We came back from Spain yesterday. The flight was quite uncomfortable - the seats were cramped and there was little leg room. But I got to sleep quite a bit which is a good thing.
The trip itself was great. We reached Barcelona on the 21st and rented a car. We didn't have driving directions to the hotel hence got lost a couple of times, but finally did manage to find the place after stopping to get directions at a shop where the woman didn't understand a word of English. Thankfully we communicated well using sign language!
I liked Barcelona a lot (as an aside, this is the only city I have been to which has hosted the Olympics in the last 50 years). It has beautiful, wide streets and the people are friendly and helpful. The main attraction of the city is a place called La Rambla where there are a lot of restaurants, live music, tourist attractions etc. We spent quite a bit of time there. We went to the Gaudi museum the next day which was good as well.
We had decided that we would drive around the country from Barcelona all the way south and then back to Barcelona in time for our flight to NY on the 29th. Now Spain is a fairly large country so the driving was a little ambitious. It meant that we had to leave early, maintain a good speed and not get lost. Keeping that in mind, on the 23rd, we left Barcelona early, the intent being to drive cross country to Seville which was about 1300 km South-West?of Barcelona (nearly the distance between Delhi and Calcutta). Thankfully the 23rd was a Sunday and we made very good speed overall (about 11 hours of driving). On the way we stopped at Toledo and Cordoba - nice places which the guidebook recommended.
The next day we spent in Seville visiting the famous cathedral (which houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus) and generally recovering from our long drive of the previous day. At night we went to a flamenco show which was spectacular. Flamenco is the local dance of Spain and is very intense, rather like a fast tap-dance. The men sing and clap their hands to provide the rhythm while the women dance.
On the 25th we left Seville to go to a place called Granada. On the way, we stopped at some caves which the guidebooks prescribed. If you have seen Satyajit Ray's Agantuk, the "bison drawings" referred to by Utpal Dutta are in caves similar to these. The ones we went to didn't have bisons, but did have a number of drawings of horses, cows, fish and calendars. These would be between 20 - 25 thousand years old. We reached Granada at night.
Granada is in the Sierra Nevada mountains and for the first time in our trip we saw snow! Our hotel was just beneath a mountain and there was snow all around. It wasn't too cold though.
The next day we left for a place called Alicante. This was the beginning of our return trip, so while on the way to Seville we had driven through the country, on the way back to Barcelona we had decided that we would drive along the Mediterranean coast. Alicante was on the coast and turned out to be a very nice place. We had dinner at a Moroccan place called Aladdin which had some very good food. The city was very nice too, there was a shopping plaza right next to the beach, and like Barcelona, the streets were broad, green and very well lit (hence, safe).
The next day was the 27th which was my birthday. As I have written earlier, we drove back along the coast, passing through Valencia and a place called Ebre Delta which had a bird sanctuary. We took a boat ride (we were only ones on it) along the place but didn't see too many birds though.
However that meant that we could come back to Barcelona early and get ready for dinner. I had made reservations at one of the best restaurants in Barcelona (apparently the King of Spain dines here) and on reaching the place, discovered that it was indeed fancy. For the first 5 minutes, we couldn't locate the place; then we discovered why. There was an unmarked door with an inconspicuous guy standing to whom you had to mention your name and unless you had reservations he wouldn't let you in! The food was some of the best that I have had in recent times, and the desserts were fantastic. They didn't hurry you with anything and when you paid them the bill they politely asked whether we would be needing a taxi. It was quite nice.
On the 28th, we slept a lot and went to the Salvador Dali museum which was about 100 km north of Barcelona. Some of his creations were just fabulous. After that we went over to France to have ice-creams (since the border was about 25 km from there)! They didn't ask for passports or anything at the border.
Yesterday, the 29th was the end of our trip. We had an early morning flight from Barcelona to JFK via Madrid. Have to get over the jetlag and the overall tiredness.
That's it for now! Rajnil
"I pray for the strength to change what I can, the inability to accept what I can't and the incapacity to tell the difference."
.... Calvin to Hobbes