Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Library Cantina

I know he already talked about it last year, but this is the library where Rob researches his favorite topics on german-speaking culture: obscure women writers and composers, Red Vienna and the civilizing of the urban poor, and perceptions of America in the 1920's. I think I'd be able to study even the most boring or disgusting topics in a library with rolling staircases -- the climbing of ladders to retrieve books is just so civilized!
Here is the outside of the library -- it's a wing of the Hofburg (the Emperor's in-town palace) overlooking Heldenplatz, which is a very historyful piece of dirt. It has statues of Prince Eugene who lived in the Belvedere palace, and Archduke Charles, the guy who took Barcelona because they're military heroes who fought for Vienna and the empire. It is most well-known for Hitler's speech here just before Austria was annexed to Germany.
This is more context than you need, because in the basement of said library is a cantina where we like to have lunch. It has only two entrees each day: one with meat and one vegetarian. You go buy your drink and get a token for your entree to take back to the kitchen window, then choose a seat among the eclectic tables and have your lunch. It is horribly hip, with red walls, huge abstract wall hangings, big vases full of flowers and peacock feathers, and a clientele that ranges from the decidedly blue-collar library workers, to the academics visiting from all over the world. At least one student agrees with us: he said "I have to go there every day just to see what they're going to have! I love that place!" Amen. Every time we go, Rob starts planning how to have something like it on campus at home. It will never happen. Red walls? Vegetarian entrees? Non-representational art? Mis-matched furniture? Not at BYU.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Barcelona, the Last Word

[click to enlarge] A couple of last things about our visit to Barcelona. First, our apartment: It was a sort of U-shaped apartment with a bedroom at each end and two in the hallways in a building from the 18th or 19th century. We noticed that our streets were as narrow as anything in the Gothic district, but we still had cars and butano trucks going up and down them. We loved our wee balconies -- no one more than Joss, who played as much as we'd let him in the potting soil of the flower pots. I don't think we had a minute of direct sunlight anywhere in the apartment, and I think most of the apartments in our neighborhood were the same. It was sort of seedy; had a New Orleans dilapidated vibe. And it was typical of most vacation apartment rentals in that it had castoff furniture and a poorly-stocked kitchen made mainly for weekends of drinking. Twelve hours after our arrival the kids were drinking their breakfast juice out of shot glasses. But it had a washing machine and a dryer which I used daily, and a tub as large as a sandbox, and was close, and we wouldn't have seen half of what we saw if we'd lived 45 minutes out in the suburbs. For four days we can groove on seedy and shot glasses.
[click to enlarge and notice our middle child] The second thing, and it makes me weep to admit it, but my Barcelona was not easy to use. The Metro was fast and efficient and air-conditioned, but the AC heated up the metro stations to sweltering. So you would sweat while waiting, then cool off while riding, and then get all sweaty again going back above ground. The kids wanted to avoid the metro because there were so many people on it; they were worried they wouldn't get off in time. Or on in time. But as I said, the McFarland Family Public Transportation Motto is No Child Left Behind. Knock on wood!
Add to that Fluffy's wicked cool stroller, and the metro was nearly impossible. Elevators were mostly nonexistent. I asked a woman if there was a map of the stations with elevators shown and she said "no, you just read the signs when you come off the trains" and I asked "how do I find the elevators if I'm above ground?" and she told me I was out of luck. Once we were below, there was nearly always some problem with the stroller/handicapped entrance. We had to hunt down the metro worker with the key or the security guard and get them to override us through. It was a pain and was not for the faint of heart. We tried to figure out busses, but they never seemed to go all the way to our desination. Perhaps we should have called Antionio and asked him to chauffer us in his maxi taxi, but even that was problematic. As it was, he brought us from and returned us to the airport because he was one of only a few cab drivers who could fit our mondo family. Did I mention that the airport was brand new? Opened less than a week? No wonder I didn't recognize anything there!
The third thing is that I discovered as much about my husband on this trip as I learned about anything. Once we arrived he admitted that what he really wanted was a FV Barca scarf to which I said "Who are you and what have you done with my husband?" This was much stranger than that cable car thing. Rob typically has a hard time feigning polite indifference to the scores/teams/seasons at his own university -- he's tired of the large sucking sound they make as all of the alumni dollars drain their way. But I bought him a scarf. I figure that he's got to have his own version of Barcelona, and the soccer team is now his. Rob also is a shopaholic in a new place. Whenever he got out of the house he'd come back with three or four new bags of something from a random store or market. So much so that we went home our last night to eat the pizza and Coca de San Juan and all the other treats that he'd bought. We packed three fuets home with us. Now that we're back in Vienna he wishes he'd bought a dozen; I'm wishing that we'd bought an entire leg of jamon serrano. He was also an enthusiastic traveler. Loved the crazy stuff and the dirty stuff and old stuff and the gothic stuff and the modernist stuff. Didn't get undone by the heat or the dirt or the strangenesses. I'll travel with him any time.
Lastly, you'll notice that what we didn't do on this trip was go to any of my areas or visit any of the members, investigators, friends or baptisms from the mission. I thought about it a lot, but every time I tried to envision it, I could just see the four kids being bored and not understanding anything and having to eat paella with langostinas and mejillones and calamaris. So we didn't do it. I would have taken them to one of my areas if we'd had one more day, but the closest one was also the ugliest. We saw a couple of similarly gritty areas on our last day, so I just pointed those out to Rob. Since I only visited Barcelona and not my mission, I figure I'll have to go back again. Right? RIGHT?!
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Miramar on Montjuic

