[This is out of order; sorry!]
We showed up this morning at the Santiago airport well before dawn, along with dozens of other peregrinos. Everyone still wore backpacks with shells, carried walking sticks, hefted backpacks. By the time we left the airport in Barcelona, they had begun to disperse among the crush of other passengers from Dubai and Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Mumbai. Yet Santiago showed up at the flea market that Tom spotted in the afternoon down by the beach, in the form of bracelets with scallop shells, and rosaries, one from Conques on the Camino from Le Puy to Santiago, and the other featuring St. James. We left our walking sticks in the hotel room, but put in nearly 11 miles anyway, exploring Barcelona (Peg and Tom’s first times here) and getting to dinner and back.
The weather stayed fine, ten degrees warmer than Galicia, and mostly sunny. Barcelona put its best Sunday feet forward, with Las Ramblas crowded with families and the elderly, tourists and teens all out for a stroll. We found Italian food for lunch with sauteed veggies and excellent gnocchi, and chocolate at Escriba, our favorite chocolate shop. Tom and Peg got gelato at one of half a dozen different shops along Las Ramblas. The two of them and I headed for the lower stretches of the boulevard, while Jim and Anthea went back to the hostal for some more much-needed sleep.
Near the port on Las Ramblas, the mimes were dressed in fantastical layers of paint and clothing, but the market was closed and only a handful of flower and pet merchants had their stalls open. The artists, sketching portraits and caricatures of the passers-by willing to pay, seemed to each have found at least one willing subject and several on-lookers.
Dinner was Spanish Italian, with Galician pizza for Tom and Peg (octopus and potato), sangria for the table, and tortellini for Anthea. We noted that the portions are smaller in Barcelona than in the north, and the bottles of fizzy water are larger. The rest of the evening was spent in laundry (still have to do that) and trying to get the Internet to work — unsuccessfully, clearly, because this is going out a day late.
Our cab driver spoke English well and we got into a discussion with him about the Catalunyan Independence Movement. His perception was that the poorer areas of Spain take money from Catalan. On this past Thursday, the region’s legislators voted to hold a referendum on independence — the Spanish government says that would be unconstitutional, and it doesn’t seem likely to happen. But we see separatist flags flying from balconies all over town (there are several different groups, each with its own variation on the flag). Besides the economic argument, the Catalonians argue that they have their own language (similar to Spanish, but with some French similarities; many of the signs around Barcelona are either in Catalan or both Spanish and Catalan) and culture, along with a history of self-government. It’s not the only independence movement — From Pamplona west into the meseta, we saw plenty of Basque separatist graffiti, and in Galicia, some of the same arguments for independence are being made.
Feeding pigeons at Plata Catalunya.
A flower stall on Las Ramblas.
Soldier washing his hands at an art noveau (“Modernisme”) fountain on Las Ramblas.
Catalan Separatist flag on a balcony across the street.