Well it’s been an unreasonably long time since the last post, and I apologize for that. We are safely home at this point as you must surely have surmised by now (or feared we were lost along the way). I was thinking that I would just leave it at that since I hadn’t wrapped up the writing I’d started about this portion of the trip which was more like a regular vacation rather than an interesting trek. But several people have asked how things ended up and so for completeness, and to indulge myself in one last bout of writing about it, the tale below winds up our adventure.
It was a truly fabulous experience, everything we hoped it would be and more. We learned a lot about the world and the people in it….and a surprising amount about ourselves as well. It’s a bit amazing what you can do…and what you can do without. Thanks so much for following. It was such a pleasure to be able to share this with you and feel the genuine interest in all of your wonderfully positive comments.
Steve and Jackie
St Cyprian October 12 to 17
What an absolutely wonderful week this was in the Dordogne. This area of France could not be any more picturesque and it turned out to be the perfect spot for both some nice R&R as well as lots of great sightseeing. The only thing I could wish for are some wider roads. My god would it kill these people to throw down an extra 3 meters of asphalt. We probably spent at least 3 hrs of each day driving around the area with about 20% of it comfortable, 75% of it at a medium to high pucker factor, and 5% in shear terror. Mike and Robin think of that 18 wheel trailer coming down that blind curve in Mt Zion up in Utah. Seems to happen about twice a day around here. Jackie and I even started to let out little short yips and squeaks of fear in pretty good harmony as our car was either inches from a stone wall on one side, a speeding oncoming truck, bus or RV on the other and often both. But even with that the sights and experiences made it all worth while. Castles, caves and canard everywhere you turn and the beautiful Dordogne river running right down the middle of it all. The 100 years war took place in these hills and valleys and they say that over 1000 castles were built during that time. I can well believe it. Our little village is just the right size for us and the 12th century church sitting right nearby tells us the time all day and night with it’s lovely soft bells. We feel very comfortable here. Jackie says that after a week I’m even starting to drive with the fearlessness or better yet the craziness of a Frenchman.
Sunday – At the Market
It’s market day in St Cyprian so we take the opportunity to roll down the hill and complete our grocery shopping after we have our home cooked breakfast of soft boiled eggs Yummm. The Market is surprisingly extensive given how small the town is and there’s
quite a crowd by the time we arrive. It covers the whole street that we went the wrong way on yesterday and more. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies, bread, nuts, pastries and many prepared foods plus lots of durable goods fill the street in colorful stalls. We’re almost overwhelmed by the choices. It’s a very pleasant time and we fill the two bags we brought with goodies and lug them back up the hill to our cottage. The weather is warm and sunny and we settle in for a lazy afternoon of reading and relaxing. Lunch is a prepared paella from the market and it’s delicious.
Jackie overhears someone talking about a choir singing at the church that night so we stop by at the appointed time and it’s very beautiful and quite moving. A dozen or so woman singing religious hymns, many that we recognize despite being sung in a foreign language, fill the large centuries old stone building completely with their voices. What a great sound as it reverberates from the stone walls and high arched ceiling and it ends much too soon. As we look at the people I can see my French Canadian heritage in their faces and body shapes. Looks like I’m back in Chicopee, my home town. Jackie swears she sees my aunt Alice and aunt Pat sitting in the front pew. We wonder if there are any Heberts still here.
Monday – Canoeing on the Dordogne
After only a day of hanging around we are up for some adventure. The Rick Steves guide book, our travel bible, says there’s canoeing available on the Dordogne river so we set out to find it wondering if it’s maybe too late in the season for it now. We find a spot with canoeing advertised but its awfully quiet and it looks like they may have closed up. But as we wander on the river bank someone shows up and says we are good to go. They get us into a canoe, send us downstream westward toward the Atlantic and in broken English tell us that in about two hours when we pass under the third bridge that we come to we should pull over to the south bank, give them a call and they will come get us. Or at least that’s what we think they say. So with blind faith we head out and have a really great time
paddling down a gorgeous river that we have all to ourselves and float past a multitude of beautiful towns and villages on the river banks several of which have a serious castle as their main feature. The weather is terrific with a warm sun beaming down and It’s like being in a Renoir painting. Wholly crap we are punting down a river in France, I feel like I should be wearing one of those yellow boater hats that you see in those old pictures.
