I've been in Barcelona for 5 days. The first 3 were a whirlwind of sleep deprivation, soccer mania and a bit of quick hitting sightseeing. I've spent 5 days with twelve 11 and 12 year old boys and their assorted parents. They boys were getting on my nerves. I was getting soccered out. I needed some mommy time.
So I asked one of the soccer dads if he'd keep an eye on mine for the day so I could go do some sightseeing. A few of the other moms and I headed off to Gaudi's Parc Guell. It's was an amazing journey to an amazing park. Gaudi was an incredible artist with amazing vision and creativity. So much of the architecture of Barcelona and it's famous places were created, at least in part, by him. This park was no exception.
We took the metro to Vallacarca and walked to the side entrance of the Parc. It was atop a steep hill with hundreds of stairs. But fear not, there were several outside escalators!! I've never seen such a thing! Up we went, between apartment buildings and a few shops to the top. We got a snack and some water at a lovely cafe from a lovely man. We got there early and since we went in the 'back' way, there were relatively few people so we were able to stroll and soak in the beauty and uniqueness of the park at leisure. The views of the city were stunning. Throughout the park there were musicians. GOOD musicians. There were also many vendors who sold trinkets off of sheets on the side of the walkways.
As we wound our way down, we marveled at the vision Gaudi must have had. A very unique and complex park, yet very beautiful. It was a gorgeous day to explore, too. Sunny and in the low 70's. The park is mostly free however they are now charging for the 'famous' part, where the tile mosaics are. I ventured to purchase a ticket at noon but the first entry was at 4, so I was not able to see it up close. That's OK. I saw it from other areas of the park, from a distance. It would have been nice to see up close, but it was not to be had. We needed to leave the hotel for the soccer game at 4:30.
After the park, we took a very long walk to the Metro on the other side of the park. It was a nice way to see an area of the city where there were no touristy sights.
I have to say, Barcelona is beautiful. The architecture is detailed and beautiful everywhere you look. There are little store fronts on every block and a ton of little eateries. Most with outdoor seating and multi-language menus, especially in the more touristy areas. There are large trash and recycling bins on the streets and there are street cleaners every single day! The city is so clean! Shopkeepers sweep daily. Everyone is friendly and helpful. Because it's so touristy, many in the hospitality service speak at least a bit of English, certainly better than my Spanish and I don't know Catalan!
It was also St. Jordi Day, the equivalent of the Spanish Valentine's Day. This is a serious holiday in Spain! Streets at Las Ramblas were closed to allow for the crowds of people. Most every street corner had vendors selling roses and books. The tradition is that the men buy their ladies a rose and the ladies buy their men a book. Nearly every woman by the end of the day has received a rose. I returned to my hotel room to find a balloon 'animal' rose on my pillow. The soccer coach took the boys to buy roses for their mums. Mine did not have his euros with him so he went back later to get me one. I got him a Gaudi lizard instead of a book. He was very pleased with that option. :-)
It's also been nice to have the opportunity to get to know some of the other soccer parents better. We see each other a lot, but rarely talk anything but soccer since we are often multi-tasking at practice and watching games. We've been spending lots of time together on this trip and it's been nice. It's also been nice to see the soccer family become more of a family. Boys looking out for each other. Parent's looking out for each other's kids. Parent's taking turns being the 'elephants' when street crossing and leading/following the pack to be sure they stay together and stay safe when we are walking about the city in our large or smaller groups.
The boys played their second game today, as well. Against Mercet. A team from a different soccer school. They were much more 'pushy' as a team. More like American soccer players in that sense. They tried to play the 'Barca' way but were not nearly as good or effective at it as the Barca team was. They played on a slick turf and our boys were slipping a bit as they wore cleats that were not meant for this style of surface. The teams were better matched. Our boys played better. They are still learning some new 'tricks' but it was better executed. They lost, but played better. There were no obvious tears after this game and generally much happier boys. Us moms got a pitcher of sangria! Sangria and soccer! I'm liking Spain more and more! Better yet, they gave it to us for free. Not sure why. If it's because it was St. Jordi day, because they wanted to do something nice for the visiting soccer moms (some of whom were a bit flirty wit them) or because they had wine and fruit they needed to get rid of. :-) Still, sangria-d soccer moms, are happy soccer moms!
I've also noticed that the Spanish parents are very quiet compared to American parents at soccer matches. They don't yell or coach from the sidelines. They said very little really. Even very little reaction when they scored. I imagine they are coached, like the kids, from the very beginning. It seems there is a greater respect for the coaches here and an understanding that parents should be parents, not coaches. Not yelling at and distracting their kids. American parents should take note of this back home. they also don't have a special place to sit, at least so far as I've seen. Kind of wherever there is space along an outside perimeter. No one on the field but the teams and coaches. It's interesting. And apparently, very effective.
Back at the hotel, we had dinner and then the boys headed to bed. While I am grateful for the relative ease of meals at the hotel (they were included in our package) there is little variety in the menu and virtually no vegetables and a little bit of fruit. For a non-meat eating gal, there is nothing but carbs and some egg and yogurt at breakfast. And I usually don't eat a lot of carbs yet it's all I've eaten here! ugh. It's making me more sleeping and cranky and achy. Need to eat out more!
The boy is itching for down time. Tomorrow I will take in a bit sightseeing in the morning and then spend the afternoon with him. I suspect it will involve some quiet time with his iPod and lunch nearby. That's OK.