España 2004: Barcelona

Saturday, 1 May 2004

We arrived in Barcelona at noon, slightly behind schedule. Unfortunately, our main luggage will be arriving tomorrow – more than slightly behind schedule! Nonetheless, our introduction to Barcelona went very well. It was quite a lovely day (2.5 on the Knowmark Weather Scale). Our apartment is gorgeous – more than we expected. More on that later.

We also met José Luis and Joaquin (good friends of Steve’s sister) and we had a great time. But, more on that later – it is late and we are very tired. BTW, this has been posted with out latest technology venture – wireless via cell (GSM). We hope to be using GPRS by Monday. Very cool, indeed.

Sunday, 2 May 2004

Our luggage arrived this morning around 11:00am which was great, so our ‘loss’ was brief. Unfortunately, the phone call telling us that they had our luggage came just after eight o’clock and woke us up. A bit early after our late night!

José Luis and Joaquin picked us up about 1:00pm and we drove up to Tibidabo, one of the small mountains (large hills?) in Barcelona. We had a drink overlooking the city then proceeded to a fantastic restaurant (Porvenir) where José Luis is well known. We had an amazing lunch: the tiniest possible calamares, clams, and some shellfish whose name translates as switchblade. They were one of the most delicious things either one of us has ever eaten. After that there was a platter of cold meat and then our main course which consisted of merluza (hake) and rape (monkfish). Both were wonderful, especially the merluza – a very delicate white fish (very much like halibut). Both were extremely fresh and very well prepared. All of this was washed down with a very nice rioja (Ondarre Reserva 1998) and the meal was completed by a plate of several desserts and three versions of a liqueur called orujo – one plain, one with herbs and one with coffee. Lunch took about four hours altogether and afterwards we drove to the old part of the city and wandered around looking at the sights.

Monday, 3 May 2004

Today we have tried to establish a relatively ‘normal’ routine – café (con leche for Susan; cortado for Steve), class, lunch, etc. Plus, we’re still catching up, trying to overcome our latent jetlag. And, we got some necessary shopping in (stocking the apartment), which we hadn’t been able to do before. While we have taken a few pictures, we have not been able to upload them yet. Our connection to the internet (entirely wireless, using the cell network) is very reliable and extremely flexible, but quite slow – not fast enough to upload pictures. This isn’t a problem for what we normally do, which is largely text-based. So, until we get the speed issue sorted out, there will be no photos accompanying our diario.

Tuesday, 4 May 2004

Today was a beautiful day in Barcelona (KWS rating: 2.5). Other friends of Steve’s sister (Shaiy) picked us up after class and took us for lunch, followed by some touring. Lunch was at Moncho’s, a very nice restaurant in the Olympic district (created when Barcelona hosted the Summer Games in 1992). We had a very nice meal starting with calamares a la romana, salmonetes – a type of small pinkish fish which were very good, and alcarchofas – artichokes which were sauteeed until crispy – yum! As our main course we had paella con mariscos, our first paella in Spain. The meal did satisfy one of Susan’s only wishes for Barcelona – to eat seafood by the sea. (This was her first proper look at the Mediterranean.)

We then spent the afternoon with Pepe and Christa (Shaiy’s friends) as our guides – first to Montjuïc, which has wonderful vistas of the entire city of Barcelona. It was quite interesting in contrast to our visit to Tibidabo on Sunday (see earlier report), which overlooks the city from a different direction.

Then, they took us to Poble Espanyol, which is fascinating place showing the archictecture from all over Spain in a single setting. Reproductions (small) of real buildings from across the country are arranged as a small city – it was quite educational (at least, for us).

Wednesday, 5 May 2004

Today we just sort of lived – the mercado (early, as we are continuing preparations for a dinner party that we are hosting on Thursday); class; lunch (menú del dia); some more shopping; siesta; more shopping; dinner at home (bread, cheese, fruit, wine). We have taken to having our morning café in the market at the small bar that is there. Café con leche for Susan; cortado for Steve. One of the main reasons we returned to Spain was for the coffee!

And, we learned to use the laundry machine in our apartment. The apartment is first-rate – very nicely appointed and equipped with just about everything thay you could want.

Thursday, 6 May 2004

Another lovely day in Barcelona (KWS rating: 2.5). The mercado as usual; Steve played hookie today, using the time to double-check on our car rental on Saturday and just doing some general exploring. Lunch today was small (excellent bocadillos), as we are having a dinner party this evening. More on that later.

OK, it’s later now (Sunday!) and time to give the scoop on the dinner party, which from our perspective was a great success. In an attempt to recreate a typical (but special) Canadian dinner, Susan made two appetizers and bought a third, all from different cultural backgrounds: mussel salad (Spanish), gravlax with mustard sauce (Norwegian), and hummus with pita (purchased from the Lebanese restaurant downstairs from our apartment). The appetizers were accompanied with fino, beer and wine (depending on one’s preference!). The main course had no particular cultural origin – it was the Asparagus, Egg and Cheese Torta with accompanying salad that some of you have had for Easter brunch at our house. Much good rioja washed down dinner. Dessert (an assortment of Lebanese and Spanish pastries) was accompanied by cava and orujo.

Much of the evening’s entertainment was provided when Steve and José Luis discovered a shared passion for maps. We lost them for a while 🙂 but were amused to watch them.

Friday, 7 May 2004

Our last full day in Barcelona. We have spent a fairly leisurely day, making preparations for tomorrow’s departure, plus doing a little touring. In particular, we went to Sagrada Familia, which is one of Gaudí’s creations (still being built, as you can see from the cranes in the photos!). While we didn’t see all of Gaudí’s work while we were here, we did see several of them. They are quite fantastic. We lunched at the same place as yesterday (La Repanocha) and had the same thing. Clearly, we liked the place! Dinner in our apartment – since we had enough leftovers, it was a mini-version of the dinner party on Thursday. ¡Muy bueno! Again, it is a very nice day (KWS rating: a solid 2.0) in Barcelona.