In a few hours we will do what we have done a lot on this trip, say good-by to another country. Spain was a nice transition from SE Asia and Egypt to the rest of Europe. We had hot and cold showers for the most part, food that we recognized and that didn't make us ill (for the most part) and a lot of comforts that we hadn't seen in a while.
It was a bit of a shock to our budget, but mainly because Barcelona is as expensive a city as Paris and we hadn't planned to visit Paris on this trip:)
Today we are flying to Budapest, Hungary with a layover in Amsterdam for about 8 hours. We plan to check our bags and head into town for the day. We know of a wonderful bar that has about 50 Belgian beers that they serve so we plan to make the most of our day. We will be back there in a few weeks for a longer time, so we're not feeling compelled to do any sightseeing, and we have both spent a great deal of time here in the past. After our brief visit to Amsterdam, we will hop on a flight to Budapest where we will meet up with the first two intrepid travelers on our beer tour. Others will be showing up in various cities during the following week. We will all converge in Munich, Germany on or around the 18th for 3-4 days of debauchery.
Before that though, we need to share our thoughts on Spain. We truly didn't get to see much of it due to time and cost constraints, but what we saw convinced us that not only do we need to come back, but we both need to sharpen our Spanish skills before we do. I was taught Spanish on and off for the first 6 years of school in California, and Val has had a little as well. We did take an introductory class a few years ago, and it was helpful, but hearing it every day and having to use it all the time is completely different. We have both agreed that we plan to study more when we get home.
What we did see of Spain was wonderful. The culture here has similarities to Italy, but is also very different. Siesta in the afternoon is common to both countries, as is the evening strolls that people take after the sun goes down and things begin to cool off. One of the differences was the late night activities. It is not uncommon to see families out parting to very late at night, and to have their children right there with them at the bar. Of course the kids aren't drinking, but they are participating in the social part of the event
We drank wine almost every day and never spent more than $5 on a bottle we bought in the store, and most of it was closer to $3. A lot of it was very good wine and would likely cost 3-4 times as much at home. We ate Paella several times along with other tapas and traditional Spanish foods. We did sneak in an occasional pizza or other dish, but we did eat a lot of the local cuisine and rather enjoyed it.
Finally, Barcelona is an Architect's dream city to visit. There are thousands of old buildings all over Europe, but the flair for design that Spanish architects have is very different. Small details show up that really make it clear that the Architect wasn't just trying to fill a hole along the sidewalk with a building, but that the buildings were a clear and logical response to their environment and the technology of the time. It's too bad we don't see things like this very often at home.
So for now we say Adios to Spain, but we will return. There's more wine to drink, we never saw a bullfight, and there is a whole country for us to still visit.
That's it for now.
Eric & Val