Church was fun in my ward today. I played the piano in RS. They normally just sing a cappella, and it sounds TERRIBLE! So, I decided that my meagre plunking through the hymns has got to be better than that. It was. One of the sisters told me afterwards that having accompaniment is like the icing on the cake. Except she said something like it’s the meat in the burger? I don’t remember exactly. But I felt appreciated. :) I told them I’ll play every Sunday, so I stayed after for a bit and practiced, and made a list of the hymns that are the easiest for me. There were about 6, that I came up with, so it looks like I’ll have to add to my repertoire. But that should work for now. Tomorrow night I’m going to the FHE (family home evening activity) for YSA’s (Young Single Adults). And then Saturday afternoon I’m going to a museum with the SA’s (Single Adults). I’m glad I can fit into both groups for the fact that it gives me more people to meet.
I'm going to start going to yoga this week too. I'm really excited about that! I found a studio close to my house. I'm going to go there tomorrow, and then when that free trial runs out, I'll do yoga in the park, and Bikram yoga until I run out of trials. It's soooo expensive to join here.
Anyway, on to the topic of this blog: Barcelona. I got back last night. I was glad I got to go—it’s a beautiful city. The two best things in my opinion: the beach, and Gaudi. He (Gaudi) was such a master. I’ve always wanted to see the Sagrada Familia, probably since I took Spanish high school. And when I saw the outside, truthfully, I wasn’t all that impressed. It’s covered in scaffolding because its’ construction never ends (they started building it in the late 1800’s, and are hoping to finish by the year 2030). Also, it’s just right in the midst of the city, and, after all the photos I’ve seen, it just seemed small. BUT, when I went inside, I completely changed my opinion. It’s majestic. I can’t really think of any better way to describe it. Gaudi built it to bring about a contemplation of the divine, and that’s exactly how I felt. My favorite part was his use of light. He uses stained glass to control the reflection of the light. It casts beams of color along the walls and floor as it reflects through the windows, and the patterns are constantly changing with the changing sun. I also really loved how his inspiration comes from nature. The bases of the columns were tree trunks that grew up into branches and flowers as they bloom into the arched ceilings. I can’t even describe it. It was breathtaking though. I think I was there for 3 hours. The photos are ok, but they just don’t do it justice.
I also really liked Guell Park. It was originally built for the Guell family, as a private residence, but luckily it’s private no more! It was amazing too. Not quite as spiritual as the Sagrada Familia, but beautiful nonetheless. It’s in the hills overlooking the city, so not only is the architecture beautiful, the surroundings are as well. And, you get to take escalators up the streets to the top. It looked a lot like San Francisco. Maybe they should get some escalators too. And while we were there we met a family from Arizona (they’re Mormon too). We all started chatting, and when we mentioned that we were off to get paella for dinner, they asked if they could join us. Of course! They were so fun to talk to. The parents both went on Spanish speaking missions, and they had actually lived for a short time in Barcelona in the 90’s when their first child was born. They’d always wanted to bring them back, so they came this year on a family vacation. It was funny because we’d been told the place we were going was really popular and we needed to make reservations. I’d called earlier in the day to make reservations for me and Kathleen, and it was weird because the man who answered said we could have a reservation. Then when I asked what time, he said any time after 8. I thought that was weird, but just wrote it off. Then, I called back later, to make sure we could add 7 PEOPLE to our reservation, and he was so nonchalant about it, that it felt very weird. That’s a lot of people to add, and I felt like he was bothered by the fact that I called to make sure it was ok. But, again, I just thought, “oh, well, it’s Spain. I’ve heard that people make reservations here, but maybe not. They seem so laid back about making plans.” Anyway, when we got there we realized that it was the second night of the world cup, and Spain was playing! So the restaurants were all practically empty. The clubs that had TV’s had customers, but that was about it! Unfortunately they lost 1-5. I hope they win at least one game while I’m here. That would be really fun to experience!
And then, of course, I loved the beach. Minus the topless women. I had to laugh at one lady wearing a bikini bottom and a hat. And that’s all. But, back to the beach. It wasn’t an amazing tropical beach with crystal clear water, but it was nice. The water was the perfect temperature. It was really humid and hot there, and the water was refreshing. Although VERY salty. I floated soooo easily. I tried to sit up in it, but my feet would just float to the top. I swam out to the booeys and back. It was fun, but I wished my bothers were there to swim with me.
The most surprising thing for me about Barcelona was the Catalan. It’s yet another Romance language (like Galician, Italian, Spanish, French, etc.) and they speak it in Catalonia, which is where Barcelona is. I’d heard that the people there have really been pushing to break away from Spain and be independent, and have Catalan as their official language, so I wasn’t completely surprised when I got there and noticed that ALL the signs are in Catalan, and nothing is in Spanish. It is really amazing that they've been able to preserve their language and culture so well, especially when it has been banned at various points in history (like under Franco). But I felt like it got to a point where it was a little over the top. I mean, I’m sure a huge portion of their economy relies on tourists (they get cruise ships, and have tons of tourists), and the signs are ONLY in Catalan. And not just road signs, but even most of the museum signs. Some places would have things in Catalan, then Spanish, then English, and then sometimes French. But, for example, in the Sagrada Familia museum, they had a movie that played on a loop. The schedule outside showed that the movie was in Catalan, but then had subtitles in Spanish, English, and French at various times throughout the day. I doubt they really get that many Catalan-speaking tourists. The linguist in me loved it though! I really enjoyed seeing it written, and I was able to understand most of it (I felt like it was more similar to French and Italian, whereas the Galician was more like Portuguese and Spanish). I could understand the signs, but it wasn’t as easy to understand when spoken. Galician was much easier for me. Anyway, it made me glad that I chose to live in Madrid because I really want to get to know the Spanish Language and culture to a greater extent, and there I got the feeling they wanted as little as possible to do with anything Spanish. There was even a rally going on the day I left—I saw tons of people on the subway with shirts with something about independence for Catalonia and the Basque country. They all got off the stop before me, though. I would have liked to learn more about that.
Anyway, I thought I’d probably go to Barcelona a few times while I’m here, since it’s only a 3 hr speed train away (which was pretty cool, by the way—that was my first time on a speed train). But it was $170 euros for my round-trip tickets. Yikes! I could go to Paris or Rome on that. So, that’s probably going to be the only time I go to Barcelona, unless I find a cheap flight...
I was going to add pics, but I think I'll just put them on Facebook. I'm having a hard time transferring them to my laptop from my phone.