* Catalan story short

As Barcelona gets into training for 1992. Melanie Prestige enjoys its fish stew. champagne and nightlife.

There are three signs which every visitor to Barcelona cannot fail to notice. Locals as well as tourists wear crimson'llshirts with 1993 emblazoned in yellow across their chests; car windows sport stickers showing interlinked circles; and streets are adorned with banners

f proclaiming Mes Que .llai. meaning [Barcelona] More 'l‘han Ever.

With uncharacteristic modesty. the city reveals few explicit reminders. It is taken for granted that everyone knows what all the fuss is about. But in case you are in the dark. next year Barcelona is hosting the Olympics. Apparently the day after the decision was announced. over 7tl.()()tl volunteers signed up to help. Meanwhile (‘atalans are gearing up to convince themselves and tourists alike that Barcelona is Europe‘s most energetic city.

In Spain‘s most prosperous commercial city. many banks sponsor artistic projects and as a result there is a lot to do. But it doesn't take long to realise there is a multitude of very pleasant ways of not doing it. ’l‘he best way to get acquainted with the city‘s eclectic cultural identity is to look round the architecture of Antoni (iaudi. reason enough alone to visit Barcelona.

(‘asa .‘y‘lila. at Passeig de (iracia. is an eccentric apartment block whose flats resemble eroded cave dwellings looking as if they are about to drip onto the road. Whatever you think about (iaudi‘s style. I guarantee it will not leave you indifferent. Further down the same road is (‘asa Bsattlo. designed to simulate a breaking wave.

lfyou are intrigued by the mind of this trained metalworker and fervent

Catalan nationalist. visit (iaudi‘s own house in l’arc (iucll. 'l‘he park itselfis filled with frozen flights of the imagination. like the giant mosaic lizard. for all the originality of his furniture inside the house.l was struck by its functionality and the austere feel of the rooms.

(iaudi’s most ambitious project is his unfinished Cathedral. l.a Sagrada l’amilia. Fortunately it was left intact during the orgy of church burning followingthc 197m revolution. 'l‘oday it is regarded as the city"s main symbol. testament to its troubled past and an expression of its progressiye outlook. Briefly. (iaudi planned to depict everything from the (ireation to l leaven and Hell. It is an extraordinary sight; but how he managed to draw plans and explain to builders what he wanted beats me.

lo get back in touch with reality. I sought out one of the small restaurants along the Ramblas. the street in Barcelona. At one end it is filled with flower stalls. bars and huge open markets. 'l‘owards the port it gets increasingly seedy. with sex shops and brothels. For all its prosperity. the city has a chronic unemployment problem and i would not recommend idle walking in this area after dark. But the food here is



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.I‘ L.


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delicious. For good value. go for the Menu tft’ftfftl at lunch time —- well worth trying is Zurzuelu. fish stew cooked in a clay pot.


lhe streets that surround the l’icasso .‘yluseum (housing the world‘s largest collection) in the Barri (iotic. are full ofsecond—hand bookshops. underground galleries with vaulted ceilings and upmarket boutiques. lt's the sort of area that makes you wish you had a few thousand spare. l’ounds not pesetas. 'I'o fool myself. I went to the lavishly blue-tiled ( 'Izumpimym'm and ordered sev cral glasses of their own champagne and a dish of salted almonds.

'l‘apas bars like this one are good places to meet other young people in the evenings. Once I had told a group ofstudcnts that I liked African music. they insisted on taking me to [zlnmo one of the alternative nightclubs on c Roger de l’lor. (‘lcarly it was the wrong night as the disco was pumping out Madonna but. according to its posters. it is usually a venue for live African bands.

Instead we visited Nick Huvumza. one ofthe city‘s most hip futuristic bars. In fact it is neck deep in self-consciousness and all its customers must have had a degree in