Barcelona: a weekend
When I arrived at Barcelona, the passport control official looked at me, looked at my passport photo (sans beard) and laughed. After a little hitch (my plane was a bit early, Jenny was a bit late, and our Spanish relatives weren't expecting the beard either) we met up with our grandmother's half-sister's daughter and son and were taken to the apartment of their daughter Ana and her husband Mike, where we stayed (nice and close to the old Gothic area of the city). There were interesting language problems, with French, Catalan, Spanish, and English all being used. Apart from Mike, who is English, no one else had good English - though several had far better English than my French - and Jenny had only a bit of Spanish, so French was used quite a bit.
On Saturday Jenny and I wandered the old part of the city -- the gothic cathedral, the town hall, a museum of Catalan history, and various other places. This central area is a mass of windy little streets, quite unlike any of the English towns I have seen; around that is a near-perfect rectangular grid of streets, dating from last century.
Dinner in Spain isn't till late. We left the house at 9.20pm, wandered till we found a tapas bar (tapas are entree sized snacks typically served with drinks) at 10pm, then wandered down to the docks, ate ice-cream, wandered around more of the old city, stopped for another drink, and got back to the flat at about 1.30am. This is typical behaviour, and the entire city seemed to be full of people just wandering around! Even allowing for it being a Saturday, Barcelona has a far more active night-life than any city other I've seen.
The food is cheap and excellent. The whole family had Paella for lunch on Sunday, followed by a family afternoon. Afterwards we were driven around some of the sights -- the Parc Guell (a Gaudi creation), the fort on Mon Juc, and for dinner to the new dockyard area constructed for the Olympics, which has successfully been turned into a popular place for eating out. (I can't see Sydney turning the Olympic site at Homebush into an area with a bustling night-life, somehow.) I have acquired a taste for octopus to go with my fascination with cathedrals.
Yesterday we saw (and climbed) the Sagreda Familia -- a half-built cathedral which has been under construction for more than a century; the most famous building of Gaudi; it really is indescribable -- and visited several other buildings built by Gaudi and his contemporaries. Then it was farewell to the relatives and onto the train. It was a lovely trip over the Pyrenees, with snow-clad peaks looming through the mist and tumbling waters and stone- walled fields and small hill forts (and a bigger castle at Foix). Even an hour's wait on the border (where we changed trains) was pleasant.