Part of what makes Barcelona so great is that its everyday life is filled with unique sights and experiences. Of course the same thing can be said about living in NYC, but it’s especially nice to see how that translates to a different environment when you’re on vacation (e.g., when you actually take the time to stop and look around you!) I present to you my three points in support of this argument:
First case in point: Barcelona hosted the Olympics and they’ve got a world-class stadium to prove it! Perched atop Montjuic, the hill in the southwest of Barcelona that overlooks the Med, the stadium from the 1992 Summer Olympics looks as new as the day it was completed. We knew that we would see the stadium when we headed up to Montjuic one day, but we had no idea it would be so magnificent, especially as you could just walk right into the stadium, no gates or tickets or fanfare needed. Even the torch that was designed to cling to the edge of the stadium seemed Barcelona-esque, given all the Gaudi we had been seeing. I ran track in high school, and triple jump was my event, so I had to get a picture by the triple jump pits, even if I could never imagine competing in such an overwhelming space 🙂
Montjuic held so many other beautiful vistas, being situated as it is so close to the sea. The breezes at this highest point were so refreshing as we walked nearly the entire perimeter of the hill. Probably my only regret from this trip is that we didn’t trek to the Castel to look out over the sea from ancient ramparts. Ah well, next time! We did find it very funny, however, that what appeared to be a modern sculpture on Montjuic that you could see from numerous vantage points around Barcelona, and indeed appeared to be symbolic of the Olympic torch turned out to be…..a telephone tower branded with the word “Telefonica.” HA!
Second case in point: say you’ve taken in the sights left behind by the Olympics, but now you really want to get up close and personal with the Mediterranean Sea that’s been taunting you in the distance. What’s a girl to do? Why, take a cable car from the edge of Montjuic over the city and down to Barceloneta, a wedge-shaped neighborhood that was formed by the deposition of silt in the harbor and now boasts unending views of the sand and sea! The only rub? This girl is petrified of heights, and yet this excursion was her idea! (Too much cava, perhaps?)
Yep, that was my bright idea one afternoon. While I clung to one of the supports in the middle of the cable car, Andrew took some fantastic shots as we floated away from Montjuic, over the city and toward the first tower perched on top of Barcelona’s trade center, and then finally out over the turquoise water and to our final destination: a second tower with a glass elevator. (Seriously, this was a horrible idea for me. I managed to survive, but it wasn’t without some gulps of liquid courage first: an orange Fanta soda for a blood sugar spike.) Our reward was a few precious hours spent soaking up the sun at the edge of the Mediterranean. The water was crystal clear and the sand was warm, and the sky was endless – perfect. In retrospect, it’s a “must-do” for anyone who wants to take in the beauty of Barcelona from a new perspective, but next time, I’ll walk down to the beach, thanks.
Third case in point: what’s a better souvenir for an avid knitter/crocheter than a handmade textile? Nothing!! And for this one, all the credit goes to the husband. We wandered one morning through the El Raval neighborhood, known for its artists and creative businesses, and Andrew spotted an artist’s studio with big machines inside. They were weaving looms, and we had to go inside. When we did, we met Teresa Rosa Aguayo, a weaver and contemporary fiber artist who also owns the studio that doubles as a school (Taller Escola Textil Teranyina) that teaches women to weave. Teresa was in the process of setting up a loom to weave a new piece in navy and white yarn. I don’t speak Spanish, and she did not speak much English, so we managed to communicate with some rudimentary French and hand gestures. She had artfully displayed some of her designs by suspending them from the ceiling, and also had drawers filled with other woven pieces. Andrew found one wide fringed scarf made from the softest sand and ivory cotton, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I would be taking it home with me. Teresa was gracious and friendly – as she began to explain how to care for the scarf, I told her in French that I am a knitter and I understood what she was saying about caring for the yarn. She smiled widely and nodded, knowing that I would take good care of her creation. She even agreed to a picture! What a memento.
So there you have it – my three reasons why modern Barcelona is chock full of unique sights and experiences! Did I convince you?