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Barcelona 2013

I thought 50F or 15C was a lot warmer than it was. The sun in Barcelona was warm, and the weather was definitely warmer than the UK, but coats were assuredly needed.

We landed nice and early on Thursday. Flight was only 2 hours, and we were lucky enough to get seats next to each other. We made a somewhat foolish decision to NOT read the paperwork the travel company had sent us, so we wandered around the airport trying to find our shuttle to take us to the hotel. We walked right by a guy with a sign clearly reading 'Evelyn Curry'. After a rude guy at the info desk told us he couldn't be expected to do his job efficiently if we couldn't even be bothered to read the clear, English instructions given to us; we walked over to the only large horse statue in the airport where (as our instructions stated) the shuttle driver was waiting for us. Moving swiftly on from that embarrassment. The hotel was in the north of the city, but still very accessible to the tour bus stops.

It was quite straight forward to navigate our way around the city, with the help of tour maps provided by the hotel. After setting in to the hotel, we walked up the street to a small cafe and had seafood paella, and some sausages. We walked our late lunch off and made our way to La Pedrera. We didn't go in, as there wasn't enough time, but took photos of the outside. Lovely structures. We then made our way to Sagrada Familia, the famous Gaudi cathedral of Barcelona. Oh, it was so beautiful, even half covered in construction. Apparently it will finally be completely cleaned in 2050. The afternoon light hit the west side of the cathedral highlighting the scenes of the Passion of Christ. The sculpture was angular and almost abstract. There wasn't enough time to go in, so we just walked around it. The height of the building was enough to give me a neck ache for the rest of the day. Standing beneath it, doesn't do the cathedral justice; one needs to walk a distance away to absorb the full structure, without getting neck cramps. The east of the cathedral was designed completely differently: the figures were much more traditionally carved, more realistic. The scene depicted Jesus' birth and life. Gaudi said he wanted the cross at the top of the cathedral to be the first thing sailors would see as they came into the port to welcome them. Loved that.

After checking out endless gift shops and practicing mi espanol, we walked (I limped due to not endurance withstanding footwear) back to our hotel. We rested a while. Zeus caught up with his Spanish TV. We went out to an Argentinian restaurant down the street and enjoyed a cheese salad, followed by a meat feast (cardiac arrest for two) accompanied with some Merlot and coke (for Zeus). The Argentinian sausage was so tasty. I'm not overly fond of steak, so Zeus had most of that. The pork ribs were very good. The next morning (with comfortable walking shoes on) we made our way to the bus stop only to discover due to protests concerning Catalan wanting it's independence from Spain, there was no bus. We had already walked to Sagrada Familia the day previous, so we made our way there again; this time in much quicker time as I had already taken photos on route.

The inside of Sagrada Familia was just as impressive as out. The stained glass windows were positioned bringing in most colored light. The pillars and ceiling were designed to resemble palm trees and a forest canopy. Gaudi, we later learned in the extensive museum, was greatly influenced by nature. Once outside, we headed for the direction of Guell Park. It was some distance away, so being almost lunchtime and I was starving, we stopped at a little cafe and sat outside. Because Zeus speaks Spanish, the waiters kept assuming I did too, and gave me menus in Spanish. No complaints as I was able to practic more. It just meant the waiters had to do just that: wait, a little longer than normal so I could translate in my own slow time. Zeus had seafood paella and I, a hamburger minus the bun, potato salad, fried onions and a huge beef tomato. I did prefer the paella, and Zeus was nice enough to share.

There was a lot of uphill walking to get to the park, but it was well worth it. There were street musicians playing harps, guitars, singing; all selling their music on cd. It made strolling through the park most pleasant in the afternoon sun. We went to the famous mosaic tiled, wavy benches overlooking the city. It was pretty crowded; all the sun soaked seats were taken, but the shaded empty seats were equally as pleasant.

We followed signs to a fountain within the park. If you visit this park, don't bother visiting the fountain. It was more of a bath of dirty water and a tap dripping. Not worth the hike back up the hill. It took us a while to walk back from the park to our hotel, but the stop was broken down by stopping in at every souvenir shop along the way. Nothing like window shopping to distract you from aching feet. Later that evening we went to a restarant/bar. We had some Sangria, which I think makes a much better summer drink than winter. The ice was a little too much for November temperatures. I had a seafood cocktail. We shared some toasted bread with tomatoes on it. Zeus had kid goat chops and some potatoes. On Saturday, we took the bus tour to the National Art Museum of Catalonia, or MNAC. Another beautiful building sitting on top of a hill, overlooking the city.

We didn't want to spend all the sunshine inside, so we looked at the main collection only. We got back on the bus, which took us down by the port and the sea front. I thought about stopping at the beach, but Zeus pointed out that as windy as it was on the bus, it would probably be all the more windy and chilly by the water. We got out near some restaurants and had some lunch. I had some prawns and Zeus had some goat steak. We shared the most deliciously creamy goats cheese salad. Oh, it was divine. I want to buy a goat, and then hire someone to milk it and make cheese for me, as I don't know how. We walked around the tourist downtown area: lots of markets and souvenir shops, small alleyways and cafes.

There was a Christmas market being set up outside the Barcelona Cathedral. We walked into the food market, which opened later afternoon. What a crowd of people. It was such a tangible, sensational experience: being surrounded by piled of fruits and vegetables stalls. Nuts and dried fruits, spices in wooden containers. Fresh fish and seafood piled up. Meat and innards I've never seen, nor wish to. Sheep and goats' heads with the eyeballs still in. Whole rabbits skinned; eyeballs still in. Legs of pigs and sheep. Mounds or chorizo and sausages. Boxes and crates full of every kind of sweet thing. Chocolates and nougat, jellied candy, jellied fruits. We almost bought some, but I would have never have been able to make a decision which to buy, so we contented ourselves with our sight and smell senses being satisfied. By this time of the evening, all the Christmas lights were on in the streets. Throngs of people walked along Las Ramblas, strolling past the stalls.

By 7pm, we decided to get the bus back. We got on and took a rather short route around a roundabout, before being dropped off at the other side of the street. The bus had finished for the night. We considered getting a taxi back, but decided to walk to see our last little bit of Barcelona, and worry about hurty feeties later. That was before we walked in the wrong direction, towards the port, rather than the north west of the city. By the time we got back it was about 9pm, but we had most certainly worked off the calories of a rather delicious nutella filled roll pastry we had consumed earlier. Sunday morning, we checked out and got picked up in the shuttle to the airport. A very good trip.

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