Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Whimsy on steroids and I'm chuffed...

Sagrada Familia exterior

Finally we got to a city where I could communicate, albeit minimally, with the people and I am chuffed about it. Barcelona’s Spanish is not the same as Mexican Spanish; in Barcelona they speak Castilian Spanish where they lisp, hence the pronunciation of Barcelona as Bar-tha-lona. Spanish may not be absolutely necessary, but it does help with the taxi drivers as we found none of the three we used spoke much if any English. It was actually kind of fun to try to communicate in my halting Spanish.

June and Alan are tablemates we got just after Dubai when they switched tables. They are from New Zealand and absolutely a wonderful addition to our table. We four decided to just go into Barcelona, no tours; we had just a few places we wanted to go and doing it by taxi—language problems and all—seemed a better choice than the shuttle: one-way, one person on the shuttle, $8 or $32 for just Randy and me to go to the Columbus monument, the beginning of Las Ramblas (more on that later) and back. We actually spent a total of less than $32 for all four of us on three taxi rides. We felt so proud of ourselves!

Our first success was negotiating with a taxi driver who spoke no English to go to the Columbus monument and then switching our destination to La Sagrada Familia halfway there!

One of the heroes of the people of Barcelona is Gaudi, the architect of La Sagrada Familia cathedral, among lots of other buildings. I was totally unprepared for the spectacularly whimsical appearance of the cathedral that is La Sagrada Familia. Many of our friends know that we like whimsy in our art and this cathedral is to whimsy what Homer Simpson is to genteel humor. Gaudi was relatively young when he started the cathedral in 1883 and he died in 1926 and so never saw it completed. Nor for that matter have we. It is scheduled to be completed on the anniversary of his death in 2026. It has however been consecrated by Pope Benedict.

I was also unprepared for the uncommonly beautiful interior. Where the outside is stunningly whimsical—where else can you see a gigantic cathedral with bunches of fruits perched on the spires? Or flying buttresses that turn into snake-mouthed gargoyles?—the inside is mouth-droppingly gorgeous. After chuckling at the exterior (which also has some “normal” churchy-type sculptures), you enter the doors and the view takes your breath away. I reflexively had an intake of breath, the interior was so soaring, so beautiful, so inspiring. The columns soar a hundred or more feet in the air, the concrete branching as it goes up, and you feel you are in a forest, albeit a forest with stained-glass lights and pictures. The stained glass windows are in unbelievably vivid colors, it’s as if you have stepped into a Disney-colored movie, but one that fills you with reverence. I am not a religious person, but this cathedral helps me to understand those who are, those who worship, those who believe in something greater than themselves. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the stained glass, the sculptures, the choir gallery, the everything. My pictures don’t even come close to capturing the colors and the feel of the place. I think if I heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in La Sagrada Familia, I would think I had died and gone to heaven.

And it’s not yet finished!

Everything after that was an anticlimax. But fun nonetheless! Off to negotiate with yet another non-English speaking taxi driver. Because of my superb language skills (hah!) I had become the negotiator. It was a big help to have a map, which June thoughtfully remembered. So I could point and say Cuanto questo aqui? I had never heard of the Gothic quarter but June had and wanted to go there. Alan had suggested La Sagrada Famila so the two of them were batting a thousand, so why change? Window shopping, lunch at an outdoor cafĂ© in the Gothic Quarter, getting lost and managing to find the only two resident Englishmen to tell us where we were, we had a wonderful time. And a new beer. All the beers are light (colored, not in alcohol content!), I’d kind of like to find a darker beer. Someday soon!

Then, off to find Las Ramblas, the Main Shopping Street. Las Ramblas is IT in Barcelona and it is beautiful. Tree-lined, lots of shops, and lots more street artists of all kinds: painters, caricaturists, mimes, musicians, singers—it was Ghiradelli Square on steroids! The whole street is about a mile in length but we didn’t walk but a small fraction of that. What a great taste of Barcelona; yet another city to come back to.

The weather is changing. Still have Dorian Gray in the closet; it apparently poured rain yesterday in Barcelona, but today was cool, sunny, absolutely delightful. But the really cold weather is coming. We watch the Wimbledon tennis on the ‘telly’ and many matches are cancelled because of rain. We are assured by the Brits on board that it is a cold rain. Whoopee. We didn’t bring sweaters. One of the cruisers said he’s been to Bergen, Norway, 49 times and it’s rained 48 times. We were told that the Shetland Islands is the coldest spot in the United Kingdom. I guess we’ll have to buy a sweater (jumper in Aussie-speak). I hope we can put off that purchase until Bergen.

One last taxi to negotiate, this time a woman, and back to the ship. Back to Home. They even say, ‘Welcome home’ when we come back!

Random thoughts: One of the Aussies has grandchildren who raise chooks (chickens), they are named ‘K’ ‘F’ and ‘C.” Another named their four chickens ‘Breakfast,’ ‘Lunch,’ ‘Dinner,’ and ‘Nuggets.’ Being ‘Chuffed’ about something means you are really happy about it. Italian drivers don’t care if they are driving a car AND talking on the phone, they still talk with both hands.

Finally: I am writing this while sitting on our deck, sipping a martini, waiting for the ship to go through the Strait of Gibralter in about 30–40 minutes. Sitting on our deck, watching the light fade, the sea-contrail fading behind us, is a magical time. It isn’t as beautiful as watching the lights gradually come on in Tucson (or any city for that matter) in the evening but it has a beauty that is all its own and I love it.
Sagrada Familia

A detail of the outside of Sagrada Familia

Fruit on the spires of Sagrada Familia

Randy, Alan, and June

Sagrada Familia

Snake-mouthed gargoyle

Some of the more traditional exterior of Sagrada Familia

Interior stained glass window

Just part of the interior

A stained-glass detail of the apostle John
Interior view toward the altar
Detail over the altar

Ceiling detail

Looking straight up the forest of columns to the ceiling detail

Model of the finished cathedral

A detail from the above photo; I have no idea what it is

Flat Stanley at Sagrada Familia

Street in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona

I have no idea what they sell, but they have branches all over the world

Where we had lunch

I have no idea what building this is, but it's pretty

Another street view

Randy and Alan found Las Ramblas

Overlooking Las Ramblas

Beautiful balconies overlooking Las Ramblas

Christopher Columbus monument


  1. Glad you were blown away by the interior of wonder how it can look so rustic on the outside and so magnifcent on the inside... certainly had us in awe...

    loved Barthelona!!

  2. by the way... yes it will be cold until you cross the atlantic now... didn't my blog teach you anything LOL..... buy Jumpers.... don't you have something that you wore in Sydney LOL...