A full seven hours of sleep last night, which bodes well for overcoming jet lag. If I can stay awake at least until 9:00 p.m. tonight, then I will be in very good shape indeed.
Started the morning with the most incredible shower. No water regulators on this baby. I practically drowned in the downpour, wanted to build an ark. Martin Luther once wrote that a good glass of beer is one of life's chief joys, but if he had been born in the age of modern plumbing, he would have said that a hot shower on a cold morning is life's chief joy. The morning is not particularly cold here, but the AC in my room is spectacularly effective. Had to turn the damn thing off in the middle of the night, so a cold morning it was for me indeed.
After showering I shaved without cutting myself, for which I was grateful: don't want to bleed on the chorizo at the breakfast buffet. Nothing turns off tourists like other people's blood on their breakfasts.
BTW, right across from the commode in my restroom is this interesting device:
I remember my high school Spanish teacher once saying that the first time he saw one of these, he washed his socks in it. I'm much more sophisticated than Mr Wilson was, and I immediately recognized it as a convenient water fountain. Very nice to have one of these in your room, even if you do have to get down on your hands and knees to get a decent mouthful.
My first gustatory goal this morning was to go to the breakfast buffet and eat until I couldn't move. My first plate
consisted of (from upper left, going clockwise):
- Navy beans in tomato sauce — ho-hum.
- The softest scrambled eggs you can possibly imagine
- A crescent of goat cheese — ¡Maravilloso!
- Tortilla española, essentially a potato and egg pie — ¡Sabroso!
- Bacon — proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy
- Brie — very good
- A couple of sausages, also very good
Time for seconds:
- Jamón dulce — generic ham, as in ham and cheese sandwiches in the US
- Jamón ibérico — famous Catalonian ham, nice taste, shaved super thin
- Sausage San Chinchón, or something like that
- Spanish version of chorizo — tasty
- Spinach quiche
- Cheese, I think it was a type of parmesan, not quite sure why they put the raisin on top
- Hash brown — boring, I just thought I'd try it in case they had done something interesting inside
- Potatoes — almost au gratin but minus the milk products
Time for thirds:
- Chocolate popover
- Red grapes
- Honeydew melon
- Green peppers
and I suppose I shouldn't forget the uninteresting mixed fruit beverage, and the bottled water and coffee which are not visible.
The buffet is in «Visual», the panoramic restaurant on the 23rd floor of the hotel. The view between my servings was excellent.
Immediately to my left is the Parc de l'Espanya Industrial, which I'll have to explore later. Then here is another shot of the same area with more of a cityscape:
Immediately to the right of that is the main bus/train station:
The trains are underground. This is actually the back side of the station, which is called Barceló Sants. When I arrived yesterday I unintentionally walked out the back, which was a blessing because that is the quickest way to my hotel. Thanks, Lord! The shadow you see is the shadow of my hotel. And here is a bit more of a cityscape:
Now that I've managed to eat until I can't move, it's time to get myself moving. I'll try to down towards the harbor, then to Plaça Catalunya and Las Ramblas, although on Sunday that will probably be uninteresting.
♫ The world survives into another day
♫ And I'm thinking about eternity
♫ Some kind of ecstasy's got a hold on me
Ah, what a good thing to have Bruce Cockburn going through my head today. Yesterday I woke up with that damned song "Moves like Jagger" by Maroon Five, which has to be one of the most irritating tunes of the year.
Another lovely day in Barcelona, although a few clouds are out. I'm hoping that will make it a bit cooler. The climate here feels like Los Angeles to me. A bit below 80°, humid, though not unbearably so.
The breakfast buffet is essentially the same as yesterday, but today I added:
The bowl has a bit of muesli and milk in it, topped with dried apricots. The dark clumps that look like obese cockroaches are dates: very tasty. To the right is an apple tart, very sweet, which makes a glorious contrast with the strong bitter coffee they serve.
Hm. No wonder the Spaniards like to mix milk with their coffee. It's all so very strong. In the American midwest, people at diners will sit for hours drinking 8-10 cups of coffee, which is probably one of the reason why diner coffee is generally weak.
I'll be doing the high points of the town on the tourist bus today. Sort of wish I had brought a murse with me. Today my pockets have to hold:
- The Barcelona card, which gives me unlimited access to public transport
- The tourist bus card
- Cell phone
- Credit cards
Actually, I have a packet I wear under my shirt for unpickpocketable money, credit card and ID.
