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Viva Barcelona!

by metavision Sat Apr 14th, 2007 at 05:20:43 AM EST

The night train there on the 5th, would fill a novel by itself because it was a throw back to 40 years ago:  Six bunks per compartment because all trains were full.  My compartment was in the last car with five other women plus a 2-year old girl, but one woman stayed in the restaurant car.  We hit it off and "unionized" even before the conductor came by, so we took over the "caboose" and the hallway.  Fortunately, I had my glass of wine to induce sleep and we only told stories and laughed until midnight.  An older woman and one my age were going to France and had family histories of civil war exile, which kept the Mexican student, the Ecuadorian student with the girl and I asking endless questions and comparing details.

I am not going to talk about "world class", fancy hotels and other BS comparisons.  I am talking about a city where people are the main concern of urban planners and you can feel it in the way they interact.  It seemed more respectful and dignified, less noisy and even groups of young people in the squares were less invasive on others.  It´s densely populated and I heard it has one of the largest "okupa" groups of Europe, but the attitude and the public space is totally different than Madrid and pedestrians are the rule, not the exception.

From the diaries - whataboutbob

People rule most small streets and the drivers are the ones who have a hard time getting around!  Lots of streets in the old city have one traffic lane, but absolutely no parking, so cars seem to avoid them altogether and in some of the medieval part, a car would simply not fit through.  For decades, in Madrid, the sidewalks were the first to be cut in favor of parking and only lately has the city started to put some trees back in.

It was amazing to watch kcurie and Migeru the minute we all met because it was full understanding at first sight.  They seemed like twins separated at birth and they talked and walked looking at the ground, with their thoughts way above the clouds, until I thought we might lose them.  I even got a general sense of the research kcurie works on!  Just don´t let them lead a 1km. walk between two points because they might ignore the map and take you on a 10 mile, zigzag march.  I was too happy to care, except my legs were really killing me and I probably got crankier than our 5-year old, who was awesome throughout.

This is really the first time I went to Barcelona only to sightsee, I felt truly comfortable there and I enjoyed every moment.  We stayed around the central part which is flat enough to make a bike the ideal transportation and it is included by design.  Almost everywhere I went, I saw locals and quite a few tourists on bikes because there are dedicated and protected lanes, so it encourages ridership.  There was a new "bicing.com" rental rack right in front of our hostal, which was across from the França train station.

I walked a big part of the city and the Park Guell hill on the first day and I got so absorbed, I didn´t even realize that I am not in great shape until the next day:  I thought my calves would crack and fall off and I was in pain the rest of the trip, but I could have walked and observed another week, because the city has so many flavors in the main neighborhoods.  kcurie, Amanda and her friends J and H, confirmed the amount of history and activity to be found there and I can´t thank them enough for their tours and hospitality.  

The city is an architect´s dream and the decorative elements are everywhere you look.  With the exception of very few buildings, like the latest Agbar, I wanted to take pictures of every block I passed.  The attention to detail is breathtaking and the amount of sights from medieval to current, with very well done combinations seems endless.  I noticed they preserve a lot of building elements when they try to update, which creates a city chuck-full of historical character.  Unfortunately, I was so tired, I had to skip the tour of one of the most significant buildings to me:  Gaudí´s "La Pedrera".  I´ll see it next time, but Barbara can tell you about it and the "Twins" may even write the formulas for the curves in the building.  

I sensed that local people "know who they are, know where they come from" and are proud of it.  And so they should be.  They seem more tightly knit and secure than people in Madrid, where everyone comes from "somewhere else" and they feel compelled to prove they have made it in the capital and must flaunt their purchasing power:  Sometimes it seems like a comedy of competing hicks.  In Barcelona people act naturally, appreciate and preserve what they have and use their wealth in improving quality of life, instead of buying flashy stuff.  

From my experience, Catalonians are entrepreneurial and persistent, and it shows, which may be part of the underlying envy from Madrid.  The time I spent on my own, I found people were friendly everywhere and I didn´t sense any of the political "crunchyness" that surrounds me at home, where the rightwing tries to create divisions with Catalunya every chance they get.  Being a lefty in Barcelona does not
require heroic acts and the differences feel less polarized.

