Archive for July, 2006

Another Day, Another Beach

After sharing Jenn’s adventure we all decided we needed some down time. Jean really wanted to visit Sitges and Alex and I had never been so………..

Bright and early Saturday morning we headed down to the train station at Pg de Gracia. We met Kaiko and Francesca there and off we all went. It’s only a 40 minute train ride in air conditioned comfort. As usual, we ended up chatting with a catalin woman on the train and as usual were all captured by her stories. We arrived in Sitges and headed directly to the beach. This photo was taken from the point at one end and looks across the beach.

We left our towels and umbrellas (yes, I only sit on a beach under a beach umbrella) and headed over to a restaurant that Jean had seen. Heading down the steps I had to capture las chicas. Kaiko, from Japan, Francesca from Italy and Alex from Canada via Brazil. Our common language is spanish and it’s just too funny to hear us talking. I’m the least fluent of the three so I usually end up making up the story as I go along.

After eating we went back to the beach for the rest of the day. Kaiko had to leave at 5:30 because her boyfriend finished work at 6:30n and they were heading off yo a movie. The rest of us stayed put until around 7:30 when we decided to walk around the town.

Jean and Francesca in a medieval street

One of the narrow streets of Sitges with a walkway from the palace to another museum. The town is beautiful and so clean.

Gordon and Alex in front of the palace.

Walking in from the sea and meandering through the streets we looked back at the cathedral.

We finally reached the train station but decided we needed to have a clara before leaving. There were so many trains back to Barcelona that we took our time and caught the train that passed by when we were finished.

We arrived home at around 9:30, tired but smiling after an almost perfect day.

July 30, 2006 at 12:35 pm 2 comments

Jenn’s Departure – Finally

It’s 12:10 P.M. and Jen just called her mom from Franfurt – from the Lufthansa desk. They are putting her up in a hotel overnight and she will fly home tomorrow via Munich on Lufthansa. She leaves Frankfurt at 11:15 A.M. and Munich at 15:30 arriving in Montreal at 17:50 P.M. Kudos to Lufthansa for taking care of Jenn because they were not responsible for the chaos at BCN.
She is ok . Hope she has a good night’s sleep and relaxes up at the cottage. This is one holiday she’ll never forget.

Here’s an update from Jenn when she arrived in Montreal…………


I finally made it home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What a long adventure back. I arrived at the hotel near the Frankfurt airport at approx 1am. I only got to sleep at about 2am (after a knock on the door from room service that I did not order!).

I got up at 7am, had breakfast at the hotel and then went to the airport. I was sent to one desk after another and finally had my flights confirmed. I asked if there was any possibility of getting on the A/C flight to Mtl at 10:50am but it was full. Apparently, not only were delays caused by the stike in Spain but also bad weather in Frankfurt. The airport was crazy this morning.

I had a 3 hour wait in Munich which I spent most of reading. Thank goodness I had a good book!

Probably because I was anxious to get home, but the flight from Munich seemed very long. I finished my book and had already seen the movie so there was not much to do.

I am glad to be back home. I am not going to the cottage since would want to be back early afternoon to do laundry.

Thank you again so much for such a wonderful time. Although I could have done without the adventure at the end, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed my vacation.

Enjoy the rest of Gordon and Jean’s visit.



P.S. You can tell Gordon that I was cursing him yesterday. He must have jinxed the flight by saying over and over that he had to find a way for me to stay in Barcelona.


As a footnote to this whole advenure I’d like to add that we never forget unplanned adventures. If this trip had occured as planned it would simply have become one of many pleasant memories. Now, Jenn has stories to tell and those stories will last a lifetime.

July 29, 2006 at 5:54 am 1 comment

Jenn’s Departure – Maybe

Well I must admit, today was an exercise in feeling totally useless. We started off the day by escorting Jenn to the airport for her 11:00 AM flight on Lufthansa. We checked her in, got boarding cards for both flights and checked her baggage. Then Alex and I headed home. I went to my final spanish class, yes, I said final. I was supposed to finish up next week but I had enough for awhile. I was sitting in class and my phone rang so I went out to the hall to answer it. It was around 3:00 and it was Jenn, she hadn’t left Barcelona yet. She was sticking around to reschedule her flight.