Rob expressed a wish to ride in the cable cars from the beach to Montjuic. I was surprised, because frankly, that has never registered on my radar before, and this was coming from Mr. Why-should-we-go-to-Disneyland-I-want-to-go-to-the-Getty-instead. But whatever. We decided to try to leave from Montjuic because it would be less crowded there; then we had to find a way up that would work for the stroller. We ended up walking all the way up in the heat. The poor kids were so tired already. Sebi in particular would give me periodic updates on how much walking power he had left. He'd start the day with arms wide open, but by the time we were hoofing it up Montjuic, he was perilously close to the end of his power. We made it to the station only to find that they had just closed down because of strong winds.
We were sad.
(Sebi is better than just about anyone at that Charlie Brown-style dejection; so much so that we often start singing the theme music when he does this)

We decided to drown our woes at the restaurant up on top. Five granizados, three jamon y queso bocadillos and a plate of tapas para picar, and we were feeling much, much better. The kids liked our tapas, and we made each of them try a fried calamari ring without telling them what it was. Maddie and Sebi were definite converts. The jury is still out for Will, but he loves the bragging rights it will give him. Croquettes, tortilla, jamon, manchego cheese, salami and pa amb tomaquet rounded it out. Perfect for picando (and what a great word picar is!).

And for some of us, all it takes is freedom and water and we're back on top of the world!

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Parc Guell

[warning: another post with a whole slew of collages. only parents/grandparents are obligated to click on them] After the Ramblas we caught the metro to go to Parc Guell. I'd been here two or three times on my mission and I loved it. But we got off the metro and I didn't recognize anything. We came to a set of a dozen escalators and I was certain I'd never been there. It was quite a hill and we were deeply grateful for the escalators -- about like climbing up to Coit Tower only somewhat longer, I think (maybe my perception was skewed by the stroller). It turned out well because we came in at the top of the park and had an amazing view of the entire city. We were able to point out several places we'd already visited (the beach, cathedral, sagrada familia, etc.) and the three towers of Badalona where I served. Badalona had very similar hills, only without the escalators, and instead of a great park at the top, we had only our ramshackle cinderblock hut at the end of an alley in the middle of a drug ring. Story for another time.
Intended to be a master planned community, the deal fell through and Barcelona was left with this unique public space -- two houses were built, and a marketplace/plaza with the gatehouses and a lot of very interesting walkways. I thought it looked like gingerbread house meets Mad Max of Thunderdome when I was here on my mission. Again, I came in the off season and it was cool and deserted. We played soccer up on the plaza in the rain. This time it was packed and hopping with tourists and people hawking their wares. Three guys played acoustic guitar on the plaza and audience members started dancing together spontaneously. I'll stick a bad video on at the end here of these musicians playing so you can get a feel for it.
Gaudi lived in one of the houses for a while, so they've turned it into a museum, bringing in some of the furniture he designed for other buildings. Rob and I made tag-team visits.

