Barcelona Trip Diary


If you just want to see all of the pictures I took, all full-size on one big web page, go here (lots of big pictures, will take a while to load, your browser may not like it, may be a bad idea).

Research and tips about travelling to Barcelona are here.

Warm day in NJ, but cold weather is arriving tonight. Took train ($9) at 1 PM from West Trenton, to airport by 2:20 or so. As usual when you're an hour or so early, no lines at check-in or Security; breezed through. Free Wi-Fi in airport, but you have to "interact with an ad" to get it.

Uneventful flight, with same movie ("Frozen") they had on this flight 6 months ago, I think.
Felt like an old pro as I navigated through Barcelona airport (pointed out to the mystified crowd at the baggage claim display that our flight was listed, as "Filadelfia"), to train (my old T-10 card still worked), through Metro, and to Dora's apartment. Got there by 10, and Dora's son was there to let me in. Unpack and shower and time to relax and maybe nap.

Looking online, looks like Barcelona is about 18F warmer than Trenton NJ this week; daytime highs in the mid-60's here. And the fierce cold from the Midwest didn't make it to NJ after all, I guess.

Dora came home at 4:30. Very nice to be together again. I gave her some small gifts, and showed her baby clothes I bought for her sister's twins for Christmas.

Apparently, the third set of keys for the apartment have been misplaced, so the three of us will have to juggle two sets of keys for a while; not good.

Nice dinner with Dora, then a washer-repairman showed up. The washer in the other apartment died 6-8 months ago, now the one in this apartment is ailing. Fortunately, it seems the filters are totally clogged and need cleaning; the guy got it working. He was here for two hours and charged only €40.

Gave Dora her Christmas present (Ipad Mini 2 with Retina) early, and she was delighted. But I'm going to have to much of the work of setting it up; neither of us knows how. I've copied several web pages about that, and we'll have to work through them together.

Pulled a joke on Dora: I bought a temporary tattoo (a heart with "Dori" in it) and put it on my bicep just before coming here. The look on her face when she saw it and thought I'd gotten a real tattoo !
Pic. Ahh, back in the land of chocolate breakfast-cereal.

My laptop picked up some malware somewhere, so had to clean that off.

Out at the crack of 11:30. Almost raining, and I couldn't find an umbrella in the apartment. Up 6 blocks to the government complex. Into the govt office, where they have some cool automated electronic stations for easily paying your taxes, getting an appointment, etc. Fairly long line at the "Information", so I asked (with my baby Spanish) at the Reception desk: do they do "compulsados" here (official copies of documents). I couldn't understand the response, but it had about six no's in it, so I think the answer is no.

Over to the library next door, to see if they will accept a donation of 15 or so brand-new high-school textbooks. Sent from 1st floor to 2nd to 3rd, then told to come back in the afternoon and talk to someone on the 1st floor. So I'll do that.

On the way home, tried to find a notary office, but didn't see any.

Successfully wished happy birthday to Dora's son in Spanish, so that's my one accomplishment for this morning.

Unclogged the bathtub drain; that's another accomplishment.

Dora home early, before I could go out to library etc again.

Went out with Dora at 4 to the local offices. To the govt office, but it closed at 2:30. Dora interrogated the guard, but he didn't know anything. To the library, where they said they don't want the textbooks, but gave her a brochure on other places that take donations; why did they send me to multiple floors and not give me that brochure this morning ? To a camera shop, where I bought an SD card and card-reader for the camera (€24). The camera guys say no Spanish office can "compulsar" a US passport, which I suspected, but wanted someone official to say. Back home. I'm a bit discouraged; Dora did all the talking, and I understood almost nothing. I need to learn more Spanish.

Put the new SD card in my camera, and now I can take pictures and get them into the laptop. But I think the current pictures in the camera's built-in memory are irretrievable.

Out again with Dora at 5:30 or so. Into Virrei Amat Metro, transfer, out at Liceu on La Rambla, walked to Rambla del Raval. There's a Raval cultural celebration this weekend, and tonight there's a bandstand with a different band every half hour or so. Most are youth or music-school bands, people 18-20, some older, a few younger. Several nice jazz/blues bands with brass and guitar and drums and a singer, doing some great US standards.
Pics.

Then a Christian chorus came on and started doing uninteresting religious stuff, and we left and wandered a bit (Dora used an internet cafe for a call, I looked at street art). Pics. Back to the bandstand, and now they're into rock bands. Listened for a little while, then found a bar and had coffees. Half an hour later, it started pouring rain and the bands had to quit. By the time we were ready to leave, the rain had stopped. Back through the Metro, home by 10:15. Dora is working all day. Heater man showed up at 10, and I had to deal with him most of the time, with Dora's son as backup to handle the major translations. The problem seems to be with wiring or electronics in the unit on the roof. Pics. After noon, he went out to get a part. Back again at 1:45, finally finished by 4:30. Heater works, and it didn't cost too much.

Went out after 5. It was cool and windy today, but not too bad when sunny. Now it's just windy and chilly. Got cash at an ATM, went to camera store but they were closed, looked into several pastisseries before buying a cake. Forgot to buy bread. Home.

Dora home at 9:45. We had thought of going out somewhere, but it's late and it's cool outside. Had thought of going to a parade at noon, but slept late and today's plans keep changing. Later thought of going to an art museum that is free Sunday afternoons, but then found out it's closed Sunday afternoons.

Had a little birthday party for Dora's son at noon. A cake I bought, and a couple of small presents I brought.
Pic. One present was a fiasco: turned out he wanted a Wii-U console and game ($320+), not just the game ($12).

Out at 12:30 or so with Bryan and Dora. Longish walk to a bus, then bus to Moquinista shopping mall. To a Brazilian grill place (Brasaylena), where they bring sizzling meats to your table on big skewers, and slice off strips of meat for you. The beef wasn't so good, but the pork and chicken and ham were fine. A little salad and a few French fries, but otherwise a meat-meat-meat experience. We came out stuffed full. Pics.

Onto the bus, and Dora and I got off at a Metro station. Down to Sagrada Familia, where we have free tickets for a special Mass. Dora thought it was in the small ordinary church underneath, but it turned out to be in the awesome main basilica. It's the 4th anniversary of when the Pope dedicated the basilica. Interesting Mass, lots of ceremony and choirs and such, but all in Catalan. Video screens on many of the big columns, so those with obstructed views could see, and all of us could see closeups of the altar, and shots of the choirs. Pics. I noticed that when we all stood up, in our 3 rows of maybe 25 people total, I was 8 inches taller than anyone else. All smallish Spanish people, and some kids.

Afterward, we strolled a bit, up streets of cafes and stores, and eventually found a nice cafe. Coffees and a croissant, and lots of nice conversation. Out at 8 and back home by 8:30 or so.

We had been planning to go to north of Spain for Christmas, to near Laredo, to see Dora's younger sister and family. Now that's changing: everyone will go to SW of Spain, to near Cadiz, to see Dora's middle sister and family. A longer and more complicated and more expensive trip.

So, we start looking at travel web sites. Airplane, train, or bus from Barcelona to Sevilla ? Have to take a bus between Sevilla and final destination near Cadiz. Finally decide that Dora's son is going separately, and doing a triangle-trip (Barcelona - near Cadiz - near Laredo - back to Barcelona), so Dora books the first leg (airplane) of that.

For us, it looks like airplane Barcelona - Sevilla. Round-trip, plane is about €130 pp, fast train €190 pp, slow train €110 pp, bus even longer and €205 pp. We'll get a hotel room in Sevilla on each end of the trip, and see a bit of Sevilla.

But then when we try to book the airplane, after entering all of the info, right at the last step, surprise ! Fees and commissions turn a €127 price into a €217 price (each, round-trip). So we switch to the fast train, and find that the arrival/departure hours are more convenient than the airplane hours. But the Renfe web site gives me errors every time I try to book (it's notorious for that), and also I have to re-type all of the information each time I try again. Give up and to bed by 1 AM or so.
Up at 7:45 and back onto the web sites. Still errors, so at 8:15 Dora and I are out the door. Into the Metro, a totally jammed rush-hour ride to Sants Estacio, and through crowds to the AVE counter. Which turns out to be just information, not ticketing. So to a ticket machine, which twice rejects my credit card, probably because I am getting the PIN wrong (I never use it). And if you get the PIN wrong, it doesn't give you a second chance at the PIN, or a chance to use a different card. Each time we try again, we have to re-enter all of the info through 6 screens; horrible design. Finally Dora pays for it on her credit card, and we have tickets. About €385 for two round-trips on the AVE high-speed train between Barcelona and Sevilla at Christmas.

Back through the Metro, not crowded this time. To an ATM, to a bank while Dora does something, to a shop to have apartment keys copied, to a butcher to buy meat, Dora picks up things from the other apartment, pick up the copied keys, back to the apartment. Where one of the new keys doesn't work. Soon back out to the key shop, try again, this time the keys work. Done by 11:15, and I'm tired.

Turns out I had my credit card PIN totally wrong; must have changed it at some point. Still don't have my new credit card with the chip in it.

Turkey-rice lunch with Dora. Then she gave me a flu shot that she'd been keeping in her refrigerator for me.

Dora off to work at 1. I went out to the electronics store. As Dora predicted, they wouldn't give me back my money for a card-reader I bought but don't need; they will give a store credit for 1 month. So we'll have to go back and see if Dora can buy a SIM card she can use.

Cool, grey, windy today. Didn't go out again. Dora home at 9 or so.
Did a load of laundry.

Out at 1:30, wearing a nice hoodie that Dora gave me, and it's a lot warmer than the loose-weaved Ecuadorian sweater I had been wearing. Into the Metro, out at Placa Catalunya, and the usual baffled plodding through mysterious underground passages before I finally emerged at street level.