It’s now 7:45 PM and by monitoring internet and Lufthansa’s web site it looks like her flight will leave at 8:00 PM. She’s called a few times and we told her it was due to depart at 8:00 PM. She didn’t know that so communication at the airport must be lousy. We found out that it was Iberia employees who staged a wildcat (against their union’s advice) and occupied the runways and tarmacs preventing any arrivals or departures. The busiest day of the year in BCN and these people decide to pull this trick. I’m surprised the Spanish national police didn’t get in there right away and make some arrests. Her situation has raised some questions because even I wouldn’t quite know how to handle something like this if the airline I was travelling on refused responsibility. She had booked online on an Air Canada flight and connected to a Lufthansa flight. The problem was the airport so who is responsible for these passengers ?

Update. After a posting creeping departure times the flight finally left at 9:00 so Jenn is currently enroute to Frankfurt. I hope she presses Lufthansa for hotel vouchers because she will not be flying to Canada until tomorrow, maybe.

I’ll let you know the final outcome.

July 28, 2006 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

Gordon and Jean’s Arrival

Gordon and Jean arrived last night. We met them at Estacio de Franc. They had been in Paris the week before, conducting business in the tropical heat that is enveloping the city. Gordon says it was lucky they could wear business casual but the long pants were a killer. I can relate. Here in Barcelona, I am constantly sweating. I drank over 3 litres of water yesterday and I’m still thirsty. Anyhow, they are here and ready to relax and tour. It’s good to have them here.

For most of the week they were with Jenn and took the tour bus for two days to get a general concept of Barcelona and what the city has to offer. They really enjoyed the tour and from what I understand, saw a lot. I’m glad because Jenn is heading home tomorrow and I felt that she really hadn’t seen much of the city itself. Last night we went to Kibuka on C/Goya with Naomi and Xavi and had a fantastic meal. Naomi has started a blog and I very much enjoyed reading it. You can link to her blog on the side.

Today we went to Freixenet by train and they all really enjoyed the tour. How could we not. The cellars were cool and we were given an excellent introduction to the facility. At the end of the tour we were each given a glass (or two) of cava and some munchies in a very pleasant setting.

After returning to BCN, we walked down Ramblas into bari gotic to look for a place to eat. I must confess, I started acting like a two year old because we were wandering around looking for this restaurant. Alex chatted with me and made me realize what an idiot I was being. She did it in her own special and amazing way, completely without criticism. Tonight we’ll go for a walk around our neighbourhood and tomorrow we retrun Jenn to her place of origin. I really hope she enjoyed her trip.

July 27, 2006 at 5:59 pm 1 comment

Tattoo or not Tattoo

Now this is way off the normal subject material of this blog. I am thinking of getting a tattoo. Not a huge tattoo, just one about 5 to 8 cms long. I’ll put it on the back of my shoulder (haven’t decided right or left) and I’ll choose one of the following pieces which represent art works from West Coast Indians. I’d like some opinions about where to place it and which one (not that it would change my final decision). Anyhow, here they are and start the comments flowing.

Killer Whale – Heiltsuk

Salmon – Haida

Raven – Tsimshian

Bear – Tsimshian

July 25, 2006 at 9:28 pm 38 comments

Jenn’s Arrival

It’s Wednesday, July 19th and Jenn is arriving from Canada. We went to the airport to meet her. It’s a good thing her flight from Canada made the connection in Frankfurt because I realized we had no way of communicating. She didn’t even have our home address. We introduced her to Barcelona by taking her to Barri Gotic, our gym and Gracia. Our goal was to keep her awake until at least 9:00 PM to minimize her jet lag. She held up better than I would have.

The next few days we took her to different areas of the city but I must confess that I felt we could have done a better job at playing tour guide. To be honest, there is so much to this city that I really don’t know where to start. On top of that I have spanish class from 1:30 to 3:30 every day. When class is over it’s way to hot to be wandering around. Alex is working from 8:30 to 2:00 so she’s not available either. Those are my excuses but I do feel bad that we aren’t out there more. I hope Jenn enjoys what we do show her.

Friday evening, when it got cooler we went up to Parq Guell for a stroll. As you can see, Jenn got comfortable in one of the stone seats.

Jenn at Parc Guell

As the sun went down, the light softened. I love the way the evening light creates long shadows and puts highlights in the trees and hillsides. Alex gets her share of late afternoon light. It stays bright until around 10:00 at night.

