July 29, 2004

Last day in Barcelona

I got up relatively early and packed everything up, meeting Marcus down at the street so that he could take me up to his room where I could leave my big backpack all day. It's too bad his hostel was full, because it looks like it would've been a really cool place to stay---it was originally a convent, and all the rooms are arrayed about an internal courtyard with hanging plants and such. Ah well, at least I got to see it. (·)

As arranged, we got to the Museu Picasso just before 10. There was a line, but they hadn't even started letting people in yet, so we figured it would move fairly fast. We got in line, figuring we'd wave Noah and Karen in once they got there. The museum opened, and the line started moving, but still no Noah and Karen. Eventually we got to the front of the line, at which point we had to get out of line since we still hadn't seen them. I was just going to wait in the street, but Marcus thought to get back at the end of the line; I suppose that at least randomises the wait time from a guaranteed ten minutes down to somewhere between zero and ten.

The wait was pretty enjoyable, actually, because a pair of violinists had set up shop right next to the head of the line. They opened with the "Ave Maria", played beautifully. Their second piece was "Yesterday" (as in, "all my troubles seemed so far away..."); like one or two other Beatles songs, I think the harmonies and discords are brought out even better instrumentally than vocally, so this worked better than you might think. Then they played a jazzy number that sounded desperately familiar but for which I simply couldn't come up with a name. (Later, Noah would identify it as "Summertime", based on me humming just a few bars, thank goodness.) Then they leapt all the way back to the baroque era with something that sounded like Bach. I gave them a euro, because they were really quite good.

In the end, they showed up about 10:20, having been held up in the usual comedy-of-errors sort of combined hangups that usually happen in these cases. As it happened, the line was actually moving pretty quickly, so we were inside by 10:30. We had to check our bags, and again, no pictures were allowed, more's the pity. It was really cool to see some of Picasso's earlier and less-well-known work. True to form, I found that I preferred a lot of it to his famous stuff, actually.

After a few hours there, we decided to walk beachwards and look for lunch food along the way. We actually found a bureau de tabac first, which enabled me to buy a few more postcards and them to buy postcard stamps---they don't have post offices there, I guess, because you get your stamps at the tobacco shops---although I enjoyed going inside and seeing the other stuff for sale. Essentially all the tobacco derives from Habana or somewhere else in Cuba, unsurprisingly. I was amused that all the cigar boxes had (presumably legally required) big warning labels about the dangers of smoking---that sort of thing would never manage to get passed in the States. (·) (·)

A block or two later we found a tapes bar that seemed to have some vegetarian fare, so we sat down to eat. Aside from a slightly surly waiter, it was good; we had apparently stumbled into ordering a number of classic tapa dishes, including pa amb tomáquet (tomato bread), patates braves (fried potatos with spicy sauce), patates amb alioli (fried potatos with garlic mayonnaise), and truita de patates (potato omelet). All vegetarian, and all really good.

While we were eating, a pair of clarinetists and a drummer started playing a decent rendition of Hava Nagila, which we found somewhat amusing. When one came to us with tambourine in hand, I gave him a load of five-cent coins, as I had nothing else smaller than a euro. And he rejected it! He looked at it, shook his head, and handed it back to me. I was completely stunned. I've never heard of buskers rejecting money before.

Anyway, at this point we walked down to Platja de Barceloneta. (·) (·) (·) (·) Oddly enough, it was just a couple minutes' walk from where I'd been staying during the conference, but I never made it down there then, except for a brief sojourn just before I checked out. This day, though, we were dressed for it and had brought towels and sunscreen. The Mediterranean is very salty and rather warm, although less warm than I'd been led to believe. We stayed there for about two hours, and I did my best to avoid getting burnt; my sunblock was SPF 50 and it got applied twice (not counting the round I'd put on in the morning). As far as I can tell, my nose and cheeks got slightly pinked, and everything else got, maybe, imperceptibly, slightly tanned. So it was a success. :)

Marcus wanted to go to the modern art museum, so we split up at that point; Noah and Karen and I went back to their hotel room and took showers. We were going to go try the chocolate museum, but we didn't get there until 6:30, and since it closed at 7 they had already stopped selling tickets. Alas. However, Karen remembered a little gelat and sweets shop near the Palau de Música, and we went over there and I went overboard buying a bunch of assorted chocolates to bring home.

We met back up with Marcus at Plaça Catalunya at 8:30 and went to a restaurant not far from there. The kitchen didn't open until 9, so Marcus and I went back to his hostel to get my bag, which I brought back to the restaurant with me. We ordered right at 9, and so I knew I wouldn't make the 10:00 train, but the 11:00 bus seemed within reach. I ordered the "crunchy ravioli", which I didn't like, and the "side of ox", which was simply fantastic. For dessert there was a sweet curry bread, that was I think the most unusual flavour combination I've ever tasted. After a quick cup of café con leche, I said goodbye to everyone, put my big backpack on my back and my small backpack on my front, and as of 10:46 CEST I was In Transit.

Other pictures: (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·) (·)

Posted by blahedo at 5:55pm on 29 Jul 2004
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