Saturday, November 24, 2007

Catching up with Barcelona.

I'm writing this on our last night in Europe and I expect to be coming home to a hectic holiday season schedule, so I'm going to try to catch up with most of our week here in Barcelona as quickly as possible. I apologize for leaving out some of the details!

Our travel crew was down to four, just D and her mom, CF and me. After our Eiffel Tower adventure we didn't get much sleep, we had to get up early, pack up and get outside for our airport shuttle. We had an uneventful and short flight to Barcelona. We caught a taxi to our new apartment. It was more than obvious just how different the climate is here. What a relief to no longer be freezing! Our apartment isn't quite as nice (or well stocked) as some of the other places we've stayed on this journey but I am still a big fan of the lodging choices of our dear Ms. D! I don't think I'll ever want to stay in a hotel again.

We settled in to our new place and noted that you can see the top of la Sagrada Familia from the balcony off the bedroom CF and I are sharing. We went out around 6:00pm for a light meal, planning on having dinner at home later in the night. We headed out to a tapas place that we read would be serving food all day, so we knew we could get away with eating at a non-traditional time for Spainish habits. Our meal quickly spread out over a couple hours and we left stuffed full of fantastic patatas bravas, croquettes, anchovies (four people who all like anchovies, is that even possible?), jamon, grilled cuttlefish, red peppers and wonderful cheeses. The city was so relaxed, so much more laid back than Paris. It was a welcome change. We stopped by a flower shop on the way home and got some Irises for the apartment. Stuffed silly, we basically didn't eat again that day. But I did enjoy the downtime, we rested up and I caught up with some photos and blogging.

The next morning we set out to see some of the famous architecture Barcelona is known for. We got metro passes, and giggled with delight when a train was so easy to catch. We walked up the Passeig de Grácia and saw the Casa Batlló, I almost missed it. It's much smaller than I had expected! The scales on the roof were almost impossible to see from the street. Though the pickpockets were plain to see, as the tourists stopped and looked straight up, they really could have tried a little harder to blend in. Then we headed to the Sagrada Família. Even CF had to admit it was an amazing place. Actually he said it was his most favorite church ever. CF and I had lunch at a slight Italian place, the manager (owner?) had lived in New York for 14 years and asked us if Thanksgiving was this Friday. We told him it was Thursday but indeed this week. Amazing to think about, our first Thanksgiving away from home. D, CF and I went out for a bit of a shopping adventure that evening. We had noticed the lack of soap at the apartment so we visited a very cool looking soap shop. As the salesgirl was packaging up our purchase I recognized the logo, the Z's had shopped in this store (or another location they own) and had brought D a gift back from here! How funny. Such a small world!

We stopped by a meat shop to pick up some jamon and cheese to have for dinner. As CF shopped I wandered down the next street, I ended up looking in my guidebook and realized the very store he was in then was in my book and he had mentioned wanting to go there. Funny how things work out. We shopped a little more, rounding up veggies to have for dinner.

We seem to be making a tradition of visiting an Irish pub in as many countries as possible, so next up we sat down for a pint. CF asked the bartender for directions to a brew pub, but we ended up with directions to a beer shop nearby. Turns out this shop sells beer in bottles but you can choose to drink it there. CF chatted up the fellow working there and they bonded over their beer knowledge. He was selling Anchor Steam so we told him we were from the San Francisco area. We bought a big bottle of something to drink there in the shop, and several to take home with us. As CF left, clutching a sack of bottles, he declared himself "the happiest boy in Barcelona!" And I think he smiled through the whole walk home. That evening we had a great time munching at home. It is so nice to have a place to call home while traveling!

The next day we headed up to Park Güell, another Gaudi influence on the city. It was very cool to visit a place I had learned up in a design class many years ago. We had quite a walk up there. It reminded me of the times that D, CF and I have gone for walks on the weekends in the Bay area along the Bay trail or up near Crystal Springs. D and I even went to the top of the tower with the crosses. What a view! Made me a bit dizzy though. We headed home and had a nice little siesta. Hadn't had one of those since Italy a few years back.

That night we got on the metro to go back to the Gothic Quarter. The plan was to wander for a bit and then meet up for dinner at a slightly more appropriate time for Spain. We took the train two stops and then transfered to a line we hadn't been on before. It was stuffy and smelly, instantly unpleasant. A woman started asking CF questions in Spanish and he tried to explain that he didn't understand. Then a couple of other people started moving towards the metro door. A big mess of red hair was suddenly touching my face. Yuck! It was all so weird, so uncomfortable. The man ended up with his arm in front of CF, then he changed it to be behind him. CF frowned in discomfort, I knew it was bad if he was bothered by the situation. We couldn't tell if they were just trying to be near the door to get off at the next stop or what. We got off two stops later and I ran up the stairs, practically gasping for fresh air. D had watched it all go down. None of us knew quite what to make of it. Even when we got out of the station the air was humid and I couldn't shake the gross feeling of that hair on my face. I wasn't sure I'd be up for two hours of wandering before dinner but I decided to try my best.

I was a bit cranky, and CF wanted to just go home a couple of times. But we ended up sitting down to some coffee, and then some cava and a very few bites of tapas. The rain started so the humidity in the air actually dropped. I felt like I could breathe again. We spotted a good looking place for dinner, rounded up D and her mom at the spot and time we had planned, and proceeded to have a delightful meal.

It wasn't till the next morning that CF realized that his metro pass had been in the outside pocket of his jacket and it was now gone. The scene on the metro was indeed just what it seemed. Thank goodness we are smart travelers, he was well aware of the risk he was at in the moment, D was watching him and the people crowding us were watching her watch them, and everyone was ready to make a scene if need be.

Wednesday in Barcelona the three of us set out for some wandering and shopping. It turned out to mostly be walking, but we were on the look out for good food to bring home to make for dinner. We had a great lunch at a tapas bar in a huge market (not the famous Boqueria, but it was almost as impressive). We had the best fried artichokes I've had outside of Rome, some great veggies, and even had grilled calamari, which I don't usually enjoy at all. I couldn't believe this was the same trip as previous weeks. I had no coat on, only a scarf, and after lunch we all got some gelato and then went for a walk at the beach! Eventually we did end up at la Boqueria to buy groceries to bring home and cook for dinner. We asked for four pieces of salmon and they took a huge knife and cut thick steaks from a fresh, whole fish. We rounded up veggies and herbs at another stand. Bought anchovies and olives from another. What a way to shop! This was Food Paradise. The meal was absolutely amazing, even if it was cooked improv style by CF in our understocked kitchen. D's mom is so impressed with his mad skills. D and I already knew what he could do though.

Barcelona could be visited in two or three days and we had all week here. It was nice to sleep in and take siestas. It might seem like an anti-climatic ending to our adventure, but it really does feel like a vacation from our vacation. Or rather, it felt like we were traveling, and now we are on vacation. This week was about relaxing and taking it easy. It's back to reality this weekend when we have to head home!

Just a few days left to recap! I think I will type them up at the airport or on the plane and post them when I get home. Thanks for reading and "playing along at home."


Leslie said...

Thank you for doing such a great job of sharing with those of us paah-ers!

Armstrong Family said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed traveling with you all through the computer. Thanks for keeping us up on your adventure.