Trails and trials of the writer who walks
Number one mission of the day, to find a good breakfast. That’s not difficult, with lots of bars showing breakfast offers which are typically: fresh orange juice, croissant (or doughnut or bocadillo, or bikini ) plus coffee for a price between 3 and 4 euros. I ordered bikini out of curiousity: it’s a cheese and ham toastie.
That takes me up to around 10.30 am. I deliberately didn’t rise early, knowing that the Spanish don’t. I studied the free street map from the hostel and decided upon a walking route that takes in some of the little pictures on the map, which I presume are representations of ‘must-see’ buildings. Actually I think pretty much all the buildings in Barcelona are ‘must-see’.
The Catalans are not afraid of art. They don’t compartmentalise it as something for egg-heads only. I took photographs of my first roundabout and my first drinking fountain. They were functional works of art. I also photographed the entrance to a sewage works. The gate was set into a twelve foot high wall of purple bougainvillea. I imagined most of the facility to be subterranean. It’s far side was tucked away beneath a landscaped terrace that rose to the same height as the bougainvillea wall. Only the smell gave it away, although I must admit, the streets of the city generally smelled a bit ‘sewagey’ anyway.
Londoners may have become accustomed to the screeching green parrots that I believe make their home there, but I’d never seen them before and was fascinated by their noise and swift movements from one palm tree to another.
I don’t do sightseeing, as in visiting a set list, so I set off along the broad avenue called Diagonal, exploring side streets, admiring buildings, as I went, in a vaguely south-easterly direction. The street map, by the way, was printed with north where you’d usually expect to find north-east and that confused me no end, as I am accustomed to using the compass function of my watch to help me navigate built-up areas. In fact if they hadn’t printed it like that, Diagonal would have had to be renamed ‘Horizontal’.
My first discovery, simply following Diagonal, was that Barcelona has its own ‘gherkin’. I’d love to know what nickname the locals give it: pepino perhaps. It’s called Torre AGBAR and towers over a most amazing two-storey covered market that fascinated me even from a distance. The market is modern (and when I thing of that ugly indoor market we’ve got in Preston, I flush with shame). It’s undulating ceiling is mirrored so that as you approach, you feel you are watching a movie of a colourful scene, filmed from above. It’s a flea market in the best sense: jewelry, old coins, chandelier parts, tools, clothes. Some stalls sold new: three pairs of socks for one euro. Of course there were street-food stalls and beer as well.
Eventually I turned off Diagonal, at a place called Poblenou where the park had art incorporated into every hedge, tree, gateway and plant-holder. I went ‘map south’ and reached the sea where I could laze around and take in the sun. I’m not sure if there’s a section of Barcelona beach dedicated to nudism or if the well-proportioned thoroughly naked man strolling up and down was another of the city’s art events. (Sorry, no photos).