Yep - after finishing at the Natural Science museum in Brussels (museum 1/2 on the list for Belgium), I took a long weekend to visit my friend Julia in Barcelona! Devoted readers may recall that Julia made a prior appearance in my travel adventures when she and I collected data together in Birchington-on-Sea last fall in England. After learning that we would again be on the same continent this summer, we naturally planned a reunion. (Huzzah for cheap travel within the EU!). Julia is in the very final stages of wrapping up her dissertation, but she spared a weekend to show me around her hometown, Barcelona. We had a lovely time all around, with picnics in the park, a visit to the famous Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi, tasty montaditos and gin and tonics, aaaand a trip to the beach!
|Fountain, Parc de la Ciutadella.
|This is a MUCH better pic than the one where we have Leffe beer bottle labels stuck to our foreheads at 3am...
|I don't remember what building this is, I just really liked the iguana sculpture out front.
|Some people are just the type of friend that when you go "Hey, turn around and hug the cow!" they turn around and hug the cow. Julia is that type of friend.
|Barcelona Cathedral, Gothic Quarter.
|Remnants of Roman wall and aqueduct, Gothic Quarter.
|Lovely Mediterranean palm trees. Lovely Mediterranean weather. Le sigh.
|The beach at Montgat, just 20 minutes or so north of Barcelona. I have other photos where the sky and water look amazingly blue, but I liked the random vintage lighting on this one.
I decided the one extremely touristy thing I had to do while in Barcelona was visit La Sagrada Familia, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My shots of the exterior of La Sagrada Familia are unfortunately not very impressive because it was a very gray, cloudy day. The interior is every bit as impressive as the exterior of the church, however, all soft lines and unexpected angles. Not a huge fan of 90 degree angles, Gaudi. The effect is pretty spectacular - it honestly doesn't look like any other church in the world.
|I know, I know! So washed out. I'm sorry.
La Sagrada Familia, Nativity facade.
|Interior, La Sagrada Familia.
|Ceiling and stained glass, La Sagrada Familia.
|The west side of the exterior, with its Passion facade, is in a much different style than Gaudi's original designs. Kind of looks like a Neil Gaiman graphic novel to me.
But back to Brussels! What have I been doing in this capital of the European Union, you may ask? Well, in the interests of actually getting this long overdue post out there, I will leave the majority of my Belgian adventures til next time. I can say, however, that I ended up having an evening out one night with my friend and colleague Habiba and her boyfriend when we randomly ended up overlapping at the Natural History Museum for a week. (Yes, the anthropological community really is that small.) Habiba and I had classes together at NYU back in the day when she did her Masters; she since went on to complete her PhD at GW, and we don't see much of each other except at conferences, so it was great to catch up.
|Catching up with Habiba over Belgian beers near Mannekin Pis.
|This is why I love the IRNSB staff!!
I'll end with some pictures of lovely nature from when I took advantage of a sunny weekend afternoon to visit the Bois de la Cambre, a huge urban park in the southern part of town that merges with the Sonian Forest (Foret de Soignes). In really nice weather, people apparently loll about sunbathing on picnic blankets around the lake; in relatively nice weather, they still loll about, just with an extra layer or two of clothing. It's an interesting mix of tranquility and activity - many of the paths are quiet and empty, while the central area of the park around the lake is filled with street hockey players on rollerblades, kids on bicycles, parents pushing strollers, people playing music and drinking at the cafes, etc. I had some pistachio gelato and just enjoyed a stroll.
|Bois de Cambre
|Bois de Cambre, central lake
p.s. - if you don't know the movie to which the title of this post refers, stop whatever you're doing (what? you're done reading this blog anyway and clearly need something else to do), do yourself a favor, and watch Zorro the Gay Blade. Campy 70s hilarity with George Hamilton playing the twin sons of Zorro...one a roguish Latin lothario, and the other...well, let's just say he goes by the name of "Bunny Wigglesworth"... You'll thank me later for expanding your cinematic repertoire. ;)