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How Christof Won My Heart and Igor Missed His Shot

The ultimate showdown!

Barcelona felt like the guy you keep running into at your favorite plant nursery and on that Saturday, WHEN YOU WERE LOOKING FIRE, you saw him at the back, of your local café reading Tom Reiss’ “The Black Count”, one of your favorites, while sipping on his coffee: black, no cream, no sugar. OMG! Just like you take your coffee!! You have so much in common already! Let’s call him Christof.

Madrid, on the other hand, was more like the guy who keeps introducing himself to you every time he meets you WITH HIS FULL NAME. Seriously, Andrew Allen Anderson. I JUST SAW YOU LAST WEEK! Just for that, let’s call him Igor.



Overlooking Barcelona, Spain
Overlooking Barcelona

The pulse

Christof had my heart at hello. He was warm, full of charm and the sun seemed to always catch his hazel eyes at the perfect angle to twinkle as he smiled. When he laughed, you joined in. No, you didn’t hear the joke, but you felt the waves of ecstasy that stemmed from deep, to tickle your eardrums.

There's a symphony of speech that emanates from the medley of foreign tongues finding a home away from home in this city. I love languages and accents in general. But have you ever paused and listened Barcelonans speak Catalan?  Their language hit notes that submerge Ss and Zs to create a unique melody. What a wonderful song – I mean, language!

Barcelonans greet you as if being reunited with family wanting to catch up cousin Jimmy’s latest antics. Their genuine smiles and ready embrace imbued with youthful energy. Much like it was with Sebastian, the young waiter we befriended while heading back to our hotel from his restaurant. He was excited to sit us and asked us our names, how hungry we were, and where we were from. When I’m abroad, I like to tell people I’m from Haiti rather than from the USA. I like to switch it up on them and see their reaction. They usually don’t know where Haiti is. Some of them have never heard of my little country. But it’s ok. With alacrity, he mapped out for us a few places he thought represented the best of Barcelona. He even volunteered to take us around if we had difficulty going to a particular site to visit. How sweet is that!

Museum of National Art of Catalunya,  Barcelona, Spain

Museum of National Art, Barcelona, Spain
On the way to the Museum

The streets were mostly clean. Always full of life, buzzing men and women, residents and tourists alike, cackling, snapping selfies and scenic pictures for their gallery wall. Those gorgeous pictures better not stay on your hard drives!!

Museum of National Art, Barcelona, Spain
My favorite shot. From the steps of the Museum.

This was shot taken on my now-retired Nikon Coolpix L830. Cute beginner friendly camera. I liked some of the fun filters like that "dreamy" filter from the picture above.

The jewels

Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain
Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain
Roof of Casa Batlló. I flipped the picture vertically for added drama.

We did tons of walking and visiting the prized processions of Barcelona. I mean, Christof.

I must admit, when I saw Gaudi’s Casa Batlló, I was impressed mostly with the intensity of the tile colors used on the exterior. It looked like a positive anomaly, like a building I would place in the Caribbean or Africa, not Europe. Now, looking back at the pictures, I value its distinctive architecture and the shapes inside and outside that break the monotone structures in its vicinity. I appreciate the skyscrapers of the NYC and Chicago skylines, but at times, I find they all blend with one another. If you want to shock your system or if you enjoy feeding your brain new intelligence, do visit Gaudi’s works with an open mind. Actually, an empty mind...

Window inside Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain
The skull inspired window. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and seeing this! Ha!

And in that same attitude, head over to La Sagrada Familia. Strikingly ugly at first and up close. The exterior reads more like an uncontrolled goth mind, in the midst of a rebellious phase, frantically drawing nightmares and visions of annihilation.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
La Sagrada Familia

Yea! Menacing face! But once inside, I loved it...

The pictures don’t do it justice. It didn’t capture the grandeur of the tall, ornate ceiling. That or my photography skills need some SERIOUS improvements. Sometimes I think we need more architecture like this. Then I flip flop and say no, this should remain one of a kind.

Ceiling of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Ceiling of La Sagrada Familia

The cuisine

Food is one connection I make to feel like I’m at the other home I never knew I had.

About the food, that man can cook! Christof offered us paellas, croquettes, chorizo, shrimp in garlic sauce that me and my friend almost fought over and with most of the meals, you’ll find on our table Sangria to wash it all down. Food is one connection I make to feel like I’m at the other home I never knew I had. So, Barcelona’s exquisite cuisine uplifted my heart!