The Placa looks totally different: a huge temporary building/stage has been erected in the middle of it [Dora says it's a skating rink for Christmas season]. Into Tourist Info, and that has been remodeled, gleaming white and simplified. Got an updated bus route-map.

Sat at edge of Placa Catalunya for a while, listening to MP3's and people-watching. Wandered down La Rambla and did more of the same.
Pic of Santa statue. Wandered through various streets and over to the Cathedral, always a fun spot to sit. Eventually into Parc Ciutadella, up to Arc de Triomf. Pic of men playing bocce ball. Metro to home (almost missed my stop).

Strolled up a busy F-i-P, got a few groceries, home by 5:45. A bit tired. Ribs and rice for dinner.

Dora home around 9.

Headachey; took a paracetamol-plus. Headachey; took a Maxalt/rizatriptan.

Did some yoga with Dora; I haven't been doing yoga very often.

Out with Dora around 10. Took a bus and went to a nursing home to visit with friends of hers, people I met briefly last time I was here. A nice visit, with me trying to understand the Spanish and getting a little of it. I'm learning.

Her friend is paying about €1600/month for a room shared with another resident; my mother in USA pays more like €2000/month for an apartment for herself, much nicer facilities, much more spacious, more services, about the same level of nursing coverage. This is a private facility here; there is a long waiting-list to get into a government facility.

A little grocery-shopping, and back home by 12:15. It's a lovely sunny, slightly cool day. The weather has been great so far; I read that last year in November, there were torrential rains, so I've been lucky.

Nice spaghetti lunch with Dora, then she was off to work.

Out for a nice walk around 5, down to Meridiana and back, and picked up a few groceries.

With Dora, Skype-called my Mom and then one of my sisters.
Dora out early, working a 24-hour shift at the hospital, 8 AM today to 8 AM tomorrow.

I loafed all day. Out at 7:15 PM. Metro to Sagrada Familia, walked a couple of blocks to a civic center, and went to a free concert at 8. A jazz trio called "SHINE" (
Facebook page), three guys, acoustic guitar, bass fiddle, electric guitar. About 70 people in the audience, in a plain stage-and-room that could hold 120 or so. Music quite nice at times, and a little too arrhythmic for me at times. Audience middle-aged and older, so I fit right in, and about 80% female. Conditions bad for taking pictures: pic. Finished at 9:30.

I strolled across to Passeig de Gracia (further than I thought), and down it to Placa Catalunya. Sat there for a while, listening to MP3s and people-watching, but I didn't feel like walking more. Into the Metro, longish wait for a train, home by 11:15. Dora home from work at 9. I thought she'd fall into bed, but no, she's eager to do chores. Soon we're out to the other apartment, to fetch toys, then to a nearby school. I dashed back to the first apartment to get more toys, then back to the school and we went in and donated all of them. Board games, books, small toys, a rocking-horse, a huge stuffed lion, a couple of soccer balls and a basketball.

Back to apartment for a bit, then loaded up a cart with a big set of heavy textbooks, very expensive and unused. Up the street, caught abus, transfer to another bus, down a lift and under the big street, and to Dora's son's old high school. Donated the books, and it sounds like they actually will be welcomed, for another school or to go on a mission overseas. So that's good; many places had told us they didn't want the books. Took a bus back home, stopping in fruit/veg store for a few things, then into Dia, and Dora came out with an enormous amount of food (I thought she was going in just to buy eggs). Home.

Nice spaghetti-and-spicysauce lunch/dinner with Dora.

Out to electronics store, to exchange USB thing I bought for a bigger card for Dora's mobile. Saw a band marching up the other side of the street, but couldn't catch up to them to take a picture and find out why they were marching. Back home. Find that none of the mobile phones here are backed up, so got Dora's phone onto iDrive backup.

Figured out how to move older pictures stuck in internal memory of my camera out onto the SD card.

New credit-card has been mailed from USA.

Out at 7:20 or so with Dora, wearing a new ski-jacket she gave me: pic. To Llucmajor Metro, out at Jaume I, walked down to El Born CC to attend a free brass-band concert. We were running a bit late, and as we got to the door, the security guards were telling a woman ahead of us "completa", it's full, you can't go in. Dora just sailed right in, gesturing to them that I had to come in behind her, and we're in !

The place is enormous, so I expected there'd be no limit on the number of people. But no, they've set out about 200 chairs and corralled us into a small area just inside the entrance. And all of the seats are taken.

Very soon the band files in and starts. About 15 horns and a couple of drummers. A strange mix of horns, just trombones and a couple of French horns and a tuba. Nice sound, and they play a couple of fun songs such as the Pink Panther theme, but they play several historical pieces that are not so good. And the PA system is bad and the guy announcing is speaking rapid Catalan and not speaking it right into the microphone. Conditions not good for photography: pics.

Fortunately, after 10 minutes or so, some people leave, and Dora snags a couple of chairs for us. And another 20 minutes later, the first part of the band files out and others come in. Now several trumpets, several saxaphones, other horns, and a singer. The PA system still is too low, so the singing is distant, but some very nice songs, and very nice sound from the band on every song. Nice.

Finished at 9:15. We walk out and stroll through old town, looking at bars and restaurants and Christmas lights and doing a few loops here and there. Across Via Laetana, and into a capuccino bar. Lovely soft armchairs and nice music, and we have coffee, Irish coffee, and a nice chocolate croissant, and sit for a while. Pic.

Out and strolled some more, through Placa Jaume, over to La Rambla, in Placa Reial, down to Christopher Colombus statue. No Christmas lights on the harbor or the Colombus statue; Dora says "he associated with Southerners and the Queen too much, Catalans didn't like him, so no lights on his statue". Pics.

Into Metro, took the long way, home by 11:15.

Did some yoga with Dora, then she made pancakes for me. Late getting out of the apartment, went to El Corte Ingles for Dora to mail a package overseas, came out and decided it was too late to go to Encants market. Back home.

After a while, Dora doing lots of cleaning, then a nice turkey-rice-cabbage dinner.
Pics. Tons of dishwashing afterward, and laundry.

Napped for a while. Then out before 8, to a local bar, to watch the Barcelona-Seville game on TV. But after we got settled in at the crowded bar, we found out they didn't have the channel for the game. And when I turned around 5 minutes later, 3/4 of the bar had emptied out. But we had drinks and bread-ham-cheese tapas while watching old football highlights on the TV. The cook brought over a plate of baked sardines, which we didn't want but ate anyway. They were tolerable. Pic. Total bill was €7.

Back home, and it turns out we're going to a disco tonight. News to me, but okay.

Out again at 10:15. To Metro, transfer, out at Para.lel, a place we seldom go. Dora is looking for a specific disco she found on the internet, but we can't find it, and this area has no other likely place that we can see. So eventually we get on a bus. I wish I had my normal bag, with map and camera and such, but I've left all of that home tonight. The bus takes us exactly where we want to go, although we get confused and get off half a mile too early. We follow groups of young people to the disco area at Vila Olympica.

Here, there are about a dozen clubs, some with adjoining outdoor restaurants or hookah lounges. As you stroll along the lane, greeters from each club step into your path and try to convince you to come into their club or restaurant. We're early, the real partying doesn't get going until after midnight, but music is pounding and light-shows are whirling and some clubs have smoke-machines going. We make one pass down the lane, find a bathroom, make a pass back to the other end, and finally go into "Australians".

Not a big place, just an L-shaped dance floor with a bar at one end. A couple of TV screens showing football. Loud music; can't talk, even right into each other's ears. When we arrive, only maybe a dozen people, most of them dancing, most of them early-20's. But they're all having fun. Soon, Dora and I are dancing. Dora is really good, she knows all kinds of steps and motions, and I just try to move and dance with her and have fun.

We dance and get hot and sit down and rest, back up and do it again. The place is filling up. No one hassles us to buy a drink, and we didn't have to pay to get in. Vendors come through trying to see flowers or hats, and Dora buys a hat for €3. Pic.

Finally around 1 AM, we've had enough. We never did buy drinks. Out into the cool air, sweaty, ears pounding. Dora might be game for more, but I want to go home. We wander out, and I don't know where a Metro stop is. We wait a little while at a bus stop, but then Dora says a Metro is near, and it turns out to be less than 2 blocks away. Lots of people coming out and heading toward the discos. Into the Metro by 1:15, the line goes right to a stop near home, and we're home by 1:45 or so. My ears still have a hiss in them.

Awoke at 10 to find Dora handing me breakfast in bed: pic. I feel okay, but there still is a slight hiss in my ears, I think. Or maybe I'm just imagining it, and they're back to normal.

Had to push to get Dora out the door around 12:30; we're going to be late for our restaurant reservation. Down to F-i-P Metro, out at Universitat, to the restaurant (Ca L'Estevet) a few blocks away. Got there only 10 minutes late, and the restaurant is empty anyway.

Nice place, nice decor. We have glasses of red wine. For appetizers, Catalan spinach (with pine nuts and raisins; not very impressive), and calamari (Dora's choice, I don't like calamari, and this did not change my opinion). For entrees, Dora had beef-cheeks and I had oxtail (loose translations), and I thought they both were very good, but just meat and a potato on each plate, nothing else. Dora had a coffee and I had black chocolate truffles (scrumptious) for dessert. Pics. A nice, relaxed meal, and we enjoyed it, but the food not as good as I hoped. Total came to €67. Restaurant maybe 1/3 full by the time we left.

We strolled down to Mercat San Antoni, then decided to go home. Street art. Into Metro, transfer, out, stop for a bathroom break, then stop to talk to a friend of Dora's in a park for a while. Home by 4:30.

