The Grand Tour, Part 6: Barcelona

Our first day in Barcelona, we made our way out to the beach, with a stop in a little archaeological museum that hurt my brain with its Catalan labels. Once seaside, we discovered this structure we like to call the “bro station”.

We wandered through a large city park with lots of different attraction areas. This one was some kind of mythological monument, if I recall / interpreted correctly in the first place? Elsewhere, we saw some dancers practicing.

Same park, different part. They’ve got the ubiquitous victory arch in the distance, and the bicyclist is approaching a large map of the old city as enclosed by its walls.

There were plenty of small entertainments going on. The bubbles were lovely to see, though perhaps unsurprisingly the people releasing them were aiming for tips. We walked by the Sagrada Familia before calling it a night.

Just a bit of whimsy – we couldn’t get over the pigeon waiting in the subway!

We enjoyed a translation quirk at our hotel breakfast: we decided that what seemed to literally say “time fruit” was intended to imply “seasonal”.

On the final day of our trip we got up at…3? 4? to “ride ALL the tin cans” – bus, plane, train bus and finally come home.

The Grand Tour, Part 5: The South of France

Welcome to Nice! The red roof Mediterranean look is classic for a reason – it’s really how most buildings are capped. The beaches here are mostly stone, which makes for an interesting visit. It’s best not to leave your possessions unattended, either.

We got to take in some nature and archeology climbing the largest hill near the harbor. That’s where we spotted this lovely waterfall, and got to see some fancy pigeons, too.

While exploring the center city, we saw some capoeiristas showing off their skills at multiple tourist spots for tips. I’d learned a little bit in college, so it was fun to see again.

We stumbled upon a graffiti artist with very interesting technique! He made a lot of use of circular items to create the appropriate borders for the base layer. He’d manipulate the spray paint with brushes, too. We bought a fantasy scene of elephants and baobabs.

That same evening, we saw lots of vendors with more or less the same kitsch for sale. Possibly our favorite story of the trip centers on the one who claimed his wares were hand-carved from real ebony, and I think there was a sob story about how his family needs the income, too? Anyway, I was pretty uncomfortable with the hard sell but Jeff knew what was going on and decided to buy a mass produced turtle carving anyway, saying the amount we were overcharged was for the guy’s time really selling it without giving any hint that it was bogus.

Also we tried a McDonald’s smoothie to see how it was different there!

The next day we took a bus out to the next town east. It’s one of the few sandier beaches in the vicinity, by which mostly I mean better pulverized stone. We had several floral flavors of gelato, and assembled lunch from the village grocery.

For dinner – another favorite story – we had a very intriguing visit to a cafe that made an “American” sandwich – burger chopped up, put in a wrap with lettuce, tomato and Big Mac sauce, and then panini pressed. Their “pizza” was interesting too. Note we were very close to Italy. It was more like bruschetta I think? In either case both were delicious if not exactly what was advertised. We decided to stop while we were ahead, though, and NOT try the tacos and burritos you could order with the meats chicken tenders and chicken fingers if you wanted…

We finished out the evening with sunset on the beach, then hurried back to the bus stop. We were a little worried we were too late, as was the family waiting with us, but luckily there was indeed at least one more bus that came for us all.

Thanks to my cousin who booked the trip for us, we added an overnight in Carcassone. That’s right, I get nerd points for staying in a town that inspired a board game. The castle was cool, the couple cosplaying even cooler.

Jeff, of course, was a big fan of the fountain in the town that lights up at night. There was some great statuary there, and we were a little disappointed we didn’t have time to see the art museum that bordered the square.

As we got ready to head back to the hotel, we could see that when you look back across the river, the whole castle and walled city lit up. A great view for a great end of the night!

The Grand Tour, Part 4: A Little More Paris, Versailles and Giverny

Having completed our two full day trips, we decided to slow down a little. First of all, we were exhausted. Second of all, we needed to take a laundry day in the middle of the trip. We got to explore our immediate neighborhood, trying out the patisserie.

Better rested, we ventured out once more. The portal in the first picture above was one of the inventions displayed in a metro station; the whole look was very nearly steampunk. Here, I think we are looking at the Hotel du Ville?

At picture, place or both, we saw an exhibit on the history of Paris, its public services, etc. It was clearly for Parisians, all in French with very complex grammar. In comparison, the newspaper announcement they displayed from the 1800s explaining every person had a right to vote was much easier to comprehend!

Needing some greenery, we visited the Bois du Boulogne and met this muskrat!

Our first half day trip was the obligatory Versailles. We only got to see the palace itself, no time for the gardens. This was my second viewing, and with another decade and a half of theatre under my belt, the false marble painted in the restored rooms was much easier to spot!

Later in the evening, we checked out the Paris Plage. That’s the beach, folks. Now it’s not natural, they cart a bunch of sand to one of the Seine’s canals. It was quite the attraction! Zip lines, bumper boats, sunbathing, bars.

There were also three levels of French as a second language class for immigrants! One group was drilling colors, one was doing something with verb tenses, and the third was practicing writing letters.

Our other half day trip was to Giverny, and Monet’s gardens. They were beautiful! It was really interesting to go inside and see some of the replica paintings – having seen the original just a few days before, we could tell the difference!

It’s possible we were homesick for our chickens, because Jeff couldn’t help but snap a photo of this confident bird. We rounded out this part of the voyage by buying a little modern impressionist piece from an artist in the village.