Unfinished Business

Tapas. I just didn’t get it. Why would Spain want to identify its food culture with appetizers.. salad samples.. glorified finger-food. We savoured lunch on La Rambla, a tree-lined pedestrian walkway, stretching for over a kilometre, while watching people and their daily lives pass by our plates. A cat-and-mouse game played before our eyes between illegal street hawkers and police officers, did not impress my traveling companion. The vendors selling everything from sunglasses, souvenirs and knock-off Nikes, were repeatedly forced to move on. Dee didn’t understand why the authorities could not just designate special spots along the open-air mall for the informal salesmen. My wife also expressed the same frustration with the less-than-cooked rice in her Paella.

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Our recent visit to Barcelona, population over 1.6 million, had us gawking at the Sagrada Familia. The house of worship which commenced construction in 1882 was still WIP - work in progress. One could accuse the commissioners and builders that the eternally unfinished status is really the ultimate sales pitch. One could excuse the thought that this heavenly structure actually appears quite sinister. The organically inspired sections of the spires reveal critters, bugs, slugs and dark globulous forms, straight out of an “Alien” flick. This was not the brainchild of H.R. Giger. This was the creative mind of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. The visionary builder died in 1926 and his creation is projected to be complete one-hundred years after his passing.

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There is little doubt that Antoni Gaudi put Barcelona on the map. Several of his landmarks dot the city, depicting signature murals pieced together with broken tiles, and buildings consistently advocating organic shapes and looping lines. By the end of our tour, my wife and I were totally “Gaudied”-out.

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An hours drive from the city through winding roads is the awe-inspring rock formations of Monserrat. A monastery compound perched on the mountainside. Legend has it that the black-Madonna appeared before the village children and the site has since become a destination for religious pilgrimage. I observed that not only pilgrimage of the spiritual order were arriving at the rocks.. Also devout journeymen and women of the two-wheeled push-bike order were grinding up the twisting ascents with fervour... a calling I could only dream of fulfilling before I meet my creator.

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Back in Barca, sudden explosions in the city raised alarm and unsettled our nerves. With the recent terrorist acts and unrest in the world, Dee and I became very fearful. Turns out our stay in Barcelona coincided with the festivities of Saint John the Baptist. I didn’t know exactly what the the commotion was about, however, people of every neighbourhood and apartment block celebrated by chucking firecrackers at each other and every passerby. No intention of threat or terror, just fun-filled ballistic greetings. And a sign that safety standards were far more lax than they are in North America.

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At the end of the four-day trip, we concluded that our visit was way too short. There were many sights and experiences that we didn’t get to realize. For sure we want to go back. Maybe next time we will get to ride the bike-paths along the boulevards of Barcelona. Possibly next visit I will be able to afford that 180-Euro maroon-and-blue jersey sold at the Barca Football Club. I wish to take that extra stroll along the sandy strip of beach, up to the section where the bathers bare all - NOT. Perhaps my next visit will witness the completed House of Sagrada. And maybe.. just maybe.. I will finally appreciate the delicacy, that is tapas.

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But for now, it’s on to the next destination.

June 2016

© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012