Home again, home again
Spain is wonderful.
For a start, the food was fabulous, particularly once we discovered that selecting tavernas where the menu was displayed only in Spanish meant the other patrons were likely to be locals and the atmosphere authentic. Our very first night in Barcelona was a prime example.
As we weren't there in high season, the taverna's owner was delighted to sit and chat with us in Spenglish. On his advice, we opted for the menu dia, which included, for Peter, tortellini bolognese, followed by eggs on a sizzling platter with salami and potatoes and for me, avocado salad then squid decorated with tiny octopus and rice. We finished with the most delicious tart lemon sorbet. The menu dia included a bottle of local red wine. We also had tea and coffee and complimentary locally-made apple liqueur and the whole bill came to the equivalent of $25 a head.
We were seated next to Sergio, a flamenco guitarist and cat lover, who sang beautifully in 5 languages and chatted with us during his breaks. Even though that was only night one, we felt the trip had already been worth the ordeal of the plane flight.
Here are Peter's comments on other highlights -
In Barcelona - 'Today we went to the Picasso museum, located in five medieval houses.The collection is mostly his early work and his wonderful ceramics were also on show. As well there was an intriguing video presentation showing how Picasso used Velasquez's group masterpiece of the Spanish Infanta as the basis for his own compositions.
The day before yesterday - May Day - was Gaudi day. We visited the famous Sagrada Familia, the Parc Guel, where Gaudi made his home, the apartment block La Pedrera and the Casa Battlo. All are beautiful and amazingly quirky.
We find we are using heaps of our Spanish, such as it is. The only problem is that Barcelona is Catelan country and lots of signs, menus and directions are in Catelan.'
In Toledo - 'We are in one of the strongholds of the knights templar who emerged during the crusades and became the unofficial police force around this Don Quixote region. All armour and crossbows and very da Vinci Code. Yesterday, we explored their keep and even their dungeons. I wanted Sue to try out the rack, but she wouldn´t be in it.
The whole city is replete with ancient buildings, with turrets and battlements. It´s very steep because of having been built on a hilltop.There are also lots of synagogues and mosques blending in with the visigoth and christian sites. Enough travelogue - last night in a taverna the bullfights were on TV above our heads as we ate. The bulls won 2 to 1 and the toreadors´ outfits looked stunning - at least before the fights.'
In Seville - 'Flamenco. We have learned that it`s more than just a dance - it is the soul of this region. The people from the flamenco museum have been incredibly helpful and we have learnt a lot. It helps to share their passion and to be writing about it. We are going for our own flamenco lessons tomorrow, and fortunately we now know that flamenco is not only for glamorous exhibiition dancers but for social dancing for all ages and shapes and sizes. That lets us in - especially after all the tapas and vino tinto.'
In Granada - 'We have just come back from a restaurant in the old muslim quarter that looks across the Rio Darro valley to the Alhambra fortress, which is lit by floodlights, and is probalby one of the most spectacular views in the world. The fortress is over a thousand years old and it was the last of the muslim strongholds to fall to the Christian Spanish in 1492. Quite a spectacular backdrop for chomping on your steak and chips - not that we would eat such things. Spanish fries are not great - the only thing they cook badly.'
All I can add is 'hasta pronto!'.