We left the park from a different route than we normally do and discovered new things on our way out. This was a private house at one time and Jenn commented on the fact that it could have come from a child’s storybook. The interior must be as spectacular as the exterior but we didn’t ghet a chance to see inside.

The entrance to the park hints at the wonders that you will find within. It’s such a well planned entrance leaving almost everything to the imagination. Even the room above the steps is empty except for many massive columns with tiled domes between them.

We left the park and started walking home. On the way down, Alex and Jenn went into a little shop and I waited outside. I walked to the next corner to wait for them. Someone was practising guitar in one of the apartments. Electric, with a touch of reverb. They were playing some blues riffs, really nice. He/she would start the riff and stop, replay it with a different beat and continue. I could have sat there for an hour just listening. I really enjoyed that moment. We ended up waling all the way back, which wasn’t that far to begin with. One of the characteristics of this city.

The weekend was more active. Saturday we took her to Sant Pol de mar. Matt and his mom came along too. We went for lunch at La Platjola and order paella for four. There were 5 of us and we couldn’t finish it. I was too full and uncomfortable. The girls walked up to the old church and Matt and I went for a snooze on the beach. What a life…………….

Sunday, we went to Port Vell and Maremagnum, an area we hadn’t been to before. It was quite interesting. That is where the fishing fleet is.

We also saw the high speed ferry that goes to Majorca. Alex and I will probably use it to visit Majorca in September.

We went home from there because of the heat. Besides, we were going to Monjuic that evening so I wanted to rest since I was starting to act like a two year old. Alex says I always do when I get hot and tired. Jenn wanted to see the olympic facilities so we took the bus up to Monjuic (number 55). It lets you off right across the street. I need a seat and I had plenty to choose from……….

We wandered around the facilities and Alex took this picture of a young couple. I really like the picture so I’m including it here………

From there we walked down towards Placa Espana. We were going to see the light and music show at Fontana Magica. I was surprised by the size and number of fountains in front of MNAC. These fountains are spectacular without the effects. Looking down towards the main fountain you can get an idea of the size.

Behind us are more fountains and massive waterfalls going down to the terraces below. We’ll definitely have to go back. Alex and I on the upper terrace with Placa Espana behind us.

This photo was taken on one of the lower terraces.

MNAC and more fountains are behind us.

These are people who came to watch the show. We have a short video of part of the show but you would have to be there to really appreciate it’s beauty.

All this talk of water and look what I find. An photo of my old masters swim team in Pointe Claire. Wow, brings back memories. Hope everyone in the picture is doing fine.

Well, we pick up Gordon and Jean tonight so next week’s entry should be interesting. Have a great week.

July 24, 2006 at 9:05 am 4 comments

High season at our household

Our friend Jenn P arrived wednesday morning from Montreal to stay for 10 days and friends Gordon and Jean (also from Montreal) arrive on monday. That means rediscovering Barcelona! We spent the past couple of days walking around with Jenn – old town, Rambla Catalunya, boardwalk & olympic port, Park de la Ciutadella, etc. Last night we went to Park Guell around 7:30 pm and the light was just magical. We walked all the way back, cutting through Gracia and stopping for ice cream at Pl. de la Revolucion. This morning we are off to St Pol de Mar with Jenn, Matt & his mom. Should be fun… will have pics of Jenn’s visit soon.

On another note – the neighbours decided to have a party last night that was still going full blast at 6:30 this morning. Techno music at full blast and smell of smoke coming into our room. They seem to be brits. The middle-aged spanish women who live in the two apartments above were not impressed and started telling them off. I then poked my head out of the window and the woman upstairs pointed to the other one “see, someone else is bothered by this”. I asked them if they had called someone and they said not yet but they will if they don’t turn down the racket they were making. Thankfully they did. The older ladies then told me “in their countries they wouldn’t do that, but they come here, think it’s all allowed…” Sad, but she’s not the one in Barcelona disgruntled with foreigners…

July 22, 2006 at 12:37 am 1 comment

One Long Weekend

Leone is a woman from Australia whom I met at Speakeasy (a spanish language school). Through her, Alex and I met her daughter Naomi. Leone went back home in June but before she left she made me promise to introduce Naomi to Sara, our spanish profesora. This Friday I fullfilled that promise and took a photo to prove it. Leone, here is proof that Naomi and Sara have met (love to have a comment on that)

Sara and Naomi

Saturday, we spent most of the day cleaning. In the morning we went up to the market in gracia. What an active place in the mornings. It’s full of positive energy and the vendors have a great sense of humor. We had breakfast before coming back to our cleaning chores. Wednesday, Jenn, from Montreal, is coming to visit for a few weeks. Gordon and Jean are coming next week so we’ll be pretty busy over the next few weeks. It will give Alex and I the opportunity to see areas of BCN that we haven’t yet visited and to rediscover places we have seen. I’m really looking forward to introducing them to Barcelona.

