Our last morning in Barcelona. But we will be returning.
An early breakfast followed by a walk through the narrow streets of the El Born quarter. I love watching cities wake up; delivery vans manoeuvre for position and drivers rush about with the old porters wheeled trollies delivering all manner of goodies; drinks crates, boxes of fresh fish and veg, barrels of something delicious. Shopkeepers crouch down to insert keys and the electronic security shutters slowly rise, each decorated with a logo, a mural or some graffiti art work. Workers grab a quick cafe at a local tabac or cafe stall chatting about the football and the local teams.
Outside the cathedral this morning, council workers were already hard at work replanting some small gardens either side of the steps. Large bags of fine, well worked soil were dropped into the area and spread out by rake. Trays of flowers were offloaded from small open backed vans and laid out on the pavement, rearranged and shuffled many times until the head honcho gardener was happy with the planting scheme. The C dels Comtes was empty, other than the odd scootering sneaking across the wide paved expanse. Tourists had yet to wake but already the temperature was rising and La Catedral offered peace, shade and solitude.
Although not religious myself, perhaps being one of the 'reluctant Christians' I have always been moved by religious building. Monuments to such devotion and belief, their craftsmanship and artistry move me. La Catedral soared high, huge straight columns reaching into the very heavens whilst around the outside lay the small chapels and nooks devoted to saints. Some of the carving and painting dated back to the 1400s. Lit by gentle warm lighting, the early morning faithful came to pray, to ask for a blessing and to hear the priest incant a religious song. No incense, no pomp, mere simplicity and genuine belief.
From outside the air horns and chants of an approaching demonstration march across the way. Some 'special' police wait around vans, good humoured, a token presence. Perhaps it is a march in protest against austerity measures or perhaps in protest against the Spanish governments refusal yesterday by 299 to 47 votes to accede to the request of Cataluna to have greater independence and autonomy. Certainly the region protests as witnessed by the sheer volume of Catalonian flags flying or draped from balconies across the city. Or perhaps they are just patriotic, like us welsh, who will display our 'red dragon' at the drop of a hat!!
From the religious sanctity of La Catedral to the early morning bustle for La Ramblas.......ah the hunt for a small present to take back to the children......number one daughter ......easy.........a scarf.......number one son........never easy...........um.......maybe the airport will supply inspiration!
Back along the sea front to soak up the last of the Mediterranean sun before cutting up through the maze of alleyways and out by the Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar and our favourite little Placa. Sat on our stone bench, under the trees we watch the world walk up......a group of noisy Spanish children, two by two, troop by on a school trip.....well behaved, good natured, all smiles and waves. Wherever we have been, school trips have been in abundance; animated but well behaved, respectful of other pedestrians. Their teachers still wear the look of 'the frazzled'. And the naughty ones are held by the arm by the oldest matriarchal teacher present....the naughty destined to spend time in their company. Ha!
Tiny little street cleaning cars, known as " noo- noos" in our family, after the teletubbies, wash the streets clean of dust. And Barcelona streets really are clean...well all the ones we have walked along have been.
And so it was time to leave, reluctantly. Another few days would have been grand but that is for a return visit. Into the uber clean and empty Estacio de Franca and onto the ultra clean train that departs on time. First Great Western....take note! A quick change and a prompt arrival at the airport. From station to cafe in terminal two.........40 minutes.....easy!
Good bye sunshine; good bye 22 Celsius...........