If you look around bearcave.com, you will see that I'm an avid reader. I read on a wide range of topics, including history and travel essays. While I've been an armchair traveler for most of my adult life, I have not traveled much outside the United States. My freshman year in high school I spent a month in Mexico and I've been to Cancun, as an adult (I went scuba diving). Until I went to Barcelona, I had never traveled to Europe.
When you reach middle age, as I have, it is clear to most people that there is a horizon out there. I felt that now is the time to start traveling.
I chose to visit Barcelona for several reasons:
Barcelona was the home of the architect Antoni Gaudi and the modernista architectural movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I have admired Gaudi's architecture since I first saw it. After visiting Barcelona I also came to admire his architectural contemporaries like Lluis Domenech i Montaner.
To this day, Barcelona is a city that takes architecture and design very seriously.
Barcelona and Catalunya (Barcelona is the regional capital of Catalunya) has a long history of progressive politics. Trade unionism strongly took root in the late 1800s. Catalunya took a strong part against Franco and the fascist forces in Spain during the Spanish civil war. George Orwell's novel Homage to Catalonia is based on Orwell's experiences in this war. Almost 3,000 men and women from the United States fought against Franco's forces as part of the Lincoln Brigade.
Catalunya's progressive politics continues to this day. What I also like about Catalunya is that it is "bourgeois leftism". That is, progressive politics combined with a desire to make money and get things done. Catalunya is one of the wealthier parts of Spain.
I went to Barcelona at the end of April, 2005. For me a trip to Europe represents large expenditure of money, so I wanted to get as much out of the trip as I could. This meant learning about Barcelona and its history before I went. When I did finally visit Barcelona, I had some context for what I saw. I list some of the books I read and the travel guides I used on one of the sub-pages.
Travel to a foreign country, a different culture where a different language is spoken, is not the same as taking a vacation to Big Sur. In most cases you don't visit a foreign city to simply relax. You visit because you have wanderlust: the desire to see new places and new things. In my case I also wanted to get some exposure to how people live outside the United States. I wanted to understand a bit of the wider world.
For someone like me, who has spent his life in suburbs or small cities, Barcelona, a city of about four million people, is a huge city. In addition to Barcelona there are near by areas of interest, including Terragona and Girona. There is a lot to see and understand, so I decided to spend two weeks in Barcelona. The idea of two weeks partially spent in a small hotel room was not very attractive. Also, I wanted to be able to cook for myself. So I decided to rent an apartment. I was traveling alone, since my wife does not fly except en extremis. One of the sub-pages discusses my experience renting an apartment and provides some links to apartment rental web pages.
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