Sunday was beach day. We left BCN at 10:48 AM (the train) and went back up to Sant Pol de Mar. This time we made a reservation at the restaurant for 4:00 so we wouldn’t have to wait. I set up my umbrellas (yes, I use two) and my towel and settled in for the day. I don’t enjoy laying directly under the sun so I always bring the umbrellas. We bought masks and snorkels because the water is so clear so I was all excited and eager to get in the water. I took my mask and snorkel, ran down to the water and dove right in. I guess I spent about 30 minutes exploring the rocks and see bottom. Getting back to my refuge from the sun, I plugged into my ipod and looked for my glasses. I suddenly occured to me that I didn’t remember taking them OFF before hitting the agua. Alex didn’t believe me but I went back to the place I dove in and looked around. After aminute or so, I saw the shape of glasses for a fraction of a second. I dove down to where I had seen them and guess what. I found them, safe and sound. Boy, talk about lucky. We had a great meal with wine, caught the train and got home around 7:30 all tired out.

Alex’s friend Dana is moving to El Paso. In January, Dana won a tenure track position at the university there and she and husband Bobby are moving. It’s sad because we were just getting to know each other before we left for BCN and I felt that we got along really well. Toronto won’t be the same when we return. Hope they have a safe and pleasant journey.
Alex and Dana

You know, I’ve been retired for almost 2 years now and it still feels like a long weekend. It’s such a weird feeling to have such a LONG WEEKEND.

July 18, 2006 at 8:09 am 2 comments

Farewell Tequila

Well, today brought some sad news. Tequila had to be put down. For those who didn’t know of Tequila, she was my sidekick for quite a few years. In reality, she was Alex’s dog whom we brought up from Brazil when Alex moved up. To be honest, we didn’t hit it off at first and neither of us would back down when we clashed. Over time, she won me over. All I can say is that I’ll miss her. Patti and Isabella were right. To read more about Tequila visit Alex’s blog.

July 13, 2006 at 4:37 pm Leave a comment

Farewell to a great companion

Tequila came into our lives in 1996. She was born in May and came to live with me when she was only 51 days old. She was the cutest puppy in the world and soon amazed us by her quiet demeanor, innate good manners and sharp intelligence. She was a true people dog and would rather sit on a park bench beside us and people watch than run around with other dogs.

Watching the world go by

She was also a world traveller. From Recife she went to Resende and then to Rio and Brasilia. From Brasilia I took her to Montreal, where we lived for 3 years and then to Toronto, where we stayed for another while. Tequila loved Canada. She relished the cold and snow. I was always amazed at how much energy she had at minus 20 celsius. The happiest I ever saw her was when we took her hiking into the mountains north of Montreal, in the Fall. She  must have zigzagged a good 20 km that day, but she had us, she was free and it was cold. She ran the whole way up the mountain and down. Needless to say, she slept for 3 days afterwards.

When Alan first came to Brazil to meet my parents, in december 1997, she didn’t like him. She knew he meant a lot to me and was jealous. But he would put her on top of the wall that surrounded my parents home and together they would sit there for hours watching the world go by. Once Alan retired, they became best buddies and she would call him for a nap every afternoon. He would be working on the computer, she would come, nudge his hand and then point towards the couch, where she would lie at his feet.

Best buddies

When it came time to come to Spain, I had to bring her back to Brazil. I knew her health wasnt the best at that point and I wanted her to be in a place where she would get the best care and attention. That she did. Today my mom called me to let me know they had to put her down. She now rests in a quiet little plot by the river, across from my parents’ home. Here are some recent pictures from when we lived in Toronto:

Summer walks thru U of T

In the ferry to Toronto Islands

She stayed out of the way when I cooked

You were the best buddy I ever had. You’ll live forever in my heart….

July 13, 2006 at 11:33 am 4 comments

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