Barcelona to Formia: home at last.

dscn2676Friday, 28 October 2016. Barcelona is blessed with large city markets in each major neighbourhood. They are a favourite target for Cheryl’s camera, especially in the morning, when the fish are plentiful and the produce is fresh. In the morning, she raced off to photograph the Boqueria market behind our hotel, while I got the next blog post drafted. dscn2748When she returned, we walked up to Carter d’Aragon, where we found a laundromat and an alteration service. We both needed new trousers hemmed, which the alteration service had ready that same day. We also located the train station that I would need on Sunday, and the hostel that Cheryl would move to after I left. At the main tourist office, we bought ArtTickets, but it was too late to visit any of the wonderful museums that day. We snacked in the room, and fell asleep.

dscn2749Saturday, 29 October. Museum day. First the Cathedral, where we admired both the architecture and the art. Barcelona was one of the originating cities for the Camino de Santiago, so I got a final stamp at the Cathedral.

dscn2751We could visit a half-dozen museums on our ArtTickets, so we walked first to the Picasso Museum, which was having a special exhibit. It felt different to view a Picasso retrospective having visited the exhibit about the women in his life and their impact on his work (“Picasso: The Artist and His Muses” at the Vancouver Art Gallery: https://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/exhibit_picasso.html).

dscn2756The Antonio Tapiés museum was overbilled. Tapiés was an important anti-Franco activist, but the “museum” to memorialize him is not ready to open, in my humble opinion. After visiting it, we walked past La Pedrera, Antoni Gaudí’s famous house, and through the residential neighbourhoods of El Raval, Sant Antoni and Poble Sec. A climb to the ridge of the Montjuïc Park took us to the Joan Miró Foundation. dscn2757I liked this place, not only for the art work by Miró (I recognized some from the prints my mother used to sell in Honolulu), but the work by friends and acquaintances of the artist, including a Calder mobile made for the museum itself. dscn2759The view of the city was exceptional, too. Lacking time to visit the last place (the nearby Catalan National Museum of Art), we took the cable car back to sea level and the metro back to the hotel. Cheryl would visit the National Museum of Art the next day.

Sunday, 30 October. Europe fell back to standard time. We rose early and checked out. First, we rode to the urbanyhostel BCN go!, where Cheryl left her panniers, then to the train station at Passeig de Gracia. Twenty minutes later, the train emptied at Terminal 2 of the Barcelona Lo Prat airport. The crowd headed for the free shuttle bus, but I was unwilling to risk another Spanish bus ride, especially when most passengers would have luggage. We switched to the metro for a one-stop ride from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1. Cheryl checked her bike at the storage service, so she would not have to deal with it early Tuesday morning. I helped her prep it for the flight. We kissed goodbye. She returned to the metro and I headed for hell at the Vueling Air counters.

img_20161030_120433I reported to the check-in counter two hours early, because I wanted to make sure the bike got on OK. The agent refused to check my bags or my bike, even though I had paid more for the bike than my own ticket. She insisted that I have it shrink-wrapped, but the shrink wrappers said it was impossible. I showed them how to do it. They charged me for three wrappings. When I went back to the counter, the agent sent me to the oversize check-in (which she could have told me about in the first place), in the next concourse of check-in booths. 2016-vuelingWhen I arrived there, the agent argued that my tyres were not flat enough. He obviously had never encountered the heavy-duty tyres of touring bikes, which keep their shape when deflated – until you mount the bike. After I finally convinced him to let me check the bike, he went to his computer and informed me that the flight had closed, and that I could neither board nor check my bags. He sent me to the ticket office, to book a flight that night to Rome. I spent all day in the airport, knowing at least that my panniers and the bicycle were checked through.

The 1830 flight to Rome was uneventful, but I was lucky to catch the last train to Formia. I arrived home at midnight instead of late morning. Happy ending: the door to my apartment opened on the first try, and soon the bicycle was leaning against the wall for a well-deserved rest.

I had been gone just one day less than six months. The apartment smelled of mold, but not so that it would knock me out. There were no monster dust bunnies growing out of the corners, just a very fine layer of dust on the horizontals. It had been a good idea to install mosquito screens in the transom windows and leave them open while I was gone, allowing air to circulate.

IMG_20160314_205448Exhausted, I uncovered the two twin beds that constitute my “king” bed, checked the mattresses for mold (none) and put the plastic cover on the assembly. I pulled out my sleeping bag and camped on my bed.

Back in 2015, Cheryl told me that six months was about the limit for a sustained tour if you have a home to go back to. img_20160510_180537She was right. I was home, and it felt good.

Next week, the travelogue continues as I fly to California for the 57th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association and a two-week visit to Big Sur and the wine country. When I wrap up Intercontinental 2016, I will have some announcements about lessons learned and changes to the blog.

Until next week,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all

Smooth roads and tailwinds,

Jonathan.

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