Trip Start May 02, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I am writing this as Yvonne is lying in bed with a slight fever and what may be a minor case of food poisoning (if it's not one thing it's another with the two of us...or with the van...or the bikes!). Today was our last day seeing Barcelona, and unfortunately she was quite sick. If we knew she would be that ill before we left for the hour plus train ride in we would have aborted the mission. But, as it were, we had to make the most of it. Our day was punctuated with several rest stops, some lengthy while Yvonne had a nap.

Today was the day to visit the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous cathedral that looks like a giant, dripping sandcastle. On our way, and right in front of us as we waited to cross the street, we witnessed a taxi run over a scooter. The scooter driver was OK; he got up right away, and in his anger threw the one flip-flop that stayed on his foot across the sidewalk. But, knowing how these scooter and motorcycle drivers are, zigzagging in and out of traffic, driving in blind spots, and making sudden, unpredictable turns, I have no doubt it was his own fault. When we got to the Sagrada Familia, Yvonne had an urgent need to lie down so we found a patch of grass and laid down the blankets. While she napped I took the opportunity to indulge in a bit of a guilty pleasure, since she had no say and couldn't eat anyway: a Big Mac combo from McDonald's! It was fabulous, I won't lie. The fries were a bit old, but hey, they're McDonald's fries! I also enjoyed some great people watching, or more accurately, tourist watching. The tourist bus stopped nearby and let out groups, and at the same time boarded other groups. It continued this endlessly, a kind of revolving door of tourists. Very amusing.

From there we moved on to Parc Guell, when she felt up to dealing with the crowded metro trains. The station dropped us near the bottom of a painfully steep hill that led to the park. Thankfully, most of the climb can be conquered with the help of an escalator, although the Rough Guide says that it is out of order a lot of the time. Lucky for us it was in fine working shape. We took in as much of the park as was possible, given Yvonne's state. Unfortunately we didn't get around to what we had planned for the day: a trip to Montjuic, the Boqueria market, and the Museu de Mares (which we tried to see two days ago but was closing). She was a trooper on the train back to the campground (I think the Gravol finally kicked in). We'd made arrangements the previous night with Carmen (the lady who works here and who is helping us get Freda's water pump changed) for the mechanic to pick up the van this morning, work on it at his shop, then bring it back, so that we wouldn't have to deal with all that mumbo jumbo. Between Carmen and the mechanic, they are so accommodating and helpful, it's almost too good to be true. Anyway, when we returned the van was waiting for us, fixed up (hopefully for good). The cost was 260 euro, a sharp contrast to the 550 euro that was quoted to us at another shop on the Costa Brava. So our patience has paid off, literally.

Last Saturday, June 9 was our first day in Pineda de Mar, our base town for exploring Barcelona. We spent part of it on the beach - which is a quick five minute jaunt down the road - reading and making our plan of attack on seeing the big city, and just doing some general, all-purpose lounging.

On Sunday we headed into Barcelona, Yvonne's first time here, and my second. The train ride in is spectacular. It winds its way along the coast with views of the water and beach (many of them nude). When we arrived we did what most do, that is, we walked down Las Ramblas, the main drag, all the way to the statue of Christopher Columbus perched high atop a tall column. For two euro each we took a tiny elevator to the top and spied 360 degree views of the city: a bird's eye view of the tree-lined ramblas, the port, sandy beaches, traffic-snarled avenues, and the maze-like alleys of the Barri Gotic, among other things. The morning and afternoon was spent meandering through the avenues of the gothic quarter. We stumbled on the Festival of Corpus Christi. It was the last day and we were lucky enough to see the fountains that balanced an egg on their spouts (dancing eggs), which are an age old tradition in Barcelona. Also, there was a big procession that wound its way through the town, with people in costumes, marching bands, and walking giant statues. One sketchy thing that happened to us - we were walking through some quiet streets to go through to the neighbourhood of Sant Pere when an unsavory looking fellow started to follow us. We felt a little uncomfortable so we turned around, which he did also at the same time. At that moment, two police officers drove by on their motorcycles and he crossed the street in front of us. Yvonne saw something in his right hand. Was it a knife? Was it all a paranoid delusion? Regardless, we got the hell out of there. Better safe than sorry.

We spent some time in the city's biggest park, Parc de Ciutidella, and ate dinner on the grass. Barcelona, as beautiful a city as it is, with so many things to see and do, does kind of stink. Every so often a breeze off the ocean carries with it the unpleasant odor of raw sewage.

On Monday we spent more time walking the neighbourhoods of Barcelona, this time Bareceloneta, near the water, and Poble Nou, which has a great rambla of its own, on which we enjoyed a tall pitcher of sangria. And, of course, as our luck, we managed to pick the one patio that had a shirtless, old drunk bum (complete with a giant Virgin Mary tattoo on his back) yelling unintelligible things at people walking by and at restaurant patrons. The locals seemed to take it in stride, smirking as if they were in on the joke. We felt a bit uncomfortable, but we stuck it out and he eventually rambled on down the street to bother other people. We ended our day by watching Ocean's 13 at a cinema that played movies in their original language.

Yesterday we stayed at camp, resting from the long and exhausting days spent in Barcelona. Tomorrow we hit the road again to continue south. Pray for Freda!
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