Sunday, August 19, 2007

You're breaking my heart!

I've been vaguely following the news on dog fights at Michael Vick's house this summer, as in I read the headlines and occasionally the story. The newest word on the street seems to be that he was indeed involved, and even helped kill poor performing dogs. Maybe he was killing the poor performing dogs because they were in really bad shape and it would be cruel to keep them alive? But that doesn't really help since he would have been one of the reasons they were in such a state to begin with.

Ever since Vick was at VT I've been a fan. I first saw him play when I was in high school! I found his brother Marcus to be a self-obsessed trouble maker, but Michael never seemed that way. Obviously I assumed that he had no idea about what was going on at the house, because it was definitely logical that he'd let family or friends stay there without him. It's not like he's hurting for cash. I've believed in him this whole time, and now he's letting me down??

If it turns out that he is indeed guilty, my heart will break. Well, it probably won't break completely but there will be some damage. He was such a talented player and seemed to be a nice guy at the same time! I was so proud that he had gone to my university. Are there any great football players out there who aren't letting their fame and talent go to their heads?? I'm beginning to doubt that they exist.

Of course maybe it will turn out Michael is innocent; but it sounds like they are working on a plea deal, so what are the odds? I'll keep believing until it's final, just in case. I'm sure I'm not the only Hokie that will be incredibly disappointed, although obviously we've survived much worse disappointments.

Life of the City

One of the greatest part of Barcelona is the city's pulse. Whether it's day or night, there are lots of people, interesting landmarks, and delicious food. One of my favorite parts of the city was Las Ramblas, despite the many tourist trap areas. It was just plain fun to walk along. One of the many reasons it was fun were the performers dressed as statues. I've seen this done in the states in many cities, but here they were all lined along the street, sometimes only a few feet apart. My favorite was the seaman, so I took a picture and gave him a few euros. He rung his little bell in thanks. It was awesome.

street performer as a statue

At the opposite end of Las Ramblas from Plaza Catalunya was the water. Walking over a bridge took you to a shopping mall, which was highly unexpected! Our first day there we walked across in the evening, and outside the mall was a band on stage. I have no idea who they were or what they were singing about, and we didn't stay long. But we did get to look back across as see the city lit by the moon.

Barcelona by night

Throughout the city were many statues, plazas (with statues and fountains), and old buildings. One of my favorite statues was a very high one in a plaza just before the water of Christopher Columbus. Luckily I have a 12X zoom and could get a clear shot of him.

top of Christopher Columbus statue

There were also murals, and mosaics, many of which were older than our entire country. Perhaps that's why the city seemed to have a life of it's own, because the buildings belonged there. Even in the newer developments there was a sense of belonging.

Other than people and building watching the main attraction is definitely eating. I had the best ham and cheese sandwich of my life multiple times in Barcelona, and I don't particularly like ham. Well, I don't particularly like American deli ham. I am now officially obsessed with bocadillos. Some of our lunches came from the grocery store, whereas others came from the market. El mercado puts our farmer's markets to shame, especially by the frequency of occurrence. heaven. Of course, that doesn't even touch on dinner. We had fabulous tapas, as well as late night snacks of tiny sandwiches and wine. The wine is the main focus because when we ate at Taller de Tapas we had a wine called Rey Santos. We split the entire bottle, and I may even have had more than half. If you know me, you know this never happens. But the wine was THAT GOOD. Of course we ate so much food at the same time that it hardly mattered. I was most excited by the fact that I understood most of the menu without looking at the translation, I was able to order in Spanish, and I even finally got to order that wonderous "cafe con leche" we had "ordered" all through high school Spanish class.

Oh, Barcelona, how we miss you. But we'll be back, don't you worry!

Artists and Architects

Much of what we saw in Barcelona was closely tied to either a famous artist or a famous architect. We visited a museum on Picasso, for instance, that had much of his early work. Almost every street you walked down had interesting architecture, but the Modernisme definitely provided the most interesting pieces.

