Friday, September 17, 2010


13 Septiembre (Lunes) -The workers showed up around 10h00 and everyone for several blocks around knew they were here.

Robb and Susan took his jeans to the alteration place around 11h00.  When they came back, we walked up to a pharmacia, but they didn't have the medicine Susan wanted. While Susan and I were in the farmacia, Robb was checking out a jewelry store.  He was leaning over looking at something when a fat woman bumped into him.  He felt her looking for his wallet, which was not in his pocket.  He shoved his elbow into her and called her a whore (in Spanish) and she took off.

We caught the 59 bus to Plaça Catalunya, but when we got to the place where we wanted to get off, the bus kept going for several blocks. Fortunately for Robb and Susan, we got off right in front of Alt Heidelberg.  We went in, had a beer, then they decided they were hungry, so we went back, got a table and they ordered their lunch.  Robb had some kind of anchovy sandwich, Susan had what was basically a salad on bread.  I had an order of French fries.

We walked down to FNAC by way of Plaça Catalunya, where I got a couple shots of the fountains and some of the statues. In FNAC, Robb and I bought Logitech headsets with microphones because we thought we were going to be able to use Google's new phone system.  Unluckily for us, it isn't available in Europe yet.

After, we walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe.  Robb bought a T-shirt and I bought a guitar pin for my niece.  We came out and saw a guy playing a didgeridoo to a recorded disco-rock beat.  He was really very good and Robb bought one of his CDs.

We walked over to get the bus and I got us on the wrong one.  But we had a nice ride, got some nice pictures and we finally got on the correct bus.

FANTASTIC!  INCREDIBLE!  MAGNIFIQUE!  I had already put the new calling equipment away, but decided what-have-I-got-to-lose and tried to call my sister in Delaware.  So-of-a-gun, it was ringing.  But no answer.  I tried my nephew.  No answer.  I was about to give it up when when I figured, what the hey, and called his cell number.  It rang three times and his wife answered.  We chatted for awhile, bringing each other up to date.  I couldn't believe it!  I actually, called someone in the US on my laptop.  And the connection was crystal clear.  And best of all....FREE!  Look out Skype.  Watch your back cell phone rip-offs.  Just to be sure it wasn't a fluke, I let Susan call her friend in California.  Same result; three or four rings, the party answers and the call is crystal clear and FREE!  But cannot make European calls....yet.

It was getting late (after 21h30) so we all trekked to Can Ganassa for dinner, but it was closed.  We walked the two blocks to Passeig de Joan de Borbó and walked along eliminating the available possibilities until we came to Toc de Mar.  We wanted to sit outside, but there were no empty tables, so we sat inside and the waiter promised to call us when a table opened outside.  We ordered the wine, olives and some kind of sauce that Susan knew about which we put on the warm bread they waiter brought.  All of it was great.  We had almost finished our first glass of wine, when the waiter took us out to our table. There was a guy and girl at the next table, smoking away.  They were from England.  Thankfully, they left in a few minutes and were replaced by a couple of pretty girls from Slovakia who spoke excellent English.  We ordered the rest of our dinner....octopus, cod croquettes, mussels and salad.

14 Septiembre (Martes) - Up early at 07h30.  Susan had set up a tour of the Torres winery for whom she worked a few years ago.  The car they sent to pick us up arrived about a half hour early.  Neither Susan nor Robb was ready.

The ride was a great experience in its own right and we saw a lot of the Spanish countryside between Barcelona and Vilafranca del Penedés, including a cemetary built on the side of a hill.  It was huge and I'm sure if we had stopped for a look, it would have rivaled Père Lachaise in beauty.  I haven't driven on a European highway in a very long time and was surprised when Carlos, our driver, went through the toll station by using what in Florida we call a "Speed Pass".  We started somewhat slowly, but it wasn't long before Carlos was doig well over a hundred+ kilometers per hour.

The Torres winery is famous enough to be listed on the road signs (Bodegues Torres) we passed long before we were actually close to it.  We figured we were getting near when we saw the Torres Visites sign.  We passed a stone marker at which Carlos stopped and made a point of having us look at it.  I'm still not sure why.

We were greeted inside the very modern visitor center by Alberto, who would be our guide for the day and someone with whom Susan had worked.

We were ushered into a small movie theater in which we watched a fifteen minute movie about the history of the company.  Then we went into another room that simply blew my mind.  We were standing on one side of the room while a film was shown on the other wall.  And the the most amazing show began.  We could smell the rain.  We could smell the grapes as they were picked.  We could smell the wine in the various stages of its development.  It was just amazing.

After that great show, we boarded a tour train and rode through the vineyards.  Alberto and we got off the train while it, and the other visitors, continued on their way.  We walked and walked while Alberto kept up a running dialogue about what we were seeing and how it fit into the process of making wine.  We saw, and tasted, grapes that were just picked, beingdumped into a machine that separated the grapes from the leaves and stems.  We saw huge storage tanks that were turnedautomatically to rid the wine of sediment.  We saw tanks that could hold 500, 000 liters of wine.

