Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Most people know the story of David and Goliath, right?  Goliath was this terrible giant, and David was a little guy, but David managed to defeat his fearsome rival nevertheless.

In 1502, Michelangelo asked if he could use a block of marble that was laying around spare, so from then until 1504 he sculpted, out of that solid marble, the statue of David that would become as world famous as the Mona Lisa.  

Michelangelo's original sculpture of David stands proudly at the end of a corridor inside the Galleria dell'Accademia here in Florence.  I think Michelangelo did a good job of it, but it was Jean who was really moved by it.  It stands, I think, about two and a half metres tall, upon a base of about two metres high.  We had a good look.  David's right leg stands against a small tree trunk.  Recently, the Galleria has discovered a tiny crack in the trunk, and it is monitoring this carefully. 

The Galleria holds impressive collections of 15th and 16th century paintings, and some from the 14th century.  There are also Russian icon paintings.  The Galleria also holds many plaster sculptures.  Photographs are not allowed anywhere inside the Galleria dell'Accademia.  So, most people flock to the Piazza Signoria, where there is a marble copy of the original.  There is also a bronze copy on the top of Plazzale Michelangelo, the hill that offers sweeping views of Florence, where we were yesterday.

Florentines seem pretty proud of their David.  He is seen all over the city in the myriad tourist shops and stalls in the squares.  He's for sale on the Ponte Vecchio, and in crude sale points at train stations.  Marketers have zeroed in on a certain part of David's anatomy.  It's on aprons, tea towels, and especially boxer shorts.  Not sure what the attraction is, but there you are.

Marble copy of Michelangelo's original 
David in Piazza Signoria

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Yesterday, I was referring to Florence's gargantuan cathedral as the Duomo.  The Duomo is just the dome at the top, 'duomo' meaning 'dome'.  The proper title of the cathedral is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.  We decided not to climb the more than 400 steps to the top of the dome nor the same number to the top of the bell tower.  We simply entered the cathedral, and took an English tour.  

The cathedral took 240 years to build, and was largely built to satisfy the political interests of the time.  Rival city-state Sienna had constructed some elaborate religious architecture there, so Florence had to match it.  Jean and I had previously been struck by how many churches, cathedrals etc in Europe look small from the outside but surprisingly spacious on the inside.  Florence's primary religious real estate does the opposite.  Once inside, you think 'this is it?'.  

Like other cathedrals, this one has its rows of columns, its stained glass windows, its altar with the cross, and its beautifully painted frescoes high up on the inner surfaces of the dome.  The number 8 was important in Christianity, and the dome has an octagonal shape.  Around the dome are eight large windows, which can be seen from all edges of the city, and which resemble giant eyes looking both downwards onto the streets below as well as out to the Tuscan horizon.  In the 240 years of construction, there were two architects.  When the first died, the second didn't like the first's stained glass windows.  So he boarded them up from the outside.  Thus, these windows can be seen from the inside only and let in no light, whereas the second architect's stained glass windows do let light in.

Given Florence's many narrow lanes shaded by high buildings, palaces, and museums, and given too that the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is only 90 metres high, it is not everywhere to be seen like the omnipresent Eiffel Tower.

After the Cathedral, we had a coffee at a coffee shop adjacent to the cathedral.  The going rate for a coffee in Italy seems to be about 1.20€.  Here, it cost a whopping four euros!  Have to say though the coffee in Italy is good.  Caffe lattes come sufficiently weak for my liking.  Usually, they're not that hot, but this one was buonissimo.

The Cathedral's facade
Much is marble, including the floor shown

Looking up to the dome
The dome, or Duomo, with its eight high windows
The Altar
The Duomo's ever watchful eyes
Parked motor bikes with Duomo behind

Some pics of Florence

Some pics of Florence:

On the Ponte Vecchio
The Arno
Ponte Vecchio
River Arno
From Plazzale Michelangelo
River Arno

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

First day in Florence

We caught an early train from Pisa, and arrived in Florence at midday.  After finding our hotel, we made our way along the cobbled Florentine streets and through umpteen alleys and lane ways, and soon crossed the river Arno to the southern side.  We passed hordes of tourists, fiat puntos, smart cars, more than enough vespas, and alleys completely lined with parked motor bikes as if they had exclusive rights to park there.  We spotted the Duomo, the monumental cathedral which dominates Florence's skyline, very soon on our walk, and, as we began climbing to the top of the Plazzale Michelangelo, it and the other great churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce appeared in view.  