As Wikipedia describes it, "The modernisme movement was centred on the city of Barcelona, and its best-known exponent was the architect Antoni Gaudí." For once, Wikipedia hits the nail right on the head with the first swing. Gaudi was both an interesting character as well as an interesting architect. It would appear that he loathed straight lines. We were lucky enough to have the time to visit two of his creations. One of which was of course Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, or La Sagrada Familia as it's usually referred to.

La Sagrada Familia is a large Catholic basilica, as one with any inkling of Spanish might suspect. It was begun in 1882 and is still under construction. One side of the facade was designed and created by Gaudi (2nd picture), whereas the other side was designed by his successors (1st picture). During the Spanish Civil War both parts of the building and parts of Gaudi's plans were destroyed, but it is still beautiful. Although there are currently 8 towers, Gaudi designed it with 18.

As you can see in the photo, Gaudi's side is much more intricate. I really love this type of design, and am really impressed with how much detail is there despite the size. This is the type of man-made artifact that I could look at for a long time and not be bored. Especially with a high powered camera lens.

The inside is also quite intricate. A lot of construction is still occurring inside, but some of the stained glass windows are already completed. Just imagine what the inside would look like if every window had the colored glass seen in the photo (these windows repeat throughout the large room). Even the ceiling has a sparkling gold design, although in the picture above it has not yet been put on the star-like patterns.

Further North is Parc Guell, another Modernisme design. There are gardens and buildings, including an open area where many kids were playing soccer (ok, "futbol"). We visited right after seeing La Sagrada Familia, and noticed Gaudi's mark immediately.

Of course, he did more than design cathedrals and build parks before being hit by a streetcar in 1926. Unfortunately, we only had but so much time to explore his work. I do recommend seeing both of these sites if you find yourself in Barcelona, even if you don't think you appreciate architecture. Maybe by the time you make it there another tower or two will be up at La Sagrada Familia.

And please don't forget: all images are copyright to the photographer, and if you want to use it you should ask first and cite.

Barcelona - The city of my dreams

I just discovered that I never posted ANYTHING about my fabulous Spain trip in March. Granted we were only there a week, but I still managed to take over 2GB worth of pictures. :)

The main reason I am shocked by this discovery is that Barcelona is one of my new favorite places in the entire world. I loved the vibe of the city, and I especially loved people watching. Everyone seemed to have their own sense of style, and were very determined to show that off to the world. There was hustle and bustle, but yet it was still relaxed. Seeing all of these modern people surrounded by beautiful architecture was heaven.

Granted, Barcelona represents the first European city that I have spent more than an airplane switch in, so as far as Europeans are concerned I don't have much to compare to. I can however say that I enjoyed Barcelona much more than I enjoyed Madrid, and would happily move there. It probably helped that between Tim and I we remembered enough Spanish from high school to get by...although I think I was better at understanding other people, whereas Tim was better at actually speaking. That just means I'll have to bring him along on the next trip! I have a feeling that will work out just fine.

One of the most interesting parts of visiting Spain was to finally see all of the places that came up in Spanish class: Plaza Catalunya, Palacio Real, Museo National del Prado, Sagrada Familia. I really wish the trip had been closer to a month instead of an unsatisfying 7 days. I also wish I'd been practicing my Spanish the past 6 years so that I was actually still close enough to fluent to have a conversation.

Since I want to share photos, there will be many more Spain posts coming soon!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hairspray - A Fun Movie

I saw Hairspray a little over a week ago with my officemate, and we were cracking up almost the entire movie. Although there are a few parts that are definite social commentary from the era, overall the movie is very funny. There are great one liners such as "Oh, so you've met my mom," but you'll have to watch the movie to find out why that's so funny.

I never saw it on Broadway (although I wanted to!), so I can't make a comparison. But overall it was highly entertaining and I walked away feeling energized and wanting to dance good 'ol dance like the lawn mower, the shopping cart, and the sprinkler. Which of course reminds me of all the fun half-time shows we did in college with those dance moves in the middle. That's how you get Lane Stadium energized!

But back on should see the movie. Even if you are one of those silly people that don't like musicals, you will be entertained. Many of the singing parts are funny just because of the context when they burst into song. I don't know that I'd watch it again and again, but if you want a fun-loving movie this is the one for you.