Figure/Ground

España

REGIONS
In chronological order visited

Madrid [ 25 photos ]
Castilla-León [ 24 photos ]
Asturia [ 9 photos ]
Galicia [ 15 photos ]
Aragón [ 12 photos ]
Valencia [ 21 photos ]
Barcelona [ 40 photos ]

ARCHITECTURE

Casa Milà "La Pedrera"
   - Antoni Gaudí [ 25 photos ]
La Sagrada Familia
   - Antoni Gaudí [ 35 photos ]
Parc Güell
   - Antoni Gaudí [ 9 photos ]
Guggenheim Bilbao
   - Frank Gehry [ 17 photos ]
Barcelona Pavilion
   - Mies van der Rohe [ 15 photos ]
MACBA
   - Richard Meier [ 22 photos ]
Ciutat de les Arts i de les Ciències
   - Santiago Calatrava [ 15 photos ]

We pulled into Pamplona just after midnight on Sunday; it was the last day of the San Fermin festival and we wanted to scope out the situation and hopefully catch a glimpse of the carnage the following morning during the bull-run. The whole town was packed with people: every street, every plaza, every bar. Picture Times Square on New Year's Eve, except everyone is either holding a beer, urinating, or both. I don't think I've ever seen that much public urination in my life. Men were peeing everywhere. If there's a vertical surface somewhere, there's a man (sometimes three or four) standing in front of it relieving himself. It was a cold, dry night, but the streets were glistening with what could only be urine (the smell confirmed it). Wearing open-toed sandals that night was a very unfortunate decision on my part.

We ended up not staying the night (not because of the urine, mind you, mostly because there was nowhere to stay and the idea of sleeping in the car, as lots of other people were doing, just didn't appeal to us). The crazy thing was, when we finally arrived at Zaragoza a couple of hours later, there were people out and about partying there at 4 in the morning as well. I could understand Pamplona with the festival, I could even understand Madrid partying til the break of dawn, but Zaragoza??! What the hell is Zaragoza? Damn Spaniards sure know how to have a good time.

On a completely unrelated note... About five hours before we arrived in Pamplona, we were in Bilbao, visiting (do I even need to spell this out?) the much ballyhooed Guggenheim Museum. This building has been so over hyped since its opening that I thought there was almost no way that it could live up to all the accolades, but man, it still took my breath away. I've seen so many photographs and read so many descriptions of it that I can tell you none of them does it justice. Ya, I know I also have some photos of it here, and, no, they certainly don't come close to the experience of taking it all in person.

Whenever I used to read an article about Bilbao Guggenheim and the author starts waxing poetic about how the building fits the old Spanish city perfectly -- how the building is sensitive to its surroundings -- I would dismiss it as hyperbole. How could a curvaceous, metalic, windowless, huge mound of a building be sensitive to a centuries-old town? The Experience Music Project sure doesn't fit its location all that well. It sticks out completely, screaming "Look at me! I don't belong here!" Okay, that might be the point of that particular building -- it's about rock-n-roll after all. But you see where I was coming from -- that was my only point of reference for curvaceous, metallic, huge mounds of buildings. But you know what? Standing there in Bilbao, after having been to about a dozen Spanish towns and cities of all sizes, I thought the building... belonged. Every Spanish town worth its salt would have a big cathedral at its center, so, in a sense, the Guggenheim just takes over that role in Bilbao. Even its color is similar to the brown of the cathedrals.

Anyway, I've yakked long enough. If you know me at all, this will tell you how much I enjoyed touring Spain: This was the first trip where I actually wanted to stay longer instead of coming home. I was without my hugging pillow, DirecTV, high-speed internet, Yankees baseball, and I didn't care! I wanted to stay and see the rest of Spain that we had missed.

All images and text copyright © Liao Yusheng. He can be reached at liao@yusheng.ca.