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Arturo Saliva :: Blog

August 06, 2010

 

One of Barcelona's beaches

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view

I will miss views like this one from the balcony of our apartment.

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I will remember these views for the rest of my life.

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I will miss the people, the markets, the stores and the bars that serve you on the sidewalks.

 

Keywords: apartment, balcony, barcelona, beach, catalunya, games, hill, moon, mount, museum, needle, olympic, puij, spain, sport, sunset, view

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August 04, 2010

Barcelona

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Socio Cultural Note:

Barcelona's only two remaining bullfighting arenas are being boycotted by radical animal right's protection groups and by a separatist group that claims that bullfighting is not part of Catalunyan culture. Conservative nationalist groups defend the bullfighting tradition that dates back to the Roman Empire era. The bullfighting arena shown here is being converted into a shopping mall leaving only one functioning bullfighting arena left in the city.

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It is located in Plaza Catalunya at the base of a 2000 foot hill by the coast called “Mount Puij” that overlooks all of Barcelona. The bullfighting arenas reside within city limits and the bulls are brought in trucks to underground stables not unlike those used in the times when the Romans ruled the land.

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The Sagrada Familia

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Barcelona is home to one of Europe's famous cathedrals, the “Sagrada Familia”. Construction stared in 1882 and it is still under construction. An endless line of tourists await to go inside. Just three metro stops from the “Sagrada Familia” we find the Gothic town, which houses the Picasso museum and the Cathedral of Saint Mary.

Cathedral:

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Pictures in the Gothic town:
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Many bars buy spaces on the sidewalk to place outdoor tables for their customers. This is common  through out Europe 

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                                                                    This is an indoor market undergoing renovation.

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remains of a Roman wall that enclosed the city in the middle ages

Here we see some of the classic narrow streets that are a staple of many towns in Europe.

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Bullfighting arena:

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Plaza catalunya ( the first 4 are on the way to Plaza Catalunya)

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At The museum of modern art of Catalunya they were preparing for a night show for the next day.

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Here is a video of part of their rehearsal for that show.

Socio Cultural Notes 

The youth in Spain are very expressive when they are in groups. By the time I had to come back to the US I had experienced the antics of two high school girl teams at the airport and one on the train going to Figueres. They chant local songs in their local Catalan tongue and play games and pranks on each other. When I found groups on the streets or on the Metro they were usually very lively and loud. That behavior makes a contrast with our unspoken custom of not being loud in public places and at the same time it arouse in me feelings of joy and freedom that seemed to lower inhibitions I was not even aware of.

 customs and festivals:


Band of youth drummers in Barcelona's latinamerican barrio.

Band of drummers and wind instruments in Barcelona's latinamerican barrio.

 Every town in Spain celebrates their patron saint's day with some kind of festival, parade and/or event. That custom survives still in most towns in South and Central America and the Spanish speaking countries of the Caribbean. Particularly in my country of Puerto Rico all 72 towns celebrate their own patron saint's day with a festivity that involves a parade. I dare not to imagine how many celebrations they have here in Spain for each towns' patron saint.

While I was watching Spanish television in our apartment in Barcelona I saw a news report about the celebration festivities for all the patron saints for that week of July 19th. One that caught my attention the most was the festivities of a town called Castrillo de Murcia (a borrow of the city of Burgos). The first thing that caught my eye was the appearance of a youngster dressed in a clown like suit costume wearing a mask. It intrigued me because in my home town of Ponce we celebrate our patron saint's day by conducting a parade in which characters dressed in a similar fashion and wearing horned masks go around chasing and hitting youngsters with giant balloons. We call our characters “bejigantes” and they call theirs “El Colacho”. “El Colacho” also goes around chasing youngsters, but he whips them with a bull whip while the locals parade a statue of their patron saint around town. Everyone on the street gets served pastries filled with meat, and a cup of wine. But the event of that celebration that most caught my eye was the jumping of the babies by “El Colacho”. In this event mattresses are laid out on the streets and ll the mothers of babies in town place their babies on them. When all of the mattresses and babies are laid out on the street “El Colacho” comes running and jumps all the mattresses as if running an obstacle race. Mothers endure this brief heart racer because one of their medieval legends claims that babies that are jumped by “El Colacho” will never suffer from a hernia, a condition attributed to the actions of the devil. More than 100 babies were jumped by “El Colacho” this year. I took a video of the program with my camera but was not able to upload it to youtube.com or to my files on my blog page. I did find this clip in youtube.com. See for yourself!