We walked through a museum in which they had a vintage Renault as well as wine casks and jugs from Italy and Greece that were over two thousand years old.

On the way to the wine tasting, we passed a fig tree on which the fruit was just getting ripe and I had my first "I picked it off the tree myself" fresh fig.  I thought I knew how figs taste, but this was unbelievably better.

Then we went to the company owned restaurant where we tasted ten very good wines, the last one of which sells for $190 per bottle.

After that, we walked around the corner to the dining room.  Susan was almost in tears when she saw they had put her name at the top of the day's menu.  The first course was two kinds of bread with olive oil and the end of the expensive bottle of wine.  The second course was a green salad with tuna, we were served a white wine.  The main course was sirloin with a fantastic morille sauce and a very nice red wine.  Then, of course, the cheese with red wine.  Dessert (of which I did not get a picture) is difficult to describe.  Imagine a créme brulée.  Now partially freeze it so that only the center is frozen. Served with a red wine.  The dinner table after the meal was loaded with glasses, some not quite empty.

During the course of the meal, we were greeted by several members of the Torres family, including the current head of the family, Don Miguel, the picture was taken by one of the kitchen staff.

Our tour ran over the normal time length and after receiving some parting gifts (wine of course), we said our goodbyes and hit the road back to Barcelona.  Carlos drove us through the town of Vilafranca del Penedés instead of retracing our morning route.

We returned to the apartment very happy campers, but totally exhausted,  We all slept for awhile.

15 Septiembre (Miércoles) - Robb and Susan were up bright and early.  They went out to get coffee and a croissant.  I barely had my eyes open, but while they were gone, I got up, took a shower and did all the usual morning stuff.  I had just thrown on a pair of shorts when I heard a commotion right outside the window, so I had a look.  It was the city street cleaners.

Robb and Susan were gone longer than I expected because after their breakfast, they went shopping.  Robb came back to the apartment, while Susan went on to a museum.  After Robb tried on his new shorts, we walked up to the Palau de Mar and the Museu d'História de Catalunya.  The entrance fee is €4 for the permanent collection, or €5 if you want to see the special show.  We paid the extra €1 for Robb, I got in for free because I'm a senior.

It was a great exhibit, but the permanent show is really the star of the museum.  It starts at the very beginning ofCatalunya and takes you right through to today.  Some highlights were fortress modelsships with oarsa cannona castle, the King's tent when they were in the field, and a primitive dwelling.  I also liked the vintage Seat 600, one of the first cars produced in Europe in the sixties.  After the tour, we went up to the fourth floor restaurant for a 'quick snack', where we got a great view of the marina at Port Vell.
Things got a little crazy when we all lost sight of each other.  Somehow Robb got the idea that Susan and I had left, and he walked back to the apartment.  We spent quite a while looking for him before I finally got through to him on the phone.

Around 18h00, we walked down to the New Orleans Tea and Coffee shop.  We chose a seat on the terrace and had a coffee. We sat there for an hour or so just enjoying the beautiful weather, the beautiful atmosphere and the beautiful people.

16 Septiembre (Jueves) - The dust in the apartment was bothering Susan and keeping her up most of the night, which of course, meant that we were kept up most of the night.  Last night, she called a hotel, gathered some of her things, then she and Robb walked up to the Borbó where she got a taxi.  She is supposed to come back today to pick up the rest of her stuff.

My observation about the stink we smell quite often in the Barceloneta turned out to be wrong.  We were in another section of the city and the smell assaulted us there also.

Robb and I walked up, caught the 59 bus to Plaça Catalunya, crossed through the plaza where we got a good look at Catalana Occident, the Russian-like building next to it and El Corte Ingles, the major Spanish department store.
We entered the store, looked around a bit and then, because it was about 14h00, went up to the ninth floor restaurant from which I got several nice shots, including this one of the plaza.  For lunch, Robb ordered prawns and I ordered a lentil salad. We drank Torres Viña Sol, a very nice white wine.

Susan called while we were out and suggested we meet at her hotel to see a flamenco show, but of course, by the time we answered, she had moved to another hotel and no longer wanted to go to the show.

We met her at her new hotel, the Rialto near city hall and went to dinner at a place just a door or two down the street.  It was a good meal.  They both had monkfish and I had braised oxtail. We drank Cava, of course.

Robb and I got a taxi.  We had only gone a few blocks when I realized the guy was going in the wrong direction.  He didn't have a clue where he was going and ended up charging us twice as much as the ride should have cost.  We reluctantly paid him and realized our opinion of Barcelona taxi drivers has forever changed.  How very sad.

You can see all the Barcelona pictures here: Barcelona

Hasta la próxima, amigos.


Megan said...

sounds like an interesting time, especially the wine tour. I use Yahoo Messenger to call my family in the US. It works pretty well, in general.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

We need to catch up and swap stories. I loved Madrid, Seville, and Cordoba but would have also enjoyed Barcelona. The fried anchovies were one of my favorites in Madrid!