At the top of the Plazzale Michelangelo, the visitor can appreciate the physical position of the city.  From here, as you look down onto Firenze, as it's known by its Italian name, you are facing north.  The city below stretches up and down, west to east, along the Arno Valley, and it seems to extend for many miles.  On both sides of the Valley, Florence is bordered by endless mountains of varying sizes and shades of green, with the odd blue hazy hue on distant peaks.  This superb natural environment offers hiking and unlimited mountain exploring.  Looking back upon the city, Florence itself promises just as much exploring to the tourist with time, its surprising frescoes, its hidden gardens, its myriad buildings, which, when packed closely together form a maze of man-made canyons.  Seemingly running the entire length of Florence, and keeping roughly parallel with the mountains, is the river Arno, which we encountered first in Pisa.  Six bridges span the Arno; the oldest is the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval arched bridge made of stone.

One chocolate-tiramisu gelato and another pistachio and American cherry gelato later, we descended and re-entered the streets of the city.  Florence is another Italian city with a few palaces, and there are about 32 museums here.  Florence is coffee, Florence is pizza, it is art, Michelangelo, and it is the sculpture of David.  David seems to be everywhere.  More about him tomorrow.

Florence is also about gold, and on the Ponte Vecchio, the visitor will find several gold jewellery stores actually built on the bridge, which, apparently, was once common.  At any one moment, scores of passers by will stop to admire the gold.  They may or may not stop to inspect the cheap sunglasses or the latest, weirdest thing you ever saw being flogged by some person in the street desperate to make a fast five euros, or "How much you pay!?".  Nah, not interested.  

From there, we slowly approached the Galleria Dell'Accademia, a museum which houses Michelangelo's sculpture of David, to enquire about entry tickets.  We'll return tomorrow.  We walked on, and passed the Duomo.  Closed already.  Not to worry.  We'll come back tomorrow.

We decided to find dinner, and entered a diminutive restaurant called dal Barone.  One solitary lady was serving.  As usual, I started by coining as much of a proper Italian sentence as possible.  Usually, when I do this, I get an immediate response in English.  This would happen in Spain, and very often even in France.  But not this time.  For once, a local European customer service person in a major tourist centre spoke entirely to me in her own language.  She uttered not one word of English.  It became a challenge communicating, and I drew as much as I could on my small reserves of Italian vocabulary.  I was pleased with the effort.  Here, Jean and I shared a maxi cutting board for two with cold cuts, cheese, and vegetables in oil with warm bread.  For dessert, I alone had cantucci (Tuscan aniseed flavoured almond biscuits) with port.  I offered the lady a tip.  She appeared baffled, and finally I remembered there is no tipping in Italy.

The Duomo dominates Florence's skyline, with mountains behind
The river Arno in the foreground
Gold jewellery shops on Ponte Vecchio
The Duomo

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The highlight of our visit to Pisa is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which we climbed this evening.  More about that in a moment.

This morning we did chores.  We found a laundrette and washed our clothes.  While we were out, we noticed clouds had come over.  Next thing we knew, it was raining.  The rain brought a welcome relief.  It cooled right down, we got a bit wet, and we felt normal again.  To our surprise, within a few minutes of the rain starting, all these young Indian men suddenly appeared, selling small collapsable umbrellas.  It was funny.  Where were they, and what had they been doing before the rain?  Once the rain started, they came out of nowhere.  On this journey, we haven't seen rain since Wales.  We then wondered if every city we've been in has a collection of young Indian men each with a stack of umbrellas just waiting to hit the streets at the first drop of water from the sky.  One or two Africans were selling bottles of water as well.  Well, at least they're very enterprising.

We ate the rest of the yesterday's salad for lunch.  After lunch, we headed through the city, crossing the river Arno to the other side.  We walked through the streets in anticipation, knowing that soon...any moment now....a very familiar building would come into view...familiar because you've seen it a million times in your life in pictures and on television.

'There it is!', we cried, when at last the unmistakable white marble and unique appearance of the Leaning Tower of Pisa came into full view.  We had come at it from a good angle because we could appreciate from our standpoint the full effect of the lean.  We were impressed.  We continued on, and in a moment arrived in the square known as Campo dei Miracoli, which houses not only the leaning tower, but also a couple of other impressive looking buildings.  We purchased tickets for the Tower, for later, and poked our heads inside the Cathedral known as Santa Maria Esunta.