 El Colacho

 

 

One event/celebration that I wanted to attend but was not able to was the running of the bulls in Pamplona. To get there it is a 7 hour bus ride from Barcelona. I heard that it starts early in the morning and that it only lasts a few minutes. Celebrations last all day and all night.

 

Salvador Dali's Corner

Since I am a die hard admirer of Salvador Dali I am sharing this experience with the world. I think everyone should make this trip at least once in their lives. I have already included some pictures of his museum in Figueres; now I will post pictures of his house and the towns surrounding it. (It is a 2 hour train ride to get to Figueres and a one hour bus ride from there to Cadaques. But it is well worth it!)

 

Roses is a town on the coast of Catalunya that is on the bus route to the town of Cadaques, where Salvador Dali spent many hours walking on the beach and cooking up ideas for his paintings; and Port Ligat, the town where his house is located.

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The beach at Roses

 

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Cadaques

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Port Ligat

 

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Dali's house

This is where Salvador Dali painted some of his famous paintings, including a few of giant dimensions.

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He was pleased with the reaction he saw in Mrs. Morse's face when she first entered the house. She let out a yelp that brought a satisfying smile to Dali's face. Mr. and Mrs. Morse were the main sponsors of his art and ended up owning 25% of his entire collection. They founded the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg Florida when their lawyer told them that they would have to sell more than half of their collection just to pay the taxes on their investment. They decided to donate their collection, but no city would take the complete collection. They wanted to keep the collection together. It was not until they found that the city of St. Petersburg Florida was willing to house the whole collection if they would put up 2 million dollars to build a museum, and that's how the Dali Museum was born.

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July 08, 2010

firenze from the duomo

 

Last weekend I went to Florence. On the bus to the Girona airport I met a woman from Morocco. She thought that I should like to live here in Spain instead of in the US. She has been living Spain for seven years and speaks 5 languages: German, English, French, Spanish and Arab. In her country education is free for anyone that wants to study. They have to choose two languages to study from the time they go into elementary school. She said that she noticed that many Latin American people love to come to Spain and stay to work. She actually wanted to go to France to live but never got the opportunity to do so.

firenze from michael angelo's park

 

Observation

I found that ice is a more scarce in Italy than in Spain. I looked for a bag of ice and all I could find was a package of 12 little balls of ice.

Socio cultural observation (Culture & the human condition)

In the middle of all the historic buildings and cultural monuments the human condition still prevails. Here we see how the daily market kiosks get set up from being stored, and the locals sitting down on the steps of an ancient cathedral in front of the market. A monument decorates one of the corners of the open air marketplace.

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 There human condition is not complete without freedom of speech.

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History and culture in Florence. The Duomo, one of Europe's famous cathedrals.

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Keywords: duomo, Florence, Italy

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July 01, 2010

valencia

Last weekend I went to Valencia. I went to the beach first and found that the Valencia Street Circuit was happening that day. The circuit is formula racing car race ran in the beach streets of Valencia.

wall paining of circuit

I got to see the crowds, the bleachers and the big screen they have for the paying audience. The cheapest ticket was 190 Euros, a little out of my budget.

 entrance to Formula I

We had lunch at a restaurant right outside the entrance to the event and heard the cars buzzing by inside the circuit. At the end of the event one of the persons coming out of the stands told us that there had been an accident involving about 3 cars and that´s why the Spanish racer Alfonzo did not win the race. I took a couple of videos to see if I could capture the buzzing sounds the cars made as they zipped by our corner.

