Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Barcelona, a Belated Fond Farewell

We are still in Puerto Vallarta, with our balcony over the Bay, watching iguanas and sweating like pros. I'm going to catch up on the Blog while Sean is at the gym. I got a little inspired and nostalgic today...we received an email asking for tips and beach directions from two of our friends who just landed in BCN. Even looking at the Google Maps for the recommendations made me a little nostalgic, and we only left six weeks ago. It's that kind of town.

When we landed back in Barcelona from our jaunt North to Oslo & Prague, it was a city transformed. Previously busy streets (like ours) were now just THICK with tourists. Summer Season was on, the buses were full, and the city was swarming like a hive. Bam!

Our friend Eliot came down from London with his pal Mark for a visit. It was lovely to see them, and have Eliot as a housemate for a few days. One major advantage of having your friends come visit is that they are a wonderful motivation to get out and see things in this new town you're living in. Eliot wanted to see the Mies van der Rohe Pavillion, so we finally paid homage on a blazing afternoon.

We took them up top of Montjuic to enjoy some cavagria (on my part) and beers (on theirs). The action highlight, of course, was the attempted purse snatch on Barcelonetta beach.
The three gentlemen just prior to The Incident
Attempted, because some locals started gesturing frantically and yelling, and being bright red, my purse was easy to spot bobbing away up the beach towards the city. I set off in hot pursuit (topless) and caught up with the thieves at the same time the undercover cops did. It all ended well, if a bit comically, and Sean took care of our guests while I spent the first part of the evening at the Police station filing the report. It was the first and only time we'll ever lounge on that beach. Sitges or the other side of the Port Olympic for me, thank you!

It was still a wonderful weekend. Our last days in Barcelona were packed and happy. We made a few trips to some favorite spots, and Sean came with me to see the Pedrera (I had done Batllo with Claire) and the Chocolate museum.

One of the displays
We even took a sea kayaking trip via TravelBar up north to the Costa Brava and had a hot beautiful day paddling and snorkeling! What a treat.
My only picture from the day - no dry bags = no camera

One of our last nights in town, we had an SF connection rock-n-roll treat! Friends of Friends Paula O'Rourke and Eric McFadden were performing mere blocks from our flat at the Monasterio club near the water. We had a great time meeting everyone and hearing some awesome music. Our buddy Mathias from the language school was even there! Good Times.

We finally had to say a sad farewell to our beloved language school and L'Ascensor bar, two places I think we spent a considerable amount of time! We were ready to head home for a bit, though, and escape the summer throngs - me back to Higgins Lake, and he to upstate New York for some mutual family time before regrouping in San Francisco.

I'll get some Mexican Posts up before we leave here, I swear.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I'm looking out over the Bay of Banderas in Jalisco, Mexico. Having finished my SketchUp homework for the day, I'm going to do some blog catch-up before subjecting my husband to more episodes from Season 4 Battlestar Galactica. The religious hoo-ha makes him rant a bit. But I'm determined to finish the series out...three years late.

SO! Back to Prague. To NOT visit the castle seemed absurd, so I checked the metro map and our teeny guidebook and we decided to go one stop past the castle and walk downhill. The throbbing tourist hordes were intimidating. The Prague metro was cool, but very subtle in its signage. I'm not sure I would have known where the entrances were if I hadn't stumbled into one by accident.

ALSO! One of the themes of our time in Europe has been Las Obras, street construction. We exited from our station, and followed folks up the escalators and out the doors to...6ft high plywood walls leading you through a major construction site. So we followed the crowd, and eventually came out on a sidewalk. The sky was hazy with humidity, and we were thoroughly turned around. But off we went! To the Castle! More accurately, OFF THE MAP! Things got tense as it became clear that we had wandered into the embassy district, and/or the military slash rich person enclave district. The armed guards, cars with tinted glass and flags, and barbed wire+camera combos gave it away, really. Oops. Castles we found, but not the medieval variety. Here is a street sign from our sweaty wander. Google Map it. That's right. We got some exercise and sweated off our Heineho's.

A very nice lady at a commuter train station and I had one of those German/Czech/English patois conversations that conveyed successfully to her that a) we had no idea where we were b)we didn't want to be where we were and c) we had no idea how to get to the castle. She literally walked us up a hill, across the street, and plunked us in front of a bus stop and told us to get on it. So we did, bless her. And it took us right back to where we started, but on the OTHER side of the construction. Las Obras! We then found our way to the moat, and the gardens, and the castle, and eventually back into the delicious bosom of the Cafe Gran Orient for a well earned meal. Whew!

The view from the castle wall facing the River was wonderful. I could see a massive sculpture wall on an interior courtyard, but couldn't see how to get there. If anyone knows what it is or when/why it was completed, I would love to know.

The rest of the evening was spent window shopping and admiring the decorative art of Prague, before retiring to our hotel for some vodka + strange television. We fly back to Barcelona in the morning.
OH! and a P.S. -- The Prague Garbage Men wear amazing coveralls in U. of Miami colors. We tried to find some for Sean and various members of the Miami expats, but to no avail.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Praha - Prague


Sean and I hadn't actually figured out our route home from Oslo when we left Barcelona. It just didn't seem as important as getting to Oslo. Which we did. So, found this airline, Wizz Air (I know, I know), that would fly from Oslo->(Prague or Gdansk)->Barcelona. We opted for Prague.

The heat and the mad crush of tourists were a foreshadowing of what awaited us back in Barcelona, we just didn't know it yet. Prague as a city is ridiculously beautiful. The curving Vltava River, bridges galore, beautiful architecture and winding streets with a Castle to boot. We bought a pocket guide in the airport on our way out of Norway, and read it on the flight there. Well, I did. It did one major thing - led us to the Cubist Cafe where we had wildly delicious food on a balcony above the throngs, and in a relatively smoke-free atmosphere. After the blandness of Spanish food, the horseradish and mustard felt heaven-sent.

The Art Nouveau decorative action on the buildings in Prague is stunning. Truly beautiful. The fact that it has survived all the Wars, has been maintained and preserved is also stunning. It made walking safely a challenge. Mostly for Sean because I kept stopping without warning or stumbling into him. Patient man.

The Vltava River was bustling, and we enjoyed the Charles bridge...from a distance, and really enjoyed strolling along it at night.

The history of Prague has intrigued me for a long time, mostly because of the very deep history in Physics associated with the city. It also has an incredibly rich (and sad) Jewish history. One very hot day I visited the cemetery solo, and several of the synagogues in the old Jewish quarter. The grave of Rabbi Lowe was very moving.

Note the depth of the cemetery; street level versus the surface inside the cemetery. Sobering.

Our epic trip to the Castle will be the next post. OH TOURIST MAPS!