We went for a perambulatory tour of the streets nearby, passing the Piazza Cavalieri, where they say the Romans had a forum, went through a few more streets and entered a couple of churches dating back many centuries.  At last, we decided it was gelato o'clock, and we found a gelato restaurant, and sat down.  We were ignored for a long time by the staff, eventually were served with great quality ice cream.  But we could easily have walked out without paying, we were ignored by everyone, and I eventually paid a cranky late middle aged man who was too busy yelling at his son to notice me.

At 6.45 pm, we stepped inside the Tower.  The feel of a lean is, at first, only slight.  While we listened to a short introduction by the guide, we glanced up inside the Tower to the top.  The cylindrical shaped tower is totally hollow all the way up.  It is 20 metres in diameter, and I think 55 metres high.  Building commenced in 1173, and was intended to be a bell tower for the adjacent Cathedral.  Construction went through a few stops and starts.  They knew it was leaning as early as 1185.

We began climbing the 217 steps to the first level near the top.  On the way, some steps were easy to ascend, and others difficult as you spiralled upwards round the edges.  Similarly, as you climbed, you would sometimes find yourself leaning against the inner wall, and, round the other side, the outer wall.  On the first level near the top, we looked down on the grounds below.  Jean soon went down, but I stayed.  I began to appreciate the lean of the structure.  In one small spot, rain water collected in a corner where, on a fully level structure, it would just drain away.  I climbed the remaining 35 steps to the belfry, and enjoyed a good view of the Tuscan countryside.  For quite a distance, on all sides, the landscape is flat.  But to the northeast, a large mountain range could be seen.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Climbing the Leaning Tower
Santa Maria Cathedral from the Tower
Me holding the Tower up
Oh no, these trees!!......they're leaning!!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Under the Tuscan Sun

We've arrived in Tuscany, a region in central Italy romanticised by millions the world over for its landscapes, traditions, history and culture.  Specifically, we've arrived in Pisa, known globally for its classic leaning tower, which we'll go see tomorrow.

We left Genoa this morning, it being only a stopover on our way between Nice and Pisa.  The train trip took less than two hours, and we found our hotel with not too much trouble.  The heat here in Pisa is still hot but it seems less oppressive than what we experienced in Barcelona, the French Riviera and in Genoa.  It's very slightly inland, and you would think that as you go inland the heat would be more intense than on the coast.  But, for us at least, it seems to be the other way around.  Well, that's our first Impression anyway.  We'll be in Florence in a few days where temperatures are in the high thirties.

Speaking of Pisa's proximity to the coast, I noticed on Wikipedia that today Pisa is roughly 10 kilometres from the coast.  But when Pisa was founded by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago, the city was only four kilometres from the coast.  It was founded at its location because Pisa lies at the junction of two rivers, the Arno and the Serchio.  In the age we live in, we talk more of rising sea levels thanks to global warming, but this present-day proximity of Pisa to the shoreline compared to its ancient proximity represents a curious reversal of the current discourse.  Could be worthy of further enquiry.

Soon, we'll head out into the town, perhaps cross to the other side of the river Arno, and find something to eat for dinner.  Might check out going up the tower tomorrow.

Readers of this blog will know that Jean and I were in Pamplona recently for the Festival of San Fermin and the running of the bulls.  We've just heard that in the Spanish town of Isso, 322 kilometres southeast of Madrid, a running of the bulls event was held during the Apostle James Feast, and a 16 year old boy has been gored to death by a bull.  Apparently, many small towns in Spain hold such events, and they are not very well supervised.  It is indeed a tragedy for the boy and his family.  Meanwhile, Jean and I would like to know more of the welfare of the young Australian woman who was seriously injured at Pamplona.  We can't find any news about this, so if someone would like to tell us of her recovery, that would be welcomed.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Genoa - yeah, I think I met her once

We are now in the Italian city of Genoa, or, in Italian, Genova.  We're very happy to be in Italy at last, the first time for both of us for many years.  We've had a few hours of walking around, and took in a view of Genova from a hill top.  I'm not really that taken by the city itself, although there is an impressive collection of Baroque and late Renaissance palaces here, which is World Heritage listed.  We passed through there briefly a few hours ago.

We're much more on our guard now.  This is Italy, after all, which has had a reputation for thefts stretching back at least to the 1980s.  We've been approached by two dodgy looking young men already.  In a fruit market, the Mercato Orientale, one young man approached us twice.  He carried a cup for us to put money in (as all European beggars do), and, on the second occasion I noticed he carried something concealed in his other hand.........a blade?

