Thursday, July 5, 2007

Barcelona - Monserrat

Wed-Thurs-Fri July 4-6 2007

I was Barcelona-bound, hoping to spend a few days catching up on postings, which I did, and rest, which I decidedly did NOT. I managed to get a hotel room in Barcelona the first night, but the city was completely booked the next two nights (some fashion show!), so I went from Barcelona to Monserrat to Berga for hotels each night, and while I did get caught up on my backlogged postings, I spent any 'rest' time looking for hotels, looking for wireless internet places (several places said, “Yes, we have wireless,” and when I went in to set up my computer, no, they did not have wireless, and I was unable to connect at Starbucks – darn!), looking for Universal adaptor plugs (the 'universal adaptor' I had was definitely NOT one), a SIM card, and, let's talk about deodorant.

I left my big suitcase with Bernat and Neus and took just few a few clothes in my day pack for the 2-3 days I'd be gone. (I left the Raven with them also – this was a working trip, not a tourist trip.) Well. I forgot my deodorant. No small thing, in my opinion, with me always thinking it's HOT everywhere, and me noticing that many Europeans like things hot and stuffy. (It couldn't be just me, liking things colder than a normal person...)

Well. I went to a pharmacy to buy deodorant: SEVEN POINT SIXTY EUROS, that's 7.60 Euros, which is $10.32, for a small bottle!!! What could I do, I had to get it, because it was already too hot outside for me to wander the city looking for another pharmacy. Surely the stuff must be laced with gold flecks, though I haven't seen any in it.

And I was glad I bought it, because, for my second night where I had to travel to Monserrat for a hotel, I had to take the metro four stops to the train.

Well. In the metro tunnels it was SO HOT – you'd think down there it would be cool, like it is in EVERY OTHER CITY with a metro – and on the metro train itself – OHMIGOD it was like Malaysia in there, suffocatingly hot, no air, and lots of people, hot, sweaty, clammy bodies. After two stops I was about to pass out. And I figured it out – it's a government scam! The government is in on it with the Sweat Mafia. It wasn't just me sweltering in the train. Many other people were running their hands over their faces to remove the clammy sheen of sweat, some looking very uncomfortable, several people fanning themselves – that was what tipped me off! Fifty percent of the people in the cars will stagger off the trains into the nearest tourist shop – all run by the Abanico Mob (a branch of the Sweat Mafia) – to buy Abanicos – fans! I saw Abanicos on sale in these shops, and really, I couldn't figure out why anybody would buy one of those colorful decorated hand fans. Now I know! Or fifty percent of the people will run to pharmacies (all owned and run by the Underarm Mob, the other branch of the Sweat Mafia) to buy deodorant, at E7.60 a little bottle! The government has it all figured out – leave the air off on the metro, make lots of money in the city every day selling fans and deodorant!

After the 4th stop I indeed staggered off the metro, about to faint from the hot stuffy non-air, into the warm tunnel (but better than the train car). You know, in, say, New York City, for entertainment you can ride the subway to the ends of the lines to see parts of the city (and the culture, with the people you ride with) – not here. You'd die of heat stroke if you stayed on till the end of the line.

The train was much better, a nice 1 hour ride to the village below Monserrat (“jagged mountain”), a Benedictine monastery perched on the side of unusual spire-shaped mountains where a cable car takes you up to the top. It was quite the view from up there! The strange shapes of the mountain were formed by weather – wind, rain, frost - from an aggregate of limestone, rocks and sand that once lay under the ocean. Or, you can go with the myth that says the mountain was carved by little angels with golden saws. Then there's the legend of the Holy Grail being hidden here...

It sure makes you wonder how much work went into building the monastery, all that stone being carried from somewhere. There were quite a few tourist day trippers, but it was quiet at night - only no internet! A bunch of loud happy boisterous clanging banging church bells rang merrily for a while... at 6:42 PM. And again at 9:07 PM.

Then it was back through Barcelona next day to get to my next hotel. Barcelona is one big festive city – an Athens full of people, a New York City full of people (although not QUITE that crowded): tons of people, walking, gawking, shopping; street artists, street hawkers, homeless begging; cafes, grafitti, cops, shops, water pipe cafes (HEY! Any APPLE TOBACCO???), skateboarders, hippies, the rich and the backpackers, the fashion conscious and the fashion casualties.

And now it's back to the horses, and Bernat and Neus' at Vilaformiu. Then, off to places as yet not-quite-known...

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