March 2019


Mystery Solved: Barcelona

Drawing of Barcelona from 1972

For quite a few years, I have had a drawing on my living room wall of a street scene in Barcelona – it is the only piece of art I have that represents a place I had not been. Rather, it was a piece of art drawn by one of my Great Aunts.

This past weekend I set out to rectify the fact that I’d never been to Barcelona – by visiting it. I had a splendid long weekend in the city – more will come later.

The secondary mission was to see if I could figure out where the drawing was made. To my untrained eye, it looked like it was going to be a needle in a haystack, but I sent the drawing off to two people, one of whom thought that it would be identifiable.

So, when I showed up to lunch on Friday, he said, I know the name of the street: Ferran. He also identified the writing on the column to the right of the main door as saying “Calpa” – where I had read it as “caffe” – armed with that information, it was easy to identify: Carrer Ferran 53 is home to “Calpa” – an exclusive leather goods shop.

Amusingly, apparently “Calpa” means “House of Bread” in Catalan – so my host was expecting to find a bakery at the location, so when Google turned up a leather goods shop, we googled again.

When we showed up, I was convinced: the hard structural elements of the façade were right: the high ground floor store front, the arched second floor windows, the balcony above, and the folding wooden windows behind the blinds on the third floor. Even the elements between the arches, the upside-down arches with a nice decorative pattern are right.

That said, now that I’ve had time to reflect a bit more – I think that I was misreading the drawing’s location a tiny bit before: I thought that the gate was over the main door to the building, now I think that it is actually between the front of the building and the actual door to Calpa – this makes more sense as the window behind the gate could be construed as showing purses and other leather goods, just like the window to the right that runs off of the page.

Calpa in Barcelona

Unfortunately, as you can see, there was a truck parked in front of the building at the critical spot – so it was a bit difficult to imagine and to get the right photograph. Further, the gate was open – since it was during business hours.

Regardless, I am thankful to my friend in Barcelona – and his friends – for correctly identifying the location of my Great Aunt’s drawing.

I will return to Barcelona again – not only did I find the city fun and interesting, but I also want to buy something from Calpa.

Initially I thought that I would try to get a room at the hotel directly across the street from the shop, but TripAdvisor reviews of the hotel suggest that I would not like the hotel. Otherwise, I would ask if I could get a room on the first or second floor that matches the view of the drawing.

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