Casa Batllo balcony, Barcelona, Spain
This is one tourist picture that I actually love :)

In short, Barcelona was a pleasant discovery and stirred up the flirtatious side of me with its charm, cuisine and vibrancy.

It’s a YES for me!



The pulse

Igor reminded me that I was NOT home.

It’s there I realized the power of a smile. I maintain that people were avoiding eye contact with me. My success rate of having a smile reciprocated was marginal. In general, when I travel with my friend, we don’t have a stringent itinerary. We go with the flow and get a feel for the neighborhood by walking around and observing how locals move. When a place feels like home, just being there feels energetic and refreshing. When a place does not feel like home, we create an itinerary of places to visit and STICK TO THE PLAN! I will also blame the location of the hotel. The hotel itself was fantastic. The décor, the staff, the bathroom water pressure were TOP NOTCH! But the location reminded me more of an unfulfilled European copy of Times Square. What do you know? I’m a tourist and I have an aversion towards tourists.

The jewels

Palacio de Cristal, Madrid, Spain
Glass Palace

Park of Palace of Cristal

Palace of cristal is worth a visit. We don't go inside but its exterior provided great inspiration for the mansion I’m designing in my head. I dream of living in a greenhouse, where my Thai Constellation monstera can spread large and wide, neighboring my anthurium forgetti. I imagine they’d take over an entire glass wall and provide an indoor canopy where I’d lounge on my chaise reading David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day”. The orchid blooms would lift up all corners or crown the apex. I’m already puzzled however as to where I’d mount my staghorn fern. Great! Already overthinking. Huh!

Parque de El Retiro was welcoming. We walked there on a lovely sunny, autumn day. Great place for tranquility and a picturesque backdrop for any occasion.

Park, Madrid, Spain

Black woman with yellow Zara coat at a park in Madrid, Spain
Find a bench and look pensive

Photographed by @sue_b_honey05 

Jeans and Sweater by Express

Coat by Zara

Shoes by Aldo

Purse by Patricia Nash

Earrings by @jewelrybyaris

With more fun on our walk, we stumbled upon “La Casa Encendida” to savor art by Picasso.  

Picasso, Untitled, Madrid, Spain

A collection of Picasso’s unnamed art resides there. Not sure if it’s their permanent home but the expo explained that various artists got together and named his paintings based on the emotions they evoke. Here are my favorites:

Picasso, Madrid, Spain
"In the Style of Picasso" titled by Trevor Paglen
Picasso, Madrid, Spain
"A recurring dream of re-entering the portal to try again" titled by Black Quantum Futurism

Picasso, Madrid, Spain
"The Monday after an existential crisis" titled by DIS

Picasso, Madrid, Spain

My last highlight is the Temple of Debod.

Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain
Heading to the Temple of Debod. Sue coached me on how to get this shot.

I did not alter the sky. How amazing is that shot!! We were actaully leaving the Temple and saw the tress at this angle. Sue said, let's wait for the tourists to clear the view. Man! We waited. I was gonna give up. Some tourists prefer to travel in large groups and every member must shine (face palm). If it's one thing I've learned from Sue it's PATIENCE! She could be a National Geographic photogorapher! Thank you Sue.

Now here’s an interesting fact, a Nubian temple was DONATED to Spain by Egypt in 1968. It’s free to visit but the line was extensive the day we visited. So, plan accordingly if you want to check it out.

Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain
Temple of Debod

Black woman visiting Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain

Woman in park of Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain
At the park of the Temple

Photographed by @sue_b_honey05 

Leggings by Express

Sweater by Zara

Shoes by Eileen Fisher

Purse by Patricia Nash

The cuisine

Madrid’s cuisine felt like it was having multiple crises.

Igor can’t cook. There, Band-Aid ripped! It’s not like Barcelona where any place we ate, fancy-pants or mom and pop, we were well fed and satisfied (though some dishes elevated our sodium levels to nearly turning us to prunes!) Madrid’s cuisine felt like it was having multiple crises. It’s not sure if it’s Barcelona cuisine or American or hybrid. We couldn’t find one comprehensive menu where the food was cohesive and could easily be paired with anything else we’d want to taste. We ate for sustenance in Madrid. Not pleasure.

Black woman with natural hair in Madrid, Spain

In short, Madrid is a good layover, but failed to capture my heart. It's a NO for me.



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