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September 2015
by Ryan Rivadeneyra (Fireplace)

This route was supposed to be about plants and gardens, but all I could think about was sex and aliens. It always happens to me, people ask me to think about something and then somehow, at some point, sex pops in my head, and aliens are probably in the top five other things that end up there, along with movies and food and something else (dolphins?). But this time it’s a little different, I have my reasons.

Anyways, so I go up to the Parc del Laberint d’Horta on a gray, sweaty, summer Monday. If you’re actually gonna do this route, which I highly recommend, of course, I suggest you go on a Wednesday or Sunday, when the park is open and free. If not it’s two euro something. First, go in and around the main palace. Instead of going straight to the labyrinth, first go all the way to the right, where you’ll find a bust of a beautiful headless woman. Decapitation of sculptures as a form of iconoclasm has existed since, like, forever, but I found it quite poignant in this context- such a romantic place for violence!

From there, start heading up to the staircase on the right hand side, and walk into the hedge maze. Before coming, some people told me that the labyrinth was featured in The Perfume, that crappy movie from 2006 (in fact, if you Google “The Perfume Barcelona route”, you’ll find that somebody created a route that visits all the sites in Barcelona that were used in the film, for you to visit. I found out that the orgy scene in the end was filmed in Poble Espanyol- ugh! People really have too much time on their hands to be making stupid city routes). All I could think about was The Shining, of course. That final scene where the kid is being chased through the hedge maze is scary as fuck, and brilliantly shot with some flying dolly p.o.v. thing. So, if you go in the way I went in, the entrance on the right, you’ll get to the middle immediately and be like “shit, that was so easy, I can’t believe I came all the way here for this.” But if you then take a different path from the middle that goes outwards, you’ll get lost for real, and you’ll feel really silly cause all you do is cross paths with other random, lost people. So, that means you shouldn’t go in the way I did, which is down the stairs through the middle, but through the main entrance to the maze on the bottom left corner. It’s better this way. Once lost, it’s a great feeling to be able to retrace your footsteps and admit to your error. When you reach the middle, take a look at the beautiful sign that says EROS. It is even more beautiful than the sculpture they have of the boy who is the Greek version of Cupid, the god of love and sexual desire.

Once you’re out, keep going uphill and make a left. Here, there’s a beautiful little mound with some funny makeshift stairs that lead to a romantic resting place where young teenage couples seem to come and hang out and write their names on the surrounding wooden fence. Oscar & Paty, Roger & Cristina (per sempre), Laia & Abert, or Hector & Lyzeth were some of the nicest love graffitis that were there.

From the top of this hill I also spotted a funny photo session taking place. I have to say that the kind of people that frequent this park are pretty funny. It’s mostly guiris and chonis. So if you’re as lucky as I was you can catch a choni photo session taking place right in front of you. It was so cute: two teenagers spent like 20 minutes posing in and around the maze, they even did the Titanic arms-in-the-air hug scene. If you happen to miss it, then walk around the rest of the park, where you’ll find that almost every accessible tree has some kind of heart or young couple’s names carved into the bark.

The next stop on the route is the vertical garden on Avinguda Josep Tarradellas. If you have your bike with you or Bicing, take it along the Ronda del Dalt until Balmes, and then go all the way down until Diagonal and cross the Eixample until you reach Avinguda Tarradellas (or Carrer Berlin, 109). I highly recommend the bike ride down because you basically don’t have to pedal at all and you can descend through the whole upper part of Barcelona (that part where we never go to) in about 10 minutes.

The vertical garden is quite beautiful, although there’s not much to see. However, it is in such a strange location that the normalcy of the situation makes it odd. I found myself staring at the side of a building in the Eixample for 15 minutes while dumbfounded passers-by were staring at me while I stared at the building, not knowing what I was looking at and why I was there. There’s also a little telescope that you can look into to see the five flowers that were casually in bloom. I spent another ten minutes trying to take a photo through the telescope with my phone, and then kept moving on.

The third and final stop on the route is the cactus garden on Montjuic, which is located on the south side of Montjuic, facing the industrial port. I recommend that you walk or bike to Plaza Espanya and take the escalators all the way up, and then cross Avinguda de l’Estadi all the way to Miramar, on the other side. The gardens are officially called Jardins Mossèn costa i Llobera, so don’t confuse it with the other, smaller cactus parks around the botanical gardens near the stadium.

Okay, so I know at the beginning I promised sex and aliens, so this is exactly where all that comes in. Especially the aliens. The cactus park looks like another world, a really fucking weird and beautiful world inhabited by huge and tiny spikey phalluses that have the most mesmerizing shapes and colors. You know how there’s this conspiracy theory about The Little Mermaid, how on the cover of the movie the palace looks like it’s made of penises? Well, it’s the same here. You feel like you’re in an entire world of that. The whole space alludes to sexual desire to the point of confusion and fascination. It really feels like the plants are alive (well, I guess they are) and they are wearing their sexiest outfits to attract anything and everything.

If you came from Miramar, then walk straight in and zigzag through the park, trying to cover the entire area. It’s not too big, but it’s on the side of Montjuic, so it’s better to go downhill the whole way. On the very top, close to one of the entrances, there is a cactus that has the texture of something halfway between a scrotum and labia. This one doesn’t have too many spikes, so you can feel its skin, like the tight skin of a dolphin.

When you get to the center of the park, there is a sort of main plaza that’s full of cacti, somewhat of an alien tantric sex garden. It even overlooks the part of the port where those huge disgusting cruise ships pass by, so you really feel like you’re in an oasis, away from the city center that’s packed with tourists eating bad frozen paella and drinking tinto de verano. Unlike the city center and the labyrinth, here you might not cross paths with anyone, which is a good thing.

To end the trip, if you still have time and energy, take the funicular down to Paralel and grab an horchata at Sirvent, Carrer Parlament, 56.

Route by Fireplace (Quim Packard and Ángela Palacios) with the collaboration of Zioxla for GRAF. Text and photos by Ryan Rivadeneyra.