Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Taste of Spain

The story might seem fairy tale material, but it is not. As we left Bottle Beach, we got on a little boat for half an hour. During the trip, Ileana got to talk with a nice young fellow. Then we parted ways. Waiting for departure in the back of a truck, I asked my daughter what they talked about. "Our trip", "He's from the most beautiful Spanish village and he works in the best restaurant in the world". "Let's go there!" I said and my daughter readily agreed. As our truck was now departing, I waived at Isma and I threw a contact card towards him. In the dust behind us we saw him limping with his injured foot, retrieve the card and waive back at us.
The season is over in L'Estartit

More than six months later we arrive in the small village of L'Estartit, on Spanish Costa Brava. We get hold of Isma, he comes for a chat on our balcony the first evening and he invites us for lunch the next day. We go to his parents restaurant and he serves us tapas, paella and two pitches, one of sangria and the other of cava. We all agree in the end, this is the best restaurant in the world and we love Spanish food. Isma doesn't want any pay for the meal, we are his guests, but he agrees to visit us in New York. We could take him then to the other extreme, the worst restaurant in the world, any Old Country Buffet would do it.

Until then, if you want to go to a nice beach in Spain and eat at the best restaurant, go to L'Estartit and eat at Xavi. Say hi to Isma and his parents and enjoy his mother's cooking.

One of us can still run on a beach

The first and best paella we ever had

We spent three nights there. We arrived Sunday night after driving three hours from Barcelona airport. The last hour was on country roads. Empty on our way, the other way was full of cars going toward France or Barcelona. Apparently the season ended that day, because the village was almost empty. The weather was surprisingly bad for the beginning of September and the beach was deserted. We enjoyed the relative silence and rested.

The most fantastic artist of the 20th century is without question a Spaniard named Salvador Dali. We've been following his work for some time, from one place to another in Europe or in the United States. A few weeks ago we almost took a three hour trip just to see one painting in Glasgow, thankfully reason prevailed. But being in Catalonia we were not going to miss Figueres. It is the place to go, Dali took an old theatre and built himself a mausoleum, he is buried there in a small little room, among three stories of his works. Next to it there is a small hallway with beautiful jewelry designed by him. It is explained there that, as the geniuses of the Renaissance expressed themselves in all manner of artistic endeavor, he also considered a duty to let his genius run free and express itself in designing jewelry. We can be grateful for his foresight, because we had the pleasure of admiring the results.
The theater-museum Salvador Dali

After a few hours we had to leave toward Barcelona. We were excited, this was the meeting place with the other half of our family. We had four days to spend together. You can read Ileana Ruxandra's post here and Maria's here.

The city and ...

some of us

Considered by many to be the most charming European city, I'll use this title because it doesn't conflict with Berlin (the most vibrant), Paris (the most romantic), Vienna (the best to live in), Prague (the most beautiful) and whatever the rest of our trip might bring our way. It is a big city, with 2000 years of history, but the best of it is in the old city. It seems to me that it is an experimental ground for architecture, anything goes and everything is beautiful. There are no two buildings alike and any one of them is a joy to my eyes. It is the Modernista style. It was the second half of the 19th century and Barcelona's Old City was bursting at the seams. A new town was planned on a grid design, but they had to do it different than anybody else. They cut the buildings' corners so that every intersection is a bright eight side square. They set some guidelines but they let anybody built his way and soon a bunch of architects were running amok. The best known is Gaudi and we learned that his name is the origin of the English word gaudy. That is not true. Gaudy means ostentatiously and tastelessly ornamented, implying extravagance and vulgar showiness. It is first reported in English in 1521 and might have something to do with the Latin for joy, gaudium. Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) was a brilliant visionary of city planning and a deeply religious person who tried to incorporate nature in all his creations. The houses he built seem almost alive, sometimes gaudy, but they are a pleasure to the eye and they all draw hordes of tourists. Seven buildings designed by Gaudi are listed as one World Heritage Site. They wouldn't make sense anywhere else in the world.

We spent a whole afternoon visiting Sagrada Familia. I was proud of my daughter who had the courage to say "I don't like it". Ileana likes old gothic architecture and rock music. There is something in her statement that reminds me of the story of the naked emperor. But after a few minutes it grows on you and when getting inside, we all look around in amazement and Ileana admits that the interior is a "little better."

I didn't really like Parc Güell. I liked much better the crowded city center, the little commercial streets, the old churches and monuments. There is so much around and so little time, the proper way to enjoy Barcelona would be to just be stuck there for a month or go there for two days per month for a lifetime.

The chair still goes everywhere

Dali: Portrait of Picasso in the 21st century
And last, the Picasso museum is considered the best place in the world to learn about his early phases. Obviously much easier to understand, the "formation" period is well detailed and somewhat interesting. After you get through the first three-four rooms, they jump 10 years later, one room, and that's pretty much it. Except that at some point when someone decided to house the first ever Picasso museum in Barcelona, they found an old disaffected palace and Picasso was so tickled by the honor that he donated 58 variations after a Velasquez painting, Las Meninas. Going through it, Ioan summed it up: "at 5 he was painting like an adult and when he was 80 he painted like a five year old!" I was going from one canvas to another in shock. For the first time ever, I could see genius. Not as the biography or the work of a human being, but in a simple, material form, coming out of three colors and five strokes of a brush. I was ecstatic but unable to share any of that with the rest of my family. I tried to explain the best I could, without any success. After some yelling and screaming we agreed to disagree, but I have no doubt that at one point or another their time will come.

Side by side, the famous Velasquez and one of the Picasso renditions
While someone needs some education in art and history to understand why the left painting is one of the most important in the world, you need nothing to see the genius of Picasso on the right! Amazing.

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