As the title states, this is the second blog post today. Since I wrote the first one early this morning before breakfast, I’ve been out walking around the Barcelona. I’ve been in this city many times, so I didn’t discover anything new today, but I did get reacquainted with some familiar sites.
If you want to read the first post of the day and haven’t yet, you can scroll down to do so.
As I mentioned in this morning’s post, when I approached the hostel last night, there was some sort of celebration taking place in the street with fireworks going off. This morning, the remnants of the celebration were left in the street for the city workers to clean up. Today is Sunday, so I hope they received overtime pay. This mess of burnt fireworks was one of the cleanup jobs.
Barcelona’s third-tallest building, the Glòies Tower, is located just blocks from where I am staying. When I look up from my computer screen as I write this blog post, I can see the building through the window looming above me.
A plaque beside the building still calls it by its former name, the Agbar Tower. The Agbar Group, a holding company, was the building’s previous owner and is still its main tenet. However, local wags have some different names for the building. One of the most printable is The Suppository. Others call it the Erect…..well….. you probably can figure that one out.
Not to be outdone by Paris, Barcelona has its own Arc of Triumph. I admit that it is quite a bit smaller and less imposing than the one in Paris, and it doesn’t stand at the center of the city the way the Paris arc does. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t ever commemorate a triumph, unless you call holding a fair a great victory. The arc was built out of red brick as the main access gate to the 1888 Barcelona World’s Fair.
Whenever I come to Barcelona, beginning back in the 1960s when Francisco Franco was still the dictator of Spain, I feel obligated to visit the Plaza de Cataluña and the street called La Rambla that leads from it downhill to the harbor.
The Spanish love their plazas, be they large ones in the major city like this one or smaller plazas in little towns and villages. The Spanish tend to gather in the plazas in the evenings to chat with friends and family. As one Spaniard told me, the Spanish live mostly outside in the streets, public squares, and cafés.
Every time I come to the Rambla, there is something different to see. There are always small stands selling trinkets, souvenirs, and lottery tickets, but the other attractions change. For a few years, there were actors all along the Rambla who were posing as statues of different characters. They would stand or sit completely motionless until someone dropped a coin into a hat or can in front of them. The clink of the coin would bring what had appeared to be a statue to life for a few moments. Those actors are all gone now. I hope the City didn’t ban them. In my opinion, they were a tourist attraction that didn’t cost the City a cent.
I also remember the gangs of Russians who operated shell games while keeping an eye out for the police. One would pretend to clumsily run the game, while the others would pose as members of the audience who easily won money from the incompetent who moved three boxes around with a ball under one of them. The idea was to make a sucker among the bystanders think that winning money from this inept gamemeister was a sure thing. Then, suddenly, someone would see an approaching cop, and the game was folded up in seconds, and the gang would run off down a side street.
This time, I saw mainly beggars and unlicensed street vendors. Like the Russian gang members before them, the vendors spread their wares on the sidewalk and keep and eye out for the bulls. Should a cop be seen approaching, the whole business folds up into a package with a yank on a single cord, and the vender hurries off with his or her inventory thrown over a shoulder.
At the lower end of the Rambla, a statue of Columbus stands atop a very high pillar, supposedly pointing toward the New World. But, wait! He’s pointing in the wrong direction!
A local story, which you can believe if you want to, has it that when President Eisenhower visited Spain, he complained to Dictator Franco that if the Russians arrived in Barcelona, they would be able to tell from looking at the statue which direction to go to invade American. Franco agreed to turn the statue to point in the wrong direction to mislead the Russians and thereby appease his American visitor.
I’ve only included one photo of Barcelona’s Gothic section. Many of the district’s streets are much narrower than the one pictured below. Notice the balconies overhanging the street. In my imagination, I can imagine people walking out onto the balcony a century ago to dump the chamber pot into the open sewer in the middle of the street below. I don’t know if that actually happened, but if I write a novel set in the Middle Ages, I’m certainly going to include a scene in which a ruffian dumps the contents of a chamber pot onto the head of a well-dressed passerby.
I will conclude with a selfie taken while I was on my stroll around the city today. Notice that as liquid refreshment I was carrying a bottle of tap water. Not only am I too cheap to buy beer, I’m too cheap to pay for bottled water, as well. If I’m forced to buy one of them, it will be beer. Bottled water costs as much as beer in some grocery stores.