Subway Observations and the Hot Neon Wilderness

I’ve been riding subways in a few different cities this summer, and Hong Kong seems to have the nicest. Even the escalators seem considerably faster than others. To illustrate, a few points about other city transit systems I’ve noticed in the last few months: The Washington D.C. metro has carpeted floors and crowded seats facing in the same direction. In NYC passengers face each other, but the aisle is very wide, no carpet, and the trains have easy-to-read digital signage. In Barcelona, the seats face each other like a booth without a table, with an aisle between two rows. And there are butt rests near the doors, no carpet, and digital signs. London is like NYC with everyone facing each other, but the seats are padded, each seat has an armrest, and the aisle is very narrow. Hong Kong is like New York, but there is a clear wall/panel between …

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Ramble On

On my last night in Barcelona, I find myself wondering what reason there is to leave. It is an exciting city that can be enjoyed in a few days, but would make a nice place for an extended visit. I saw much of the city, but there is plenty left to explore. I couldn’t say what has been the best experience, everything has been great. I visited the Museu de’Historia de la Ciutat this evening. Buried underneath the Barri Gotic, 9 meters underground, lay the ruins of the Roman settlement Barcino, which were unearthed by archaeologists in the 1970’s. Wandering around the 2,000 year old ruins, and coming back up into the modern city, and then thinking about being in Hong Kong in just a few hours, was quite a head-trip. Photography inside was prohibited, or I would have some images to share. It is worth a Wikipedia search to …

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Literary Diversion

“Those who arrive at Thekla can see little of the city, beyond the plank fences, the sackcloth screens, the scaffoldings, the metal armatures, the wooden catwalks hanging from ropes or supported by sawhorses, the ladders, the trestles. If you ask, “Why is Thekla’s construction taking such a long time?” the inhabitants continue hosting sacks, lowering leaded strings, moving long brushes up and down, as they answer, “So that its destruction cannot begin.” And if asked whether they fear that, once the scaffoldings are removed, the city may begin to crumble and fall to pieces, they add hastily, in a whisper, “Not only the city.” from “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino

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Una Vista Alto

From the Torre de Sant Sebastian, a cable car line runs to Montjuic, the hill overlooking Barcelona.  At 90 meters high, views of the city are stunning. The ride lasts about 10 minutes and deposits passengers in the park near the Estadi Olympic.  The last ride departs at 8p.m., a good time for watching the sunset from the top of the hill. The park is open at night to enjoy views of the city lights, and returning down the hill to the metro is a short walk. 

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The Arc and Parc de Ciutadella

Centrally located to the Barri Gotic and the beaches is Barcelona’s Arc de Triumf and the verdant Parc de Ciutadella. The Arc was constructed in the 1880’s for a world exhibition, and the Park is home to the city’s Zoo.  Palm trees and fountains make up the park, with grassy areas and many benches. Barcelonins with dogs don’t bother with leashes and swimming in a fountain earns a harsh whistle from a park official.

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Figueres, the home of Dalí

Figueres is a small city outside Barcelona and home to the fantastic Salvador Dalí. I took the train from Placa Espanya to see the Museu Dalí, which included a separate museum housing his jewel collection, and his mausoleum. The museum consisted of several floors, hallways, and spiraling staircases, with paintings, sketches, furniture, and installations by the artist. The famous “Persistence of Memory” painting is housed at the MOMA in New York, and many other pieces hang in the Dalí Museum of St. Petersburg, Florida.  Melting clocks can be found all over the place, however, in other paintings and sculptures. The jewelry designed by Dali is no less extravagant than his oil paintings, and like an Egyptian pharaoh, his mausoleum is surrounded by his priceless art and ornate jewels. Outside of the Dali museum, Figueres is much like Barcelona, with Catalan influence, but on a smaller scale. On Monday evening, people were rambling down …

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La Sagrada Familia

I seem to wake up each morning wondering what I’m going to do, all alone, an American in Barcelona. Then a few minutes later I step out into the street and the city is moving all around, and the question becomes irrelevant. Being here is an experience itself, without any particular need for purpose.   Yesterday was a fine day, I first went to La Sagrada Familia where I spent many hours wandering around, from the Parc de Gaudi outside and into the building, and up the towers to find a magnificent view of the city. The building has been under construction since the 1890’s, and doesn’t appear near completion any time soon. I waited for a religious experience, as I started to leave, but one did not present itself. Perhaps it did without my knowing. Missing epiphanies aside, the building is impressive enough on it’s own. I went to …

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Caminé

I started the morning with a jog down Port Vell to the beach, and may have learned what keeps Barcelonins up so late at night. It is quite possible the residents here stay up all night and sleep through the morning for the sole purpose of avoiding completely naked, fat, old men on the beach. Yes, I can now cross "see fat naked guys at the beach" off of my bucket list. Without any inhibition, on a stretch of beach west of Port Vell, there were dozens, (what seemed like millions) of them. Afterwards I walked around the Ramblas for a bit, stopped at a bookstore and bought a novela collection of Cervantes. The bookstore was mostly selling Spanish, but had French, English and Catalan sections also. Cervantes is credited with inventing the novel, so the Spanish must have an affinity for literature. I continued walking (today was a day …

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El Primera Dia

I woke this morning and walked down the Ramblas, stopped for a coffee, snapped a photo of George Orwell’s plaza, and ended at Port Vell. The port is filled with boats, dog walkers, and joggers, mostly sleepy around 8 a.m. There is a large, colorful sculpture of a head-shaped thing, and a long promenade with bike lanes. I snapped my first photos of the city around here. From Port Vell you can see the cable cars which run up to Montjuic, the hill top on the west side of the city. I walked along the beach at Barceloneta and along to Port Olimpic, which at that hour of morning were filled with older folks doing stretches and yawning. The sun is hot in the morning. I walked up through La Ribera afterwards in the direction of Torre Agbar, which I could see, but never reached. My new sandals started rubbing …

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