We were to join forces with my septuagenarian parents for this last leg of the trip. Barcelona to Carcassonne/St. Ferriol and back, then an 11-day cruise from Barcelona to New York City. Eight of us, three generations, two weeks, four countries, a cruise ship, rental cars in foreign lands- what could go wrong? As it turned out, we missed their arrival at the airport, there was a mild rental apartment snafu and, yes, the car got towed once in Barcelona but everything else went fairly well.
As for us, first we had to get from St. Ferriol to Barcelona. This took all day by train due to Sunday schedules. We had two-hour layovers in both Carcassonne and Perpignan. Many things were closed, this being Sunday, but the weather was lovely and we did walk around both places while waiting for trains. The train rides were pleasant, especially heading out of Perpignan when we were by the sea. In Barcelona, we had a decent apartment with a nice view from our sixth-floor deck. We could see the port in the distance and many city lights.
The next day we met my parents, however their flight had arrived early (?!) so they had gone to their hotel. We found them and had a happy, though travel-weary and jet lagged on their part, reunion. Then we found a modest diner and had a nice lunch nearby. The head waiter/manager was so welcoming and suave. The food was good and there was wine if we liked, or coffee, both excellent. I was thrilled to be able to speak and understand Spanish, finally able to communicate in a foreign language after over a year of travel. The next day, we picked up the rental car and also saw the famous Sagrada Familia church.
Barcelona was hot and crowded but also nicely pedestrian. We enjoyed eating at a street cafe and hanging out at a park near the famous church while we waited to enter. We had timed tickets- the first of the entire trip! It is a beautiful church. It has been under construction since 1882, famously designed by Antoni Gaudi from 1883 until his death in 1926, and was consecrated in 2010. My mom had been here in the 1990’s and said visitors could not enter at that time. Currently it does hold services on occasion, but the vast majority of visitors are tourists like us.
I went down to the crypt, the older part of the church which houses Gaudi’s grave. It was darker and much more typical of other European churches we had seen.
The next day we drove to France and St. Ferriol. We were excited to get an early start, but it was not to be. The car was not where Mr. Fantastic had parked it, in fact it had been towed less than an hour before we went looking for it. This cost us about four hours and $200, unfortunately. But we were happy that be together and looking forward to France, so not too bothered and eventually we were able to head for the highway and the French countryside. I won’t say much about having my 75-year-old Dad behind the wheel, but I will point out that though he rented and drove the car, he was rejected from several agencies first for his age. Also, my dear Mr. Fantastic had nerves of steel and the patience of Buddha as he sat next to my dad and navigated through Barcelona and on to the freeway with its toll booths and rest stops and on-ramps and other exciting moments. I just tried to breathe deeply and not look out the window! We made the trip in about three hours, with the last part unexpectedly taking us along a cliff and across a high bridge which made us a bit nervous. Or someof us, anyway. We pulled up next to the chateau and introduced my parents to the chateau family S, J, and G. We settled in up there on the hilltop and rested before the next adventure.