Nice egg-rice-banana meal with Dora around 8: pic. Out to a phone/internet place (locuturi) around 9, to do various mobile-phone things. Back home, Skyped my sister and then my brother. Up late. Pancakes for breakfast.

Grey, rainy day. I went to the other apartment to bring back some food. Then out to BonPreu for groceries. Then back to BonPreu to return a wrong item I bought, and to get three more things. Later, out to the locutori, to retrieve the phone we left to be unlocked. But it's too old to work with. Fine with me, I don't want a phone anyway. Dora wants me to have one.

Salami-and-cheese sandwich for lunch. Salad and rice and lentils for dinner.

Dora home around 9, and immediately started making a couple of cakes. Which always involves separating eggs and whipping up the egg-whites, a horribly labor-intensive job that I do terribly. And the rack for the oven is missing, so only one cake at a time can be baked. We mix the batter, add apples and cognac and vanilla, and first cake into the oven. Then Dora boiled and ate the leftovers from peeling the apples, and I was teasing her about it, saying it sounded like someone fooled her into thinking it was a delicacy or something.
Pics. Out around 11, to Llucmajor Metro, to Jaume I, and to Santa Maria del Mar basilica. Never managed to get into here during my previous trips; I always arrived during the paid-entry times, not the free times. Free now. Walked in and sat in a pew.

Lovely, quiet church, beautiful stained glass. Centerpiece of the altar is not a crucifix, but instead a statue of Mary and child, and a sailboat sitting on the base in front of them. Sat for a while, strolled for a while, nice. Bad conditions for pictures:
pics.

Out of the church, strolled some streets of Born. Into El Born CC, where they have a lovely thing with lights cascading down from a skylight, and they've installed a nativity scene in the Roman ruins. Pics.

Over into Ciutadella park. Not much happening there, and it's grey and threatening rain. Back into Born streets. Stopped at Circular del Artes art gallery for a few minutes. Up to Jaume I, then sat in my favorite little square between cathedral and Frederic Mares museum, and listened to a couple of guitarists for a while. Various street scenes: pics.

To the cathedral square, but it's full of market-booths being disassembled. Back to Jaume I, into Metro, home. Stopped for groceries in Dia. Home around 2.

Salami-and-cheese sandwich for lunch, cake for dessert. The cake is heavy and needs more flavor; it has orange and vanilla and cognac, but needs more of something.

Headachey; took a MaxAlt.

Lentils and rice with mushrooms for dinner, and cake for dessert.

Dora home around 9. This morning on stairs at a Metro station, a bunch of cards fell or were stolen out of a side-pocket of her purse, and someone handed them back to her. She doesn't think she lost anything.

Dora's son home around 10:30, and at a McDonald's tonight, a thief stole his bag, including all of his ID documents, 1-month Metro card, and bankbook ! Fortunately didn't lose his keys, or much money. He made a police report, and now has to get all the documents replaced.

Wrestling with the RENFE (train) web site, trying to buy tickets to go south in a couple of weeks. Not working.

Still headachey at midnight; took a Zomig and some mystery-pill Dora gave me. Cleared all cookies and cache on my browser, back onto the RENFE (train) web site, and success ! Bought tickets to go south. Paying with PayPal worked; I think my credit card would have failed (again).

Out with Dora at 10:30; I'm not sure where we're going or why I have to come along. To pharmacy, then to train station. Confusion about Metro cards, since I just gave mine to her son this morning. Onto a train, to Placa Catalunya, out, more confusion as it turns out they've moved something. Out to street level, back in a couple of blocks away, to wrong platform, up and down again, onto another train. More confusion as the train has multiple routes.

Out at La Bonanova stop, and it's pouring rain. Turns out to be wrong stop, get an attendant to credit our cards, back in and onto next train. Out at Sarria, and it's raining even harder. We have one umbrella, that mostly covers us but leaves Dora getting wet on left side and me getting soaked on my back. No help for it, have to get to medical administration center, Dora has to work this afternoon. Walk half a mile through pounding rain, getting soaked, and I'm wearing sandals. Soon I'm soaked down the back of my shirt and up past my ankles. Finally to the place. Dora into an office, and I sit down to wait.

Fortunately, they have comfy armchairs, it's warm, and I have my MP3 players to listen to and a Spanish phrasebook to read. It's a long wait, but finally Dora comes out to report success, goes back in for another 5 minutes, then we're done.

We go out and catch a bus two blocks away. Downhill through slow traffic, and as usual the street names and bus stop names are impossible to see from inside a bus. Out at Hospital Clinic, rain stopping, and get very lost as we try to cut through the hospital itself. Finally out to the Metro. Crowded train. Dora out at La Sagrera, I go on to Virrei Amat. Rain has stopped, but it's fairly cold now, and I'm still wet.

Home by 1:40. Wet clothes off and to dry. Salami-and-cheese sandwich and cake for lunch.

Tired and loafed the rest of the day.

Dora home around 9. With a new, simple cell-phone for me:
pic. I really, really don't want one, but she insists.

And it turns out the thieves who stole her son's documents last night immediately guessed his ATM PIN (it was easily-guessed) and emptied his bank account. He may be able to get some money back from the bank, since he reported the theft right away.

Messed around with the new cell-phone. Instructions in Spanish, but I found an English version online. Eventually we figured out how to change the language on the phone to English. Trying to take passport photos of myself; not easy. Keep getting shadows, glare on eyelasses, eyeglasses lopsided, bad expression on face, etc.

Good news: Dora's son says the bank says it is going to give all of his money back. We'll see if it actually happens.

Dora home for lunch, unexpectedly and briefly.

Finally got an acceptable passport photo; wised up and retouched it to remove a point of glare from my eyeglasses. Created sheets of US-sized and Spanish-sized photos to print.

Out to other apartment, where all is okay (I had worried, because address of apartment is on documents stolen). My new credit card has arrived in the mail; that took 5-6 days from New Jersey, cost $2.30 in postage. To locutori, but they don't print photos, have to go to a nearby place later. To Dia to buy groceries.

Opened my new credit card, which has a chip in it. Looks like a typical card, but there's a little section of contacts where the chip is:
pic. Was able to activate it online, instead of having to call from primary telephone (in New Jersey).

Heavy rain at 5:30.

Out at 6, to photo place. The guy speaks little English, but my Espanol was up to the occasion. Hola, Senor. Necisito impresion de fotografia. Para passaporte. Handed him a tarjeta. He found the photo on the SD card, we had a little back-and-forth about the print size, sies y quattro inches, cincuenta y diez centimetres, si. Printed it out, and it looks fine ! A little problem understanding the cost, turned out to be €0.9, paid it, adios. Si, hablo Espanol !

Back home, the prints look slightly darkish, but should be acceptable. Two of four are ever so slightly cropped at the top; maybe the consulate will accept only the other two. Hmm, looking at the consulate web page again, it says need only one photo, but don't wear glasses; that's weird. Maybe I'll take another photo without glasses, just to be safe. The State Dept page about acceptable photographs has a whole section showing people wearing glasses in their pictures. Headachey by noon; took a sumatriptan.

Took more passport photos, this time with no eyeglasses. Out to the photo shop, printed them, got groceries at Dia.

Made two lasagnas. Not having a shelf that fits the oven, had to improvise to fit them both in.

Dora home at 4 or so, and says the pans I used may not be oven-safe. Too late now. Sure enough, took them out at 4:40, and one of the pans has melted slightly to the metal muffin pan I had it sitting on.
Pics. But the lasagna was delicious, and as we ate it, I made jokes about the plastic giving it that special taste.

Out after 7 (late as usual), into Metro, transfer, out at Liceu, and right into the Gran Teatro del Liceu opera house. We're hoping to get last-minute tickets for Beethoven's 9th. Found the ticket office, had to take a number and wait. I guess a lot of people had the same idea we did: web site today said no ceap tickets left, but maybe some would open up at last minute.

Finally got to the cashier, and there are a couple of next-to-cheapest seats left, but they're not together, and they're limited-visibility. People are spending €59 apiece for seats together, but I'm not willing to do that. We grab the cheap seats, €14 each, and head into the opera house, as they're calling "5 minutes to start". Dora catches lift to 5th floor, to a seat which should have a bit of visibility.

I go up stairs to 3rd floor, to a seat which should have almost zero visibility. Trouble finding my seat, everyone's running around at last minutes, signs are useless (they specify "blocks", which ticket does not mention; numbers on seats are tiny). Finally grab an usher, and it turns out I'm in the right place but my seat is through a locked door; I never would have found it.

Turns out I'm in a box right above the front of the stage, 3 floors up. It's a "proscenium" seat, like a royal box. Would be wonderful if I was in front row of the box, but I'm in the back-left corner, and can see only a tiny sliver of the orchestra, and the other side of the opera house. Three guys in movable chair-seats have the front row.

Almost immediately, there's applause, and the music starts. The acoustics are fine. As I get settled in, I realize this is pretty nice; I have loads of leg-room, can put my bag down on one side and take my jacket off and put it on another. Very comfortable.

As I look around the house, I see lots of empty seats everywhere. I could have gone with Dora, or she could have come with me to this box. There must be lots of no-shows. [I find out later, she was able to move to the front row in her section, and had perfect visibility of everything.]

The music is quite nice, but the experience is limited without vision. After the first movement, I slide forward and sit on a padded box/stool next to and a little behind the 3 guys at the front. Now I can see 1/4 of the orachestra and choir, and more if I lean far forward or stand up and lean. I do that at a few small breaks in the music, to take photographs. Pics.

I had been hoping to join Dora at intermission, move to a seat next to her. But there is no intermission, in fact hardly any breaks at all in the program, even to give an opportunity for applause. And if I leave this box, I won't be able to get back in without help from an usher.

