Eighteen hours from Tokyo, we arrive at our four star hotel with no shower curtain or room service, the land of Lorca and Jimenez both in the original Spanish and now in powerful English translation, where our Japanese guide points out Barcelonas danger zones, the abunai areas stalked by pickpockets, muggers and assorted cutpurses, not the fiery fiesta information dished out when comparing destination locations. With Japanese sleeping pills we knock ourselves out, after watching only briefly big breasted Italian ladies competing for small prizes on cable quiz programs. Morning arrives so Sayoko and I descend to the breakfast room for spicy sausages and coffee gray as the winter sky, and a young Japanese lady serves her husband pressed ham with a baby doll voice. If I were Hemingway, Id be thinking about slicing off an ear at a bullfight, but Im only an English teacher so the wife and I decide to go shopping because stuffs supposed to be cheaper than Tokyo. On the streets everyone seems nervous, like theyre not being watched by secret police and workers spend the morning standing around then take a siesta at 2:00. We find goods are surprisingly cheap, just like the quality, which means tourists can either be robbed by shopkeepers or hoodlums in the street, so we adjourn to Gaudis La Pedrera featuring strange roof figures where we snap each other with our digital camera then head for a Starbucks featuring decent coffee and rude customers. The bars are supposed to be great for supper, serving assorted salads, meat and cheese on a roll, but we didnt travel 18 hours for submarine sandwiches and potato salad, so we skip supper to watch more cable television which is as bad as Japanese politics, featuring the big breast shows from Italy and Germany or serious CNN and BBC stuff showing soldiers in camouflage feeling good about defending freedom and protecting democracy as part of Operation Enduring What The Fuck. Sunday morning we head for Gaudis cathedral, after hearing baby doll voice serve her husband salami and scrambled eggs, but theres only an empty shell, a hollow postcard cathedral, which we record on the digital, but no mass, no priests, just a cement Jesus being whipped in front of huge bronze doors and lots of saints and devils plus a gift shop with cathedral t-shirts and an elevator where you rise up inside a spire looking out at scaffolding and the operator says another 20 years, but I think a hundred. Afternoon its the Picasso Museum, where, following a decent coffee along the narrow cobblestone street, theres lots of ordinary early oil by the master before he took off for Madrid and Paris, saying adios to Barcelona where he was called fool and idiot for his later green faces, steam shovel arms and floating eyes. Lunch in a guidebook restaurant beside the sparkling Mediterranean, we order the featured mixed grill expecting soul and panache, food for the gods, but which arrives as mounds of worn-out clams surrounded by the last of the tired scampi. Thankfully, the French Chardonnay focuses attention on the sea view, so when we leave for Madrid on Monday morning were much better off than Hemingway who got depressed and drank a lot before saying sayonara to Barcelona.

Barcelona Mon 02/10/03