Wednesday, November 04, 2009

missing barcelona / i can almost smell cambodia

Reading The New York Times over cinnamon bread and tea, I saw this article on the Eixample district in Barcelona, which I now proclaim our home whenever we are in Catalunya.

This lovely little space I speak of is along Calle Roger de Lluria (in the same hotel-apartment that was home to Hitler), within walking distance of the city's major spots but still far enough from the constant party that is La Rambla.

Eixample is an almost magical place - just as clean as Gran Via where we stayed in Madrid, but less hurried and
more sincere. I remember walking past quaint shoe shops, antique depots, and beautiful drugstores (really). The architecture was quiet but dignified - just as Idelfons Cerdà i Sunyer planned for this extension of the city.

(View from our balcony)

Due to time constraints, we didn't get to explore our neighborhood as much as we should have. I regret not having discovered the hidden gardens mentioned in the article:

"Hidden from view, however, behind the Eixample’s grand facades, is a little-advertised patchwork of public gardens and courtyards that offers refuge from the urban rush and an intimate view of everyday Barcelona life.

The patios are like a window onto Barcelona,” said Francesc Muñoz Ramírez, a professor of urban geography at the Barcelona Autonomous University, during a recent afternoon stroll through the Eixample. “You can be an urban voyeur — watch the business of the city from the inside.”

* * * *

Eixample was not always the beautiful slice of city that it is now.

"Back then, Barcelona was a teeming, disease-ridden warren of streets, clustered around the port and hemmed in by medieval walls beyond which lay the wide expanse that became the Eixample.
Life for the working class was grim and short; the average person died before his or her 36th birthday.

When he submitted his plan in 1859, the city Cerdà had in mind was to be functional rather than flamboyant, a breed of socialist utopia where rich and poor would live side-by-side in city blocks of identical size wrapped around parks and kitchen gardens."

Why can't we do the same here in the Philippines?

There's a serious lack of urban planning where we are. It makes no sense.

Ever notice how the supposedly "real estate" stories in magazines and newspapers are nothing but sales pitches of new condominiums?

We need a more intelligent look at how we are planning the cities. There's gentrification all around, and developers are burning down forests to build ugly subdivisions, but no one seems to notice.

* * * *

I hope to have the luxury of lingering the next time we are in Eixample. Meanwhile it's work work work time. With no real trust fund except the one I'm trying to build myself, it would be hard to go traipsing around Catalunya without going broke.


Meanwhile, my college friends and I are leaving for Siem Reap, Cambodia (with a short stop in Kuala Lumpur) in exactly 28 days.

Those who know me know I pack early. My trusty travel bag is at the foot of my bed once again, ready to catch whatever I throw into it. Every time my freshly laundered clothes arrive, I look for pieces of clothing that seem appropriate for the Cambodian climate, and I throw them in there. So far I have managed to pack the following:

- 8 nondescript around-town shirts made of light, 100% cotton (all with sleeves, for temples)
- 2 light long pants (for temples)
- 1 pair of short pants
- 3 thin hand towels (in case the guesthouse doesn't provide towels)
- 2 big sleeping shirts
- 1 pajama
- sunblock
- the usual medicines for emergencies
- passport
- tickets (mine and Julie's)
- travel insurance

Obviously, Cambodia is not the place for a classic Chanel or
au courant Prada. Everything I packed is light and cheap.

I hope I don't forget my:

- sunglasses (an old Gucci with missing nosepads)
- toothbrush
- laptop and phone
- chargers

Packing is part of the whole travel experience. It's exciting.

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Blogger {illyria} said...

i hate packing. if i wasn't so particular about my comforts, i wouldn't bring anything and buy everything at my destination. turns out, this or that place doesn't really sell small bottles of baby oil. and their moisturizers will always make me break out. :)

have fun in cambodia! and don't forget basic meds. though i think barry will take care of that.

7:54 AM  
Blogger The Nomadic Pinoy said...

Packing for me is usually a cramming session but I do think about what to bring that would still allow me to travel lightly.

Try to visit Tonle Sap lake when you feel temple-fatigued...Happy travels!

11:35 AM  
Blogger mussolini said...

illy> i have my basic meds (to me, basic means immodium and tempra forte). i'm sure barry will bring a whole drugstore, so i don't worry.

10:48 AM  
Blogger mussolini said...

nomadic> i read your siem reap blog entry and would definitely keep your pointers in mind :)

10:49 AM  

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