A travel moment, Barcelona

It's May which means spring or primavera is here, at least that's what I believed starting this journey. But the weather took a turn for the worse with two days of sun out of a possible ten, which meant carrying an umbrella, wearing a trench and boots. Along with the rain was a dip in temperatures; in the fifties, and crowds with Barcelona playing for the Spanish soccer cup. I have never seen so many people in my lifetime– it was like being at Disneyland in August. Lines everywhere, including a substantial wait; for the city bus, the metro, a cab, a museum exhibition, or a table at a restaurant. It was impossible to walk a straight line, you had to weave through the mob. It wore me out, and I got a miserable cold.

There hasn't been a single article of 'top city destinations' in the last decade that didn't include Barcelona somewhere near the top– and it was easy to see why. Thanks to the winding narrow streets of its Gothic Quarter, the mind-boggling Modernist architecture of Gaudi and its envious position wedged between forested mountains and a sweeping expanse of Mediterranean sea, Barcelona is lush, breezy and beautiful.

After the 1992 Olympic Games the city paved the way for tourists with a revamped marina which profited from the enviable status of coastal resort. So whether you enjoy buzzing around by the seafront sipping Sangria's, sunbathing on the beach, or prefer a drink at one of the Old Town's scenic plazas before taking-in world renowned architectural sites such as La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo or the Picasso Museum you'll find yourself falling in love with Barcelona. When evening falls, things get even more lively as the city's life-giving arteries, Las Ramblas, explodes with merry-makers keen to sample the city's legendary nightlife.

Last March, The LA Times ran a glowing article on Barcelona where it discussed its storied artistic history and mentioned some contemporary artists who are maintaining this rich tradition. One such man is Agustí Puig whose work was the inspiration for Penelope Cruz's character in Vicki Christina Barcelona with his paintings featured in the movie.

But no building can define Barcelona like La Sagrada Familia. Originally built and designed over a hundred years ago by the city's most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí, it combines the style of neo-Gothic and modernism. Yet, the church has had its' share of controversy. Architect Josep Maria Subirachs's minimalist interpretation of the façade brought complaints that it didn't adhere to what was left of Gaudí's original designs. The writer, George Orwell in his book Homage to Catalonia said, "I think the Anarchists showed bad taste in not blowing it up when they had the chance.”

I think it's surprising that something incomplete should be the symbol of a city as massively complete as Barcelona is. But there lies the contrast. And contrast is a word which defines what you can find in the city extremely well.

L LaRoche

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