It is Christmas Eve, and I am the lone grad student in a sea of cubicles. The trickling of the fish tank has never been so loud. I turn on Pandora’s Folk Holidays station and realize that I need to get some work done. Or I could blow the stink off the musty, dusty blog that hasn’t been touched since before I left for Europe. Yes, let’s do that.

So I went to Europe. There’s pictures here that try to convey the beauty and intrigue of the places I visited, albeit feebly. I started out in Barcelona, after a substantial and annoying delay in the Madrid airport. BCN greeted me with New England weather (40 degrees F and raining) so she did not make a good first impression. Rachel tried to smooth things over between us by sweeping me away to the El Born neighborhood for tapas and pinchos and cava, and I daresay it worked. I spent my first whole day there trying to dry my feet out and get warm, cursing Spain for choosing this week as it’s prelude to winter. I wandered the Barri Gòtic and La Ribera and found Santa María del Mar and ate at a noodle house because it was warm and dry and they served hot soup and really where are noodles not appropriate? From there I went to El Museu Picasso, which was wonderful and also warm and dry. Cursing some more and ducking between awnings, I tried to walk La Rambla but the famous street performers and flower salesmen were smarter than I and therefore somewhere indoors. I drank Espresso at a cafe renowned for people watching (which also probably works better in warm, dry weather), then walked some more through L’Eixample and down to the Old Port. By then it was getting dark, so I called my damp and chilly walking tour over and tracked Rachel down. We had a fine dinner at a beautiful little restaurant in her neighborhood of Gracia then watched an artsy Portuguese film in a cafe, with a live soundtrack. The next morning we packed up and headed north in our little rental car for La Costa Brava. After stopping in beautiful Girona, we stayed the night in Cadaqués, wandered around the town and drove up to the Cap de Creus peninsula while enjoying drier if not warmer climes. Paella for dinner, and then a good night’s sleep. We tried to behave ourselves in a pottery shop before driving through the olive terraces up to el monasterio St. Pere de Rodes. This breathtaking benedictine monastery was founded in 878, according to Wikipedia. Then it was off to see Salvador Dali’s old casa in Port Lligat, which was as you might imagine, eccentric. Back to BCN that night, in time to celebrate the eve of Dia de los Muertos with a traditional Catalan feast with Rachel’s friends. They tried to speak English for my sake, but after 3 glasses of wine you will find most people speaking whatever the hell they feel like. Saturday was “Gaudi Day,” where we wandered up to Park Guell and over to Casa Perdrera and Casa Batlló before a lunch of tiny marinated octopus in view of La Sagrada Familia. Brilliant. The time in Spain was too short, but I needed to head to Portugal early Sunday morning so after one more pincho and tapas feast it was buena noche.

Portugal will have to come in another post. One final note about Barcelona – should you ever visit this fine city, please be sure to bring along a copy of La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I cannot imagine a better way to set the scene.

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This is an article that was posted on Dec 24, 12:32 PM.

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  1. Rockhound Rach Jan 5, 06:00 PM

    I miss you. When are you coming back? I promise you will have more sun next time! I smiled the whole time reading this entry…and I am so glad you enjoyed La Sombra del Viento.

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