Spain: Day 9

Day 9:

Our last full day in Spain was full of Spanish things. We got up early to go to Park Guell, a city park designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was originally intended to be a residential complex; Gaudi and his friend Eusebi Guell worked together to design and organize the layout of the park. Gaudi would spend the later part of his life at his house in Park Guell, even though the rest of the residential buildings were never completed.

Benches

Benches

Walking around the park, I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to live there. The architecture of the houses was more artistic than practical, though apparently Gaudi designed the wrap-around benches based on a plaster mold of a construction worker’s butt. The walkways, terraces, and bridges look like they had been constructed by aliens (a common remark among the choir members. We made up a conspiracy theory that Gaudi was actually an alien, which is why it looks like he didn’t age. The aliens had to take him back before we realized that he wasn’t human). The Gaudi part of Park Guell (called the Monumental Zone) is rather small and sits on one side of a hill, so a few friends and I decided to check out the other side of hill. Here, we saw a more normal city park. Dirt paths, people running, a lack of strange structures…After a five minute walk, we came upon a fountain and a stagnant pool, where we rested for a bit before deciding to continue down the rest of the way.

Building

Gaudi Building

At the bottom, we found a map of Park Guell. My friend noticed that there was a “Three Cross monument,” so we decided to try to find it. That meant another trek back up the hill. Along the way, a man suddenly stepped out of the trees next to the dirt path. He looked a bit dazed, but took little notice of us and headed off in the other direction. This side of the park was much less touristy, and a little sketchy. After a few wrong turns and switchbacks, we ended up back where we had started, at the gate separating this part of Park Guell and the Monumental Zone. We were a bit disappointed at not being able to find this Three Cross area, but we walked around for a few more minutes and stumbled upon what we were looking for. The Three Cross monument was situated on a smaller rise on top of the hill. There was a steel guitar player and a man selling trinkets. Once we climbed the rise, we could see the Monumental Zone, Barcelona beyond that, and a whole lot of roof graffiti. It was a nice thing to discover, probably because it made us feel less like tourists and more like people exploring a place for ourselves.

We descended from the Three Cross monument and hopped on our bus to go to the center of Barcelona, where the Plaza de Catalunya and La Rambla meet. Suzanna gave us several options for how to spend our four hours in the city: shopping, visiting Gaudi houses, and people watching. I wasn’t particularly interested in doing more sight-seeing, and I don’t have the skill to go shopping, so four of my friends and I decided to walk down to the waterfront for lunch. It would be the last meal we would have to pay for on the trip, so we decided to go to a nice restaurant. After walking the length of La Rambla and crossing a foot bridge, we arrived at a shopping center nestled in the marina. We ended up at a restaurant on the second floor of the shopping center that had outdoor seating overlooking the Mediterranean and some of the docks. We arrived twenty minutes before the restaurant opened, but they were nice enough to let us sit outside until they were ready. The food and conversation was quite good, and the breeze and view contributed to what was a very nice last lunch.

Park Graffiti

Park Graffiti – “Without social justice there will be no peace.”

We still had an hour before we had to be back at the plaza, but we headed back early anyways to see if there was anyone else waiting there. Luckily for us, there were. We met up with some other choir members who had gone souvenir shopping. After noticing the large amount of pigeons in the square and the birdseed vendors, one guy remarked that he could probably catch one of them. This motivated two other choir members to convince themselves that before they left Spain, they had to capture a pigeon. (There were also five euros on the line.) Their first attempts were largely unsuccessful. Utilizing a sun hat, one of them ran at a group of pigeons while the other swiped at them with the hat. The next attempt involved using leftover French fries as bait. Finally, they relented and bought a bag of birdseed for two euros, rationalizing that they would still have a three euro net profit. This time, they were successful. A swift closure of the hat on top of a pigeon elicited a bit of struggling, and then motionlessness. As reported to me later, the secret was “pigeons will get nervous if they are not in the sun. So you have to stand facing the sun to avoid casting a shadow upon them.” Flushed with the accomplishment of capturing an avian animal, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our final concert.

The final concert was held in the church of Santa Maria del Pi, and we were there to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the saint’s death. The city was also commemorating this occasion, so before the concert, we went out to the front of the church to observe a procession which was winding its way through the streets. The people were carrying a lion’s head and there were also a few drummers. Our director decided to have us sing along to the drums, but we were always slightly out of rhythm with them, and the tempo was way too fast for the song we were singing. Our other outdoor songs went much better, though.

Since the church was so old, the only place for us to change was in a small room underneath and to the side of the church, which was enclosed by an iron gate. It had been converted into a museum exhibit, but it also had pews and a cross on one side. It was the largest church in which we would sing. The sanctuary was richly decorated, and the rose window was very impressive.Warm-up was a little shaky, partly due to the size of the church. It would swallow up a lot of sound, so we were a bit timid at the start. However, once the concert got going, everything was fine. The Madrigals did an extra song, A Boy and A Girl to mark our last time singing together (unfortunately, we were missing one of our members due to an illness), and the octet for Jauchzet got to sing in the choir loft in the back of the church, which sounded really nice. Before closing out the concert with a rousing rendition of Ain’t Got Time to Die, our director took some time to acknowledge some of our friends in the audience, leading one of us to salute his Spanish teacher Mr. Vericat with an opera theme based around the teacher’s name. Later, the director would remark that he had never had a concert hijacked so thoroughly.

Our last dinner was in a fairly nice restaurant which had old music videos playing on the walls. I had gazpacho for the first time, meat and potatoes (very typical), and crème catalan, which is basically crème brulee, (but crème catalan apparently came first, so I suppose crème brulee is actually crème catalan.)

Upon return to the hotel, we were supposed to get packed and go to sleep, since we had an early wake-up call the next day. I did pack up, but seeing as it was our last night, I decided to go talk to some of my friends in another room. We had a good, reflective discussion about our time in Spain and where we were going next. At this point, a bunch of things happened. Some more people came into the room, and then one of the chaperones came in to tell us to go to bed. After returning to my room, I concluded that although I felt bad about making him stay up and patrol the corridors, I didn’t regret having a little more time with my friends before we left.

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