How long does it take to get a cab in Barcelona at 4:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning?
Fifteen seconds. It's that kind of a town.
Of course, that meant that we got to the airport absurdly early, giving us time to drink one last bottle of European Fanta (it's not as sweet, which actually makes it more refreshing) and watch the sun rise over the runway. Our Lufthansa flight (the tickets said United, the plane said Lufthansa) to Frankfurt got us there on time, and we even managed to have a pretty good lunch of weisswurst and (of course) frankfurters with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes in the Frankfurt airport.
Then aboard a big Airbus 350 (not the supergiant, but the one with the bathrooms downstairs) for the long ride to Boston. Rented a car to replace the one in the shop and drove home. As it was Sunday evening we had to settle for burgers along the way. Collapsed into bed around 8 p.m. Trip over.
What I have learned about Barcelona:
• I know that I've learned very little. It's a huge city, full of things to see and do, and we only got to hit some of the highlights.
• Next time I think I'll stay in a less hip part of town. The Barrio Gotic is lovely, but nobody there ever goes to bed.
• I also want to figure out how to make some day-trips outside of the city. I'm not sure I want to tackle driving in Barcelona (though I've handled Boston). Maybe check out regional rail, or possibly bike rental.
• Someone is going to make a fortune as soon as they figure out how to properly market tapas in America. Right now tapas restaurants all get shoehorned into the "continental cuisine" ghetto. As soon as someone realizes it's really bar food they'll be everywhere.
• Communication wasn't a problem . . . much. Everyone we dealt with in Barcelona spoke English, although it became obvious that they didn't speak as much English as they thought they did. Any conversation beyond the basics of shop or restaurant transactions brought forth the smile-with-panicked-eyes of someone who doesn't understand what you're saying but is too polite to say so.
• On the other hand, Catalan was a lot easier to understand than I'd feared. The odd spelling makes it look very intimidating, like Basque or something, but once you work out the phonetics it's actually closer to French than Spanish. Essentially (and here I'm probably pissing off a lot of Catalan nationalists) it's French that has been put through some sort of George Bernard Shaw "simplified spelling" process. All the swallowed final consonants are simply dropped, all the complex French vowel strings are boiled down to single letters, and there are some Xs doing unfamiliar duty (it's "sh" as in "Chicago" rather than "kh" as in "Ximenes"). Given that I know more French than Spanish, I found the Catalan signage in the museums easier to understand.
• Cats sighted: 2. Apparently the only cats in Barcelona are around La Font Del Gat on Montjuic.
• Overall: the impressive thing about Barcelona was that it delivered on its promises. I didn't come away from anything feeling disappointed. The museums were all better than expected, I never got a meal or a glass of wine that wasn't at least decent in quality (though I still want a really good paella), and I found the city quite pleasant. I left wanting to stay longer.