Sunday, May 06, 2007

Saturday in Barcelona

Yesterday was a strange day weather-wise: blue-skied and sunny in the morning and afternoon, then dark and pouring-rain from late-afternoon on. Andrew and I set out on a long walk at the tail end of the niceness, then found ourselves pursued by threatening rain clouds midway down the Rambla. Fortunately, our destination was close: the Columbus monument, a tall column with a statue of Columbus perched on top that serves as a kind of exclamation point at the bottom of La Rambla, just before the port. It’s possible to take an elevator to the top of the monument, which we’d never done before; and we set out yesterday determined to cross another item off our ‘things to do before leaving’ list.

The rain held off as we rode the elevator to the top of the monument, accompanied with a long-haired man who operated the elevator with a key. Andrew spoke a few words to him in Spanish, and the man asked where we were from. We established that we were from New York but had lived here for two years. “Two years?” the man said incredulously, putting a hand on Andrew’s shoulder. “Two years?” I was unsure about what was prompting his reaction; perhaps he found it odd that we were doing such a touristy thing in a city that was our home. But then he said, gravely, with only a mild hint of a smile, “Two years—and you don’t speak Catalan?”

The man then said, “Castilian—eh. Castellanos are—” and here he held his hands up to his temples, miming bull horns—“They are bulls, you know? Barcelona is Catalan. I am Catalan.”

We reached the top of the column. The sky was full of rain clouds, but we could see the Rambla snaking through the city, a tree-filled crevice among the pink and beige and yellow buildings. In the distance were the Sagrada Familia, the National Palace museum, and the sea.

Back on the street, heading for the metro stop at the end of the Rambla, we found our eyes pulled—against our will—to a man waiting across the street for the light to change. He was an older gentleman, completely naked save for socks and tennis shoes, with a Speedo tattooed over the Speedo portion of his body. Heads turned; Is he--?; That guy’s naked! He crossed the street, unconcerned. This was, by far, one of the Rambla’s strangest sights yet.

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