Tag Archives: Barcelona

The Travel Writer Scavenger Hunt

News Editor

In the Contra Costa Times, Ann Tatko-Peterson, who writes for several publications in the San Francisco Bay area, set forth the rules for the Great Road Trip Scavenger Hunt, which incidentally it’s not too late to join. The concept is while you’re on a vacation trip, find each of 20 items on a list, and take a picture of it with at least one member of your scavenger hunt team included in the photo. The beauty part is that this search isn’t even limited to the continental United States. Here’s how the foreign travel exception works:

From past experience, we’ve learned that some items on our list are very difficult to find when traveling overseas. For all those venturing outside of the United States, you can substitute up to three items on the main list with items from the special list for overseas travelers.

So, if your trip is inside the USA, some of the mandatory items are a town square clock, a double-decker bus, a real old-time outhouse, an outdoor pay phone, an artwork made entirely of edible food, and a member of your team assisting a street performer, which we’ll talk about a little later in this post. If your travels take you outside the country, the possible substitutions include a castle tower and a building that started out as something else and was converted into a hotel.

While reading The Third Tower Up From the Road, we took notes and, working backwards, invented the imaginary Travel Writer Scavenger Hunt, a competition which Kevin Dolgin would have won handily if these items were on its list, because he’s seen them all and told us about them in his book:

a 27-hole golf course
a village with a population of one
the door to Hell
sacred deer
the world’s best tobacco
a fortune-telling rabbit
fried kites
a nargile
a smugglers’ cave
Buddha’s nostril
a frisbee decorated with a cannabis leaf
a 400-year-old spice market
an equine poop chute
a clove of garlic grown in the year 500 BC
salty licorice, chestnut beer, octopus balls, smoked tea, boiled duck embryos

and best of all…a human statue

statueFinlandActually, the world is well-supplied, some would say over-populated, with living statues. Kevin describes the area near the Pompidou Center in Paris as a hotbed of human statue non-activity, and discusses the ethics of wearing a mask. But it’s the Las Ramblas sector of Barcelona, which seems to be Human Statue World Headquarters, that really brings out his descriptive ardor. There he saw people dressed up like Julius Caesar, Satan, Mickey Mouse, and Che Guevara, and several attired as Egyptian mummies, all holding very still. His enthusiasm for a certain golden angel is extreme. His favorite, however, is

[…]a skinny guy with a little Leninesque beard and glasses, all painted gun-metal gray and sitting on the rail of a subway station. He’s very metallic. He also doesn’t move, whereas the less artistic human statues tend to ham it up for picture-snapping tourists.

Which is where the notion of interacting with one of these outdoor artists comes into play, as we promised a few paragraphs ago. To fulfill the requirements of the Great Road Trip Scavenger Hunt, it might not be necessary to let a mime make a fool of you, or to hold some street performer’s chain saw or flaming torch. It might be enough simply to entice a living statue to pretend to whisper in your ear.

Vienna statues photo courtesy of Allspice1 , used under this Creative Commons license; Finland statue photo courtesy of hans_s , used under this Creative Commons license

The Many Moods of Barcelona


News Editor

Not long ago, we noted the top ten party destinations in Europe this summer, so named by Student Universe , and one of them is Barcelona, Spain. Taking a closer look, we find that it’s not all fun and games. It’s not the Barcelona of novelist Ruiz Zafón, anyway. In The Irish Times, prolific writer Arminta Wallace gives us “Creating a fiction that’s real,” which incorporates material from an interview with Zafón and also discusses his work, especially the novel The Shadow of the Wind. The city becomes a character, and Zafón says he treats it like any character, with costumes and make-up. According to Wallace:

His is not the sunny Barcelona of the tourist posters, but a city of dark alleys and medieval buildings, rain-sodden, fog-shrouded, sometimes carpeted by a sprinkling of snow.

Zafón must be doing something right, because his books sell in the millions. He has a great website, which includes music composed by the author, as kind of a soundtrack to the book, and some lovely video clips full of atmosphere.

There’s a Barcelona anecdote in The Third Tower Up From the Road, an incident that illustrates the Dolgin Theory of Cross-Cultural Communication, which has to do with useful foreign phrases. There’s also a whole essay called “The Street Performers of Barcelona, Spain.” Kevin went to a part of town known as the Barri Gotic, where the buskers ply their trade. He heard and saw a street musician playing a kalimba, an instrument very few people have even heard of, let alone played. He says Barcelona is “a magnet for singers and lovers and dreamers and poets and sculptors.”

If salsa dancing is what you go to Barcelona for, Cindy McCain knows how to find the right clubs once you get there. But it’s too late to catch Oprah Winfrey, whose 55th birthday cruise visited the city last month. Sorry!

photo courtesy of gramz , used under this Creative Commons license