Sunday’s are generally languid. As a child they smelt of roast chicken and freshly cut grass. They came with the sound of church bells, not one, but many. I recall at least two or three within listening distance serving to the denominations that lived within walking distance or a short bus ride. It was no different in Barcelona except it was a public holiday Monday and I was drawn to coffees and ham, wandering from the Hotel Bonanova Park on Capità Arenas, weaving in and out of vast streets lined with impressive apartments.
Church bells rung from stone, not weatherboard towers, and ricochetted from pavements to squares. One such square, on the Passeig de la Elisenda de Montcada, was presided over by a church, its spire clock at 12:56pm, in Roman numerals, a gesture perhaps to an empire of equal repute as that of the Spanish. Amateur painters displayed their canvases, elderly folk sat on generous benches, many reading. As the clock struck 12:57 bus number 1722 destined for stop 22 pulled up nearby. At 12:58 a four-wheeled drive drove audaciously into the square parking close to where I sat. The driver stepped out, dusted his rear window and put in a call to someone. At 1:05 another car arrived, signalling to the four-wheeler who proceeded to reverse out in an over-sized manner, too closely to one of the stalls and far too close to me for my liking. I noticed the scrape all along the drivers side panel.
Curiously, no one else seemed to mind. Perhaps many of the people there had four-wheeled drives parked nearby. In those streets, such cars are not only entirely impractical, they are a menace. At the time of writing, I am still repairing from one I had bumped into. It was parked, however I had mis-judged its width when moving clear of a passing scooter. Ouch!
Around 1:15pm I left the square and headed back to the Hotel where I would collect Karen Banks for lunch, seeing her off till our next meeting in November.
On Sunday, I would do near the same, but would take provisions and see if I could not find the old city that Chris Nicol talked so fondly of.
Para-lel station seemed like a good place to start. From there I walked down to the terribly modern Barcelona Cruise Port that supports something in the order of 1.2 million passengers a year. I stood marvelling at the sea water, the sky, the hi-tech cruisers and the people pouring onto every open space. It was pleasantly hot and for all I knew, everything… everything was good in the world that day. So, I continued, and I did so along the bay, parallel to the rather generous bicycle lanes, until it felt time to head back in towards the city. I crossed the Ronda del Litoral and over the Passieg de Colom and into a tiny square that lead to a thin thoroughfare, Carrer Ample. I had found the Barri Gotic, the centre of Barcelona from where the city grew. My eyes widened. My pace slowed.
I took the streets and alleyways less clogged with tourists, tiny streets, older than any street in Melbourne. Being as it was Sunday, the district I had wandered into was host to countless boutiques, record stores and tattoo parlours which were all but shut, their graffiti soaked shutters down, that heady juncture of inner-urban “grimecore” where I would, on any other day, enter.
This was a well cared for, long lived place. It was clean. Women could be seen on the second floors dusting windows and ornaments. It smelt of damp timber and the hint of food, a complex synthesis of oils, vegetables and meats that lay just beyond what could he heard… it was total immersion, rudely plucked from by the idle, repetitive ramblings of tourists, their phone chatter and clumsy, often intrusive, photo opportunities.