Spain is really like ten different countries under one umbrella, and Rebecca and I are doing our best to hit them all. This past week we spent in Barcelona, where the people are Catalunyan, and Spain is basically considered a foreign country (and not a very popular one, at that!). And indeed, Barcelona feels a lot more like a cosmopolitan European city than a Spanish one: it features a wealth of modern architecture, some cutting edge museums, inventive food and recycling bins on every corner. It is most definitely a city of the future (as opposed to the traditional atmosphere of, say, Seville). We spent most of our time strolling the charming Gothic quarter, watching the magicians and human statues on the Ramblas, visiting a wide variety of art museums, and relaxing in the citys many parks.
And, just when I was trying to get used to Spanish again, after growing comfortable with the French-Arabic-English mishmash we used all over Morocca, they go and change languages on us again: Barcelonans speak Catala, a romance language that is like an older brother of both French and Spanish.
Compounding our language difficulties, our next stop is here in San Sebastian, in the heart of Basque country. The Basque language doesnt even have the common courtesy to be related to any other tongue that anyone in the world has even heard of... whose idea was it to have all these different languages, anyway??
Er, anyway, back to the subject at hand. We are here mostly so we can make a day trip to the Guggenheim modern art museum in Bilbao. The art there was fine (especially considering we snookered a couple of student discounts) and the building itself was a spectacular modern sculpture, but my favorite part was out front: they have a twenty-foot high sculpture of a puppy dog, and its made of flowering bushes.
My favorite thing about this part of the world is (you guessed it) the food. Here, in place of tapas they have pintxos, little bite size open sandwiches topped with crab, caviar, stuffed mushrooms, cheese, peppers, eggs, or anything you might imagine. Each one is crafted like a work of art, and the best part is that there are a dozen beautiful platters laid out on the bar and you just pick what you like, when you want it. At the end, it costs you a couple bucks for each one you ate, paid on the honor system. Its like being invited to a gourmet feast, but with cheap drinks and no dress code.