We go quite a ways and see no bridges and start to question our understanding of the directions but sure enough, and all too soon, we pass under all of them as advertised. After the third bridge the pull out point is obvious as it’s filled with snack bars and other small shacks set up for the summer tourists but all are closed now. Hard to believe its mid October it feels so warm. We are the only souls here. We call the number stenciled on all of our gear and in 15 mins a young man shows up with a trailer to cart us and the canoe back to the starting point. He tells us that in high season in mid summer they usually launch
over 5000 canoes a day down this section of the river. Today we are just the second boat he’s put in. What a lovely experience, priceless!
Above us when we return to the boat launch area in Cezac we see a town siting way up high on a ridge. It looks like a great place to eat our picnic lunch. It’s called Domme and is famous for its view so again we wind up ever narrower streets and find our way to the top where the view is as advertised. It’s a cute tourist town and we find a garden overlooking the valley below and can clearly follow the path that we so recently traced down the river in our canoe. From here the navigating looks pretty easy.
We spy a couple of boats floating lazily downriver and relish our recent experience. We enjoy a nice lunch and I open the can of duck fois gras pate that I bought at the market yesterday. Yummm if you like that kind of thing which I dearly do. And I don’t have to share any with Jackie either, she’s not a fan. My little can lasts the whole week.m
On the way back to St Cyprian we decide to visit one of those impressive castles that we had so recently passed on the river. So in the town of Beynac we follow the signs for one of the bigger chateaus, (as they call the castles here), that we saw sitting high up from the river.
Up and up we drive through more narrow streets until we are at the top of the ridge above the town that the castle commands. It’s the real thing and was once owned by Richard the Lion Hearted (sometimes it’s just weird to be hit with the realization that these, to us, fairytale people actually existed).
This was a main fortress commanded by the English during the 100 years war and way down across the river we can clearly see their French counterpart, the Chateau Castelnaud,
enhanced during the war to oppose them. Chateau Beynac is big, heavy and pretty austere, but impressive nonetheless. We wander through it pretty much on our own with several other tourists and try to imagine life here.
We return to St Cyprian to savor our adventure over a home cooked meal Jackie prepares in our humble but functional kitchen. Nice to have some home cooking after all these restaurant meals. It’s was a really great day and we are so happy that we chose this area to spend this part of our trip.
Tuesday – Cave Paintings
This part of France is filled with a numerous caves that were populated by ancient peoples who covered the walls with their now famous artwork over 15 millennia ago. This is a must see on Jackie’s list and we set out to visit a couple of them. First to Les Eyzies to see Le Font de Gaume in the morning and to Montignac for le Grotte de Lascaux II in the afternoon. More driving through crazy narrow country roads. Average speed out here is about 60 Kms per hour, that’s just 36 MPH, and it seems to take quite a while to get anywhere, but the country views are beautiful and it’s covered with small farms. I’m again seriously reminded of the hills above North Hampton where my sister lives.
The paintings in the first cave are more rustic let us say then the second cave we will view, somewhat faded and difficult to see, but once you realize what you are looking at it’s pretty awesome. We go back into the side of a hill maybe 40 or 50 meters. It’s dark, cold and wondrous. What I didn’t anticipate is that the ancient artists would use the three dimensions of the rock surface on the cave walls to help define the outlines of the bison, horses and deer that they painted. When our guide moved the light around simulating the torch flames that the painters would have employed they almost came to life and you could get a bit mystical about it. They only had 3 colors, red, black and brown, available to them and it was pretty damned impressive how they were able to use shading to give the animals accurate muscular definition. Much more sophisticated than I had expected. We exit the cave pretty damned awed.
We go back to the town of Les Eyzies and find a nice restaurant that our hostess Julie had recommended and as we choose our seats we see a young Asian couple who where also on our cave tour. We invite them to join us and they speak excellent English both having attended grad school at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He works for Coke and the are here for a conference in Bordeaux and are taking several extra days to tour the area. They found the restaurant on a Trip Adviser recommendation so we expect it will be good. We ended up having a long, luxurious two hour lunch engaged in wonderful conversation with these young folks. It was a delight and we parted like old friends with invitations each way to visit Washington DC and China.
