Jumbo Issue

I have been finding it difficult to keep up the blog at the moment, because we have been so busy, and have been staying with people, which doesn’t leave much time for writing.

This will the last post before we reach Paris, I think.

29th September 2012

The weather forecast has predicted heavy rain for the last few days, but today it looks like coming to pass.   It is already raining as we set off for a museum davy.  As we leave, one of the camp staff tells us, in Spanish and sign language, to take a beach umbrella, the bottom of which has broken off, and “throw it away” when when we’re finished.

Off the train and there is already serious rain, so up goes the umbrella, it’s working well and much wider than everyone else’s. The rain is coming down harder and our feet are soaking, no point trying to avoid the puddles, in the old city the streets are running like rivers and gargoyles on the cathedral vomiting showers into the streets.  I am having a vision of a Monty Python “bring out your dead” sketch.  We go into the cathedral, which is free, swoon, to get out of the rain for a bit.   Of course there are geese!  The cathedral is remarkably beautiful, with lovely vaulted arches, a peculiarly placed choir, and, right in the middle steps leading down to the crypt, which contains a sarcophagus of Saint Eulalia, a 13 year old Roman martyr, who was supposed to have suffered 13 tortures (coincidence, I think not), but I expect it was probably only 9 or 10.  Anyway, she died, as we all do, and has at least got a pretty tomb.

Next we think we’ll pop into the Museo Picasso, for a bit more dry.   Ho, ho ho! The queue is about a mile long, however since we are already drenched, we are determined to stick it out.  Our umbrella is attracting a lot of admiring attention, even the umbrella salesmen are impressed.  It is certainly unique.  We strike up one of those instant friendships with the couple in front, who are from the Czech republic, and have some English.  We keep each others places and hold each others umbrellas, as we alternately nip off for a bite of lunch, hot cup of coffee.   There is a dealer gallery coming up now so I get leave of absence from the queue to have look.   One artist stands out, Anton Rabat, who is using a technique sewing outlines of objects, figures etc, and sewing pieces of canvas together, combined with painting to produce an interesting effect.

Almost exactly an hour later, we achieve the ticket office.  The Picasso museum is dedicated mainly to his earlier life in Corrunna and Barcelona and has representative works from his early stick figures (joke), actually some modest but accomplished scenes painted when he was only thirteen, to his first major works “Science and Charity” (15!) to portraits and landscapes around Barcelona from the 1900’s and culminating in his “Las Meninas” series, reworking and abstracting from Velasquez work.  One monochrome painting of a horse dying after being gored in bullfight, is a clear forerunner of the horse in “Geurnica”.   There are also some ceramics from the 50’s donated by his widow Jaqueline.

As we are about to leave the Picasso museum, a tired young American couple press on us some season tickets for seven museums, of which only one was used.  I don’t know whether we look particularly avuncular or particularly poor, but thank you USA.  (Maybe it was our umbrella)  Well, that’s about it for today.  We sloshed home, wrung ourselves out and went to bed.

30th September 2012

Today is Gaudi day.   I am sitting blogging on our balcony, as the sun sets behind the silhouette of Barcelona in the distance a glass of cerveza at elbow, the deluge of yesterday but a faint memory.  You can pick out some of the famous features, the Port Olympic tower, the cucumber shaped Torre Agbar and Sagrada Familia.  Life could not be much better

Earlier, determined to use at least some of our benefactors largesse, we swan up to the head of the queue at La Padrera, Gaudi’s innovative apartment block, at what was then the outskirts of the city – tourism must have been a doddle in those days – and it turned out to be a fantastic experience, from the roof to the attic, with great contemporary film clips, to the restored period apartments on the top floor.   There are also videos of some of his other houses and buildings, most of which we will not be able to see.   On the way there, we have sat and gazed at Casa Botilo from a McCafe, order espresso macchiato, another of Gaudi’s famous works, it is in fact a new facade for an existing building.  After La Padrera, we walk further up the hill to Casa Vincens, built as a country house, it is now firmly within the city.

1st October 2012 (Monday)

Oh Noes!!  We have just discovered the strange things that happen in Europe on 1st October.  The camp bar, which usually sells bread, is closed, and the other shops don’t open til after nine, but most devastating, the Dali museum in Figueres is closed on Mondays from 1st October.  

As we have a little time in hand, the plan is to have a relaxed day, going to the beach, having a swim and ending up in Figueres for some early morning Dali-ing  activities.  Driving north we see such exotic places (not) as Blanes, previously known only as the ultimate destination of our Barcelona train.  We decide on a visit to Cadaques, which Lonely Planet recommends, it is at the end of a peninsula sticking out into the Med just before Spain meets France.   On the way is palace called Roses, which reputable has the most expensive restaurant in the world.   We decide not to stop.  The last 19 km is a very winding steep hill – it could show the Rimutakas a thing or two – but compensates with some splendid views.  Unusually, there are one or two photo spots so I do manage to get some panoramic shots.  

The town is touristy, but quite nice nonetheless, with a great little bay, boats and topography which reminds one of Akaroa.   We picnic on the beach, stony but flat slatey stones not sharp argelite ones, and beyond the water edge is sandy.  Compulsory swim!  Actually, very nice, though the water is cooler and the days not so hot, so we wonder whether we will do much more swimming as we reach the south of France.   A little sunbathing and a promenade and it is time to head back to Figueres to find accomodation.

We are staying in a bungalow, at camping Pous, a strangely appointed affair. There are twelve spoons but no knives or forks!  The sheets are disposable and look like the kind of stuff they wrap electronic products in.  The towels are the same material.   We are strangely tired after our relaxing day and heading to bed shortly after 9pm.

2nd October 2012

Today we went to the Dali museum.   It’s a little inaccurate to call it a museum, as its more of an experience than a museum.  It is housed in the old theatre of Figueres which was restored by Dali and his wife Gala.  Because we have stayed overnight we arrive shortly after opening time and there are few people around, but within half or three quarters of an hour there are huge crowds of bus tour from Barcelona, American students and others.  You can barely squeeze through the galleries.   Thank goodness it’s the off season, it must be an inferno in August.   There are, of course many of the expected aspects of Dali’s work, the drooping pocket watch, the ants emerging from figures, but there are also other aspects of Dali visible, including surprising lyricism, and previously unknown to me, bizarre and erotic(?) drawings.  What is also in evidence is Dali’s debt to Velasquez, El Greco and Goya, and his devotion to Gala.

We cross over into France and immediately find a cultural difference and a great magic word in this part of the world.  As we stop at a supermarket in Boulou, a man in the car parked next to us makes some remark, which I didn’t catch, but when we say we are  from New Zealand, we receive a 15 minute pean to “les Blacks” and a lecture on “la balle ovale”.   Wow!  Again we are looking for a place to stay, and most of the camps are closed, but we finally fetch up at the Camping Municipale at Saint Marie la Mer, the lady behind the desk says they have no cabins, but “Nouvelle Zealande” and the manager picks up his ears.  He is Didier Sanchez, who is a Perpignan coach and once played against the All Blacks.  He is on the phone to a mate, most of the cabins are privately owned, and voila!  We have a room for the night.   This “camping” is like a shrine to rugby, with a huge statue of a rugby player, and around the swimming pool are murals of rugby players, including Dan Carter and Gary Whetton.

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