Friday, October 16, 2015

Barcelona Take 2

It's our second time visiting this fantastic city and it's starting to feel familiar.  We actually recognize some areas now and are able to easily navigate.  I get two days to tinker around while Dean is working.  The evening I arrived I was immediately whisked away to dinner with 12 guys from Dean's work team.  We started at a client cocktail party then went to dinner at this little hole in the wall place that seated our big group plus maybe 12 more.  The restaurant owner came over made some suggestions and the boys were all "yeah that sounds good, just bring it."  The plates just kept rolling and the wine kept flowing for 3+ hours.  It was an all protein meeal, not a vegetable or anything green in sight.  I learned a new term from one of the British team members when he announced loudly that he was wearing his "meat pants so just start bringing the food."  We had tomatoe bread, clams, calimari, steak, jamon, red prawns (scampi) and the house red was quite good.  We all toasted to the good evening with lemoncello at the end.  We finally made it to the hotel at 12:30 am and I had been up for nearly 2 days by this point.  I collapsed into bed and didn't move a muscle for 5 hours.  

Day 1 - Adjusting
My day began with a super slow start and I didn't accomplish much.  The rainy, muggy weather complimented my sluggish start.  I made my way on the metro (subway) over to Il Corte Ingles (the big department store in Spain) to find the travel agent so I could get our train tickets for Madrid & Seville then back.  You can't quite trust the "foreign" websites with these types of purchases so I went to the old fashion travel agent. I was not alone in my endeavor, the queue was 8-people deep when I left.  I bought shoes 😀 on my way out of the store, officially marking the start of my vacation.  I made my way back to the hotel for a very quick siesta (I love love love siesta - nothing like a little nap in the afternoon.  It feels so decadant.  After siesta we were off to dinner with more of Dean's colleagues.  We had tapas and cocktails (sangria) at one place them went to another restaurant for dinner, dessert and more great conversation.  The boys even let me pick the drink ... Cava Sangria with mellon.  They liked it well enough to order another pitcher.  Dean works with a great bunch.

Day 2 - Montjuic
Despite the lack of sleep I was up and at it early.  We had breakfast together.  Dean went to work and I went out to explore the neighborhood of Montjuic.  The train station is about a mile (maybe a little more) from the hotel and Dean had a pre-paid metro card as a conference lab captain.  Trains make it is so easy to get around.  The metro has frequently running cars and takes you just about anywhere you want to go.  I made my way up to the top of Montjuic "mountain" then hoppped on a cable car to the very top at Castell de Montjuic.  On the way back down from the castle I met a young lady from Poland, who's father was attending the VMware conference.  Small world.

Translated literally Montjuic means "Mount of Jews."   This neighborhood was also the site of the 1992 Summr Olympics and the 1929 World's Fair.  The wooded hillside overlooks the city and port of Barcelona.  At the top is a star shaped fortress, Castell de Montjuic.  Today it is an empty brick and concrete shell offering expansive city and port views.  Originally built by the Spanish government in the 18th century and intended to keep an eye on the city and stifle it's citizens.  When dictator Franco was in power during the 20th century, the castle was the site of hundreds of politiccal executions.

I began the trek back down the hill via Jardin de Laribal which had lovely walking/jogging paths.  About ½ way down I stopped at the Fundacio Joan Miro (museum).  Joan Miro (pronounced zhoo-ahn mee-roh) was another Catalan artist who created modern and contemprary works.  The art was fun, fantastic and at times disturbing, though I suspect disturbing was not his intent.  Joan believed everything in the cosmos was linked - colors, sky, stars, love, time, music, dogs, men, women, dirt and the void.  He creatively mixed childlike symbols of these things.   Some of it I got ... some I didn't.  

Continuting down the hill is the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (Catalan Art Museum).  My feet had had enough at this point so I just spent a little time enjoying the grounds rather than going inside.  Below are photos of the Font Magica (Magic Fountains).  Several times per evening, after dark, music and colored lights bring the fountains to life.   Perhaps when we return to Barcelona in a few days we'll be able to take in the show.

Below - looking torward Placa d' Espanya

Dinner was at Bar Canete near La Rambla.  We met one of Dean's colleagues and his wife.  Wow, the food was good.  It's wonderful to be able to order several small plates and enjoy a couple bittes of several dishes.  

Day 3 - Travel to Madrid
We're taking the high-speed Ave train, which takes 3 hours and 10 minutes to go 432 miles (with a few stops along the way).  Our top speed was 212 kph (about 186 mph).  It's a smooth ride and so fun to go whipping by cars on the freeway,    We have several things planned for our 3 days in Madrid.  Stay tuned.

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