These are from a little trip I took a few years ago to Catalonia with my sister and Dad. I had been to Spain before with these two, as a young teenager, but on the kind of trip that includes a lot of ice-picks, marches at dawn, and peeing behind bushes hoping that the sheep is the only spectator. (My Dad is a fan of adventure trips. Apparently the heavier the rainfall and the more pans you have clanking from your backpack, the bigger the adventure.)
This latest stay was quite different.
First stop was Barcelona, a city very much with a style of its own. We stayed off Las Ramblas, a wide boulevard leading to the sea, surrounded by a labyrinth of twisting alleyways and looming buildings. While the alleys were cramped and sometimes shabby, every now and then you'd burst out into the sunshine unexpectedly at the foot of an elaborate hotel or a huge church.
We very much wanted to see the iconic Gaudi architecture, so we headed to the unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi took over the direction of this massive project in 1883, and after his death, it was decided to complete his work. The finished parts, the four spires in the photos, represent the evangelists, and the planned main spire (not yet constructed) represents Jesus. A 170m high Jesus. I made it halfway up one of the towers before looking out of the window and freaking out!
The culture didn't stop there. We visited other Gaudi monuments- they're everywhere. The Parc Ciutadella was fantastic in the hot sun. We stumbled across a bar where the live jazz was mixed with flamenco, and after a few cervesas a man got up to dance. Unlike British guys, he actually managed to look good while doing this. We visited the Miro gallery, a stunning collection, seemingly inspired entirely by birds, stars, and vaginas. The gallery was, of course, accessible by cable-car. Why do I seem to spend most of my travels up very high things?!
Travelling out through the suburbs, a tangle of tower blocks with kids playing football in the dusty heat, we were in mountainous countyside surprisingly quickly. Very odd mountains, too- if lumpy custard was grey, and you dropped about 15 million cubic metres of it off your spoon, the result might look a bit like these hills.
It was hot, hot, hot- the only patch of shade was in a large stone monastery halfway up.The views were awe-inspiring. I inspired gently, while my dad and sister danced gleefully and precariously around the edges of hundred-metre precipices like bloody mountain goats.
On return to the city, I hit the beach and wisely fell asleep for that fetching sun-dried tomato look.
Up into the mountains we went, close enough to the French border to hear it in the language. We stayed in a tiny village on a steep hillside, where it happened to be an annual festival. We wondered what was going on when the shopkeepers all taped up their windows. It was revealed at nightfall, that the main feature of the celebrations was a paper-mache dragon, paraded through the streets breathing fireworks from his mouth. This flaming beast was followed by a shopping trolley full of spare fireworks. Can't see the county council having that, can you?!