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I've been to Barcelona three times and I'm ready to return!

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2014-04-01 12.10.13

I traveled to a month’s stay in Barcelona with a single carry-on bag, and so I neglected to pack any guide books, a decision which made me an explorer.

I had spent a New Year’s Eve in Barcelona with friends a few years ago when we stayed in an apartment on Placa de Sant Miguel in the heart of Barri Gotic.  This area became “home” to me, the center of my explorations.  Of course, I gradually expanded my wanderings to include other neighborhoods, but I mainly avoided the Rambla — precisely because so many other people do not.

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I wandered around Barcelona Cathedral on an almost daily basis and became appreciative of this young woman puppeteer who charmed the socks off her audience.

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Often what pleased me most were accidental things.  I happened upon this small traditional orchestra on the steps of the Cathedral by following the colorful ribbons of one of the performers, an innocent form of stalking.  The performance was excellent.

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Another neighborhood I made it a habit of strolling through was El Born, the area around Santa Maria del Mar. The church, built in the 14th century, was built through the labor of those who would worship there, and men of the parish carried stone from the quarry: their efforts are depicted on the doors of the church.  I heard an amazing a capella group, Singer Pur, perform here.  The pews were nearly full.

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This peculiar structure on the back of the church’s door allowed people to communicate through the door when it was closed and locked.

2014-04-11 13.39.12An engaging window display in the El Born area.

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And entry and exit signs from a one-way street.  Yes, clearly these  signs were more useful when the street traffic was much slower and the travelers more alert than they tend to be today!

POST SCRIPT — I am working on my drawing-a-day.  More about that soon.





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Graffiti, fountains, statuary — all sorts of compelling faces in Barcelona.  The above trio at Placa Sant Just, the home of the wonderful Artists’ Books exhibit sponsored by ILDE (Festival Del Llibre D’Arista) every St. Jordi’s Day.

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One of the trio.

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No, it’s not a face, nor is it a real dead pigeon.  Just part of the public art whimsy you may see in Barcelona.

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The face may come in the form of graffiti.

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Or a charming enticement to come in and see the Artists’ Books.  Yes, we’re back at Festival Del Llibre D’Artista which happens on St. Jordi’s Day and is followed by a continued exhibition and workshops on book forms, print making, and other skills useful to the book artist.


LINES VS NO LINES: The journal-keeper’s dilemma.

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For ten years I was faithful to this lined journal in a hard, cardboard cover.  The narrow-ruled pages encouraged me to write. But the Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover, New Hampshire, became a Barnes and Noble box store and the blue notebooks were no more.  Oddly, they they were not ideal for drawing or painting, but when I traveled I used them to sketch in with some success.

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I did love these notebooks, and it took me a couple of years spent in a random selection of journals to find the Fabriano Quadrato Artist’s Journal in a Fabriano shop at Fiumicino. I became an instant convert.  Beautiful paper in four neutral tones. No lines.  A good size.  And soon I worshiped at the Fabriano altar.

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For better or worse, I don’t need to go to Italy for the journals; they’re available on Amazon.  Fabriano has existed as a paper company since 1264 so I’m trusting them to continue producing this journal.  Before finding the Quadrato, I’d used the Classic Artist’s Journal (too large), and the Artist’s Journal with multicolored paper (it’s a challenge to write or draw on dark gray-green paper).

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Logically, I’ve been encouraged by the books to do more visual things — drawing, painting, even printing, as I did here with hand-carved stamps.  I’ve learned that the journal as container is capable of dictating the direction of my recording.  Does the Quadrato encourage a more colorful life?

I’m nine journals and five years into the new commitment.  I think it’s love.  And, prompted by a comment on this blog, I’m about to embark on an exercise:  I intend to do a thousand drawings or paintings, at least one-a-day, in my Quadrato journal.  In fact, my friend suggested the 10,000.  I’ll go for the first thousand and see where I am.

2015-07-09 08.56.01The challenge is sure to be my reluctance to keep poor drawings, and yet how else do I see my progress?  i know that when I draw, I see more clearly.  In fact, the friend who suggested the 10,000 agrees with me that drawing opens our brains somehow, allows us to record what we see and simultaneously the sounds…the whole experience that surrounds us.

