Well, it's long past time when I should have had something
posted about our trip to Europe. So without further ado, here's a short account of our trip to Europe, starting with our adventures in Spain.
We left for our trip on May 18, leaving from Toronto, flying through Munich, and finally landing in Barcelona. Other than arriving slightly late in Munich and worrying if our bags were going to make it with us to Barcelona the flight was great. We caught a nice view of the Alps as we came into Germany. We'll have to make another trip so we can enjoy them properly! We met up with Nat without a problem. She had been travelling already for 2 and a half weeks with Mel's older sister, Pam, and was waiting for us on a corner outside a particular cafÃƒÂ© in Las Ramblas.
Barcelona is beautiful; it seems to me (a non-architect) an architectural paradise. There are so many wonderful bulidings by GaudÃƒÂ to see that I think you'd need a few weeks fully explore them all! We were in Barcelona for 3 days, and in that time we managed to see Las Ramblas, La Pedrera, Casa Batllo, the Palau de Musica Catalan, the harbour, the Olympic Park, Poble EspaÃƒÂ±ol, Sagrada Familia, Hospital Sant Pau, and Parc GÃƒÂ¼ell.
Where to start? Antoni GaudÃƒÂ. For me, GaudÃƒÂ was the highlight of our trip to Barcelona. The man was a genius, as demonstrated by his innovative ways of combining artistic and functional elements into his architecture. Again, I know next to nothing about architecture, so some readers may be stifling a laugh right about now, but I don't mind! GaudÃƒÂ made the functional beautiful. My favourite building was La Sagrada Familia (the Sacred Family, meaning the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph). Apparently the roof is going to be completed within the next 3 years, so they'll be able to celebrate mass there for the first time since construction began in 1882!
As a city, Barcelona is quite nice. For the most part we felt quite comfortable getting around, and safe pretty much everywhere. It seems you have to be on the lookout for pickpockets everywhere, and there are many people trying to scam gullible tourists. It also seemed like we met more than our fair share of people who were not willing to go the extra mile (or even a metre...) to help us out. Maybe it's just culture shock, but for myself these experiences really tainted my impression of Spain.
After Barcelona, we took an overnight ferry to Mallorca. We rented a little Fiat Punto and did some touring around the island before heading to the beach to relax for the day. Mallorca is beautiful, and the people are very nice. It was great to relax on the beach for a day after walking all over Barcelona for 3 days straight. Too bad we couldn't stay there longer!
After Mallorca, we took the high speed ferry back to Barcelona, then got on a train to Madrid. For some reason we didn't have very high expectations for Madrid, and were regretting not spending another day or two in Mallorca and skipping Madrid altogether. How wrong we were! Madrid too has lots of beautiful architecture, history, and is easy to get around on foot in.
In Madrid we did a LOT of walking. The first day there we did two of the walking tours suggested in our travel book. The highlights of Madrid were the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande (sorry, no pictures!), and the Prado museum.