Archive for April 24th, 2008

Barcelona Day Two: Thursday Day

April 24, 2008 @ 4:04 pm | Filed under:

We woke early and ordered continental breakfasts from room service. Fresh-squeezed orange juice, ham, a sharp white cheese, very tasty. Croissants, powdered-sugar-covered pastries. Lots of dry toast, with butter and little pots of jam on the side. Red currant jam is my new favorite thing ever.

We ate, and I’m told I fell back asleep with the tray still on the foot of my bed. Jet lag is a killer. Scott had to be at the con at 11 a.m. for portfolio review and I remember swimming up out of a heavy slumber to say goodbye to him as he headed out the door, backpack over his shoulder. Then I was awake, and I got dressed, ate more jam and also some toast with jam, and took pictures of the view outside our hotel room.


The old bullfighting arena. And cranes!


View to the left: Miró Park. Kindly excuse the glare.


View to the right. You know this one already! The Placa Espanya. Again, forgive the glare and also my laziness in not looking up the fancy c-with-tail keystroke for Placa.


View straight down. Love that dedicated bike lane on the sidewalk! And note the red and white bike. It’s a rental, available at sidewalk racks all over the city. Our old hometown, Charlottesville, VA, was just instituting something similar when we left. It’s a genius idea.

Large chunks of the previous afternoon had passed in a blur of sleep deprivation, but somewhere in there Scott and I had discovered that internet access in the hotel cost a charming 17 euros a day, and we’d scouted out an internet cafe a block away that charged only half a euro for thirty minutes. They offered cheap phone service, too, and the hardest part of the day had been the five hours I spent waiting in the hotel lobby while Scott ran down the street to call home and check on kids and grandparents. Okay, so it was really only ten minutes. That was a loooong ten minutes, I am telling you. I think I nodded off several times. That was before our walk to Montjuic, which woke me back up a bit.

Anyway, when I was finally alert and presentable on Thursday morning (i.e. noon), I ventured out to the internet cafe and read several hilarious/heartwrenching emails from the kids. (Rose informed me that Wonderboy was sad, ouch, but that Rilla had hardly noticed I was gone: double ouch.) My mother gave a more thorough report, including the amusing tidbit that anytime she told Rilla she was going to change her diaper, Rilla would say, “No, Mommy did it.” Ha. Guess she remembered me a little.

When I came out of the internet cafe, rain was pouring down. Of course I had no umbrella. Do you think I plan ahead or something? I pulled my jacket over my head and dashed back to the hotel, where I learned that I could buy an umbrella at one of several shops around the corner the opposite direction from the internet cafe. I darted from overhang to awning and finally came upon Umbrella Heaven: a whole store devoted to them, a rainbow of umbrellas wide open on every wall and counter like something Andy Warhol might have painted if he’d been part Gene Kelly. I asked for the cheapest—and paid (gulp) a whopping 15 euros for what turned out to be the teeniest little pink umbrella this side of a Strawberry Shortcake cartoon. It covered my head but not my toes. No matter, my shoes were already soaked. It protected my camera, and that was the main thing.

I American-in-Parised my way across the rotary to the Fira de Barcelona, Palau Numero Ocho (and if you haven’t figured out by now that I am a tremendous dork, you’ll know it for sure by the end of this travelogue) and tried three different doors before I figured out how to enter the con. Yellow wristband granting entry, check. Pink umbrella under arm, check. Rained-upon hair now performing Hermione Granger impersonation, check.

The con looked like all the other comic cons I’ve seen, except in Spanish and with some quite shocking cardboard-figure art. Averting my eyes, I found the most beautiful booth in the whole convention hall.



Because, yes, I am the kind of person who goes to a comic book convention and mainly takes pictures of candy.

I didn’t know where Scott’s table would be, so I asked the nearest superheroes. I must say that Clark Kent fellow is every bit as nice as he is reputed to be. Rorschach‘s a bit of a grump, though. Not that that’s news.


Unfortunately the Smallville high school doesn’t seem to have taught Spanish, so Clark’s direcciones didn’t help me a whole lot.


Despite his impressive spectacles and vantage point, the large gentleman on the right doesn’t know either.

Eventually I gave up trying to find him and headed back outside. The rain had stopped, and the avenue sparkled. I took a walk until it was time to return to the hotel for lunch.


The backs of buildings are sometimes the most interesting part.


Mmm, jamón.


The butcher was a little suspicious of me and my camera at first, but I babbled about my niño y niñas and he warmed right up. Man I’m getting tired of looking up these fancy keystrokes.

Lunch was lots of fun that day. Scott and I sat across from Michael Golden and Tim Sale, another comics superstar. Scott had worked with him long ago and is used to hobnobbing with all these talented artists, but I’ve been out of the loop for a while. I tried not to geek out Tim too much but I am a huge Heroes fan and you know he does all the paintings for that show, plus he’s a total sweetheart. Next to me was Diana Livingstone Bruce, with her husband (that would be Mr. Ray Harryhausen) on her other side. That’s right, THE Ray Harryhausen, the pioneering film producer and stop-motion animation wizard who created the special effects for, among other classics, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans—which last my sisters and I watched approximately 712 times on HBO in the early 80s. That owl of Athena’s! The creepy three sisters with the one gnarly eye! Beautiful Andromeda whom I so, so, so wanted to look like except for her insanely long neck!