The quality and variety of food is dizzying and I have a good story just from one meal on my own.  From local specialties to "nouvelle hippy" juice bars, food is treated with great respect, way beyond basic nutrition at a decent price, and the tackiest of bars had more choices of drinks than most in Madrid.  Only being there, I realized that in Madrid food and drink are being reduced to mass practicality, even in the places that claim "nouvelleness".  

DoDo, I thought of you when, for reasons I shall never reveal, I spent part of my (Alvia) train trip back to Madrid in the driver´s seat at the end of the train, talking to an engineer and a conductor.  Looking out at 210km/hour, with 180º view was a thrill and I learnt more than I could imagine, but I´m sure, nothing you don´t know.
They said that it could travel at 270km/hr on that track, but 200 is the maximum they are permitted right now, because it is not the AVE.

The minute I set foot on my town and back to "reality", I found myself grumbling again at the small details that make such a difference in daily life, but I had a great time and it energized me.  Spending five days looking at beautiful places without television, internet or news had a lot to do with it.

The photos will come via amanda 2006 and mine may be much later...


A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 10:32:16 AM EST
The pleasure was mine, my friend!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 11:28:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, and am I sorry I missed it!  Maybe another day.  Had my wife convinced, but alas we had pressing obligations.  Congrats on a great meeting and fantastic writeup.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 10:57:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don´t give up.  Let´s plan for the next one.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 05:33:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for your story....
This site mostly describes what's going wrong in the world but here we have a positive view.....well done!

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 10:38:33 AM EST
The group was great and the city was a good choice to meet.  I'd like to go to other ET reunions in other good cities to find the best practices in Europe and see if we can spread the positive.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 11:32:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Carcassone was fun. Afew and I had a great time after the meet broke up, we missed you.
Rumours of Paris in June

But I'm jealous of Barca, I hope to be at the next one, but my lack of spanish will be problematic.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 02:46:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmmm.  I have never been to Paris.  And it's possible that I could get some time off in June.


by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 04:47:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope I can manage the Paris one even if my French is really problematic.  You will be in France by then!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 05:00:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost certainly, but my plans are subject ot change. I'm very worried by the time taken by the french purchase process wich effectively leaves you hanging for 6 months, crushing profit potential on small developments.

So I may return to my original ideas of Galicia or N Portugal.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 05:19:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow!  I envy your flexibility and ability to follow through with such major decisions because those sorts of obstacles keep me stuck "forever".  I am rooting for you!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 05:30:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My fleixbility is entirely due to the fact that I have made no committment yet. But it's a case of following lines of best potential. In all honesty I think the best profit to made just now is on a line from Cordoba to Seville, it's where the next wave of Brits are going, but I suspect that others are realising that and pushing prices, so I have to go where hardly anybody is paying attention.

The french purchase process inhibits the profitability of small ventures, which is all I can afford, so I may have to go to a more promising legal financial climate.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 05:46:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh god, I'd really hate to see Cordoba spoiled by my fellow countrymen, Say it aint so.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 10:14:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a wave, you can see it best on the road from Granada to Cordoba. All the way up to Alcala la Real every ruined farmhouse has been bought up and is being renovated, then a few miles north it fizzles out and abandoned buildings litter the landscape.

The english are coming. That's not a promise, that's a threat.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 11:32:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
don't blame me I'm occupying Wales.

Seriously though Cordoba is somewhere I wanted to revisit and would prefer to think about without the blight of English sport and Kareoke bars.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 12:32:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
umbria too..

there's one end of the next valley over where i went to a party, and i could have sworn i was in guildford...

3 years in chianti-shire was plenty.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 10:17:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rule of Thumb (for the US, at least): buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you can afford.  If they are buying there now they will be buying those properties a few miles north in a year or so.

