Jeff was so frazzled from his “incident” yesterday that we forgot to include a smaller, but still funny, anecdote that happened. Jeff also remembered some other key points he wanted to make on travelling in Barcelona, so we’ll deal with that first before getting on with the day.
After spending the last few days seeing everyone walking around in Barca jerseys, Jeff decided it was time to find some blue and pomegranate of his own, despite the fact that he will obviously look like a tourist. As we were wandering around the Gothic Quarter, we finally found an accessible merch shop and decided now was as good a time as ever. Upon entering, we were quickly ambushed by the store owner, who started offering random discounts on things we weren’t even looking at. Anyway, when asked what size jerseys were available, the man claimed he had “all sizes,” which lead us to wonder out loud what size jersey would fit Jeff. The man interjected that the sizes were the same as your age and then asked Jeff how old he was. It became quite awkward when we discovered the man thought Jeff was a semi-bearded 8-year-old boy and even more awkward when Jeff asked what a size 26 would look like…although we’re sure it would hide his curves. The man quickly backtracked and said “I no good with these things.” Whether he meant sizing or people in wheelchairs, we may never know. In the end, Jeff did get his jersey and it fits wonderfully, but it has become a running joke to ask about size 26 clothing now.
Some other key points on accessible travel in Barcelona…
- So far, we have had absolutely no problem getting food, largely because we are surviving on tapas. For those who don’t know, tapas is sort of like an appetizer menu that has different variations of spicey potatoes, meat and seafood that are generally small portions that can be mixed and matched with friends. On average, we’re paying about 20 euro to feed all three of us with drinks, so it’s the best, easiest and cheapest way to eat. From an accessibility-standpoint, tapas are wonderful because they’re often served at bars, which almost all have patio seating on the sidewalk–meaning Jeff can eat at bars that are otherwise fully inaccessible. If it wasn’t for the beautiful weather, finding accessible food would be much, much harder.
- Much like other European cities, most major tourists centers offer discounts for people with disabilities and their attendants. These discounts and line-bypass perks are almost never advertised, but quickly offered whenever they see you come rolling up to the window. If no one says anything, just ask–they almost always offer you something.
- Although the subway has been a bust, the bus system has been fantastic. Like other cities, some bus drivers are crotchety and say the ramp is broken, but they’re just one or two bad apples in a basket of otherwise delicious…fruit? Cabs are accessible too, but they’re too expensive for our blood.
- While most electric wheelchairs will find the older buildings extremely tight to move around in, anyone using smaller chairs (like a youth electric chair) or manual wheelchairs shouldn’t have too many problems getting around. Jeff has found the elevators aren’t quite as small as the lifts in London, England but they’re still pretty tight. If access is a problem, a lot of pharmacies will actually rent a variety of manual wheelchairs on a daily or weekly basis. May not be perfect, but it works if you’re in a jam.
As for today
As is our custom, we woke up late and rushed down for breakfast just before the joint closed. No one slept well last night, so we were particularly slow on the uptake. After food, we decided to do some major strategizing to figure out what sites we wanted to visit today. After quite some time negotiating, we determined our best bet would be the Pedrera, which is another Gaudi masterpiece, and two art foundations, the Sunol and the Alorda-Derksen. It should be noted that today was our first day without blazing sun and Jeff spent much of it wondering if we were going to be caught in the rain. Luckily, it didn’t happen.
So the Pedrera. Mindblowing. This has got to be one of our favourites so far, if only because of the huge amount of contextual information provided about Gaudi, his design process, and some of his lesser known works. The Pedrera was originally constructed as an apartment complex, but has since been turned into a World Heritage site by UNESCO and converted into a museum. As such, part of the tour included a fully restored apartment from the early 20th century, complete with period furniture. Jeff thinks the best quote to sum up the whole experience came from a teacher of Gaudi’s, who upon his graduation stated they had either just graduated a genius or a lunatic. We’re leaning toward the genius side of things. One particularly interesting tidbit of information gleaned from the tour was Gaudi’s method of hanging chains upside down to design his structures. Google it, it’s worth seeing. Another amazing moment was when Clara and Jeff were whisked up the original elevator (closed to the public) to see the restored apartment. We have to say, this early20th century elevator was, in many ways, better and more functional than most found in London, ON. Looks like we could learn something from the early 20th Century. The only “bad” part about the exhibit was that the audio guide kept telling us to check out the “audio-visual experiences,” which consisted of visuals with no audio. Okay, that’s being generous, they were slide shows. We suppose this is better than the near-constant typos in the write ups at the Picasso Museum…
After having our minds thoroughly blown, we decided to head down to the Alorda-Derksen foundation while we waited for the Sunol to open after lunch. Unfortunately, after walking about 15 minutes, we discovered this facility was unaccessible. Brutal. It seems to be a bit of a habit to strike out on at least one venue a day right now.
Back to the Sunol Foundation we went, arriving just in time for the doors to open. Our promptness was unnecessary, however, as there was absolutely no one else there, except for some weird balding man but we’ll get to him in due course. This would be the first venue to offer no “handi-discounts,” so Jeff had to finally pull out his wallet and shell over some euros for Barcelona culture. Despite claiming the Foundation is in possession of over a thousand pieces of art, the exhibit was actually quite small, taking us under an hour to see everything. Most of the pieces were decent, some were quite stunning, and some left us to wonder why we’re not world famous artists yet. Example, one piece was a pile of sugar packages, some of which had black Xs drawn on them, sitting in a glass case. Jeff’s frustrated that he paid to see this, as a similar piece is showing in every…single…cafe…in…the…city. But the point of art is to be inspired, so Jeff and Clara proceeded to make art across the city, leaving a trail of small litter piles everywhere they went. Note: not actually; Mother Earth is our home boy. Oh yes, we almost forgot: the balding weird man. So accompanying us in our magical journey through the art world was this strange older man who seemed pretty nonchalant about most of the work except one particular piece that looked an awful lot like the rest of the collection and consisted of a bunch of indiscernible scribbles across a canvas, but which he felt the dying need to stare at for what seemed like an hour and then proceed to ask questions of the curator about said piece. As someone who would consider himself a fan of the “arts,” Jeff understands how someone could get excited about a piece…but this seemed a bit much.
After spending some time in the bizarre audio-visual room, we decided to hit the local Zara for a bit of consumer detox. Despite some more sizing concerns (this time not of the age variety), Jeff managed to find some sick duds for work at an extremely reasonable price. Jeff also tried to convince Clara to buy the dress made of towel material, but she opted instead for a skirt that was actually “nice” as opposed to “hilarious.” Jeff’s idea of “fashion” is just to wear the goofiest thing possible. We call this the “clown college manifesto.” And Jeff wonders why his job search took such a long time…
The final point of note from today is Clara and Jeff rocked a sick high five on a street corner, nearly a Top Gun high five, and during the follow through Jeff noticed an old woman shoot him the dirtiest look ever. We’re pretty sure she just heard the noise of the high five, saw Jeff in the follow through, and thought he’d just smacked Clara. Now she’ll never let her daughter date someone in a wheelchair!
Tomorrow is going to be a bit slower, but we’re still going to bed early. Night suckers!
– Jeff and Clara