Spain, Day One: Travel and Barcelona

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We got up around nine cst, I think, because we didn’t have to go to work. We putzed around a bit, doing last minute things around the house. The mapbook thing I’d bought of Madrid did not meet up to P’s expectations, so we went to Barnes & Noble and got a pocket sized one like the Barcelona one I’d gotten earlier last month. After that we went to Best Buy to find P a camera bag; he’d bought a new camera for the trip and needed something to carry it around in. I bumped into Chris and Eli (who is a doll) at Best Buy. It was cool to see them. I hadn’t seen Eli in over a month, not since the last time Dayna had brought him along with her to S’n’B. We then stopped off at a chinese buffet for lunch. I couldn’t eat much because I’d had a multivitamin earlier without eating and my stomach was a bit upset. It’s possible that I was just stressed out at knowing in a few hours I was going to have an eight hour flight to Paris, a five hour layover there, and then another hour and a half flight on to Barcelona. After that we went to Target and found awesome camera bags. I bought one because it looked friggin’ awesome and I thought it would be perfect, only my camera just barely fit into it. Which didn’t end up mattering really, as when I did find myself taking a lot of pictures I kept my camera zipped into my coat pocket instead of having to go in and out of my bag. Anyway. After Target we went to Walgreens and then home. We both got showered and changed into travelling clothes and then left for O’Hare. We got there in relatively short order, got our boarding passes and spent a pretty short time in the lounge before boarding.

The flight. -sigh- The flight took for-freaking-ever. 8 hours of mindnumbing boredom. And it didn’t occur to me to get up and walk around the cabin a bit, either, which I did do on the way home, which helped a bit. Because when you’re sitting there it’s boring, but when you walk around and you think, “Hey, I’m hurtling through space at 800 miles per hour of controlled falling and I’M WALKING AROUND” it’s kind of cool. But maybe that’s just me. So anyway. Boring flight. Good food though, surprisingly. I tried to sleep during the flight because we were arriving at something like nine in the morning Paris time, I should probably not have been awake for 87 hours straight, especially considering we were doing the tourist thing almost immediatly upon landing in Barcelona. Anyway. I had taken along dpns and a ball of yarn for a pair of socks to work on on the plane and a sudoku book, but I didn’t touch either. I just tried to contort myself into any number of marginally comfortable positions to get some shut eye. I think I managed a half hour of sleep… but I’m not sure.

We landed at CDG-Paris, and man is that airport ever ricockulous. We got off the plane in the middle of nowhere and got on a bus that took us to the terminal. From there we waited for ten minutes and got on a bus to another terminal where we had to go through customs and then could finally get to our gate (we were already checked in, we got our boarding passes back in Chicago). We had several hours to kill, and did so by first stopping at a boulangarie and having pain au chocolate, and then headed over to the lounge where we spend the next couple of hours laying on our carryons so no one would take them and sleeping until we heard the “now boarding” announcement. Once we got on board, I slept from about five seconds after take off until we landed, which was nice. After we landed, we got P’s suitcase and went through the airport to the RENFE (the Spanish state railway network), which took us from the airport to Barcelona. Our hotel was just a couple of blocks from there.

Before I get too into it, here’s some background information on Barcelona (it’s pretty lengthy, so click here to skip over it)

After the Romans arrived in 218 BC they constructed a settlement on what now the Barri Gòtic, but it is unclear who occupied the area around Barcelona before then.

Following the departure of the Roman’s in the 5th century the city came under various rulers until by the end of the 10th century it was the capital of a principality covering most of modern Catalunya plus Roussillon in France.

The Crown of Aragón was created in in 1137 through the marriage of Comte Ramon Berenguer IV to Petronella of Aragón, leading to Catalunya’s golden age. As well as expansion throughout the Mediterranean, the period that followed saw the introduction of legislation based on Roman law and the introduction of a local government, the Generalitat.

Spain’s two most powerful monarchies united in 1479 with the marriage of Fernando to Isabel of Castilla. The years that followed saw Barcelona and Madrid increasingly in conflict with subsequent rulers banning Barcelona from dealing with the new American colonies and finally in the 17th century Catalunya went to war with Spain, declaring independence under French protection. The war ended in the siege of Barcelona and cost Spain the Roussillon and other districts of Catalunya.

1702 saw the start of the War of the Spanish Succession, which finished in 1713, with Catalunya backing the losing side. In March of the same year Madrid besieged Barcelona, lasting until 11th September 1714, now commemorated as Catalunya Day. The Generalitat was abolished, the Ciutadella fort built to watch over Barcelona, and the Catalan language banned.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the ban on trade with America had been lifted and when a war with France, that had ended in 1813 with the expulsion of Napoleon, the industrial revolution got underway. The industrial revolution led to the development of wine, cork and iron industries and Spain’s first railway between Barcelona and Mataró. The resultant increase in the city’s population led to a radical expansion plan in 1869, with the design of l’Eixample (the enlargement). Designed as a grid of streets, l’Eixample starts at Plaça Catalunya and features many examples of modernista design.