I took the kids down to the plaza where they broke out their butter cookies and were soon serenaded by pigeons. Will and Maddie had them eating out of their hands while I chirped at them about avian flu. They loved it. It's such a pleasant space. It's so beautiful. I didn't have to pretend to play soccer this time!
The young man on the left expressed his desire to sleep for three hours. We decided to break for food instead. Rob got to try the Tortilla de Patata bocadillo, which had long been touted as a rare treat (at our house, anyway). Kids had ice cream. Fluff is eating a magdalena, which is a sort of muffin. Barely related memory from my mission: one of my companions had only the most tenuous grasp of the Spanish language. She often described a woman from Madrid, which is a madrilena as a magdalena or a muffin. Which is what Sebi wanted to be when he grew up, so I guess it all evens out in the end.
This is the famous mascot of the park, and often of Barcelona. Will is wearing it on his shirt. Maddie got a shirt with the Sagrada Familia made out of lobsters, and Sebi has one with Pa amb Tomaquet, which is just toasted baguette with tomato rubbed on it and olive oil drizzled over it. Good stuff, though.
Joss finally gave in and slept for an hour on my lap (he wakes up if I put him back in the stroller, the stinker!). We sat in the shade looking at this most glorious view and smelling the lavender on the breeze. It was amazing and perfect and I loved just sitting there and being in Barcelona, having Rob and the kids climb all over Parc Guell and discover the quirky and lovely things about it.
You feel bad dragging your kids around, making them walk miles and feeding them strange foods at irregular intervals. Then they give you a picture like this, and you're ready to do it all over again.
And if they give you several fantastic pictures? Well, they're asking for it.

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The Ramblas

On Wednesday morning, I made the family walk through the Ramblas one more time. It was a little quieter, being a holiday and a weekday morning, but there were still plenty of people. I was so sad that the Boqueria was closed, because Rob would have loved it. I remembered taking my parents there and watching a lobster try to climb off the ice at my father. Instead Rob looked at the interesting seed packets at the flower stalls. We were up much too far, but we were very fortunate and there was one stall selling small animals (most of them are closer to the beach) that the kids had a good time looking at. In addition to the usual birds, gerbils and hamsters, these people sold guinea pigs, bunnies, turtles as big as your thumb, and even chipmunks! I was glad we came again because I just hadn't had quite enough Ramblas.
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[click to enlarge] Maddie and I took an hour to run over to the Ciutadella park and look around. I learned a lot of history. Namely, in the War of Spanish Succession, Barcelona fell to the Archduke Charles of Austria in 1705; then they supported him. Felipe V's forces were finally able to win the city back after a long siege which ended in 1714. In order to keep the Barcelonese in line, Felipe V built a large Citadel here. It was never used to keep soldiers and arms, but became a notorious prison during the Napoleonic occupation. The citadel was torn down in the 19th century and was given to the city as a park. Now it houses the parliament, the zoo, some museums, and has fountains and a boating lake. It is big and it feels like the Golden Gate Park only with palm trees and good weather. In the collage you can see the men playing boulles, the fountain which a young Gaudi helped to design, Maddie in front of the Three Dragons natural history museum, and Maddie having a granizado (a dressed up slurpee or snowcone). Finally, the Arc de Triomf is at the entrance to the park. It was built for the 1888 Universal exhibition by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas. We make good use of an hour, that girl and I.


