On Saturday I went to Barcelona for the first time. (Well, the first time was when I flew in, but I didn't see anything other than the train station, so I don't think that counts.)
The train ride is long: it's about two hours away. Add to that the twenty minute walk and I got there around midday. I decided to take one of the tourist buses as Barcelona is a sprawlingly large city and many reviews have noted that these tourist buses are actually decent methods of traversing it. There are two different routes the buses take - I plan to go back another day to take the other route, but I started with the route that went by the Olympic arena because right nearby is the Barcelona Botanic Garden. I stopped there first; the garden was worth the cost (1.9 euro) but was all open air/open climate so it wasn't as interesting as gardens that are able to create greenhouses with appropriate microclimates. On the rest of that route, I saw the Arc de Triomf, the Passeig de Colom, the Poble Espanyol, Gaudi's La Pedrera/Casa Milà, and Gaudi's Casa Batlló. I also stopped to get lunch in Plaza España and then walked up La Rambla back to the Passeig de Gracia where I caught the last train back home.
I painted the next day and most of the following day, with a break to go to the beach. We went to a very pretty little beach about a fifteen minute drive away from Camallera near L'Escala. I swam a little, but I don't like saltwater in my eyes and mouth so I mostly floated around, sat on the beach, investigated crabs in rocks with a small child with a stick (he didn't hurt them, just excavated them from their hidey-holes) and just enjoyed the Mediterranean atmosphere.
Then on Tuesday, the day of the summer solstice, I went back to Girona, as I wanted to make sure I felt like I had fully explored the town and I hadn't seen the cathedral, Arabic baths, or old monastery yet. It rained a fair amount, though, so a good bit of time was spent sheltering in odd shops. I had a funny conversation with one of the shopkeepers. About half the people I meet in Spain compliment me effusively on my Spanish, and the other half clearly think I'm awful at it. My skill entirely depends on the situational context - what I need to talk about, what else is going on, whether I'm stressed for time, etc. - but I'm aware that even at my best I am merely functional in the language. I can only discuss superficial ideas and speak simply, but I do get by and I have a decent accent. Anyway, I was talking with this shopkeeper about the weather, and the holiday, and my residency, and so on, and she complimented my Spanish. I said it was a little ugly but functional, which is typically how I reply. Her response to me, however, I found really funny: "What's really important is that you understand me, and this you clearly do quite well."
The holiday we were discussing was the Saint John festival in honor of the solstice and we had a party to celebrate it that evening in my studio space. A number of people came over, several of whom I had met previously (a Scottish immigrant artist named Amelia; Clara's sister; Jordi, the musician using the smaller studio attached to my house; Clara's boyfriend; and then a fair number of new people. Amelia and a couple other guests played some lovely, old music that I half recognized on the violin and guitar and a potluck supper and drinks were available all night long. Amelia had brought a young artist friend of hers along who's in his early twenties and just starting to figure out his skill set and artistic path. Just as the fireworks came out and were starting to be set off, he asked me if I'd sit for a portrait. I kind of wanted to watch the fireworks, but I acceded and let him draw me. He kept bursting into laughter while drawing, which didn't seem like the best sign, but I think he was just insecure about what he was doing and the drawing was also veering into an overly solemn expression. He said that he would really like to learn accurate illustration skills but that despite seeking them out, there weren't any well-taught courses on it. After some time he finished and showed it to me - I thought he had a good hand but my face was a little vertically stretched. Then I thought we were done, but he asked if I would draw a portrait of him. This was quite clever of him, as I felt obligated since he'd done mine, so I did one in his sketchbook for him. Clara told me I'm a "good drawer" and I garnered other praise from attendees, so that was nice. The party as a whole was a really good time that felt very medieval what with the music and the summer solstice celebration and the general ambiance.