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With the Catalans or How to Become a Sardanista

Article by: dev


Well it was hot during much of the day but it cooled off in late afternoon when I was touring the city on the top deck of a “bus touristic”. Nancy would be proud. Though I missed the walking tour (slept 12 hours) I did grab the tourist bus in the afternoon.

I picked it up the first time after hoofing it to the Sagrada Familia, that’s Gaudi’s Sacred Family. It’s an immense construction site and won’t be finished for another 50 years–if even then. It’s whimsy on a massive scale. Even brought a smile to this skeptic.

I picked up the bus by chance at a grand garden full of families riding bikes and strolling. At about noon I boarded the bus and in halting Spanish figured out that it would take all the euros in my pocket to get a ticket. But it was worth it when I lept off at the first stop–to the amazement of the tour guide.

We were parked at a placa (plaza) where you could see another plaza in the distance in front of a cathedral. There was a big crowd. All of sudden I saw what looked like hands go up in the air. That was a tell-tale sign and I ran down the stairs and had them open the doors as they were beginning to pull away.

Tired as I was I briskly strode toward the crowd. Hmmm. Nothing happening. Maybe I’d made a mistake. A ha. There were musicians, a signboard, and every sign I needed to know I’d found gold. A few minutes later the music started and the whole square came alive as people, mostly older, formed into several large dance circles.

From previous experience in Figueras with Nancy and Billy, I knew enough not to get in the circle. This was the Sardana, a deceptively simple dance that is hell to learn. Well I threw public embarrassment to the wind (I do stand out in crowd with my sweat-stained floppy hat) and stuck it out–for an hour and half. It was worth it. One of those lifetime experiences. Imagine a short bald Spaniard in his dress Sunday wool sport coat coming up to you, smiling, and saying “habla espanol” and after both of you gesticulate for a moment, proceeding to show you how to do it, “uno, dos, trece, quarto, uno, dos, trece . . .” Yee ha. I hung in there. It was hot in the sun but you should have seen those old people dance. At one point a women came up to me and pointed to her eyes said, mira, ustedes buono which I took to mean she watched me and she thought I was doing alright for an extranjero. As the dance was breaking up a man came out of the crowd and said “quel pais”? I said “Estados Unidos” and he smiled, “Soy Frances”. He was French. During a pause I’d been asked to contribute to the band. When I gave up my last 20 cents (Euro) the women slapped a little sticker on me. I was officially a Sardanista. I proudly wore my sticker the rest of the day.

Picking up the bus again at the Placa Catalunya–I was plum tuckered out by then–I found that my hotel was within walking distance of several of Gaudi’s most famous landmarks. The bus took us to several more. In front of the church of the Sacred Familia there were several mimes. In big cities around the world it’s common to see gilded mimes, actually they don’t move, they’re living statues. Periodically they move to attract your eye–and you’re contributions. But only in Spain, in Barcelona, have I seen a gilded Christ. Yep, Jesu Christi himself there in gold. There were plenty of enthralled Christians doing their duty and throwing him enough money for quite a few cervezas.

Which reminds me, this hotel serves Kronenberg’s 1662. It’s a high alcohol content beer and since I missed lunch packs quite a wallop. I am whiling away the hours waiting for the restaurant to open. It’s 7 pm and it won’t open for another hour and half.

Probably won’t write more this week. I leave tomorrow for a wind farm tour and a full day of activity concluding with a dinner at 9 pm. Ouch.



Barri (barrio) L’Eixample