the park and the cupcakes

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So! Like I said yesterday, I visited Park Güell for the first time last year. It was bright, sunny, and I spent several hours wandering through the place Gaudí had originally designed to be a residential area full of sixty houses and their residents, but due to financial trouble became a public park instead.

Well.

It used to be a public park. Now, because of Spain’s financial trouble, authorities have chosen to charge tourists eight euros to visit certain areas of the park. Not everywhere, mind. You can still walk around, but places like the staircase featuring the famous mosaic salamander, the tiled balcony, etc. are all barred off from the public by brand new Park Güell staff and guards.

At first, I felt furious. Park Güell has been a public park for years and people have never been charged an access fee to it. Charging people for the pleasure of standing on a balcony or climbing a staircase is absurd.

Then, the more I thought about it, I just felt sad. Spain has such beauty – from the architecture to the art and the culture and the food. To see it struggling so much that tourism is its most flourishing industry is a true shame.

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On the bright side, it’s heartwarming that the work of Gaudí has created such a boon in tourism decades after his death. While we visited his former residence in Park Güell, I thought how amazing it is that a man who created such brilliant light and art slept in a place so austere and simple. He had such love for Barcelona, I think he’d be happy to know his work is supporting her still.

– March 29th –

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Yesterday, O took J and I to a local pub-ish place for bravas and small-sandwich-with-a-sausage-in-it-that-I’ve-forgotten-the-name-of. The food was incredible, and so cheap. Bravas are amazing.

We decided to head back to O’s house for what J and I were thinking of as siesta time, but we didn’t actually do the naptime portion of siesta. Instead, we watched South Park. I like to think of it as an American siesta.

J liked the sound of staying in and resting, so O and I ventured into Barcelona by bus. When we transferred to the subway, a duo of shrieking harpies boarded the same train car and proceeded to blast their obnoxiousness to the world at full volume. O and I handled the situation like mature adults and whined about the woes of public transportation in Japanese.

We got out at Arc de Triomf and O showed me to a magical place. A paradisical place. A magical paradisical place of cupcakes.

Welcome to Lolita Bakery.

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O and I have found a common bond in that we are both very passionate about sweets. Those cupcakes were nigh on a religious experience for the two of us.

While we ate, O reminisced: “The first time I tried a blondie, my happiness…acquired a whole new dimension.”

We mauled the cupcakes in the space of a blink, and then I moved on to the crumble.

The first bite was inexcusably delicious. My eyes opened as wide as advisable. “This is so good I’m going to morph into a being of nonbeing,” I said to her.

Strangely, this did not happen.

I will be revisiting this place soon in hope of further supernatural occurrences (and also to show J the magic of the cupcakes).

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We left the bakery as the clouds darkened overhead. O was disappointed that the weather wasn’t sunnier, since the walk along the promenade behind the Arc de Triomf is much more beautiful in sunlight, but I liked the look of the dark clouds hanging low over the city. It gave a cinematic kind of feel to the place.

We walked by a circle of teenage girls sitting on the asphalt path, apparently with a teacher or a cult leader, toward a park O guaranteed was breathtaking. As we got closer, though, O frowned and mused, “It can’t be closed. It’s never closed.” But sure enough, the wrought-iron gates were drawn shut, and as we crossed the street to investigate, a man in an earth-toned beanie told us in accented English, “It’s closed because of the police.”

O told me she’d never seen the park closed, not once in her entire life.

Spanish parks seem to be conspiring against me. I’m on to you, collections of grass and fountains.

We walked aimlessly for a while longer, but as the weather got chillier and chillier, O and I decided to find a café and hang out there. We saw police everywhere, men and women in hard-shielded kneeguards, police cars, even a freaking helicopter with a searchlight. I was fascinated, but O was nonchalant. “Someone important’s visiting,” she said. “The prince will be here on Monday, so maybe he’s here early for some political business.”

We explored a Chinese grocery store (along with the adjacent Japanese store), and retired to a café close by. Almost in the same moment we sat down, I noticed a crowd of people walking down the street outside. A staff girl in the café pressed a button in the maintenance closet, and the metal shielding started sliding down over the window.

Alarmed, I looked at O, but she shrugged and said, “Sometimes it gets violent. They paint on the windows, things like that.”

I’d heard of Spain’s economic problems, and I’d learned even more from my trip with J to Park Güell, but I didn’t know very much. O explained some of the direst problems going on in her country, and I listened. She gave me an insight into Spain that I hadn’t had before.

Talking with her made me appreciate just how complex our world is. Since I was very young, I’ve wanted to learn about the world. Ancient cultures were my favorite thing to read about. Places like Egypt, Greece, and Rome captivated me. In grammar school, we learned basics about the rest of the world. In high school, the curriculum widened a little more, and in college, a lot more. The problem is, the world is huge, and schools don’t have the time or – sometimes – the perspective to teach students about every facet of every country there is.

As an American, I always thought of Spain as a familiar entity. But the more time I spend here, the more I realize I know much less about Spain than I thought. For example, it’s more like Japan than I ever would have expected.

And now we’re making gnocchi, so I flee!

Good morrow, citizens of the complex~!

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