Be careful, tho', the ECB is really pumping up the money supply and it's starting to look like you are getting a housing bubble as well.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Apr 15th, 2007 at 01:40:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks metavision for your kind words about my city and my people, you've really caught part of their essence. I really love to show BCN to visitors and they always make me discover something new, as that old wooden balcony with modernist glass panes you signalled me by the Plaça Reial. Here you have some pictures from our meet up lunch and some others of architectural details taken during our tours a little bit out of the beaten path.

So, nothing emblematic like Gaudí houses, just some buildings we found on our way through Gothic area, Barceloneta and last but not least, Gràcia. This was the sight we enjoyed while we had lunch. There is an album inside, and if you click on "Proyección de diapositivas", you will watch it as a slide-show.

And your diary waked up the visitor in me and I'm planning a short trip to Amsterdam (I went once, ten  years ago) for the end of May.

by amanda2006 on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 03:53:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your city has the most beautiful windows I've ever seen.

That's it.  I'm moving to Barcelona.  I'm sure I can find some way to make a living there that doesn't require being able to communicate with anyone... dog walker?  

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 05:02:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Holy cow, you can't believe how jealous I'm now. Spain! Miraculous, life magnifying Spain! And Barcelona to boot - I've never been much of a city-person, but Barcelona has my heart. It's one of my favourite cities that I know, no, it's the favourite, although I only have been there twice and both visits were far too brief. La silla es mojada! That's the sentence I learned on my second visit... Not a very romantic one, I know, but it sure was a valuable lesson.

It's so easy to paint Barcelona in emblematic highlights such as Gaudí's master-pieces or the Cathedral or the late Snowflake, the albino gorilla. Its true value to me was in the little niches, the buzzing alleys, the laundry spanning across them, the chime and buzz of dining people at resplendent squares. And your little slide show was full of that, so I'm one happy geezer. Thanks a bundle!!

If you'd like some nice inside info tips on Amsterdam, please let me know. I'd be happy to help. I recently helped out another ET'er on Amsterdam as well, and it was a lot of fun. I won't be there myself, otherwise I could have offered you a guide.

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 07:58:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I got the tickets already to Amsterdam. I will be there   from  May 22 to the 25th, so your insider tips will be most welcome. I will remind you about it in some open threat around middle of May. Thanks, Nomad.
by amanda2006 on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 04:02:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Achtung!  And corblimey!

My computer is all dead and buried in a dusty bag behind a door and next to another old computer (neither of them mine.)   (And neither of them here.)   This har computer is also not mine, it doesn't often enjoy ET--I get a hundred windows opening at once, all with a special message telling me about an error with java.  I have learned the mac code for "Close it, please!"

Yes, joy oh joy.  Plus a bug.  So I will sneakee in ze har to say: metavision, glad you and everyone had a good time in Barcelona.  Fiesta maxima!

And Nomad (Snowflake!  So regal!  Sat with his back to us all and picked his arse--a prisoner and us the gawpers.  I haven't been to a zoo since.  Although)...ah!  Yes, ze zoo at Amsterdam.  You recommended it and other places, and can you guess where  all my emails are?  Inside a dead computer.  Archived for a few thousand years it seems.  Which means I too look forward to re-reading your recommendations (we'll be over at the end of May--30th.)

When I call up a diary it stretches aaaaaalllllll the way across the screen and on for a few miles....impossibile to read...

And colds all round chez rg, just to keep us extra cheerful.

Nineteen degrees today.  Warmer for the weekend.

Now, don't forget: beware of angry hippos

and hungry crocodiles

And enjoy all the trains you get to drive!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 05:50:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we're all moving to Barcelona.

I was there in '03 and fell in love. Usual thing - not a city person. But just this once...

I'm trying to work out if I can get over there mid-June for Sonar 2007.

If I do, and if anyone else is around, we can have a mini-meet.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 03:43:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I will be here and I've been to Sonar many times, especially to the "Sonar by day" at the MACBA and the CCCB in downtown BCN. Of course we can meet!
by amanda2006 on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 04:17:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great photos Amanda!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Apr 14th, 2007 at 06:11:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks to metavision for the update and amanda for the photos!  Sounds like you guys had a great time.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 05:03:35 PM EST
Meeting so many of you at once would be really fun and even subversive!  I hope I can work it out.

