Where in the world is Dave this time?


All day long, as I wandered the city, I kept feeling as if I were somewhere else. Could it be Disneyland?

No, although if a king of Bavaria were to build something like this, he would surely be certified mad!

Much later, it came to me! Not Disneyland at all. This is Dr Seuss country!

Before we critique her skill as an artist, let’s have a look at the real thing…

 All right, it’s Barcelona.

Going back to the beginning: I had a window seat, spotted this egg from the plane as we made our approach. Looks like Tokyo, doesn’t it, Shinjuku area. It turned out to be only three or four blocks from my hotel.

Really easy through passport, customs, ATM in the lobby. A pleasant sunny morning, around 9:30 by the time I found a taxi.

The taxi driver didn’t recognize the hotel from its name — it’s a Sheraton, but only mid-size. I had printed out a bumpf sheet; it’s on Avenida Diagonal, and the driver told me (her English was only slightly better than my completely non-existent Spanish) that the Barcelona marathon was on today, and it would be difficult getting to that area.

She was right. We faffed around for a long time, being turned back at all boundaries. Saw the wheelchair athletes leading the pack, then the first of the runners.

The meter was ticking, and I finally told her to stop. I would just walk! She had a book-map of the city and showed me where I needed to go, off one page, all the way across another pair of facing pages and onto yet a third page — something like 2 km, I imagine. Good thing I pack with a view to carrying my luggage.

I had grokked the map well enough to even make a slight shortcut at the end. Had to wait to slip through a gap in the line of runners in front of the hotel, still almost all of them men. The picture below is from half an hour later, after I had checked in (no room available yet), dropped off my bags, and gone out to see the town.

A pleasant day. Just a little crisp in the morning, but I’m glad I didn’t take along a jacket; it would have been a nuisance.

Well, the first thing the tourist Must See is of course Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Although I had not intentionally set off with that specifically in mind, it was indeed the first of the attractions I came across.

They even advertise the fact that it is never finished. All this complexity must be costing someone a boatload of money.

As I explored further, I decided that Gaudi was by no means the originator of these excesses (as a well-mannered Auslander, I can hardly call it Kitsch, and certainly not suggest that it descends into poor taste). Gaudi appears to have simply been the gaudiest of the lot, if I may say so.

If religion requires words, well, put the words right there on the building. This is one example of many; the letters are ceramic mosaics.

I didn’t queue up and pay to go in. Maybe I should have.

From the Sacred Family, I wandered past a hospital that was on the tourist route map I had picked up at the hotel. The Park Guell was the next stop, the half dozen pictures at the beginning. At the top of the hill, grades steep enough to catch the respect of a San Franciscan. It was apparently originally intended as a residential community, but the money ran out.

A digression about the map: it shows a green tour and a red tour; I had been following the green tour because that’s the one that goes past the hotel. I was impressed at their level of ambition for the pedestrian until (this evening) I discovered that it’s the bus tour, not the walking tour. Oh, okay, then I’m less embarrassed at not having completed the whole thing.

Came upon a poster for the UC Davis symphony orchestra, which will be performing here in early April. Small world, and all that.

Not everything here is bizarre.

Despite the picture above, there were lots of people out enjoying the Sunday. Lots of dogs here, and most of them seemed to be in the process of relieving themselves. You watch where you step in this town.

The other unpleasantness is that people here have not yet gotten the idea that smoking is no longer cool.

But on the bright side, there are bicycles from a take one, drop one off arrangement called Bicing, and pretty popular. I saw a lot of riders today wearing the standard cycling clothing, and many of those who were not were still wearing helmets. Good for them.

I heard music as I wandered down the street, thought it might be a post-Marathon celebration. No such thing. It was the whole neighborhood having a dance. Both dancers and spectators were having a terrific time. And so was I.

Beautiful textures on some of this stone.

Well, all right. I had had nothing eat, and only water from a streetside fountain to drink, I had had pretty much no sleep on the plane, and — yes, I admit it — my feet were getting sore. So I wandered back to the hotel, got my room.

I have been told that you dine late in Spain, and even the hotel’s restaurant closes between 5 and 8. So if I want to avoid fainting from hunger, I had better have a large late lunch (and then probably skip dinner). The hotel restaurant offered prix fixe with a choice that, for me, meant pear-roquefort-lettuce salad, a beef stew over rice topped with a papadam (that’s eclectic for you!) and tiramisu.

Long day, good day. There’s lots more to see, if I can get some time from the meetings.

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