Tuesday, April 11, 2006

And the Days Go By

Side Trip
We started off a day later than planned because it's just so beautiful where the art center is that it was hard to leave. When we finally rolled out this country road the morning mist was still in the air, and clung to all the brand new leaves. Around every curve in the road there was a new delightful vista, and we hopped out of the car to snap photos every few minutes. Consequently, our short drive to the Mediterranean coast lasted most of the day. Our first sight of Quillan nestled in the arms of a family of mountains caused us once again to jerk the car over for another photo shoot. We stopped again when we spotted tents in the downtown parking lot signalling the local market, so we decided that we liked Quillan quite a lot.

Our road took us through vinyard country, and was dotted with small family owned wineries, mostly closed for the season. Past the city of Perpignon through to Canet Rousillison we finally got our first glimpse of the Mediterranean. Eschewing public beaches, we took a small dirt road through a nature preserve, got out of the car and discovered that we had arrived at the confluence of a river and the sea. The water churned as it mixed, fish glittered, and clear pools of green water revealed a pebbled bottom. A naked man stood off in the distance, sillohuetted against the shadows of the Pyrenee mountains. It was a grand vista.

Off again, staying on the coast road, it climbed higher as we twisted around tiny cliffside paths, finally reaching Coulliere. Every French icon was there in triplicate. The castle on the top of the mountain, wildflowers blooming on black rock cliffs the water crashed against, a Medieval stone wall, a harbor with brightly colored boats, old ladies on bicycles with baguettes, twisty little roads lined with shops and galleries, and plenty of outdoor cafes. If it hadn't been for the steady rain it would have been perfect. As it was, we still had an excellent seafood dinner in a delightful cafe where every seat was filled.
Inspiration of the day: the Landscape

Day 2
We spent the night in the next town, at a hotel where we didn't have to park the car blocks away and go by feet hauling luggage around. Our balcony looked over the harbor, where working fishing boats shared the water with sailboats. Sunrise painted the sky behind the boats thowing pinks and oranges into the water already reflecting the shapes of hulls and masts. From the room I could see bright yellow balls all stacked on the pier. Closer inspection revealed the most delightful visual feast of piles of multicolored buoys and fishing nets. I probably took 50 photographs just of that.

We continued along the mountain coast road until we could turn west to Figueres, Spain, birthplace of Salvador Dali. By this time I was feeling a little queasy, perhaps the results of too little food and too much very strong coffee! Still we visited another local market, searched in vain for the Dali museum, and left in frustration, heading for Barcelona, which was only an hour away. I read through the guide book, picked a hotel and we navigated to it, knowing in advance it had a parking garage where we could keep the car. Nobody wants to drive in Barcelona if they don't have to. After settling in the room we wandered outside, following the crowds to La Rambla, the pedestrian street thickly populated with tourists and vendors all hours of the day. Our walking tour took us through the most fascinating and historical part of the city, the Barri Gottic, the Gothic Quarter. There were shops, museums, old Roman walls, small churches, galleries, and lots of people. It's only April, and there didn't appear to be many tourists in this area, leading me to believe that this is normally a very lively place. Summer must be crazy!
Inspiration of the day: Fishing nets and Buoys

Day 3
Barcelona Spain
We could hardly find the cathedral that is noted in every guide book, it was masked behind a tangle of scaffolding, making photos impossible. But the inside was quiet and mystical, and our timing was good. We sat and witnessed a priest in full regalia giving communion to a young girl. Set against a baroque guilded chapel, we felt honored to share her special ceremony.

After another wander through the Gothic quarter, found a great place to eat. While savoring my meal, I caught a glimpse of a music video playing on the wall behind me. It was a beautiful Spanish girl named Coral with black hair dressed all in white. She was singing in a small room of all white, floors, ceiling and walls. As she sang, she scribbled words on the walls with thin paint, and the drips became part of the pattern she created. By the end of the video she was splattered with black, and the walls were covered with words. Black trees started sprouting out of the floor. It got my attention.

We grabbed a bus to Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous unfinished cathedral. We were again disappointed to see much of the structure covered with scaffolding. Inside was the same, and the fantastical creation was mostly obscured by heavy pipe scaffolds. It was a strenuous climb to the top of the towers, the queue was full, and it was a slow climb. There were several landings to take in the view of the city spread below, with tall modern buildings nestled with red tile roofed homes, old stone structures and modern facades all mixed together in a happy collage. Off in the distance spread the sea. From the towers a closer view of the structure was possible, and it is so complex and yet so ordered, it defies description. Some of the forms are based on geometric patterns and some seem random, copied from dreams, perhaps.

After seeing the Sagrada, I became more aware of the Gaudi architecture scattered around the city, and have a new appreciation for his organic shapes.

Back to La Rambla we took in the food market, gathered our things, and jumped back on the autoroute heading north to Figueres. I really wanted to see the Dali museum.
Inspiration of the day: Spanish music video

1 comment:

MMComstock said...

What fun it is to travel with you, even from 6000 miles away! Your photos are spectacular—not just the subjects; you're made yourself a master photographer, Robin. Can't wait to see more, and to keep hearing about your adventure francais. —Margot