Barcelona's Casa Milà is One of the City's Many Draws
In the northeastern corner of Spain, Barcelona is the country's second-largest city and is the capital of the Catalan-speaking region of Catalunya. Facing the Mediterranean, the city's culture is a mixture of influences: inland from Spain, to the north from France, and across the sea to Italy, North Africa and Greece. These influences come together to make a rich, fascinating place that continually intrigues the visitor. Catalan cuisine is a blend of French, Spanish and Mediterranean elements. Paella, often thought of as a Spanish dish, but coming from the Catalan-speaking region, contains rice from Muslim cooking, saffron from the ancient sea routes and the fish and game of the sea and land. Less famous, but equally delicious are escudella (a meatball and pasta stew) and crema catalana (a flan-like cream desert often eaten with fruit). In the art world too, the city fuses elements. This magnet depicts the Casa Milà, perhaps the most famous building of Barcelonan architect Antoni Gaudí. He draws upon French styles and themes, yet plays with them, including an intense use of the techniques of tiled mosaic drawn from Moorish and Spanish buildings. Painters like Dalí and Mirò also drew upon French styles in their work, yet often use Spanish themes. One of the city's greatest painters, Pablo Picasso, moved there when he was 13, where he studied for several years; while he spent most of his life in Paris, his work was a Catalan-like fusion of French Movements and Spanish themes, often drawing upon elements from the great Spanish painter Diego Velázquez and Cervantes' immortal Don Quixote. Whenever these mixtures occur, the resulting product is uniquely Catalan, greater than the sum of its parts.