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Published: September 7th 2010
At Gaudi's house
In order of coolness
You know when you have an impression in your mind of what a place will be like and are rather disappointed to find something different when you see it? This is Barcelona.
Madrid is pleasant and quaint and pretty and relaxing and enjoyable. Barcelona is loud and brash and convoluted and in your face and can relieve you of your euros in many, many different ways. In Madrid we were in an apartment in a quaint street with our own piazza and hookers. In Barcelona we have a lovely apartment but it is on a main street and loud. In Madrid we walked through cobblestoned streets to go to other cobblestoned streets with their own piazzas and hookers. In Barcelona we get on a crowded, but still very cheap and frequent, metro and go the places where the locals want to take your money by offering cheap baubles. They have even invented a long street, called La Ramblas, where the tourista obligingly walk past and throw euros into the air and feel chic.
But Barcelona has Gaudi. Four blocks from our apartment is a church called the Segrada Familia. We were here less for than a day and had already been there twice, once in the late afternoon and once at night. I cannot begin to think of ways to describe this building, so I won’t, other than to say it is the single most impressive structure I have ever seen. And I like it.
He obviously influenced a lot of other architects because there are weirdo buildings all over the city. In Oz the town planners are trained to say ‘No you can’t have that because the colour is two shades too light’ or ‘No you can’t have that because the eaves don’t match’. In Barcelona they say “that is a weird, ugly, disjointed structure that makes me a little sick in the stomach. Of course you can build it!’
The end result is a city full of tourists on open top buses taking photos and enjoying the strange and different. Us middle aged ones also sit on open top buses and compare swollen ankles and sunburn lines but that is another story.
There is a town called Sitges about 30 mins by train out of Barcelona. In the travel pages it is billed as ‘an idyllic fishing village’ and ‘quaint whitewashed buildings nestled on the Mediterranean”, so the Bride and I went.
We were talking to some random Poms on the train in and they explained how great Sitges was, how it is called the St Tropez of Spain, and how they come every year because it is so good, so we were primed for a great day.
Sitges is not a fishing village, quaint, idyllic or even white! For an Aussie used to wide empty beaches it is, however, a lesson on how the other half live. We stood on the boulevard and looked left and right. As far as we could see into the distance there was a mass of basically naked humanity stretched out 20 or 30 deep lying on towels if poor, lazy boys if middle class and, at the back, sitting on lounges in roped off areas under fancy umbrellas the uber class were being waited on for food and drink.
Stretching back from this all the way to the railway station were streets, lanes, alleyways and cubby holes all full of designer shops and high-end eateries and, because Sitges is also the gay capital of Spain, in contrast to the nudity on the beaches the dress standard made us holidaying Aussies look like down and out destitutes. We left early.
Also, about an hour from Barcelona by train, is Monserrat. It is, essentially, a huge serrated mountain with a monastery half way up. Again, like most places around here, it is carefully designed to relieve you of your euros, but nothing can spoil the views or the bushwalks. It was great to sit up the top and survey the countryside and wander. The Bride set a new trip record of 10882 steps for the day. She was tired!
So, as we get ready to leave the cities and head to country life, I can say that we really enjoyed both cities - different as they are - but now look forward to rural life. My only worry is that, if Sitges is an idyllic fishing village, then our next stop, Zeanuri, is described as 'rustic village'. I wonder what that really means??
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