[click collage to enlarge] These are at the Placa Espanya looking up the Palau National and back down to the twin towers at the plaza. And here are a couple of shots of people lighting off firecrackers. Rob said that while at the Mies van der Rohe pavilion one went into the bushes and all the guards ran over to make certain the whole place didn't go up in flames. Later when we were out in the Gothic Quarter, I watched a grandpa or yayo light a firecracker with his grandson that must have been loud enough to burst their eardrums. In Catalunya the grandparents are yayo and yaya which I think are the most delightful names ever; to see a toddler lift up his arms and squeal "Yaya!" is a heartmelter. I tried to get Madeline to call my parents yaya and yayo when she was little, but it didn't stick. Rob wants to be called Big Daddy by his grandchildren the way that African Americans do. There is no way my grandkids will call me Big Mama. I don't want them calling me big anything! But yaya is fine by me.

[click collage to enlarge] Since he was up there on Montjuic, Rob also decided to stop in at Poble Espanyol, another creation for the 1929 Exposition. It was the idea of Josep Puig i Cadafalch to have an open-air architectural museum with examples of all of the styles from around Spain to create an imaginary town. Rob eavesdropped on a flamenco concert and dubbed the place Spaineyland.

Mies van der Rohe Pavilion

Rob ran out to the Placa Espanya to see the German Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe. It was meant to be temporary for the 1929 Exposition and you can imagine how groundbreaking it was then.
They had begun to dismantle it afterward when two architects began to collect donations to keep it in Barcelona.
So of course Germany+Modernism+Architecture = Rob and he had to visit it while in town.
Most amazingly, he managed to get several pictures making the place look empty instead of full of tourists and students all making drawings of the place.Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 26, 2009

Born With Two Boys

(click collage to enlarge) Rob and I took Will and Sebastian to explore the neighborhood just under ours, called Born. This is where the Picasso and other museums are, and a bunch of boutiques and hip restaurants have sprung up around them.
We visited the church of Maria del Mar and lit candles there (a longtime tradition for the kids), bought drinks, wandered the streets and took pictures. The t-shirt above shows a three-headed catalan dragon because this year the soccer team, FC Barca won three championships: the Real, the league and the World Cup. It was made all the sweeter for the fans here because Madrid won nothing.
Rob wanted me to buy him some chocolate from a fancy schmancy shop, and when I went inside, the shopkeeper and I looked out the window to see one of our boys beating up on the other, who was wailing in his turn as they are wont to do. The shopkeeper gave Sebi a shi-shi lollipop, and his assistant gave another to Will, which was so kind of them. So having explored and sugared up the boys, we let them go home.Posted by Picasa

Palau de la Musica Catalana

Next Rob and I took a tour of the Palau. I'd seen pictures of it from my mission, but I had no idea where it was. It was down the street from us, and we could see a sliver of it from our window! It was built for an amateur choir, not unlike the MSingers, and I kept thinking what it would be like to have one's own hall like this. The tour was good for the footweary, with lots of sitting down in nice chairs. The building was absolutely stunning. The only mar on it for me was that you are not permitted to take photos of it inside. Forgive me, but that seems so passe in a day and age of camera phones, great photos without flash, and most especially the internet. So this is cobbled together of photos we could take outside, and bootlegged images from the website. If you have a moment, you should see the virtual tour there, which shows more of the incredible details in the hall.
On the way home, Rob stopped in and bought a Coca de San Juan, or a cake for St. John's day, which is June 24 (also happens to be my brother John's birthday, though my parents weren't trying to be Catholic about naming him). I'm still not certain why, but on San Juan eve, everyone lights off firecrackers and has bonfires. It is an extremely loud night. I remember on my mission having to shut the windows so we could sleep even though it was very hot. This time we were trying to keep it down so the kids could sleep. Our quirky apartment turned out to be perfect for the job: two of the kids were sleeping in hallways with no windows, and the big wooden doors on the balconies sealed out the sound nicely. That and a dose of Benadryl for all.Posted by Picasa

