What does one do for an encore after Macchu Pichu and Brazil? Well, how about one of Europe's premier cities?
Since so many people have asked Why Barcelona?, I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain myself. Much as I wanted to see Barcelona anyway, my primary reason was a date with a major astronomical event not seen since 1882: the Transit of Venus on June 8, 2004. For those not aware, I have been an astronomy nut since I was a little kid; fascinated with the stars and planets, I voraciously devoured (by my standards, anyway) whatever books on the subject I could get my hands on, and spent clear nights learning the constellations, spotting satellites, watching meteor showers, and my favorite, observing eclipses. So the Transit of Venus was on my lifetime calendar for a long time and there was no way I was going to miss it.
Since it wasn't going to be well visible on the east coast of the United States, I had to pick a location suited for witnessing the entire event - which meant travel. So I figured, since the weather in Barcelona is supposed to be beautiful at this time of year, why not there? And off I went, convincing my friend Jim to come along since he is now back from South America and currently taking a hiatus from working.
The decision was brilliant. Every day had beautiful weather, great for going to the beach - which we did for the first three days. It was warm and sunny, low in humidity, and sparkling clear most of the time. No rain at all - not even a hint of it. For once I have a nice tan, not a multilayered sunburn (see the Brazil pictures for a comparison of fortune). We gladly shelled out the 3.50 Euros to rent beach chairs while there, taking in the scenery (did I mention all the beaches in Barcelona are topless?) and enjoying the weather. Though not the same service economy as we encountered in Fortaleza, there are still enough beach vendors selling sodas and water to obviate the need to stand up.
So what do we pick to do first? A hike up 175 steps to the top of Parc Guell, home of some of the architect Gaudi's great works. Gaudi architecture is all over the place in Barcelona; he is one of the heroes of Catalonia, and it is nearly impossible to go into Barcelona without seeing at least a few of his structures. Gaudi abhorred straight lines - There are no straight lines in nature, he was famous for saying - and consequently his buildings take on rolling, uneven appearances.
Up at the Parc, there are numerous creations of his, including a very famous lizard he put together. I'll let the following pictures speak for themselves, as I didn't really know what I was shooting up here anyway. Mostly it just looks cool.
From there, the most appropriate move would be to note some of the other famous Gaudi buildings. Famous in Barcelona, anyway. Here are two particular examples.
But Gaudi's real masterpiece - or rather, what would have been his masterpiece - was (is) the cathedral in the middle of Barcleona, La Sagrada Familia. Started in 1882, it's still not done - and it looks that way. But there is a lot that has been finished, so we walked up to the top of the spires you see here, spiral staircases that go pretty close to straight up. But the views from up there are great, and some of the shots following would have been impossible had we not made the hike.
Since the catherdral is unfinished, the inside is barren. So being outside of it is pretty much the way to go, but inside you can see the columns and some of the intended structure, but lighting did not permit photographing it - but take a look at the detail of the outside of one of the spires (above), and you have a good idea of the type of intricacy that Gaudi favored.
Aside from that, we spent a lot of time walking around and looking at the architectural beauty of the city. There's a lot of it, and I'll just let it speak for itself.
Barcelona is artsy, has a heavy gay population, yet some would say it is far more uptight than Madrid. But in terms of pure beauty, its situation on the coast of the Mediterranean gives it, in my opinion, the title of the more beautiful of the two cities of Spain. But there's so much more to this country to explore, who knows what else I may find there?
So on the morning of the transit, I set up shop on Moll de la Fusta, with a clear shot to the sun for the morning, allowing me to watch the whole thing. My pictures didn't scan in well, but the best picture I took that morning is this magnificent ship that parked in my way during the Transit.
And I did get one decent picture of the transit to upload; the others came out great on film but didn't translate to digital all that well. So here is a shot of the egress, or the part of the transit where Venus appears as a notch in the limb of the sun. I think that was really my favorite part of the transit; it was certainly the most unique aspect of the event, and a part which North American observers who had proper equipment could have observed.
And that's it. So yes, I got to see the Transit of Venus, I got to see a beautiful city, and I got to meet Manuel, the waiter in Fawlty Towers who was from Barcelona - and he's still running around like an idiot.
And that's all I have. I highly recommend it as a place to go in June or July, when the weather is said to be perfect the whole time and doesn't get too hot. It's a beautiful place, although unlike Brazil, where everyone was nice as could be, here we had the whole spectrum - really nice to some real jackasses. And the women wouldn't talk to us at all. But then again, who could blame them?
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