Thursday, June 6, 2013

Street (art) smiles from Barcelona

When people hear that we travel to Europe every year, there is often an assumption that we spend a huge amount on our holidays. I can't claim that these trips don't demand some year-round economizing, but we have generally been able to find pleasant, clean, and convenient accommodation for around 100 euros a day (less than $150). As I write this, we are on the train heading away from Barcelona and the delightful and well-priced Hotel Curious. I will write more about this hotel later, and it to my little list of budget hotels in Europe -- you can click on that page at the top. Do let me know if you try any of these for yourself.

We could do much better budget-wise for eating. We rarely go out to high-end restaurants while away, but we do tend to enjoy a sit-down lunch and dinner in amiable surroundings, looking generally for well-prepared food that the locals also enjoy. Once we settle into our little house in Bordeaux, our costs will drop as we take advantage of the local markets and a decent kitchen to cook many of our meals chez nous.

But where we are almost frugal, I'd say, is in our entertainment and transportation costs. Exceptionally, this Barcelona visit, we took a taxi from train station to hotel on arrival and then back to another station when we left. Grand total with tips: 30 euros. Otherwise, we walked everywhere. I do realize that we are lucky to be fit enough to do this, so I'm careful not to recommend it to everyone. But oh, the free entertainment to be had as you walk along.

I'll show you what I mean. . .

even back in the city's early medieval period, its streets offered decoration to charm the eyes of pedestrians, as in this fountain, built in 1367 by Joan Fiveller who had discovered a spring in the Collserola hills from which he piped water directly to Barcelona, to this Plaça named after Sant Just.

I'm not content with the information I've been able to discover about the fountain's faces, and I'll try harder to search this out once I'm home. Meanwhile, if anyone has more info (Raquelita?), please let me know.

Some contemporary wag, obviously, has added the humorous, if irreverent colouring to the stonework.

More energetic contemporary inventions to the street scene abound. I know many disapprove of such graffiti, but I have come to admire the creative impulse that insists on speaking out. More so, perhaps, since our recent visit to the Keith Haring exhibition at Paris' Musée d'Art Moderne . . .

The subject matter is fascinatingly varied, as are the techniques. . .

Some merely want to make their mark, to register their presence in the city, while others apply stencilled pieces which they then augment in various ways.

Some are particularly rewarding to observant passers-by. . . This stream of butterflies, made of paper or lightweight plastic, for example, could easily be missed, but I was delighted to track their progress above my head down the ancient walls of a building in the Barri Gothic.


Whereas these fellows, with all their chromatic noise and kinetic rhythm, demand attention!

More restful are the marine motifs on the water fountains at which Barcelonites refill their water bottles, let their thirsty dogs have a drink, even rinse hot and dusty feet.

It's especially important to keep the dogs happy and well-watered . . .

Amusingly, just as I had hauled out my little Canon to snap a photo of this exuberant artwork, a young man arrived at the doorway just behind us and, as he searched for his key, he scolded his dog to move out of my way.

I studied the pooch carefully, looking for a resemblance with the canines represented across the street. Barcelona seems to boast at least its fair share of dogs whose ancestry hints at some fighting skills, and I wouldn't want any of this trio to take a dislike to me. . . But Fido was amiable enough to this tourist. Perhaps he just appreciates a photo op.

Perhaps he simply wearied of the racial profiing . . .

I also found some examples of Graffiti on the move. and lest you worry that this was a case of vandalism, no, it seemed deliberate, even professionally applied, if one can say that a out a street-evolved art form. (And given the recent Basquiat and Haring exhibits at the Md'AM in Paris, I think one can. . .)

If you find such art a bit too agressive, though, there are other gentler enjoyments to watch for, equally free. I found, this sweet little sign for a small (unfortunately closed Mondays) yarn shop .. All You Knit is Love. . .non-knitters may not know this, but we knitters have a collective sense of humour that runs to the pun, reflected in names of knit shops the world over. I was pleased to collect this manifestatio in Barcelona.

Just around the corner was this sweet little vignette. The letters A.C.A.B. are expanded to represent the sentiment "All Cats Are Beautiful"


And just as my eye was drawn earlier to butterflies on the wall above my height, so is it worth looking at the lower levels also. Quiet surprises await . . . Such as this intriguing adaptation of macramé to a wrought iron grille on a basement window. . .


A day later, my eye was drawn upwards again to another tangle of string, these much larger cords calling attention to the Fundación Antoni Tàpies. . .

As i mentied earlier, i wrote this post on the train from Barcelona to Bordeaux--more later on why everyone should travel this way, really . . . But we are now settling into our little house on Rue B. . . Pater has just come in with a basket full of dinner-to-be, and it seems to be time for a glass of wine. I hope you might enjoy my little tour of some free Barcelona street art. Perhaps it will bring a smile to your face as well!




    Mater, As part of your travel includes a painting course with Alison Watt, I thought you might be interested in this. You may need to cut as paste the URL into your browser (it doesn't seem to want to attach as a proper link here). It is Sketcher magazine edition on Barcelona - the Urban Sketching symposium is there in July!
    Cheers, Kris

  2. Wow! This is a gorgeous magazine -- although it makes me very self-conscious about my very limited abilities with a pencil or brush. . . .Thanks for pointing it out -- it's great to see the city I just met reflected through others' eyes and hands. . .

  3. Didn't you love Barcelona? My basic guideline is 100 euros a night short term and $100 Canadian longer term rental. I enjoy 1 restaurant meal a day. Barcelona is so rich in architectural detail.I love Spain but Catalonia is my favourite region. I also really like your orange dress. Enjoy Bordeaux.

  4. Love how relaxed and chic you look in that orange frock.
    Interesting street art and I must say I am a wee bit surprised...with all that ancient architecture I thought it might be discouraged.
    Looking forward to Bordeaux :-)

  5. Wonderful, wonderful photos!! Too bad "All you knit is love" was closed. I love to buy yarn on holiday. It's a great souvenir. I just love that dress on you!!

  6. Great photos. We travel in much the same way - Rick Steves says that the more one spends the further one is away from the life of the ordinary citizen. Europe is a feast for the eyes and ears without spending tons of money.

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