The performance ends around 9:30. I take some more pictures, then go up to Dora's level, but she's not there. Down to the lobby, more pictures, wait a while for Dora to appear, a couple more pictures, and out. Across La Rambla and into a cafe for coffee and churros.

We wander up La Rambla, then through Born. Dora would like to go to a disco, but I'm not up for it. We sit near Arc de Triomfe for a while, then into the Metro and home by midnight-thirty.

Out at 10:30 or so. Metro to Glories, and to Encants flea market. Found a rack that is perfect for the oven, but it was €23.50, too much. Dora bought a small AC adapter, an iPad case, a TV cable box, and a coat. Back into Metro, out at F-i-P, looked into several shops as we strolled home. Home by 12:30 or so.

Cool, grey, rainy, often windy afternoon. Nice lunch with Dora: big bowls of turkey-cauliflower-noodle soup, and a little lasagna too.

Took SD card out of Dora's mobile, copied pics and vids from it to my laptop, put a new empty SD card in her mobile. Figured out how to move stuff from the mobile's native memory to the new card, and copied that too. Went out through pouring rain to buy bread and eggs; we're all out. Hooked up new cable box for the TV, and showed Dora how to play a DVD (instruction I wrote last time still is pasted on back of the remote).
Rainy, windy day.

Around 11, suddenly Dora is rushing out the door, saying someone down at the building front door is lost and needs directions to Corte Ingles. I have to watch and buzz her back into the building. I watch out the kitchen window as she talks through the window of a car, then she gets into the car and sits in there for 10 minutes or more. What's going on ? Corte Ingles is about 5 blocks away, the directions are trivial. Then she rushes up and gets some money from me and goes back down. Finally she's back and we can get ready to go to a minor-league football game.

We head out at 11:45 or so, late as usual. A long walk down F-i-P into Sant Andreu. The stadium is a little farther away than I remembered, and umbrellas and some rain are slowing us down. Finally get there about 10 minutes late, the game has started, the usual entrance gate is closed, and at the ticket booth the price is double what I paid last year (€10 per person, still not bad) because it's some different league or something. We decide to bag the game, and head to a cafe.

Big chocolate-with-coffee-flavor and a chocolate croissant for me, milk with cocoa and a small pastry for Dora.
Pics. My chocolate is disappointing; filling but not very tasty. But the place is dry and comfortable, and we have a nice time.

Out and a slow stroll homewards, stopping to look in shop windows. I find out that the guy in the car this morning sold her some perfume for €50; I hope it's not fake, or stolen. She'll give it as a Christmas present. I wish she'd start saving some money; she needs to save. I did get the license plate of the car this morning, in case something weird happened. [Two weeks later, she realized he showed her a bottle of French perfume, and that's what she thought she was buying, but she ended up with a bottle of Spanish perfume.]

Up and over to the other apartment, where Dora grabs a bunch of pots and pans and towels, waters plants, sprays bug spray, and I measure doorways to see how we'd move in a new washing machine.

We're almost ready to leave when she picks up a Papa Noel (Santa Claus) doll from the back porch, tries to hang it from the laundry line to let the rain wash it off, and the strings break and Papa Noel falls 4 floors to land facefirst on the sidewalk below. I scream "you've killed Papa Noel !", and we both dissolve in laughter. We're still laughing the whole time we're leaving and going down in the elevator, and I'm saying "we have to get down there before some child sees it and is traumatized for life !". We get to Papa Noel, and even CPR from Doktora Dora can't revive him. Pics. As we're picking him up, a family starts getting into a car nearby, and a girl about 7 years old sees us and starts singing a Papa Noel song. But she doesn't seem too traumatized.

Across the street to an ATM for cash, then home, still giggling about Dora killing Christmas.

Ribs and rice and potatoes for dinner.

Evening spent at home. Lots of messing with computers. As usual, Dora has 2300+ messages in InBox on one email account, 500+ on another. I've created a web page to advertise the other apartment for rent, and now I create ads for it on several free-ad sites. Several small trips through wet and windy conditions to take out the garbage. We pull out a plastic Christmas tree in the laundry room, and find water has collected inside a bag/box for an exercise machine, so have to drag out and clean several things. Late-night soup meal. Out at 10:30, heading to the US consulate to renew my passport. Should have plenty of time to get there for 11:45 appointment. It's in an awkward place, Sarria, not on a main Metro line.

I catch L5 Metro to Hospital Clinic. Then a 3-block walk to the bus stop turns into a frantic 30-minute loop of frustration. I think I wrote down the wrong street name last night, the bus I want does a dog-leg around this area, I'm looking in slightly the wrong part of my map. Finally I find another bus that goes to the right place. But everything is against me: electronic sign says 10 minutes until the bus arrives, but in reality it takes 13+. Then the bus is stuck in horrible traffic, and hitting every red light.

Finally up to the street with the consulate, I get off at exactly the right bus stop and walk 150 feet directly to the consulate entrance, no problem. Arrive a little less than 10 minutes late.

Awkward in Security; they speak little English, and all electronics have to be scanned, and some electronics have to be left behind to be returned when I leave. Get a badge, through there, out and into another building. Through several very thick security doors in both buildings.

No line, I filled out the form correctly last night, everything is easy, except they won't accept my photographs, they're too dark. Back out to Security, where there's a photo booth. €5, and I get pictures that make me look like a zombie. Back to the office, submit the form, pay US$110, have to wait for some official to come out of a meeting and sign my receipt. Everyone's helpful, and a lady answers my questions about "indocumentado", and why they didn't answer my questions in email (entire State Dept email system crashed for about 3 days the week they were trying to respond to me).

While I was there, a pretty 30ish woman came in and reported theft of her passport (along with ALL of her luggage), so I felt less stressed about my bus fiasco today.

Out by 12:15; should get email in about a week telling me to come pick up my new passport.

Strolled across a little and then downhill toward center of the city. Long, long stroll down, stopping to sit a few times in parks. Eventually down to Sants Estacio, onto L5 Metro, home a little after 2. Feet tired.
Went out half a dozen times today, short trips to garbage bins or to nearby stores and the other apartment. Cool day, colder in the evening.

Dora home late. We relaxed a bit, then I worked to straighten up some of the mess in the apartment, while she supervised. I went around and collected all of the medicines and put them in one big box, and we threw out some of them. Dora and her sister both are doctors, so there were pills and syringes everywhere, in half of the drawers I opened. I have another box that I will collect cables and chargers into. And I think we should designate a drawer for keys, and a drawer for batteries.

Then I disassembled the children's furniture and big playhouse that used to be out on the balcony, but have been clogging up the living room for the last few months.
Pic. I packed up the pieces neatly and we put them out on the balcony. Now we have space to have a Christmas tree. And can get at some more cabinets to get medicines and other clutter out of them.

And we found that every time Dora takes a photo on her Android mobile phone, it automatically gets published on Google+. I found out how to turn off that setting; tomorrow I'll have to figure out how to delete all of the photos. Did more straightening up in the apartment, piling medicines into one box, electronics into another, obvious garbage into the garbage.

Went to Corte Ingles and bought a tray to use as a rack in the oven. But even though I measured the oven and measured the tray right in the store, it's a smidge too narrow, about 16-3/8 when 16-5/8 would be perfect. Maybe I can modify it a little.

Dora home at 5. Nice ribs-and-lentils dinner.

Out around 7. Very light rain. To Correos (post office), then a couple of stores. Dora bought a ticket for the big Christmas lottery, played by about 75% of people in Spain, prizes totalling more than $2.2 billion. I told her that if she wins, she'll suddenly be even more beautiful.
Went out in cool and rainy weather to the ferreteria. Bought a hand-charged LED flashlight.

Re-arranged furniture in the living room, moved the Christmas tree into place, did some cleanup, etc.

Started putting out Christmas decorations. Put a Santa hat on the outside of the front door. Cleaned up "Papa Noel" and the pieces of his rope-ladder, reeved a new cord through his hands and the rungs to make him climb a ladder again. Then hung him outside, looking in through the kitchen window. Closed the blinds there, and I hope to get a good scream of surprise out of Dora when she comes home and opens those blinds.

As it was getting dark, draped strings of lights over the tree and turned them on. Five minutes later, I heard a passing little boy on the street squeal "Hey, a Christmas TREE !".

Dora home at 9:30. Earlier, I had realized there was a free jam session tonight at 9 downtown, but was unable to get in touch with her to see if we could go. And it's cold and rainy anyway.

Dora admired the hat on the door, and the tree. But didn't open the blinds in the kitchen; she stepped out on the balcony and first saw "Papa Noel" from there. So no scream.
Tamales and eggs for breakfast with Dora.

Went out in early afternoon to look for a used appliance store. Found one approximately where Dora said it would be, but it closed early and I missed it. Took a bit of a walk for exercise, bought groceries, and home.

Dora home around 4.

Out with Dora after 7. To El Born CC for another free concert. This one is in a side room of the building, a nice space with more seating and a proper stage. Piano and saxophone tonight. My camera seems to be dead, and it's not much of a photo opportunity anyway.

Nice sound, but it's a tribute to some jazz composer or jazz luminary or something, and the arrangements are bad. I think the composer was sitting in the front row, and the musicians came down to shake hands with him at one point. The saxophonist switched instruments a couple of times. The best piece was the encore, in response to audience applause. It was a more standard, melodic piece that the audience liked more than the rest of the program.

