Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barcelona Recap and Nothing but Ghosts Excerpt

Last weekend I was in Barcelona for a wedding. We had a delicious dinner of Paella one evening down in Barceloneta, the former fishing part of town, and the next night we danced under the stars at the beach. Despite the heat, I made the rounds of the tourist attractions - La Rambla to check out the colorful mimes, 3 of Gaudi's masterpieces (La Sagrada Familia - looking no more finished than when I saw it 13 years ago, La Pedrera, and Casa Batllo), and the Barcelona History Museum where you can see the ruins of the Roman city of Barcino.

That last one I would have never known about if it hadn't been for reading Beth Kephart's NOTHING BUT GHOSTS a week prior. I e-mailed Beth asking if the ruins she described really existed, and she confirmed they did. Then it was just a matter of tracking them down. I loved visiting this site. You go underground where is the air is cool and the light is really an orange/yellow as Beth describes. You see remnants of Roman industry - a laundry (where Romans used urine as a detergent - ew!), a dye factory (urine also used), a fish sauce factory (urine not used, thankfully), and a winery (also no urine, hopefully) - as well as a residence and a church.

You aren't supposed to take pictures, but I HAD to sneak one of the wine vats:

And to accompany the following excerpt from NOTHING BUT GHOSTS (used by permission), I have a picture of the make-up jars Beth describes.

“You want to hear the weird thing about Barcelona?” I ask him.

“What’s that?”

“It keeps its ghosts underground.”

Danny laughs. “You know for a fact?”

“I do,” I say. “I saw them.”

Now Danny pushes back against the tree, fits his arms across his chest, and waits for me to explain about the ghosts, which is one of the things that I appreciate about Danny. He’s not the kind who’s always looking for ways to push himself into the talk, not all look at me, not my story’s better than yours. He has patience, and I like that about him, and maybe it’s okay right now, because it’s just the two of us, and because he asked, to tell him something about the day my mom and I climbed down beneath the streets of Barcelona, to find the other Barcelona, the one the Romans built 2000 years ago, and the Iberians before that. The one I wrote about.

That Barcelona is under glass, inside the thickest walls I’ve ever seen, and cool when up above it’s broiling hot. Everything down there in the ghost world is lit up orange and yellow with big glow lights that make it seem like day is fighting with night. Fine lines. They have fourth century B.C. goddess heads down there. Iron swords. Sewing needles made out of bone. Beds and candles, oil lamps, hinges and locks and keys, and places in the walls where little god statues stood, beckoning to the souls of the dead. What my mother loved, what she couldn’t stop staring at, were the rooms they called the cubicula, tiny private rooms—a bed and a chest and a chair, and the most beautiful, most delicate containers for make-up—mortars for mashing colors and spatulas for mixing and carved combs and flasks made out of glass.

“Can’t you see them?” my mother said, and I said, “Who?”
“These women,” she answered.

“The Romans?”

She nodded. “Yes.” Her eyes were so wide and her face was so pale and right then she was just as much a ghost as they were. If my mother could have walked through glass, she’d have walked straight through to the other side, to one of those little rooms, and sat right down on one of those little chairs and I would have seen, I swear to God, the Roman women talking to my mother, beauty to beauty, infinitely beautiful, forever. She stood staring at the cubicula for such a long, long time. After that she found a bench.

“You okay?” I asked her, and that’s the thing: She didn’t answer and she was honest, and why didn’t I notice, why did I say, right after that: “Dad’s probably packing; we should go.”

“Honey,” she said, “remember this. Remember how alive we are now.” I do remember, and that’s what I mean: In Barcelona there are ghosts.

Isn't that beautiful? And actually getting to visit myself gave the whole passage so much more meaning.

Ok, now a couple more views of Barcelona.

Here's a photo of a fire baton twirler on the beach (I used a slow shutter speed and no flash).

A photo of a very colorful chimney from Gaudi's Casa Batllo - well worth the 16.50 Euro entrance fee.

Lastly, an ad for THE STRAIN that I saw all over in the subway - looks like it is getting a big push in Spain.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, I wish I could take book related field trips like that. Your trip looks like it was wonderful.

Melanie said...

I'm just starting Nothing But Ghosts, and I'm really enjoying it! Barcelona looks gorgeous. Maybe one day I'll make it there myself.

Unknown said...

I have heard about this book before, but had no desire to read it until now--now it sounds totally intriguing!

Mari said...

Spain, I think, will be my next European country to visit. Oh wait, actually, I think we are going to Greece next fall. :)

Can't wait to read Nothing But Ghosts!

Beth Kephart said...

OH, gosh. You have brought so much back, Lenore. And that photo on the beach!!!! Remarkable.

I'm glad you went. It makes it all the more real, and perhaps less ghost-like, for me.

Mishel (P.S. I Love Books) said...

LOVe the pictures! I would so love to go to Barcelona just to go lol

I really like the fire baton twiler picture =) Great shot.

I haven't picked up a copy of Nothing But Ghosts, but I plan on it. Also I really want to read The Strain =D I posted it for one of my WoW posts and I've seen some good reviews of it!

I hope the wedding was nice =)

Donna (Bites) said...

I so love Barca. I can't wait to get back there!

kalea_kane said...

Oh my goodness. How incredible it must have been to be able to see what you saw! I am insane! I am definitely going to look into Nothing But Ghosts!

JKB said...

I love Barcelona! I'm happy to see that you had a great time there as well!

I didn't know about those ruins....*ponders* I wonder if I can use that as a good reason to go visit again!

And the book sounds great!

Danni said...

Yer trip does look amazing! I hoping to go there next summer. :) Hi, I'm Danni and I'm new to this blogging world, so if you have any advise for me I would love to hear from you.

Christina Farley said...

What amazing pictures. I must go sometime! Thanks for sharing those. I love Beth's writing so now I must read this book of hers too.

Charlotte said...

Wow, that's so cool, having something in a great book made real like that!

I seem to have mostly the opposite happen to me--a writer using a historical site that I've been to and they, apparently, never have. And they describe it wrong...

Staci said...

I love how you put your field trip experience and drew us into Beth's book with it!! Fantastic and I have to admit that I'm just a tad green with envy that you get to visit all of these wonderful places!! But you're such a sweetie and you share it all so wonderfully with us!! Thank you for that!!

Sherry said...

Ditto Staci. :)

ANovelMenagerie said...

I can't even imagine traveling to the places you get to go to! LUCKY DUCK!~

I gave you an award today here:


P.S. Emmy & Finn, please!

Alba Úriz Malón said...

Ghosts near here? Wooww *O*!
I'll have to read the book you talk about ;)
Kisses from Spain :P

Anna said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. And that book sounds really interesting.

Diary of an Eccentric

Anonymous said...

What a fun trip! So exciting. Love the photos!

Ana S. said...

I loved that bit of Nothing but Ghosts! And your pictures are lovely :)

Alea said...

I want to go on a trip with you!

Beth F said...

Sounds like a super trip. Wish I could have gone with you.

Bonnie said...

Your trip sounds fantastic!! Love all the pictures and descriptions. Now I can't wait to get started on Beth's book Nothing But Ghosts that I bought as part of the book drive!!

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Wonderful pictures! I love the sneaky pics (glad you didn't get caught!) and the connections you made to NOTHING BUT GHOSTS.

Jen said...

Oh wow! Thats lovely ^_^