The heat and the exhaustion of traveling for two and a half weeks caught up to me in Barcelona, hence the non-blogging. In retrospect, even though I enjoyed our time in Spain, we really should've just stayed in Biarritz. Now I'm trying to fight through jetlag and function like a normal human being (although I feel like I'm walking through a heavy fog).
So here's some memories of our five days in Barca:
We arrived late Saturday night after thirteen hours of train travel. The SNCF (the French train people) "forgot" to add ten cars to the first train that we were supposed to take to our first stop, Bordeaux. Instead we got on in Biarritz and were basically sardined into a first class car where people were trying desperately to sit and hold onto their bags. We ended up having to change in Dax about thirty kilometres away. It was a pain in the butt to say the least, especially since I paid for seats in first class! Needless to say I was very stressed trying to make our change in Bordeaux, although the conductor promised that we wouldn't miss our train despite the delay.
Our voyage continued as we changed to a train in Bordeaux to Narbonne. The train was quite nice and our car was almost empty which was good. Our two hour stop in Narbonne was extremely frustrating since the table service at the train station restaurant had the slowest server known to man. It took twenty minutes to get acknowledged and almost an hour to get a plate of charcuterie (honestly, a simple plate of a few cold cuts, some bread and a few lettuce leaves, you would've thought that we were getting served Beef Wellington!). Our first class car to Barcelona may have been first class about thirty years ago, but the bizarre train noises, itchy seats and strange conductor man that sounded like he was going to lose a lung all made for a strange ride.
We arrived in Barcelona absolutely exhausted and starving. After a relatively cheap cab ride we got to our beautiful hotel. And much to our surprised we were upgrade to a junior suite since they had no more double rooms! Woohoo! I was really excited about our stay in Barca since I booked a four star hotel knowing in advance that we would need some pampering at the end of our trip. I absolutely could not believe how awesome the room was. We had two bathrooms (Mr. JB and I don't share a bathroom at home so it was nice to have my own space again!), a living room area and a good sized bedroom. We also had two televisions so we didn't have to fight about what to watch. I loved that the hotel had their own toiletries -- not just soap and shampoo, but a shaving kit, shoe shine sponge, comb, dental kit, bath sponge and shower cap! I could've just spent the entire five days holed up in the hotel! We also loved the buffet breakfast. All of the places that we stayed, with the exception of the apartment in Paris, had breakfast, but the French don't really appreciate breakfast like North Americans. I was sick of eating baguettes and jam! When we had breakfast the first morning and saw bacon, cereal, fresh fruit and vegetables, three types of juice and three types eggs for Mr. JB (I'm deathly allergic). We ate so much that first morning and for the first time in almost three weeks we weren't hungry an hour later.
We spent our first day in Barcelona on the Bus Turistic -- the double decker tourist bus -- and basically took all three routes to see the city. The city is huge so it was great that the bus took us to all of the spots to see. I visited the city seven years ago with my crazy mother and we also did the tourist bus since she really doesn't like to do anything when she travels and it was the most passive way to see the sights. It was great that the bus had an audio guide that explained everything. I've thought more than once that I'd like to play tourist and take the same bus in Toronto so I could really see the city that I grew up in. Let's see if I ever get around to doing that!
We walked down La Rambla to see what was going on. There were some street performers dressed up in costume, musicians and dancers, and a TON of people! The funniest thing that Mr. JB thought that the sign above the newsagent said, "Ihola" not, "Hola." Needless to say he doesn't have a flair for languages (espeically since he took Spanish, and failed, in university).
Our third day in Spain we decided to visit Montserrat. Legend has it that St. Luke carved the Black Madonna and hid it in a cave to protect it from war. Years later shepherds found the statue and then the Benedictine monks tried to move it. When they couldn't they decided to build their church and abbey around it. The wait was over an hour to see the Black Madonna, but it was definitely worth it. A few years ago my father-in-law went to Montserrat but he refused to wait in the line! You can see the statue from inside of the church, but one the way to the statue there is so much beautiful artwork and sculpture that the wait wasn't too painful. The church and the abbey were beautiful and the mountains were spectacular. I can't believe that the monks had the tenacity to built the abbey on the side of a crazy high mountain!
We spent the last couple days in the city doing as little sightseeing as possible. I did get some good shopping in and we ate a lot of tapas. It's too bad that we went to Barcelona last since we had no more energy to be the thorough tourists that we were in Paris and Normandy. We had a great afternoon on the beach before we went home and although they have cleaned up the waterfront quite a bit the water wasn't as clean as it was in Biarritz! It was also pretty distracting to see a completely naked dude sunbathing! I think that I was pretty accustomed to the topless sunbathing, but the naked guy was too much!
Although we loved our hotel room and it was so convenient to have the tasty breakfast buffet, we were both so happy to go home. The ten hour plane ride was frustrating since the airline didn't have the meal that I requested (although I filled out paperwork and verified with the airline). I will never understand why it's so hard for airlines to fulfill simple requests. Since I have so many allergies I requested a kosher meal so there wouldn't be any risk of having any milk products. Instead the stewardess tried to feed me some vegetable stir fry that had milk ingredients! Then they offered me pizza. Now are these people dumb, or what? I ended up eating a crappy veggie sandwich and an apple that bruised.
So we're home and back to our normal, albeit, jetlagged life. I know that it's going to be a while before we can afford to spend three weeks in Europe. I do have to say that although I love traveling, especially to France, but I am so glad that we live where we live.
So I guess I'm going to have to start imagining where we're going next...