For one thing, the weather is warm, a welcome change from the moody cool/no, warm/no, cool and rainy disposition of San Sebastian. It feels like home (meaning Los Angeles), a dry heat that radiates. The outlying suburbs of Barcelona, between the airport and the city center, are also very familiar, not unlike the views we'd see from the 405 freeway in and around Los Angeles. The traffic, too, was just like home, except with scores of helmeted scooter riders whipping in and out of cars.
But when our driver turned toward the Catedral, which began construction in 1300 (1300!), the one with the spires that poke up at the sky like an old woman's fingers through the middle of the Barri Gotic (Gothic District), I knew we were someplace else, someplace magical. The driver stopped abruptly in the middle of a square and unloaded our baggage. "I can't take you further," he said, explaining that his van could not navigate the alleyways. "But it's on the left. Take a left." He handed me a map (useless when you don't know a city yet) and we were on our way.
We passed several "lefts" that hardly seemed noteworthy, thin arteries that only alley cats could pass through. But it was gorgeous, and even three tired, hungry kids and too much luggage rolling loudly along the cobblestones couldn't keep me from smiling. Each step had something to teach. Gothic gargoyles scowled down at us. Miniscule passageways rose above us like tiny bridges. A guitar player strummed flamenco in a postage-stamp-sized placa. We had to ask for directions three times before we retraced our steps and found our way down a "street" that was crowded with just Marlowe and me -- which didn't stop two taxis from motoring through. Our hotel is a gemstone hidden within the Gothic walls of Barcelona, the Hotel Neri, and I will write about it in another post - it deserves a sumptuous description fit for staying in a dreamworld of art and architecture.
But for now I am too eager to finish this post and enter the dazzling light of Barcelona. The city throbs with excitement and passion and lights and sensual pleasures. It is intense and thriving and Raf and I jumped in with both feet, tremendous joy on our faces and our own Sagrada Familia trailing us.