Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last Saturday

Well, my apologies that all of us are behind on posting. Liz, our tour guide, cleverly left off the times on the early version of the itinerary we started with. There are quite a few early mornings, fast breakfast, immediately to the bus or train, a full day of walking and sights, and dinner often at 9 p.m. Sometimes that involves leaving in the morning, sight-seeing, traveling to another region, and then getting to our hotel by 8:30 pm., quick check-in, fast jog to dinner. All good, but a little rushed. And our hotel in Costa del Sol didn't have wi-fi, which collapsed all our high-tech sensibilities.

So, catching up...

On Saturday, 5/22, our excursion to Montserrat. A beautiful, if again coffee-deprived ride into the northern mountains--very different landscape than we would see later when we headed south. Rivers, winding mountain roads, lots of grafitti on bridges and overpasses, mostly having to do with the Catalonian difficulties with the rest of Spain. Though there was one nice triple-mansize grafitti of Bart Simpson on a slab of concrete near one river.

History bits--that the Abbot of Montserrat sailed with Columbus and became the first vicar of the New World. That, our guide claimed, the statue of the 12th C. Virgin at Montserrat, whose image appeared in the vision in the cave to simple shepherds, had weathered from its original white, and now is the Black Virgin. The line to go kiss the icon was too long, so I didn't see it directly, but the postcards show her quite black. The part I somewhat doubt is that here they claim the notion of the Black Virgin of Montserrat directly "caused" the image of the dark Virgin in Mexico. I've heard alternate versions which talk about the vision of the Virgin of Guadelupe by a humble Native in Mexico. I rather more like this American-continent version, which stresses the synthesis of the Native world with the "alien" Catholics. But alas, I'm not a historian.

And yes, if you read Kristina's post, the walk out of Montserrat was lined with vendors of local foods--I bought some honey, a block of quince jam, John got some strong, tasty goat cheese. All good. But not enough coffee!

Free time! Afternoon off in Barcelona. We had lunch at a cafe beside a hostel. Cheap, and delicious. Taylor and John had sausage sandwiches, I had pork, with a dish of fresh olives. Nice, though John was somewhat offended at the no-sound, America-critical music videos playing on the big screen. Later, walking around La Ramblas, souvenirs, the street full of interesting people [I didn't encounter the "Elephant Man"--I'll leave that for someone else to comment on...]. Tried the Xocolate amb churros--thick chocolate, somewhere between syrup and hot chocolate, in which you dip deep-fried, sugary donuts shaped like oversized Twizzlers. It's a customary food here. Interesting. Not something anyone health-conscious should develop a taste for.

We visited a big department store. Not so much of interest there, though while John shopped for his girlfriend, I browsed souvenirs on the 5th floor. Lots of trinkets that reference Gaudi, authentically or not. More strange, a row of statues, bobble-heads without the bobble. Instead, each figure has dropped his or her pants, and is "sqatting down." The figures represent political figures from Spain I didn't much recognize, various soccer players, and then the Americans--Mr. Obama, Hillary Clinton, some Republicans... Just odd encountering such political commentary in the form of tacky souvenirs.

A nice day, despite swollen feet, various blisters, not enough coffee...

Chrissy's quote of the day: "We're all falling apart!"

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