Thursday, July 6, 2017

Montserrat: July 1, 2017

This morning we packed up and took the car out of the city.  As we did not have to go downtown, driving was not a problem.  We headed first to Montserrat which is a range of unusually shaped mountains.  At the top of the mountain is an old monastery and an old city.  The idea was to hike to the top.  We hiked for several hours, but some of the signs were faded and we weren't sure that we were on the correct trail. 

975 meters is 3,198 feet above sea level !!!   We did find a trail to the top of the mountain, hiked up most of the way, but at the very last part, we decided we couldn't proceed without the proper gear, so we didn't go all the way to the top.  

 Towards the end it was climbing, not hiking !

Here, right before you reach the top, you have to hold on to the chain and pull yourself on to the rocks.  I tried to do it, but it cut my hands.  We decided that we needed gloves and long pants to do this safely.  Since we didn't have those, we decided that it was better to go back and live to hike another day.  If we'd slipped, the trip, and our lives, would be over.

We climbed down, and after another 2 hours were back at the car.  We then headed to Olot to see our friends Macarena and Dani (Daniel).  When we arrived, they prepared a wonderful meal for us.

Downtown Barcelona: June 30, 2017

Today we decided to wander around the city and visit some of the squares we saw on the way to the beach.  Here is some of the beautiful architecture.
It was really hot and humid, not unlike Florida or NC at this time of year.  Thankfully for us, most places in Barcelona have air conditioning !  I actually like the way it's done here though.  The AC is on, but it's just comfortable, not COLD like in most places you go in the states.

 The building in the background is currently an art museum.  When we first saw it we thought that it was an old Chateau, like in the movie "the count of Monticristo".  Our fantasy was ruined when we found out that it was really just a fancy building built for a big Spanish celebration about 20 years ago.  Still, it is beautiful !

 I imagined beautifully clad men and women walking these steps.

 At the top you can see the entire city stretched out before you, and the mountains in the distance !

 After walking around the city, we decided to try out the famous 'Tapas' that everyone talks about.  The word tapas just means "small portion" and so the idea is that you order a bunch of these small portions and share them while having drinks.  Well, the small portions are really TINY portions.  For instance when ordering scallops, I ordered one "unit" (for 3 euros) and received exactly ONE scallop.  There were all sorts of unusual things on the menu.  Pig's ears (real thing !) and a lot of other things I wasn't too keen on trying.  The menu was itself entertaining, so please get a good laugh by viewing it here.  We did try something new and
interesting, Quail thighs in Escabeche marinade.  They were pretty good, but not very filling.

We didn't try the pork jowls or some of the other "interesting" items.  We did have an arugula and mozzarella salad with mango dressing that was AMAZING.  In the end, we ate enough to feel satisfied, but it came with a large price tag ! 

Since we would be driving to Olot, in the morning, it was time for us to go to the airport to get the rental car.  Getting to the airport on the bus was no problem.  DRIVING back to our place with the car, well that was a nightmare !  Downtown Barcelona is full of huge 'round abouts'.  Some of them have other lanes of traffic going through them.  I couldn't figure out how to navigate them and several times we thought we were literally going to die.  Then there's the "exits".  There is a "highway" and there are small ramps that go straight up.  And there are side streets.  It is difficult to explain unless you see it, but suffice it to say we turned a 20 minute trip into a two hour ordeal.  One problem was that somehow we kept going around in circles.  Then, my phone died and we didn't have any way to navigate to our destination.  I pulled over into a neighborhood and tried to figure out what to do.  Apparently we were at the entrance to a tennis club.  A man, seeing that we were distraught, offered to help us.  It ended up that we went into the club with him and walked around until my phone charged up again.  Once we got back to the area where we were staying, it was VERY difficult to find a place to park the car.  I finally had to pay 21 euros to park the car overnight.  In retrospect, I would have been better off had I just gotten the car in the morning instead of the night before.--Lesson learned !

Beach Day Barcelona, Spain: June 29, 2017

To be on the beach in Barcelona, it has been something I've dreamed about since I planned this trip.  Today this fantasy came true.  We got packed up for the beach, got on the bus, and away we went.  Just a 30 minute bus ride and we were at the beach.  I have to say, it was as beautiful as I'd imagined !

The sky was so blue and the ocean was a clear blue as well.
We set out our towels and relaxed.  In just a few moments a young man came by and sold us mojitos ! 

 It wasn't long before we met a young woman traveling around Europe named Ariel.  We ended up hanging out with her the whole day.  It was really fun.  All of the beaches in Spain are topless, some are completely nude beaches.  It is amazing how free it feels to just take your clothes off.  No one is starring or making comments.  It's very "normal"  Old women, young woman, fat, skinny, etc.  no one cares.

On the way to the beach we saw this ad for McDonald's Delivery !  I thought that was very interesting !

Monday, July 3, 2017

Off to Barcelona !: June 28, 2017

Our day began VERY EARLY as our flight from Paris to Barcelona left at 6:20am !  We called an Uber and made it to the airport without any problems.  The flight was smooth and we were in Barcelona by 8:30am.  Again, we had to figure out the transportation system, but we had lots of practice and it was easy to navigate to our Airbnb.  When we arrived we were only able to leave our baggage there, not check in as it was so early.  We were thankful for that although we both would rather have just gone to sleep.  We took off in search of breakfast.  Once we'd eaten, (and I'd had coffee) we were much more ready to begin our explorations !
 Here is the bus stop we needed to be back to in order to get back to our place.  
 Unusual statue in the square.

 Plenty of naked women statues here ! 

 THOUSANDS of pigeons in the park.  These could feed a lot of hungry people !  Wasn't there a time not too long ago when people raised and ate pigeons ???

 While the square was beautiful and spacious, the streets were very narrow. (as they are all over Europe)

 Barcelona Cathedral

 Here are some photos from inside the cathedral.  I liked this one better than the one in Prague.  It wasn't as ostentatious and gaudy.  While waiting to get into the cathedral there were women selling scarves that they said we needed to use to cover ourselves (because our shoulders were showing).  I didn't want to buy one because I think it's a scam.  When I got to the door, the doorman said I had to cover my shoulders or I couldn't go in.  He said I should buy a scarf from one of the women.  I said, "no, I'll just come back tomorrow".  Just then another girl who was leaving the church handed me her scarf and said "here, you can have mine".  Before I could even thank her, she had disappeared into the crowd.  KARMA.

 As part of our ticket, we were able to climb up to the roof !

 It was VERY WINDY !

After the cathedral, we had lunch and went back to the house to take a much needed nap !