The Gothic Quarter

Trip Start May 31, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

I wish I could say that I woke up refreshed after an almost 10 hour sleep, but I didn't. I guess I couldn't expect as much from a cheap bed. I tossed and turned most of the night, trying to find the correct position that would prevent anymore back pains and the bed boards from sticking into my ass. Ed can sleep in a bed of nails as long as it has a pillow, so he awoke as fresh as a lettuce, which made me even grumpier. I'm not a morning person, especially after I had sex with a wooden bed board all night long.

  But then I remembered I was in Barcelona. No more explanations needed, that was my fuel. We quickly got dressed and headed to our favorite Mercat San Josep for breakfast. I had my glass of strawberry and coconut juice with a side of thick coconut slices to go with it. Ed got a large tray of strawberries and as we ate we wondered around the market for he second time, this time paying more attention to the stands. There were live crabs in display, agonizing in their icy cold graves, olives of all shapes and sizes in huge buckets, candy of a thousand colors, fluorescent pink-colored fruits called Pitahaya which I'd never seen before, mushrooms from all parts of the world (except Disneyland), peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, dried fruits of all colors and the respective bees flying above them. It was hard to pull ourselves away from such a display of color and texture, but we moved on to where we were really headed: Barrio Gótico (or the Gothic Quarter).

The streets were narrow and dark. Narrow enough to allow only pedestrians to circulate. The buildings were tall enough to block out most of the sunlight. Bars, shops, tattoo parlors, and boutiques were the common factor through the slender serpentine streets. The Barrio Gótico is the nucleus of Barcelona, where it all started, so to say. Its roman origins here were slowly transformed throughout the centuries into what it is now, a mix of styles with a predominance of Medieval, of course. The city's most important public buildings lay here, like the Palau de la Generalitat, the Ayuntamiento, the Cathedral, and the Palau Real.

 We came across an opening where the Church of Santa Maria del Pi was located. It didn't have the typical structure of a Gothic cathedral with its flying buttresses and tall pointed steeples; it was more block-shaped. We walked inside into the dark nave but was breathtaken as we looked up into the vault and saw the million colored vitreaux of greens, yellows, reds and blues all intensified by the incoming sunlight. I remember in school when we studied Gothic architecture: the stained glass was supposed to symbolize the glory of god's light in the church.

  Outside, the little cafés were serving hot coffee on the courtyard of the church under huge trees, with their burning leaves. I spotted a store which caught my attention and quickly hurried to see. It was a mask shop; but the kind of masks one would see in a Renaissance masked ball in Venice. Hundreds of them hanging from the wall and displayed in the window. I couldn't go in due to two men repairing the door, but I'd have to remember the way to come back some other time.

We continued to walk through the spaces; from the narrow streets to the open squares where a few tables in the sunlight accommodated the occasional tourist with their beer or coffee. We continued to walk but suddenly we found police men closing some of the entrances to a larger square were the important city buildings were. Apparently there was to be a student protest, which in election week (Catalans are voting for their president), is prohibited. We wanted to see all the action as policemen dressed for battle were turning young teenagers away from the square, but we had to meet our friend Hector for lunch.

  We had met Hector in Mallorca when he was there for vacation. We hit it off and promised to come to Barcelona to visit when we were done in Mallorca. So as promised, we called him up to which he was glad to break from work and meet us. 

After a light pasta lunch with Hector, Ed and I walked towards the Barcelona Cathedral we had passed on the way to meet our friend. We were saddened to see it was covered up in scaffolds and green nets, with huge "Sponsor a stone" signs all over. Apparently a large-scale cleaning job is going on in the cathedral, and to gather funds one can sponsor a few stones for 10 to 30 €.

We paid the entrance fee (knowing it would be going for a valuable cause) and walked into the cloisters. Now, the cloister my favorite part of any Gothic cathedral, as was the case in the Segovia Cathedral or the Burgos Cathedral. But this particular cloister was beyond enchanting. It had tall palm trees in the center and lush green vegetation, which I'd never seen in any other.  There's usually a nice gardening intention but here the trees together with the pointed stone arches were magnificent. The palm trees seemed as ancient as the building, towering well above the cloister.  We walked around and found spaces where fountains with drinkable water were filled with coins from wish-makers. A larger fountain, home of thirteen immaculate-white geese. Legend tells of how the geese were placed here as the custodians of the cloisters, since there loud quacks when a stranger approached was enough alarm. When one of them dies, it is instantly replaced so that they amount to thirteen exactly. They each represent a year in the life of Saint Eulalia, Barcelona's patron saint, a young girl tortured to death in the 4th century by the Romans for standing up for her faith.

Inside this 13th century cathedral, the huge pipe organ was sounding while hundreds of tourists walked around in awe of the place. Aside from the tall arches and vaults, everything was magnificently illuminated, and while the organ played, we walked around admiring the tiny small sculptured details Gothic cathedral always seem to hide. Although shorter than most cathedrals I had visited, it was still one of the most beautiful I'd seen.

After the entire day walking, we were smashed so headed back to the hotel for a rest. I wasn't sure I'd make it past 10 pm awake, but going out for a drink with my man in the Gothic Quarter sounded nice. We found a bar called Traveler's Bar where tons of travelers from all over the world were gathered for a beer and to meet new people. It was loud and smoky but we sat there for a drink before we were too tired to stay awake. It was a great bar though, and plus it had wi-fi, which made it our future meeting point for good coffee and Internet. Beats crowded and expensive Starbucks.
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kaysersoze on

Round 2 Go!!
A summer came to its end and you survive almost without scratches. Good for u my dears!!!
Now round 2: Barcelona. A beautiful city full of argentines, so u'll feel like home. Follow the traces of Gaudi and Miro, they're amazings
Please be more careful and have good luck for your new scale

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