Originally published 1 January 2018
I really didn’t do the New Years celebration in Plaza Espana justice last night. At 3 a.m. I woke up sitting upright in a hotel chair trying to finish my post. I just can’t stay awake like I used to! 3 a.m. and I’m toast. The celebration was fantastic and without a doubt the most amazing I’ve ever seen, and we shared it with somewhere between 80-100k people.
As we were up half the night, we slept in. Well….for us we consider 10 am sleeping in anymore. As I’ve gotten older it seems that I can’t sleep late even if I try. This morning’s 10 a.m. wakeup is the best I could do.
We took showers and went across the street to a diner and had a simple breakfast of ham and cheese sandwiches, orange juice, and coffee. We finally got on the move around noon, got on the subway, and started wandering the city. We did find that some things were not open today due to the holiday, but that’s not unusual. You just roll with it and find things that are.
We took the subway to the La Ramblas area. When we emerged from the subway, a huge crowd of hundreds of squealing tweenage (I think that’s what they call them) girls gathered around a monument. Hundreds more people were standing back and watching. Some boy around 15 years old was taking selfies with and working the audience of girls.
I asked one of the cops If he spoke English and who the kid was. He said he spoke a little English, then rolled his eyes and sighed, making me think he had a daughter the same age at home. He said “Is a famous singer for children”. Totally uninterested in Spain’s answer to Justin Beeber, we moved on
Street performers were out in force today. We went by a guy playing Mark Knopfler on an electric guitar and tearing it up. We started down another pedestrian street and ran into a dance troupe in the middle of the street doing break dance moves that even I was impressed with.
Busker doing Jason Isbell covers
Laurie and I usually give a buck (or in this case a Euro) to street entertainers, which we did to both the dance troupe and the guitarist. They’re not beggars, they’re entertainers and these were doing a great job. The crowds loved them, and when the cops drove through the huge crowd the dancers parted the crowd so they could get through. The cops stopped to talk to the kids dancing and the crowd started to boo. The dancers shushed the crowd, chatted with the cops a minute, and the cops went on their way. The show continued. Kind of a mutual respect thing.
We wound up in old town because that’s usually where the cool stuff is. More narrow streets and buildings going back 4 or 5 hundred years. In one of these streets around the cathedral area, we ran across a guy playing guitar. He got my attention as I listened to him sing in Spanish, and recognized the song. He heard me say something to Laurie and figured out we were from the states. He switched to English in the middle of Jason Isbell’s “Speed trap town”. He followed with “Children of Children”, another off of the “Something more than free” album. I did NOT expect to hear a Barcelona street performer doing a great job with Jason Isbell. While well known in the states, I was impressed to find a follower in Europe. He got TWO euros and a tip of my hat.
I hear people say they are afraid to travel for a laundry list of reasons, mostly based in fear of the unknown. They worry about not knowing the language, the food, the accommodations, and I hear them say “they’re all very different from us”. The reality is, no they’re not. I can think of few things that prove this better than hanging out listening to a Barcelona guitarist pumping out Jason Isbell tunes. Gain an appreciation for that which joins us, not that which forces us apart.
We continue our trek and run into an empanadas stand! There’s no way I’m getting out of here without a couple of those. Laurie and I order a couple to share, and they are everything we hoped they would be. We ate them on our way to the synagogue which was a stop on Laurie’s list. We found like several other things we ran across today, they were closed for the holiday. We’ll have to try again.
A typical European church
We stuck our heads in one of the churches, a common European thing. This one was no less impressive with huge vaulted ceilings, actual graves in the floor of the church dating back to the 1600’s and maybe before. It’s hard to tell as hundreds of years of foot traffic have worn down the engraving. The graves are part of the floor and you actually walk on them in the church. They’re part of the floor.
Art is everywhere here, much to Laurie’s delight. There are sculptures everywhere, mosaics on walls and on the ground, street art (graffiti) of amazing quality, you can see art wherever you turn. I love seeing Laurie light up when she runs into one of these random public art displays. Tomorrow I’ll get to watch her light up when she finds more.
We are VERY aware of the Catalonian independence movement. For those who are unaware, Catalonia became a part of Spain in something like the 1600’s. To this day, the Catalonians are a little less than pleased about this. In the past few years, Catalonian independence supporters have gained support and eventually started their own parliament.
A few months ago, they voted to secede from Spain, which didn’t make Spain very happy. Spain sent in troops and/or police to put down the uprising. It wasn’t a civil war or anything, but there were Spanish cops beating Catalonian protesters on TV.
The Catalonian leaders fled to Belgium when Spain started to bring charges of rebellion, so they could throw them in prison. They replaced the leaders in their parliament with pro Spain/unity leaders. It would be an understatement to say the locals are a little less than happy about this. Catalonian flags are everywhere, hanging in windows, from balconies, along with banners commenting on the situation. This is a huge thing here.
We do love our tapas!
I told Laurie when things were coming apart that our trip to Barcelona may be a little more interesting than expected. I also told her that while I didn’t think it would come to that, a civil war would make for one hell of an interesting travel blog. Lucky for us, it has not come to that. Thing are quiet, but as shown with the banners and flags, it is not forgotten. There’s more of this to come.
We stop for tapas, which are actually Spanish and not Catalonian. While the Catalonians do not view themselves as Spaniards, they’re not above making a buck selling tapas. It’s a good thing for us because tapas are delicious! We stop for a drink and tapas in a street café, which we leisurely enjoyed while watching all the people stroll by.
An old man was working from table to table, playing songs on a harmonica for coins. He worked his way through the café and eventually wound up at our table. Laurie’s Spanish is actually much better than she’s willing to admit. After the old guy plays his song (which we gave him a euro for), he asked Laurie if we spoke Spanish. I shook my head, but Laurie said “poco”, which means “a little”.
At this point one of the waiters brought the old man a bottle of water. He chatted with the waiter a minute or two and thanked him profusely. He told Laurie that the people at this tapas restaurant were very nice to him. They didn’t call the cops on him, they let him play his music and let him make a little money.
Banners in support of Catalonian independence
He also told her that he was incredibly appreciative that they let him do this and that every day they bring him a bottle of water to drink. This was a nice story…and like the guitarist doing Jason Isbell songs, shows us we’re not that different. I wish we had taken a picture of the old guy. Stories about people being nice to each other and taking care of each other are becoming more rare these days. I’m glad to know they’re still out there.
We wander a bit more, buy cookies off of a small Christmas market vendor and then wind up in Casino Barcelona. Laurie was kind enough to let me play a few hours of poker. I love playing different places and always skim a dollar chip for my collection from places I’ve played. I didn’t win, but didn’t exactly get hurt bad either. I enjoyed it and appreciate Laurie being patient with me while I did something I wanted.
We headed back to the hotel. Laurie has already turned in and I’m about to follow. We seem to stay up later here. It’s a late night culture with places open late and cool things going on. We sort of fell into this. There are worse things than sleeping in and staying out late with the locals.
Barcelona day two slide show