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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Day 5 Shopping and Cocktails

Finally a day to let loose and no formal cultural activities. Ok perhaps this is not entirely true. Since all the museums we are interested in are closed on Mondays we decided to walk around the town - and try to shop. We ventured out from our apartment and walked around for 2-3 hours. Monica tried clothes on in a few stores, but only bought a few tops. Joe tried on some attire in a nice men's shop - but nothing was quite right.

By late afternoon we realized we were hungry for lunch and looked for a lunch spot. We ended up once again repeating ourselves, this time at the Tapas Tapas Restaruant. It was complete déjà vue. The 94 year old man was there again, just finishing his lunch. When he left the same younger man who had taken his table last time did so again. The staff remained friendly and the food was enjoyable. 

After lunch we shopped a bit more, mostly presents for family and friends and then went home for a siesta. 

We had made dinner reservations at Bobby's Gin ( ). The online reviews describe this cocktail bar as having excellent drinks and food with somewhat aloof service. That describes our experience fairly well.  Our reservations were for 8:30 and when we arrived the place was almost empty, not surprising given the early time (for Barcelona) and it also being a Monday. The bartender suggested we start with a drink at his bar before venturing in for dinner. He was a master of his craft, but crafty in his coyness about his ingredients and techniques used for making his cocktails. But the results were tasty and professional. Our food included tapas of dim sum, tuna and a wonderful tiny burger. It was just the right amount of food and pleasant to eat. 

Our walk home was uneventful and sleep (now passed midnight) came quickly. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Day 4 - Joan Miro

Sunday was art day. We wandered about 20 minutes from our apartment and then started looking for a taxi. This was our second experience trying to hail a cab. Many drove by before Monica snagged one. It seems many drivers are only part timers and don't really know their own city. Like the day before this taxi driver had no idea where the Joan Miro museum was located. We showed her on a map and she headed in the right direction, but then got flustered when she discovered the main road was closed for a festival. Rather than taking a detour she asked us to disembark and hike up the hill; of course after we paid. 

We started walking through a very large public square which led to a steep hill that supported the Museu Nacional d'Art. There were lots of fountains and lines of people. Since this was not our destination we followed a series of small roads and finally found the steps that led up to the Joan Miro Museum. Fortunately there were many escalators to help us climb to the top. 


The museum is situated in a lovely setting - sort of like Mount Royal crossed with High Park. Joan Miro was an artist who was a childhood favourite of Monica. A Spanish artist Joan Miro lived from 1893-1983. He was known for his bold colours and wild designs. He had a huge impact on design and art in the last century. You can see his influences throughout Barcelona. The museum has collected many of his most definitive works and it was fun to meander through and enjoy them. Monica was delighted to see this complete collection.

After the museum we found a lovely park built into the side of the mountain. We spent some time exploring the plants, trees and architecture and watching the people and birds. When we finally reached the road again we had just missed our bus so proceeded to hike back down and eventually found the subway and our way back to our apartment.

After a quick freshening up we decided to have a quick lunch - of course around 2pm. Since we were "walked out" we tried a local restaurant that was less than one block away. The waiter at "El 68" was very warm and friendly. He welcomed us and warned us that he could only offer us some Tapas. That was perfect for us. He recommended a great bottle of local wine and we were all set. 

After lunch we took a siesta. When it was time for supper (9pm) it had started to rain. So we decided to return to where we had lunch. It was a lot busier but we got the same table and waiter. This time there was a full dinner menu. We selected well. Our main dishes included pork cooked Sous Vide and duck enclosed in phlyo. Both were perfectly cooked and delicious. When we were all done - 2 hours later- it was a quick run through the rain to our apartment just across the road. 

We slept well that night.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Day 3 - Flamenco

This morning our jet lag seemed to have mostly passed, although Joe still woke up later than Monica. Today we opted for less early walking and found our way up to the Diagonal  (a major Barcelona street) and found the tour bus Orange Line. This was an easy start to the day and exposed us to more neighbourhoods. It also showed how busy Barcelona is this weekend with its local festival. Streets across the city were closed and packed with people. 

