So here I am - after seven weeks, five countries, five flights, 21 major train journeys, countless minor train journeys, four bike rides, three cable cars, two funiculars, one taxi and who knows how many kms walked - safely home... and sitting back in front of my gigantic screen in Brisbane.
(said ridiculous screen does look gigantic whenever I come home after travel – for about a day. Then I get used to it again)
|Carl and Kai, view of Sitges|
Sitges isn't far from Barcelona, but it's smaller and more chilled (at this time of year, at least. In summer it is apparently a bit of a Euro Gay Mecca party town, which amuses me greatly).
Anyway, there is a beach, with real sand and everything. There are almost even "waves", although I put the term in inverted commas so as not to confuse any hopeful surfers (the local bleached hair brigade, who don't know any better, still try to ride them).
I spent two of the first three days doing pretty much nothing apart from churning out blogs and enjoying the sunshine and a more relaxed pace of life. After busy Paris and not having a break for a while it was a welcome change. That said, I had four-year-old Kai and six-month-old Lily to keep me from getting *too* relaxed, but by and large they were perfect days.
The Thursday was a public holiday, and Carl's in-laws had us (and a bunch of other rellies) over for lunch. I was treated to proper homemade paella with some very nice 11 year old wine, followed by a most pleasant, almost bushwalk-like walk up the local hill.
|Calçots – yum!|
After the video we got a tour of the cellars (which were wonderfully musty, like a wine cellar should be) and had a generous tasting of their wines. We bought a bottle for about $25, which is a reasonable amount in Spain, but probably really corresponded to a $30-40 bottle in Oz.
|These are graves|
After the "serious" winery, we stopped off at a little market type place where they sell wine from big barrels for a couple of Euros per litre. You bring your own bottle/tub/bucket/whatever and fill it up. It's pretty young wine but it's perfectly drinkable as table wine, and it doesn't give you a headache (as Soni's father said when I first had it at their place – and he wasn't lying).
So, a taste of both ends of the spectrum.
For lunch we hit a local spot and I got to try Calçots, which are like small leeks or big spring oniony things (only actually nice – some of you know how much I detest spring onion). They barbeque them and you have to eat them in a specific way (see the photographic evidence below, complete with bib).
|Sagrada Família (outside)|
Sunday was a low-key family type day. Entertaining kids is always fun though. Carl, Kai and I went for a little walk along the promenade in Sitges as the sun went down.
|Sagrada Família (inside)|
As for the days, I spent the first one checking out the famous Sagrada Família - the church designed by Gaudi. It is still unfinished, but nonetheless awesome. In construction for nearly 130 years, they estimate it will be completed in another 10-20 thanks to more modern methods.
The outside is impressive - a mixture of old and new (and cranes) - and the inside is quite unique. Gaudi used a lot of naturally inspired shapes in his work, and the church is no exception. Columns branch like trees towards the roof, and there are spirals everywhere. Pictures do not do it justice.
|Sagrada Família (staircase)|
My last Spanish excursion was to Montserrat, a big lump of conglomerate about an hour by train from Barcelona. I took the – unfortunately packed – cable car up (have you worked out that I really like cable cars yet though?) and had a nice little wander around.
|Noseless lady near Hotel Miramar|
All in all it was a really nice final "trip" within the trip, and a welcome relief after the craziness that was Barcelona the previous day.
|Chapel up on Monserrat|
Carl has suggested that I nominate Spain as the most awesome European country, but I do have Italian background, so I better not go choosing favourites. That said, it is worthy of the label "a pretty damn awesome place". Great food, (good) cheap wine, and a nice friendly culture. A bit like Italy, and similarly disorganised. Also – sun (although, to be fair, some of the other less sunny countries do have better weather at times too).
Really, at the end of the day, my little Europe jaunt has been very interesting, and incredibly enjoyable, and every country has had a lot going for it.
|View from Montserrat|
Stay tuned for another adventure next week!
Edit: The full set of pics are up on Flickr at last!