Journal 19 -- June 4, 2006
Sunday in Barcelona

By Bob Corbett


It is 7:30 PM and we are back at our hotel after another stunning day in Barcelona. I saw more of the city today than ever before and now am convinced more than ever it is justly in my top five cities every visited, but I am concerned about where to fit in Istanbul. I fear Boston just moved to the second five....

However, today did start out with somewhat of a scare. We left the hotel early on a simply beautiful sunny warm and breezy day to visit Sagrada Familia, Gaudiīs famous Holy Family Cathedral. However, we just didnít think to take water and I suggested to Sally that we walk to the very top of the towers. I did this some 13 years ago and it is very frightening, and very demanding, but exhilarating at the same time. One walks from the ground though a tiny tunnel-like winding stair case into the sky, a hell of a long way.

We did both get out of breath constantly and took many breaks. There are tiny outlets to the outside ledges and balcony of the cathedral, high high above Barcelona with spectacular views. We would rest and catch our breath. In one we met a woman from Austria and had a great conversation with her about topics of Existential philosophy and the work of one of her and my mutual favorite thinkers, Hannah Arendt.

However, just as we crested the top and were about to begin our descent, Sally got overcome with what she believes was just dehydration, got very dizzy and fainty and had to sit down on these narrow steps, while people bumped heavily against us to get by, me standing behind her to shield her from the other walkers. One man noticed this and obviously knew something of health care and got his wife to give him a sugar packet out of their babyís packet which he instructed Sally to take under her tongue. Moments later a woman who spoke no English noted Sallyís state and got into her purse to give her a wet wipe for her head and neck and apologized -- no water, no water.

After some minutes Sally was feeling much better and the walk back down was not only much easier but very breezy, the stairs acting like a wind tunnel.

We have resolved: no more marathon walks without: first having breakfast Ė we wanted to make the walk, then have a leisurely breakfast, thus beating both the heat and tourists, and we will not to take such walks without a bottle of water in tow.

Just at the bottom of the stair case is a machine which sells water and we both got one. After that we did find a restaurant just across the street from the cathedral and Sally got some orange juice and we shared a platter of mixed meats just to get some protein in us. Plus it was delicious. Despite the early hour I enjoyed a beer with the meat.

We decided to take a very easy day and purchased a two-day pass on these special buses which run all over town to all the major sites, and we really had a ball.

Thatís when I saw Barcelona like I didnít on my first trip. PHENOMENAL. A gigantic city of wide boulevards, a zillion parks, trees galore with pines, palms and sycamores all mixed together. We hopped off at some kingís castle park and walked in the lovely shady garden, finding a shady bench and just sat talking for a long time.

We did get off at the port, expecting to find nice sea-side restaurants but didnít and were reduced to going into a McDonaldís just to use the toilet. Then we headed back to familiar territory -- the Rambles and Barri Gotic. Sally had seen lots of people drinking sangrias and wanted to try it, so we found a restaurant on the busy busy Rambles and had one, but we didnít like their menu. However, the sangrias were excellent. We moved on to another restaurant and first shared a simply delicious salmon with potatoes and then got the mixed paella where I ate the fish and Sally the meat.

Filled, very tired, a day filled with way more fun than scare, but a scare nonetheless, we are now back at the hotel where we will just settle in for a bit of wine and dessert of our nuts, cookies and raisins and I, of course, will hope for soccer.

Tomorrow is our last day in Europe of this incredible trip. For only 4 Euros more than a one day ticket, we have the passes on these buses for tomorrow and plan to ride to outlying areas of the city and see if we canít find some off the beaten track restaurant for our main meal, and just do some easy sight-seeing.

Tuesday we will rise about 6 AM, head immediately to the airport, fly from here to Chicago and on to St. Louis, getting in there in early evening.

My goodness, what a trip this has been.....




Bob Corbett