Passeig de Gracia

We stopped next door and had a break to reload on carbs. The Casa Amatller is under scaffolding right now, which is a shame, because it's amazing in its own decorative way. Then I sent Rob off to keep exploring the Eixample district, because I knew he'd want to see it, and I could tell after walking just around the corner to see the 'wig' on the Tapies house that the kids did not. I took the kids home and they were wonderful, so we stopped at a candy store. I had always thought that being "like a kid in a candy store" was describing excitement, but my kids seemed to experience paralyzing indecision. They finally chose something and we made it home.
In the meantime Rob made it to another Gaudi building: Casa Mila. It's also known as La Pedrera (the Stone Quarry). It provoked strong sentiment when it was built. Then he visited the market in the Eixample district and made it back just before the two of us had to leave for our next tour.

Casa Batllo

[warning: there are tons and tons of pictures for this post. you're not obligated to click on any of the collages unless you're a parent/grandparent] Tuesday morning we got out bright and early to see Casa Batllo, my number one priority. This is a house that Gaudi remodeled for some textile barons about the same time that my parents' house was built. The interior wasn't open to the public when I was on my mission, though we managed to see the stairwell once.
I love this house more than any other Gaudi, and I have a picture of it hanging in our hall at home. The patron saint of Catalunya is St. Jordi (St. George) and he slays a dragon. So if you look up on the right, the roofline is supposed to look like a dragon, with scales for tiles. The tower is the hilt of Jordi's sword. The balconies are like skulls of the dragon's victims. It's also been called the "house of bones" because of the skulls and the pillars in front. Or, it can also all be seen as having a sea theme, with sand and shells and water. These are all fun things for the kids to look for. That took them ninety seconds . . .
From the stairwells. We also all got audio guides, which were fun for the kids to listen to. Joss liked yanking my neck around and listening in on mine. There were cleaning ladies polishing and shining the banisters while we were there and making it all smell like a sea breeze.

This is from the "Noble Floor" or main public rooms. It was cool! What can I tell you? I loved even the little wooden vents underneath the front windows (Joss is looking in them above). I was surprised that among the regular study/drawing room/ dining room set up, that they also had a big beautiful sewing room on the main floor, but I guess they were textile people. Maybe it was good for business.
From the courtyard out in back. I let Joss run around out here so long as he didn't get interested in the ashtrays. You could see over to the other houses from back here, which was fun, because they're all famous as the Manzana de Discordia (means "Apple of Discord" like from mythology, but manzana also means a city block here -- they are all of such different architectural styles).

In the attic. The kids thought it was funny that there was a laundry room up here, but that's absolutely typical -- you hang your clothes outside on the rooftops in good weather (or on your balcony if that's all you have, and you hang a tarp over the top in case your neighbor above decides it's time to water the geranium) and in your attic in winter or rainy weather. There was also a big place right under the dragon's back where water was stored.

Out on the rooftop. Gaudi became known for his chimneys particularly, making something essential into something unique and decorative. We made our way down to the giftshop where I could tell the kids liked the house because they wanted to send postcards to friends. My wonderful husband bought me some earrings. I knew I was thrilled about the whole experience when I was excited to use the restrooms just because it was in the Casa Batllo!
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Our children only agreed to visit the Sagrada Familia on condition that we took them to the beach afterward. Accordingly, they had worn bathing suits under their clothes, and we schlepped out to the beach next to the Vila Olympica and Frank Gehry's giant fish sculpture. This was not a beach until the olympics in 1992, when they razed the area and imported tons and tons of sand. Even now, in certain storms, much of it washes away and has to be replaced, but it is still seen as a success and it is certainly used and appreciated by locals and tourists alike. The kids had a ball. They are all three such fish that I didn't worry too much about them swimming even in the sea. Joss took as much as he could, and when the wind kicked up around six, he fell asleep for an hour or so. We rode the U-bahn home, had dinner and washed the sand off in the tub, and went to bed.
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Sagrada Familia

