To kick off our fourth day in Barcelona, we took the metro to Barri Gotic to visit the Picasso museum, Santa Maria del Mar, and Barceloneta. Before diving into the day’s activities, let’s take a moment to talk about Barcelona’s public transportation. The metro in this city is amazing. It goes everywhere, and trains arrive every 2.5 minutes, which is a huge help when you’re carrying a baby on your back and a diaper bag full of baby and camera paraphernalia (a diaper bag is a great disguise for something like a camera).
Anyway, we hopped on the train and headed downtown, but we could NOT find the Picasso museum to save our lives. We had a nice little extra tour of Ciudad Vell (Old City) and its narrow, winding streets, but eventually it just got ridiculous and we started asking random pedestrians for directions. When we finally reached the museum, we were greeted by a huge line. As we queued up, one of the museum staff approached to tell us that we couldn’t bring the Deuter into the museum. We reassured her that we had a smaller carrier and she said that was “perfecto.” Suddenly we were all whisked away to a side entrance, brought to a ticket booth with no line, and shown directly to a room with free lockers where we could leave the backpack. Great success! Another perk to being a parent in Spain!
We entered the museum and were rewarded with an excellent overview of Picasso’s development from teenage art student to multi-faceted artistic genius. We explored until Isaac ran out of steam and then headed down to the cafeteria for some cafe and food. Finding only disappointing, unsurprisingly expensive options, we bailed and made for Barceloneta.
Barceloneta is quaint little water-front corner of Barcelona that manages to feel a lot like a small beach town. I had read about a great beachfront restaurant called Can Majo with a reputation for great seafood, which we sought out and managed to find. Isaac had fallen asleep on the walk over, and we were grateful for a seat in the back corner. Eric set the backpack down behind him and Isaac was able to sleep undisturbed. If you are ever in Barcelona, make it a priority to go to this restaurant. We had an excellent lunch of incredible olives, bread, and Caldero de Bogavante (basically lobster paella). Isaac awoke as we ate and, after a slow, cranky start, ate many spoonfuls of the main dish. Such an adventurous eater!
After stuffing myself on the best seafood I’ve ever had (washed down with a perfectly matched white wine suggested by the waiter), I took Isaac to the fresh seafood display. He was transfixed by the platters of snails, lobsters, eels, fish, clams, shrimp and other delicacies. The person behind the counter was a total prankster and began playing with Isaac, taking a particularly big lobster and moving it around like it was dancing. Isaac loved it!
When we were done, we headed to the beach where Isaac rolled in the sand and we all had a nice, refreshing dip in the Mediterranean (a first for the whole family!). Isaac was a bowl full of giggles when he first entered the sea and was completely in love with everything about the beach: the sand, the “cocks” (AKA rocks), and the plethora of milk dispensers on display (topless sunbathing is the norm in Barcelona ).
After the beach, we stopped briefly at Santa Maria del Mar (St. Mary of the Sea), which is an old (c. 1383), very simple, elegant basilica of striking symmetry and adorned with amazing stained glass. According to our guidebook, “the number 8 (or multiples thereof) – the medieval numerological symbol for the Virgin Mary – runs through every element of the basilica’s construction…The result of all this proportional balance is a tonic sense of peace and enlightenment.” I’m not sure about enlightenment but as the late afternoon sun inched closer to the horizon, walking through the cool, dark basilica was certainly a lovely, quiet ending to the day’s adventures.
Upon returning to Gracia, Eric finally had an uncomplicated shopping experience – woohoo! He returned home and things went sharply downhill from there. As I was cooking dinner, Eric started laundry, only to abort the mission because Isaac kept pushing the machine’s buttons. Then, I tried to take a shower, but there was no hot water…a problem somehow relegated only to the bathroom…huh? With that mission similarly ended, we put Isaac to bed and sat down for dinner. Halfway through, Eric restarted the laundry, and then, a few minutes later, a sudsy deluge descended from the ceiling of the apartment. Dang it! Once the water stopped flowing, Eric tried to call the rental agency, to no avail. With nothing left to do, we cleaned up and sat back down to finish dinner and have some wine.
A little while later we decided that the water may have came from an upstairs apartment, as it had come from the ceiling. So, we gave the laundry another whirl and at about the exact same point in the cycle, woosh! Another deluge! Now convinced it MUST have been coming from us (by somehow defying physics), Eric made several frantic (and expensive) calls to the rental company, which netted us a promise of a visit later that night.
Eduardo knocked on the door about an hour later. He was a friendly young guy from Ecuador, which meant he spoke Castilian – a huge relief under the circumstances. He and Eric were able to have a pretty in depth conversation in Spanish and a little English about what had happened. Ultimately, they agreed that the leaks really had to be a bizarre pair of coincidences, as it would make no sense for the water to drain up before flowing down to the pipes under the street. With that decided, they chatted some more and Eduardo commented how impressed he was that Eric knew so much Spanish. He explained that most of the Americans and Brits who rent the properties through his company not only don’t speak Spanish, but they get angry when they landlords can’t communicate in English. We found this shocking considering we were, um…IN SPAIN!
Sure, it can sometimes be exhausting and frustrating to struggle with a new language, but isn’t learning about a new culture and its language part of the point of international travel? Maybe its our sociology/anthropology backgrounds, but we LOVE that aspect of exploring other countries and we always try to pick up some of the local language when we travel. For us, the holy grail of travel are those few minutes when you are actually REALLY communicating with someone in another language. You get in a groove and, even though the grammar is wrong or the words pronounced incorrectly, everything seems to fit together and you actually understand each other.
And, it’s interesting: throughout our years of traveling together, we have discovered that we definitely have our own styles of learning new languages. I am better at hearing and understanding them while Eric is better at speaking them (it was a little different in Spain, though, since Eric took so many years of Spanish in school). He thinks it may have something to do with how he learned Hebrew during Hebrew School and for his Bar Mitzvah. He only learned to read and speak the language and rarely knew what the words meant. Whatever the reason, it works for us and is a great asset when traveling.
Anyway, after a great conversation, Eduadro left, promising that the rental agency would be in touch with our upstairs neighbor about the issue. We decided to give the washer one more go, thinking three coincidences were extremely improbable. Fortunately, we were right, and we were able to do several more loads of laundry without issue before leaving Barcelona.