with an Australian couple.

We arrived in Barcelona at 11 am and headed straight for our hotel – the Villa Emilia not far from the placa d’Espanya. The hotel is a real find –we recommend it highly. At around $119 Canadian booked on months ago when the Euro was around $1.25 (it’s about $1.38 now), the hotel is an incredible bargain. It’s a boutique hotel – very modern and chi chi with a large room, a luxurious dining area, and lovely design touches everywhere. We’ll definitely be staying there again. The staff (all young and gorgeous) were extremely helpful and spoke English cheerfully. We splurged for breakfast both mornings (not a bargain at 13 euros each but absolutely delicious!) and ate in the restaurant for dinner one night (fantastico).

Our hip hotel – the Villa Emilia
In the Lobby of the hotel

After getting settled and cleaned up, we ventured out for our first taste of Barcelona. Gregg had been twice in 2003 and 2005 and so knew the city pretty well. My one and only trip to Barcelona had been in 1975 and I can’t say I had great memories! I was just 19 and only remembered being hissed at by crowds of men loafing in doorways. I also remember sitting by the fountain in the Placa Catalonia and suddenly finding myself alone. Everyone around me had quickly hurried off and in a few moments I saw why. A ragged band of protestors – maybe 10 at the most with a few signs and some half-hearted chanting–moved towards the plaza. From the other direction came a phalanx of armed troops—round grey helmets, steely eyes, and sub machine guns at the ready. There must have been at least 50 troops. The odds for the protestors were not good.

I took the hint and hastened away from the square and into the metro where I remember thinking that I’d had enough of being alone in Barcleona. I took the metro to the airport 15 hours early and waited there for my flight back to London.
So I was very much looking forward to returning to Barcelona in the post-Franco era and without fear of being hissed at.
We grabbed a quick lunch and hopped the metro to the stop for the Picasso museum. We then promptly got lost wandering down into the Barri Gothic and had to take a taxi to the museum itself! On Sundays after 3 pm the museum is free. As result, a long line snaked through a narrow street, but it moved quickly and we had a great time chatting with a couple from Northern California who had been on the road in Spain for the past two weeks.
The Picasso Museum is really rather breathtaking. I confess that I am not a huge Picasso fan (unlike Gregg) but I enjoyed viewing his works from the earliest years through all his many series. A highlight was the Las Meninas works. Picasso created a very large series of works based on Las Meninas, the famous painting by Velasquez (which we will see in the Prado in Madrid). An amazing film showed portions of Las Minenas and then superimposed the paintings that Picasso did—building the images as an animation. Very effective.
Las Meninas by Velasquez
Las Meninas by Picasso
We wandered up the Ramblas after the Picasso Museum and had our first meal of tapas–cold potatoes in garlic sauce (amazing), meatballs, calamari (wow!) and mushrooms in garlic butter (double wow). So much for weight watchers (again).
After a rest back at the hotel, we sallied forth for to attend a concert at the Palau de la Musica–an amazing modernista building. The concert was Opera y Flamenco and consisted of an utterly spellbinding evening of opera arias by a tenor and a soprano, flamenco dancing by a man and woman, and traditional flamenco singing by a woman. In addition was a band of about eight that included guitars, piano, cello, violins, and drums.
View from our seat in the Palau de la Musica Catalana
My heart was having palpitations by the end. Rarely, if ever, have either of us experienced such an awe-inspiring evening of music. The flamenco dancing in particular was enough to turn even the most hardened non-romantic into a giant goose bump.
The woman flamenco dancer


The tenor – fabulous


Major footwork and stamping from the male flamenco dancer
We floated out of the concert, souvenir DVD in hand, high with hopes that we will see more flamenco as we progress through Spain.