We hopped off the bus when it was near a local garden and museum, Parc Guell.  It was quite the hike up this mountain to get to the gardens. A pleasant distraction as we hiked were the small children and families just getting out of school. Of course it reminded us of our darling granddaughter, Madeline. 

When we got up to the top we discovered a 2 hour wait for the museum. We did a quick walk thru the garden and then decided that the menacing looking clouds and thunder meant we should hike toward home, which we did. Along the way we found a delightful restaurant - Le Gopal- which a patron at the Jazz cub had recommended. It was terrific. 

We spent 2 hours having lunch (of course staring at 2:30) enjoying fried artichokes, anchovies, paella with rabbit and snails along with Sangria and local red wine. Our waiter was warm and friendly and most of our fellow diners were clearly locals. Many young children and elderly grandmas were among the patrons. 

Following lunch and a siesta we headed out to the music hall, Palau de la Musica Catalan, for a night of Flamenco and Guitar.  Tonight we tried taking a local taxi to our venue. After walking quite a bit we finally found a cab. The driver did not seem to know this famous local music venue and ended up leaving us a 10 minute walk from where we were heading. The inexperience of local cab drivers develops as a theme during this trip. 

When we did arrive we were pleasantly surprised at meeting our new friends, John and Joanne, who were sipping tea in the lounge. We met these two on our two day AC flight from Toronto. It was fun to chat and enjoy their company along with a glass of wine and some tapas before the show. 

The show tonight was FANTASTIC!  There were 3 guitarists, a drummer and two Flamenco dancers, Th show was a great balance of talent with showmanship and humour. The standing ovations were well deserved, 

Sleep at midnight came easy. 

Barcelona - Day 2 Misadventure and Sheer Delight

Friday was a bit of a slow start. We both slept in adjusting to the time zone difference. Of course Monica arose 2 hours before Joe and reminded him about it through out the day!

After some yogurt and bananas we headed off to explore the city. Our goal was to visit the Sagrada Familia which is a cathedral that has been under construction since 1882. We had tickets for a noon tour and we arrived early. But as we lined up the official ticket checker pointed out that our reservation was for one week from now! And of course we  won't be in Barcelona then. Sweet words were not sufficient to change her mind. Given the local festival (Merci) all tickets had been sold out and there was no room for us. But we didn't let this hic up ruin our day,  We wandered thru the city enjoying the architecture and found a wonderful Tapas restaurant for our 2pm lunch.  We shared an easy to eat octopus and potato tapas followed by salad and gazpacho. NIce local wine. What we loved about this place was that it was clearly a local favourite. At the table next to us an elderly (94 years young) gentleman found his seat. The waiter obviously knew this regular and quietly read him then menu. Later when he prepared to pay his bill the gentleman used a small magnifying glass to pick his coins. We later found out that he was the grandfather of the owner and ate lunch there daily.  Other tables were populated with old friends and local business people. It was a comfortable and warm atmosphere. 

Following lunch we bought a 2 ticket for the local bus tour line. Today we journeyed the green line. I took us through many neighbourhoods and along the ocean and beaches. It was an easy 2 hours and gave us ideas of places to visit later during our stay. 

After the bus tour we continued to explore our neighbourhood. Jet lag was still plaguing us so we decided to visit the huge local market and get small bites for dinner in our apartment. We found wonderful Iberian ham, local cheese, plums, figs, tomatoes and a Spanish baquette.  This was enjoyed in a our apartment with local wine and Sirrius Jazz. 

Night and sleep came quickly. 

Jazz Night

After we settled into our apartment and neighbourhood we took a quick siesta.  Then on our first night here we went to a classic Jazz venue - tickets pre-booked from Toronto. 

Inside Barcelona’s 5-star Hotel Casa Fuster is Café Vienés, an elegant café which hosts jazz nights every Thursday, at which some of the best jazz and swing artists perform. Woody Allen filmed and played here. For 65 EU each we had a lovely table close to the stage, cold and hot tapas, glass of champagne each and a bottle of tasty red wine. The interior design is funky and very Barcelona (see pics). 