Unfortunately, we had to hustle afterwards, Dora going off to meet some doctor friend to consult about running a private practice. Stopped at an ATM, then a bano, then into Metro. Connected onto a jammed train, Dora got off after a couple of stops, I stayed on several more, and home a little before 10.
Off to Benicassim for the 3-day holiday weekend. Up after 6, packing, out at 8. To Virrei Amat Metro, and none of the electronic displays are working. But the train comes, and a longish ride to Sants Estacio. Got there about 8:35 for 9:00 train. Into a long check-in line for EuroMed train, but it moved quickly. I was expecting an ID check, and worrying that I don't have my passport (since it is being renewed), but all they're doing is scanning the tickets. Down to the platform by 8:45.

Train comes around 8:50, and everyone crowds on, but it's assigned-seating, and plenty of room for luggage. Dora is disappointed that the cars are old and plain; this is a high-speed train, she thought it would be nicer. Lots of legroom, but the seats are plain and not particularly comfortable.

Depart on time at 9:00, and then we go slowly for the first half-hour or so, down to Sitges and past it. Top speed around 100 KPH; often our speed is a lot less. Around 9:40, we start doing more like 160 KPH, slow through Tarragona, then by 10:35 we're doing a steady 200 KPH (120 MPH).

Through Benicassim station very slowly, but without stopping. And if we were able to get off here, we'd be on the wrong side of Benicassim from our destination, with a long walk ahead.

Arrive in Castellon at 11:20, five minutes late.
Pics. No Tourist Info, no maps, no bus route maps, nothing. Dora knows what bus we need and where to get it, so we go to the bus stop. Where it says tomorrow the busses won't be running for most of the day, because of a marathon being run through town.

We wait 20 minutes or so for the bus, with Dora talking to an older couple. Bus comes, we're on, but the bus routes have changed. Off at Plaza Borullo, wait for another bus, it comes about 10 minutes later.

Long bus ride out of Castellon and into Benicassim, and along the waterfront. Out into condo-tower territory, big blocks of beach-vacation flats. Finally we get to our stop, and find the apartment (Dora has been here before, it's her sister's apartment). And the building manager is waiting for us.

We get into the flat after 1:15, and it's big and nice. Pics. But I'm tired and achey from the train ride. Dora has me take pictures of the whole place, so maybe they can advertise it for rent online. The agent who's supposed to be renting it out hasn't been coming up with much.

Out at 1:45 to buy some groceries before the stores close at 2. The Consum store is closed already; I wonder if it's closed for the winter season. We find a small but nice supermercado and load up with food. (I almmost buy a liter of vinegar, thinking it was cooking oil.) Back home by 2:15 or so. Now I'm really tired.

We try to use the stove, but it's some high-tech cook-top with embedded touch-buttons, and someone has cracked it right across, so it seems to be dead. Fortunately, we have a microwave too.

Dora cooks some beef and we have meat-and-cheese sandwiches and instant coffee, and it really hits the spot.

No Wi-Fi here.

We crash for a long nap. I'm headachey, Dora's knee is a bit achey, we're cold, and the trip seems to have taken a lot out of us for some reason. I take a sumatripan, but it doesn't help.

An hour later, the heat has kicked in, we have more blankets, and I take a paracetamol-plus which soon wipes out my headache.

We head out around 7. Only a few cafes are open, but incredibly, some people are sitting outside. It's cool and very windy, which makes it feel cold. I guess the people outside are sitting in places sheltered from the wind; we're shivering. We wander down onto the boardwalk 1/3 of the way into the beach, just to look. Back up to the road, and eventually down into the "Pinguins" fast-food place. We have cafe con leche and crossants, it's reasonable warm, and there's football on the TV. We're feeling good.

Then they turn up the TV volume a bit, and here comes Real Madrid versus Celtic Tigers football ! And half a dozen more people come in to eat and watch.

We sit there for several hours, Dora doing Wi-Fi on her mobile, me watching the game and the people and reading my Spanish phrasebook. The game is a good one, with Ronaldo scoring three goals. Then Dora and I play a learn-Spanish game, where one person writes down a Spanish word, and the next person has to write another word starting with the last letter of the previous word. It's fun, but Dora keeps cheating by writing proper names, and I keep trying to do everything out of my head instead of using my phrasebook.

Home around 11. After midnight, we're hungry, and Dora finds the magic button-press that makes the stove-top work; it's not dead after all ! We have ham-and-egg sandwiches. Dora's up at 6 or so (I don't know how she burns the candle at both ends). She's working through paperwork for the apartment, bills for her sister. We agreed to get up at 7.

I wake up and look at my watch and it's 8:50; Dora's alarm didn't go off, and she wasn't watching the time. Bus service into Castellon stops at 9:30 today because of the marathon.

We rush out of the apartment by 9:05, no shave and shower. Down to the bus stop, seeing a bus pass in the other direction. I should have run across and flagged it down; we don't know if there will be one more bus going in our direction, or the last has already gone. Into "Pinguins", and the guy says we missed a bus in our direction by 10 minutes or less. We have cafes and crossants, and wait. We go out to the bus stop and wait some more. If no bus, we'll call a taxi. Fortunately, at 9:45 our bus comes. Sure enough, it's the last until midafternoon; we're lucky.

(On the bus, Dora figures out that she set the alarm on her mobile for tomorrow morning at 7, not this morning.) Down the waterfront, turn inland, and then we start seeing highway exit ramps closed because of the marathon today. Our bus makes a weird cloverleaf, backtracks, and then lets us off 6 or 8 blocks outside the center of town, as close as it can get today. No problem.

We walk 3 or 4 blocks, and see marathoners running. Up to a main street, take some pictures (I find my camera battery is very low; had planned to charge it this morning). Then we walk into the center while most people are walking out. Still cool and windy. I'm a little worried that everything will be closed today.

But I couldn't be more wrong. There's a big street-fair setting up, and then we get to the cathedral and Tourist Info is open (I get a map) and the cathedral is open. We see the cathedral and sit in there for a while. It's nice, but apparently no mass taking place this morning ? A dozen people are having a small service halfway back, doing readings and maybe a hymn or two, but I don't think it's a mass.

Out, back into Tourist Info, and two art museums are open today 1000-1400, and both have free admission. Next door, more street-booths, and some kind of student orchestra has just finished playing; we missed it.

Down 6 or 8 blocks and to Museum of Fine Arts. In and use the bathrooms, then into the biggest, nicest elevator we've ever seen, capacity 84 people. We laugh and take pictures of ourselves in it. Up to 2nd floor, mostly religious art, but some nice paintings. Up to 3rd, more secular stuff, a couple of really nice and interesting paintings, ceramics, a few cabinets, some burial shields unlike anything I've ever seen. Down to 1st floor, more stuff. We're using the elevator as much as possible, really enjoying it. And there's almost no one else in the museum today.

In Barcelona, reading maps and signs and museum legends is a bit of a pain because everything is in two languages, Catalan and usually Spanish, plus occasionally some English. Here, it's Valenciana and usually Spanish, plus infrequently some English.

Eventually out, and we find the Museum of Contemporary Art, which has just one big exhibit of strings running everywhere, with letters and some drawings, many from schoolkids but also from adults. Interesting but a bit limited.

Out, looking for a lunch place, and we stumble onto an art gallery / curio sale for some charity. Quite nice art, and various interesting trinkets and very low prices. I hand over some money to pay for the trinkets, and the two old ladies take forever to wrap the stuff. Then Dora is talking to them, and they're unwrapping and wrapping again, she's talking to them about the charity, which does medical work in Peru, Dora's home country. I'm muttering "lunch" and "let's go" to try to plant subliminal hints. Finally get my change, after they check price tags and add up about 5 times. Still more talking, as I wander around looking at the art and feeling hungry. Finally out.

Into a Bocatta fast-food place, and we get reasonable but slightly expensive fast food, a bacon-cheese-mayo-peppers type of sandwich for me and fried chicken for Dora, and fries and sodas. Sitting upstairs is warm and has a reasonable view of a square, and eating is good. But Dora can't get the Wi-Fi to work. Finally the people downstairs admit the Wi-Fi doesn't work.

Out around 2:45, to find Dora's friend's apartment and pick up some keys. Confusing; on her street, the numbers on one side don't match those on the other side. Finally we find her building, 9, across the street from 28 or so. We find the keys left for us at the corner fruit shop. Then we buzz, and it turns out her friend is home, we just weren't able to connect via phone. So we go up, and I sit in a sunlight balcony and read my phrasebook and listen to MP3s while the ladies talk. Turns out they have a lot of business to do, related to bills and repairs and cleaning of the apartment we're staying in. So I'm there for a while.

We come out after 4:30, and find we have left our map upstairs, and the lady goes back up to get it. Finally head back toward the center, not sure what we want to do. We decide to check the bus schedule at the bus stop. As we get to the plaza, we see our bus coming to the stop 200 feet away. We dash, and fortunately there's a line to get on, and we feel lucky to make it. We get on, then the bus sits there for 10+ minutes for no discernable reason. Off at 5. Next bus will be an hour later, so we were lucky.

Off at our stop. We go down to the beach for a moment, then take some time to try the new set of keys at our apartment building. Inside by 5:30.

Pics.

Heat, hot showers, Dora cooking up a huge batch of risotto with chicken (shouldn't have made so much). I thought we were going to walk on the beach a little this morning, then take a bus to the port to have a little lunch, then go. Instead, a frenzy of re-arranging the apartment so I can take pictures for renting it. And Dora's on the phone with her sister constantly. We don't get out the door until 11:30, and I find we're heading for the port, not the beach. I'm grumpy.

Catch the bus a little after 12. Down to port, wander around harborfront taking pictures, find a hotel that has tourist info and a much-needed bathroom.
Pics. A little more wandering, then catch a 1:10 bus back to home. Get home around 1:30.

Start the washing-machine, then across the street to the beach. The water is quite cold, as I expected; Dora keeps telling me the water is warm down here. We get our feet wet, take some pictures, and go back home. Pics.