Our second cave called Lascaux II is in the town of Montignac. What we get to see is actually an exact duplicate created back in the mid 80’s after the original cave was closed due to deterioration in the late 60’s. As we found out in the first cave the painters used the shape of the walls as part of the depicted animal’s physical definition so the duplicate cave had to be replicated in all three dimensions. They claim to be accurate to within one centimeter. It’s a fairly extensive region to view so that’s a pretty impressive claim and I can’t imagine how they did it. In this cave the paintings are much more clearly defined and the colors much brighter and intense. It looks like it was done yesterday but they claim it’s accurate to what can be seen in the original. If so it’s damned impressive. Our tour is in French as it’s late in the day and no English tours are available, but we can follow along pretty well although I’m sure we miss some detail that would have enhanced the experience. We enjoy our ride back home and pass by several duck farms along the way, foie gras on the hoof you might say. Sorry Carrie but I do love that stuff. Another home cooked meal by Jackie caps off the night.
Wednesday – Surlat les Caneda
We decide to visit Surlat les Caneda today only about 20 Kms away. It’s the local area’s largest town and it has a well regarded market that is open on Wednesdays. Luckily someone we ran into gave us a local city map because it’s seriously larger than the small villages we’ve been in up to now. Even with the map we have difficulty navigating and get fairly lost before we finally locate the medieval old town section where the market is held. It’s quite impressive in the old town area where no cars are allowed and with the market going full bore you can almost feel transported back to ancient times if you squint a little. And of course you would need to ignore Jimmy’s Restaurant with its Route 66 decor
chock full of 1950’s Americana including an old Indian motorcycle. It’s actually quite a hoot and we have a coffee here overlooking the ancient square. Across from us is an old decommissioned church that’s been converted into an enclosed market chock full of bread and wine shops. Michael Black, I know you got pretty tired of Jackie dragging you through all those cathedrals back on our travels,
but this would be the church you’d want to attend. It actually seemed a bit sacrilegious at first but hey, bread and wine seem to be a central tenant so on reflection it seems appropriate.
We tour the area for a while but we like the smaller towns and countryside better so we decide to make our escape and head way down south to a city called Cahors. We hear they make Malbec wine down there so off we go. It’s a pretty good way and it takes a while but we get there in the early afternoon. We find a nice wine shop where we can do some tasting and pick up three bottles of the local wine. It’s actually pretty good and I like it more than the St Emilion we bought earlier. (Sorry Jean-Louie).
We find a gorgeous old 13th century bridge where the city was once successfully defended from an invasion by the British and have a nice picnic lunch along the riverbank. As we walk the bridge we see a brass Camino shell imbedded in the road. Turns out this was an ancient Camino route at one time so we continue as pilgrims even over here. Amazing.
We return home in the late afternoon somewhat exhausted from the much too exciting driving. We have gotten into watching a movie each night, streaming it on my iPad since there is no TV in the apartment. It’s a nice way to relax and we get to hear it in English. We stumble on an old movie about the Knights Templer and the 12th century crusades which fits perfect with the area we’ve been exploring. All the views in the film look just like what we are living in, except of course for the parts in Jerusalem.
Thursday – Another Cave and Rocamadour
We set out today to visit a cave, le Gouffe Padirac, famous not for any paintings but for its extensive underground caverns. It was discovered in the very late 1880’s and has been a public attraction since about 1898. It’s quite impressive with three separate elevator rides down to about 130 meters underground.
