We arrived in Barcelona around midday on Tuesday. The airport bus dropped us very close to our hotel so we dropped off the bags and walked down La Ramblas to the harbour. Our hotel was right on this, the most famous street in Barcelona, a great location, thronged with people at all times of the day and night, home to bird sellers and flower stalls. I'd been warned by so many people to be wary there at night, but it never seemed that risky to me. Like anywhere, you just have to be careful and alert.
We had lunch by the sea, and although it was the middle of December the temperature was 20 degrees (C, obviously), so a nice change from chilly, damp Ireland. Gordon picked the restaurant. He'd eaten there before when he was in Barcelona on business, and he'd been wishing then that I was with him, so this time, I was! After we'd eaten, we wandered round the city, going wherever we felt like and ended up in a food market off La Ramblas. It was amazing, hundreds of stalls of fish, meat, offal, fruit and breads. We bought some cakes (passed on the entrails) and returned to our room. The hotel was terrific, the room was clean and comfortable and the staff were so helpful.
In the evening we wandered around for an hour or so, keeping an eye out for somewhere good to eat, but enjoying the sights too. Then I started to feel too hungry and tired and demanded to be fed (I don't do well on an empty stomach) so we went to a restaurant we agreed looked good. It was a wonderful meal, with lots of fresh fish and a nice bottle of cava which all left me feeling good!
We didn't even leave the hotel next day until 12, and headed across the street to a cafe for breakfast. I loved that at that late hour, we were automatically handed the breakfast menu! It was pouring, but we borrowed a sturdy hotel umbrella and were perfectly protected under it. To escape the rain, we went to the Picasso museum first. That man's work is fascinating. I was almost completely ignorant about him, and seeing the progression in themes, ideas and styles all together like that gave me a real appreciation for just why he is so revered. Like so many great artists, he was BIG on perseveration!
In the evening we took the metro to Gaudi's church, probably the most renowned Barcelona landmark. It was one of those moments when the splendour of what you're seeing just hits you in the guts. I looked round when coming up the metro steps and caught my first sight and although I have seen photos of Sagrada Familia, it was something else to behold it for myself. It looked like stone that had come to life, columns went into the ground like triffids, steeples looked like honey comb; it just appeared so organic. I loved it.
Across the road, there was a Christmas fair. Rows of stalls and almost all of them selling figurines and for the crib, all different types and sizes of Marys and Josephs etc., and others specialising in moss, bridges, gravel in various colours (to recreate the Bethlehem road network?) animals and little battery operated fake fires for the stable. Wandering around were loads of families with young children and there was such a happy, festival atmosphere. Even late into the night, there were many children out and about with their families.
For our final meal, we decided to eat really late, so we'd be out as Gordon's birthday began. So we went to a restaurant called 7 Portes, for some Catalan food. We didn't arrive until 11. 15 and I was worried that we'd be turned away, but no, they were still seating diners at midnight. It's different in Barcelona!
The food we had was great (a bit salty for me, but perhaps that's the Catalan way?) One irritating thing though; our lovely waitress brought our meals to the table, announcing in Spanish (or Catalan, I couldn't tell though they're quite different) what they were. I'd ordered a stew of monk fish, Dublin Bay prawns and potatoes and Gordon was having Paella. We both paused to admire the plates, before getting ready to eat. Suddenly a sour faced waiter swooped over and snatched my plate away without a word. He went on to berate our waitress who'd obviously given me the wrong thing. I felt a bit guilty because she had said what it was, and I, who only know about 10 words of Spanish (most of which are found on Mexican food menus) didn't realise it wasn't what I ordered, it just looked about right! Anyway, apologies were made, we waved them off, I had my meal and we tipped her well at the end because the nasty waiter had left her almost in tears.
But anyway, we were able to see in Gordon's birthday together and enjoy some good food in a great setting. I was feeling on such a high, my face was hurting later from chatting and smiling so much!
We managed to have breakfast in a local cafe again before going to the airport and getting back home. I was so happy to be back. The house was, as expected, a bit of a mess. All 3 children had a great time with their grandparents. My Dad told me that my step-mum enjoyed spending that time with them getting to know them better.
So Barcelona, we really enjoyed our short time there. It was great to be away from the children for a while and do things on the spur of the moment, and not have to keep tabs on some small people. But best of all, was going home and having all 3 of those small people run up for a hug and show or tell how much we missed each other.