Now we're rushed; we need to get the 2:30 bus, and if we miss it we'll have to get a taxi. Packing and cleaning and getting the laundry onto a rack to dry. Dora microwaves some of the leftover risotto, but we have no time to eat; I get a few spoonfuls of it, and the rest goes into the garbage. I'm pushing to get us out, out, out. Finally we're out, with the two large suitcases we arrived with, plus another big bag containing stuff from the apartment. I'm grouchy.

Down to the bus stop, and I relieved to see a woman sitting there waiting; we haven't missed the bus. Sure enough, in less than a minute, it arrives. We had no time to spare. Pics.

Into town and off the bus a little before 3. Realize we forgot to unplug the hot-water-heater before leaving; the cleaner will have to do that in a week or two. Waiting for the bus to the train station, with a few other people. Town is very quiet; it's a holiday. Bus comes at about 3:10.

To the station by 3:25 or so, for a 3:46 train. Just enough time to hit the bathrooms, then the boarding line opens up. Dora does a little fancy talking to get through with 3 bags between the 2 of us; we're only supposed to be allowed 1 big bag apiece. Surprisingly large number of people boarding the train here. I assumed this train would be arriving mostly-full from the origin, Valencia.

The train comes on time, I hump our luggage aboard and stow it, and the train is off. It didn't spend more than 3 or 4 minutes at the station.

Uneventful trip back; Dora buys various snacks, and I brought an apple and power-bars. I'm tired and still a bit irritated.

Out at Barcelona Sants station, longish wait to get onto a lift so we don't have to climb the stairs. We finally get smart and perch the 3rd bag on top of one of our wheeled suitcases, and movement gets easier. Still a struggle to get down the stairs to the Metro, through the turnstiles, down more stairs.

Onto the Metro train, out at Virrei Amat, and people are taking their evening stroll, and not stepping 6 inches out of their way to let me keep going with my 200 pounds of luggage. I just let it graze some of them; I'm heading for home. I'm grouchy.

Get to the front door, and neither Dora nor I can find our keys. Dora's son buzzes us in. In by 7:05.

Around 9, the three of us sat down to a big turkey-mashedpotato-rice dinner cooked by Dora. Cold, sunny, windy morning.

Received email from consulate: my new passport is available. I was going to pick it up today, then Dora said let's go together tomorrow, she has to go to that neighborhood too.

Out after noon. To an appliance place to look for used washing machines; no luck. Saw some street art:
pics. To Dia and bought groceries. Cold and windy; I'm wearing a ski-jacket and a ski-type cap.

Fixed outside Christmas decorations that have come loose, and put up some lights inside.

Around 6, out to a fruit/veg shop to buy bananas and apples. Cold but much less windy than it was earlier.

Decorated the Christmas tree with balls and other trinkets.

Dora home at 9, cold and very tired. Out at 11:15 or so with Dora, and as usual I'm confused about what we're doing. I thought we were going to Sarria area, to pick up my new passport, and for Dora to do some paperwork in a medical administration office there. But now I hear she has to be at work at 1. Not enough time.

On the Metro, she says she isn't going to the medical office, there's not enough time. So why is she coming with me ? She wants to ask some questions about a visa, at the US consulate. But I'm sure she won't be able to get in, she'll only be able to talk to a security guard.

To Placa Catalunya, long walking to connect, onto slow train up to Reina Elisenda. Out, and the cold wind is blasting along this street. To the consulate, and I thought I'd pick up my passport at the security station, but no, I have to go inside. Takes 10+ minutes to get new passport, but everything is fine. Nice shiny new passport, new number, thicker because I asked for the 52-page version, has some electronics inside it although I can't see any sign of that.

Come out, and no sign of Dora. I figure she's given up and gone off to work. I start walking down the street to do some sightseeing, but it's too cold. And then I realize I have a mobile phone. I've missed a message from Dora. I call her, and finally figure out where she is: in a cafe. Find her, and have a quick cup of coffee, stop into a very nice old building now housing a medical clinic (
pics), and back into the Metro.

As I expected, she got no help from the consulate security guard. And I find that when she says she has to be at work at 1, she really means 2. Anyway, back to Placa Catalunya, and back onto the Metro L1 together.

I'm out at F-i-P Metro; she's going on to Fondo. I go up Escocia to Lidl, got groceries. Home around 2.

Later, out to other apartment to do some cleaning; an agent is coming to look at it tonight.

Dora home late again, but this time I was smart enough to have the heater on and hot tea waiting for her. Out after noon, to look for Christmas postcards for Dora. No luck, bought groceries. Not so cold today.

Out again around 4, same story. Stopped in other apartment to clean a little.

Dora home late.
Headachey; took a paracetamol-plus.

Out at 1 to buy Christmas cards, kitchen timer, and groceries. Nice day.

Still headachey in afternoon. Took a sumatriptan, and later a Neobrufen.

Dora home after 3, and immediately started cooking. She made drinks with milk and some fruit similar to a nectarine (
Caqui). Dinner around 4:30 was spinach-cheese-milk-potato, and rice and peas: pic.

There are four things going on tonight that I planned for: holiday choirs/parade, free concert, free reggae band, then Dora has a company dinner to go to. But then I find that she also has a hairdresser's appointment, so she's out the door and the choirs/parade will have to be skipped.

And then the usual: time marches on, and no Dora. Finally she calls me at 7:10 and says she'll be home soon. She arrives at 7:35; now no chance that we'll make it to the concert at 8. And her 5-minute change of clothes is not going to be 5 minutes.

Out at 8. We'll go downtown and see what's happening. Into Metro.

Out of Metro at Jaume I, walk down to Born CC where the concert is. Dora wants to see if they'd let us in despite being late. They won't; the concert is 2/3 over anyway. We walk back to the cathedral area.

We're in time to catch the very last act in tonight's program, a horn-and-drum band. There are seats close to the band, and we sit down, but the volume level from the speakers is painful. Other people leave because of it, and after 10 minutes so do we. We can hear the band fine from 100 yards away. Pics.

We walk through the "Christmas fair" booths selling stuff, and look at some, but prices are high. And they're shutting down for the night.

We wander up through streets with nice Christmas lights, eventually to Placa Catalunya. There we go into the ice-skating-rink building. And they have some Wii U videogames set up for free playing; we try a downhill-skiing game, and then a motorcycle-racing game, and leave giggling. Pics.

Over to Cafe Zurich, for coffee and cheesecake and a beer for me. The beer probably was a mistake; not so good, and it will give me a headache again. Pics.

Out and into the Metro a little after 11. Pic. Dora has to go to a company Christmas-party, so we split at La Sagrera.

I'm out at Virrei Amat, and look for a free reggae concert I wanted to check out. I find it quickly by listening for the music, although it is hidden in a second-floor room of a civic center, up some dark stairs. Only 2 guys on stage, one running the electronic music while the other sings, and only about 20 youngish people standing around and talking and dancing a little. I listen for 20 minutes or so, then I've had enough for tonight.

Home at 11:50 and into bed.

Dora home at 3; apparently the Metro stopped at 2, she had to wait for a night bus, etc. Up at 8:30, over to other apartment by 9. I'm hammered from last night, and still have a headache (took another Neobrufen), but Dora was up at 7:45, and is going strong. I don't know how she does it.

Rental agents show up at 9, and I sit around while Dora gives them a short tour, they talk, then Dora signs a contract to let them show and rent the apartment.

Back home by 10, and now it's time to wait for the heater repairman. I get some breakfast and do dishes, and the repairman arrives around 10:30. He's a good guy, and certainly repaired the heater last time, but it turns out he replaced a 40A circuit-breaker with a 20A breaker "to save energy". That's not how it works. And that explains why the heater will run for 15 minutes or so and then pop the breaker. After some discussion, he says the old breaker was an old style, and he'll put in a new-style 40A breaker, which he has to go buy.

Dora wants me to go out with her, to have breakfast and probably go to the other apartment again, and maybe to the post office, but I'm having no part of it. Back to bed, but have headache.

Dora back at 12:45, still full of energy. I'm still tired and have a headache.

Feeling better after a shower and a big spaghetti lunch, but still a little headachey. Took a paracetamol.

Out around 3. Into Metro, out at Passeig de Gracia. Loads of people, as usual. Started going the wrong direction, backtracked, found Casa Batlo. Into International Art Fair, which turned out to be crowded and a bit smaller than I expected. The free tickets I printed barely got a glance before they waved us in. Some interesting art. Terrific building, but we're restricted to a couple of floors of it; the full tour costs over €20.
Pics.

Out, browsed some shop windows (pic), down to Placa Catalunya, more loads of people. Nice warm weekend afternoon before Christmas. Dora bought postcards, and then we went into Corte Ingles and up to the cafeteria at the top. We buy a couple of sodas and Dora braves the line for the women's bathroom. I grab a table at a window. Nice view down into Placa Catalunya and over the city, but the windows are smudged and reflective and the sun is glaring in.

Dora starts writing Christmas cards. This place is a bad idea for me: my headache is worse, and it's noisy and crowded here. Dora wants to go to a chorus/choir performance at 6, in which a friend of hers is singing. But she doesn't know the event name or details, and I can't find it on the internet using her iPad; the Wi-Fi here seems poor, and I've never browsed with an iPad before, so can't tell if it's working properly.

Eventually we leave, find there's no post office in this store (some others have them), giving up waiting for the lift, take escalators down 6 floors through masses of people, and out. Into the Metro, and the train is crowded. Dora is starting to fall asleep on her feet. After 3 or 4 stops, we get seats. Out at F-i-P, up near home, and we split up. I go home and Dora goes to lock the other apartment and mail the cards. I'm home before 6:30, tired and headachey.

