September 17, 2005

Barcelona Hi

One of the deepest joys in life is to discover a great new city, and Barcelona is one for me. My first day there seemed as rich as a week's vacation, staying to dinner past midnight and walking through rainy streets crowded with young people, hearing Irish and British and French and German and American voices as well as Catalan and Spanish. This place has a New York-like energy, probably more so than Chicago or London, but the energy takes place within a labyrinth of centuries-old narrow Gothic streets, with more shops on them than I've ever seen anywhere. There's a perfumerie on every block, it seems, and the densiity of cafes, tapas bars, restaurants, and sweet shops -- all of them overlapping in function -- far exceeds that. How you choose which one to entger, I don't know.

Dan and I walked all around the Gotti, as this old gothic area is known, including a massive market called La Barqueria (sp?) made up of dozens of individual shops -- fish, meat, charcuterie, olives, candy, everything, all of high quality, an overwhelming foodie experience. We wandered into a 15th century Gothic church, big and beautiful with eroded bricks in the overhead arches that seemed like they might fall someday -- where a wedding was taking place, and we stood and smiled at the bride waiting outside.

We took the Metro to a more modern part of town and walked a long way uphill to the Miro museum, which was closed (we'd known), but set in a lovely, large park with a view of the whole city.

We ate a long dinner with Dan's friends who are the hosts of the arts colony -- the senior man, Joanet, was Miro's ceramicist and his father was too before him, and the grounds where we're staying here, in a mountainside hacienda, have Miro sculptures on them as well as Joanet's and his father's own well-documented work.

Dinner was a paella for the whole table -- actually my wife makes better paella, , but there was good local wine and sparkling wine and a dessert of Catalan creme brulee, and good funny talk in English, Catalan, Spanish, and Japanese fort Joanet's multilingual Japanese wife and her assistant. (I demonstrated my ability to count to ten in that language, to general approval).

Catalan is hard for me to sitinguish from Spanish, and since my Spanish consists of 100 words that makes it tough going. The pronunciation is like Portuguese, the verb ending and articles are like French, all overlaid with a vague Spanish atmosphere. My first Catalan phrase is "cafe amb llet," which means cafe au lait or cafe con leche; "llet" is pronounced "yet."

I think if I were fluent in Catalan I'd want to stay here permanently.

Got to go now; this is a dialup connection and we're off to the Costa Brava this morning. It's 8:30 am, or 1:30 am Texas time, and I'm wired after five hours' sleep. Dan says hi, and he tells his old readers that he plans to gear up on his blog again when he returns to Madison in the fall. I don't know how to say ciao in Catalan so I'll say au revoir -- French is a better choice around here than Spanish, for political reasons.