Last July I was invited to speak at a hotel expo that was held October 17-18 in Barcelona, Spain. I was and am thrilled and honored to be included in such an event. Since I’d not visited Spain, it was an extra thrill. Of course, I extended the trip to visit Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo and Seville traveling mostly via bullet train. (Spain has had bullet trains for 20 years, while the US has none as far as I can determine.) Barcelona is absolutely out-of-this-world filled with art. Their favorite artist’s (Antoni Gaudi) work is everywhere in the city. You would definitely know his work. Sometimes it’s referred to as having the look of melting ice cream. His largest work, the magnificent Sacred Familia Catholic church is still in progress and will be for many more years even though he passed away in 1921. In fact he has been nominated for sainthood which certainly indicates how revered he is. Gaudi’s influence is felt everywhere—from tiles in sidewalks to light posts, building designs, textiles and clothing. The city is very vibrant, dynamic, exciting, boisterous and full, full, full of life.
Beautifully-designed, permanent outdoor benches are comfortable, interesting, well made, well sited and all over the city. I hope you can see how the wonderful indoor bench is made with laminated woods of different species. The layers have been ground through to reveal the interesting look and perhaps more comfortable seating.
The expo hotel, Catalonia Plaza Hotel Barcelona, is amazing—starting with some of the gorgeous tile work seen all over Spain. Ceramic tile design and tile work has to be one of the country’s major talents. The hotel has a large inner courtyard whose walls are completely tiled in a pattern of blues. The bottom floor of the courtyard is covered by a permanent Fiberglas roof that looks something like a Cirque Soleil tent. That courtyard roof covers a very large self-service cafeteria where breakfast is served to hundreds every day. Clearly, furnishings can be rearranged to accommodate many other activities in the space. Shades can be pulled down to cover the cafeteria line and equipment.
Guestroom hallways are totally wood which I expected to be very noisy when luggage is moved about. However, because the guestrooms have two heavy doors—a hallway door and a door between the inner bath hallway and the bedroom, noise was not an issue.
Multiple recycling bins are available everywhere, some larger than others. As you may be able to see in the first photo of recyclers, these bins are smaller in size, but are on a raised area. It appears that the materials to be recycled are somehow gathered from underground. From a hotel window, I could see how the large recycling bins are emptied with a mechanical lift device on a truck. When lifted over a truck bed, the bottom of the collection bin opens to release all the collected materials neatly and cleanly.
A paper recycling campaign was taken to the streets on a Sunday afternoon in Madrid. The event encouraging paper recycling was held in a very attractive large temporary blow-up building. After signing in at a cardboard table, guests listened and laughed to a magician’s spiel from cardboard chairs.
Automatic orange juicing machines are in virtually every cafe, bakery and restaurant, and the freshly-squeezed juice is delicious. Spain is known for its sweet citrus production, and Spaniards adore the fruit as we all would. Of course, all the fresh juice means there are lots of peels left over. I was thrilled when in a grocery store freezer I found that someone had taken the almost-whole peels, filled them with vanilla ice cream and had them for sale. Of course, the ice cream absorbed the orange flavor and scent, and it was a delightful treat for recycling-crazy-me.
Public bicycle programs are active in every city. Rows of bicycles locked in place are available to participants who rent the bikes. Bikes are carried on subways and trains in an upright hanger.
Olive trees appear in great swaths seen from the bullet train windows. When served in a salad, there are never 2 or 3 olives on the plate—there are 10 or 12 olives—delicious!
Two hotels used a key system that entailed waving the key card over the lock or simply taping the lock with it. They work very well once you determine exactly how they work.
The conference center had very interesting meeting room doors which I felt worked beautifully. They are very lightweight clear plastic doors which are totally quiet when opened or closed. It easy to see if someone is ready to enter or depart, and just makes really good sense. Generally, during sessions a staff member was posted at the doors to open or close them for attendees.
At the meeting expo this elegant leafy-look outdoor umbrella had me spellbound.
Many stacking chairs were exhibited at the meeting, but this one stood out because its seat and back are made of round black plastic tubes about an inch or so thick which make it a little bouncy and very comfortable.
Most locals seem to live in condos or apartments that are considered very expensive perhaps with extended families. Most condo/apartment buildings have balconies all the way around which are very useful and attractive. A stunning number of people walk the streets all day, but especially in the evenings and on weekends.
Wine is remarkably cheap. This grocery store had at least 16 wines that were less than €2 ($2.60) each!
Overall, it was a great trip, but food was not easy for us. In fact, we were served so many potatoes, I said a time or two, “Are we in Spain or are we in Ireland?”