Spain/Morocco 2010: Madrid

November 19, 2010

Madrid, the last stop on a two week excursion into Spain and Morocco. A truly beautiful city, Madrid is immediately recognised for being steeped in history as you walk from beautiful building after another along it’s pristine street-scapes. As a tourist, there was no shortage of things to do, be it the world famous Prado and Reina Sofia art galleries, or roaming through the Mercado de San Miguel for a plateful of fresh tapas. Or you can do as the Madrilenian’s do and spend a lazy afternoon in the Parque de el Retiro, sipping on a cerveza or lapping up an ice-cream. Or a little of both if you are like me. But like all good things they must end and so thus endeth the trip; it was a good end, a relaxing way to finish a fantastic vacation. I hope you have enjoyed the anecdotes and photos. Watch this space…Sweden next month!
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A night in the Pyrenees, a day in the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone, a hike up the Santa Margerida…

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Costa Brava, located in the region of northeastern Catalonia, is just a few hours drive from Barcelona. Here, I merely enjoy the food, wine, and beaches that this beautiful region has to offer.

I hope you can enjoy by proxy…

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La Mercè traditionally ends at the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, where a spectacular fireworks display is merged with a creatively edited soundtrack, or “Piromusical” as they say in Barcelona.

Here, overlooking the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. one jostles for position against the thousands and thousands of festival goers whilst listening to songs from The Beatles, John Lennon and many others.

But, not all is as it seems.

If you listen closely, you might think you are listening to an original of “Imagine”.  Moments later, you realise that the words are all in Spanish…

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Yes, “Towers”.  Human towers.  Towers built out of humans.  As preposterous as this sounds, it was simply amazing.  For a moment, cast aside your inhibitions, your taint for public or personal safety.  You are in Spain, the land of the fire run, and multiple sports involving deadly bulls.  And so, get amongst it.  If you see a falling child, catch her.  If you see a falling man, run away.  If you can.

In Spain, these bio-buildings are called “Castells” and what you are witnessing here is the final.  The best teams compete to see who is the best of the best in the heart of Barcelona during the final day of the festival.  And, whilst my definition of success in such things is “getting out alive”, I suspect that there are other factors involved.

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Whilst wandering the streets of Barcelona admiring the Gaudi’s and sampling tapas was valuable in every respect, the real action this weekend was the annual La Mercè festival.  Being an uneducated tourist, I had little real understanding of the history of the proceedings.  But, that’s what travel is really about. Besides, it wasn’t anything a little searching on the internet couldn’t fix.  My first experience of the festival was to be the “Fire Run”.

Certainly, putting these two words into a single sentence and calling it a tradition had peaked my curiosity.

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As I begin putting pen to paper (or key to board as it were), I find myself thinking back to my high-school English class.  “An essay should have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” said the good doctor – a paraphrasing at the very least.  But, this isn’t an essay, travel does have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It’s just hard to know sometimes whether those dividers have been easily melded with the stories of travellers, or if was applied with force like a weather-worn hammer.  When you travel, you don’t quite know what to expect.  You might have a schedule, and you might not.  But what happens along the way can often be a mystery.  If you are lucky, you might even get a surprise or two.

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