Today we took the train from Barcelona, south, to a coastal town called Tarragona. Our trip started with a ride on the subway to pick up the train. And what was right outside the subway exit? An apartment building designed by Gaudi! There are advantages to not knowing where you are, because stumbling upon famous landmarks makes them that much more exciting.
The organic forms of the building facade and balconies, with the stained glass and mosaic that cover the front, really make the building stand out from it's neighbors with their linear forms and hard edges. It seems the building is used as a museum now, but I imagine the people who chose to live in this strange building were just as odd and interesting as it looks.
We didn't have a plan of attack for our visit to Tarragona, but since Brandon didn't have to teach, and we will be in Barcelona all week, we took the opportunity to take a trip, and picked a place outside the city that wouldn't be a very long train ride.
In addition to lovely beaches, and the enjoyable ambiance of a smaller Spanish city, Tarragona was sprinkled with bits of Roman history, like this amphitheater. It reminded me of a small version of the Colosseum in Rome, only this one has the added benefit of the seaside sprinkled with sun worshippers, and it wasn't filled to the brim with tourists.
There were ships and sail boats on the water, so the views from the top were great, and the breezes were wonderful. I'm not sure what kind of ships the Romans would have seen for a backdrop while they attended the events in the arena, but I hope they were as nice as ours.
We were wandering through town, half way searching for a seaside castle that was listed on our map, but mostly kind of lost and just enjoying streets without crowds, when a young Spanish speaking man asked us for directions. Now, prior to being stopped by this young guy, I noticed a large man who had a Tony Soprano look staring at me from near a bus stop bench. I didn't think much about it other than that he was being sort of rude. When we told the young guy that we didn't know the answer to his question, because not only were we half way lost ourselves, we didn't even understand the question, he says "oh, are you tourist? I am tourist too. Do you know the name of this street?" Brandon starts to tell him when the big guy I noticed earlier, with another large older fella rush up to us from I don't know where and start flashing open wallets and demanding to see our passports. The keep saying "policia, policia, where are your papers? What did you ask this man?" They get the young guys passport first, and start asking him to empty his pockets and show him his money, which he does. He even hands the older guy his pack of cigarettes and the guy sniffs them and then hands them back to him. The big guy tells me that this man sells drugs, and wants to know why did we speak to him. They are sort of talking over each other and reaching for things, and just generally causing confusion. This is suspicious and I ask them if they are police, can I see some identification. I repeat this several times, but they are focusing their attention on Brandon. The wallet flashing was very fast and I couldn't get a good look at it. They just keep saying "yes, yes, we are policia. It's for your safety. Do you have euros? How many euros? What's in your pockets?" Well, Brandon shows them a handful euros and tells them that's all he has, which wasn't true, and I tell them I have no money, which also wasn't true. We both keep grips on our passports and belongings and after a few minutes of harassment they tell us we can go, and the big guy admonishes me with "No talking on the street. It's for your safety."
What was that?! As we walked away we were scanning the streets waiting to be jumped since we figured it was some sort of elaborate team shake down and these three guys were the ones that were sent to find out how much money we had and where we keep it. Or they really were undercover police that were onto the young guy and thought we were buying his drugs. If they were thieves, why didn't they take our stuff? If they were police, why wouldn't they let me get a good look at their badges? It was very weird and sort of ticked me off.
After we talked about it for a while trying to figure out what it was about, and after I stopped constantly looking over my shoulder and waiting for phase two of the mugging, where we would actually have something taken away from us, we started to sort of get a kick out of it. These guys could have been scripted for a mobster movie, if the mafia were Spanish. The big fat guy in the loud shirt who seemed sort of dull witted, the old rough guy who did all the fast talking, and the young schmoozer target the hapless tourists. We got to be mugged and it didn't cost us a dime!
All that craziness and walking made us really need some tasty beverages and some lunch, so we settled at a table under an awning in a nice little plaza and ordered some food. Now, Brandon has been telling me that he wasn't impressed with most of the food he was getting at restaurants, so he's been making stuff at the hotel. I thought he was just being cheap, but I can see what he's talking about now. Not that I can't appreciate a boiled hot dog, a fried egg, and some iceberg lettuce, but when you pay seven euros it seems a bit of a let down.
But what Spain lacks in the grub, it makes up for in the coffee! The coffee is great no matter where you get it. Even the borderline gross free breakfast at our hotel, which is really a dorm at the university, has some exquisite coffee. Brandon insists that if someone back home made coffee this good they could run Starbucks out of town.
We spent some time sitting in the shade near a very impressive bronze sculpture of a tower of men with a boy at the peak, which apparently is something that Catelonians do to symbolize strength, unity, and whatnot. I enjoy people watching, and what was so fun about this public art was that tourists, speaking every language, all had the same response to this sculpture. See the guy in the photo above joining the group of bronze guys at the base? Well, nearly every group of passersby had at least one member who would pose with the bronze crowd for a photo. They were loving it! Everyone was laughing and posing, and interacting with the art. I'm not sure the artist anticipated the interactive nature of this piece, but it's a real crowd pleaser.
Still no luggage. I'm pretty sure three days is too long to go without brushing my hair.