The star performer was "Professor Cunnigham", an Australian, now resident in New York. He was amazing playing Sax, Flute and Clarinet. He was accompied by a pianist and a Bass player. Two young local clarinet and trombone players were enthusiastic guests. The playlists was classic jazz form the 20's and 30's. It was a fun night and great start to our Barcelona experience. 


We successfully and uneventfully arrived in Barcelona Thursday morning at 7:10 AM.  Our driver picked  us up as planned and drove us first to the management office, then to our apartment. The apartment is on the corner of the second floor with windows facing two different streets. It is well appointed with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Unfortunately it is very noisy inside and out. Inside the refrigerator rumbles and moans, especially at night. Outside the roads are busy and the people are rowdy. 

But overall we are pleased. The neighbourhood has great bakeries, markets etc. Our larder was easily filled. And most important, wine is easily acquired!

Coffee is also plentiful. Look at this huge Capaccino displayed in a local window. 

So getting used to eating in Barcelona (for Canadians) is like getting over Jet Lag. Lunch is usually eaten around 2 or 3 and dinner usually after 9. Somehow (and proudly) we managed this on our first day. Our first lunch was perfect. We ate at the L'Eggs Restaurant ( which is owned by a Chef who has had several Michelin starred restaurants. As it's name suggests many of the menu items have eggs as an ingredient. We shared a creamy egg dish that was more like a pudding and contained artichokes and Iberian ham. Also some great wine. If times allows we would certainly return. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Second Try

Well here we go again. Taxi picking us up in 30 minutes and we are off to airport to see if this time we can actually get off the ground. Sent a note to CEO of Air Canada asking for compensation. I will report later how that unfolds.

So first the Maple Leaf Lounge, then the plane......and we shall see

Now onboard. Fellow passengers happy and like old friends. 

Where are we?

Woke up this morning and at first thought Barcelona felt just like home. Then I opened my eyes and saw I was at home. After a coffee, with milk generously supplied by our neighbour Eddie I I was able to sort things out. Monica, always up earlier than me had discovered that we can now "Check-In" again for the new flight leaving tonight at 5:30. So that is done and same starts and plane configuration.

Also woke up to newspapers that were not suppose to be there. So Toronto Star and Globe and Mail had to be called. Arrangements for our Barcelona taxi and apartments have been modified. So we are all ready to restart this adventure. Hopefully this time we will get at least as far as Newfoundland.

Oh there is still the issue of appropriate compensation. Air Canada is only offering 30% off of a future flight. Given they held us hostage for 7 hours I think they should give us the 30% off the current flight and also pay for our missed first night of accommodation in Barcelona that we are being charged. Now will I have the stamina to wait 65 minutes for Air Canada to amasser their phones????

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Still Grounded

Well it's three hours later. We disembarked with all our belongings and 45 minutes later re-boarded. Now apparently we are waiting for fresh food. Right now a glass of wine and some sleep is all we really need. Oh yes, and the soft feeling of soaring through the air. 

Barcelona please wait up. We are hopeful we will arrive sometime tomorrow 

On Board

We have settled into our Air Canada Rouge Premium seats. Not too bad. We have two seats together and each have an aisle.  Plane has some problem so we are now moving back to gate. Hoping this won't be long delay. 

We each have complimentary iPads so we can watch movies enroute. I'm hoping for early sleep since our arrival is around 3AM Toronto time.  Dinner will be served at take off. Sadly the choices are exactly what we were offered in the Maple Leaf Lounge. 

Tomorrow Barcelona 

Well maybe tomorrow. We were just deplaned in Toronto and are waiting for repairs. Likely will leave Toronto 3 hours late. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016


Once again we are on the cusp of an adventure. Leaving later in September we are heading to Barcelona and then Dubai. Barcelona is just a quick tipping of our toes into Spain. We plan to return for a longer exploration of culture, and WINE. But this visit is a start. And then we are off to Dubai to inhale sand and understand how our son and his partner live. 

Our trip report will follow as it unfolds