We start the tour in a boat and travel about 400 meters through extensive caverns where sections are quite dramatically light up and the ceiling in places is about 120 meters high with only 10 meters of dirt over our heads. Our guide says that someday it will likely cave in…..maybe even today… mmmm cave humor I guess. The water is crystal clear and ice cold ranging in depth from a few to 15 meters deep. Our guide rocks the boat asking if we can swim…. more cave humor. Enormous and multicolored stalactites hang down from the ceiling….someday they will fall….the humor seems as dark as the caves down here. The water portion of the trip ends and we get out and walk and climb through several extensive and absolutely beautiful caverns decorated with that bizarre underground
architecture created by many millennia of dripping water laden with the various minerals that lend their magnificent hues once that other very rare commodity, light, is added. It’s impossible not to wonder what it must have been like to be the original explorers finding their way through these watery warrens with ropes and gas lamps slowly discovering what a magnificent find they had crawled into. It must have been scary and treacherous and with their limited light I’m sure it took a good while before they could fully determine the breathtakingly beautiful scene they where in. Our personal exploration of this great cave ends much too soon and thankful for the elevators we return to the more mundane surface where we exit through, off course, the gift shop.
A picnic lunch once again and this time we sit just outside that huge yawning hole in the ground that defines the entrance and then we set off for the town of Rocamadour whose main attraction is that it’s built into the side of a huge cliff. It’s not far and as we approach
on another narrow road from across a narrow deep valley it is a quite an amazing sight. Why build a town into the side of a cliff I wonder? I don’t know, but it’s quite amazing to sees. We unknowingly chose the poorer route into town going down into the narrow valley though even more treacherous roads, again two way with one way widths including a short blind curved tunnel. Crossing our fingers we encounter no traffic on the way down and thank god for that. (I’m starting to figure out why they have so many churches around here, praying for no opposing traffic). We park along a stream and have bit of a tough climb up steep stairs to the bottom level of the town with the now standard medieval old town section full of shops that we explore.
Next an elevator ride up, at 6 euro for two, and we are at a small cathedral and more shops lined with wondrous carved stone walls.
The view out over the valley is quite impressive. We find a funicular that brings you up to a third level where there is a famous chateau. The place to pay is unmanned with a sign saying to pay at the top. So we ride it up and find out the charge for this one minute ride is 8 euro for the two of us. OK now I think I’ve discovered why they built this town into a cliff; maximum tourist euro extraction. Smart Frenchmen. For another 2 euro we get to walk on the walls of the chateau which gives another great view, but we aren’t allowed inside. Dumb tourists. Up here is a huge parking lot and we wonder what in the hell are we doing parked way down at the bottom of that narrow road? How did they get up here? We return to the bottom level, luckily our tickets were two way, and it starts to rain lightly. Do we run down stairs for the car while we can or duck into that nice looking crepe shop over there for a late second lunch? Duhhh! As we wait to order It starts to really pour down and we wonder did we make a bad decision and miss our opportunity to get to the car? We share a chicken and mushroom crepe covered in a brie sauce. OMG. Yes we made the right decision. Then a grilled pear desert crepe filled with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, called Chantilly in these parts, along with the optional scoop of ice cream and we know it was the right decision, even if it never stops raining. But as we finish so does the rain so it all works out great. We make our way down the stairs to our car to start the journey back up that harrowing road white knuckles and all, and just as we start to exit that narrow tunnel with the blind turn in the middle a bus starting to enter barely comes to a screeching halt right in front of us!!!! An fffing tour bus are you kidding me? If we had been further back in that tunnel we would have been just a pretty red smear on the wall. What the hell? As it is we both have to stop and let the bus creep by at the very entrance while Jackie and I cringe and expect to hear the sound of tearing metal at any instant. We open our eyes and the bus is thankfully past, whew! As we take the road that will bring us back to St Cyprian we drive by the parking lot we saw located at the top of the town. We never had to drive down into that valley in the first place and we wonder why no sign for the better way? Ahh yes, I remember now, the charge for those elevator rides. Back to St Cyprian with no more than the normal yips and squeaks as we pass many more trucks and close walls.
Friday – Castelnaud
It’s our last day for touring the Dordogne because tomorrow we must head down to Barcelona. We don’t want to leave as this area has been the perfect retreat. We decide to visit one more castle and choose Chateau Castelnaud since it is not too far away and we need to spend some time packing up this afternoon. Over the week our gear has become strewn everywhere as we enjoyed not having to pack each night. We navigate our way to a bridge to get us over the Dordogne river as this is the sister castle that faces across the river from Chateau Beynac the castle we visited on Monday. We also saw it’s great walls on our canoe trip. Of course it’s at the top of a hill, scary narrow roads blah blah blah you’ve heard it all.
