Friday, February 22, 2013

Barcelona - day 3 - Gaudi and gaudy

On day 3 we were moving a little slower. We started off at Sagrada Familia Cathedral, the famous unfinished masterpiece of Gaudi, the famous quirky architect of Barcelona. I had wanted to see the inside, but there was a line around the block and the sun was shining brightly outside. So instead of standing in line and paying for tickets, we sat at an outdoor cafe in the park across the street and looked at the cathedral from there. I had a hot chocolate, which in Catalan is spelled with an X, and is more like hot pudding than anything. It's really thick and tasty, but I ate the whole thing with a spoon. Anyway, we walked all around the cathedral, the spires topped with fruit, the scary Roman soldiers looking like they come from Star Wars, the green Tree of Life covered in white doves, and the plain concrete front of the church, still under construction.
If you'd like to see all the photos of Barcelona, check out my album on Facebook.

Then we headed to see the Hospital de Sant Pau, another Modernist building that's not as weird but still pretty interesting, and got on the metro headed for Parc Guell. At this point we stopped at the diner you see below for lunch. This was a time it was really good to speak Spanish.

Barcelona is the capital of the province of Catalonia, where the main language is Catalan. On and off throughout history, Catalonia has been independent of the rest of Spain and has a distinct identity. Under Franco's rule, it was illegal to use the Catalan language in public. Now Catalan is widely spoken but so is Spanish. Most of the people I spoke to were happy to chat in Spanish, I was happy for the practice, and we were both happy they didn't have to try speaking English.
Anyway, it was good to speak Spanish here because Brian ended up ordering a bull's tail for lunch and knew what he was getting into when he did it. I was fully aware I'd be getting a fried egg on top of my french fries.

Parque Guell is full of Gaudi creations like this lizard statue and little fairy-tale houses with twisty spires. It does have a great view of the city and we took the opportunity to sit in the sun some more.

On the way back to the hotel, Brian and I made the decision to not wander aimlessly searching for dinner (that no one eats until 9pm), but rather to ask for a recommendation at the hotel. It seemed like a better idea than finding a tourist trap restaurant out of a guidebook. The woman I talked to at the front desk, who seemed about our age or a few years younger, told me that she didn't know much about nearby restaurants but could recommend a great place near the beach called Shoko. I should have known at this point to stop her right there, but I kept on listening. The place, she explained, was really nice and not too expensive and there are always people there on weeknights and they play lounge music. I imagined some sort of artfully lit bistro and got directions.

After heading that way at an appropriate late hour and getting hopelessly lost on the way, we arrived at Shoko. Though no one was waiting on a Tuesday, there was a little roped-off area where you could line up outside to get in. Someone with a headset greeted us at the door and radioed downstairs that two people were coming for dinner. When we went downstairs, we were led past an empty black and red bar to a black and red dining room where we ordered over-priced drinks and sat a 'distressed' wood table. There was lounge music playing, except in the bar area there was thumping techno that we could hear also. Were people dancing to it? No. There were like four men in there watching soccer on TV. The food was actually, fortunately, pretty good. After dinner a woman came by our table and asked whether we'd like to have neck and shoulder massages for ten minutes - at the table! Don't worry, she said, it's over your clothes. I can just imagine someone getting a massage at the table next to mine, groaning while I am trying to eat. We skipped the massage and skipped out of that place as soon as we could. Gaudy? yes. Ridiculous? definitely. Maybe we should have gone back to the sidewalk diner near the park for some bull's tail instead.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.