Forecast: Scattered Showers of Men

P1000509There were notices posted all over the hotel about traffic delays today, because today was Barcelona Pride. This is one of the biggest gay pride parades anywhere, and the route went right past our hotel. Not so great for those folks trying to fly out today, but it worked out great for us because we wanted to see and participate in everything going on.

The thought we’d go over to the city beach for a while in the morning, then hit the start of the Pride parade. It was a bit overcast in the morning, but there was a gondola that went from the top of Montjuic directly to the beach, and our metro stop had the funicular that went directly to the top of Montjuic, so at least that part would be easy. Once up the funicular, we got in line at the gondolas. I asked the ticket guy which on went to the beach, and he pointed down the road, there was a separate gondola station for that, about a 10 minute walk.

Of course these were Metric Minutes, and a fairly major hike later (with great views however) we arrived at the correct gondola station, to find it was shut down temporarily due to wind. It might start up again in an hour or two. Well, at least we could see the beach from up here. We debated for a minute, and decided to just walk down the hill and see where that took us. There was a nice garden hillclimb that went down from the gondola station, so we started down. The views were still great, so we took some pictures and enjoyed the walk down. Close to the bottom, we could hear the sound of parrots again. I would never have been able to pick out parrots as a sound before Barcelona, now it was becoming common to hear. We looked around for the palm trees to see if we could identify where they were nesting, but only saw trees up the hill a bit. We followed the sound and found the parrots feeding off of flowers in trees at the bottom of the hill.

Parrots were flying, crawling, and hanging upside down. All of them were eating little white flowers off of whatever trees these were. They completely ignored us, and we were able to walk right up to the group (note: not below – never watch birds from below. Trust me on this) [insert bird poop joke]. The parrots were amazing to watch, they were snacking away, flipping over and around to get the best angle on the flowers. We got some great pictures and just enjoyed the show. Eventually, we decided to keep moving.

We went along the waterfront, and found we were pretty close to the cruise terminal landing. It stated getting crowded and we could see that there were a lot of tour groups coming off the docked ship. A street market was nearby, and a quick look showed that everything was at least double what it was up La Rambla. This is always the secret of cruise ships – everything goes up in price when they are in town. It’s also a bit like tourism through the drive through. You get bite-sized pieces of places and a shitload of travel days. They always fuck you in the drive through.

We kept waking towards the main city beach, and stumbled across the finish point for the Pride Parade. Festivities had already started, and there was a color-blast (where they cover everyone in rainbow colored powder, which mixes together and turns to poop brown in about 5 minutes). A band was playing and a big crowd was already dancing. This was already pretty crowded, I could only imagine what it would be like after the parade. We checked out some stands, bought a pin and rainbow makeup, and kept heading to the beach.

There was still a fair amount of wind, the gondolas above hadn’t started back up. I didn’t feel bad about that, if they were working we would have missed both the parrots and the Pride stage. Sometimes things just work out.

The city beach is built on the shore of a kind-of peninsula. It forms the biggest breakwater for the harbor, but the sand was apparently carted in for the Olympics. Now it’s a big tourist center. But the neighborhood along the area is anything but. You can look around and see that just off the beach is all little buildings and businesses that are for the locals, and they don’t look terrible well off. There was plenty of “tourist go home” graffiti. it actually looked like it could be a very nice neighborhood, but fixing it up would likely price out all the locals. Welcome to the trap of tourism – destroying the very thing that you come out to see. Move along, move along.

Yellow flags flew over the beach. Warning – bad conditions. There was a very nice boardwalk along the whole beach. Small cafes sat in the sand off the boardwalk, with more set in the buildings on the shore side. The first incursion into the old neighborhoods. Lots of people were in the cafes and on the beach, but there wasn’t much swimming. Waves were breaking hard in the wind. There were several concrete and rebar breakwaters off the shore, they had the shape of old piers from a time when this was a working shoreline and not a leisure center. Yulia had wanted to swim, but this just didn’t look like the time.

We found a nice cafe to grab a drink and a bite. We didn’t start that hungry, but a few tapas started us going. They had a Catalonian Sparkling Wine Sangria, and lots of small fish tapas. (really good anchovies) The main dishes were less good, which was a bummer. The crowd was even worse. This was, without a doubt, a party beach. Multiple bachelor/bachelorette parties were going on. The women were ok, but apparently the male tradition in Barcelona is to wear male g-strings and kick soccer balls into each other’s crotches. (pro tip: NO) It was fun to watch for a while, but we grew tired of watching straight men play with each other’s balls, and decided to head over to Pride where they actually knew what they were doing.

We took the metro up to Playa Espanya, and looked around. We were early to everything, and got to see everyone set up. A few of the floats were doing impromptu dance groups. Yulia joined in, and the music was great. Yes, they played the Weather Girls. Yes, they played the Village People. If there is one thing to unite the globe it’s Gay Anthem Music.

Everyone was happy. Music was everywhere. There was a not insignificant amount of partial nudity. And all this was before the parade actually started. About this time, the weather was clearing up, and it was getting hot. We were waiting for the parade to get going, and were thinking about marching along. But with the heat at this point, we made the call to head back and watch from the hotel. This ended up being a great call, as the metro started running behind, and the route was becoming a real hothouse. We caught one of the last trains back before system delays, and we went to the room to clean up. We were overheated and sweaty.

Some quick showers, a short rest, and we headed back down to the street. We could hear the parade getting closer. We had nice seats on the curb and heard the booming music coming closer. Our whole street was closed, and filled with people. Police led the floats through (“float” meaning truck trailers with dancing people, it was festive, but no fancy stuff). Once it started it never seemed to end. There was group after group, the crowd was so close they blended in. It was music, dancing, and louder music. Our heads were pounding from the heat and music, and we sat about halfway through at a sidewalk cafe to watch the rest. It was an amazing experience to watch, more amazing because we had seen bits of it all day long.

Barcelona had good reason to be proud.