Dora home at 8. The mailing place charged double postage because the envelopes were colored, not white. And she ran into chatty neighbors and a long line. But she's still full of energy.

My headache still is fairly bad. Soon she injects me with Nolotil, and gives me a Lexathin pill (muscle relaxant).

Big lentils-meat-rice meal at 9. Chased with a melatonin 10 mg pill, Glucosamine Chondroitin pills, and an injection of Pneumovax 23 vaccine (this is turning into a medical blog). Feeling mostly okay this morning.

Went out after 5 to buy some things from a hardware store and a fruit/veg store. Got halfway there and realized it's Sunday, everything's closed. Took a bit of a walk and then home.

Dora home at 10:30 or so, a long day.
Grey and raining.

Out after 1 to stop in hardware stores, and then buy groceries.

Made a lasagna. Took pictures of the Christmas tree; not easy with blinking lights:
pics.

Out again for another trip to the hardware store; I'm replacing some burnt-out lightbulbs in overhead fixtures.

Dora home late. She approved of the lasagna. Out to the post office (correos) to mail Christmas postcards and cards for Dora. Got there at 11:15, and it's jammed. Took a number, and there are 32 people in line for sending, others in line for receiving.

Waited, and waited, and waited. Each person seems to be taking 5 minutes at the counter. At various times they have 3 agents handling sending, but it still goes slowly. I have to go to a doctor's appointment (dermatologist) at 1 outside of town.

Finally give up and leave at 12:05; it's going to be another 20-25 minutes until they get to me, and I have to go. Home, quick bite to eat, pick up things to take to doctor's office, and out. Down to F-i-P Metro, to Clot, transfer, long ride to Badalona Pompeu Fabra. Out of the Metro at 1 exactly, no sign of Dora, went straight to the doctor's office two blocks away, getting there at 1:05.

Only a receptionist and the doctor are here. With my limited Spanish and their limited English and some pointing and smiling, I fill out a 3-line form and go in. The doctor examines my face, I take off shirt and a quick glance at my back and chest, then Dora arrives. The two ladies are good friends, and they talk non-stop while I lie there. Soon the doctor is injecting anaesthetic into 4 spots on my face, then burning off one biggish actinic keratosis on my right upper cheekbone area, and a smaller spot above that. A little painful at times, and a smell of burning, but it takes only 15 minutes or so, then done. [Found out later, she was using an electric-arc tool.]

The ladies chat, and Dora gives the doctor a scarf as a Christmas present. I pay €50, and we leave.

Down to the beach area, and Dora and I have a simple lunch at an outdoor cafe right next to the train tracks, and looking over the beach. No wind, so it's quite comfortable. Frankfurters and sodas. Dora is at a hypertension conference today, then has to work all night, then back to the conference tomorrow.

Done with lunch, run for the train, into town. Confusion as we both used my ticket, but now have to split up at Clot station, and there's my Metro train, I jump right on. I end up with the ticket, and hope Dora doesn't get checked at the other end (which would be a big fine). I'm home by 3:15 or so.

Out at 3:45. To Corte Ingles, waited in line 5+ minutes, paid €11, mailed the cards.

Out at 5:15. To two hardware stores for lightbulbs, then a fruit store for oranges.
Up at 8:45, showered, straighened up apartment. Dora is expecting someone at 9:30, but no sign of her. Then I realize I missed a call from Dora, so I call her.

She shows up at 9:30, with a medical salesman in tow. I thought she'd be tired after working all night, but later I found out there were no patients at all, so she slept all night.

The salesman is here until 11:30 or so, doing some kind of deal with Dora and her sister who lives in the south. Later I find out Dora is buying an examining table and dermabrasion machine. They'll be delivered very soon, and we have no room for them in the apartment. We'll have to get rid of a sofa and maybe more furniture, and shift her son to another room, and more furniture is coming from the other apartment so it can be rented (we hope), and it all has to wait until we get back from our trip to the south for Christmas. Sigh.

Lunch (
pic), then Dora and I are out around 1. To hardware store for lightbulbs, to key-making shop, out and test the keys and have to take one back to be re-done, various dashing around. Christmas card from my sister in Indiana has arrived; took only 5 or 6 days to get here. We end up in the other apartment for what I think is a few minutes, but turns into almost 2 hours of cleaning and other logistics. I find a couple more cell-phones lurking around; we must be up to 6 or so at this point. And as we're leaving, there's some fiddle with the electric that has to be un-done, since there will be an inspection tomorrow. But it's internal to the apartment. And we don't know how to un-do it. Confusing.

Back home, and a big dinner with Dora: spinach sauce, rice, meat, salad.

Dora said she wanted to go to a couple of sessions of the conference today, starting at 4. But she shows no sign of getting out the door in time.

Out at 5:15 or so with Dora. Long Metro ride with transfer, to Maria Cristina station. Down past the big L'illa shopping center, full of expensive shops. Loads of people. To a medical conference that Dora theoretically is attending, to pick up her certificates showing she now is educated in a couple of hypertension-related things. I wonder about the state of medical education these days (just kidding; Dora is a very experienced and knowledgeable doctor, fully certified in Peru and now repeating everything to get certified in Spain, and the professor at her hospital makes her do a lot of study).

We wander back through the big shopping center (pics), and I'm getting tired. But the evening is just starting. Into Corte Ingles and up to the top floor, to a cafeteria. I don't want to be here, but Dora needs to write several more Christmas cards and mail them. So we do that.

Out, into Metro, and now we have to go to meet with a legal advisor (gestor); Dora is starting a private practice. The offices are in the middle of nowhere as far as I'm concerned, a neighborhood tourists never go to. Out at Collblanc Metro stop, and we're a bit lost and Dora's phone is empty. So we wander several blocks to find an internet cafe, she calls, gets directions, we get lost a couple more times, 8 blocks or so to the office.

Dora has a long consultation with the guy, while I sit on a sofa in another room and close my eyes and listen to my MP3 player. Fortunately, Dora learns a lot and says the guy is good, although it won't be cheap.

Out, lost again, ask some people, find a bar where we can use the bathrooms for the price of a coffee. Dora is saying she wants to meet a friend who is having dinner somewhere near our apartment; I'm going to skip that one. Out of there and to Metro and long ride back to Virrei Amat. On the way, Dora calls her friend and finds she's not anywhere near our apartment, so no meeting today; the friend will stop by tomorrow to pick something up.

Home at 10:35, and I'm beat and headachey. Took a Neobrufen.

At 10:45, Dora is saying the handyman is coming to the other building to change the electric, so we have to go there now. Sigh.

Out soon, and the guy is waiting for us at the other apartment. Up and in and he quickly un-fiddles the electric. After much discussion of this and other things between the two of them, we use white-out to cancel tomorrow's inspection. Back home by 11:20. Dora up after less than 5 hours sleep; I don't know how she does it.

I was ready to go downtown a little before noon, to see a couple of things. But Dora called, and the medical equipment is going to be delivered today, and I have to stay to receive it, because her son refuses to stay. So I ducked out to the grocery store and back. Nice sunny day today; hope I don't have to spend all of it waiting inside.

Turns out her son called and cancelled the delivery, then Dora made him call again and un-cancel it. At 12:45, the claim is that the deliverers are coming between 3 and 6. And no telling if/when her son will be leaving, and for how long. Perfect, that pins me in the apartment all day, pretty much.

Went out at 2 and walked some laps in the park across the street, keeping an eye on the street and front door. Dora's son left at 2:30; I went back in.

At 3:30, Dora calls and the delivery people say they came this morning and no one answered the door, so they won't try again today. I heard the buzzer go off while I was in the shower, and I guess Dora's son didn't answer it. Wonderful. And Dora's having a very bad day at work, too.

At 4:55, I was eating some leftover lasagna, when the door buzzed. I used the telephone and buzzed back to open the door, but the guy didn't come in. So I dashed down there, and signed for one big package and one smaller one. The guy was off like a shot. I took the smaller package up, came back and wrestled the bigger one into elevator and into apartment, and done.

Dora called around 6:40, and was happy to find that the packages arrived (she didn't see the phone text message and the email message I sent her when they came). She's totally stressed-out today, to the point of having neck-muscle spasms and having to take painkillers, and wants to strangle a couple of people (one at work and one at home).

Dora home around 9:30, by taxi, very upset and in pain.
Up around 4 AM, getting Dora's son out the door to the airport, to fly to south of Spain for Christmas.

Headachey; took a paracetamol.

Opened the boxed delivered yesterday, just to see that the contents looked right.

Out with Dora around 10:45, to the health center. We're there for more than an hour and a half, as she deals with a number of issues for her and her son.

Back home briefly around 12:45, then Dora's out for several errands, and I go to the other apartment. Strange there: the main breaker has popped. Turn it back on, and everything seems okay. Dropped off a few things, turned off all the lights, picked up mail, went home.

Dora was supposed to be out for 3 short errands, but was gone for more than 2 hours. I was cooking spaghetti and leaving it to simmer until she got back, and getting hungrier. She finally got back after 3, having added more postcards to the list of errands. The spaghetti was very good.

In the mail from the other apartment was a delivery notice for yesterday's boxes. So that explains some of yesterday's confusion: they tried to deliver to the billing address instead of the shipping address.