I'd definitely consider moving to Barcelona now and you'd do fine without Spanish while you learn.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 05:16:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 at 05:51:26 PM EST
Metavision!!! In the throes of jetlag, I read a portion of your report about the Barcelona meetup to my wife Lil, and we both agree your writing is fantastic. Compelling, even. You grabbed me...I wanted to read the whole book! Wow! If you aren't a writer...you should change careers quick...seroiusly! Excellent...thank you! We wish we could have joined everyone too!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 04:51:53 AM EST
Thank you Bob!  I wish I could have met more of us too.  

People tell me I write well, but I have no idea how to use it, so if you want to be my agent and tell me how I can survive writing, please do!  I´d only be too happy to pay commissions and taxes if I had some recurring work.  As you know, living by creating worthwhile work becomes exhausting.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 05:51:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It took three pages of google to learn that "okupa" means squatter settlement.

I first typed "means squat" but that didn't work.

by dmun on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 01:29:42 PM EST
Ooops.  I thought it was an EU known term...

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 06:06:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It probably is, but our horology expert resides in New Jersey, USA, I think :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 14th, 2007 at 04:35:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow now I really have to visit. And maybe now I'll actually get off my butt and start learning Spanish.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 07:26:13 PM EST
Wonderful description, Metavision. Wish we had been there.
Was in Barcelona about two decades ago, and loved it, but no recent experience.
Some day I will write about rescuing a stolen sports car from the pirates of Alicante, and our stay in Valencia during that adventure, but not today.
I am growing reluctant to travel because of the endless hassles with wheelchairs- there are some cities, like Paris and Lyon which are easy for us, but others which put a lot of load on Ivonne-- muscling me over curbs, endless restaurants with steps to get in, etc. --steps and stairs!!! Blast them all!
I'd like to ask you to keep your very wise eye open--and all other readers who travel in Europe--or anywhere, really- to keep your eyes open and do a bit of research as you move about the world as to the possibility of a wheeled person being able to enjoy the place.

We have many tactics for dealing with problems of access, and do not expect any special facilities beyond the low level stuff, but some places are so difficult that they are not worth the hassle- takes the fun out of it.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Apr 14th, 2007 at 05:56:44 AM EST
Actually I did notice almost all the sidewalks had ramps at the corner!  My legs hurt so much that I was aware of those details because I could go up a step, but going down steps was miserable.

In private places though, very few are accesible because space is expensive and businesses do not consider obstacles when maximizing usage.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Apr 14th, 2007 at 06:18:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They said that it could travel at 270km/hr on that track, but 200 is the maximum they are permitted right now, because it is not the AVE.

I was told once that the Talgo can go almost as fast as the AVE on an AVE track, but that it is not allowed to to avoid embarrassment.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 06:53:13 AM EST
That is not impossible... what I know is that

  1. IIRC tests on test rig showed that the running gear of the Talgo is capable to withstand rather high speeds (but this doesn't mean that other factors, e.g. aerodynamics, won't pose a problem);
  2. the last normal Talgos have a permitted speed (e.g. the speed for which they have been tested to run safely) is 220 km/h,
  3. the Talgo350, a true high-speed train of which AVE now must have most of the first 16, consists of newly developed tractor heads and an adapted version of the basic Talgo design as middle cars, so maybe their top sped of 330 km/h means the sisters are also capable of much more (on the other hand, the manufacturer had to back off the original plans of 330 km/h, though later it denied they ever intended for the number in the brand name...);
  4. the normal Talgos are locomotive-pulled, so the real limit is the locomotives.

On a more removed level, I shall mention that when the Zürich S-Bahn (rapid transit, mostly on normal rail lines but using a lot of new rolling stock) started in the early nineties, a Zürich-Winterthur S-Bahn train (a double-deck multiple unit) reached its target one minute faster than the IC train (a locomotive-pulled normal train)!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 08:34:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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