Barcelona (June 4, 2013)

Day 4: mostly libraries. Really pretty libraries.

Woke up, and Eric’s fever was 102, so he decided he wasn’t going anywhere. So I went out and harassed the wireless store. I got the same salesperson as the first time, but I managed to figure out (with my kindergarten Spanish) that the issue with my SMSs was that I got 1000 free SMSs to any SPANISH number. Ooops. And I’d run off the end of the credit they gave me texting US numbers. Double-oops. BUt the data still works and that’s the only thing that’s critical, and I’ll have to buy another SIM when I get to France anyways. Then I walked down Via Laietana and got the couple of pictures I’d noted for myself last night (which will be revealed in a later entry when I’ve collected the whole set!)

And then I went on a fruitless search for a sandwich for Eric. I found nothing remotely useful in the area, so I went back to the handy greenmarket and bought cheese and tomatoes and bread and aioli and made sandwiches and it was glorious.

And then I went back out to explore. I love exploring cities on my own, and in a world of infinite time and vacation, I’d get to do that AND explore with Eric. But given that we live in this one, usually we do our exploring together. So while I was very sad Eric was home sick, I was excited to get to wander by myself.

I’d looked up the addresses of three different libraries, and a few other sites, stuck them in my gmaps and I was off (have I mentioned how USEFUL it is to have mobile data in a foreign city? Especially for those of us without fantastic senses of direction?)

First I went to the oldest women’s library in the world (Biblioteca Francesca Bonnemaison, founded in 1909.) I unfortunately haven’t been able to find out much more about it on the English-language web. It was small and somewhat disappointing, but did have awesome built-in card catalog.


Stained glass ceiling…


And I love the inside/outside interior staircase where I can look into the library from an indoors entrance (which I assume was built around the original building later?)


It had an awesome parquet floor.


And nifty built-in card catalogs.


And a few other vestiges of the past. They seemed to frown on picture-taking though, so I didn’t stay long or investigate if the card catalog was still in use.

Then I continued along that street and window-shopped, and discovered the block where all the small utilitarian clothing stores were. Which was useful, since I was looking for some pairs of anklesocks. I found exactly what I was looking for in the ceiling-high bins lining the store, and acquired and paid for them in my basic but apparently adequate Spanish and felt very proud of myself.


Street art, and tagging side-by-side…


…some of which is opinionated. (Translation: Art is Trash.)

I ended up back at La Palau Musica, and took a few shots of the outside, which still don’t remotely do it justice. It’s an incredibly ornate and elaboate building, and due to the width of the street, it’s really hard to get far enough away to take any reasonable pictures. But I tried.


The modern annex. I’ve never seen brick art like this before, carved out of a facade already in-place, or so it appears.


Every column, every arch, every wall, covered in unique floral mosaics.


I have no idea what’s going on here.


Every chimney was adorned. Gaudi-esque, but not Gaudi.

From there I ended up at the Biblioteca de Catalunya.

It is housed in part of the Hospital de la Santa Creu complex, a 15th century edifice now housing the library and also an art school. (It was replaced by the art nouveau Hospital de Sant Pau, which unfortunately I did NOT get to visit.) Sadly, like many European libraries, they require a reader’s card, which one cannot acquire as a tourist, and do not permit people wandering in to take photos. I got one before I was asked to stop.


It was a really gorgeous use of space though. I love the reader’s carrels up under the arches, behind the shelves…

From there, I ended up at La Rambla, and took a stroll. There were some impressive staue-costumes.


Why Edison? Why not Edison?

I also stopped in several camera stores over the course of the afternoon, which either didn’t have a lenscap, or the one place that did wanted 30E for it. I think not. (I expect prices on La Rambla to be inflated, but a 30E lenscap????)

Sadly I didn’t make it to the craft fair down there (I turned right when I should have turned left), but sitting on a bench I was struck with the desire to climb up MontJuic to where the cable car was running from.

So I did that. Half the “Forest Staircase” were entirely consumed by what turn out to be a variety of acanthus (ID’d by my mom from a picture I sent her).

