Spain 2017 – Tour Day 1

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By Susan Mahr

October 5, 2017

No one really wanted to get up in the morning, but Cindy, Mary, Susan and Dan made it down to the restaurant on the lower level by 9:00 to enjoy the extensive buffet (multiple types of cheese, sliced cured meats, a plethora of pastries, several types of juices, fruit cups, yogurt, etc.) and dishes cooked to order (eggs, pancakes, waffles, and much more). We’d agreed that anyone interested in doing the city bus tour would meet around 10:00, but by 10:20no one else had shown up in the lobby (and Tom and Janice from Colorado, Marta from Chicago, and Ina of North Carolina who had flown in that morning were not around) so the three of us walked the block and a half to the Plaça Catalunya where we could purchase tickets for the hop on-hop off bus with audio narration in many languages. We were given headphones as we boarded to plug into the consoles at each seat and different channels for about a dozen languages. There was a little seating downstairs, but most of us opted to go up to the open top for a better view. It was quite pleasant in the mild air under clear skies. We took one of the three routes to learn about the architecture, buildings, statues, parks, churches and other places of interest along the way as the bus twisted and turned along the city streets. It was quite informative – until the audio malfunctioned about 2/3 of the way through. The bus employees had us transfer to another bus after a few more stops so we could hear the rest of the tour, but were back to the beginning two stops later!

We returned to the hotel, intending to have Dan join us (free wifi on the bus meant I was able to communicate with him, and he was feeling better by then), but also ran into Linda, Charlene and Hannah who had slept until 11:30 and were now ready to go out. So the seven of us went back to the Plaça Catalunya to take the other two routes of the bus tour (although Mary opted out of the last, shortest route in order to return to the hotel early to make the arrangements for the evening welcome event). We went through a lot of the area that was redeveloped for the 1992 Summer Olympics, learning about how an old industrial area was transformed first into the Olympic park, and then into a trendy residential and shopping area.

We were back to the hotel by about 5:00 with an hour and a half to relax until meeting in the hotel bar at 6:30 to officially start our tour. The entire group was down in the lobby in one of the lounge areas enjoying light snacks and glasses of wine or other beverages.  After we chatted for a while and went around the group introducing each other, we walked the 10 minutes or so down the street the hotel is on to the seafood restaurant Arros i Peix. We entered the narrow, modern-style restaurant, with its display of fresh seafood set out on a bed of ice in the front window, to be seated at a long table set for twelve. As everyone sat down Susan passed out little packages of cookies she’d brought from home for everyone (except our gluten-intolerant friend Linda, who got a chocolate bar instead). Then wine was ordered and baskets of delicious rolls were served. Tom requested butter, but was gently rebuked since olive oil is the only thing used with bread in Catalunya! This was a set menu, with four starters brought on communal plates for everyone to share: salmon carpaccio drizzled with balsamic reduction; a green salad with local goat cheese (in a deep fried coating) and nuts (almonds and peanuts); grilled asparagus with romesco sauce; and incredible Galician octopus with mashed potato. The main course was monkfish Donostian style (except for Dan who got a really nice steak since he’s allergic to fish) with mixed fresh vegetables. We finished off the meal with Catalan crème brulee that was really rich, creamy, with a smoky finish and not as firm as French crème brulee. After finishing off the remaining wine and settling the bill, we headed back along the crowded streets to get back to the hotel about 10:00. Many people headed straight to bed, but Cindy, Linda, Hannah, Mary, Susan and Dan headed up to the rooftop terrace bar to enjoy one more drink and socialize in the comfortable cool night air.

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