Part Three – Barcelona > London
La Sagrada Familia was intended as a place of worship and a feat of architecture. In John’s words, goat rodeo might be a better term for it. It’s hard not to be impressed by the story of a basilica where construction started 130 years ago. Each space carved like a sandcastle of the gods, even from the outside this distinctive building is breathtaking. Once you pay the exorbitant fee and elbow your way through the queue (a handy tip, book your tickets online and get there early-ish, you’ll fly past the unwashed masses) you’ll never feel more like you’ve stumbled across a Gene Rodenberry fever dream, some sort of alien craft that rose out of the sea.
Half an hour later though, it grows a little tiresome. Tough to enjoy the solemnity of the arched wonder with a hundred camera flashes going off. While reading about the history of Gaudi’s greatest creation, a little Chinese woman stands right in front of the placard, completely blocking my view. I am then practically pushed aside by her companions, and that’s that. By the time what looks like an invading horde of temple ransackers dressed in socks with sandals and floral straw hats make their way past the entrance, we call time on the place.
We head to Park Guell with a packed lunch, hoping to see more of Gaudi’s art in a more pleasant spot. We have no better luck, and decide to trek somewhere with less people. We find Park Creueta Del Coll, abandoned if not for a few dogs and their local owners. This used to be a mining quarry, transformed during the Olympics in 1992 into a giant pool. Although incredibly peaceful, it looks a
little sad now, filled out with concrete like a set from the Flintstones.
We spend the afternoon next to the ruins of an Olympic stadium, never a better image of the economic climate. However, to our surprise we find a beautifully maintained garden full of Greek statues and a labyrinth. There’s more to Barcelona than the main tourist attractions, and getting lost is a great idea. In the afternoon from about two until five, everything shuts down. It’s as if the entire city yawns and falls asleep where it stands. This is the perfect time to walk through the cobbled shady streets of the Barri Gotic, the gothic quarter hiding medieval secrets and an impressive cathedral. The tourists never sleep though, and if you’re not careful and turn a corner you might end up in the midst of a herd blindly following the person at the fron with the garish umbrella raised high.
We end our evening in our hispter neighbourhood, at the bar underneath our apartment called Betty Ford’s. How could you possibly resist. Once again, this almost seems hipster by accident. The bar is practically two planks of wood and a prayer, but the drinks are cheap and the thrifted armchairs are comfy. There’s an old painting of the Virgin Mary that has been defaced with a sugar skull in place of her beatific smile. A seventies kitsch piece of erotica of a maid bent over while a studly hotel guest in a banana hammock looks at her panties. A black and white photo of the man himself, Johnny Cash sporting the greatest quiff I have ever seen. This bar is what the inside of my head looks like, I never want to leave.
Leave we must though, and of course our final day is brilliant and sunny. Getting lost in the centre of Barcelona we once again stumble on a beautiful park. The main attraction, according to the map is meant to be “the mammoth”, and in my naivete I think this might be the fossilied remains of an ancient beast. I am disappointed to find a plastic life-sized mammoth in need of some loving care. Thankfully right next to it is an impressive construct. I can’t even begin to do justice to the Cascada in Parc de la Ciutatella, an enormous marble fountain dressed with epic gold statues, layered in pools, a Trevi fountain via Hollywood blockbuster.
We spend a couple of hours in Barcelona’s Terminal One, possibly the best designed airport I have ever been to. Once you pass security, you come down escalators to an enormous oval, crowned in the middle by whatever luxury campaign there might be at the time. For this occasion, we are presented with the opening of the terminal’s Loewe store, and a Paco Rabanne Invictus billboard.
John has to queue in order to get a stamp on his passport, and after a long chaotic wait to get to the front of the line, he is then told that he has to queue somewhere else. I couldn’t be any prouder to hear him throw a small strop at the woman behind the counter in Spanish.
“Donde esta la señal? Donde esta la señal?!”
Where is the sign?! We walk through the gates and eventually into a cramped aeroplane and further queuing chaos once we get to Stansted. Our holiday in the sun is over.
The bus takes us from the outskirts of London back into the beating heart of our city, everything where we left it. Hello again Neverland.
Sorry about the little break, Hello Neverland is back like Norma Desmond bitches! Okay. maybe more like Demi Moore in Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle. Michelle Williams at the Superbowl? Okay you get the picture…come back next week for more Neverland. Don’t forget to write! @misterpalazzo @VadaMagazine #HelloNeverland