Friday, December 9, 2011

Dreaming in Terrassa

Terrassa is a mid-sized town with 200,000 people about half an hour inland from Barcelona.  It is where my friend Gracia has the house she inherited from her parents and where I usually go to visit her when she is in town.

Architecturally, Terrassa is famous for its complex of three 12th century Romanesque churches, Sant Pere, Santa Maria, and Sant Miquel, all three declared an Artistic-Historic Monument in 1931.  These are beautiful ancient buildings, but we didn’t enter the complex to see them.  My photo is from a previous visit.

Terrassa is also birthplace and home of Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona’s outstanding (best in the world) midfielder and one of my favorite players.  We didn’t see him either, although Gracia knows his aunt.  We did, however, enter the 14th century Castell i Cartoixa de Vallparadis (Castle and Carthusian Monastery) and had a good long walk up and down the Park of Vallparadis, a beautiful park that follows what my architecture book calls the Vallparadis water course.  I thought it was a river that had been channeled underground.  I guess it isn’t really a river but a dry riverbed where water flows when there’s a heavy rain.

This linear park offers a lovely environment for a walk, passing under the castle and the three beautiful churches, lined with lawn and dotted with trees, some of which were in fall color.  The olive, carob, and pine trees that decorate my landscape don’t do fall color.  The Vallparadis park also has two hippopotamuses -- statues that lend a bit of whimsy to the environment, two or three cafes, and an amazing swimming pool consisting of several very large scattered sections that give the impression of a lagoon with clear, fresh water.  No photos of that, my batteries went dead during the walk.

Terrassa grew and became relatively wealthy in the 19th century when it became a great textile center.  Modern wealth translated into public, industrial, and private buildings built in the modernist (art nouveau) style, although many Catalan modernist buildings (including notably those of Antoni Gaudi) are far more fantastic than anyone else’s interpretation of the style.  This building, by the way, is NOT by Gaudi.

Gracia’s husband Miquel is an architect, but the three of us were more focused on lunch and talking about what we all wanted to do with our lives than with the fantastic architecture of Terrassa.  Gracia and Miquel are here for an extended visit, trying to figure out if they would want to move back to Catalunya, stay in California, or somehow arrange to have the best of both worlds.  Whereas they have more resources than I do, they are unsure of what they want.

I know exactly what I want.  I want to sell my house and move to a small apartment, although where that apartment will be is still somewhat up in the air.  It’s not that I don’t know where I want it to be.  I want to move to France.  But there are some problems with that dream and as time goes on, I am less sure of that plan working out.  If not France, then I will remain in Catalunya but move further north, where at least the landscape will be more to my liking.  Further north is also closer to France so that maybe I will be able to zip across the border from time to time to shop the French markets and buy cheese, even if I can’t live there.

Gracia, Miquel and I had a long lunch, talked about all these plans, possibilities, and dreams, and decided nothing.  Except for that annoying tow truck, it was a very good day.  

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