Studio Musings

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bead Shopping in Barcelona

Several people have asked if I bought beads while I was away, so before I write about our transatlantic, thought I'd share the results of my Treasure Hunt.  In my search for bead stores, I did find a few that sold seed beads, Antiga Casa Sala in particular, but I was looking for things that I couldn't purchase at home, that would remind me of Barcelona.  The search turned out to be more difficult than expected and my haul can only be labeled 'odd'.

I stumbled upon the first bead shop pretty much by accident.  I wish I'd written down their name and address because I never did find my way back there later in the week.  They carried loads of silver charms.  Though I don't actually know the metal content, and I'm not sure 'charm' is the right word when the smallest were 2-3 inches across (like the butterfly above).  I also bought two yummy packages of sequins, thinking of my friend Sarah over at Saturday Sequins, and some 'silver' findings.  No matter what the metal was, the pin backs seemed much sturdier and better constructed than those I've found in the states. 

Doing a little internet research from our hotel,  two street names kept coming up in my searches -  Carrer de Boqueria and Carrer de Call.  Both in the narrow, twisty streets of the Gothic district, and walking distance from our hotel.  So armed with our trusty tourist map, Joe and I set out in search of treasure.

Dyed tagua nut jewelry seemed really popular - even the corner newstands carried necklaces strung with whole tagua nuts dyed in bright, contemporary colors - turquoise, fushia and goldenrod the most popular.  Kind of wish I'd picked one of those up now, even though I still have no idea what I would have done with it.  In Antiga Casa Sala (the largest bead store I discovered) I found more natural colored tagua nuts cut into pendants with darker lines that remind me of roots or brances, so I did pick those up.  I also picked up two packages of abolone shell 'buttons', just because I thought they were so beautiful.

I found the lampworked chili peppers in a that sold all sorts of weird and odd items.  Technically, they were wholesale only (if you see the sign 'vente al mayor' it means 'wholesale only'), but the saleswoman didn't even glance at my business card before ringing me up. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Visiting Barcelona

Earlier this month, Joe and I both packed up our laptops and headed out on our much-postponed 20th anniversary trip (we celebrated out 21st anniversary while away to give some idea of how long it took us to actually go on this trip).  For years, we'd talked of taking a transatlantic cruise and finally had the chance. 

From one standpoint, the timing wasn't great - Joe's start-up was in crunch mode and I was (and am) behind with where I need to be for my book.  But from another, I don't think the timing could have been better.  The entire trip was so energizing - refilling our creative batteries to overflowing and (for me at least) giving me blocks of totally uninterrupted time to work on my book.  While I'm still behind, I am amazed and pleased to say that I made up significant ground while away.

Enough of that, let's get into the trip.  Our cruise started out of Barcelona, a city I'll admit to knowing next to nothing about two years ago when we first started planning the trip.  We decided to add several days to the front of the trip to explore the city, and I am so glad!

Like so much of Europe, Barcelona has in incredibly rich, vibrant history.  We walked through Roman ruins below the streets at the MUHBA (the Museum of History of Barcelona), through the medieval streets of the gothic quarter, toured Gaudi's incredible artistry at the Paula G├╝ell, all within walking distance of our hotel!

I'd booked us at the Atiram Oriente hotel, right on Las Ramblas - the pedestrian boulevard and promenade that cuts through the heart of Barcelona.  I put a little red star on the map in the background of the collage to show where we stayed.  The beds were hard, but the location was perfect!  The photo in the lower left corner shows the view of Las Ramblas from our room.

A 'street' in the Gothic quarter

Our first day of exploring, jet lagged and a bit disoriented, we wandered into the narrow, crooked streets of the Gothic quarter.  After meandering a while, the little street suddenly opened out into a large stone plaza. In front of us stood the Cathedral!  We spent the next two days exploring our little corner of Barcelona on foot. It was such fun, plunging into the stone alley/streets (most of which were pedestrian only) and just seeing where they'd take us.  There's a lot of Barcelona we did not see, but that's okay.  Should we ever make it back that way, we can explore some more.

A wall on the side of the cathedral - the different materials me think of freeform peyote!

Since we both had to work, we fell into a sort of pattern where we'd pull out our laptops and spend a couple of hours working each morning, then go out exploring.  When it got to hot (we are both heat wimps, coming from Seattle), we'd head back to our hotel for a siesta.  Afterward, we'd go out exploring again for a couple of hours, then put in a couple more hours on the computer.  By then it would be 8-9 at night and we'd head out for dinner (and a Flamenco show one evening).

The last day before our cruise, we took an all-day tour through Explore Catalunya.  I'd come across their site researching Barcelona, and knew that we had to do their day trip to Tarragona as soon as I saw it.

Roman aqueduct and circus in Tarragona, Spain
My husband has been fascinated by the Roman empire for as long as I've known him.  Before we'd met, he'd traveled to Rome, but this was our chance to explore a bit of the empire together.  The aqueduct spans a small valley between two hills.  The precision of the engineering is incredible - each block was so precisely quarried and it still shows.  Since it's outside of the city in a protected nature area, the air quality is quite good which means that the stones haven't been worn by pollutants the way they have in other areas. Stepping out of our little van (there were 6 people on the tour, including the two of us), the air smelled so good, redolent with the resinous smell the Mediterranean plants.

A closer view of the 2,000 year old aqueduct

In Tarragona, we also had a chance to explore the remains of a Roman Circus on our own.  I hadn't realized it, but a 'circus' is the arena where they held their chariot races.  Some of the stadium still exists - but there's even more of their underground tunnels, which run the length of the original arena.  It's a humbling feeling, walking through something built by people who have been gone for thousands of years.  I am always so awed by the sheer artistry of the Roman empire - like the draping of the clothing in the marble statue in my photo collage.

Hanging out on the rooftop of the Palau Guell

The next day, we packed up, did a little more work on our laptops, had a leisurely breakfast sitting at one of the open air restaurant areas in front of our hotel, then took a taxi down to the dock to board our ship for the transatlantic crossing.  But this post has grown quite long and I need to get back to working on my book, so I think I'll close here for now.  That means I'll have at least two posts this month, as I've promised several people I'd write about our transatlantic as well.