Socio/cultural note:

I am going to touch on a delicate subject that is very relevant to what is going on currently in Spanish society, since Spain was one of the first countries that legalized it: the subject of same gender marriage. The reason my for my inclusion of this subject is two fold. Firstly, I was watching a Spanish tv controversy program about the subject with my Spanish friend and noticed where the weight of the balance leaned on this subject here in Spain. Secondly, I detected the contrast of the two points of view, one from the Americans and the other from the Spaniards; on a subject that seems to spark ambiguity in the minds of many Americans. Let me explain that ambiguity. The main moral issue (since the legal issue will resolve itself due to its own volition) in the US is the original definition and intention of the institution of marriage. Controversy in the US seems to revolve around the perceived forced change to the nature, validity, sanctity, definition and intention of the institution  of marriage. On the other hand, I observe that, here in Spain, the controversy revolves around the "rights" of each individual to express and execute their "freedoms"; with the later winning by leaps and bounds.
I will not present a personal point of view on this subject, neither will I pose a conclusion. But, I will leave you with this question. Wasn't the US the pioneer of the idea of an individual´s right to freedom?

Keywords: car, motor, speed, track, valencia

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June 25, 2010

 Socio/cultural observations

Here in Spain elementary school children are walked to school by their teachers after visiting the local playground.

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Teenagers here are not so much different than teenagers in the states.

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Teens in Madrid

 

Last weekend I went back to Madrid and here are some more pictures.

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This is Puerta del Sol. Puertas are gates to the old city in the times when the city was surrounded by walls.

 

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Here is a park where people gather on weekends to barbecue foods from Central and South America to sell to anyone that is hungry.

 

 

Here is my working area. I work with a nice group of people.

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 working

 

Cultural Observations:

I noticed that the concept of customer service is not enforced as strongly here as it is in the US.

Today(7/1/2010) the woman that cleans the office asked me if I was from the Canary Islands after hearing me talk. The same woman told me that the minimum wage here is about 500 Euros a month. She thinks that, in general, people make more money in the US. She also mentioned the high rate of unemployment in Spain and how inmigrants love to come to Spain and stay to work and live.

I noticed that bakeries here do not actually bake their goods but buy them pre-baked and the goods get deliveried from a wholesale baker before the store opens every day.

I noticed that ice is a precious commodity here; where in the States I am used to asking for ice and getting a glass full, here the most I get is 2 ice cubes. It is funny because the ice cubes here last longer than the ice cubes in the States.

I noticed that buses and cars drive at high speeds even in the narowest streets, and they cut in front of one another as if it was a rule. There are also many one way streets here.

 

 

Keywords: area, children, gate, kids, Madrid, park, puerta, teenagers, working

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June 18, 2010

 

 

 

Sightseeing in Catalunya


This week I went to the town of Figueres which lies about 35 km from the border with France.

View

 

Figueres is the home of the “Casa Galatea” with is the official Salvador Dali museum in Spain.

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Entrance to Salvador Dali's Museum

 

Dali is my favorite painter, his genre was Surrealism. Once, in a television interview, Dali was asked “what is Surrealism, he answered: “I am Surrealism”. I took a two hour train to get there, making stops in small towns along the way.

 

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I got the chance to see the country side of Catalunya.

 

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Figueres is mostly a tourist town, with more than half of those tourist taking the bus into Cadaques to visit Dali's house.

 

 

 

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I took that trip myself and can say that both views going and coming are spectacular sights. The bus stops at a beach town called Rosas.

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Rosas is a beautiful town. I wanted to stop there but was running out of time.

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This is a small castle like structure at the top of the hill before you get to Cadaques

 

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This is the town of Cadaques

 

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Dali painted this view in his early days

more views of Cadaques

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Dali's house

 Soci-Economic note:

 

While on the train to Figueres I had the chance to talk to a handful of locals. One interesting remark that I heard was that with the change from “pesetas” to “euros” the prices got inflated due to the rounding up of the prices of goods by most commercial establishments. In contrast, salaries stayed the same. I did ask if salaries had been catching up to the price of goods and the answer was that salaries have been rising but that he had no idea whether salaries actually cough up to inflation. In my opinion inflation hurts the local economy in general, especially in those business that depend on tourist business to survive. The reason for that is the perception of “bargain” by the tourist. In general tourists like to get “good deals” when traveling abroad, and the wide margins(the room in between the lowest coin value and the lowest paper money value compared to the currency exchange into dollars) of the previous currency provided the tourist with lots of room for bargaining.

