In Barcelona, On a Sunday

Sunday, September 5th, 2004: Barcelona, Spain

We sleep late, as apparently everyone does here in Barcelona, at least on Sunday. We head to the big wide boulevards to find a cup of coffee and a brioche. We thought the price of dinner last night, amazingly reasonable, was an anomaly: we confirm this morning that eating out in Spain is more reasonable than anywhere we’ve been in Western Europe.

A Sunday Ramble down La Rambla

After cafés con leche and xuxus, we head to La Rambla, the long avenue that makes its way from the Placa de Catalunya to the harbour. Down we walk, moving with the crowds, first through the bird market, then through the living statues, then the flower market. A perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, until we come across a newsstand where we learn, days after the event began, of the atrocity in Beslan. We read in shock and sorrow the story, not wanting to believe. We finally pull ourselves away from the news, and continue our walk. The street takes us past some wonderful buildings, but most of the crowd seems oblivious to them, focusing on the sea of humanity that surrounds them. We arrive at the harbour, with its huge statue of Columbus. Long neglected, but rediscovered as the city prepared for the 1992 Olympics, it reminds us of Montreal’s Vieux Port or Chicago’s Navy Pier.

A Gothic Turn

From the harbour, we head into the Barri Gotic, Barcelona’s medieval city. We are expecting something much bigger than it is: Barcelona was not a big city during the Middle Ages. We wander with the crowds, heading up to the Placa de Sant Jaume (Santiago in Spanish and St. James in English) and the Cathedral to find it clothed in renovation finery, hiding it’s splendid façade. We also discover that Sant Jordi (St. George) is Catalunya’s patron saint, and he is visible killing his dragon in a number of locations in the Barri. We’re a bit surprised to see him, we’ve now seen him in almost every country we’ve visited in Western Europe, and he is a hero in each of them.

Our feet are tired and we ramble back to the hotel for naps. The hotel has proven disappointing, and when we get back we advise them we are going to leave on Monday, and not Tuesday as arranged. They tell us they will not refund our final night’s payment, and we tell them that we are leaving nonetheless.

We walk over to La Rambla de Catalunya, the continuation of La Rambla in l‘Eixample on the other side of the Placa de Catalunya, and sit outside in a tapas restaurant on the boulevard for an early dinner. The place is full, despite the hour. We chat with our waitress, an Italian from Rome who tells us that “Barcelona is easy to live in, Rome isn’t ”

And then we head home to bed, despite the early hour, as apparently everyone does here in Barcelona, at least on Sunday.

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