Mike and I are just getting ready to leave Barcelona and return to France. We visited with friends we made when we were all in Covid lockdown together in Croatia during the winter of 2020/21. Their oldest daughter had just returned from a school camping trip with a cold that kept her home. It reminded me of my father always saying that every time I went on a camping trip with the Girl Guides I returned home with a bad case of laryngitis.
Overall, this week was one of the slowest, or you could say most relaxing, weeks that we have had in Europe. We did a little something everyday but nothing very much. It is interesting how you can get into the habit of not doing much. If you are typically busy, you tend to assume that you will be busy each day. If you aren’t doing very much, you tend to assume, when you get up in the morning, that you won’t be doing much that day either and you think that is fine. It isn’t a good habit to get into. I would think that the pandemic forced many people into a routine of not doing much at all, a habit that now needs to be broken.
One place that we did visit this week was the Benedictine Monk retreat at the Montserrat Monastery. As you can see from the picture at the top, the views were spectacular. We went on a short hike to get that picture. It was a very damp day. At one point, during the light rain, Mike checked his phone and insisted that there was no rain where we were. The monastery is built near the top of a mountain, basically into the side of a the cliff. It is all very tourist oriented although the area the monks stay in is obviously off limits to everyone else. They have all sorts of restaurants and overnight accommodations for tourists. The story behind the monastery reminded me of Lourdes with the main fascination being a very old statue of the Virgin Mary who came to the locals in visions, causing the monastery to be established back in the 11th century.
A Formula 1 race was held about 20 km from our campground last weekend, making it very busy for a few days. According to our waiter, some of the campers paid the equivalent of $70 Cdn for a taxi to the event. The bigger problem was that there weren’t enough taxis coming back at the end. Some campers waited over three hours, and some taxis were asking for a few hundred Euros to transport customers. Glad we missed it.
One day we spent driving down the Costa Brava coast and enjoying coffee and lunch in different seaside towns. One thing that I will miss when we return to France is my cappuccino. Out of all the countries in Europe, France regularly makes the worst cappuccino’s. They are so bad that I quit drinking them completely in France. I am hoping that when we get to the touristy area of southern France things might change a little.
A few days ago, Mike and I ended up in the smallest, tightest underground parking lot you have ever seen. There were other cars our size down there. Every last one of the support columns were damaged from cars hitting them. We found some spots that were actually big enough for us except that the driving lane was so narrow, there wasn’t enough room to actually back into the parking spot. At one point, just to turn a corner in the parking lot Mike had to back up and go forward and back up again etc., this was inside the parking lot. It was extremely uncomfortable.
We hadn’t realized how much of the language in the area was Catalan and not Spanish. When we would ask Google to translate our Spanish menu to English, it would often tell us that it was actually translating from Catalan. A couple of restaurants would display a QR code somewhere at the table (see the small cube in the picture). When you photographed this you were taken to a web page with the English version of the menu. We thought this was an interesting way of making an English menu available without actually printing one.
One day while we were wandering around we saw a store called “Canada House”. I went inside and showed the clerk, who didn’t speak any English, my Canada knapsack. She tried to tell me that the store had something to do with Catalan which didn’t make sense to me. When I got back to the camper and tried to look it up, I found a production company instead that was in Barcelona and called Canada. There website is CanadaCanada.com. Maybe the word Canada means something in the Catalan language.
Mike likes getting the stickers from the different countries that we visit and putting them on our RV. It is quite surprising how much interest they generate. I looked at diverting to Andorra for a few days, just to get Mike a sticker from another country. It would have had added five or six hours of driving to our return to France and the extra mileage, with today’s fuel costs, would probably cost an extra $500 worth of fuel (just a guess). Since it didn’t look like there was much to see there for a week or two, we decided not to make the detour.
We haven’t flown our drone since we were in Czech last year. We thought that we should update the software and give it a test and remind ourselves how it worked! We went to a beach area that was outside any of the no-fly zones and had fun. This picture was taken from the video made by our drone during testing. Lovely coastline isn’t it.
On one damp day Mike and I visited the main art museum in Barcelona. For anyone that has ever wondered what the art work in all the churches would look like restored and well-lit they should visit the Gothic section of this museum. They had major displays of the wall frescos from churches and monasteries. Supposedly a lot of this artwork was going to be torn down in the early 1900s. The French government(?) stepped in to save a lot of them. Mike was just wondering out loud how they managed to transplant the walls and frescos from the churches to the museum when we turned a corner and there was a video, in English, explaining the entire process. The museum was free because Mike and I are SENIOR citizens (how awful). If I had known this earlier I might have tried to schedule multiple short visits in stead of an entire afternoon in the one building. The museum is up high on a hill and a large part of the roof was available to walk around on. The views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean were great and being near the top of the tall turrets and spires was wonderful.
Mike and I really like the traffic circles in Europe. They are much faster and more flexible than our traffic lights. I will say that the traffic circles in the middle of Barcelona were the exception. The traffic infrastructure there was horrendous. A lot of people obviously feel that scooters and motorcycles are the way to get around and they will pass you from either side, even when you are in the middle of making a turn. Traffic and driving in general in Barcelona certainly weren’t highlights. Although traffic normally travels counterclockwise around all traffic circles in Europe, we actually found ourselves within one multi lane traffic circle that had one lane of traffic passing the circle in a clockwise direction. That traffic circle also had traffic lights in several places around the circle, I kept my eyes closed every time Mike drove though this particular intersection,
We did see some interesting street names in the city. Some city planner was into geometry. They have the Av. Diagonal and the Av. del Paral·lel.
There is a lot of interesting architecture in the city. This 38 story skyscraper is said to be a symbol of contemporary Barcelona. I am not sure if it is supposed to represent a bullet or what? Above is a picture of a set of apartments in the centre of the city where some of the balconies have been enclosed in glass. Notice that the enclosures are all stained glass windows. They looked lovely even from the outside.
We were very surprised when we tried to have supper in a food court in a mall and three-quarters of the restaurants didn’t open until 20:30 or 8:30pm. We did think that restaurants inside a mall might have different hours.
On our last day wandering around Barcelona we passed an area that Mike said was obviously high end stores. Although I didn’t recognize many of the store names, I knew he was correct when I saw Jimmy Choo. Mike said he knew that they had to be high end because when he looked in the windows he could see that they had very little inventory compared to a “normal” store.
Wrapping up our time in Barcelona was our visit with our friends from our period in Covid lockdown. We visited with them in their lovely new home right downtown and then walked to dinner. They leave on their camping vacation mid-July and we hope to meet up with the entire family again somewhere in France. Fingers crossed.