la pedrera · parq guell · sagrada familia · spain

And then there was Esperanza

Barcelona, Spain.

The rest of the first day was a total Gaudi day. We started by the sea, then went up a massive hill to Parq Guell. It’s a fairytale garden, this place, with is off-kilter pillars, a tunnel like a wave, colourful mosaics, and sinuous recreation areas.

A man played a lute under a bridge made out of stacks of stones piled like a child building a jenga tower. We sat and listened, mesmerized. Rainwater dripped down from one of the arches, catching spangles of sunlight as it fell.

Gaudi was the Mac Daddy of Modernist architects. Also, it is rumoured, a fan of magic mushrooms. Hard to disagree, after seeing the Sagrada Familia.

Despite the ugly lines caused by continuing construction to finish the structure by 2020, there really still is only one word to describe it: stupendous.

The vaulted ceilings were fringed like palm trees, and their supporting pillars detailed like trunks with smaller arch supports that branched out like boughs.

Cutwork in the windows threw flower-shaped light everywhere.

An entire facade of the church looked like The Enchanted Faraway Tree (I think Enid Blyton may have been a tripper too).

Ah! The madness of genius!

La Pedrera was more of the same stupendosity — a wave-like building that looks like it’s made of a single piece of stone (hence the name, which means “stone quarry”). And the rooftop of this building is unfathomable.

Although I developed a theory that perhaps these strange things are chess pieces.

Gaudified and exhausted, (and almost 3 nights without sleep for me) we showered, changed, and went to a tiny taparia for dinner.

In the house as we sat down was a table full of Colombians who wanted their photos taken with us, and later, a group of Madrid artsy-fartsy students (the equivalent of jhola-carriers or Kensington Market drifters, depending on where you come from), and a group of Spanish men, who I decided, for no particular reason, were in Barcelona for a fishing holiday. And then there was Esperanza.

We ate mmm, fresh anchovies drizzled with lemon, herbs, and fresh olives; pan de tomates; patatas con queso, and fresh calamari. Rafe, proud hairdresser by day and bartender by night, grabbed my face with both hands and smacked me on the forehead after I told him in my crap Spanish that his food was the best I had tasted in Spain. After that, everything was on the house. That was when we met Esperanza.

She’s Basque, but lives in Barcelona and works as a cleaning woman. She sang and danced and laughed like a witch. Speaking of which, a witch toy sat on a high shelf in one corner of the room, where its eyes would glow red and it would laugh shrilly when clapped at. Esperanza brought the house down. The Spanish fishermen bought us roses.

We finally left them at 2 am, determined to see more of this city than the inside of that smoky bar which had closed its front doors and was carrying on inside like time didn’t matter. We ended up in a large plaza, where Pakistani men were selling people beer, and we sat on the threshold of a closed shopfront, leaning against the shutters with our legs stretched out, watching the world go by.

On our way home, we each bought a vegetable samosa from yet another Pakistani vendor. It was a fitting end to a surreal day.


2 thoughts on “And then there was Esperanza

  1. Hey Sumi!I visited Barcelona for the first time when I was 14 years old and what I saw and felt in Gaudí’s architecture is something that I will remember all my life. And yes, I too thought those look like chess pieces ;-D


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