June 4, 2014

Barcelona: Gimme Some Gaudí & Jazz

Originally my plan had been to go the furthest to Parc Güell, then work my way back down into town to the Sagrada Família. But while on the metro, my plans jumped, and I flipped the order.

Practically, this was a great move. Dramatically, it was not.

I had to sit down as soon as I saw SagFam. It was overwhelming, massive, incredible, and still amidst its active construction. Parc Güell didn't have the same effect, but that's maybe because it is more spread out and more fun for hikers and outdoor lovers.

I'm still deciding if Gaudí was a madman or a genius, but the answer is probably a lot of both.

The most accurate way I can describe SagFam? It's the Alice and Wonderland of cathedrals. Don't try to think too much into it, just appreciate it for all its enormous strangeness.

Gaudí is set to be canonized next year, the only technicality being that he never "performed a miracle." But the fact that he basically broke most of the rules of traditional cathedral architecture to make SagFam the most interesting church building ever? Hello, miracle!

There are many more Gaudí projects and museums throughout the city, but I'm saving those for another day.

I spent the early afternoon lazing on the beach and took a dip in the sea. When I got hungry, I wandered over to one of the beach bars where I watched the sailboats drift by while I sipped my sangria and munched on tapas.

I got a little bit lost trying to find the bus back to the apartment, but I ended up finding a lot of cool buildings and great statues along the marina and inside the Barrí Gotic.

With no sense of direction, every destination becomes an adventure.

My remaining plans for the evening were to eat dinner and go to the Harlem Jazz Club. I picked a random restaurant close to the club, and ended up at Sensi Bistro with a sensational menu. The best tapa I had was the zucchini wrapped rolls of goat cheese, pine nuts, and honey. I don't even like goat cheese, and these were AMAZING.

I had 45 minutes to kill before the blues jam session started, and I was drawn back into the weaving alleys of the Barrí Gotic. I went this way and that, all the while leaving mental bread crumbs for myself to remember how to return to the jazz club on time.

As I passed through another alley, the old cathedral's bell tower caught my eye, and I changed my direction again. I was contemplating my next move when I heard him. I few more steps toward the voice, and his song became their song.

I rounded the corner, wide-eyed in wonder to see two totally normal looking men my age belting Italian opera at the top of their lungs to the bystanders. It didn't take me long to stop standing and go find my seat in this small stone medieval square of an opera house. With La Catedral as their backdrop, these men sang their stories back and forth with such unassuming grace and captivating poise. If only it had never ended...

But it was no longer time for magnificent opera, and I shifted gears to some hilarious jazz.

The irony of going to a "Harlem Jazz Club" in Spain with a ton of white people made it even better. For practical purposes, the concerts "starting at 22h00," actually start after 22h30. It wasn't crowded at all until after 23h00, and lasted until 1h30. Your ticket for the concert includes a small drink. The bar is by the entrance and the stage is in the back, which makes for a happy divide if you're not there to drink! I sat in full view of the band the whole night; no crazy drunk people, no raucous street crowd, just full appreciation for the music.

What of the music? I've only ever been to one other jazz club in my life, and it was in Pasadena. Amanda's mom took us, and we were the only white people in there. It was something akin to an African-American church, with the audience jumping in constantly with whoops and hollers. This Barcelona experience was a far cry from that, so I don't even want to know how distant it would be from a real jazz club in Harlem proper.

The lead singer was clearly a guitarist first, and a singer second. He sang the lyrics in key, but it wasn't the highlight. The bass player was incredible and he was doing tricks and craziness all night. Drums guy did his job, but had a boring personality. Because it was a "jam session," other musicians actually got up throughout the evening to add their twist to the music. By the end of the night, we'd heard another drummer, guitarist, and singer, along with instrument additions of saxophone, piano, and even a bugle! The lead guy's musicality was impressive as he literally called out chords and ideas to the fresh musicians as they were in the middle of playing the songs (he was playing his guitar, singing, and drinking beer the entire time as well).

I have learned that I want to go to jazz clubs in every city I visit.

And it took a back alley in Barcelona to teach me that I love opera.

Day 1, The Basics
Day 3, Plaças i Passeigs
Barc-alone-a: Why Are Solo Adventures Important?

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