Barcelona, Day 4 – July 4

Happy Independece Day, whenever yours is.  Mine is today, but being vastly outnumbered, I’m not planning any overt celebrating.  I looked up Spanish independence and got an interesting response:  Although there is no exact date for Spain’s national independence day, the defeat of Granada in 1492 marked the rise of what is considered modern-day Spain. Granada was the last significant fortification of the Muslims who occupied the country from the 8th century C.E. until the late 15th century.  Throughout its long history, Spain has been repeatedly occupied and settled by various groups of people, including the Iberians, Celts and Basques. In 206 B.C.E., the nation became a territory of the ancient Roman Empire before it was overtaken by Visigoths in 412 C.E.  Under the leadership of Tariq, Spain was conquered by Islamic forces in 711 C.E.  After almost 7 centuries under Muslim rule, a small Christian faction from the north launched a reconquest effort, which ended in the capture of Granada. This event led to the union of major Spanish kingdoms.

So, it’s called National or Hispanic Day and it’s celebrated on October 12th.  Ironically, it commemorates Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America in 1492, rather than the stuff above.  The rich cultural heritage and the strengthening democracy of the country are showcased.  Still, I’m not getting it.  Why would they give a pig’s tail for Chris’ stumbling on the shore that we now call ours?

Picasso (1891 – 1973) is the focus of today’s outing.  The Museu Picasso has 4,251 works, but many are what I’d call practice works; many of the same subject, in various poses and/or stage of completion. The museum is housed in five adjoining medieval palaces in Barcelona’s La Ribera.  It opened to the public in 1963, becoming the first museum dedicated to Picasso’s work and the only one created during the his lifetime. It has since been declared a museum of national interest by the Government of Catalonia.  The collection is organized into areas that include the early years (Málaga, Corunna and Barcelona, 1890–97), the training period (Barcelona, Horta de San Juan and Madrid, 1897–1901), the Blue Period (1901–04), works in Barcelona from 1917, and the entire Las Meninas (1957) series. Most of the paintings on display at the museum are from the period between 1890 and 1917.

It’s not explained that the collection is lacking (a ton of stuff!) and nothing is said about the evolution in style between the early works and the later unique style that is what I think of when I hear/see the name.  Here’s a portrait of his mom, done when he was just 15.

It’s classically beautiful and totally traditional.  Most of what we saw was more in that vein than this:

…which we did not see.  What I wanted was more of his later works…and how he got from A to B, from traditional to crazy.  I wasn’t disappointed in what I saw, just mystified.

These two are about as close to ‘his’ style as we got:


More observation

The incidence of panhandling and begging seems very low, given the crazy numbers of people and the agreeable weather.  If San Francisco’s per capita panhandling population was duplicated here, there’d be 10 or 20 times the number we see.  We’ve seen almost none of this:

There are plenty of people selling this and that: primarily red roses, but also, India-patterned cotton sheets, wire jewelry, tennis shoes.  The roses guys, all men, approach you at all outdoor restaurants; multiple guys, multiple times per meal.  No thank you.   Also, there are accordion players who roam between cafes.  They play, you pay; not outright coercion, but close.  There is the very occasional true beggar, usually an old person.  That’s hard to see…and ignore.
Moving on to…

…more light-weight subject matter.

Our food experiences have gone from OK/good to really good.  Last night, when we were all tired from trying to do too much (for me, walking), we chose a place a block away, called El Tap.  It’s a play on words because it’s both a tapas bar and a craft beer pub.  We had the best food, so far: a surprising take on BBQ ribs (brontosaurus sized), fried chicken thighs (who’d have thunk?), octopus, ceviche and a couple of salads.  Yummers!  And lunch today, inside, after the museum, in this place:

That’s our waiter in the orange trou.  Again, really good.  I had a concoction of baked eggplant, peppers 🌶 and mozeralla that was fabulous, followed by another take on ribs, kinda seaseme/soy, Asian style.  And, as you can see, a nice atmosphere.

The evening’s event was a trip up to Montjuic, a large park adjacent to both the waterfront and main/old/center of the city.  We were told, more than twice, that it was a great place for dinner, music, watching the sunset.  Deciding on the last of those three, we timed our bus ride to arrive at 9-ish, catching the 9:28 sunset.  Only, things didn’t work quite as planned.  We missed sunset at the high point, Castell Montjuic, a 18th century fortress…which was closed.  So, we walked the perimeter, enjoying views of the harbor, but not town, the view of which was blocked by trees. 

I was surprised by how few other people we saw, like, maybe 25.  There was no restaurant up there, no venue for music/dance/anything.  Returning to the bus stop and finding that we had been on the last bus when coming up, we began to understood that the castle was not the focal point of Montjuic.  And we were, basically, up a creek without a paddle.  Hailing a cab didn’t work and we were a good 30 walking-minutes away from the base.  So, we walked.  No biggie, except Shar’s sore knee didn’t like it much.

None of the four of us thought much of Montjuic, at least the part we experienced.

Tomorrow we leave for Bilbao.

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