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Deep breaths, here we go again:-
Find a camping ground. How do we get to the city from there? Grab maps, get timetables, listen to instructions, grab a stack of brochures, sus out what’s worth seeing, perhaps a tour to get the run down on the place. Bah, blah, blahddy blah ...
Camping ground selected - very nice, we’re happy - TICK!
Got maps, directions and timetables - TICK!
Tourist brochures were crap.
European Lonely Planet on a Shoestring too broad.
Stuff it, we’ll go to the Info Centre in the City - TICK!
Pick up walking tour brochure - beauty, we’ll do that - TICK!
80 Euro and it leaves every day half an hour before we can get into the City - BUGGER!
We’ll follow some unsuspecting tourist and see where we end up - TICK!
OK last and final plan. Time to look at post cards. Post cards will always give us ideas of the best photos of the best attractions. We’ll jot down some names and take a photo of a couple to remind us what we’ll photograph ourselves - get abused by store owner for taking a photo of 25 Euro cent post card. We laugh - he gets even more cross and shakes his finger at us - opps - he he he!! But we’re now on track, know what we want to see and off we go.
(Note to selves. When on next adventure tour must take trekometer. We’d be curious just how many km’s we actually trek).
Our fave post card - pillars of tiled mosaics. We had absolutely no idea why there were pretty coloured mosaic tiles on pillars, but it looked pretty spiffy - so we’d find out we were sure. Enthusiastically we saunter toward them. Them being located at the Palau de la Musica Catalana (or in plain English - Concert Hall)
Lluis Domenech i Montaner was the designer of the joint, including the drawing all it’s sculptures and the mosaics on the pillars (no two pillars are the same). There was very little natural light in the location where the hall was to be built, so Lluis perceived the concept of a box of light. An utterly stunning stained glass centre skylight, mosaics, sculptures, glass, pottery and columns combined to create a garden with no night. All the glass worked well as a conductor of the human voice, so it was perfect for the orchestras that sang there after it’s completion in 1908. It is now listed as a World Heritage Site and continues to be a stunning backdrop devoted to a variety of cultural and social events year round.
Next, a bit of a flounce around the Neo-Gothic old City and Chinatown, with nothing even remotely Chinese in or near it. Named for the prejudiced notion that Chinese immigrants go hand-in-hand with poverty, prostitution and drug dealing. The neighbourhood’s actual inhabitants are poor Spanish. Many of the prostitutes are transvestites and they come out mostly at night, although we did see one during the day - petite, beautifully dressed, high heels, lovely hair style and ..... A FULL BEARD that Ned Kelly would be jealous of - eeeewwww!
We’d since found out that Antoni Gaudi was one of Barcelona’s golden haired boys and had designed a number of modernistic buildings in the early 1900’s. In fact, Barcelona was dripping with golden haired boys at the time cause Domenech i Montaner and Picasso were also out and about painting the town red, or should we say Picasso Rose - ha ha.
Anyway, back to Gregarious Gaudi and his Grandious ‘Sangrada Famili’ (or in plain English - Church). Well we’ve seen a church or two in our day, but even Bill said, “it was the best I’ve ever seen” (and that says a lot cause it takes quite a bit to impress Bill). The church is not actually finished, nor expected to be for at least another 50 years, but in Gaudi’s day he’d sorted out the interior. He’d designed the temple naves like a tree, with the trunk, the branches and a canopy of leaves as the ceiling. It’s purpose - to shelter the people from sunshine and rain.
Born in 1852 in very poor health, young Antoni’s mother spent many hours with him and entertained him with walks in the countryside and the observation of nature. In this context Gaudi said, “...I captured the purest and most pleasant images of nature, that nature is ever our mistress.” He was also quoted as saying, “The great book, always open and which we should make an effort to read, is that of nature.” This was the primary influence in Gaudi’s naturalistic and organic style of architecture that we were privileged to view. Gaudi was deemed way ahead of his time, we spent several hours at the church and considered it well worth our visit (not to mention well worth our $’s - of course)
Who would have believed that in the hugeness of Europe we’d bump into our Aussie mate, Marley, that we’d met on the Costa Favalosa, 2 months prior, but we did indeed. (Well there was one word that Marley had put on FB, being ‘Barcelonaaaa’ that hinted she was in the same City as us.) We caught up over a cuppa. It was such a lovely, unexpected treat. You’re a honey Marley xxx.
