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     Volume 8 Issue 61 | March 13, 2009 |

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Barcelona Revisited

Nabeel Atique

The last time I was in Barcelona was in 2003. I visited this vibrant city for only three days. It was Thanksgiving vacation in the States, and back in the day when airlines gave good deals, I found a ticket from San Francisco to Barcelona for $500! I was also a lot younger back then and sleep was optional. I made the most of my whirlwind trip to Barcelona, taking guided tours to the Gaudi hot spots and even ventured outside Barcelona to see the beautiful monastery of Montserrat.

La Sagrada Familia
Parc Guell

Visiting Barcelona last summer, I realised how different it was during the warm month of August. Also, this time I could actually speak the language. Spanish has been a hobby of mine for the past nine months or so and I have a good grasp of the language now. I was accompanied by my friend Bryan who didn't speak the language, so I could play “tour guide”. It worked out well, because I knew what all the famous sites were, but newly armed with the Spanish language, I could navigate the city easily, asking people and reading signs. For the most part. You see, Barcelona is in the province of Catalunya, and about half the people speak Catalun. And most of the signs were in Catalun! Nevertheless, we managed, deciphering the Spanish meanings from Catalun.

Bryan and I attended a Spanish language school in the heart of the city, near Plaza Catalunya. Exiting the Metro station of Passeig de Gracia and having Gaudi's Casa Battlo, tower over you is some experience. After our classes we'd walk or take the Metro to the other sites, such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. La Sagrada Familia is truly one of Gaudi's masterpieces. It's towers on all sides seem very different, in typical Gaudi fashion - random and asymmetrical. It is still not completed. Construction began in 1882 and continues to this day. No government or church funds are used to construct it. Parc Guell is another one of Anton Gaudi's magical designs. The tile work is intricate and the houses seem straight out of a fairy tale world. But most impressive is a meandering ceramic bench on a platform with views of Barcelona, the Mediterranean, and the rest of the neighborhood of Gracia. In the hot summer air of Barcelona, once I sat down on that bench I was glued. Bryan had to drag me off! Summer days in Barcelona are slow and lazy. It's no use fighting it. Everything shuts down in the afternoon for siesta. I couldn't find a post office open one afternoon to mail postcards they were all closed. We'd go home in the afternoon and nap for a few hours, ready for dinner at about 9pm. Any earlier we might not find something open! The nights are cooler and that's when people go out to take in the city and it's rich life.

Besides Gaudi's works, we were treated to a surprise the second night we were in Barcelona. Little did we know that the host family we were staying with lived one block near “Camp Nou” the famous stadium of Football Club Barcelona, one of the best teams in the world. On our way to dinner one night, Bryan and I followed the noise to the stadium and stumbled upon a game between FC Barcelona and Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was an exhibition game and it was beautiful. FC Barcelona won 2-1. The game ended at midnight and we headed for dinner afterwards, energised by the victorious Barcelona crowd. Seeing players such as Henry and Puyol live, was a dream come true. And talk about serendipity I was travelling with two soccer jerseys in my luggage they were FC Barcelona and Boca Juniors. Our stumbling upon the stadium and seeing the game was meant to be!

Another unplanned event when the week we were in Barcelona, was the week of Fiesta de Gracia. It is a festival in the neighborhood of Gracia where inhabitants decorate the streets in all kinds of themes one can imagine. The best part is that it culminates on Thursday night with an open air concert with music in Catalun, Spanish and English. My flight back home left at 8am on Friday morning and so we spent Thursday night feeling the pulse of this magnificent city. After one last stroll by the harbour when the concert ended at 4:00am, we headed home. I packed up and left for the airport, tired but content. I was five years older than on my last visit to Barcelona, but this time Barcelona's summer air had given me renewed energy. Once again sleep had been optional.

FC Barcelona Fan
The ceiling of gaudi.

Nabeel Atique is a Professor of Mathematics and Engineering at Antelope Valley College in Los Angeles County.

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