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Photo of Tom with Ictineo I

There was once a time that I was a tour guide aboard the USS Blueback – a US submarine docked in downtown Portland. I confess: I am a submarine junkie. There aren’t many of us. I made a video of the Blueback in my early days of movie making. It’s here.

With that in mind, you can imagine my fascination in discovering Ictineo I, the first real submarine, at the Barcelona Maritime Museum. The find was on the Internet a few weeks ago, but today we hopped a train (it’s so easy from here!) and ran off to Barcelona for the day. The goal was to find the sub. Along the way, we found Barcelona again (this was our fifth visit), a fascinating city on the waters of the Mediterranean, sophisticated and lively in so many ways.

A recreation of the Ictineo I (launched in 1859, made of olive wood, human powered, used to dive for coral – not a weapon) sits outside the museum where anyone (including me, as you can see above) can touch it and imagine diving under water for the first time in a submersible boat under human control. And here it was in Barcelona, just down the (rail) line from our home in Girona. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I fondled its wooden hull and peeked inside its portholes (where the face of a mannequin peeked back, scaring he bejesus out of me).

But Barcelona warrants a gallery of its own. It’s a jewel of a city — not too big, but big enough to be Big Time, as cities go:

Ictineo I made scores of dives before it was ingloriously rammed by a freighter while tied to a dock. What is pictured here is a recreation, but it’s nearly identical to the original, and for a junkie like me, it’s just another reason to visit Barcelona: lovely, lively, exquisite — and just down the road.