We deemed the kids ready to go after we returned and fed them all lunch. I'd wanted to see Casa Batllo first, but Rob insisted that we see the Sagrada Familia, ticking off the most important sites first. He was right. Five minutes after we walked in, I was going to check the stroller, and ran into Jeff and Susan from Provo, who had just finished up the Madrid program and were visiting friends. Incredible! It was so good to see them and they look wonderful, though they said it had been tough traveling every weekend (the Spain program is really good about taking their students everywhere in the country -- we do one big schlepp near the end, and we don't cover nearly everything).
We wandered around with them, being amazed at the changes they've made since we'd last seen it (I was there in 1994 and Jeff had been in 1999). I remembered it as mostly roofless, and the construction was more theoretical than actual. This time they've made big strides (see the roof and stained glass pictures above) and there were workmen pounding and carving and assembling away in the middle. It is supposed to be done in 2026 and it will be amazing. It was even interesting for the kids. There is plenty of biblical symbolism with the twelve towers and the three facades, and then lots of interesting detail in the nativity and passion facades, which even have scriptural references carved by them. I should have brought my scriptures when I visited as a missionary. Then there are the plain wacky things like the oranges and staves of wheat tower toppers. We were going to climb the stairs, but now you have to go up the elevator, and there was a 90 minute wait. We wait for nothing for 90 minutes. We lasted until Joss fell apart, then parted with Jeff and Susan as they were ran into someone else they knew. True celebrities, those two!
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Monday Morning in San Pere

Monday morning all of our children were begging for mercy. We put Joss down for a nap and plugged the other three into the laptop and two video iPods (thank you, apple, for providing entertainment on this trip), and went on an Expotition around the neighborhood. It turns out that we were staying in San Pere mes Baix, which is catalan for Lower St. Peter street. There is also an upper- middle- plaza and church of the same name. It was a fantastic location -- a geographical wonder -- a ten minute walk from the Gothic quarter, the Ramblas, Plaza Catalunya, Passeig de Gracia, the Ciutadella, and Born district. It wasn't hip like Born, with boutiques and museums, and it wasn't as touristy as the Gothic Quarter, it was more authentic, with working class types and a lot of small stores.
We went to the market and bought fuet (small salamis) and jamon serrano and fruit and bread and lots of fun stuff. We wandered the neighborhood and visited the church. We meandered over to the Arc del Triomf at the entrance to the Ciutadella park (more on that later). Rob was thrilled to see the old men out in the park playing boulles (petanque, bocci, lawn bowling, whatever language you like). We only saw one guy out airing his bird, and he wasn't really authentic because he was a. too young and hip, b. only had one bird cage, c. wasn't smoking. Usually all the old retired guys will walk to the park carrying their bird cages (as many as five or six) in fabric cases, and smoke and set the world to rights while they give the birds some 'fresh' air. I was also looking for old ladies wearing only cardigans with safety pins at the neck, but it was out of season. Instead we ran into this lady coming back from her shopping who caught us looking at a map and would not let us go until she was absolutely certain that we knew which way she thought we should go. She reminded me so much of my mission. The good people of Catalunya will never use one word where ten will suffice. They emphasize things by repeating them: "todo recto, recto, recto!" (straight ahead) or "pequenito, pequenito" (little, little). They've always got an opinion, and you had best pay it heed. She and everyone was concerned that we knew pickpockets were on the rise -- we probably heard it a good five times, and were relieved that we made it out without incident. I guess we just looked like such a jaleo that we weren't a good mark. Even the cab driver we used, Antonio, made me so nostalgic telling me a story about shopping with his wife. Just the way that he told it was so spanish.
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