Saturday, May 25, 2019

Farewell Dinner Week 4 Recap

May 2019 - Florence and Barcelona


Saturday May 18    Florence

We slept in and missed the 9:30 cutoff for breakfast. As we are leaving the desk clerk is insisting on making us coffee and giving us pastries, what a nice touch.


Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

Named for the church, one of the most beautiful, but then they just get more beautiful.

The crowds are crazy, I wonder what David thinks?


Ponte Vechhio

Lovely shops on this side of the Arno, near Petti Palace.

In the shadow of the Petti Palace.

Walking to the San Niccolo district.

Steps 16,000 11.9 km

Sunday May 19    Florence/Pisa

We made a decision, since it was raining, that we should take the train to Pisa at noon. We may as well spend a couple of hours on a train.

Once a maritime power to rival Genoa and Venice, Pisa now draws its fame from an architectural project gone terribly wrong. But the world-famous Leaning Tower is just one of many noteworthy sights in this compelling city. Education has fuelled the local economy since the 1400s, and students from across Italy compete for places in its elite university.

It's Sunday so many shops and restaurants are closed. We finally find a local place and gluten free pasta is not an issue.

I had cod fritters.

John's veal ragout pasta.

Yup, it leans!

I'll have to say that I was impressed. I thought it was just a touristy gimmick.

The Pisa tower is one of the four buildings that make up the cathedral complex in Pisa, Italy, called Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli, which means Field of Miracles.

The leaning of the Tower of Pisa comes into the story in 1173, when construction began.

Thanks to the soft ground, it had begun to lean by the time its builders got to the third story, in 1178. Shifting soil had destabilized the tower’s foundations.

Over the next 800 years, it became clear the 55-metre tower wasn’t just learning but was actually falling at a rate of one to two millimeters per year.

Today, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is more than five meters off perpendicular.

The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

Flanking one side of the piazza, the camposanto, or cemetery, is a gracefully elongated cloister enclosing a burial ground with earth reputedly brought back during the Crusades from Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified, so that noble Pisans could rest in holy ground.

You can see all the colours of Tuscany.

Not as good as our spot in Barcelona!!!

We caught the 6:20 train back to the Florence train station and were in the Santa Maria Novella piazza at 7:30.

In time for a glass of wine.

Not bad considering that a couple of hours + was spent waiting/taking train.

22766 17.2 km

Monday May 20    Florence

My very European breakfast.

 We head out in sunshine. We buy some chocolates, some sweaters for John and a clock for the house.

James Joyce pub.

The sunshine was too good to be true and the skies opened around noon, while we were on the other side of the river, luckily we found a cafe to while around the storm.

Fort Belvedere, located on the southern hills of the Arno River (specifically, on the highest hill of Boboli Gardens) in the Quarter of San Niccolò, is often referred to as «the most beautiful terrace in Florence». It is the second largest fortress to be built in Florence and was once connected to Palazzo Vecchio via the Vasari Corridor. From here, Robert Langdon, the main character in Dan Brown’s Inferno, would have the best panoramic view of Florence, the city in which his adventure in Italy begins.

 Worth the climb!

On the way down.

We go back to the restaurant we ate in the first evening but sat inside as it rained again.

STEPS 14,161 10.5 km

Tuesday May 21    Florence to Barcelona

This turned out to be an interesting day to say the least.

Up and ready for our ride to the airport at 6:30, the clerk says help yourself to breakfast. Nice.

Ride comes on time and no issues checking in. Florence airport is small. We grab a coffee.

Flight is delayed, no explanation, from 8:50 to 9:10. It is really crowded in the waiting room no seats at all.

I get an email from the hotel (via Expedia) saying our reservation has been cancelled as per Expedia rules?????????????? WTF???????

The flight ends up being over an hour late into Barcelona and then we walk miles to the baggage claim where we wait for a very long time.

We don't see our driver, not surprising as we are so late. Just as we figured we'd take a cab we spot him.