Language/cultural note and anecdote

Since I've been in Spain I have found that I understand about 50 to 60% of the vernacular spoken by all persons I have heard talk or conversed with. One woman caught me by surprise in Madrid when, waiting to cross an intersection, I heard her say the word "guagua" which is the word used in the Caribbean for bus. She was saying "here comes the bus". I was so stunned by hearing her say that word with a Spanish accent that I started crossing the street, since I saw that it was clear in front of me, when the bus she was referring to almost ran me over because the bus lane is right against the curb. I asked her if she was Cuban or Puerto Rican and she say no that she was from the Canary Islands. Here I was thinking that the word "guagua" originated in the Caribbean, and I find that it probably originated in islands closer to the Mother Land. My colleague here told me that some Spaniards he has met here think that he is from the Canary islands because of his accent when speaking Spanish. He happens to be Cuban.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 14, 2010

(continued from last week)

Socio Political anecdote

Last week I promised to give an example of the unleashing of freedom of speech; in this case, freedom of speech being expressed at the most human and personal level possible. Last weekend I visited Madrid, the capital of Spain. As in all cities in Spain, Madrid is peppered with many plazas around the city. In my sight seeing wonders I stumbled upon a particular plaza in which there was a white tent covered with posters of messages directed to the (equivalent) Spanish supreme court. The messages seemed to condemn the judges of the supreme court for failing to do their job. My curiosity lead me to enter the tent to find answers to the many questions those posters stirred in my mind. A woman appeared from the shadows of what seemed to be two living spaces separated by a curtain.

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As she walked towards me I happened to catch a glimpse of someone sleeping on a bed in one of the rooms. The woman cheerfully greeted me and I asked her what was the meaning of the messages on the posters. She told me her heart warming ordeal. Twenty one years ago her son went to a hospital for a routine nose plastic surgery. Due to the combined negligence of the anesthesiologist and the hospital staff her son was left in a coma. She was not with her son at the moment, thus has no account of the events that lead to the mis fortunate malpractice of the hospital staff and doctors. Nevertheless, the court during the trial demanded that she produced evidence of the events that lead to her son's misfortune. She being unable to provide such proofs felt totally defenseless and victimized by the system. She has dedicated her life, since then, to take care of her son; and a year ago she decided to live in that tent with her son and use her freedom of speech right to publicly pressure the judges to overturn their decision. More information can be obtained from these two webpages set up by her lawyer: http://antoniomeortega.blogspot.com and www.juecesajuicio.com. (The doctor, nurses and medical staff in charge of his operation were all family, i.e. father, daughter, cousin, etc. ) (For consideration to the mother I did not take pictures of her living conditions inside the tent or of her son, but you can see pictures at those websites)

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 “What have you made of us?” Spanish justice = nothing!

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 “We are all but mocking victims of judges and politicians”

The human experience is the same regardless of the country we live in. With that thought in mind permit me to change gears with respect and consideration for a grieving mother to tell you the following social anecdode.

 

Social anecdode

On my first visit to Madrid last year I went to one of the many parks in the city. While strawling around taking pictures with my son we saw a bearded man dressed in a woman's nightgown, sporting a black shawl. Last week on my trip back to Madrid I saw another man at the airport wearing a ballerina costume. My son went back to California without knowing the mystery behind the man in the park, but I felt compelled not to miss the opportunity to unravel that enigma. My youthful logic instincts had escaped me. It turns out that a bachelor party in Spain starts early during the day with a well planned costume parading of the future groom by the best man and his entourage. A day or two and sometimes three of good fun, picture taking, role playing, and playful prank making at the groom's expense follows, with the high probability of a visit to a strip club or a homemade strip party at the end of the celebrations. I was tickled to find something familiar but wit fully different in Spanish society that reminded me of my days of pre-marriage “singlehood”.

 bachelor  bachelors

Moreover, while waiting for the Metro in Madrid the next day I saw a group of girls with one of them wearing a costume. I briefly asked, so as to not starve my curiosity, what was the reason for such display. As I suspected, the young lady was a wife to be and was being paraded by her maids. A bachellorette celebration also could go as long as three days.