I gave up and geeked out.

Once again lunch lasted past 4pm, and after that I went to the art museum, and that rapturous experience should probably be its own post. Oh dear, I can see I really am going to make a novel out of this thing. I would apologize, but you come here voluntarily.

Barcelona Day One: A Beautiful Daze

April 24, 2008 @ 6:52 am | Filed under:

We left San Diego around midday on Tuesday, and arrived in Barcelona around midday on Wednesday. Five hours to Atlanta, nine hours to Spain, a nine-hour jump in time. Neither of us got much sleep on the plane. We knew we needed to resist the tempation to nap upon checking in at the hotel, and at first the exhilaration of being in Barcelona was enough to keep jet lag at bay. We were met at the airport by our host, David Macho, who represents a number of Spanish artists. Scott’s role at the convention was to, along with a couple of other DC and Marvel editors, meet with would-be, hopeful, and up-and-coming artists and look over their portfolios. My role was to do whatever I felt like. Not a bad deal, eh?

Another con attendee happened to be on our flight from Atlanta, along with his wife and her friend, though we didn’t know that until we met David at the airport. Tony Harris, illustrator of Ex Machina and many other titles, is a wildly popular artist and also does the most killing impersonation of Eddie Izzard impersonating Darth Vader at the Death Star canteen. I had no idea, when I squeezed between Tony and his sweet wife Stacy in the narrow back seat of David Macho’s tiny European car, that I would spend much of the upcoming week weeping with laughter over Tony’s stories.

David pointed out the sights on our way to the hotel, including prepping us for our first glimpse of the Plaça d’Espanya, a large and fairly stunning plaza bounded by the old bullfighting arena (now being renovated to become the world’s largest museum of rock) and our hotel, the Barcelona Catalonia Plaza. The Plaça contains a giant fountain (turned off at the moment, alas) and the two 154-foot tall red-brick Venetian Towers which stand imposingly at the foot of Queen Maria Cristina Avenue. On either side of the towers are large buildings with splendid facades, one of which was the site of the comic con. At the end of the avenue, partway up the hill called Montjuïc, is the Palau Nacional, home of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Much more on that later.


The fountain and Venetian towers, with the Palau Nacional in the distance


The Fira de Barcelona, site of the con

David was right: we were all pretty blown away by the sight of the Plaça, the towers, the long avenue stretching away toward the mountain with that magnificent building at the top.

By the time we got checked in, it was almost 2pm: time for lunch. Lunch and dinner was provided for us every day in the hotel restaurant. A long table filled the back room, and we were joined there that first day by the Harrises, David Macho and his assistants, and several other comic book artists and writers. We met underground comics superstar Peter Bagge and his family, and the revered artist Michael Golden, a comics legend whom I had met several times long ago during my honeymoon year in New York City, was a wry and jovial presence. Lunch that day included a delicious white bean “fisherman” stew, with a tomato broth and clams, shrimp, and squid. The rest of the meal was somewhat hazy, as jet lag began to get its teeth into us.

Determined to stay awake until night, as one is supposed to do to when traveling to a dramatically different time zone, Scott and I followed lunch—it was after 4pm by that point—with a walk up the avenue to the Palau Nacional. We climbed many, many steps (and rode a few escalators) to the top level and marveled at the views. Looking back down the avenue, past the long rows of hushed fountains, we could see our hotel. From one end of the terrace, we saw the ocean, and in the middle distance, the spires of La Sagrada Familia, surrounded by construction cranes. I didn’t know, then, how important that view was to become to me by the end of the week, nor how much the cranes would be part of the poetry of the place. That first day, it seemed a pity that unsightly construction machinery marred the view; I didn’t yet understand that Barcelona is a work of art in progress, and that the unfolding and ongoing nature of the creation of masterpieces is part of what makes that city so vibrant and beautiful. Its art is not static and finished: walking the streets of Barcelona is like being in the studio of a master sculptor, with astonishing pieces all around you and the greatest piece of all on the work table in the middle of the room, a figure of breathtaking beauty just beginning to emerge from the stone.


La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s cathedral in progress, as seen from the terrace of the Palau Nacional on Montjuic. Click to view larger image.


View of the Magic Fountain, Queen Maria Cristina Avenue, and Plaça Espanya from the steps of the Palau Nacional. Our hotel is the tall, cream-colored, many-windowed building just behind and to the left of the leftmost Venetian tower. In the distance, Mount Tibidabo.

That first evening, all we knew was that the view was lovely, and we were walking dead. Scott exerted heroic efforts at keeping me awake until nightfall. Dinner was at 9:30, but there was no way we were up for that. We collapsed sometime between 8 and 9: I was too far gone to do the math necessary to convert the San Diego time on my iPod to Barcelona time. There were no clocks in the room, nor anywhere in the entire city, as far as I could tell, except the giant one on the front of our hotel.