We were in Barcelona for about five days (saturday through wednesday). While we were there we saw: the Barcelona Cathedral, the Parliament of Catalunya buildings, the Mirador de Colom, the Museum of Chocolate, Montjuic and the Olympic stadium (from Barcelona 1992), Park Guell, the Sagrada Familia, the Palau de Musicá, and various other things which I'm probably forgetting. We also did a three hour bicycle tour on sunday (in English) which was great because we got to see a lot of different things in a short amount of time.
The food here is fantastic, we've been able to find lots of good things to eat. Very close to where we stayed is La Bloqueria, a fresh food market with lots of individual vendors of fruit, vegetables, meat, pastries, and even fully prepared meals. One place (which we will go back to) didn't have a menu but the chef would just make a plate of whatever they had available. We didn't know what to order so just asked for a chicken dish and a "plate of the day". The chicken was delicious, and the plate of the day was baby octopus in with beans and a basalmic vinegar sauce. Amazing! At another place we had a huge plate of seafood for two, including lobster, giant shrimp, clams, razor clams, mussels, sea snails, etc. La Quinze Nits (Fifteen Nights) is a popular restaurant with a long queue to get in every day. It was worth the wait, the food there is excellent and very reasonably priced. We've eaten at various other tapas places, found some gyros, etc. Very good.
I didn't realize that Catalunya (the northeast corner of Spain) had such a strong sense of its own identity. It is a mostly atonomous region in terms of government, and the local language (Catalan) is actually spoken by more people than more well-known languages such as Norweigan or Finnish. Catalan seems to be a cross between Spanish and French, and it's interesting trying to figure out what things like tourism brochures are saying. Common words like "closed" are often totally different (spanish: cerrado, french: fermé, catalan: tancat). It's a lot of fun for a language geek like me.
We left Barcelona on thursday, got on a bus at 7:30am bound for a town called Sort. We had emailed a hotel in Sort the day before, but had not heard back. So we went anyway even though we didn't have a place arranged to stay. After a reasonably comfortable five hour bus ride (except for the ten or so excited kids in the back of the bus on their way to camp), we arrived in Sort. Sort is a tiny little mountain town in the Pyrenees, which in winter is a ski resort town and in summer is a mecca of river sports. You can walk from one end of town to the other in about 10 minutes. We found the hotel which we had emailed but they could only offer us one night. They helped us find another place which was a bit cheaper and is still very nice. It's the same price as we were paying in Barcelona (about €45 per night) and we have our own bathroom, a great view of the town, and breakfast included.
Later today we are going kayaking on the river, and then tomorrow morning we have booked a rafting trip, both through a place called Rubber River. Sunday we might do something like hot air ballooning, haven't decided yet.
Internet access is generally available, but the place in Sort where we are right now wasn't open yesterday. It has tiny little 640x480 monitors, about a dozen computers shoved together in a little room in the back of a (food) café. A far cry from the nice flat panel LCD displays at the places in Barcelona. We haven't been able to find anywhere we can use USB connections, so pictures will have to wait.
We are having lots of fun and I'm happy to report that I don't seem to have suffered any effects of jetlag. Learning Spanish is fun too, and my French even came in handy yesterday while checking into the hotel. Hasta lluego!