Originally, our morning was not supposed to be devoted to the admiration of giant ocean going ego-strokes, but rather something far more cultural – a walk down Barcelona’s fanciest shopping street, Passeig de Gràcia. Specifically, we wanted to see a row of buildings called the Block of Discord, comprised of three buildings by Antonio Gaudi.
Leaving the Barri Gòtic we crossed the Plaça Catalunya where it was hard to tell whether there were more pigeons or people. Pigeons probably. We passed an old man playing the accordion and I stopped to give him a few Euro coins. He took his hands off the keyboard to put the money away, but the music didn’t stop with his action. He was playing air-accordion and the music was taped. Tricky way to separate kindly tourists from their money.
All the major luxe shops are represented here – Dior, Chanel, Rolex, Burberry – and a host of second tier brands too. Lots of window shopping going on as well. We took a turn into an inside mall and got roped into a cosmetics store where a young lady first wowed MLW by shining her nails with a magic brush. Then she made us put our hands in a basin and scrub them with a salt mixture followed by a water spray that showed just how filthy our hands had become merely by walking from home. She tried hard to sell us a whole pile of stuff but I was able to somewhat successfully argue that we could not bring all this stuff home on the plane so in the end we shelled out only for the magic brush and some associated creams.
The intended goal of this walk was found by the hordes of people standing and talking photos with their phones. The buildings were interesting, as Gaudi’s work always is, but not as amazing as I had expected them to be. We went on to the other building of his, the Casa Milà a bit further up the road and it too was interesting but not shocking. Having reached the end of Le Tour de Gaudi, we turned around and headed back down the other side of the street for the sake of variety.
Yesterday was MLW’s birthday, so when we walked past a Swarovski store, the logical choice was to go in and get her a trinket. And so we did, a really cool little bracelet that can double as a necklace made of purple pave crystals on a flexible nylon rope core. If that sounds a bit scientific, well I suppose it is but what’s more important is that it looks really nice.
After lunch at the little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop by our apartment we headed to the ocean, stopping first to by a recommended map at the local tourist office. Passing Columbus high up on his column at the base of La Rambla we crossed the boulevard and wandered along the boat basin. I’ve already told the story of the Billionaire Boats so this story picks up once we were able to put our eyes back in our heads.
The promenade that leads down to the beach and Barceloneta curves around the more modest side of the harbor - in other words the backside of the 65 meter yachts. The timbre of this place was very different - it was just like urban seasides everywhere. Tons of tourists, lots of waterfront restaurants with heaters or glass panels to fight back the cold. A completely different scene that what’s going on in the old city just across the street. We took a long stroll along a pretty nice boardwalk watching the jet skiers, bathers lying in the sand in their down jackets, young people shielding their eyes as they sat on chaise lounges playing with their phones. A typical beach scene. We stopped for a glass of wine at one of the boardwalk restaurants and I watched the young bartender as she created pitcher after pitcher of sangria for her tourist clientele.
Moving on we made sure to find a decent shot of Frank Gehry’s Goldfish sculpture, installed for the 1992 Olympics and hovering today over a handful of tacky tourist shops. Made of gold metal straps and shining in the sun, it looks as though it wishes it could break its earthly bounds and hop over the stores blocking its escape to the blue sea beyond.
It was getting to be late afternoon so we turned back towards the old city and made our way around the beautiful lush Parc de la Ciutadella, noisy parrots chattering at us as we walked down the long dirt path under the plane trees. Crossing the main street and preparing to make our left turn into the Barri, we passed a group of 6 or 8 young women, each wearing a pink sash that said “Kaitlyn’s Hen Party, 2016.” I wish I could have been faster with the camera for that scene.