I'm very impressed with the young 15 year old daughter of our hotel manager.  She speaks English, French, German, Spanish, and of course Italian.  If I'm desperate, I can communicate with her father in French.  I also exchanged a couple of sentences with her in German.  I have, unfortunately, forgotten a lot of the Italian I learned.  As the next few days pass, however, I'll go through my notes.

Italy, here we come....:)

Yesterday, we thought it was either Wednesday or Thursday.  We thought it was definitely not Tuesday and definitely not Friday.  But we found out it was Friday.  Honestly, I have not been so uncertain about the day of the week in 30 years.  

Today, we leave France behind.  We head to Italy.  If we think of our holiday as three five-week periods, then the first ends today.  The second five-week period will be dominated by Italy.  We will also visit Athens and some Greek islands, and detour briefly to Turkey.

We have a bad habit of arriving in a new country on the weekend, posing difficulties for the purchase of SIM cards.  There may or may not be free WiFi at our next port of call.

So, don't go away.

Friday, 26 July 2013


We visited Monaco today, which is the second smallest country in the world, at just 2.02 square kilometres in size.  It is the 43rd country I have ever visited.

We arrived late morning, and, after exiting the station, slowly headed west.  At Rue Princesse Caroline, named after the current Prince's sister, we stopped for cake and coffee.  We got talking to a Monegasque, which is a person of Monaco nationality.  His name was Georges, and he said he is a Marshall for the Formula One Grand Prix during that time of the year, and otherwise his day job is a croupier at the casino here in Monte Carlo.  He had surprising knowledge of Australia, and even of Australian Rules football teams.

From there, we climbed the ramp that leads up to the palace of the Prince of Monaco, which stands about 60 metres above the bay and its $10 million yachts.  The current reigning Prince is Albert.  His famous parents were Prince Rainier III and the tragic, but still much loved, Princess Grace, formerly Grace Kelly, who, clearly, is not forgotten.  Jean and I spent a fair while walking around up there.  We admired the view from all angles.  Monaco is surrounded by France.  The mountains in the background are France, and so are the buildings in the middle ground.  Much of Monaco lies along the coast, which makes parts of it rather thin.  Right in front of the palace are several buildings which shade multiple little alleys packed with souvenir shops, cafes, eateries, and ice cream shops.  Right under the noses of the royals.  Well, they do say that this country makes its money through gambling and tourism.  (Jean bought a new bag here.)

The Palace itself is dominated by the dramatic backdrop of the mountains.  They appear to hang over the palace like a large, wide curtain that reaches all the way up to an enormously high ceiling.  Jean didn't want to enter, but I did.  I went through quickly.  No photography allowed.  Paintings here and there throughout of reigning princes of Monaco, and various other Grimaldi family members.  One was of Princess Grace and her family from 1981.  She plunged to her death off a cliff in her car the following year.

I was interested in Monaco as a student of international affairs.  Monaco as a sovereign state.  It has managed to maintain its independence throughout the centuries.  And when I come to a small country like Monaco, I imagine myself as an international fugitive, on the run from the world's police forces, but enjoying sanctuary in the small country.  Would I be happy in a place like Monaco?  Yes, I think I would be.  I'd take coffee and cake around 10, I'd go swimming, I'd sample the delights in the different restaurants, maybe I'd have a little flutter at the casino, I'd see the Grand Prix, and everything would be fine.  Monaco is not bad at all.

From the palace grounds
Monaco, with Monte Carlo on the opposite side of the yachts 
Jean heading into the palace grounds
The palace
Jean enjoying cafe au lait avec une tarte
Rue Princesse Caroline
A street near the palace
Swimming pool at edge of Grand Prix track
Palace behind

We broke the bank at Monte Carlo

Around afternoon tea time, we entered the casino - THE casino - at Monte Carlo.  We'd expected to pay an entry fee of 10 € each, but no.

We entered a large room dripping with all the beauty, elegance and charm of a bygone century.  Jean thought it looked like a palace.  I gave Jean 100€, and let her loose on the American roulette table.  The difference between American roulette and English roulette is that in the former there is the inclusion of the double zero.  English roulette has the single zero but not the double zero.  French roulette is something much worse - a riot of activity with several croupiers involved, each with a stick for moving chips across the table.  We haven't even tried to understand it.