To the hotel where they explain the problem with Expedia. They have no rooms but work out a compromise that we liked. They would put us up in another (more expensive) sister hotel, Gran Hotel Havana for two nights and then we would come back here. Perfect, no need to change our Saturday pick up.

We cabbed over to Havana, they were expecting us and we left our luggage to go out while a room was available.

We were walking on Las Ramblas when I looked down a lane and spotted 4 Cats. We had wanted to try in so here we are!

Pe Romeu had the idea to open Els Quatre Gats, drawing inspiration from a French café called Le Chat Noir, where he had previously worked. Le Chat Noir translates to “The Black Cat” in English, but the name is a little different in Catalan. Els Quatre Gats means “The Four Cats,” which is derived from a Catalan expression which means “only a few people.” The phrase is usually used to describe people who are a bit strange, or perceived as outsiders. Romeu was taken with this Parisian café and decided to model the décor of his café after it. Romeu was financially supported by three of his friends, Ramon Casa i Carbó, Santiago Rusiñol and Miguel Utrillo, three major modernist Spanish artists of the time. Casas even painted something specifically for the interior of the café, his famous painting called, Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem. The painting depicts both Casas and Romeu riding on a bike together with the Barcelona skyline visible in the background.

Els Quatre Gats Catalan for "The Four Cats" is a café that famously became a popular meeting place for famous artists throughout the modernist period in Catalonia, known as Modernisme. The café opened on June 12, 1897 in the famous Casa Martí, and served as a hostel, bar and cabaret until it eventually became a central meeting point for Barcelona’s most prominent modernist figures, such as Pablo Picasso and Ramon Casas i Carbó. The bar closed due to financial difficulties in June 1903, but was reopened and eventually restored to its original condition in 1989.

Patatas bravas.

Mini burgers.

 A mural, another look at the cathedral. Here's our visit in November.

John really wanted the gelato that we had had with Anne and Bob in November so here it is.

Photos sent to Anne and Bob!

Some cool t-shirts.

We stop for a bottle of wine (so cheap!!) and see these.

Gran Hotel Havana

 To accompany our bottle of wine we order steak frites from room service.

STEPS 10,071 7.6 km
A good number considering how much time was spent in transit.

Wednesday May 22    Barcelona


Click here for our November visit to the Arc and the parc. Lots more activity than in November.

In 1888 Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition. The Arc de Triomf was built as the gateway to the fair which was held in the Parc de la Ciutadella.

Vendors had these blankets displayed for sale.

We came back this way to see this fountain that we had missed the last time. And wouldn't you know it is under extensive renovations and fenced off without the water running.

It was erected by Josep Fontsére and to a small extent by Antoni Gaudí, who at that time was still an unknown student of architecture. Fontsére aimed to loosely make it bear resemblance to the Trevi Fountain of Rome.

Some bathroom humour.

The basilica of Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, also known as the "cathedral of La Ribera", is one of the most perfect examples of Gothic style architecture due to its harmonious proportions and the serenity of the ensemble.

The Fossar de les Moreres is a memorial square adjacent to the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. The plaza was built over a cemetery where defenders of the city were buried following the Siege of Barcelona at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714.


Patatas Bravas.

Mussels for John.

Octopus for me!

All those tentacles.

That was that for us me, back to the hotel and nap time!

STEPS 9,481 7.2 km

Thursday May 23    Barcelona

A glorious day!

We go out for breakfast and then decide to pack up and move to the Ayre Caspe hotel, where we were originally supposed to be for four days.

John's tortilla and tomato bread. It is served with everything!

It was only 10:30 so the plan was to drop our luggage and head out. Imagine our surprise when we are welcomed with open arms, asked how our stay was at the Gran Hotel Havana (fabulous) and then told we had been upgraded to a superior room and it was ready!!!

The Torre Glòries, formerly known as Torre Agbar, is a 38-story skyscraper/tower located between Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer Badajoz, near Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, which marks the gateway to the new technological district of Barcelona.

