New Year’s Day – especially quiet in Barcelona. One of the few days that are actually gazetted holidays and as such a day for strolling, say along the beach. We thought strolling along the beach might be the thing to do on a day like this. We woke quite late as is proper on such a day and started with a stroll to the local park a few blocks up. This park is called, Parc de Joan Miro and it turned out to be a good day to visit it. We entered the park and were drawn by music across to the other side and up a bridge that led to a large open area, which happened to feature Miro’s Dona i Ocell, which at 22m tall is hard to miss. The Parc is also in the shadow of the until recently active bullfight arena, which I guess gave cause for it’s former name – Slaughterhouse Park – which really isn’t and probably wouldn’t have appealed to us as a strolling destination du jour.
The Parc seemed to play host on New Year’s Day to about 50 or so be-espadrilled oldies who were getting ready to rock it out to a live band. Now I’m fully prepared to accept that “rock it out” and “live band” may be misleading. Their espadrilles were strangely balletic, with ribbons tied around the ankles. Their dance, I have since learned, was called the Sardana. Their band – a Cobla, featuring a squeaky instrument called a flaviol. Our take was that the dance looked a bit like Greek dancing, but the steps were much more intricate and there was more jumping. These Catalans have also developed the Australian art of dancing around your shoes and bags to amazing new heights, managing to build piles of bags, shoes, jackets and scarves to almost a meter in the centre of their dance rings. Impressive.
The afternoon was also intriguing due to a visit from the local Santa equivalent – an oriental king, who somewhat oddly was also accompanied by elven assistants. The kiddies filed up to the throne and sat on the King’s lap to ask for gifts (I guess), then they’re ushered off by the elves and given a promo pack of novelties. This can still happen on New Year’s because the gifts aren’t distributed till the night of the 5th of January, Epiphany Eve. We’re much looking forward to the Barcelonan spectacle of the the 3 Kings parade next Thursday evening – they throw lollies at the crowd!
After our fill of dance viewing and King watching we darted into a nearby Metro station and set a course for Barceloneta, a station that was quite near the playa. There were crowds heading to the beach when we arrived and it was obvious that a boardwalk stroll was de rigeur for the average Barcalite on a holiday afternoon. Sunny and about 15C was pleasant enough in the sun and we ventured onto the sand, which seemed peppered with revellers from the night before sleeping off whatever had led them to the beach in the first place. The beach was quite wide and there were maybe two or three hardy souls in the drink trying to body surf in tiny Mediterranean waves. We opted for the boardwalk and did maybe 2k along the front till we reached El Casino, adorned with Frank Gehry’s, Fish. Tired and footsore by this stage, we wheeled into a nearby cafe for a set lunch – read ‘sat’ lunch.
To return from this far-flung destination required a number of changes on the Metro, but started in the former Olympic Village. The subway was much more crowded than our earlier trip outbound, although the neighbourhood around our stop was virtually abandoned. The tiny supermarket on the corner which we normally avoid in favour of the larger one around the corner was our saviour today and delivered unto us the makings of a range of yummy dinner items which Pip whipped into a kind of tapas dinner of many options.
Our resolution for tomorrow is to visit the Sant Antoni Markets and then dive into the Bari Gothico for a more solid look. Barcelona is proving a beautiful city (except for the dog boy) and we are proving to be willing supplicants. If Spain be one of the pigs of Europe – Barcelona is ripping off a leg and turning it into air-dried Jamon. We are yet to see signs of financial imperilment, but perhaps our tourist eyes aren’t looking for it.