While Jean took her chances at the table, I repaired to the bar, and bought a beer.  The beer was aptly named 'Monaco'.  I silently toasted Prince Albert Of Monaco, and the continued independence of his principality.  I also toasted Jean's success at the table.  While I sipped on my drink, I gazed in awe at this the most beautiful of all casinos.  We were in the Salle de Europe, or the Europe Room.  It has two large arches, one to enter the room, and the other, at the opposite end, leading into the America Room, where there are slot machines.  The Europe Room is also bounded on all sides by four ceiling arches, creating the inevitable varying ceiling contours.  All over the ceiling is significant gilding, forming various leaves and flowers, curves, flows, and borders for certain designs as well as for the ceiling sculptures.  There are four sculptures, three of them are of naked women, and the other......just to be of a partially naked woman.  Half way down the wall, all around, is a gilded border, 'supported' by 18 columns that hark to an earlier era.  There are eight five-metre high paintings adorning the sides of the room, beneath the gilded border.  One is the 'Harvesting Oranges'.  Another is 'Ascension of the Alps'.  Still another is 'Walk along the seafront'.  All were painted by Pierre Ribera in 1898.  There are also eight brilliant chandeliers, hanging beneath an overarching circular sky light of roughly 12 metres in diameter, with intricate designs within, the burning sun in the centre, its rays extending to all corners of the circle.  The carpet on the floor looks like it could have come from any palace.  

Earlier today, before visiting the casino, I toured the Prince of Monaco's palace.  The casino's Europe Room, which was pretty much the only (of many) room open when we were there, is much more beautiful than any of the rooms in the palace.  Yes, there was a throne room in the palace, but it was just an average throne room.

How did Jean do on the roulette table?  She lost the lot except for one chip.  From there, she made her way back up, and, in the end, we walked out with our original outlay plus another 75 euros.  My silent toast paid off.

There's a lot of money in and around Monaco, which you can see in the cars that frequent the immediate area outside the casino.  We saw Bentleys, Ferraris, Maserattis, a brand new Rolls Royce, and a Porsche that, in Canberra, would have stopped traffic, but here paled into insignificance.

Jean the winner
Le Casino at Monte Carlo
A Ferrari parked outside the casino

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Yes, we Cannes!

We spent almost five hours in Cannes yesterday.  We were delighted to be there, especially Jean who had looked forward to it.  The first thing we did was make a bee-line for the sea.  The Cannes International Film Festival is held each year, I believe in May, and the building where it all happens, the Palais des Festivals, was boarded up.  We were able, though, to see the famous red carpet on the staircase, and I took Jean's picture there.  Nearby, here and there, the names of many stars and their hand prints enjoy permanence in the pavement.

At the beach, thousands of people sheltered under beach umbrellas, and soaked themselves in the cool waters of the Mediterranean.  A cruise ship appeared anchored in the distance off to the right.  Someone was parasailing.  Many many others enjoyed the exclusiveness of the umpteen private beaches belonging to hotels that lined the Boulevard de la Croisette, the very long boulevard that runs along the entire length of Cannes' seafront, and which the locals abbreviate to 'the Croisette'.  It's a bit more expensive here, as you Cannes probably expect.  

We took a one hour ride on the little mini-train, which provides commentary on Cannes in many languages.  We learned of the many stars who have stayed in the hotels along the Croisette.  Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Sophia Loren, and Princess Diana have all stayed in the Grand Hotel at one time or another.  In the 1950s, one pretty young American actress named Grace Kelly met her prince charming on the Croisette, and in 1956 she married him, and moved to Monaco, a tiny country just down the road from here.  Apart from the Grand, some of the other popular hotels include the Martinez, the Majestic Barriere and the Carlton.  The Palm Beach Club has been a famous night club for many a long year.  The Prince of Wales, who gave up the British throne for the love of his American divorcee, frequented the place in the 30s.

We didn't come prepared for swimming, but we dipped our ankles in the sea.  Refreshingly cold.  We then found a place for lunch.  We both had a cuttlefish salad.  Chewing the cuttlefish was a little like chewing rubber, but it was all good.

In the evening, we returned to Nice, and sank our bodies in the cold, soothing waters of the Mediterranean.  It was so good.

But I have to say that Cannes is a really nice place.  You Cannes come any time of the year, and it will be lovely.  If Barack Obama were to bring his family to the French Riviera, and they asked him if they could visit Cannes, I'm sure I could guess his reply.

Where the Cannes Film Festival happens
Overlooking Cannes
The Martinez
The yellow and blue umbrellas are a private beach
This guy Cannes play any part
The red carpet

Cannes for the day

We are currently sitting on a train bound for Cannes, which is sitting in the Nice railway station, waiting for its scheduled departure time.  We just missed the earlier train because other passengers were buggering about with the ticket machine in front of us.  When finally we obtained our tickets for Cannes, we rushed to the platform just in time to witness our train's departure - with us not on it. We've now got a 'fast' train, apparently.  Let's hope it is fast because it's the filthiest looking train on the outside you've ever seen.  Why are we going to Cannes?  Because we Cannes.

