Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fiestas De Gracia y Sants - Barcelona 2009

Returning to one of my favorite cities on this planet was a much anticipated event. It was made possible thanks to my sister paying my way so I could escort her kids over so they could enjoy their summer vacation with their Spanish cousins in a Villa about 2 hours from Barcelona. Being Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music was an unexpectedly enriching experience for me. It was the first time that I was absolutely responsible for three children ranging from ages 7-15. I, for a moment was a parent and it felt pretty darn good. I didn't have too much trouble on our 15 hour voyage from Boston to Barcelona as my sister's kids are about the best kids you will ever find. Their personalities are as if they were adults trapped in a kid's body. Ever so aware and conscious of the world around them with a kid's sense of humor. My smallest niece started collecting all the vomit bags from the plane's seats and I was soon amused at the reason why. She was drawing faces on each one and making hand puppets out of them. Who would've thought that a vomit bag could be used as an entertainment device. How's that for ingenuity?

Arriving in the uber-modern new airport terminal at Barcelona airport, we were quickly whisked away to the country to the small town of Banyoles. We pulled up to a very old, stone villa remodeled and with a beautiful, modern pool (the only one in town). The villa overlooked a small valley, olive trees and all. It was as picturesque as a Goya painting.

The honeymoon ended quickly after spending a very hot and moist night barely catching any sleep as a result of a wild hog (Javali') screaming underneath my window as if a woman was getting raped and a bat flying into my room and hitting me on my forehead (no joke). Summer in Spain is just as hot as summer in Miami, difference is Miami has air conditioning. It didn't help that there was a pig farm next town over that deposited a thick aroma of pig poop into the air on it's way up the hill to our villa. I learned how to control my gag reflex about every 5 minutes. Needless to say, I was at the Bus Station on the 3rd day to visit my high school crush, Ivy (before I knew I was a big homo) in the energetic and ever so bohemian city of Barcelona. Bye Bye Banyoles.

The last time I had visited the "other Magic city" it was december and very chilly. I had no idea that it was OK to wear flip flops, shorts and tank tops in an European city. In Italy it is a faux-pas to wear shorts because it reminds Italians of when they were forced to wear dorky long shorts when they were kids. This trip I avoided the typical Gaudi tourist stops as I had seen them last year. I focused on parks and walking the different historic and rich neighborhoods. My all time fave is the Born neighborhood which is a European version of SoHo. Lots of original boutiques, great fashion, cafe's, cool people and of course my "gays". Born has a very large park and is very close to La Barceloneta beach area. It's the medieval core of the city with narrow cobblestone streets and cathedrals intact.

The weekend arrived and Ivy decided that we should go to see the festival of Fiestas De Gracia y Sants which are two different neighborhoods that have been doing this street thang for about 750 years now. The city was originally called Barcino by Hannibal's dad who founded it about 2000 years ago, has a hefty lead on Miami on throwing a party. They do it in spades. The yearly street party is a well oiled machine and community leaders take part in designing and coordinating the year's designs in the same way the Samba schools in Brazil plan and compete for their carnivals throughout the year. This year, all the designs had to be executed with recyclable materials. There was Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom replete with Aliens, Japanese Gardens, Monte Carlo Casino every street was different. There was one surreal street lined with toys and candy and was made even more cool with a Cuban band playing and kids drinking mojitos. Each street had their own bands or DJ's, bars, and tons of people from all over the world just having a good time chillaxin'.

The climax was the battle of the tribes, Les Dracs (the dragons), Colla Vella (old devil's tail) and Diabolica (the devilish ones). This consisted of a good old fashioned street battle where each tribe tries to pass and the other blocks with walls of people and taunting chants. They finally break through the blockaded narrow streets with explosions and fireworks spraying everyone, including the onlookers. My badge of honor was about 10 burned spots on my scalp as well as my shirt. Marching bands of drummers followed the opening of the blockades followed with hundreds of onlookers and visitors laughing, drinking and dancing. It was a page out of a Roman Bacchanalian feast. The high was like no other. I ended up dancing in the middle of a plaza with my new-found friend named Giusi (juicy) from Naples who came to visit the city years ago and never went back home.

The finale was in the main plaza with a balcony stuffed with the community's leaders overlooking the performance, the large dragon and Gaudi's iguana from Park Guell came through and sprayed a volcano of fireworks over everyone then fire throwers and music ensued. Everyone was rolling on the same good vibration. It was one of those nights you store away in your brain and take out on "blue" days, the memory bringing peace in the knowing that you've lived a little in this life.

I believe every trip you take changes you a little. You learn things about others and about yourself, how these two entities relate to each other and how colorful and wonderful our world is.

I learned that you should never not sit at the lunch table in Spain even though you aren't hungry. In Spain, lunch is very important.
I learned that you should definitely pack tank tops and sandals when you go to Spain in the summer.
I learned that it's perfectly legal to be completely naked in the streets of Barcelona but walking around without your shirt on is not permitted.

I learned that while salaries really suck in Spain, they find a way to live a really good life with a lot less money but they complain just as much as Americans do about not having enough money.

I learned that Catalonians don't really have much that is taboo to them. They are pretty much cool about anything. They are dignified like the French and proud of their country but are much more relaxed about it.

I learned that if you're Muslim and if you live in Banyoles you will be very pissed at the constant smell of pig shit wafting it's way into your nostrils at every moment of every day.

Most of all I learned that you don't ask a married woman if she's "caliente" in front of her husband because it doesn't mean "hot", it means "sexually turned on".

Brief history of Barcelona as a city:



Sounds like you had a fun journey with your nieces/nephew en Bar-the-lona. :)
I also liked how you mentioned that we all change a little bit after visiting another place. I couldn't agree more with you. You take a little piece of that place wherever you go.

Best lines of the post, mainly because they are the most descriptive: "screaming underneath my window as if a woman was getting raped and a bat flying into my room and hitting me on my forehead (no joke). Summer in Spain is just as hot as summer in Miami, difference is Miami has air conditioning. It didn't help that there was a pig farm next town over that deposited a thick aroma of pig poop into the air on it's way up the hill to our villa. "

grettel j. singer said...

i miss barcelona.

EricInMiami said...

gracias johnny! i'll see u at Books and Books this thursday night for your reading!

Eduardo Guize said...

haha good you learned that last point! Last week I was in Barcelona for the first time and loved it, too. But now I see I missed those Fiestas by so little!