According to Jean Nouvel, Torre Agbar is intended to recall the shape of a geyser rising into the air. It was inspired by Montserrat, a mountain near Barcelona. In an interview, he described the tower as having a phallic character. As a result of its unusual shape, the building is known by several nicknames, such as el supositori("the suppository"), l'obús ("the shell") and some more scatological ones.

Spotted this and we were curious.
The Plaza de Toros Monumental was built in 1914 and is the world’s only Art-Nouveau bullring. It was the last active bullring in Catalonia and finally closed in 2011 when bullfighting was banned by the Parliament of Catalonia. The building now houses a small bullfighting museum.


Next stop Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's monstrosity. I covered it after our November trip.
We had left it too late to get tickets but that just means a good excuse to come back.

We wanted to see it in sunshine. Interesting effect with the plastic domes on the columns.

Hungry?? No problem, on the one block across the street you could find, Burger King, McDonald's, Five Guys, Costa Coffee, Papa John's, Crazy Wings, KFC, and Taco Bell! Unbelievable.

Inside Five Guys.

We didn't fare much better at Tapas and Beer, uninspired name and uninspired food. But good gluten free beer.

Down to Las Ramblas and over to El Raval.

The Old Hospital de la Santa Creu is a 15th-to-18th-century building complex in Barcelona, which formerly served as a hospital and hospice and currently is the home of the National Library of Catalonia, the Institute for Catalan Studies, the former College of Surgeons, and an art school.

And a gorgeous cafe/bar.

The area abounds with murals. Some murals from our November visit.

It is simply called El gato del Raval, The Raval cat. At one end of Rambla del Raval it stands to attention.
Quizzical. Maybe just a little pissed off especially with everyone wanting a selfie with him.

This is the work of sculptor Fernando Botero. A Columbian painter and sculptor famed for is voluptuous figurative style.

Sant Agusti church used to be attached to an Augustinian monastery that no longer exists. It was built by Pere Bertrán along the lines of a basic basilica with three longitudinal naves and a dome crowning the crossing. The baroque facade is one of the few that remain in Barcelona.

They had just celebrated the feast of St. Rita.

Saint Rita is the patron of itinerant flower sellers, and also of impossible things. With this in mind, many believers use the occasion to offer a blessed rose to the saint and ask something of her.

I spied another Gaudi house I had read about. There wasn't any line up so we coughed up our euros and went in.

The Palau Güell is a mansion designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí for the industrial tycoon Eusebi Güell and built between 1886 and 1888.

We decided on Taller's for dinner, we had eaten here in November. Two women sitting beside us asked if we were Canadian..Yes, she said she recognized our accents. They were from Brantford and Scarborough and going on a Mediterranean cruise.

Chips and eggs and chorizo and ham for me.

We had an interesting experience as we left. John was cool so wanted to put on his jacket, as he put down his backpack to get it, a man (small, bearded) started circling us and asking "where from". John kept pushing him away. With that he tried to grab John's watch and yelled and pulled his wrist back. A man with a cane was watching and he's a thief and watch out. We chalked it up and as we walked a few steps the man with the cane had approached two motorcycle cops and told them what happened and pointed to us. Two very handsome cops took the details and one whipped away on his bike to see if he could find him. He soon sent photos to the cop that was with us, but they weren't him. The cop was interested in Canada and asking questions. He mentioned what a problem they have with these itinerants or gypsies.
No worries, we said and thanked them for their efforts. Nothing was taken so just chalk it up.

STEPS 24,422 18.5 km

Friday May 24    Barcelona

We knew the weather just couldn't cooperate for one more day! Raining as we walk across the street for breakfast.

I asked for one pastry but she gave me two because they were small.

Waiting in the lobby and I overhear the desk clerk apologize to someone that the cabs were delayed due to a metro strike. We head out and manage to flag one down. It is a 10 euro drive to Parque Guell, another Gaudi creation. Google estimated the walk as 1.5 hours and our tickets were for 9:30. It was sprinkling but fine for our visit.

