May 10, 2012

Pablo & Gabroen in El Born

I just spent a week in the great city of Barcelona for a conference in my area of work. Yes, I know, not a bad place at all for a conference. The conference industry is a very interesting one, and some cities almost seem to be built around it. Take a city like San Diego, that devoted a prominent part of its downtown bay front to a huge, architecturally unexciting conference center. Or Atlanta, where conference goers can choose between two large conference centers, one in a unsoulful downtown office area with a Hooters and Hardrock Cafe as the only dining options, the other conveniently and boringly next to the airport. Barcelona's conference center is not anywhere close to the city center either, but they did a nice job in restyling the 1992 olympic area with sleekly designed museums and hotels along the sea shore. My hotel had a 23rd floor roof top swimming pool, with amazing views of the Costa Brava.

I flew in a day early, to meet some people and have some spare time to explore the old town, including the neighborhoods El Born and Barri Gotic. It was packed with tourists, foreign high school students on tour, and soccer fans (more about the soccer later). This led to waiting lines at the top tourist sites, like the Picasso Museum. I had been in Barcelona only once before, exactly 20 years ago, for not even a day, and the Picasso museum was closed that time. So this time around I was eager to go in, and it was worth the 30 minute wait. Although not my favorite artist, Pablo was a character and a genius, and the museum focuses on his early work that shows his evolution from classic to cubist.

He also was a very prolific guy; one room is stuffed with 35 large oil paintings that he made in just over 2 months, all of them now very museum-worthy.

A pleasant cava on the Plaza Real and a dinner at a tiny tapas bar with the locals glued to the television for the European semifinals soccer between London's Chelsea and FC Barcelona, or Barca for the locals. The match was played that very evening in the iconic Camp Nou stadium only 3 miles down the road from us. Futbol is big all over the world, but it's huge in Barcelona, almost larger than life. Barca has its own TV channel, broadcasting 24/7, and everywhere you go you see banners and flags with the purple and red team colors. So you can imagine the city turned eerily silent when Barca lost, all the visitors holding their breath to see how the locals would react, the Chelsea supporters laying low, the Barca fans in disbelief.

The next night it became clear how the locals had wished to react. That's when Barca's nemesis Real Madrid lost in the other semifinal, and fireworks lit up the night sky all over Barcelona. These Catalans sure are a passionate bunch, and they live in a pretty place.

1 comment:

  1. Ha, swear I posted a comment....sigh, technology. I love Barcelona, have visiting multiple times and was enamored each time. Right up there with other favorite cities, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Rome, Manhattan, Seattle....the whimsy of the Gaudi structures, the waterfront, the tapas....what a nice place for a conference.