I got slightly obsessive, photographing them.

  

  

I decided I didn’t need to pay 16E to ride the car, but the view was gorgeous, and they had ice cream.

I considered going further to see the castle, or to go find the cemetary (but unfortunately, the cemetary is on the far side of Montjuic, another 30m walk in the opposite direction from everything else I wanted to see.) So I headed back down again.


It really had consumed THE ENTIRE HILLSIDE.

I also found the chocolate museum (which I diecided I didn’t need to go in, but it did provide me with a tasty snack. And they have a 4ft statue of Lionel Messi made entirely of chocolate.) and a desert tapas place I’d like to go to.


In Parc de la Ciutadella.

Found a park where people were playing pingpong, practicing gymnastics, and on the next patch of grass two men were learning fancy-bartending bottle-spinning tricks. Also found a bakery. There is no graceful way to eat a meringue bigger than your head.
Found the former site of the Natural history museum, but sadly it has moved elsewhere.


Which is sad, because how cool would a natural history museum in “Castell dels Tres Dragons” be???

Eventually I made it to the other side of the park, and started looking for the last library. “The Dipòsit de les Aigües (Water deposit) was designed in 1874 … as a reservoir building to store water for the waterworks in the nearby Parc de la Ciutadella. Fontserè designed a structure with walls a metre thick, which supported arches four metres wide. In keeping with tradition, he perforated the walls in order to reduce the quantity of building materials and labour required. These openings run the height of the walls and are crowned with arches, causing the partitions in the walls to look rather like a series of independent pillars. Soon after the infrastructure of the city center got modernized and a new water distribution system was introduced, this building was no longer needed for it’s original purpose. Until the 80’s the building had been used for various things which gradually stuffed the magnificient space with partitions and additions. In 1992 it was decided to convert the space into the main library of the neighbouring UPF.


Exterior of the Diposit de les Aigues.

Weirdly, it’s nearly impossible to get into the library if you don’t already know your way around. I circumnavigated the building entirely, gave up and went into the microbiology department building next to it and used the facilities. When I came out, I decided to throw myself on the mercy of the security guard, who chided me gently for not speaking Catalan, and then told me I needed to walk across the street, down the block, enter the courtyard, find the giant staircase down into the modern library, traverse the library basement, and then I’d find myself in the Diposit. Miraculously enough, I managed this.


Combined skylight/floodlights for the library, which occupies all the space below the student center courtyard.

I took some photos in the modern library portion…


I’ve never seen a library more full of students (was it finals time?)

 
An Escher-esque corner.


The strange staircase from the basement modern library towards the Diposit.

They did a simply incredible job. The high vaulted arches were left alone, and the stacks inside are minimal enough to let the building be seen.


Being me, I also love the feeling of the cozy bottom layer of the stacks.


The light comes in, even through meter-thick walls.


Gorgeous, gorgeous workspaces.


Angles and arches!


And a few original decorations I’m not sure why would have existed in the original Diposit.


Arches on arches.

Coming out of the libary, I found the tram. I’ve never seen a grassy tramway before. It was very surreal, seeing a silent electric tram sliding over a field of grass through the street.

Eventually I came home, and Eric, having had a fever of over 102 for over 2 days, decided it was probably wise to go to he urgent care. So we ate dinner of more sandwiches (I fried up some quail eggs in butter. Nom.) and packed up to go the ER. Which is just like the ones in the US, which is to say uncomfortable and boring. I’d rather have boring than not-boring, but ARGH. The hospital admin they found for us who spoke English turned out to be an aspiring linguist who hopes to be in Toronto in the next year for school, and whose great ambition in life is to work at MIT. He asked us (on seeing our credit union card) whether we were from THAT MIT, and was very excited and asked if we knew Noam Chomsky or Steven Pinker. So that was amusing.

Eventually, at 2am, we left with antibiotics, a chest X-ray, and a diagnosis of infection but NOT pneumonia. Thank goodness. And then we slept.


I really want this to be some Braille-like secret code, not just a park grate half-filled with dirt.