Last on the Barcelona list, the Picasso Museum. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) lived to the ripe old age of 92. Which is quite amazing, considering most artists we’ve heard about go mad and are lucky to see 50. He did have one known “blue period” (1901-1904 when he painted everything in shades of blue) after the tragic suicide of a friend and then he moved onto a much happier “rose period” (when he painted everything shades of red)
As a child, Picasso was taught to paint as an adult and did show talent. As an old man however, he painted like a child. Interesting - yes - but we could give a bunch of kids crayons and paper and they too could create something equally as interesting. Perhaps it was more good timing, than real genius that Picasso stumbled upon.
We were told that it was becoming fashionable in the early 20th century to have a considered opinion on obscure artistic impressionism. The hoity toities were starting to get a bit carried away with themselves, as the do, and were giving way to their traditional prudishness toward artisans and starting to embrace the flamboyance of artistic and literary figures. In our 'esteemed' opinion it was shier luck that Picasso's 'talent' merely fell within the trends of the day.
Whilst we didn’t really like his paintings at all, it is true that Picasso had many different styles, painted copious amounts and obviously loved it as he died with a brush in his hand.
Spain was going to be a bit of a whirl wind trip (bit like the whole of our European trip really), so we took a break at the beach at Torre de La Mora about 1 hour south of Barcelona, to psych ourselves up before the next mania of sight seeing nuttiness
What an absolutely smashing, ginormous camp ground. Fab views, 2 lovely beaches, a monster swimming pool and loads of free activities. The girls started each day with Yoga on the beach, then Aquagym at the pool (Bill's exercise differed slightly, he exercised his legs - walking to the beach; his arms - raising his beer glass and raising his hands to take photographs; his fingers - tapping on the computer to play poker; and his eyeballs ....), then lunch, siesta, more fitness or kids activities in the arvo, dinner and then a different show each night. Plonked into bed after midnight each night, then up doing it all again the next day - brilliant - (so much for the break though)!!
Well what can we say, complete sloths at heart, we found another beach stop, 5 hours driver further south, at Calpe, and decided what the heck, lets sit on the beach for another few days and do absolutely nothing - except get as brown and leathery as Grandad’s old boot. Dumb we know, but our favourite past time is to laze around in the sun, so we did and besides this was to be our last beach stop in Spain. As it turned out, after only two nights, we couldn’t leave Calpe quickly enough.
The girls had been clothes shopping the day before and had finally found a dress that fit our dear wee Brandi-Chanel. She’s always been slim, with a fine bone structure and as such we have difficulty finding ‘age appropriate‘ clothes for her. For instance, she still wears some size 6 shorts and dresses and she’s almost 12. No self respecting tweeny would be caught dead wearing little girls clothes and so her wardrobe is a fraction the size it ought to be
We’d walked from the van park directly to the dress shop. I selected a dress I thought might suit and Brandi-Chanel tried it on, but it was too big. Brandi-Chanel asked me to go grab another style, she tried this whilst I tried on a couple of items myself. I’d stepped outside my change room to see how Brandi-Chanel looked in her dress, when she said, “I’m not feeling well, I’ve gone all dizzy.” She then sat down on the floor with her head in her hands. She felt like she was going to be sick, and kept repeating, “There’s someone going to walk into the shop.”
I asked Brandi-Chanel to stand up so I could help her take the dress off and return it to the rack. As this was happening Brandi-Chanel said, “I don’t feel right, I think we should just leave.” I agreed, scooped up the items of my own, returned Brandi-Chanel’s dress to the rack, when Brandi-Chanel said, “there he is Mum, I said someone would walk in!” I glanced over and saw a man - mid 50’s, short hair, suntanned, around 6 foot, medium build, wearing rectangular spectacles, shorts and short sleeved, check shirt - about 3 meters from us - staring
We walked to the counter to pay for a couple of items, but the man followed our every move. It was like he was a wild animal that had smelt out his prey, stalked us and was ready to pounce for the kill. He had no expression whatsoever and stared as if in a trance. I said as forcefully as I could, “STOP staring at us!” hoping to snap him out of it. He didn’t falter. We dumped the clothes on the counter and walked very quickly out the door.
I didn’t turn around, I just wanted to get out of there and fast, but Brandi-Chanel was holding my hand and turned her head twice. She said that the man was following us through the shop toward the door. The whole time he didn’t stop glaring and watched us intently as we walked away. We raced up the street and darted into and out of shops, continually taking turns to look over our shoulders. After much scurrying here and there and time had passed, we’d felt certain he no longer knew where we were and we walked hurriedly back to the van.
It was the most terrifying experience. Brandi-Chanel felt extremely ill for at least the next couple of hours and was completely drained for the rest of the day. Not only was the man a creepy weirdo and had totally freaked us out, Brandi-Chanel had known something before he actually appeared. We didn’t sleep well that night and as we zoomed off down the highway the next day, we both breathed a sigh of relief to be leaving Calpe and never ever wish to return.