If you’re wondering about the 2 euro wine, we didn’t finish it (an incredibly rare event). So don’t worry, we won’t be bringing any back to share, making you pretend it's delicious high-brow Spanish wine and you are just too uncultured to appreciate it.

Since I never got my guidebook, we pretty much just followed my friend’s trail and advice (they left a few days ago). So today we decided to climb the other mountain; there are two main ones that sandwich the city between them; we went to Montjuic on the luxurious gondola as you may recall. Today we went full-on opposite, hiking overland. Not by design but because after exiting the Metro we walked up the wrong road (besides no guidebook, also no decent map…. makes life more adventurous, hey?).  Though our error was becoming apparent, we’d seen a sign with fork and spoon for several hundred meters ahead, and driven on by hunger as it was noon and we hadn’t yet eaten, we walked to the café. During breakfast we figured out where we were, i.e. quite some distance from our destination, over on another hill. But Erik thought he’d seen somebody walking a path overland toward the other hill. So we headed up some stairs which petered out in a dirt path and came to a fabulous city overlook. And sure enough a narrow, rocky dirt path headed up and over the direction we wanted.

A pink flowering bush next to an old fence in Barcelona. photo by Shara Johnson

View from hilltop looking onto Barcelona city in the hills. photo by Shara Johnson

So eventually we made it to where we wanted to be – the top of Mount Tibidabo at a modern cathedral and, oddly, an amusement park directly beneath it. We wanted to ride the roller coaster but it was closed except to a group of school kids. We tried to convince the lady we were students, but it didn’t fly. What lucky kids, riding roller coasters on a school day!

A colorful carousel is beneath a tall cathdral on a hill with a statue of Jesus at the top of the tallest spire in Barcelona. photo by Shara Johnson

Walked through the cathedral, more great city views. Intended to take a funicular down to the bottom of the hill but were annoyed that there was no one-way ticket price; they don’t seem to figure on people arriving at the top by foot and wishing to leave by funicular. So decided to hoof it to the bottom. The road was very twisty and circuitous but there were many shortcuts through the woods across the hairpin curves. So we walked down one of these, eventually stumbling upon an old, crumbling and overgrown stone stairway which had once led up the hill. And here is where we encountered the Dog Fortress. We had heard a huge group of los perros barking for quite some time. I had been desperately hoping they’re weren’t some band of stray feral dogs who would be our demise. We continued downhill and even more dogs joined the barking fray. We came to an old stone wall and were captivated by a small, spry cat lurking about its perimeter. We tried to beckon it forward but it looked at us wide-eyed then scampered off into the forest. Then I looked up and realized the dogs were all behind the wall. We had almost blown the Spy Cat’s cover, as he was obviously attempting to infiltrate the Dog Fortress. Probably he’d been hired to discover a way to keep them quiet. Truly, the decibel level was quite stupendous. Eventually when we got down to the street we could look back up and see it was a large kennel, but it was kind of spooky hearing all those dogs through the forest. Spy Cat was only the second cat we’d seen all week.

Our next goal was to walk back to Park Guell, which our crude map showed as nearby. After following sign after sign literally in circles I was becoming convinced the park no longer existed. We had been following road signs for cars to follow, not pedestrians, and the road to the parking lot wound around the park before finally coming to rest. So it was later in the day and I was far more exhausted than I had imagined I would be when we arrived. But our goal was to write another ditty at the park for our travel guide idea. This required walking throughout the park despite my tired, tired feet. But after a short rest on a  beautiful tiled bench, I rallied and we discovered some places we hadn’t been to previously with our friends. Also this had been where my G9 camera broke, so I had the opportunity to take some photos. More Gaudi!

Stone building with blue-tiled window at Parc Guell in Barcelona. photo by Shara Johnson

Pillars and ceiling, ceiling composed of cracked tile of different shapes and colors in Parc Guell Barcelona. photo by Shara Johnson

Walkway with spiraling rounded arches in Parc Guell Barcelona. photo by Shara Johnson

We made it back to our hostel and flopped down onto the bed for a nap. We were supposed to hook up with some other folks who were to arrive in Barcelona today but an unfortunate miscommunication prevented this. But once again, we followed our friends’ advice and found a café they’d recommended, the Gran Café, in the Gothic quarter and had a delicious dinner. And that’s it! Home the next morning.

I’d certainly recommend Barcelona to anyone! A week was too short. One thing I noticed, and have to admit appreciated, was that, contrary to Prague and some other Central European cities, the people are not at all put out by speaking English. They are friendly, helpful, and don’t bat an eye at speaking in English, actually almost to a fault. It would be difficult, in fact, to practice up on your Catalan or Spanish in the tourist areas because people immediately reverted to English when they heard our American accent speaking Spanish. When we got a little further from the beaten path (for example stopping for refreshment while circling ad infinitum Park Guell) we had to use more Spanish, but the people were always completely patient and good-natured with us. Catalonia (the Spanish district of which Barcelona is capital) has its own ending on domain names -- so a website doesn't end in ".es" as in Spain but ".cat" for Catalonia. We've decided to register a domain name for our beloved kitty.... "http://mister.cat"

Three things about visiting European cities. (1) I truly love them. (2) Love to visit; would never want to live in one. Need to live as a quiet mountain hermit. (3) Love to visit Europe and its many architectural photo opportunities, but always realize when I do that my heart still belongs in the 2nd and 3rd World, where one can have many more wacky adventures of culture, language, terrain, etc. Where shall I go next?


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