miss the train. take the cannoli.

2nd St Davis
A break from Barcelona posts; this is 2nd Street in Davis, sketched on Saturday morning after I’d missed my train. Whenever I go to San Francisco, rather than getting my tickets in advance or maybe getting to the station early, I always try to get there about two minutes before the train arrives and try to get my tickets then. I don’t know why I partake in this masochistic practice, perhaps I’ve seen Back to the Future so many times I feel like I have to do these mundane things by the skin of my teeth. I’m nearly always lucky. I always, somehow, make it. Not this time; I got to the station, and there was a large crowd of Chinese students huddled around the ticket machine (which can be notoriously slow) while the ticket office lady closed up her booth to assist someone onto the train as it pulled in (which I must say is something I’m very glad the station staff do). Not knowing how long the students would take with the machine I asked if I could get my ticket on the train, but it costs 50% more to do that. Ouch! So there I was, scrambling to use the machine, the train comes in, doors close, off it goes. “Well, we recommend getting here much earlier,” the ticket office lady said, which again is fair enough and completely true. I was annoyed with myself though – I’m usually lucky, but I really should have got my tickets the day before. Why was I so peeved with myself that I couldn’t get the 7:55 train though? After all, I was going to the ZineFest, which didn’t even open until 11:00. I’ll tell you why – Cannoli.

At the Ferry Building in San Francisco there is this place which does amazing cannoli. It really is outstandingly good. I had wanted to stop off there on the way to the ZineFest and pick some up, but taking the later train at 9:25 meant I probably wouldn’t have time to stop, not even for cannoli. I was looking forward to it. Then I remembered that Whole Foods in Davis also does pretty nice cannoli. Not as good, but not bad, so I went there instead and ate a relaxing cannoli breakfast. It was more relaxing taking the later train, not rushing about like a fool. I also noticed that the block of 2nd Street with all the brick shops was looking wonderfully free of large cars and SUVs parked outside, so I took this opportunity to sketch it at last while I waited for the Amtrak. I finished it off on the train, where I had a nice conversation about sketching with one of the guards who was also an artist. So actually, I am glad I missed the earlier train, it all worked out nicely!

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els quatre gats

Quatre Gats, BarcelonaAfter eating some delicious paella up at a place next to Lesseps Metro station (see the sketch included below for reference) I decided I needed to see the Sagrada Família at last. It’s been a long wait for me, and I was astounded when I got there, as it truly is an epic undertaking, and not one that I will talk about in this post, because I didn’t sketch it that day. After squeezing through crowds and peering through trees in the park opposite for the best possible view, I found a spot I liked, sat down, got the Stillman & Birn ‘Beta’ sketchbook out and felt the first “plop” of warm summer rain. Now I’d heard somewhere that the rain in Spain fell mainly on the plain (which may be true but I don’t wish to be inaccurate) but either way it meant sketching this cathedral would be much more difficult, robust and hardy though the Beta paper is (and it really is; it’s an excellent book to travel with, and the pages fold very flat). So I decided to up sticks and do one. After spending a bit of time in the FC Barcelona shop next to the cathedral (mmm, football shirts) I metro’d it to the Barri Gotíc. About a hundred million people were out shopping; Barcelona is a shopping paradise, even I was getting sucked in (I saw some wicked adidas trainers), but this day was getting away from me and I had to sketch stuff. A couple of Gaudís, a bowl of paella and some flags wasn’t going to cut it for my first full day in Spain. It was still raining, so I stopped outside the famous restaurant Els Quatre Gats (“4 Cats”; I imagined the Two Ronnies in here giggling about headwear for cutlery). A professor back in my department in Davis had told me about this place, its connections to Picasso and the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc, and I’d promised I’d sketch it. I popped my head inside, and one day would like to sketch the interior, but I stood outside and sketched the entrance. I had to squeeze tight against an opposite wall to stop rain from hitting my page, a small narrow balcony about me providing my only shelter. The streets and alleys here are narrow, I remember being told that when it’s hot these narrow streets are a great place to cool down, they are so shady. Not much rain cover though! But I managed it, and here it is, Els Quatre Gats.

I didn’t eat here though, sadly. I was still full from my paella from earlier on, and here it is. Looks tasty, doesn’t it! It was ‘Paella del Señorito’.

Cerveceria Lesseps Paella, Barcelona

Incidentally…you can buy a print of this Quatre Gats sketch at my Society6 site… http://society6.com/PeteScully/Quatre-Gats-Barcelona_Print