Trains, Funiculars and Aerial Trams (the lesser-known John Candy movie)

I’m behind on my blogging due to an Influx of Fun™, so here’s a quick catch-up on what’s been happening in Barcelona since we spoke last:

Saturday

During my pre-travel research period (otherwise known as “Incessant Googling”) I ran across the Barcelona Improv Group, an English-language improv troupe that does shortform shows and classes right here in the big city. I reached out to them to ask about upcoming performances, and they were nice enough to invite me to their show and to ask me if I’d like to teach a class. Since I can never pass up the opportunity to spread my crackpot improv theories worldwide, I jumped at the chance.

On Saturday I met a few of them for brunch at the Federal Café, where we enjoyed tasty food on the lovely rooftop terrace and the kind of funny conversations that are universal for improvisers worldwide. The cast of characters included two Americans, two Brits and a Venezuelan chap. I learned about some of the challenges of running an improv troupe in a country where your entire cast are expats, and was introduced to “squeaky cheese” by Kayleigh, which we all tasted and listened to for squeaking (verdict: delicious, but not very squeaky).

Saturday night was their show. They drew a nice crowd of around 75-100 and played shortform games that would be familiar to anyone in the ComedySportz family, only it definitely was not squeaky clean (or squeaky cheese). They had great energy and enthusiasm and the crowd loved them. The show ended around 12:20 a.m. and I had to head back home to rest up for the next morning’s race. When I got off the metro I’m pretty sure that I saw the driver sleeping in his chair. I’m hoping that the subway is controlled via computer.

Sunday

I got up bright and early and took the metro to Barceloneta (the beach area) for the Correbarri race. At 7:30 a.m., most of the people on the metro were runners heading to the race. Barcelona is a late, late, late-night town, but not so much an early morning one.

The Correbarri (Catalan for “Neighborhood Run”) is a great concept for a race. Everyone registers according to their neighborhood, and your official race t-shirt is color-coded to where you live. All the neighborhoods compete against one another, and since everyone’s wearing a color-coded t-shirt you can see where everyone is from and cheer on your own barrio. Portland should totally do this.

I met up with a few of the people from the MeetUp running group before the race, but only saw them once or twice along the route, which followed the waterfront for the most part before jogging (get it?) inland after passing the giant Christopher Columbus statue. It was a lovely race, and though my time wasn’t all that great (57 minutes-ish) I really didn’t care because I was enjoying the scenery. My one observation: the minimalist running shoe craze does not seem to have struck Spain; I think I had the minimalist-ist shoes there, and mine are minimally minimal.

After a shower and a siesta I went out to teach improv class for B.I.G. This particular class was an open drop-in mixing the experienced performers along with others who had a range of experience from “a little bit” to “none.” It was also a class of many nationalities (though very few Americans). It was a fun challenge and I ran them through some scenework exercises focusing on making positive choices and acceptance. My quote of the evening, after someone apologized for not following my direction: “This is not sorry time. Sorry time is later.” Luckily, we never got to sorry time.

After class we walked through the narrow, winding streets to a bar where there was an English-language storytelling event. This was the “best of” storytelling from their storytelling season, featuring the top six from the past year. I wanted to stay for the whole thing, but after a day that started too early with the run I ran out of steam and headed for home at intermission.

Monday

Yesterday was a sightseeing morning. There’s a hill overlooking Barcelona called Montjüic, and I headed up there for some exploration. To get to the top I took the metro to the funicular (electric train) to an aerial tram. I’m a sucker for aerial trams. If anyone ever wants to kidnap me, you only need to involve an aerial tram and I am yours.

At the top of Montjüic is a castle which was originally built in 1640, then rebuilt between 1751 and 1779. The view from the castle is spectacular, allowing you to see all of Barcelona, the port and beach area and out to sea.

It’s also a reminder that Barcelona is one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, with some neighborhoods reaching 50,000 inhabitants per square kilometer.

After taking the aerial tram back down, I walked though several gardens and the past several museums that were closed because it was Monday and I’m too stupid to do cultural things. The Olympic Stadium was open, however, so I got to see the site of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

After exploring the stadium I walked down past the (spectacular) art museum (which is visible from my apartment) and then past the magic fountain (which is only magic at nights from Thursday – Sundays) and then all the way back home. My feets were tired!

Tuesday

Today I continued my touring by catching the metro and a mile-or-so walk to Park Güell, continuing my never-ending quest to visit sightseeing locations with umlauts. Park Güell was built by world-famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, and looks like what would have happened if Dr. Seuss was an architect and could talk a city into letting him build stuff. It’s a big park, filled with fascinating architecture, a spectacular view of the city (from the side opposite Montjüic) and inexplicable parrots. Or maybe they’re explicable, but I didn’t expect to see parrots here. Gaudí is most famous for La Sagrada Familia, a massive ornate cathedral that rises up from the center of Barcelona like a beacon. I’ll be taking a full tour of LSF later this week.

And that catches up what’s been going on the past few days. Tonight is another 10K run and then tomorrow there’s more sightseeing. Also, I need to plan the rest of my trip. Details, details.

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