bachelorete

 

diversity/socio-political note:

 While talking casually to a lady I met in one of Madrid finest dance clubs, she told me that there is a latent animosity between people from Madrid and people from other parts of Spain that aspire to be their own independent country such as Catalunya and the Vasc region. Being in Barcelona as a Spanish speaker I have experienced a sense of local patriotism that the Catalunyans feel. This feeling is reflected, for example, when I am greeted in the mornings with the words “bon dia” instead of my expected “buenos dias” in Spanish. A few persons have tried to talk to me in Catalan from the “get go”, with the pretense that anyone who is in Catalunya has to speak Catalan. The woman I was talking to mentioned that she feels that everyone in Spain should talk “only” in Spaniards, and that she sees no point in any Spaniard trying to speak any dialect or to try to separate from Spain because they are ALL Spanish. I have yet to over hear the counter to that argument from any Catalunyan, but it is probably because I do not understand it when on the Metro or the bus.

 

Socio-Economic Note:

This newspaper clipping translated: The automobile industry in Spain has lost 100,000 jobs in the last two years.

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My observations: despite the claim of economic crisis in Spain, I still see local bars and restaurants full of people dinning and drinking and spending money as if they were oblivious to any such crisis. In Madrid I went to one of the big shopping malls outside the city and I saw the same purchasing activity that I experience at home.

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This is a view of "El Rastro" in Madrid, an oudoor multiple vendor market that opens every Sunday from 10am to 3pm. People are not shy about buying here at all!

Note that, in general, prices here in Spain are considerably higher than in the United States. I expected to see homeless people roaming the streets at least in the same quantity as those seen in cities like Los Angeles and New York but I saw very few of them.

 homeless

My friend told me that the city of Madrid has shelters for homeless people to sleep. On the other hand, she also said that many homeless persons do not like the constraints that are imposed to them at those shelter, such as curfews and alcohol use. Another indication of a poverty environment, graffiti, is prevalent and move accepted all over Spain. It looks to me as if it were almost a form of artistic expression accepted and tolerated by society and by the government.

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Sightseeing in Spain this week

From Madrid I took a bus on sunday to Toledo. The Spanish friend I went with to Toledo was born in one of Toledo's towns. She told me that Toledo was once the capital of Spain. It was moved to Madrid after King Felipe IV decided that Toledo was not geographically suited for expansion and that Madrid, a small town then, lied on a vast valley which was perfect for his plans for growth. Here you see some photos of the Cathedral of Toledo, a breath taking sight inside. Picture taking is not allowed inside so I had to settle for outside photos. Some of the treasures given to the Cathedral were being displayed that day, along with some of the treasures from the crown from the 16th century.

 

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In Front of Museo Del Prado , Avenida del Prado

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Keywords: bachelor, madrid, party, toledo

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June 07, 2010

Socio political anecdote 

 When traveling into the city on the bus I saw many apartment buildings, a sight you encounter all over the city. There were two particular buildings at the edge of downtown on which about 40% of the balconies had a banner with a single and uniform message written on them in Catalan. I asked a couple on the bus about the meaning of the message and they told me that it was a message to the Mayor of the city to not develop more buildings around theirs and to build parks and playgrounds for their children. They said that it is common place all over Spain for people to express their opinions in public displays such as banners, posters and graffiti. I have seen such expressions many times now. That is tantamount to our first amendment and it is one of the results of the change from the reign of Franco to Spain's modern form of government; an effect common in these situations, i.e. the unleashing of freedom of speech only to find out that all governments have a deaf ear(I will present an example of this on next weeks' blog).

 

apartments

 

Socio economical note:

Despite the economic crisis that persists in Spain, Barcelona found room for expansion of its infrastructure. Here you see expansion of a metro stop.This one is right in front of our door.

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Private construction has not completely subsided either, as you can see in the pictures below. It looks like Spain can still find a way to keep developing and is trying to avoid going backwards.

