I’m off to the first of what will hopefully be many interviews whilst here. This one is in Barcelona, which gives me an added bonus: Gaudí. Buildings that look like they’re living, organic creations, the gothic masterpiece of La Sagrada Familia and the strange, fantastical wonderland of Park Güell.
After about five hours of rolling through some truly beautiful, dramatic country, in and out of tunnels and sliding past isolated mountain villages that hug the sides of river gorges, the train finally rolled into Barcelona. The moonscape valleys around Zaragoza are certainly a place I’d like to visit again, where the sides of the sierra are abrupt and scarred from heavy erosion, revealing a multitude of earthy colours and pastel tones. The region is naturally dry, with little more than scrappy trees holding the soil together, so it’s difficult to say if the erosion is man-made or otherwise.
Castles, old fincas or haciendas perch atop hillsides, and in some valleys, stone fenced corrals that could well have been built before Europeans discovered my country, with their low huts sit in the midst of the wiry tundra. On the approach to Barcelona, the view readily changed between the Mediterranean, rolling fields of crops (and old stone houses), and high rise apartments connected to Barcelona’s urban sprawl.
When I finally emerged from Sants Estacio, I was already sold on the idea of living here for the longer term. Yesterday I stayed at Pere Tarres, not far from where I’ll be visiting tomorrow for my interview. There’s a traditional little plaza not far from the hostel, with a gold coloured church and bell tower, several small bars and cafeterías, and numerous traditional apartment blocks. I would’ve stayed in this place had it been cheaper, but I was able to get a better daily rate on an apartment in the centre of town: Paral-lel. Being in one of the suburbs comprising the Barrí Gotic, it should be an interesting experience.
Today, I left my luggage in the storage room at Pere Tarres, then headed out for a day as a tourist. The first step was the red route of Barcelona’s Bus Turístic, taking in all of Gaudí’s buildings in the central zone including Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. Despite waiting the better part of an hour for a service that’s mean to run every ten minutes, and despite waiting at an intersection between the red and blue lines and seeing dozens of nearly empty blue line buses pass by in that time, it was still a better experience than the one I had on Madrid Vision last week. Perhaps because I was able to get a seat up top for the entire trip, and the guide actually told us about upcoming attractions before we went past them.
After doing a full lap, I decided to go for another half lap to Park Güell, to sidestep using the metro (which doesn’t really stop nearby). Whilst getting the bus early had beaten the HUGE crowds that were waiting in Plaza Catalunya, doing close to two laps of the bus circuit meant I got totally caught up in the crowds at Park Güell. Whilst that ultimately meant missing the photo opportunities that only an empty park can provide, it was well worth the visit.
I’ve seen lots of photos of Gaudí’s work before, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. Strange, organic structures that look like they’re alive, growing out of the soil around them, rather than being man-made buildings. It’s said his unique style comes from a defect in his vision, but whatever it was that coloured his designs, a vision is certainly what he had.
I’m now perched in the top apartment of what could only be described as slum housing in what would’ve undoubtedly been Barcelona’s ghetto’s during the depression. There was a reason for it being so cheap—whilst the apartment itself is not so bad, it’s up six flights of stairs packed so tightly there’s only room enough for one person going in either direction, and the flights are so low, anyone above six feet (180cm) scrapes their heads on the ceiling.
Fortunately, it’s only for a few days, and I’ll do my best to not venture out unless I absolutely have to. Tomorrow, I have my job interview. Fingers crossed.