Mano a Mano

My last day in Barcelona was just too beautiful to go inside, so I went to the Park Guell for my cultural attraction del dia. The park was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s famous architect and it’s as much a park as it is a display of creative architecture.

People told me it was too far to walk there from my hotel, but I hoofed it up the hill early for the opening of the gate. I powered around the park, and got to the top where some ladies had their dogs running around off leash and nobody cared. Dogs are everywhere here, and often walk the city streets without leashes. It’s lovely, and says a lot to me about a place, the way they treat their animals.

I was about to leave the top of the hill, when an older man took my hand and took me through some trees. It sounds scarier than it was. He just wanted to point out a few landmarks. Tibidabo Mountain, across the city with both a church and an amusement park, was lit by the morning sun, and I actually gasped when I saw it, then laughed when he said Tibidabo.

Mano a Mano we went to the other side for a bird’s eye view of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, which I’ll visit when I come back here at the end of the month. All I really know about it now is that the church has been under construction for over one hundred years.

Antonio and I held hands and he walked me all around the park. He only tried to get fresh a couple of times, but listened when I said, “No, Antonio. Dame el mano.”

I took a bunch of pictures (that are stuck on my camera until i get home), but below is an iPhone shot of Antonio.

Catalan is the official language of Barcelona, and though everyone also learns Spanish in school most Catalayunos are loyal to their region, their language, and their customs that the Spanish have tried to brutalize out of them. I’ve learned a lot about the history, but also what is going on right now politically (the Catalayunos don’t currently have a political vote) and how this region differentiates from the rest of the country.

Many people seem to speak a mix of Spanish and Catalan, even if it’s just inserting Catalan words or expressions into a Spanish sentence. Sometimes one sentence is Catalan, then the next Spanish. My Spanish is limited anyway, but boy does that make my head spin. And no, the two languages are not similar. I’ve had more than a few conversations that were limited because of language barriers, and although it’s frustrating at times, it’s refreshing to just communicate the basics and enjoy some silence. Which is curious coming from someone like me who hardly ever shuts up….

I learned a lot from a sweet woman named Angels, who works for a national music program for children and speaks several languages, including English. We sat together at a small tapas bar when she stepped in to save me from a man who was talking only Catalan to me and wanted to take me salsa dancing. Angels gave me her number and we might meet up again before I go home.

I ate at the same place two night in a row because it’s in my neighborhood, and I liked it so much the first time. It’s just perfect.

The first night I had a cheese plate that the bartender didn’t think I could finish (I did), and the next I was so hungry after a day of walking the park, walking miles along the beach, and having no lunch, so I ordered the local potato dish and an Iberian ham sampler. The only person who had faith I could finish it was Angels, and I didn’t disappoint. YUM.

Now I’m on Ibiza, where I met four British guys my age on holiday. They’re all my age, and although we went to one of Ibiza’s infamous beach parties (we were early, so it was quiet…), we unanimously decided that we’d end our night with tea and dessert at a wee Thai bistro near our hotel.

One of my favorite things about getting older: knowing what you want and doing it.

The 40-train leaves the station next week….