As we leave the parking lot and go down a slope we are presented with a magnificent view of a classic medieval castle with a sweet little town snuggled up to its walls for protection. Truly truly fairy tail stuff. The castle is loaded with medieval armaments; it’s basically a museum for them.
They also have several large siege engines, called trebuchets, that can throw huge stones great distances to pound down castle walls. They have actually demonstrated them here but unfortunately not today. The tour is self guided and we wander all over the place on our own as usual. Except for a school tour it’s practically empty this late in the season.
The castle seems more sophisticated than it’s counterpart across the river; more complex somehow. It has likely been added to over a longer period of time to make it, relatively speaking of course, more modern.
We spend several hours here and have a great lunch in one of the local restaurants, a duck confit and a gourmet burger and an absolutely A1 rated chocolate mousse. I didn’t know such a thing existed. We take a leisurely ride back to St Cyprian through some back roads that we find as we try to stretch our remaking time before we have to return. We come across another chateau once owned by Josephine Baker an exotic pre WWII dancer very famous in her day back in Paris. Its quite beautiful from the outside, but we don’t take the time or spend the money to tour it.
All too soon we are back in our little town climbing that winding steep hill for the last time. Who knew I’d come to love it so much scary as that hill was. This has been such a truly perfect setting.
We get our packing done and clean the place up then we go upstairs where our hostess, Julie, has invited us for dinner. It’s a very pleasant night and we spend the whole evening chatting about our various travels. Julie and a friend will do the last 100 K of the Camino next year and we share our experiences and recommendations for places to stay. She is extensively traveled and tells us fascinating stories about all the places she has been literally all over the world, both biking and trekking. We wish we were her….. Maybe we will be. She is closing down her place here for the season once we leave and is hoping to spend part of this winter working on a big cat preserve in Namibia as a volunteer if her application is accepted. We end the night with hugs and kisses, one more great friend acquired on our journey. We will miss St Cyprian and this whole area very very much.
Barcelona. October 18 to 20 – Then home to Herndon VA on October 21
These last three days couldn’t have been any more different from our quiet idyllic week in the Dordogne countryside. We are in the big city of Barcelona in an apartment just off las Rambles the absolute craziest and most bustling street of anywhere we’ve ever been. Barcelona is a major city and a tourist destination with many travelers in evidence and it’s designed to accommodate them. Lots and lots of restaurants, bars and shops plus a major beach right at the bottom of town. Its hustle and bustle personified.
Saturday. St Cyprian to Barcelona
We get up early to, oh so sadly, depart our lovely village of St Cyprian. This has been just a perfect week but it’s time to move on. Today is basically used up just getting to Barcelona, it’s about a 300 mile drive with the first several hours on small country roads where we can’t make much time. About an hour above Toulouse we pick up the superhighway system that we can follow all the way to our destination and we can really fly. But it’s at a cost cause we pay about 60 euros in tolls before we get there. The trip takes over 7 hours. We have to find our way to the rental car return at Barcelona airport which worries me a bit. Our GPS wakes back up when we cross the boarder and she finds the airport without an incident but she won’t actually speak to us anymore no mater what we try. As a mater of fact she hasn’t spoken to us since we totally ignored her back when she went nuts in Bilbao. Guess we hurt her feelings. Anyway luckily there are signs in English to the rental return and we complete the transaction with the return of the car in mostly one piece. Surprising given our recent excursions, just a minor scrape on one wheel and a tiny scrape on the edge of the trunk. We feel we got off pretty lucky. I have to call the girl who owns the apartment to let her know we are within striking distance so she can meet us there. Minor problem, I have the French SIM card in my phone and need to put in the Spanish one, but I have no tool to open the tiny drawer where it’s housed. I dig out my handy Swiss knife and give the corkscrew tool a try and to my surprise I am able to pop out the drawer with it. Thanks again Henry. We complete arraignments to meet at the apartment and find a bus to get us downtown. It lets us off at the top of Las Rambles and the street is wall to wall with people. This is barcelona’s party street and it’s Saturday afternoon. We have a long 10 -15 minute walk through the crowd with backpacks and luggage but we can use the exercise after all this goofing off. The apartment is having the shower enclosure rebuilt when we get there, seems the previous tenants were a bit rambunctious. But we get checked in and dump our bags while they complete the work. The place is ok, acceptable, but nowhere as nice as our French apartment. It will do however and we run out to explore the street life on Las Rambles. It’s even more crowded with people and as Jackie and I enjoy a well earned drink at a sidewalk cafe we remark that this has to be the absolute worst dressed bad looking crowd we’ve ever seen. Don’t know why and in other parts of the city that’s not the case, but here it’s one ugly group no matter what the nationality. We enjoy some good laughs at their expense and we recognize we’re probably not doing much to improve the scenery. We find an unsatisfactory dinner in a touristy section and wander the area for a while to get a sense of the place. We’re not too sure about it and go to bed wondering if we are going to like it here. We enjoy looking out over our terrace and hearing the crowd down on the streets below us though. well have to see.
