“You’re going where? Barcelona?” asked the cabdriver, because all of my stories start with something weird the cabdriver said. (Correction: sometimes they start with something weird I did with a cabdriver, like try to pay with a check or a piggy bank. But that is a story for another day. For when we have fingers of whiskey and talk about our youths…)
Anyway, “you’re really gonna take it there,” he continued cryptically, and he dropped me at the bus station where puzzled, I went on my way.
27 hours later, I got a “10% off erotic massage” ticket upon check-in. I was pleased to know that if I did in fact wish to “take it”, it would be at substantial discount. Holy prescient cabdriver who does not know me at ALL.
I’m not in a seedy or red-lighty district, by the way, like that hotel in Bangkok that left me condoms and a mint on my pillow. There were dozens of coupons in my face here, most of them for the brigade of upright citizens. That just happened to be the one that caught my eye before my eye swung shut with its partner for the jet-lagged nap.
I woke up hours later, famished, and thus dropped into the nearest cafe, where I was immediately struck with the realization that I have almost zero conversational Spanish. When the waiter came, all I could think of to say were some French words and “Feliz Navidad.” Alan taught me “where is the bathroom?” just before I left, but it wasn’t appropriate in a food-ordering situation (even though it kind of sounds like a Vietnamese sandwich) so I just sort of grimaced and pointed at the menu. I ate a tiny flute-shaped ham baguette, pretended (by nodding knowingly at my plate just in case anyone was looking) that I had only ordered that much on purpose, and went on my merry way.
My destination was Parc Guëll, mostly because I heard someone say it once and the accent was enchanting. Plus this Gaudí fellow who created it is all over the B’lona guidebooks as “can’t miss!”
As it turns out, this is because you literally cannot miss the dude’s work. It is like drugs took drugs and had baby drugs and took them, too. And then they grabbed nautilus and turtle and python shapes and multiplied them and mushed them all together and built buildings. So interesting, and soooooooo weird. Like this one, Casa Batlló:
Before I was anywhere near the Gaudí-designed Parc Guêll, this wavy building stopped me short:
La Pedrera, or Casa Mila. I vaguely remembered at some point reading about the rooftop, which is Spanish Happy Fun Place, so I bought a ticket immediately. Security was tight and I had to run my bag through the machine, presumably so they could look for the kinds of hallucinogens the artist- Gaudí, of course- took before parking his buns at the drawing board.
My audioguide- which had Sony Walkman memory foam headphones that made me want to throw a Boombox on my shoulder and crank the Flava Flav- said that this is a UNESCO world heritage building, which is apparently a Spanish phrase that translates to “wicked flippin’ cool”. Outside is the aforementioned wavy Wonderlandyness and inside, the attic is gothicly lit with a hint of bat cave. Not just any old bat, though. Cheshire bats, for sure.
On the rooftop, this:
They were looking over this Saharan dune-style undulating floor plan that people don’t walk on without prohibitive fences or dying: remember, we were seven stories in the air. Gaudí actually is Spanish for undulating, probably, but after reading a little more about his work, I’m less inclined to call him nuts than brilliant. He did, in fact, look to replicate nature in his designs, and how he managed to build a castle that looks like a giant melted candle but still retains functionality and is magnificently lit and beautifully structured both inside and out is beyond me. Salvador Dali has a history in this town, too.
I’ll bet the two were drinking buddies. Okay, here’s one more:
Those shiny things that garnish their faces are champagne bottle shards, by the way. The friend group unconsciously tried to replicate that one New Year’s Eve at 1410, but instead of “expensive champagne” it was “4-dollar bubbly”, and in place of “modern art” we had “an accident”. But hey, don’t the above guys kind of resemble the fertility statues in the Thai phallus cave? I totally think so:
Small world as far as artistic inspiration, right? Anyway, off to Parc Guëll.
Interlude: The international language of friendship is definitely booze, folks. I had an hour to kill between buying my ticket and actually being allowed in the park, so I popped into this restaurant for some squids and anchovies. When the friendly waiter waggled his eyebrows and offered beer, I put a horrified American look on my face and declined. He was equally horrified for his perceived faux pas for a moment, but then I saved him by grinning and demanding Jack Daniels. I tried to order en español, which is ridiculous because what am I going to say? Juan Danielle? So I put a weird accent on it, he laughed and gave me a strong Gritty’s pour, and here we are now: friends.
Did you know you can stuff squid, by the way? Neither did I, but I now know why it’s found on maybe four other menus worldwide. The squid part at this place was the predictable texture and consistency of the meanest kraken, but instead of being round, fried, and ringletted, it’s about the size and shape of a Wonder bread. And it’s wrapped around the same meat product, I think, that can otherwise only be found in canned corned beef hash. You know, the one that comes with the potatoes that look like tiny dice, potentially signifying what a gamble it is to eat the stuff? That’s what this squid is stuffed with, and there are also brown peas in there and it’s gross. Back to my Juan Danielle. End interlude. Here’s Parc Güell:
It ended up being okay, and then I went back to La Pedrera for a night light show, too. All in all a solid day of taking it. So thank you, cabdriver: your words did guide me here.
I’m glad I didn’t pay you with a check.