Dona and Joe’s European Vacation: 2020 Version – Days 9-10

Feliç any nou!

The longer we stay in Barcelona the further we’re able to stray from the tourist routes that surround our apartment. I’m big on authenticity, and you don’t find it along The Rambla and Passieg de Gracia, which consist of, respectively, trinkets and tourist food (Rambla), and super-high-end clothing and technology stores (Gracia—not that this stopped Dona from shopping in them; she found a lovely skirt at Massimo Tutti). You don’t really find authenticity in the narrow streets and alleyways in the center of the city either, but occasionally there’s a little shop where the owners don’t cater to tourist tastes, but maintain traditional crafts and foods. How do I know? You can just tell. And the less English the staff speaks, the better. Those were the businesses we sought and patronized.

Dona and Joe at the Gaudí House.

So we’ve been ambling, big time, among the Barcelona museums and sites, visiting as many neighborhoods as our feet can take. To date, the daily step count record belongs to sister Lisa, who recorded more than 27,000 on New Year’s Eve, partly because she and Brian couldn’t get a taxi back from the city’s midnight festivities on the other side of town.

About half a million people attended the magic fountain and countdown, according to Lisa. Dona, Carol, Mike, and I were already back in the apartment, watching it on Catalonian TV. So what that the announcers spoke only Catalan? We knew what was going on. The only thing we couldn’t figure was how the female announcer got into a dress that appeared to be made of sheet metal.

A Spanish New Year’s tradition, by the way, is to eat one grape for every toll of the bell as the clock heralds the incoming year. Bags of a dozen grapes each were thoughtfully provided by Antonio, our dinner host at the Olivia Plaza Hotel. But when the midnight hour finally struck, we found it impossible to swallow the grapes as quickly as the gongs sounded. Plus those grapes had pits! How the locals do it (and whether they actually do) is beyond us.

Tomorrow is the much-anticipated visit to the Picasso Museum. If you can stand it I’ll even offer my opinions about how different artistic disciplines adopt each other’s innovations, in the Catalonian sense I’m talking about Picasso’s art and Gaudí’s architecture. Sounds kind of boring, and I haven’t even written it yet. Dona has promised to contribute and liven it up, though.

– Dona and Joe


2 Replies to “Dona and Joe’s European Vacation: 2020 Version – Days 9-10”

  1. Yes, the grape tradition is fairly widespread in Mediterranean countries, or so I’ve heard. I bet some people cheat and use seedless grapes–or maybe the resultant good luck is only for the stout of heart, or strong of stomach. At any rate, you’ve already had a lot of good luck in having such a wonderful trip. Thanks for keeping us in touch with it all.

    1. Not all good luck. Carol and Mike both contracted a stomach virus (or maybe food poisoning—we learned that Spain has more cases of food poisoning than any other industrialized country) and had to sit out a day each. I picked up a slight cold in Montserrat, but not bad enough to sideline me. As for the grapes, we’ve also heard that swallowing seeded grapes that quickly hospitalizes a fair number of poor souls each New Year’s. Always the bad with the good!

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