Lucy Ferriss


I've called this blog "Travelin' Thoughts" in the past, because I kept it mostly as a journal to record impressions of new places and cultures. But in a way, it's still a place for traveling thoughts--ideas that move through and past me, and out into the world. Some of these are literary, some just about life. It's a good place to open up the conversation, and I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Spain and Touristing

March 07, 2018

We are just back from 10 days in Spain, where I did no blogging because (despite the constant cold rain plaguing Europe this winter) there was too much else to do. We traveled with our friends Ellen & Terry Lautz through Barcelona, down the coast of the Mediterranean to the town of Benicarlo just north of Valencia, and over to Madrid for a final three days, where the sun finally peeked out.

Funky Gaudi archways, in Barcelona.

Many amazing things, central among them the food – tapas of all descriptions and combinations, as if the Spanish chefs are all miniaturists working with flavors and combinations of meat and fish and squid ink and fresh vegetables but always on small plates made for sharing. And then of course art museums and the extraordinary architecture of Gaudi, the emotional frescoes of Goya. But here’s the thing: my tolerance for tourism is extremely limited. No question that I am a tourist in Spain – I don’t speak the language, I’m just passing through, I’ve got items to check off my list – but at some point the crowds and the gawking make me physically ill. It happens suddenly. This time, it happened as we were approaching La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s huge heap of an unfinished cathedral. (And you wonder, as they set the timeline for finishing the cathedral by 2026, what it means to build a cathedral today. Are they deliberately creating a tourist attraction, as St. Louis did with the arch? Or is Spain still so Catholic that they feel the need to reach up to the heavens, as did the cathedral-builders of the 15th century? One suspects the former, which makes the pronouncements on the signage, and Gaudi’s own extreme religiosity, strange to contemplate.) Anyhow, I felt nauseated, irritable, exhausted, ready to jump out of my skin. I just cannot look and look at things. It’s best for me, when this happens, to cut out. To go walking.

Cannot recall who this painter is. From one of
many amazing art museums, but after awhile I
could not look anymore!
Buen Retiro park.

In the city park (there was a fine one, Montjuif, in Barcelona, where I rode the funicular and then walked down, and there was the excellent Buen Retiro park in Madrid, where the Madrideans poured out on the first sunny afternoon in weeks). Along the streets. I need to melt into the crowd.

At one point, feeling this way in Madrid, I headed out alone via metro – I love taking the subway in strange cities -- to Conde Duque, a cultural center in the middle of the city, for a film, “Dancing Beethoven,” featuring the Béjart Ballet and the Israeli Philharmonic – in French, English, Japanese, and Spanish. I did fine until it came to the Spanish, which wasn’t subtitled. And the film brought me to tears. The joy of the body, which made me think again of the cult of beauty in Greek sculptures. The intensity of Beethoven.

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