Barcelona, Spain – March 21, 2012
When I woke up this morning, it was raining. That is the first precipitation we have had in many, many months. It was coming down somewhat hard. I got myself ready, finished packing, and left the house to meet my neighbor for a ride to work. When I arrived at his car, I was surprised to see it covered in snow. The rain had switched to snow. Luckily it was not accumulating on the ground.
Shortly after arriving at the office, I hailed a taxi to take me to the Atocha railway station to catch my 08:00 train. It had stopped snowing, but it was still raining. The cab dropped me off at the station at about 07:25. As always, the train departed precisely on time. We were scheduled to arrive in Barcelona at about 10:30.
About 25 minutes into the journey, I began to see snow had accumulated on the ground just enough to turn the ground white.
Another 20 minutes further along and there was snow! I estimate it was about three or four inches deep, complete with some drifts. It was a pretty sight. The train slowed from 300 kilometers per hour to 160 kilometers per hour (186 mph to 99 mph) going through that area. It was also very foggy.
About halfway through the journey, I walked to the cafeteria car and spent 3.40€ (US$4.15) for a cup of coffee and a croissant. I stood at the counter in the cafeteria car to consume those. The croissant was huge. Chasing a bite of a croissant with a sip of Spanish coffee is heavenly!
I arrived at the Barcelona train station at about 10:42, the late arrival no doubt due to our trek through the snow at about half-speed. It is the only time I can recall being on a train that arrived late. It was raining in Barcelona. I took a taxi to the office and then, later, I took a cab to my hotel.
After unpacking at the hotel, I walked next door to the grocery store to buy a bottle of wine. Once there, I decided to pick up some tapas. I bought some sliced Havarti cheese, chorizo picante (Felix de Murtiga Jabugo – lberico de Bellota), and some pistachios. When I returned to my room, I was surprised to find a bowl of fruit and some mineral water. The fruit consisted of a huge strawberry, grapes, a pear, a kiwi, and a plum. So, all of that food became my dinner. Partly because it was there and partly because I did not want to go out in the weather to a restaurant.
Just before leaving for Barcelona, we received Flat Stanley in the mail. He came to us from a friend in Colorado. He is working with their second-grader as they learn about the world. So, one of the first things Flat Stanley did was look out of the hotel window onto La Rambla.
The next day, after work, Flat Stanley and I decided to go to the Picasso Museum. We decided we would walk to the museum. It is only about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the hotel. Just as we began our walk, I saw one of the Go Cars. When I later looked at the photograph I had taken, I was surprised by the numerous modes of transportation captured by the camera; of course, the Go Car, the numerous mopeds, the pedestrians, the cyclist, the van approaching in traffic, and the taxi behind that.
We continued on our walk, through the plaza in front of the Cathedral and then on to Carrer Princesa. Shortly after turning onto that street, we came across a shop, Arlequi Mascaras. Flat Stanley desperately wanted to go inside and have a look at all of the masks. While there, I bought a key chain for Tyler and a broach for Hillary. Flat Stanley did not buy anything, but he did want his picture taken with some of the masks his size. There was a sign in the store that photographs were not allowed. However, after meeting Flat Stanley, the shopkeeper, Anna, said I could take his picture. She commented after seeing the photo, “Flat Stanley looked like a fish in the water with all of those masks.”
From that shop, we continued toward the Picasso Museum. In all of my visits to Barcelona, I have never been to this museum. I have passed by it many times, but I have never gone in. I think that is because the entry line has been too long in the past. This time there were only about a dozen people in front of me. I am delighted I spent the 11€ (US$13.42) to enter the museum. Picasso’s works absolutely stuff the museum. The vast majority of them are from the period between 1890 and 1917. During much of that time, he lived in Barcelona. Additionally, there were several works from 1957 when he was living in Cannes, France. Following are the artworks I most enjoyed seeing:
Mother and Son with Handkerchief – 1903. Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/mother-and-son-with-handkerchief-1903).
Olga in a Mantilla – 1903. Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/olga-in-a-mantilla-1917).
Gutted Horse – 1917. It reminds me of some of his later, modern works at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/gutted-horse-1917).
El Paseo de Colon – 1917. Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/el-paseo-de-colon-1917).
Las Meninas – 1957. It was a series, culminating in an extensive, maybe eight feet by 10 feet canvas, done as a likeness of the Velazquez hanging in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. Photo credit WikiArt (https://www.wikiart.org/en/pablo-picasso/las-meninas-velazquez-1957-4).
Before going to the museum, I had looked up some information on the internet. It was there that I discovered that Picasso was a regular at a restaurant known as 4Gats (Four Cats). It is a small bar/restaurant that has been in existence since about 1897. Picasso did the artwork for the first menu. I thought Flat Stanley and I needed to see that restaurant. Even though I had drawn myself a map, I still had to ask a police officer for directions. By that point, we were within a couple of hundred meters, an easy walk.
The bar is at Carrer de Montsio, 3, just a few blocks north of the Cathedral. It is one of the tiny streets in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. The slogan of the restaurant is “food and drink are served at any time.” Of course, I ordered my standard glass of vino tinto. When the waiter brought my wine, he also brought some olives. That is very normal; however, these were the smallest olives I have ever seen. The largest ones were maybe 1/2 inch in diameter. Usually, I like olives, but these were quite bitter.
There were a fantastic number of tourists that streamed through the restaurant, got a coffee or wine, took some photos and then left. It is a unique establishment. The floor is done in red bricks about four inches by eight inches, laid in a square pattern. Filling the center of the square is either a white or black piece of marble. The pattern repeats throughout. Looking at the floor from either the front or rear of the restaurant, these are all rotated 45 degrees so they appear to be diamonds. The marble forms a line from front to back, alternating one line white and the next black.
One side wall toward the rear has a large painting, again about eight feet by ten feet, of two men on a tandem bicycle. I think it was painted by Casay, undoubtedly a contemporary of Picasso.
The sidewalls of the restaurant, on the floor, begin with a wooden baseboard about twelve inches wide. On top of that is a dark wood decorative molding. Above that is a wide stripe of alternating white and green tiles. The tiles are triangular, with two of them forming a square about five inches by five inches. The total width of these tiles is a band, four squares tall. Above that is a band of two tiles, with each four forming a flower pattern. Those same tiles repeat at the front of the bar. The ceiling is open-beams of dark wood, with the bottom portion painted green.
The wall opposite the painting of the men on the bicycle has wood and glass doorways repeating all along the wall, each formed by a pointed arch. Within the arc are the wooden frames of the windows and the doors. Above the doors, the windows contain numerous disks of colored glass. It almost looks like this building was part of a parish hall at some point.
While I continued to sit in the restaurant, I decided to have a tapa. I ordered Croquetas de la Casa. They are a deep-fried concoction about the size of a Jalapeno popper, filled with a mixture of cheese, meat, and a kind of doughy substance. I like them. My family does not like them.
My bill for the evening came to 14.47€ (US$17.66). That price included 3.24€ (US$2.02) for a magnet depicting the cover of the menu done by Picasso. I thought it was a very reasonable price for all that I received. I would highly recommend this stop to anyone, whether or not they are a Picasso fan.
Pedestrians on Avenida Potal Angel.
The next day, after working about half a day at the office, Flat Stanley and I boarded the AVE train for our return trip to Madrid. We arrived at about 17:10, hailed a taxi, and braved some horrendous traffic to get out of downtown. All in all, it was a great trip.