Sunday, – Touring Barcelona
We want to see some of he Gaudi architecture that the city is so famous for and other sights as well so decide that the double deck hop on hop off bus will be a good way to get acclimated, see the city and find our way to several of the Gaudi buildings. The bus runs by the beach area first before heading up town and we are amazed at how extensive and modern this area is. Seems that back when Barcelona hosted the Olympics (1992?) this entire area was rebuilt from a slummy industrial area and apparently they did a fabulous job. We will have to get back down here at some point. Our first hop off is at the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famed Cathedral.
As seems to be the case on many of our European visits the building is covered in scaffolding and even has some cranes on it while being refurbished. You may have noticed in the photos that Santiago’s famed cathedral was also under reconstruction when we arrived and it’s happened to us previously in Italy at Florence’s renowned Dumo and at Sienna’s colorful church as well. Some bad luck and bad
timing. But still the utter bizarreness off the design is very evident; like something from another planet. This is almost a Dali painting brought to physical realization. There is a huge line to enter that looks hours long so we pass on the opportunity thinking that we may return earlier tomorrow (which never happens). Along the street nearby there is a Sunday market set up covering several blocks. We go through that and pick out some snacks to have a picnic in the park overshadowed by Gaud’s strange but amazing construction. On the street there are various troops of acrobat like performers constructing these very tall human pyramids. It seems to be a competition of some kind. They get up to eight or nine layers of people high and it’s quite amazing. Seems we run into strange stuff wherever we go.
We Hop back on the bus and it’s off to Park Guell designed by Gaudi as both a public space and an enclosed private urban housing district. We spend several hours here, it’s quite high on a hill and you get a spectacular view of Barcelona all the way down to the sea.
The park is magnificent and is filled with such strange structures that you start to think you may have entered Whoville and we keep a wary eye out for the Grinch.
The urban housing part of the park never came to full fruition, and it’s understandable given how odd the architecture was. I can’t imagine many people wanting to take the risk of buying into something so strange, especially back in the early 1900’s when this was constructed. We get fairly lost wandering through the extensive grounds and we finally find our way out and back to our bus stop feeling pretty tired from all the touring. It’s a fairly long ride back to our starting point and we’ve had all the Gaudi we can take for one day so we just relax and enjoy the guided tour of the city. We decide to depart the bus at a cathedral about 10 blocks from our apartment and blunder into a huge block party where they have set up a temporary market selling all kinds of wine and tapas to a large Sunday afternoon crowd. Who can say no to something like this so we join in and have a
blast perusing all the available treats. What a pleasant surprise and we turn it into dinner.
It’s late in the day as we head back to our apartment and as we cross the big plaza behind our place we spot people lined up for what turns out to be a small club where they have flamenco dancing. Ok we’re in, and we return later after a bit of a rest for the last show at 10:pm and have a great time.
Wandering back to our place we get some slices of pizza from a shop located almost right under our apartment. Starting to love this city lifestyle. We eat them on our terrace washing it down with some of our French wine and stare down at the crazy scene going on below us.
