Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Valencia and Barcelona


Yesterday we left Valencia for Barcelona. The morning was spent visiting the Cathedral of Valencia, where a cup claiming to be the Holy Grail resides. The significance of this cup is that the Catholic church actually recognizes its existence, and it has been used as the official cup of numerous popes, as well as being used in many ceremonies by many more. This one is so special mainly because of its extensive history which has been well documented. This grail can be tracked back to the right times in the right places, and when it changed hands, it has been recorded (as opposed to a hostile takeover of treasuries which probably would not record items very extensively). The church also has a beautiful cupula which was covered with a false facade for centuries until recently a beautiful painting of angels playing various instruments was discovered underneath a false ceiling, and the restoration of these paintings leaves a breathless blue sky with spectacularly garbed angels with different musical specialties (including a portable organ).
After the cathedral (which incidentally is called such for the cathedra - the chair or throne of a bishop which is often located behind the main altar), we had a quick lunch of paella, duck, and fresh fruit. The paella was traditional Paella Valenciana, which includes rabbit and chicken. I hate to admit this because it spells the end of Thumper from Bambi, but rabbit is delicious. Much tastier than chicken. And it's not even a close comparison. I guess that could be a good things since I imagine rabbit is pretty sustainable (high reproduction rate and all), but it's harder when you imagine how cute rabbits are, and then you see a face on your plate instead of just bones and meat. Well we are a society of disconnection from our food. And I guess if I want to continue to eat rabbit, I should learn to deal with the cute little face popping up in the back of my mind if I bite into a leg of bunny.
The trip from Valencia to Barcelona was rather short, and after checking into our hotel in the early evening, we went up to the rooftop bar for a bite to eat. The food was fantastic - barbecued lamb skewers (I'm on a roll with the cute animals) with vegetables, and the best mojito of my life. The bartender up there really knew how to muddle, and there had to be an entire mint plant in my glass, as well as most of a lime. It was perfectly balanced, and you can never go wrong with a little more mint in a mojito.
We called it a night relatively early (about midnight) so that we could get a full day exploring Barcelona in the morning. We started with Park Guell, which is an amazing experience. The way Antonio Gaudi designed things is unlike any traditional designer I've seen before. Art Nouveau was just becoming popular when he studied architecture, but I can't imagine any of his ideas came from school. He must have been born with the shapes of his designs in his head. Bursting forth like Athena from Zeus. And each of his works, though surely from the same visionary, is surely distinguishable for particular style or colors.
After a quick trip to the beautiful and fruitful Barcelona market, we stopped by the Casa Ballo, a house designed by Gaudi for a wealthy textile industrialist, is crazy. He used techniques never before conceived of, but which were used in the Rationalist architecture movement 30 years later. He used a color gradiation in the light tunnel to keep the level of light throughout constant. He created air flow and filtration through slats in the walls, and he used a type of arch which minimizes the material needed to build it, but still maintains its strength. The walls of Gaudi buildings are almost always curved, with nary a straight line or corner in sight. Apparently his inspiration comes from nature - and in this house the ocean - and it shows. The blues, purples, lilacs, and ceruleans of glass windows around the building change with time of day and the light streaming through, creating a whimsical underwater paradise. And the curved ceiling and walls contribute to the ethereal quality.
Of course, a visit to Barcelona and a tour of Gaudi would not be complete without a trip to the Sagrada Familia. We were told it wasn't worth the long lines and steep entry price to go inside the cathedral - especially since it's still under construction (apparently it's normal for them to take at least 100 years for completion) - but we did walk around the perimeter, and the outside at least is in the same whimsical, unique vein.
We then headed back to the hotel for a late dinner, and having been inspired by the delicious lamb the night before, we ordered 3 barbecue skewers. This time, although the flavoring was spot on, dad and I got very fatty and chewy pieces of lamb. It was difficult and disgusting to eat, and impossible to cut through. Dad went up and told our waiter that the lamb was so bad, he couldn't even cut through it. The waiter nodded understanding - even with his limited understanding of English - and said he would bring out two more. About 5 minuted later we got 2 more...knives! He thought that the problem was the knife, so he had brought us two more serrated butter knives instead of replacement dinners, which my father had been trying to obliquely request. Unfortunately, we didn't realize this until after the grill had closed, and we inspected the two silverware pieces the water had brought us, cleanly wrapped in a napkin - two knifes. While we were disappointed in the dinner, he clearly tried to understand our request, but simply came up with the wrong response. Haha. So off to bed, rising early tomorrow for the flight to GENEVA.

Oh, and I finally got my jersey for La Furia Roja, and I decided on David Villa, because number 7 is always lucky, plus he's been doing pretty well! I guess I have to wear it tomorrow, since there's a distinct possibility Germany will trounce Spain. Is it bad I hope Spain wins mainly because that means I get to wear my jersey again? I guess there are worse reasons.

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