It’s taken me a couple of weeks to return to reality after a 17-day trip to Barcelona, which included an extraordinary side trip of five days in Menorca.
The initial purpose of my trip was to visit my daughter, Andrea La Valleur-Purvis, who has called the Catalonian capital home for over a year. She loves it, and I can see why. It’s exciting, has a mix of old and new in terms of architecture, is international, very diverse and has countless places to eat, enjoy and experience a special part of Spain. Plus, one of my favorite parts was seeing an abundance of public art everywhere.
Yet, it turned out to be so much more than what I imagined. Having spent 20 years living in Europe in the late 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s, I still have friends and family there. So I was thrilled when they agreed to fly to Spain from Germany and England to reconnect, if only for a few days at the beginning and end of my trip.
Allow me to whine before going into the heart of the experience. You may not feel much compassion for me, what the heck you may be thinking, you just got back from Spain! What’s the complaint? But days before leaving, I pulled a hamstring and, damn it, that seriously hampered my flexibility and mobility.
Heck, on my trip to Cuba earlier this year, I took over 5,000 photos. On this trip, I didn’t even take 2,000! Waaa waaa. I even had to use a cane the entire time and wheelchairs at all the airports from MSP to CHI to ZÜR to BAR to MEN to BAR to TOR to CHI to MSP. Plus poor Andrea had to push me up steep hills and over rough track to visit historical sights. What a drag.
OK, I’m done feeling sorry for myself.
With Barcelona being front-page news the entire trip, you might be surprised to learn I saw very little of the political goings on you were reading about on a daily basis here in the U.S. All that despite the fact that Andrea lives only six blocks from the heart of the city center and within breathtaking view of Gaudi’s towering Basilica of the Sagrada Família from her rooftop terrace.
Twice, our taxi was diverted a few blocks due to demonstrations, which still remained out of our sight and sound. Late one evening while on my own and enjoying a glass of wine on Andrea’s eighth-floor terrace, I heard what sounded like three rapid fire gunshots followed by sirens two minutes later. But I was never able to confirm if the sounds were gunshots.
That said, safety was never an issue on my trip. I felt totally safe the entire time.
I photographed numerous flags hanging from balconies. But there were just as many pro as con, for and against Catalonia separating from the rest of Spain. Those flags were identified with Si! signs on their red and yellow strips with a blue triangle and white star indicating their support for Catalonia to separate from Spain. The national Spanish flags are red and yellow with the Spanish coat of arms depicting two crown-topped pillars with red banners displaying the motto in Latin, “Plus Ultra” or “more beyond” referring to Columbus’ discovery of the New World.
My friends from Germany and England, who had arrived hours before me, Andrea and I shared an AirBNB for the first couple of days. It was a newly appointed and very nice two-bedroom apartment that Andrea had booked for us, which also had a balcony view around the corner of Gaudi’s Cathedral.
The bathroom was stylish albeit small, with an open kitchen dining area. A sleeper sofa provided a “third” sleeping area three steps up to a small terrace with two separate seating areas. It was perfect, and we had a blast drinking wine, eating cheeses, breads, Spanish sausages and catching up on the past two-plus decades.
We had a good laugh when I brought out some snack cheese from my trip that I had in my suitcase when Ingrid, my German friend, pointed out it was “A Product of Spain”! Gez, not only was that illegal, but I could have gotten into deep doo-doo if caught.
Andrea rented a car so that we could cover more ground, especially since I was unable to walk any distance. We drove north to a vineyard and a wine-tasting at a well-known winery, Freixenet. (See note below.)
Thanks to Andrea’s knowledge of the area, we ate at some great places and continued catching up. All too soon, it was time for them to return home. The four of us took a taxi to the Barcelona Airport, with them flying off to England and Germany and Andrea and I taking a 45-minute flight to Menorca (spelled Minorca by some), one of the three Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean See along with Mallorca and Ibiza, where we spent a delightful five days and four night.
I’ll share more about Menorca in an upcoming blog as well as a separate blog about the Gaudi’s Basilica.
If you go to Barcelona, a few of my favorite places and things to do …
- El Nacional, www.enlaceionalbcn.com, €58 (a little over $68) for two of us, various tapas and including Cava, the local sparkling wine; it’s a destination as well as a restaurant with four featured sections; be sure to check out their bathrooms.
- Firebug, www.firebugbarcelona.com, €53 brunch for four, brunch, bar, bistro, very nice, we sat outside both times, bathroom located upstairs; brunch for six including Cava — €74 Euros
- Patrón, www.patron-restaurant.com, delicious meal, which I didn’t pay for, so no idea of the cost. I sure enjoyed my paella and I ate the WHOLE THING.
- Cuines Santa Caterina, http://grupotragaluz.com/en/restaurant/cuines-santa-caterina/, various different food bars indoors, outdoor terrace, fun place to share several plates of small, tasty delights! Seven days a week, check website for hours. Again, I didn’t pay the bill, but it was not expensive.
Fun things to do:
- Freixenet, a vineyard and wine tasting, http://www.freixenet.es. We rented a car, Andrea drove about 40 kilometers or about 25 miles north of Barcelona. It’s in the heart of the Penedés region in the town of Sant Sadurni d’Anora, a lovely drive with views of hills if not modest mountains. Tour the facility and end up in the tasting room where you have a huge selection of wines to taste. Light snacks also available.
- Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), a trip to Barcelona without touring the Basilica would be like going to Paris without having your photo taking next to the Eiffel Tower. If you’re considering paying extra for the tour up an elevator to one of the tall spirals, beware: the elevator only takes you up. You have to walk down 420 steep and small, tight circular steps, which, given my cane, I was prevented from doing.
- www.maremagnum.es — a huge shopping center on three levels, open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with 80 shops of fashion, home and decor, beauty, kids and services plus about 24 places to eat and/or drink. Andrea and I enjoyed shopping at Swarovski, where I bought her birthday and Christmas present. And a bracelet for myself, too, of course.
- https://www.barcelona.com/barcelona_directory/shops/la_maquinista — the only open air mall in Barcelona and one of the largest in Catalonia with 230 stores. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., right on the harbor with a small albeit lively old market, harbor ship rides and Miraestels, whimsical white floating sculptures by Robert Llimós floating in the bay.
Your tax refund:
Remember, if you want to receive a tax refund at the end of your stay, you need to track your purchases, have receipts, fill out the forms at point of purchase and when you arrive at the airport, you need extra time to go to the proper office for your tax refund. I didn’t and probably lost $100 or so I could have claimed.