Oct 23 2012

Ramble on Las Ramblas

Published by at 6:22 pm under PSO 2012 European Tour

On Tuesday evening, cellist Adam Liu demonstrated his practice cello for me and Bronwyn Branerdt, who is a regular cellist with the New York Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. This Prakticello has a wood structure which comes apart to fit in a suitcase, unlike a regular cello that’s typically strapped into the airplane seat next to you at full fare. It is also quieter than a full-voice cello so it doesn’t annoy your hotel neighbors while you practice.

Adam, Bronwyn, and I set out to find Caelum (“Heaven” in Latin), one of the oldest pastry shops in Barcelona, which sells “Tentaciones de monasterios,” a wide range of items baked or made by monks at monasteries. We looked into the Catedral, which suffers a bit on the tourist trail next to Antoni Gaudi’s showy Sagrada Familia which will be under construction till at least 2026. The Catedral is older and wonderful.

Then, a taxi to Escriba, founded in 1906 in the old Casa Figueras on the broad boulevard, Las Ramblas. More incredible pastry. Las Ramblas is pickpocket ground zero, but we got away clean on this visit. It was hopping with kitschy T-shirt vendors and lovely flower vendors on the big night of Barcelona’s soccer championship with Ireland. We had tapas, which Adam Liu described as the Spanish equivalent of dim sum, and walked back to the hotel.

Amid the centuries-old pastry shops and tapas bars are Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks. We dropped into the Starbucks but found the WiFi was down for the day. I admired a newsstand with lots of out-of-town newspapers. The BBC scandal of host John Savile, described as a “pervert” by The Sun, is on all the front pages. Javier Bardem and Bob Dylan are on the cover of the Spanish edition of Rolling Stone.

With luck the Pittsburgh Symphony will generate some positive ink when they play.