John laughed and said did I have to look so sad.

We had a vague plan of things to do in the area and it wasn't really raining.

Stopped for coffee. It is a nerve centre for traffic and has had to maintain a fine balance between acting as a road junction, through which 100,000 cars pass every day, and respecting the needs of local residents. Today, following the alterations carried out in 2008, Plaça de Lesseps is a modern square with green spaces and systems for reducing the traffic noise.

Notable buildings include the Jaume Fuster Library and the Church of the Josepets, the oldest building in the square.

 Casa Vicens is the first house designed by Antoni Gaudí after graduating from the Escola Provincial d’Arquitectura de Barcelona 1878. He received his first major commission from Manuel Vicens i Montaner to build a summer estate in Gràcia.

The rain is coming down much harder now.

Mercat de la Llibertat where I thought we could have lunch but everything was too fishy for John's tastes.

Back in the pouring rain and we walk into the first place that catches my eye. What a find! Taberna del Cura.

Absolutely perfect to while away a few hours in a nice and dry spot.

It was quiet when we first came in but it soon was packed with locals.

John's mussels.

The broth which he could not stop eating, they should have given him a glass.

Leg of lamb and mashed potatoes for me. We had decided this was going to be our main meal for the day.

Looks delicious, hake wrapped around?? but it wasn't what John ordered.

His potato tortilla (or torta or omelet).

We didn't want dessert, but were served this.

Back out and the rain has not really let up. But we are stuffed and walk the 30 minutes or so back to the hotel.

It continued to pour and got even heavier so we relaxed in the room, I repacked my suitcase as I had pulled everything out for my rain jacket, John watched some movies and we just got mellow with a bottle of wine (and chips and chocolate).

Heading home in the morning!

Would have been a lot more steps if the rain had let up even a little. No fun being soaked.

STEPS 15,075 

Links to previous posts (to date) about this trip:

Beth hosts Weekend Cooking where you can post anything food related.
Saturday Snapshots is hosted by A Web of Stories.
#Travel Tuesday
Wanderful Wednesday #wanderfulwednesday Facebook 


  1. We received dire warnings about thieves and pickpockets in Barcelona, but luckily we were ok. I really wish we had more time there. It is a great city. No photo of either of you propping up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It seemed everyone was doing it when we visited.

    1. I was a 1 off and it happens. John was prepared to chase the guy if he had gotten his watch. The cops were cute and great!!

      No, I hate those people taking forever to get that right pose in front of these icons.

  2. Glad to see that at least a few of those days brought you sunshine. Regardless, it looks like a fabulous trip. I've never been to Italy; perhaps I need to fix that. :) Crazy about the potential theft, but like you said, nothing was taken, so all was okay.

  3. You had such an adventure! Great details and shots.

  4. Amazing architecture in those cities.

  5. Wow! What a great adventure. I am so glad that you shared it with us! All the scenery is beautiful and I love the architecture.

  6. Welcome back Jackie! If I had known you were going to Pisa - that's where we landed by plane, I would have recommended Lucca, an hour West from Firenze - a very interesting town where you get the local feel, Gelato -I'm addicted to it. Octopus -did you like it? It was too chewy for me. But the prosciutto - mouthwatering! I like Jean Novel's tower (always have to laugh when they point out the phallic character, you know what's on their mind!). The Gaudi -am seriously envious (our son worked next to it, on his internship for his college graduation). Yeah in all the Mediterranean countries, you have to watch out for thieves, something similar happened to us in Greece, they were two girls, trying to get our wallet in hubby's belt pack, then his backpack, I screamed something to attract attention from people around us and then literally left no place between hubs, backpack and me, till we left the outdoor market.
    Whoa, this was an incredibly interesting post, Jackie! Many thanks from All Seasons and have a restful week, catching up:)

  7. What an amazing adventure you both have had. Wonderful!


This blog does not allow anonymous comments.