So, instead of further complaints about the state of medical care, motoring, the Crumbling Villa, officialdom or customer service in the Lands of the Sand, the Goat shall reminisce about a delightful recent week in Spain.
M and J got married in Barcelona in February, and the Goat and Beloved Wife were among those invited. Thus any plans for heading east and going diving were put on hold. Tickets to Barcelona were obtained: Austrian Airlines, via Vienna. Beloved Wife wanted to go and do a pastry cooking course in Vienna, but a week in France became a better option. Travelling through Vienna nevertheless remained a fixed feast.
M greeted us at Barcelona airport, and we taxied to the hotel; the same hotel as most of the other wedding guests and about five minutes’ walk from M and J’s apartment where everyone met for pre-wedding drinks the night before. On the Big Day, we all piled into the underground train and headed into town to the registry office.
Although first in line, all the happy couples were kept waiting. The authorities wanted to ensure that everyone was ready so they could be processed very quickly by the judge. At one point in the ceremony, M was nudged by her Spanish-speaking friend. “This is the bit where you say, ‘Si.’”
And then we were all outside for photos before heading off for a slap-up meal of predominantly steak followed by a little sightseeing.
More sightseeing followed over the next couple of days. Gaudi is Mr Barcelona, and a visit to the world’s most expensive building site had to be on the itinerary. Sagrada Familia was astonishing. It’s not going to be finished until 2040, but the interior was almost clear of construction paraphernalia. Once finished, the clear glass will be replaced with stained glass. There’s a lift to near the top of one of the spires, which will eventually be dwarfed by the final spire. The whole construction works are apparently funded by admission fees.
We rambled down La Rambla, and explored the Gothic Quarter and Gaudi’s Park Güell. Always mindful of the allegedly ubiquitous pickpockets, both of us were very careful of miscellaneous buskers, living statues and pairs of young gentlemen one of whom would typically ask the time whilst the other one would help himself to the content of the target’s pockets. We were left alone, possibly because the Goat does appear to be a big hard bastard. I was, at one level, spoiling for an attempt so that I had the excuse for pugilism. Presumably, because the local Plod seems disinclined to do anything about low-level criminality, a similar attitude would be taken with someone who broke the nose of a deserving scoundrel.
The splendid warm (for Spain in February) and sunny weather didn’t last. Whilst at Park Güell there were some spots of rain, although not enough to warrant the raincoats that we’d left at the hotel. Gaudi originally conceived the park as a retreat for Barcelona’s upper classes. Nowadays, everyone’s allowed in to see the buildings and vegetation. Gaudi was very much into ceramics, it seems. And his ‘more organic than real life’ style appears to have inspired the set designers for all of the Alien films.
Gothic unicorn gargoyle
In the Gothic Quarter
Taking photographs was forbidden, although I was allowed to retain my camera. My little tripod was confiscated and held to ransom in Left Luggage for inexplicable reasons.
The following day, we went to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Try as I might, I was unable to appreciate pretty much all of the ‘art’ on display. Even Picasso’s obscenely famous Guernica did very little for me. The photo gallery and preliminary sketches were more interesting than the finished product. Taking pictures of Guernica was supposedly forbidden, but photography was permitted everywhere else in the museum. Like anyone would want to take pictures of spilled acrylics mopped up off the floor with an old piece of tent (and then framed and sold at auction for $100,000,000.) Sorry folks, the Goat is an uncultured savage where a lot of modern art is concerned. Who remembers the little boy in the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes?
Why did we fly between Barcelona and Madrid? What was wrong with saving a few polar bears from drowning and taking the train? Well, as flying cost half the price and a fraction of the time, there was very little incentive to do otherwise. How ridiculous!
Perhaps it might have been nice if the Goat’s employers had given him the Sandal Up The Jacksie before the holiday, rather than immediately upon his return. That way, he could have accompanied his Beloved Wife on her exploration of France the following week and possibly helped out a bit with the language.