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private

 

Talking to a bakery clerk I learned that grocery stores are prohibited from opening on Sundays. She works six days a week just to make ends meat. It was costume in Spain for the stores to open from Monday to Friday only when Franco was in power. It is customary until today for some stores to close for two hours in the middle of the day and open until around 8 or 9 pm.

 

Our apartment is right in front of an entrance to the Metro.

 

 

  apartmentmetro

 

Our apartment is on the sixth floor to the right hand side of the red metro sight. It is on the last floor; there are two floors below the first floor.

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This is the metro entrance by the school. It is in front of the Real Palace, which is the Palace where the King and Queen of Catalunya lived when Catalunya was its own independent kindom. It is one block south of the Nexus II building where we work.

 

 

I had the chance to walk around the streets of Barcelona and these are some of the sights I enjoyed.

 

 

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Cultural Experience

We also had the chance to experience one of Spain's annual events, the sardine cookout by the beach in Baldadona. This was a memorable experience. It was the first time I saw the Mediterranean sea, and I had the luck of seeing the moon shining on the water by the beach. The sight was breath taking, and so romantic that I wished my girlfriend had been there with me to experience it with me. Festivities start around 8pm when they start cooking sardines in an open flame. People come from all around Catalunya to eat the freshly cooked sardines. We found out, the hard way, that it is an art to eat barbecued sardines. You need to strip the spine before you eat it!

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 beachatnight

 beach at night

They also put rum in big wok bowls and boil it with coffee beans. Then they give out a small cup to everyone that wants it.


 

 

Keywords: apartments, crisis, economic, fish, franco, freedom, politics, sardines, spain, speech

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May 30, 2010

 

outsidebarce

 

This week has been a little hectic for me. I came in from the Girona airport by bus with two bags. I found Barcelona to be very beautiful, and in some ways more so than Madrid. It has the two things I grew up around: mountains and water. To the north you can see beautiful hills lavished by green and topped with what I think are high cost apartment buildings. To the south you find the marina, the beaches and the port, nested in the tempered waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

 street

 

After getting to the bus station in Barcelona I had to take he Metro (subway) to the apartment. Then I had to go pick up my large bag at the Barcelona airport. In the train from the airport to the city I met a couple from Barcelona. They were in their mid thirties. They told me the story of how Catalunya used to be its own country around five hundred and twenty years ago. They lost a war to Castilla as did the other kingdoms in the Iberian peninsula. In that war a handful of separate kingdoms were fused into what it is today the country of Spain. They told me of how Catalan had been their language for hundreds of years and how Francisco Franco prohibited the teaching of Catalan in all schools when he made Castillian Spanish the official national language. They mentioned the ways in which Franco restricted some of the citizen's civil rights and what kind of repercussions were afforded those who violated his mandates. They were interested on knowing where I came from and where I was born and the political situation in my country.

 

In the Metro I met a street musician. In his case he was a Metro musician. He showed me his license to work in the Metro only and said that musicians are not allowed to work on the streets with an amplifier. He played an electric piano. I found that odd since the Metro tunnels are a closed space and sound travels further.

I visited Plaza Catalunya and the marina at night. They are an awesome site. You see many different people from different cultural and racial backgrounds. One thing that sparked my curiosity was the fact that the main street off the Plaza going south had an island for people to walk and vendors for shopping which split the south and north bound traffic into two one way streets and the island was twice as wide as the actual streets. At the marina to one side you can see many restaurants lining the sidewalks with tables outside for dinning under the stars. One the other side you see the yachts of the more affluent people in the city. On he beach front there is a hotel towering over the marina.

I love my apartment, it has a spectacular view of Barcelona. My overall experience this first week has been amazing. I look forward to the handful of beautiful sightseeing weekends ahead.

 apartment

This is our living room/dinning room

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This is my room on the first morning I was here.

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This is a south east view from our balcony

 Views from the terrace of our apartment:

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 first week3

This is me in front of the Nexus II building, where we will work. 

first week 5

My advisor in the middle, my collaborator on the left and me on the right.

Keywords: apartment, barcelona, blog, catalunya, flat, hills, hotel, log, marina, nexus, spain, terrace

Posted by Arturo Saliva | 0 comment(s)

May 29, 2010

report week 1

Keywords: report, weekly

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