Friday, March 9, 2012

Off The Beaten Track: Barcelona, Mi Amor

Yolanda in New York,
the city of her birth
Yolanda L. Comedy is a world traveler and an independent consultant who works on science and technology policy issues while chipping away at the possibility of a novel writing career. Somewhere along the way, she has learned that she has so much to say that can’t be captured in her technical papers and policy speak. However, she has had a wonderful career with opportunities that include: a Ph.D. from Indiana University in Political Science and Public Policy; an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellowship; and working at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and at IBM, and starting her own consulting business.

Love at first sight is one of the more inexplicable of human emotions. Why we gravitate to certain people and to certain places is perhaps a mystery, perhaps a culmination of who we are, where we’ve been, what we feel inside. I fill my life with a lot of things. I love music and art, I’m a crazy tennis fan, I surround myself with beauty and love long walks on a beautiful day. And I live to travel. I have been all over the world, sometimes for days, sometimes for over a year. Most places I visit, I’m glad I did and I return home with new memories, new experiences, the continual building of my character. But some very small number of places capture me and I come home feeling nostalgia, such a longing. When I leave these places I feel as though I’ve left my home not returned to it. Barcelona was such a place.

One of the floats ( a shooting star) at the Three Kings Parade.
The parade went right past our hotel!
Barcelona has a heart and a soul and a vibe that is just wonderful! The lifestyle that I saw included such a dedication to friends and family and food. I went to Barcelona this past New Year’s. Fortunately, they have a big Christmas celebration and parade in January as well.

I loved the dedication to food in Barcelona. A normal day in the life of food: I settled into my seat around two o’clock, my friend across from me, and a room full of people, filling the tables and bar seats or waiting for a seat anywhere. The windows were large and expansive, bringing the busy La Rambla area inside, even on a crisp January day. We ordered our carafe of sangria within minutes of sitting down. We explored the menu of tapas, looked at them through the behind-glass displays, and my friend and I negotiated carefully on our shared dinner, making certain we tried new things and felt the comfort of foods we already knew we loved. And then we dined…for hours. We laughed and talked with each other, our waiters, and people next to us. We coveted the food of others when our stomachs would allow us to eat no more.

Overlooking Barcelona from the La Sagrada Familia
And then we opted for a Barcelona favorite. We went out on to the streets and lingered at shops and stands. We watched people. We admired the women smartly dressed. We smiled at couples, young and old, strolling hand in hand. We wondered why so many people sold birds and wished we could take back some of the beautiful bouquets of flowers that we saw. We bought irresistible scarves and hats—nothing like we see at home. The energy of the crowds carried us, and we walked for much longer than we had planned, hoping to walk off some of the food we ate. We’d now barely have time to get back to the hotel to bathe and change for dinner!

Yolanda at Gaudi La Pedrera
Art and artists fill the streets of Barcelona. I would have never said that I liked the famous architect Antoni Gaudi before visiting Barcelona. What I saw in picture books looked strange and, yes, gaudy. But after my visit to Barcelona I quickly learned to love and appreciate his incredible vision, his refusal to be ordinary, and the dreams that must have inspired his art. I got tired of the word wow, which I seemed to say over and over again every time I saw his work.  

A Roman Catholic church, La Sagrada Família, a hundred-year work in progress, is worth the long lines to get inside, even on a cold day. I wanted to explore every nook and begin to understand the passion it took to design La Sagrada Família as well as the perseverance
it has taken to try to complete Gaudi’s vision. Gaudi’s apartments, La Pedrera in the center of town, are alluring and fanciful, while still livable within its extreme character.

La Pedrera, Gaudi's Apartment building
La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona is a place worth visiting for a New Year’s celebration. We spent New Year’s Eve at Port Olimpic. What energy at the marina as well! We wandered around and finally were lured into a restaurant with an expensive New Year’s Eve fixed-price menu. We opted to order off of the regular menu, but the couple and their children next to us were very kind and shared all of their New Year’s goodies, giving us the full experience. They gave us hats and whistles, champagne, and food we would have never tried otherwise. They smiled with us and laughed at us. The people all around us were dressed beautifully, such class. The musicians were only part of the entertainment. Diners would break out into song or dance at the drop of a hat. After midnight, people began to file out with their sleepy children in tow. We left and joined the younger crowd, spilling out of restaurants and bars at Port Olimpic. Dancing in the street. Packed like sardines, but festive and seductive. Our goal was to watch the sunrise on the beach – popular in Barcelona, we had read – but alas, the need for sleep overpowered us and sent us back on the one of the best subway systems in the world to our hotel.

A restaurant at Port Olímpic on New Year's Eve
If you dare to be seduced by Barcelona’s charms, it’s worth a trip to Castell (castle or fort) de Montjuïc for the spectacular views of the Mediterranean and the city. Did I mention La Catedral de Barcelona? The city tour bus, while it screams tourist, is worth it—Barcelona has many neighborhoods and much scenery to enjoy. Lastly, don’t miss the Font Màgica or the Magic Fountain. At dusk, there is a wonderful music and light show where the fountain changes shapes and colors for around 20 minutes with the Palau National illuminated in the background. 

I want to be back in Barcelona, feeling the pulse of the city, eating good food, walking and exploring, seeing the ocean and just living life the way I think it was meant to be lived—with passion and togetherness and the heart and soul of people and history and beauty.


  1. I feel the same way about Spain in general, but particularly Seville. I haven't spent enough time in Barcelona, though. One day soon....

  2. I love Barcelona, too. My visit there was short and a long time ago but I remember the art and artists well. I'm still planning to go back.

  3. Yolanda, I've long wanted to join one of your fabulous international adventures, and now I feel like I have. Only now I'm hungry for more! Thanks for sharing one of your favorite places with us. Where to next?

  4. make me crave to be a world traveler as well! Your final lines fill me with hope as I believe the world would be so much richer if we all embraced the passion and togetherness that you did in such a wonderful city, Barcelona. I have never been there, but feel as if I have tasted its food, people, and art through you. I can't wait for the next adventure as I live vicariously through you...for the time being.

  5. I read somewhere that George Orwell described La Sagrada Familia as hideous, but that's okay I have been enchanted by Gaudi's work and Barcelona since the Olympics held there, thank you for showing another beautiful aspect of Barcelona!!!