By the beginning of the 20th century, various factions were competing in Barcelona, including anarchist and Republican groups. A Catalan state within Spain was demanded and post WW1 Catalunya saw the unions gaining great support, led by the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), which was eventually banned by the dictator Rivera, who also closed Barcelona football club.

Spain’s Second Republic was formed in 1931 after Rivera’s fall. Within days, the Catalan nationalists proclaimed Catalunya a republic, although Spanish statehood was quickly accepted under pressure from Madrid. The following year Catalunya got a regional government with the old title of Generalitat that lasted until 1934, when Lluís Companys tried to achieve semi-independence from Madrid; the result was the jailing of Generalitat members after bombarding the Generalitat and City Hall. The Generalitat was restored and Catalunya gained autonomy when the socialist Popular Front won the Spanish general election in 1936. However, the Spanish Civil War broke out in July in Morocco, and although Barcelona’s army garrison tried to take the city for Franco, anarchists and government-loyal police defeated them. Franco’s forces quickly took most of the south of Spain, while the East and Industrialised North sided with Madrid and the Republic. Franco gained help from Hitler and Mussolini in the form of arms, troops and air force, while Soviet advisors and hardware helped the Republicans. The Republican’s biggest weakness was its ideological fragmentation and in Barcelona, as elsewhere, suffered infighting between supposed allies. In 1937 the Spanish Government fled to Barcelona and in the following year saw the first aerial bombing of the city, leading to its fall in January 1939. Franco again banned the Generalitat, changed all town and street names to Castilian and forbid the public use and teaching of Catalan.

In 1977, two years after Franco’s death, the head of Catalunya’s government-in-exile arrived in Madrid from Mexico to negotiate the details of Catalunya’s autonomy. At the end of September of the same year King Juan Carlos I decreed the re-establishment of the Generalitat and the Spanish constitution of 1978 included autonomy for all the regions in Spain.

The big international event to put Barcelona on the map since autonomy was the 1992 Olympics, which saw huge investment in the city and its conversion to modern European city.

We checked into the hotel, and right on the counter was a handout that had ‘ways on how not to be pickpocketed’ on it. That made me a bit nervous. I mean, P had told me that it was pretty prevalent in Barcelona, especially during tourist season (which is not December), but to see that right there on the counter made me a bit warier than I had been. Before we’d left, I’d bought a super cool, one-shouldered, security minded, “city walker” backpack to wear as a purse while we were there, and wasn’t worried about being pickpocketed, or having anything stolen from my bag… until I saw the flier. So. I decided to lock the dual zippers of my purse while we were in Barcelona. (That probably makes me sound like some sort of paranoid dorkwad, but frankly, I don’t care.)

After we checked in, in a mixture of spanish and english (which was funny, because most Barcelonians speak Catalan… which I’d had the grand idea of learning, starting November first, but at that time I was feeling particularly creative and then started like fifteen different projects, so I never got beyond lesson three… so basically I could pronounce the street names and say “Com va aixo?” which means “How are you?”) we freshened up and went out to the Museu Picasso which was really awesome. We took the Metro, the extremely extensive, clean and on time subway system to Jaume I, and walked through narrow, twisting streets until we reached it. It was this gorgeous old building and part of it was open air, and it was fabulous. The museum itself was really nice, too. It had a few paintings I was familiar with, along with loads I wasn’t, like his exhaustive study of Velazquez’s Las Meninas, which took up a whole room of the museum. It was really fantastic.

We were there until it closed, which was 8 pm. From there, we went back to the hotel and cleaned up a bit, then found a place to eat using the Time Out guide book we’d bought. I picked a place in the Raval barrio, called El Cafeti, because it specialized in paella. We got there, which was a bit of an adventure, with all the narrow twisty streets… and it was closed. Boo.

So.

We decided then, just to walk around and see what caught our fancy. We were wandering around, and came to the edge of a square, when I saw a bit of a sign that said “Mi Burrito”. I jumped up and down (seriously) and said “That’s it! That’s the restaurant that Laura and George recommended!” So we went in, and there’s a small room with a bar, a small grill in the corner, and four barstools that are topped by saddles instead of seats. We were told there’d be a five minute wait, so we saddled up (me side saddle. I was wearing a skirt!” waited a bit, and were escorted to a small table on the upper level. We looked over the menu which was extensive, and decided we’d each have the mixed grill and the ensalada mixta. And it was good. We had beef, lamb, rabbit(!), pork and this fantastic sausage that was a regional speciality. We also had some really awesome red wine. I can’t remember if we had dessert or not, but afterwards, we stumbled our way back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

We slept like babies.

Well the girls would turn the color
Of the avocado when he would drive
Down their street in his El Dorado
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you
Alright

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One response »

  1. Meanwhile, in Hanover Park, it snowed. I saw a squirrel. I took garbage. ….. IT sounds like you had an adventure!!! Where’s the rest of it?

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