By odd coincidence an old acquaintance of mine, Dale, who lives in Berlin, is also in Barcelona for a few days. Today we touristed together. We met at La Plaça de Catalunya, picked up his tourist bus ticket, and then headed down Las Ramblas to see the huge market there, El Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. The entrance is just off La Rambla:
The place is enormous; picture Pike's Place Market on steroids, but with incredible amounts of beef and ham since they are not constrained by Seattle's whiny vegetarians. I only took two pictures there. The first was of a surprising display of chiles that was beautiful:
The second was a shop that sold nuts and candied fruit:
I have never seen so much candied fruit in my life. Tomorrow I'll go back to one of the chocolate stands for a gift for a friend in Russia.
From there we hopped on the bus that took us to La Sagrada Familia, a church that was re-envisioned by Gaudí in 1883 and has been under construction ever since. To say the place is astonishing simply doesn't capture it. It's enormous and playful and solemn and awe-inspiring and tacky all at the same time. (The tacky is due to some retail I spotted through the windows.) Many of the figures in the main entry way have a bit of a cubist look to them; think Picasso's "The Old Guitar Player"; it gives that section a kind of "Christianity meets the Lord of the Rings" feel. Other parts have an organic feel that produce a "Christianity meets Disney Castles" feel. (For some reason it gave me "Little Mermaid" flashbacks.)
We wanted to go in, but the line seemed endless, so we instead we just circumambulated the place. It was amazing from all angles. Dale departs tomorrow, but I will try to get there first thing in the morning to see if I can actually get in. I really want to see the interior.
After that we headed to Parc Güell, a beautiful park also designed by Gaudí. I had particularly wanted to get a picture of the lizard near the entrance:
Why did I want a lizard picture? Because of a similar lizard in Oracle, AZ, right near the church where my parents married and not far from where many family members are buried. (I'll try to add that picture here in a month or two.) The park is a marvelous place to walk. Weirdly enough, there are parrots flying around and nesting in the trees of the park. No cages. They just live there.
After the park we headed back to Las Ramblas. We grabbed some tapas in a pleasant restaurant while we waited for a coffee/chocolate shop to open. The coffee at the later place was quite good. Dale's was covered with a German style Schlagsahne, a whipped cream that was thick nigh to approaching the consistency of butter. You can't think of a better topping for coffee. None of this namby-pamby non-fat foam that the misinformed health-conscious customers order at Starbucks. It's better than any American whipped cream I've ever head. I had a straight ol' bitter European coffee, along with a Sachertorte that, just like the apple tart at breakfast, made a sweet/alkaloid contrast that is a delight to experience.
It was time for Dale and me to part ways, so I returned to the hotel where the mirror confirmed my suspicion that I had become as sun-burned as an albino at day camp. My face is astoundingly red. Others less patriotic than I might regret this happenstance, but my red neck and face contrasting with the rest of my white skin and blue eyes are a source of pride to me. Color me American!
Enough blogging! It's rest time. I have a curious message from my brother. I have half a hope he might join me here tomorrow.
Last night's dinner... although technically it was slightly after midnight.
I had purchased a 5-day “Barcelona Card” for my stay, which gives me unlimited access to the major public transport services and also free entrance to dozens of museums and nearly two hundred discounts. Among the free entrance coupons was one to Le Museu de xocolata. I had to go. Here is the entrance.
Once inside my coupon was exchanged for a ticket, and the ticket was a dark chocolate bar (73%) with an ennumerated wrapper.
The museum itself is an odd little place. There are mock-ups of various bits of chocolate history making, some video and audio, and a hallway of famous Catalonian chocolatiers, a microhistory of the industrialization of chocolate making, and many devices that are used in the production of chocolate. And then there was something I entirely did not expect: multiple cases of chocolate art. By which I mean statues and dioramas made of regular chocolate and white chocolate and painted chocolate. There was a diorama of Don Quixote having fallen on the ground after tilting at the windmill, with Sancho Panza looking on in laughter, which was about 2½ feet tall. There were chocolate cartoon characters, includi Tom & Jerry, Asteryx and his huge side-kick. There was a chocolate Sagrada Familia. There was a chocolate Pietà (übertacky, offensive). They were all quite amazingly produced.
The museum empties into a chocolate shop, where I decided to have their hot chocolate.
This was the thickest hot chocolate I've ever had. See the video; I'd say it was a bit thicker than the standard Hershey' Chocolate Syrup.
The original drink of hot chocolate had chiles and spices in it and was not at all sweet. Some day I'd like to find a place that has such a thing. That would be interesting!