Our hotel in Nice is not too bad.  It's cheap, but not too bad.  Oh, our train has just pushed off from the platform.  Cannes here we come.

Nice is, of course, a part of the Côte d'Azur, or, in English, the French Riviera.  It's an area of the coast that at least includes Cannes, Nice and Monaco.  We arrived in Nice last night at about 7.20pm after a relaxing day of taking it slowly in Barcelona, and heading to the airport there, and waiting for our flight.  

After checking into our hotel in Nice, we headed for the beach to see the sea again and to see what's happening.  We were surprised to find that at least at the Nice portion of the Côte d'Azur, the beach does not have sand - you drape your towel down on stones .....just like Brighton in England.  We strolled along the Promenade, which is called the Promenade des Anglais (Promenade of the English), watched people pass by, watched a few swimmers in the water, saw the odd boat out on the water, and noticed in the distance that as the coastline curves round, many dwellings hug the coastline, while many more are packed in on the hillside behind them.  I gather the French Riviera is hilly near the coast.  Certainly, this area is just that.  Oh, the train announcer just said something about Cannes.  We can't be arriving there yet, Cannes we?

Right now, we're sailing along on our train with the Mediterranean to our immediate left.  It's pale blue, but sparkling in the sunlight.  The beach is still pebbly.  Should be in Cannes soon.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

From Picasso to the casino

We went to the Picasso Museum this morning.  Don't really know why we went there because we hate Picasso.  Until now, all we'd seen of Picasso's paintings were those really weird pieces where human beings have square heads and the like.  Jean and I were pleasantly surprised to find that Picasso did actually draw, sketch and paint some decent quality material, but to our minds there wasn't enough of it.  We're still not fans, and we went around the museum rather fast.

From the museum, we strolled slowly to Las Ramblas, having lunch on the way.  We are presently very tired.  Especially me.  I had a bad night, and my head cold that began in Paris has returned.  The heat has started to get to me.  But I'm not blaming the European summer.  To be fair to me, the hottest place in Barcelona that's in the shade happens to be the room we're staying in.  We've got two cooling fans, and they're both going full bore all night.  The corridor outside the room is much cooler, and we've noticed some guests have taken to leaving their door open.  

We're still getting out and about, heat or no heat.  At the bottom of Las Ramblas, where the tall statue of Christopher Columbus points out to the Mediterranean, Jean and I laid down to rest on the grass under the shade of three palm trees.  This is something I never do.  I hate sitting on grass, unless I've got a chair, and I hate laying on grass even more.  But you know, when you visit a different part of the world, you often do things you would not normally do.

After about 15 minutes on my back with my eyes facing skyward, during which time I noticed that the famous Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi was right about the sunlight shining through the leaves of the palm trees (see blog post 'Sagrada Familia'), Jean and I strolled along by the water, taking in the sights, such as medals being given out to event winners in the Barcelona 2013 swimming championships being shown on big screens.  Further on, we saw boats, and, eventually, we found the beach and strolled along it again.

We've made tough decisions today, whether to have coffee, where to have lunch, what flavour ice cream to have, and what beer to have.  Estrella is not exactly pronounced like 'Australia', as reported yesterday, but more like Es-tray-ya.  It's available in Australia, too, we read.  Probably in Fyshwick.

I must apologise to readers for my comments several weeks ago about the Visigoths.  I said there were Visigoth ruins under Barcelona and that they pre-dated the Romans by 2000 years.  The truth is, the Visigoths moved into the Iberian Peninsula after the departure of the Romans.  Their presence here was replaced by the arrival of the Muslims after 711 CE.  But I've not been able to find any evidence of ruins existing in or under Barcelona.  There might be something in Toledo about an hour from here.  But the word is they left almost no evidence of their existence behind.  And today, I've felt too hot to worry about it.

If Barcelona is too hot, you can always take refuge in the cool climate of the Barcelona casino.  I've taken a break to have a drink, and write this post.  Jean's off somewhere, hopefully earning money for our dinner.  If not, it might be baguettes, with cheese and asparagus for a while....

Tomorrow, we're flying to Nice.  It's back to France!  I love speaking French.  It's a beautiful language. Hopefully, Nice will be very nice.  Pun intended.

Christopher Columbus points out to sea
Scenes of the waterfront.