Wednesday, February 4, 2009

“The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly On the Plain”

…….bovina excreta.

Professor Henry Higgins may have used this ‘Id’ altering tongue-twister on Eliza Doolittle, but rest assured the rain in Spain falls everywhere!

It’s Sunday, and with a dense cloud cover issuing an over abundance of precipitation, it’s the type of weather suitable for ducks and mad Australians? Albeit, a new town in a new country cooing at the brave to venture forth. Where to from here?

Maria, with a case of Barcelona Belly, won't leave the proximity of the loo and will start transposing our blog into Corel (ready for printing when we return home). I, on the other hand, decide to once again don hat, coat, storm-stick, and a map of Barcelona, then strike forth into the elements.

Our apartment is located in Sant Marti opposite Port Vill and marinas, and behind us is the area known as Barri Gòtic, that name alone is an inspiration for exploration. Hence, this is the direction I head for – the dark and narrow streets of the unknown.

The area is reminiscent of the Whitechapel area of East London with the exception: Jack doesn’t live here. In fact, this Gothic area may be gloomy but it teams with life. As I proceed through the rain, I hear people singing; passersby greet each other like long lost friends; little estaminets and bars bulging with humanity; locals scurrying through this labyrinth like mice in a Skinner box – yes, folks, there is a verve here, which tremors through my very footfalls.

Through this winding maze of gothic architecture, graffiti, cooking aromas and tobacco, I suddenly venture into one of Barcelona’s many plazas or “plaça”. This small square, called Plaça Centelles, is bordered by rustic residential buildings (which some incorporate ground level cafes and bars), and a church called Sants Just I Pastor. I must add, throughout my walks in Barcelona city every plaça has a church or remnants of one.

Continuing onwards I come across my objective – Infomaćion de Touristé. The tourism office, which is rather modest, is located in a precinct of government offices. I find the Tourism staff most accommodating, and provide me with an assortment of tourist information, and salient advice. As I leave the tourism office, the rain commences to fall more heavily, so I open the brolly and head west along the Carre de la Boqueria towards the Via Rambla, one of the main street in Barcelona.

As I reach Via Rambla, the rain continues it heavy downfall and time to test a local coffee house. So, a short sojourn in Le Primavera for a doble espresso. I must admit, the Spanish do know how to make strong coffee; and after the ingestion of a ‘gorilla’ I’m ready to press on south on the Via Rambla.

Likened to Marseille, Barcelona is a city of ships and those of varying shapes and sizes. Barcelona’s history has basically revolved around the sea, though trade, ship building and warfare.

Let’s just digress here for a moment….
Who founded Barcelona: the Greeks, the Romans, Larry King? Well, if you’re into legends – it was Hercules, four hundred years before the defining of Rome! (Long live the Heroic age!) However, there is another belief that Barcelona was established by Hamilcar Barca, (the father of Hannibal,) around 3BC after he had given the Scippio brothers bloody noses. He then gave the area his family name, ‘Barcino’.

Well, considering the evidence of Roman ruins unearthed over the years, I would suspect SPQR was hitting the charts about 15BC. Then after the Romans had their shot, they were kicked out by the Visigoths, who in turn were usurped by the Moors and finally Charlemagne had his prod around the eighth century, anno domini. Interesting, eh….

As I neared the Passeig de Colom, I noticed the icon of a museum on the edge of the port - yes; it’s a maritime museum - Reials Drassanes Museu Maritim to be exact. This was to prove a most venerable haven to escape the rain.

The museum is not only impressive by the exhibits, but in the manner of the presentation as a chronological tour. It’s not restricted just to Spain’s maritime history; it incorporates the influences from other nations. However, the museum does boast a full scale replica of a 13C galley, and the replica of the submarine, Ictíneo 1, built by the gifted shipwright Narcís Moturiol. The original was built in 1859. To stave any further rambling; follow this link to the museums’ site.

After a couple of hours at the museum, it was time to return to the apartment and Maria. The apartment we have rented has a kitchen; therefore, only home-cooked meals this week, folks. There’ll be no fancy menu to report….well, maybe?

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