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Random observations about Catalonia

Posted by guest  June 21, 2010 08:44 AM

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sitges.jpg

In that fuzzy zone where the sea meets the shore and everything floats in a pool of sunshine, the flowers and the flowering bushes grab your heart in a way that they just never will in England or New England or Bogota or Brussels, all interesting places but places without that Mediterranean light.

I have never, anywhere, in 30-plus years of traveling seen a wait staff as happy and helpful as at TapaTapa on the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona. Give the food an A-minus. The tempranillo an A. The cortado an A plus plus -- even in Colombia and Brazil I never had coffee that good.

Is it my imagination or are teenagers in Catalonia more attractive, less awkward, and more polite than in most other places?

OK, I should know by now. But why exactly does the big release button on the toilet have two halves? Pushing just one part or pushing both parts together seems to have exactly the same effect.

I thought only Buenos Aires had empanadas that would keep me awake at night, wanting more. I was wrong.

I know waiting on tourists is a grind. I grew up on Cape Cod. But come on, Sitges. Can’t more of your sales clerks and waiters at least pretend to be courteous to me, as opposed to indifferent?

Go to the castle atop Montjuic -- it’s a fort, actually, where every detail was devoted to survival -- and proceed through the tight little tunnel that takes you to the cistern, deep within the complex. Darkness high atop a mountain, A manmade cave where the gurgling water is at once about life and about death.

It was shocking. The public nudity here in this beach town of Sitges, that is. Good thing they hand out all those citations at the Cape Cod National Seashore to keep that sort of thing under control Though I have to admit: After a few days in Sitges, I notice that you don’t even notice the nakedness.

I didn’t realize the Mediterranean Sea in June could be almost as cold as the waters off Ipswich. Until I went swimming.

June on the Mediterranean: I like reading the newspaper at 10 p.m. Outdoors on the balcony. Without electric lights. Just the sky.

This is Catalonia, where Catalan is spoken. But Spanish is understood, so I speak that. But I am having second thoughts. For many years, Franco punished the speaking of Catalan, and required Spanish. I would not like it if visitors to Boston expected me to speak French Canadian if Boston had been ruled by a French Canadian dictator who banned sayin’ not just muthah and fathuh but talkin’ American English altogether.
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Little Sitges, big Barcelona: Neither one sleeps much on Friday night, so neither should I. It’s 9 p.m. Second wind coming about 11, I think.

Note to Barcelona: I met a Texan named Clay, a twentysomething, on the platform at the train station. The kind of person you meet once or twice in half a decade, who changes your attitude just when you think humans aren‘t worth the trouble. He’s amused not offended that you keep asking him if he carries a gun and if he likes George W. (No on both counts.) Well, he is very much in love with you. And that says something about you, Barcelona.

Posted by John P. Harrington, Globe staff

Photo of Sitges by John P. Harrington

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