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.
I only wish Canada was closer to Europe and to Israel.
Love Ya and even though you may not have that much contact with Mackie and Yael - you are on my list to see when I am next in Israel.
I can't wait to hear about the food.
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