Thursday, March 1, 2012

Aaaahhhh beautiful Barcelona!


Hello, Hola, Ciao and Bonjour!

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to travel through home exchange (exchanging my home with the home of another traveler in another part of the world)…….. and on my motorcycle, a 2006 Triumph Bonneville T-100. I have ridden through miles of mountain roads to get to that small campsite before dark and have been caught out in the rain more than once. When I have home exchanged I have lived like the locals, buying bread at the neighborhood boulangerie and cheese at their fromagerie. 

But, I have always used the resources of our local libraries. So as I put together my blog I will also be putting in the links to some of the materials I have checked out to help plan many of my travels. 

Thanks for coming along……

Aaaahhhh beautiful Barcelona!

I had always wanted to visit Spain since I was a little boy. My grandfather would tell me over breakfast, usually served around 5:30am, “mi hijo vamos a España.” I never realized that he was actually offering more than just an excuse to miss school for a month or two, he was offering me a taste of the world. It was only later, that I understood that my grandparents had friends around the world and they made time every year  to invest in these friendships.

My trip to Spain was very off the cuff and started with a round trip flight deal from San Francisco to Barcelona for $565.00. Round trip and all taxes included on the Spanish Airline Iberia, well of course I would say yes, wouldn’t you?

I quickly paid for a ticket before I even had a place to stay. But with a wonderful first home exchange in Paris I left it all up to chance. Sending out messages to other potential home exchangers, I crossed my fingers. Yes, I did get a few no’s mixed in with a “I would love to exchange with you, but it doesn’t fit my travel plans at this time.”

Only having home exchanged once before, I was a little nervous that maybe this was not going to work out for me. But……there is always a but, a message came back from a fellow traveler with an apartment in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona.

“Hola, I will not be able to travel to California this year, but my home will be available for a non-simultaneous exchange during the dates you have mentioned. Maybe I can visit next year?”

As I read her message I was overwhelmed with her generosity. Yes, of course you can visit anytime you like, was my response. Now that I have home exchanged many times, I understand the value of opening your home even if you cannot visit during a specific time. It’s like saving a vacation for a sunny day.

Needless to say, her apartment was beautiful, overlooking a tree lined pedestrian walkway only two blocks from the metro stop.


It’s funny how things seem to work out, sometimes at the very last minute.

Not long after I received her positive response, I was contacted by a couple in Australia asking if I would be interested in a home exchange with them. I don’t know when I will travel to Australia, but my response was pretty much the same, “I will not be able to travel to your home this year, but my home will be available for a non-simultaneous exchange during the dates you have mentioned. Maybe I can visit next year?” Saving a vacation for a sunny Australian day……..I can really get into this home exchange thing.

When all was said and done I realized that there was a much bigger circle of home exchanges working here. I opened my home to an Australian couple, I went to Spain, my exchange partner in Barcelona went to Paris and the Parisian couple traveled to Australia. Wow, that really did work out and neither of us knew the other person. I wouldn’t call it fate, I would call it home exchange.

More about home exchange later…….

My first stop takes me to Spain where I had a chance to visit the museum of the artist Salvador Dalí. Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinot Dalí i Domènech was born on the morning of May 11, 1904 in the small town of Figueres, Spain which is about 16 miles from the French border. Dalí was a prominent Spanish Surrealist Painter, best known for his work, The Persistence of Memory. The Teatre-Museu Dalí was inaugurated in 1974 on the spot of his first public art showing when he was only 14. The original theatre was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. 

I have not been a huge fan of the surrealists, I prefer the impressionists, but what I have always admired about Dalí was more of his flair for life. For me it is more important on how life is lived….the loves, the adventures and the experience of it all.

Traveling anywhere has its twists and turns. How many times have you found yourself totally lost looking at a map with no idea where you actually are on the map? Getting to Figueres from Barcelona was no different. I did catch the train in the wrong direction but after a short wait I was on my way, in the right direction. Even though the directions were well explained in Rick Steves’ Spain, it happens to all travelers.

Two hours later I was in Figueres……..

 Most travelers will say, “get there early or later in the day to avoid the crowds.” Today found me in the midst of international travelers rushing to see it all before we had to find the way home again. This was only my first stop of the full Dalí experience. I still had a bus to catch to the town of Cadaqués and a hike to his home along Spanish coast in Port Lligat.

Dalí is buried in an unmarked crypt as you step into the theatre and his 1941 Cadillac is also there. It will actually rain inside the Cadillac for a coin. Above the Cadillac is the boat he and his partner Gala shared, the blue condoms hanging bellow are his the tears for her.