Red-tiled roofs and whitewashed walls line the sea in Cadaques, where Salvador Dali entertained poets, filmmakers and artists in the '60s and '70s.
Red-tiled roofs and whitewashed walls line the sea in Cadaques, where Salvador Dali entertained poets, filmmakers and artists in the '60s and '70s.
M.L. Lyke

Barcelona: It's About Time

Dali's mustachioed face can be seen at many locations in Cadaques, including at the entrance to El Baracco, a restaurant he frequented.
Dali's mustachioed face can be seen at many locations in Cadaques, including at the entrance to El Baracco, a restaurant he frequented. (M.L. Lyke)
By M.L. Lyke
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 20, 2007

The dancer's hands fly, clap, tease, curl the edge of her ruffled skirt as guitar notes slide from major to minor scales. Her flamenco partner shoots her a look of long-lashed seduction, clacking his booted heels fast, faster, until it looks as if he's dancing an inch above the wooden stage.

Their faces are fierce. This is passion, not pap. When they finally touch, it's a touch of possession, not invitation.

Minutes later, the too-bright lights come on in Barcelona's famed flamenco club Tarantos. We are quickly shooed out before the next set begins.

I look at my Swatch: 9 o'clock.

At home, I'd be snuggling into jammies and sliding under the covers with a good book. Here, on a balmy April evening, on our first night in a city where time's as fluid as a Dali clock and sleep's best dealt with in a midday siesta, my night is just beginning.

Tapas, anyone? Tapas and jazz? Tapas and jazz, dinner and dancing?

I find my second wind, then my third, sometimes my fourth, every night in this pricey, arty, sophisticated Mediterranean hot spot rumbling with techno, salsa, samba, world music, hip-hop, indie pop and . . . Windy City blues? That's what we find 'round midnight at the Bel-Luna Jazz Club, where Lluis Coloma, a student of Chicago blues, throws up a locomotive boogie-woogie bass and ices it with fancy pickwork on the high notes.

"Uno . . . dos . . . tres."

Where did he get that 1957 Hammond B-3 organ?

Crazy minds are at play in Barcelona, morning to night, night to morning.

You can see it in the liquid lines of Antonio Gaudí's architecture, modernist constructions that describe snails and fruit, flowers and trees. You can see it in the bold Crayola sculptures of Joan Miró, exuding lightness and gravitas. Who thought joy was simple?

You can see it down the narrow, twisting side streets of Barri Gotic -- the Gothic quarter -- where cartoon graffiti covers shop doors and street performers cast illusions faster than a sultry Spanish dusk casts shadows. We watched a silent improv artist throw down a small circle of clothespins inside a medieval plaza, then wave everyone away from his mimed territory. He stopped bicyclists in their tracks. One shamed biker braked, backed up and curved around the artist's creation.


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