Bears in Barcelona

William wiggled. Merri bounced. My tote bag was hardly big enough to hold three bears, especially when two of them wouldn’t stop squirming. "Settle down, William!" I said. "Merri, be still. Do you want to fall out onto your head?"

We were in Barcelona, Spain! Today, Miss Cynthia and Doctor Steve would take us for a walk through the Old Town. The little bears were so excited that they couldn’t stay still. I patted and hushed them as we walked out the door into the bright, sunny day.

Barcelona is a lovely old city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is an important seaport. Many ships stop at Barcelona’s harbor. In 1992, Barcelona was the host city for the Summer Olympic Games.

Barcelona is also the capitol of Catalonia, the northeastern region of Spain. Catalonia has it’s own language: Catalan. In Madrid, people speak Castilian Spanish, but in Barcelona, people speak Catalan. Signs in Barcelona are printed in both Castilian and Catalan. Catalan is a Romance language, similar to the language spoken in the nearby Provencal region of France. As we walked, I would listen hard to hear the differences between Catalan and the Castilian Spanish that I had learned.

We stepped out into the busy street. Cars were everywhere, speeding fast. "Be careful crossing the street, Miss Cynthia!" I said. Drivers in Barcelona were speedy and noisy. They like to beep the horn and race down the street. "I’ll be careful, Perry!" said Miss Cynthia, over her shoulder.

"Look!" said Doctor Steve. He pointed to a funny statue of a bull. We walked to see the statue up close. "Hmmm," said Miss Cynthia, "he looks like he’s thinking. Do you think this is Ferdinand, from the story book?" I thought so! Merri and William waved to the funny bull as we began our walk.

A few noisy, beeping blocks, and we had reached our first stop: the Plaça de Catalunya. In the Catalan language, "plaça" means the same as "plaza". It is a large, open space in the heart of a city. People come to the Plaça to enjoy the open, park-like setting.

The winter sunlight was bright and warm. Water splashed in a beautiful fountain. Many people sat on benches and steps. In the open center of the Plaça, children fed huge flocks of pigeons.

At the Placa"Miss Cynthia, Miss Cynthia," squealed William and Merri. "Look! Birds!" The baby bears bounced and wiggled and pointed to the flapping, hopping pigeons.

Miss Cynthia helped us out of the tote bag. "Wait here, Perry," she said, "and I’ll buy some pigeon food!" I held tightly to the baby bears. They wanted to run straight to the birds bunched in the center of the plaça.

Pigeons are very, very smart! As soon as Miss Cynthia returned with a small sack of bird food, the pigeons blew toward us. They were so big! Birds swooped and strutted all around us. I could barely see Miss Cynthia through the flapping birds. Where were the babies? William and Merri had disappeared under the mass of pigeons!

Suddenly, a long arm shot through the birds and grabbed me to safety. "Miss Cynthia!" I said, "Do you have the babies? There are so many pigeons, and they’re all so hungry!"

"Look, Perry!" she said. In her other arm, William and Merri leaned safely over the squawking, scattering pigeon herd. Whew! That was close!

Feeding the PigeonsSafe above the milling birds, it was fun to watch the pigeons. "I’m feeding the birds!" sang Merri. She tossed bird food into the air. Pigeons jumped up into the sky to snatch the tiny seeds. William laughed as he dumped bird food into a pile right on Miss Cynthia’s feet. Miss Cynthia squealed as pigeons pecked and scrabbled at her shoes. I scattered my bird food a safe distance away. "Have a nice lunch!" I said.

Miss Cynthia was breathing hard. "Goodness!" she said, "Those were greedy little pigeons, weren’t they?" We had fed the birds all our food, and it was time to resume our walk.

From the Plaça de Catalunya, we strolled a short distance down Las Ramblas, a wide, shady avenue in the heart of the Old City. Beautiful buildings, hotels, mansions and shops lined the street.

La Sirenita"Look!" pointed Miss Cynthia. "That looks familiar, doesn’t it?" We leaned forward eagerly. In a shop window sat a display for the Little Mermaid movie. "La Sirenita", read Miss Cynthia. "That must be Spanish for ‘Little Mermaid’!" Children everywhere like the same things, I thought. They just call them by different names.

"Where are we going now?" I asked, as we turned off the shady Las Ramblas toward an area of old, narrow streets. "We’re headed to the Picasso Museum, Perry," said Miss Cynthia. "It’s just past the Cathedral, in the heart of Old Town."

William, Merri and I looked around eagerly. In the square before the Cathedral, a street market attracted shoppers. Antiques, toys, and street musicians held the attention of everyone passing by. I pointed to a puppeteer, twirling beautiful Spanish dancers at the end of his strings. Merri tugged my fur and pointed out a performing dog. He balanced on his hind legs and hopped to the music played by his master.

Barcelona's cathedralThere was so much to see, we almost missed Barcelona’s Gothic cathedral! Groups of schoolchildren stood around teachers, looking at the elaborate façade and listening to tales of the cathedral’s history.

"Bears," said Miss Cynthia, "there has been a sacred building on this site since the 4th century! The Romans and the Moors built here. This building was begun in 1298, and wasn’t finished until just about a hundred years ago!" I stretched my head back to see the tall bell tower. William and Merri exclaimed at the statues lining the arched entrance. "Just imagine," I said, "this building took 700 years to complete!"

At the Picasso MuseumBack to our walk! The streets narrowed, tall walls nearly meeting in the sky above us. "Perry," said Doctor Steve, "many of these buildings are mansions from the 14th century." Doctor Steve and I looked at the tall old buildings, and wondered what it would have been like to walk this street 600 years ago. Would there be carts and dogs and busy, rushing people? I closed my eyes and pretended it was long ago. It was easy to pretend among all those old buildings!

Our last stop: the Picasso Museum. Pablo Picasso was a towering Spanish-born artist of the 20th century. When he was a teenager, his family moved to Barcelona. Picasso studied art in Barcelona for several years.

Barcelona’s Picasso Museum had many examples of Picasso’s early work. Even as a young boy of 10 or 11, Pablo Picasso had a rare talent. His sketches and studies showed what a great artist he was, even when he was very young. Barcelona was very proud that Picasso had made his home here. The Picasso Museum showed Picasso’s work over his long lifetime. I was very impressed!

It had been a long, happy day in Barcelona. We left the museum for the long walk back to the hotel. William and Merri napped in the bottom of the tote bag. I yawned and stretched. I was tired from all I’d seen and heard.

"Miss Cynthia," I asked, "do you think there will ever be a Perry Bear Museum?" She looked at Doctor Steve and laughed. "Well, Perry, I don’t know about that," she said. "Still, you never know! Just keep working on your stories and adventures!"

Maybe there will be a Perry Bear Museum, I thought, sleepily. I will have to write and write and write!

Perry's Travels: