Barcelona, Barcelona!

Selling shells by the seashore—I can get you a discount if you’re interested.

The first thing you need to know about Barcelona is that it’s pronounced Bar-thay-lo-na.

The next thing you need to know is that when you lose a tooth in Catalonia (the region of Spain in which Barcelona is found), you don’t get a visit from the tooth fairy, but from Ratoncito Perez. So when your kid loses a tooth in Barcelona, you tell him to put it under his pillow and when he falls asleep a little mouse is going to crawl across his face a few times and rummage around under his pillow until he finds the tooth.


The third thing you need to know about Barcelona is that there’s no Santa Clause here. Instead, there’s Cagatió. As Christmas approaches, families bring a large log into their house and paint a face on it. The log is named Cagatio. According to Wikipedia (and some folks here who explained the tradition to us):

Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), one gives the tió (Catalan for “log”)  a little bit to “eat” every night and usually covers him with a blanket so that he will not be cold. The story goes that in the days preceding Christmas, children must take good care of the log, keeping it warm and feeding it, so that it will defecate presents on Christmas Day or Eve (yes, that’s correct, and no, it’s not made up). 

No Santa Clause here! The kids are lining up to take a whack at Cagatió.

On Christmas Day or, in some households on Christmas Eve, one puts the tió partly into the fireplace and orders it to defecate. The fire part of this tradition is no longer as widespread as it once was, since many modern homes do not have a fireplace. To make it defecate, one beats the tió with sticks, while singing various songs of Tió de Nadal. The name Cagatio actually means poop-log (although I read that the Catalan word that is used is a much more coarse expression).

Nolan can’t wait to start this tradition in the US.

We stayed in a little town outside of Barcelona for about a week. It was another miserable night flight to get here, packing up until midnight and then leaving for the airport at 3am, but it’s been great to be here so far.

The weather has been cool but pleasant overall although today has been cold, windy, and rainy.

We’ve had a couple of beach days and park days here, but we’ve also been out and about in Barcelona some.

Barcelona is a beautiful old city with lots of Gothic architecture and narrow streets, sculptures, and fountains.

Barcelona is also a hub of the modernist architectural movement. Her most famous architect is Antoni Gaudi, whose architectural designs are extreme examples of the modern movement.

Although it looks like Gaudi may have been influenced by mind-altering substances when he designed his works, he was in fact a teetotaler and very dedicated Catholic who saw his architecture as a way to express the majesty of God.

As a boy, Gaudi was very feeble and was not expected to live to adulthood. He spent much of his childhood ill and in bed with only his imagination to entertain him.

He became a forming member of the modernist movement in architecture where using forms that reflect nature and using design to tell stories are key elements.

In his early career, he was lucky enough to win the favor of the wealthiest family in Barcelona and construct several houses for them. He quickly became one of the most famous architects in the city. Gaudi became frustrated though catering to the tastes of his patrons and eventually swore off commissions, focusing all his time and personal means on his masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, a catholic basilica. Gaudi worked on the cathedral for 40 years, only completing about 10% of the building before his death. Of the slow pace of construction Gaudi said “my client is not in a hurry.” It is still under construction today with an anticipated completion within the next ten years.

This is the house that drove Gaudi to quit commission work. He wanted the house to depict the ocean complete with the waves of the sea in blue and green and seawead and colorful sea creatures. The family that commissioned it wanted the notoriety of a Gaudi house, but wanted a house in traditional style. It ended in a lawsuit.

We also spent one day visiting the Pablo Picaso Museum, the only museum we’ve dragged our kids through in Spain so far (we’ve learned our lesson about museums).

Pablo Picasso is widely considered the greatest painter of the 20th century. Books on art history contain more than twice as many Picasso paintings as any single other painter.

He’s of course most famous for his cubist works, but the museum showed a progression of his work from pretty traditional realism to expressionism to cubism.

The kids did pretty well in the museum all things considered. We have come up with a pretty fun game for them–in each room, we find some small detail for them to look for. If they find them all, they earn a small prize.

We’ve also found that everyone is more happy if Ashley and I take turns sightseeing in the city while the other adult takes the kids to the beach or a park. So we each had a day alone in Barcelona while the kids had a couple of free days.