Thursday, May 26th, 2011
The Length Of Las Ramblas
Notes from Barcelona
Frank YangI’ve been in Barcelona for a few days now – four, including today – and as of tomorrow things become very Primavera-centric so now’s as good a time as any to offer some thoughts on the trip so far and the city in general. And those thoughts can be summed up pretty succinctly as, “amazing”.
Before coming here, I had very little history with Spain, at least from a pre-conceived or pop cultural sense. I’ve seen a number of Almodovar films and started (but have not yet finished) Don Quixote, but had nothing of the romantic notions about the place that I do for, say, Britain or New York City. A few days here have rectified that, however, and I am now in a general state of wonder about this place, on so many levels. In no particular order:
The civic planning and infrastructure. This is an old city, and yet it seems to have been laid out in a way that it perfectly accommodates modern needs. Their main boulevards are massive, allowing fast movement of cars, buses and taxis while also providing extensive bike lanes and pedestrian thoroughfares and there’s lots of scooter parking, too. And they do this while largely maintaining an almost perfect grid-pattern through much of the city and allowing for giant fountains and monuments at key intersections, though if that’s all too orderly for you there’s the old-school European narrow streets and alleys of Barri Gotic. Add in the fact that the subway is extensive, modern and reasonably priced? Getting around is a joy.
The architecture. Everyone knows about the works of Gaudi – and they are unique and breathtakingly strange, existing out of time and place – but most everything else in the city is just as beautiful in their own way, with a pleasingly sort of old world classicism unifying many of the structures but all with their own distinct character. All of which is to say, everywhere you look, there’s something beautiful.
The culture. This applies to most places in Europe I’ve been, but it’s reinforced a thousand-fold here, seeing the value they put into things like their galleries, their opera house, the music festivals they host, the sheer appreciation for art. It’s so completely opposite to how cultural institutions are regarded in North America, it’s astonishing. The creative things they invest in simply because they understand their value beyond monetary terms is inspiring and depressing (because such thinking seems to be anathema to so many at home).
The food. Holy cow. Never has pointing randomly to colourful presumably edible things on menus or in counters ever been so tasty. There has been much tapas consumed on this trip, and hopefully more before I leave – question to 416-ers; where is there good tapas in Toronto? I need to know where I can go to obnoxiously declare that the food is not as good as in Barcelona. I also ate at my first – and at those prices possibly my last – Michelin star restaurant this trip and while it cost more than I care to recount, it was a gastronomical experience I won’t soon forget. I wish Coke wasn’t quite as expensive as it is – I’ve had carbonated cola cravings since I’ve been here – and it’s been harder to find a to-go coffee shop than it should be, but by and large the food? Dang, son. Dang.
The women. Hola!
Photos from the trip thus far are up on Flickr and for those of you who care not one whit for my travelogues – which is fair, you heartless bastards – here’s some music-related links.
The Quietus has assembled a retrospective piece on the glory of Pulp, which may be instructive to those of you who didn’t live through the Britpop era and may not understand why it was necessary for me to get on a plane to see them perform.
New Raveonettes video!
His time with Pavement again winded down, Stephen Malkmus has reconvened The Jicks and with the assistance of Beck as producer, will put out a new album in Mirror Traffic on August 23. Details at Pitchfork.
MP3: Bon Iver – “Calgary”
Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham lists off some of his influences for Spin. David Comes To Life is out June 7 and they play two NXNE shows – Yonge-Dundas Square and Wrongbar – on June 16 in addition to their August 9 engagement at the Air Canada Centre.