So here’s to drawing and writing on a daily basis.  And to Fabriano for nourishing my habit.  (No, I’m not on their payroll.  I only wish.)

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I had seen the sign for the Museu Frederic Mares many times from the Pla de la Sue, the grand square in front of the Barcelona Cathedral, but never bothered to seek it out.  Had I but known it is a testimony to the art of pack-rattery, I would have gotten there sooner.  The above picture of the lovely lunch at the Cafe d’Estiu became my reward after a Mares Museum visit.

In the museum’s guide book, the author says that Mares, a noted sculptor in the early 20th century, created and sold his work in order to buy more of the things he loved — most importantly, religious sculpture from the 11th through the 19th centuries.


The gentleman pictured here is removing his hat in reverence to the Virgin Mary.  The medium is what is called polychrome or painted wood and was created in the early 16th century.  I love this stuff, and I hadn’t even been aware what the medium was called.


The gentleman with his cap removed can be seen in the lower right hand corner.  I love this mob and I’m struck by how well fed and various the crowd is.  Such a far cry from the dour scenes I’d seen depicted in the Romanesque galleries.  (Forgive the overexposure and lack of focus.  I was sneaking these snaps when the guards weren’t looking.)


This figure fascinates me.  I’ve lost the notes for her identification, but I’m impressed both with the figure’s realism and the fact she’s dressed in what appears to be a reed mat.

IMG_3001And while there are gallery after gallery of sculpture, there are also gallery after gallery of … ephemera.  Dolls, doll house furniture, fans, perfume bottles, matchbooks, locks and keys, playing cards, pipes and menus.  Which brings me back to the cafe which is just outside the entrance to the museum, itself only a stone’s throw from Barcelona Cathedral.  I visited the Mares Museum four times in the month I spent in Barcelona, and I barely scratched its surface!

IMG_3262Outside the entrance to the museum is this fountain with its lovely fish and their shadows.  Who could ask for more — apart from a glass of cava.



Ta-da.  The brushes I wish I used more frequently.


Yes, I mean to draw or paint every day.  But do I?  No.


Theoretically, doing something small — like an artist’s card — should be possible.  But I tend not to.  In fact, one of the reasons I love to travel is that I somehow, when on the road, find the impulse to record the impression, the fun, much easier to do.  My Barcelona journal is evidence of this (more of it in a later post).


But what I need to do now, is have a few minutes each day that I honor what’s fun, what’s beautiful, what’s amazing, even if it’s as common as a dandelion.  I need to stay in shape for the next Barcelona expedition.

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I began this blog to share my wonderful experience of a month (April 2014) in Barcelona, and I also hoped to get comfortable blogging. And the blog keeps alive my intention to return to Barcelona as soon as I can. In addition to my travel blog, I’d like to have a second blog that is more reflective and represents other interests: writing, teaching, drawing, my love for houses, reading.

Then I committed to having a class that I will be teaching this fall include a blogging assignment.  The course is a first-year seminar on journal keeping at a small public college in Vermont where I am an adjunct professor.  So it behooves me to get a handle on my own blogging process before I attempt to convince my students they can enjoy this assignment.  (Typically my students are way ahead of me on the technology front, so I do hope not to embarrass myself.)

I am a fan of several blogs and believe in the value of blogging on many levels.  I hope that by the end of these three weeks, posting blogs will be easier and I’ll be taking better advantage of the tools Word Press makes available.  Here goes!

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IMG_3147 Above, one of the thirteen geese living in the cloister at the Barcelona Cathedral, a Gothic wonder with a pond, fountain, and the essential votive candles.


  St. Jordi’s fountain depicts the knight overcoming the dragon, a common theme in art and artifacts around the city of Barcelona.

IMG_2977     The votive candles were a prominent feature during Easter week.


And the fountain is not only impressive, the desperate tourist can drink the water.  I often wonder about the innocent European tourists who come to the U.S. and assume they can drink the water from our decorative fountains!


     This emblem, in the floor of the cloister, commemorates the contribution of the shoemakers’ guild, I am assuming.


The Cathedral itself is grand, of course, but the cloister seems more memorable.  I’m always more compelled by living things among the beautiful things that such grand architecture provides.