Donkey Crossing

Welcome to Donkey Crossing! Donkey Crossing is an on-line account of one Limey and one Yank living one Dream. From September 2006 until the end of 2007, we plan to visit friends and family on five continents and immerse ourselves into various cultures, natural phenomena and ways of life. We hope you enjoy our tales and visit often! Cheers, Jason and Rachel Napoli

Monday, May 21, 2007

Culture, Cava and Chorizo: Barcelona has it all!

After our two week stint in France, we crossed the border into Spain by train. The attractive coastal route overlooked by the snow capped Pyrenees was a suitably spectacular introduction to the country we had eagerly anticipated. Jason and I felt an inexplicable affinity with Spain before we even arrived.

Bring on the tapas: we've arrived in Spain!
Our first stop was Barcelona, and we definitely experienced love at first sight, sound, smell and taste. We were quickly sucked in by the stylish and sexy city. Barcelona was all about good looking people, wine with breakfast, siestas, late dinners, balmy weather, beaches, mountains, and delicious, affordable food. In fact, we’re both feeling a bit more generously proportioned after our time in Spain.
The Spanish take 'ham' to a whole new level. Fine Serrano ham hangs in delicatessens everywhere.

A gentle reminder to the hopelessly lost
Barcelona is crammed with things to see, and even with the luxury of ten days to explore, we didn’t see it all. We enjoyed strolling around the Barri Gòtic, with its cobbled streets, medieval Gothic style buildings, scary gargoyles and talented street musicians.

A Gothic arch in the Barri Gòtic

The Ramblas, a boulevard jammed with people (think a blend of Times Square, Michigan Avenue and Covent Garden with a Spanish twist) was the perfect place to get lost in the crowd and catch Barcelona’s buzz. We took a memorable cable car ride over the city and down to the port. The views were stunning, though I’m not sure Jason will forgive me for the 15 minute death defying experience after queuing 45 minutes and paying a vertigo inducing nine euros each for the privilege.

Don't look down!

We visited the Contemporary Art Museum with the naive expectation of seeing paintings, especially since Barcelona was home to Picasso and Joan Miró. However, the museum displayed only a handful of paintings by somewhat obscure contemporary artists and lots of weird but engaging installations. The Picasso and Miró museums will be top of our list for next time. We also bought tickets to a concert at the Palau de la Música Catalana, an incredibly colorful building with stunning stonework, mosaic and stained glass inside and out. The beautiful setting really brought the classical music we heard performed to life.

The view from from our balcony seats in the Palau de la Música Catalana

We wore our African garb to the concert, turning a few heads on the style-conscious streets of Barcelona

Barcelona is bursting with treasures for architecture buffs, especially the buildings of Antoni Gaudí. Like every other tourist in town (there are thousands, possibly outnumbering the locals) we visited Gaudí’s famed Sagrada Família church, still under construction after 125 years and truly a feat of art and engineering, even in its incomplete state. There’s also a public park called Parc Güell full of Gaudí architecture which is worth a visit if you persevere past the hordes of visitors to see Gaudí’s colorful mosaic work and fantasyland spires.

The impressive Sagrada Família
Another gem of modernist architecture is Barcelona’s Casa Asia. It’s a gorgeous building with stunning stone & glass work, great exhibitions and a fabulous library facility. Our friend Marta is the curator there, and we were treated to a private tour from her and her dog Sancho.

Marta & I in a bay window at the Casa Asia
We saw our share of the sights in Barcelona, but truly experiencing the city was more about being it, than seeing it. The city is so cool you just want to fall in with the pace, watch the people and go with the flow. People-watching is the perfect Barcelona pastime, since it’s such a stylish, fashionable city. We couldn’t resist going clothes shopping and visiting a trendy salon. Jason wasn’t able to persuade me to get a mullet hair cut though, even though every other young Spaniard sports one. Bad hair and boring clothes simply won’t do in Barcelona.

No mullets here, but Barcelona's older generation aren't lacking in style
We spent many contented hours in plaza cafés, wandering around the least touristy bits of town, chilling out by the beach, and eating and drinking in all manner of establishments from trendy tapas bars to down at heel covered markets. One dining highlight was a rustic cavaria (Spanish champagne bar) we stumbled upon where three kinds of cava were served for between 30 and 50 cents a glass. We stood at the bar with locals and munched small plates of chorizo, cured ham, anchovies, manchego cheese and blood sausage while sipping our cava. We left more than satisfied having spent next to nothing. Another good find was a 1930s Absinthe bar. I always wondered why the potent libation is illegal in the States. After just one admittedly large glass, I began to get it.

Jason tucks into a tapas feast of mussels, patatas bravas, goat cheese salad and tomato bread. Buen provecho!
All in all, Barcelona was a big hit. We will undoubtedly be back to visit Spain’s cultural capital again. If any friends or family would like to plan a reunion there, count us in!

A typical Barcelona scene: narrow streets with colorful laundry drying on the balconies

Next on Donkey Crossing: driving over sheep dung in northern Spain. Stay tuned!


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