Barcelona goes to bed much later than we do and we fall asleep to the sounds of the continuous party that seems to define this city’s nightscape.
Monday – More Gaudi and the Beach
It’s our last full day on this incredible trip. Hard to believe it’s almost over after all this time, but there is still time for a little more adventure. We walk all the way back up Las Rambles to The Plaza de Catalunya, one of the cities main plazas. They are recovering from yesterday’s large gathering of local citizens making their bid for Catalonian independence from Spain. It was quite a major demonstration with the multitudes all dressed in their local colors of bright yellow and red. When we passed it by yesterday we thought it might be a soccer crowd rooting for some visiting team but soon came to understand its purpose was to show the area’s solidarity behind the independence movement. These people are very serious about it. In light of our recent travels in the Basque country and the failed close Scottish succession vote in the UK it seems to be a curiously common sentiment over here. Well maybe I shouldn’t be too Eurocentric about this condition, I do remember Texas expressing some similar feelings back home not too long ago.
We continue walking on up to a stop we passed by yesterday on our bus, Gaudi’s Casa Battlo, a private residence he refurbished for a wealthy middle class family back at the turn of the 20th century.
Again it was amazing to see such surrealistic conceptions being brought to physical reality in what was to start with a basic 5 story townhouse. The owners lived on the noble floor, the first above ground level, and the rest of the floors contained apartments.
It’s hard to believe that someone would agree to so outlandish a design for their main residence, but there it is. It must have taken some courage and I wonder what the people of that time made of it. I’m sure there were lots of opinions either way and can only imagine the twitterverse comments if that medium had existed back then. Gaudi’s refurb would have moved Renee Zelwigger’s rework off the front page. We toured the building mesmerized by it’s strange beauty and came to appreciate the well thought out design concepts and engineering principles that were applied in its implementation. I think I may have been moved from being skeptical to becoming a fan.
Back out into the street we walk back down to our apartment to unload our purchases, ….. damn those craftily located museum gift shop exits! With half a day left we decide to rent some bikes and cruise the beaches. We find a rental shop just doors away from the apartment and soon enough after scaring the hell out of some unwary pedestrians we find our way to the bottom of las Rambles and are pedaling along the beaches. It’s a blast. The temperature has unexpectedly soared into the low 90s F. It’s like a great summer day and we decide to wear our goofy Tilley hiking hats to provide some eye shade. After cruising along the beach scene for a while we lock up the bikes hike across the sand to put our feet into the Mediterranean.
It’s damn cold BTW and, I at least, enjoy the local scenery, much of which is damn hot. Going topless seems to be an option here and a small but surprising number of young ladies chose to do so. Actually this can turn a bit awkward as I’m not really sure where in hell to let my eyes rest; don’t want to appear to be too unsophisticated here, but hey we don’t experience this at home too often. Ahh travel is just so broadening.
The beach is loaded with great looking bars as well and we pick one. I have a “gintonic” as it’s called here. Say “gin and tonic” and they have no idea what you are talking about. It’s a giant bowled glass filled with gin and lots of ice where they give you a small bottle of tonic and you mix it yourself. Europe is just so damned civilized. Jackie has a Compari and soda and we sit back feeling pretty damned cool about ourselves just hanging at the beach in Barcelona.
It’s a nice way to while away our last afternoon soaking up the ambiance along with the heat and sunshine.
We reflect on what a truly amazing trip it’s been and the incredible variation of things we’ve seen and done and all the great people we’ve met over the last almost two months. We’re feeling pretty proud that we managed to negotiate our way through it all. I can remember my first blog post where I was pretty nervous about our ability to handle what was coming our way. It all turned out pretty damned well though.
Tuesday – Home sweet Home
We leave early the next day and the return trip home is the best kind, totally uneventful. It’s a long ride with a long layover in Miami and after almost 24 hrs awake we are back in our own house. Weirdly, the place feels only vaguely familiar, kind of like someone else’s home that you have visited on a regular but occasional basis. When I walk into our bathroom I actually can’t remember where the light switch is located ….. Ok…. from now on that’s going to be my baseline for the definition of a great trip. What a blast!