Saturday, September 24, 2016

Barcelona & La Merce

Day 2 
The Palau and La Merce

This morning I had a really lovely breakfast in my hotel in Madrid. Then it was time for my Vueling (pronounced "Welling") flight to Barcelona. 

 55 Minutes of Vueling Pain

Like many budget flights my knees were collateral damage. Recaro must be blamed for the most uncomfortable aviation seat ever created.  People literally screamed around me whenever any seat reclined.

Hola Barcelona!
Upon arrival in Barcelona I was met by a VBT (Vermont Bicycle Tours) representative for our shuttle to our hotel (Hotel 1898 La Ramblas).  

Now, when it comes to hotels Roadboy can be a bit hard to impress. But I can certainly attest that Hotel 1898 (built from the old Philippine Tobacco Company Office Building) is a beautiful hotel in a perfect location.  At the hotel I met up my biking buddy Beth who had arrived from Virginia.

Luck of Timing - La Merce!
When we selected bike tour dates last year, we could not be aware that they would align with Barcelona's biggest annual street festival "La Merce". This 5-day festival (celebrating the Patron Saint of Barcelona) has been held since 1902 to signal the end of summer / beginning of fall. 

To keep crowds manageable specific festival dates are not announced until early September. So our luck (in timing) was amazing. La Merce culminates with streets filled with parades, building illuminations and dazzling Correfocs (fire runs); where devils and giant dragons spray the crowds that line the Via Laietana with sparks, water and candy. An early fire run is tame for children, the later run is "at your own risk" with spectators strongly advised to wear hats, goggles, cover all skin possible and avoid any synthetic clothing.

The Correfocs Fire Runs
(Image of a previous Correfoc from the official La Merce Festival Brochure) 

The Palau
In past visits to Barcelona I've toured The Palace of Catalan Music (known locally simply as "The Palau"), but none coincided with a concert to experience the acoustics of the hall. So a highlight of this visit was the chance to attend a concert of classical guitar and flamenco.

The Palau at Night

The Palau is a one-of-a-kind classical theater space where immersive art and architecture are merged to create the wholeI can't help compare it to contemporary theaters that value being devoid of all ornamentation.

If architecture of each era synthesizes the values of the era itself (with a few exceptions such as Gehry and Hadid), I am confident history will certainly judge much current modern architecture as dull and vacuous.

 The Stage Area

 The Palau's Stained Glass Ceiling

 Side Chandeliers

 The Maestro's Mugging with Guests

Barcelona's clock is set late. Restaurants serve dinner from 9:00 pm to midnight and concerts begin at 9:00 pm. So at the end of each day you find yourself realizing that it is already tomorrow and you simply crash.

Roadboy's Travels © 2016

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