We got into the city late. Twilight. The time of day when everything transforms from something predictable to shrouded in mystery. Immediately upon leaving the hotel we ran into a huge procession of people; the biggest I’ve ever seen. I had forgotten that it was international women’s day. The procession was quite lively and I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere of celebrating women. We followed it down Las Ramblas and I was amazed by how polite at cooperative the crowd was with the local police who were keeping everything under control as they marched through the streets. If there’s something I’ve learned about Spaniards, it is that if they want to be heard, they will be. Public displays such as this is not an uncommon occurrence.
Eventually we broke off and walked on down to the port. Even in the pitch blackness of night, you can feel the Mediterranean Sea. Even if you can’t see it, it draws you in with such soft spoken beauty in the misty spray of salty ocean. Much like the sea, Barcelona has a unique rhythm from any other city in Spain, probably in the world. It is very distinctly other. I hear Catalan in the streets, see crazy architecture, and feel a general energy of continuous movement through the people bustling about. Although Madrid has very chaotic energy as well, Barcelona is crazy energy with a purpose. It is hard to explain, but I could tell that I was no longer in a Spanish city.
While we were exploring the Barcelona food scene through pinchos and paella there was a Barcelona game versus Paris going on in the city. The entire city was watching it seemed because when Barcelona scored, you could hear the shouts ricochet through the streets. I loved how important the game was to everyone; a sense of Barcelona pride was definitely on the line. Later when we went to the roof of our hotel to dip our well traveled feet in the pool and we happened to be up there when Barcelona won the game and successfully kicked Paris out of the League championship. You would have thought it WW3 started. There were fireworks, screaming, pots and pans beaten together, and in the distance the lights of the stadium shone as a beacon of the victorious. Even though I don’t root for barca for more political reasons, I found it quite enjoyable watching the streets come alive with pride. For Spain, fútbol is more about politics than just a game to play. Barcelona represents independence from the country of Spain and leaving behind old traditions, whereas REAL Madrid is very nationalist oriented. It’s fascinating how the rivalry between the two political sides is played out through organized aggression.
The next day started off with my very favorite activity that we had done in a group thus far: we went on a bike tour through the city of Barcelona. Parts of me were bothered by the experience, but that’s for a later post about tourism. All in all, it was a fantastic experience to travel quickly through the city and see so many more people and historical monuments throughout. Our tour guide was hilarious and told us more false or partly true stories than I could write down or remember. However, see a future post with some of my favorites. We visited the Cathedral of Barcelona (no, this isn’t the Sagrada Familia, contrary to common belief) which houses the bones of a little girl turned saint; La San ta Maria del Mar; La Sagrada Familia; a Catalan music hall; the parque made for the World Fair held there; and the fake sandy beach. I loved the feeling of freedom while riding a bike through such a populated city. After the bike tour we visited the Picasso Museum and the Chocolate Museum (Xocolate in Catalan). Picasso is a very intense man. He went through many hard things to shape his art and personality that I’ve come to appreciate. The chocolate museum contained huge sculptures made entirely made of chocolate. Think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Mr. Wonka created a palace completely out of chocolate. Super ornate. Super yummy.
However, the highlight of the day (and possibly the trip) was the cooking class. We learned out to make several types of Pinchos and Paella! Being a huge fan of paella, I was more than a little excited. We started off at La Boqueria, the famous fresh food market off of Las Ramblas to pick out fresh clams, gambas, squid, and muscles. Then came the fun part: feeling incredibly Spanish while cooking paella in pan taller than I am. It was quite a process that I hope to replicate back home one day. Holy moly. Eating the fruits of our labors while sipping sangria sin alcohol was quite possibly the highlight of my year. The ending to a perfectly perfect Barcelona day!