Following a rapid week in Granada, I packed my bag for a long weekend with my grandparents in Barcelona. They were in the midst of a European swing, with this stop sandwiched between visits to Bilbao and Prague. I hadn't seen them, or any of my family for that matter, since I left for Zurich in July, and I was really looking forward to a little slice of home. Wednesday, after an adventure, I jetted across the continent to a city that is constantly mentioned as ranking among the top five in the world. After four days filled with art, architecture, TONS of food, and ample relaxation, I would have to say that I agree wholeheartedly.
During the weekend I was lucky enough to stay at Casa Fuster, an extremely luxurious hotel in the heart of the city. The building of the hotel was designed by a contemporary of Gaudi, and it is a really cool old building complete with an impressive façade, hundred year old chairs, and an awesome terrace on the roof where I saw a daily sunrise after a trip to the adjoining gym.
It is fair to say that I was not stressed too much this weekend, and after lots of sleep, a few hundred thousand calories, and leisurely visits to museums during the days, I am contentedly serene heading back to Granada.
As far as visits, the Max man gained a lot of culture this weekend. First I must begin with Antoni Gaudi. After seeing his Casa Batló, La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia, and Parc Güell, I am really in awe with the man. He utilized curves, angles, and natural figures and shapes in stunning manners that would be groundbreaking if done today, let alone over a century ago. The way in which his structures challenge traditional notions of space and light in their simple formation really is mind blowing.
One of my favorite exhibits in La Pedrera showed a variety of natural examples, with everything from scallop shells and rat skeletons to leaves and pinecones. Gaudi's ability to construct buildings that so closely resembled these various figures was astounding, and his work also has a degree of modern cubism to it, in that the viewer's interpretation changes with each successive point of view.
The Sagrada Familia was amazing, as the interior just looks like a huge forest, complete with ridiculous stained glass, my favorite.
Out of the Gaudi works my favorite was probably a deserted Parc Güell at sunrise after a drizzly morning run. After climbing the hill to the park from downtown, I did a quick workout on the famous benches covered in gorgeous tiles with not a soul in sight, an extremely peaceful experience and a great way to start the day. It is obvious that the man was a true visionary far ahead of his time, and I'm lucky enough to be able to view his work in such great ways.
Continuing our cultural binge, other visits included the museums of Picasso, Miro, and Contemporary Art, as well as the Palau de Musica, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. The Picasso collection, while missing a solid 30 year gap in his life, left me with two impressions: first, how truly prodigal he was, beginning at the age of 13, and second, how much his work changed throughout his life, especially after the influences of the Vanguard movement and the Spanish Civil War. His countless duplications of Velasquez's Las Meninas were incredible.
Miro was similar in that they were both educated at traditional academies, but quickly branched off in creating their own styles of expression. The Miro Museum was probably the highlight of my trip, as I really enjoyed all of his work, including the astral abstractness of his pursuit of painting as poetry, his unbelievable sculptures using all sorts of materials, and the obvious fun he had in producing art, which was a contrast from most of the other artists I've studied this far.
The Museum of Contemporary Art had some really cool exhibits on urbanism and works by Antoni Tapié, and the Palau de Musica was a stunning display of colors that really was a great use of available space.
I was certainly very stimulated this weekend, and doing a lot of thinking and reflection is never a bad way to gain perspective with some masters from the past.
No description of this weekend would be complete without touching on the food. We were joined every night by my good friend Philip "The Holz" Greenholz, studying abroad here, and we really had some great meals in a city known for being a foodie haven. Every morning started off with a massive buffet at the hotel, with an omelet bar, homemade juices, pastries, and cheeses, and most importantly, a yogurt bar with a wide selection of fresh fruit, which I took full advantage of after a morning workout. Lunch was usually pretty light, as Jude and Harv stick to a pretty American schedule, but our dinners were incredible. Despite my grandparents' initial hesitation we ended up doing tapas every night, and I think that they were coming around the family-style meals with many small dishes by the time I left. We had everything; special Blackfoot Iberian Ham with mushrooms, tostadas and montaditos of everything from anchovies and peppers to smoked salmon and stuffed bell peppers, steak and veal with veggies, phenomenal goat cheese, and great shrimp and octopus. Our lone large lunch followed a stop at the famous Boqueira market, and we shared a massive seafood platter, the Holz Special, with cod, salmon, razor clams, mussels, and lobster heaped on a large plate with some grilled veggies on the side. And of course, our meals were never complete without a sampling menu of each restaurant's desserts, with one night being crema Catalana, almond cake, molten dark chocolate, and pumpkin pastry, and another being chocolate cake a la mode, fruit with redcurrant yogurt, cottage cheese pie (basically cheesecake), and violet flower ice cream, our favorite. My favorite meal, not due to the food but instead the ambience, was a jazz night at the hotel. We had champagne and Rioja wine and a sampler of four appetizers and mains each, finished with dessert, of course. The highlights included a Spanish wrap of ham, spinach, and Manchego cheese, and quail egg with spicy chorizo and potatoes. The best single dish of the weekend was a timbal (tower) of sautéed red peppers and eggplant, topped with melted goat cheese - really, really good. I obviously didn't eat much this weekend and enjoyed it very little, and am looking forward to my next travel weekends eating out of grocery stores and sleeping in airports. The entire weekend was a lavish culinary experience, and I cannot thank my grandparents enough for everything.
While my Barcelona experience was certainly not the typical student weekend trip to the city, it was enjoyable to say the least. I was lucky enough to spend four great days with some friendly faces from back home, which in addition to my grandparents and Phil included literally running into a friend from CU at the Miro Museum. However, make no mistake that this weekend was made possible by my Judy and Yayta, and I am filled to the brim with love and appreciation for all they did for me this weekend. I met up with some friends from Granada on the flight home, and I certainly did not do the hostel grind and budget life the last few days. However, I believe one should never turn down the four-star experience when offered it, right? Morality aside, I head back south reinforced with a full stomach and a backpack full of Chapstick and some much-needed Cholula from back home, and am looking forward to a great week and an equally fun, although certainly different to next week's destination of choice: London.
From above the bright lights of a sleeping Spain,