Wednesday, October 31, 2007
CATALONIA - CATALUNYA.......
I just came back from spending almost two weeks in Catalonia -- Barcelona - Gerona - Montserrat - Figuera - Bilbao -- and can't wait to go back again.
Our headquarters were in Barcelona - except for two days in Bilbao where we went expressly to visit the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. So now I've seen three Guggenheims - in New York, in Venice and now in Bilbao. A fabulous museum - with interesting (not "interesting" as in feech - but "interesting" as in really interesting) and exciting art and installations. Beautifully designed and laid out. We met a couple - Americans from California - in a restaurant the evening before we went to the museum. They said the museum was a bore and they managed to spend two hours there - and that was stretching it. What were they looking at? Were they even at the same museum? We left the museum after more than five hours - and that only because we were exhausted. Five hours is a long time in a museum - try it sometime.
Our hotel was perfectly located - ten minutes walk along the river to the museum and about fifteen minutes the other way to the Old Town. There's also a Calatrava Bridge in Bilbao - much smaller than the one being erected in Jerusalem. It is certainly much too modern for the city - but - somehow - it fits. Go figure.
Barcelona is a gorgeous city - clean and well laid out and with nice, nice people. Early each morning I stood on my little balcony and watched the city come awake. And every morning there was the white street-cleaning truck washing the streets. And people making deliveries - and other people standing on their little balconies greeting the morning. We were right off the Rambla - a busy main drag - but far enough away to miss all the noise. Something I didn't understand - day and night there were people walking through the streets shlepping suitcases - from where to where?
If you like Gaudi - this is the place for you. He designed such glorious buildings - Casa Batllo - La Pedrera - Park Guell - the Sagrada Familia Church - among others. What a fertile imagination he had. All so distinctive - and so "Gaudi". Of course - if you don't like his kind of work - this is not the place for you!!
I won't tell you about everything we saw - you'll have to go there yourself or read a guidbook - but I'll give you some of my impressions. All signs are written in at least two languages - depending on where you are - Spanish always and either Catalonian or Basque - and very often also in English - a very friendly place for tourists. I can understand and speak a very little bit of Spanish - nevermind that I ordered "helado" (ice-cream) instead of "hielo" (ice) for my Coke - the waitress understood me and very politely corrected me (politely being the operative word). Some words with the Ls are split - for instance the street named "Paral-lel" - so that one knows to pronounce the word as in parallel - not parayel. Speaking of which - I was always confused - had we been on "Paral-lel" or "Diagonal" or "Circular"? Those are all names of streets.
And the underground system - I rode it every day - and that's saying something. I've managed to avoid riding the subway in New York for at least thirty years - ditto the underground in London. (I did, however, use the underground in Prague and Berlin.) But Barcelona is something else. There are about seven lines - all well marked - all clean - and all the platforms with clocks telling you when the next train will arrive - and it arrives. All you have to do is look at a map - see where you want to go - get on the right train - and a light-up map over the train car door lights up to tell you what the next stop will be. For someone (me) who gets lost driving around the block that is a great system.
Saw almost everything that the guidebooks said to see - whatever I missed will have to wait for next time - and there will be a next time.
As for the food - that will be my next blog.
Friday, October 05, 2007
MORE THIS 'N' THAT
Neither, as it turns out. There is some kind of ship out in the Mediterranean whose signals are interfering with our cable company. Did you ever hear of such a thing? To make it up to us "YES" is giving us - for the next two weeks - free first-run movies. Whooppee! But it doesn't do me any good as I am going abroad for the next two weeks.
"THE HOLIDAYS" are finally over - whew! Absolutely nothing gets done here - it's always "leefnay ha chag" (before the holiday) or "acharay ha chag" (after the holiday). The post office virtually closes down operations, my money changer went on vacation (I need to get some euros), my hairdresser went away, almost all offices are on half-day schedules, my hairdresser went away, and it is impossible to drive in Jerusalem. And my hairdresser went away!!
The religious come from all over the world to spend "The Holidays" in Jerusalem. People who don't drive all year long are renting cars for the holiday period. Then we have "marches" - The March to Jerusalem, The Blessings of the Cohanim (Priests - jewish ones of course), the cars whose drivers can't see where they are going because the schach (the fronds used to cover the succot (temporary dwellings) is falling down over the windshields - and on and on and on.
Last week Ros (with an s) came back from her trip abroad. As she has lived here even longer than I have, I asked her what restaurants she remembered from our early days here. ( Remember the last blog I wrote?) So as we were having dinner in the Black Steer - which she remembered used to be the Pundak Motza back in the days when - she remembered a whole lot of other restaurants to add to my list - Beni Dagim, HaShipudia, Shipudei HaGefen, Rama, The Georgian which then became the Marrakesh, Mama Mia, La Fontana, Ha Tzrif, Savion, an Indian Restaurant whose name no one seems to remember on Rehov Yannai - but everyone remembers was there - and whose owner was called Flower Sillamon, a Chinese Restaurant at the top of the windmill next to the Kings Hotel, and Kerem.
By the way, in my last blog I gave the transliteration for a dish called "Jerusalem Mixed Grill" as meiourav. Myra - my expert on Hebrew pronounciation - says it should have been meyorav. I stand corrected.
And now I'll say goodbye for the next two weeks. Roz (with a z) and I are going off to Barcelona and Bilbao for a holiday. That's what I needed the euros for and why I can't take advantage of the "YES" offer of free films. Our trip sounds really exciting - we've planned all kinds of fun things to do and interesting side trips to make. Will let you know all about it when I get back. Have also heard that the food is wonderful - all kinds of beautiful fish and shellfish.