In the Plaza Real near our apartment, next to one of Gaudi's lampposts.
My elementary-level Spanish, packed away for four months since we left Argentina, re-emerged when we landed in Barcelona and I asked the cab driver, “Puede usted llevarnos a esta direccion?” (Can you take us to this address?) I caught enough in his rapid reply to understand that he could take us close, but then we’d have to walk part of the way because our street is so narrow that it’s closed to cars. Once again we found ourselves grateful to be traveling light enough to carry everything on our backs, with just one heavy rolling suitcase that functions as a mobile office.
About 15 minutes later the cab pulled over to the curb along Las Ramblas — the pedestrian boulevard bordering the Gothic Quarter (in Catalan, Barri Gòtic), famous for street vendors and sidewalk performers — and the driver gestured past Plaza Real (or Plaça Reial). As we walked to find our new home for the next ten days, we paused to gaze at the vibrant 19th-century public square that would serve as our extended front porch. The square is formed by apartment buildings with arcades on the ground floor that house a string of open-air cafes, where multitudes stroll by or sit and drink red wine at midday while musicians perform, artists sketch and philatelists swap stamps. I hear snippets of every Romantic language and know just enough Castilian Spanish and French to decipher the hybrid that is Catalan, which the signs are written in. At least a dozen palm trees fill the plaza and surround an elaborate black fountain flanked by Gaudí’s outlandish lampposts — my first glimpse at Gaudí’s intoxicating, Seussical style. Balconies above are fronted by intricate wrought-iron railings and greenery, and wooden shutters frame the windows. We’re living here?! I thought, and I couldn’t stop exclaiming to Morgan, “I love it, I love it!” (more…)