Saturday, 14 January 2012

Barcelona to Paris

Elke had located us a hotel in Barcelona via the internet. The taxi driver had never heard of it, but his GPS and a phone book got us there in driving rain that night. Another strange bedroom, the bed just long enough. We watch Spanish tv news, rivers rising, flooding all around.
In the morning it is still raining. We walk to as many Gaudi buildings as possible, taking pictures between taxis and showers.

Stop for lunch to dry off then to the ultimate Gaudi building... the still uncompleted Cathederal.
It is quite magnificent, inside, the glass, the columns, the sheer audacity of it is mind boggling. There are interpretive displays describing the man and his work, scads of tourists and much for the eye to gaze upon.

The climb up is closed due to the weather and when the power goes off briefly we get a different perspective. Down in the basement (He's buried there!) more about the man and the work to create a building so grand.
Stepping out we ride the subway to the main post office to retrieve our shipped ahead mail from Algecera. Another ride to the train station to secure our passage north.
That evening we enjoy a nice meal at one of the many restaurants close by, it is great to have so many choices.
Later we hang out in a bar that triggers many student memories for Elke. I feel old until two very marginal characters come in. They're part of the group that sings, tells stories and makes noise outside our hotel room at the all night bar across the road.
This is another place to return to, the weather has dampened our enthusiasm and our Eurailpass has only three more days of travel within the week.
Onward! Into France. Matthew has been waiting patiently (I suppose) It's hard to tell when we're communicating via email on a Kindle. We change trains in Lyon and take the commuter line west to St Etienne. Then the tram to the last station as the train wasn't running any further.
From the tram I spot Matthew buying fruit. From the back across a street I recognize my son.
A wonderful reunion, a nice meal and a long bed. Finally, not a hotel! Time to reflect and kick back, see some sights and take the days without that sense of having to be somewhere soon.
We climb the hill behind  their apartment, finding magical mushrooms,

 and great views of the surrounding area.  Then descend into a clothes shopping spree with Elke. Actually it was a highlight!
We visit Matthew's fave coffee shop, Mary's and wander the town.
Sabrina, Matthew's partner was working till the weekend. The night before we take them out for dinner and have Raclette. Matthew is definitely in cheese heaven here.
Saturday morning we all squeeze into Sabrina's car and head up into the mountains for a hike; ancient stone installations, amazing views and menhirs!

Then south to visit her parents.
On the way we check out a troglodyte village up on the side of a mountain. A carved out hillside in sandstone, both new from the 1940's and older habitation side by side.

Another great meal, a lot of challenging (I thought I knew how to speak French!) conversations. Sabrina's dad tells me the river flooded to their stairway, it is just out of view across the fields, vineyards and orchards of this rural landscape. In the morning we do a tour of the Ardeche valley. We drive by one of those recently discovered caves covered in ancient art, paintings thousands of years old.
The river, a favourite kayaking destination, shows oxbows and arches in the rock, canyons to rival many others, narrow gorges and ...fog. Still beautiful and awe inspiring. Yet ANOTHER place to return to. Castles, one lane bridges and a long drive back that night.
Next stop Paris! OMG! the Paris subway, Montmarte, the Eiffel Tower,

Arc De Triomphe,
the Louvre and Notre Dame...
Yes all of that and more in two short days.
It is November after all.
11 Euros for a coffee and Hot Chocolate, beautiful glass in the cathedrals, stone sculpture everywhere, busts of the famous "fathers of France". An intimate little Italian, family run (many generations) restaurant, endless miniature Eiffel towers for sale, the list goes on. And Paris is so full of itself!
The metro was efficient and entertaining. I watched a fellow across the track, obviously feeling the effects of the bottle he was most of the way through, attempting to chat up a lady. He made eye contact across the tracks and we had an amusing exchange for both of us.
Suddenly the last day of the Eurailpass is upon us. In the morning we board the train and continue north, back into Germany.

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