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Barcelona

Two Days

Some of the neighborhoods have held onto that turn-of-the-century architectural charm — the gracious atmosphere of Europe's Belle Époque.

 Possibly the mood is colored by Antoni Gaudi's architectural legacy: there's a spirit of tasteful creativity that began to inhabit these century-old buildings long ago. The modernista ghosts have moved here to retire, it seems.

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This is one of those lovable cities

... an odd phrase, I know, from someone so generally apprehensive of masses of people bustling anonymously about, day after day after day. Yet I discovered that here there's an energy evident on every avenue or calle (Catalan dialect word) that you can almost taste.

Taste similes will abound  on this page, partly because vocabulary lacks to describe fundamentally sensual descriptions. And anywhere you walk, there's the creativity in food served and enjoyed. Definitely regional but also definitely playful, stretched, imaginative.

In French the word is  gare, in Italian stazione, in Spanish estación. Regardless, though, these are exciting buildings to wander through—that suitcase always there like a semi-obedient puppy whose tether you must not let go of, reminding you that this isn't simply aimless roaming; there is purpose for it and a need to get that rolling lurcher (hahaha, wonderful, improbable looking mutt-creatures) to the exact correct track at the right time. People bustling past. Silent mechanical beasts crouching on their inexorable rails, purring their quiet energy.

Also here we look forward to tiny cups of coffee, which they're really good at, while in Spain. Served alongside desserts-to-die-for, like this one.

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Frequent train rides will have the Barcelona Sants estación at one end or the other, going to or from some fascinating destination or other. On a train we hope we hope will be the right one ... as we roll along to somewhere.

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This is Gaudi territory, and you cannot really experience Barcelona without seeing and touching and knowing the wonder of his artistic and philosophical vision.

La Sagrada Familia is pictured to the right, this photograph looking more like Escher's cleverness than the place appears when you are standing there. He was fortunate to fall into the company of young intellectuals (rich scion of the local Guell family among them) ... among whom Antoni Gaudi tasted the excitement of exploring fresh, new-century thought, of probing best motivations for architectural design. It all became an adventure in making the buildings that truly mirrored the needs of his clients. In the case of this cathedral, he believed that God cared that his people — ordinary folk for whom Christ sacrificed himself — be able to worship as profoundly and fully as possible. Once asked if it didn't bother him that the structure was taking so long to complete, he replied, profoundly: "My client is in no hurry."

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Inside the Battlo House, where Gaudi dwelt for several years while giving every detail his unique thought, making certain that every detail was perfect.

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Countdown for Plan MM

At last a voyage home via Holland America's Oosterdam (about which more later on) with three stops at Spanish ports and two at Portuguese. First of these is                        .

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They're Going Again!