2014-11-29 ME Hotel

View from my second hotel in Barcelona, the Holiday Inn Express in El Poblenou. The spectacular cantilevered building is Dominique Perrault’s ME Barcelona Hotel, the fifth-tallest building in the city.

 

It will have rained more than an inch in the five days that I will have spent here, but there are enough awnings and cover that I have not wanted an umbrella, even with periods of downpour.

I spent one evening with a Barcelonan transplant of five years. I had read a couple of times about Barcelona’s reputation as the pickpocketing capital of the world. I have always been mindful of picks, although I have yet to be victimized. I have a neurotic habit of constantly checking my pockets, securing items with locks and zippers, and spreading my possessions about pockets in the event one gets lifted. I asked my new friend Irakli if he had ever been picked, and he said it has happened to him twice in the city. I have had a fascination with sleight of hand and the deception required to be a world-class pickpocketer so of course, I asked for the details.

The first time, he exited a nightclub drunk with a young lady in tow. A random guy approached him and showed him some dance moves before scuttling away. The girl told Irakli, “You better check your pockets.” Sure enough, his wallet was missing. Irakli ran ahead and the thief had the consideration of leaving behind his wallet with his personal identification cards, taking only the cash.

The second time, Irakli was driving a car when he stopped at a red light. He felt the car suffered a flat tire, so he exited to check the rear wheels. When he returned to the car, a mobile phone and his wallet were missing. Apparently, some thieves will ride motorcycles, waiting for cars to be stopped. A guy on the bike will have a knife in his shoe that he will casually kick into the target car, deflating the tire, which reflexively causes the driver to leave the vehicle. The whole thing is done in several seconds. These guys are good!

Anyway, I was out until 3 am, and that is still early for many barcelonís. Many nightclubs do not open after midnight, and people will literally party until the sun rises. Even with the constant threat of pickpocketers, the city feels extremely safe and is illuminated throughout, so I walk freely here no matter the hour or barri.

Palau de la Música Catalana
I saw a jazz-gospel fusion show at Palau de la Música Catalana, another UNESCO World Heritage Site designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who also created Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau that I had toured. I purchased a ticket to the 98-minute show for €28. A guided tour of the empty concert hall is €18! Guided tours of buildings that host events do not make much sense, unless time is limited and no performance is scheduled. For instance, I want to see Futbol Club Barcelona play at Camp Nou, but the squad is not playing in the city during my visit, so I will not settle for a guided tour (€23). My opinion on this matter was originally formulated when I visited Sydney in August 2011. The Sydney Opera House hosts actual operas, which would be a fabulous experience. The two-hour tour costs $165! Absurd! Just go to the opera.

The show itself was interesting, but I went mostly because of the legendary status of the venue. The acoustics and design of the building were of the highest quality. Billed as La Locomotora Negra & The Gospel Messengers, the act consisted of two groups of performers. The Gospel Messengers were 17 people appearing to be in their 20s, consisting of 11 women and 6 men. La Locomotora Negra is a famous amateur català jazz group. The band was not your traditional jazz quartet. It comprised four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophones, one piano, one double bass, one guitar, and one drummer. As indicated by the presence of The Gospel Messengers, several numbers were biblical in nature, including a song that mentioned “Jericho” and the traditional “Go Down Moses.” The act opened with “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” The bandleader spoke exclusively in català, effectively rendering me deaf. However, all the vocals were in English.

2014-11-29 Palau de la Música Catalana

Capacity 600

 

From Palau de la Música Catalana, I walked 2.5 kilometers to Casino Barcelona, which is located at the base of Hotel Arts (the tallest building in the city) in Port Olímpic. The casino was uninspiring, and I left without placing a wager. I did walk along the marina and on Somorrostro Beach, which was peacefully devoid of any humans at night. From there, I walked another 2.2 kilometers back to my room.

 

2014-11-29 Port Olimpico