After dinner, I crash for a nap. Wake up around 6, and I assume since we're catching an early train tomorrow, we'll spend the evening packing and such. But no, we're going out to shop. To a shoemaker, to leave a couple of pairs of leather shoes to be stretched a little bigger to fit me. To a used-appliance place to look at washing machines. Out to Virrei Amat plaza, where there's a kid's-carnival going on, with several rides and some bouncy-rooms and some carnival games and food stands. I'm too tired and cold to take pictures. Down F-i-P and into a clothing store, and Dora buys me a couple of pairs of nice pants for Christmas (interesting price tag on the pants:
pic). Into a housewares store for a while. To BonPreu for laundry detergent. (I have been complaining that I never can understand the total bill when it is spoken to me; this time Dora listened, and later told me it was in Catalan. And it was softly spoken.) Finally home by 8.

Late snack, and starting to pack.

Delivery service sent a text message to Dora at 9:45, saying they tried to deliver another piece of equipment tonight at 6:20, while we were out. Didn't call first, didn't message until 3+ hours later. Idiots ! And we didn't know there was another piece coming.

At bedtime, Dora's neck and hands still hurting. I put on disposable gloves and massaged them with capsaicin cream. Up at 5:30. Packing; as usual, Dora is trying to fit three suitcase's worth of stuff into two suitcases. Lots of stuff being taken to the people in the south.

The usual kicking and pleading to try to get Dora out the door mostly on time. I was hoping for 7, but I think we get out at 7:15. We have four suitcases, one huge, one big (mine), two small, plus Dora's purse (heavy), my small knapsack of all my important stuff.
Relevant:
pic.

To Virrei Amat Metro, some confusion getting thorugh the turnstile, into the lift, down, and the train is right there, perfect timing. We dash and get in, and as Dora hauls the biggest suitcase the last 10 feet, the handle snaps right off. It's about 7:25. I'm sweating and there's no air moving in the train, and after another stop it's crowded.

To Sants Estacio, and had to haul the suitcases up a couple of flights of stairs. The wheels on the biggest suitcase are coming apart, and barely attached to the body of the suitcase. It's 7:50. Through the security scanners, and into the boarding area. I'm more sweaty, and no air moving in here either.

After 5 minutes, the boarding line forms. We're worried that they may charge us extra for the extra luggage, but we're through and onto the train by 8:15. Where Dora tries to save a particular spot for me to put the big bags, and gets into a shoving match with another woman. Finally I get her to stop, and she goes to complain to someone official while I stow the luggage.

Train leaves just about on time, 8:32. There are empty seats. Within 10 minutes, we're doing 220 KPH. We touch 297 KPH before 9:00. Our ears are popping as we go through tunnels.

Down to Tarragona by 9:05. Train mostly full now. To Lleida by 9:40, seeing some big wind-generators out on the high mesas in the distance. At Zaragoza at 10:27. We're usually doing around 270-280 KPH.

Then a long stretch, with thick fog a few times, and only a few small herds of cows, sheep and goats. We're a bit confused about the geography, expecting to stop in Madrid. But time is ticking away, and we stop at Ciudad Real at 12:20. And then we realize that this train bypasses Madrid; we're past it.

Puertollano at 12:37; totally solid fog. Through a short tunnel through a ridge, and suddenly we've move from fog to clear and sunny.

Cordoba at 13:20. Then we arrive at Sevilla just about on time, 14:04.

Then our connection onward turns out to be a problem; I thought we were getting on a bus, but we've arrived on a holiday Saturday, and Dora has never been to this station before. We're just in time for a train to Jerez, but it's full. We could take a bus to another bus, but the buses are on less-frequent schedules. We finally decide to get a train at 4:45, arriving 5:48 in Jerez, to catch a 6:00 bus to Sanlucar de Barrameda.

Dora disappears for 45 minutes and reappears with a load of tourist brochures. I wander and take a few pictures (pics) and find a bathroom; no bus maps in evidence, and Dora says Tourist Info is closed, I don't even see where it it.

Supposedly free Wi-Fi here, but I can't find it. Dora buys food for us from McDonalds.

Onto the train around 3:35, and off. Not sure of the order of stops, and the nice video display just says "listen to the PA announcements", but we figure it out. Surprisingly fast train, 160 KPH or so. We're anxious because it's supposed to arrive at Jerez at 1748, and the bus will leave at 1800.

So when it's time, we get up and someone gets our luggage out for us, and we wait right in front of the door. Arrive at 1752, rush out and through the station and to the adjoining bus terminal, and it's fairly deserted, no ticket offices open. One bus comes, but it's not ours. I look at the schedule, and our bus doesn't come up until 1900. So we have an hour to wait. Fortunately, we have warm clothes, water and other essentials, and there are bathrooms.

More people gather, and the bus comes. We all get on, the driver closes the door, and more people who were hanging around rush to the door and get on. Then one last woman stands in the doorway to hold it open, and the driver starts yelling at her. After a couple of minutes, her boyfriend shows up; she was holding the bus for him. More yelling, and finally we're off.

Longer ride than I expected, and soon on a highway. Today, when we've been moving, we've been moving fast.

Eventually into Sanlucar de Barrameda, and we wind our way to the bus terminal in the center.

15-minute wait for one of Dora's sisters to come pick us up, and as I expected, it's in a smallish car with two people completely occupying the front seat and 1/3 of the trunk full of stuff. We put three suitcases in the trunk and jam the biggest suitcase and Dora and I into the back seat, and we're off. Fortunately it's less than 10 minutes to the apartment. In by 8:15 or so.

The apartment is a bit of a mob scene, as we get settled in and I meet the two grandparents, Dora's sister and her two 6-month-old babies, and her other sister's 6-year-old daughter. I start trying to speak a lot of Spanish. Dora and I have some spaghetti with spinach and basil and bread.

At 9:45 or so, we're going out, Dora and her son and I and her sister and the other sister's daughter. It's supposed to be some "Sambomba" fiesta where kids sing Christmas carols in bars and restaurants. We have a longish walk through damp cold weather into the center, but find a bar having a normal Saturday night band. Dora and I stay, the other go back home.

We have strong "herb" drinks for €2 each, and dance a bit in the crowded, small bar. The bartender comes through the dancing crowd offering fiesta sweets and chocolates on a couple of trays; I'm impressed that he can get through without having both trays dashed to the floor.

After 11, I've had enough, and we go home through cold, fairly empty streets. I'm totally lost, and Dora has a little trouble finding the right street, but we're home by 11:20. Up at 10:45. Bathroom is free, which I figure is rare in this apartment, so I take a shower. Come out to wonder where everyone is. I hear the babies in a room, and the daughter watching TV. Find out Dora and others went to visit her other sister, who's working a 48-hour shift in hospital and then private practice.

Can't get Wi-Fi on my laptop, even though I'm right next to the router. And I'm getting weird little shocks in my fingertips; I decide to unplug and move to the other room, and don't seem to get the shocks there. Finally get the Wi-Fi going. [Later, I get the same shocks when the laptop is on the bed, plugged into a different outlet. And Dora says she's had the same in this apartment. I think the wiring may be bad. My laptop adapter and the sockets in Spain don't have ground pins, just the two hot pins.]

Before noon, everyone's home. Solid fog outside. Babies being fed, breakfast for us.

Slow, lazy afternoon, playing with the twin babies and the daughter, me trying to improve my Spanish, the others learning some of my English, a few serious conversations among the family.
Pics.

Around 3:30, we sat down to a dinner of tripe and rice and potatoes and sweet potatoes. Earlier than they would eat, but I want to go out for a walk with Dora, and when we started eating, they all joined us. The grandfather gave me a small glass of Italian vermouth, something I'm not used to, 30 proof. I shared it with Dora, but still it was a bit more than I'm used to.

Trying and trying to get out for a walk with Dora, before the slight sunshine and warmth outside are gone. But it's hard to get her out the door. 5:15 and counting.

Out at almost 6, with Dora and niece. I ask to go to the beach, not the center, because I'm still disoriented. Two blocks and we're there, and it's nice, and I start to get oriented. We check out a restaurant to come to on Christmas Eve, then walk down the beach promenade.

We walk down to the main street, and past it to another, We're trying to find a place with Zambomba dancing, that someone has directed us to. We finally find a modern mall, with some kids dancing on stage, but I don't think that's it.

We go into the center, where there are lots of nice lights. Pics.

We run into Dora's sister and son, who we thought were in a movie in the mall we just came from. They decide to go home with her niece, and Dora and I go into a bar, and I have a Bailey's while Dora has a coffee and tips some of my drink into it. We have a nice time, the place is decorated nicely, but there's no band or anything.

Out, and I want to go home, but Dora wants to go somewhere that a friend of her other sister is playing in a band. Of course, it's halfway out of town in the wrong direction. And I'm a little grumpy that my eyeglass frames, which have been failing slowly over the last couple of days, now are falling apart at one hinge.

We go there, and grab front-row seats in the small bar (I hate being in front row). One of Dora's sisters says the other will be arriving here soon, but she doesn't show up. We listen to four songs, religious Christmas type with big women coming up from the audience to dance flamenco. I think the music and singing are monotonous, I'm tired, and I hate sitting front row, too loud and everything in our faces. Finally we leave, and start walking home. And find out that her sister went to a movie, was not coming to the bar.

But it's a long walk home, and Dora's boots have been hurting her feet for a while. She calls a taxi, and we get home by 9:15 for only €4 and change.

I find out we're going to an opthalmologist on Tuesday to be evaluated for Lasik-type eye surgery. I'm not too serious about getting the surgery, Dora is more interested in having it, and I think this is a friend-of-a-friend deal.

Dora makes a big spinach-noodles and egg and potatoes dinner for the two of us at 10 or so.

I get some time bottle-feeding a baby. I've already had a fair amount of time holding the babies. Lots of fun for a short time.

Getting ready for bed, the key button on one pair of my new pants comes off. Sigh. Then Dora hands me a baby to hold, and within minutes he's howling and I can't stand up to walk him around and quiet him. Dora is out at 7:30 or so, to go pick up her sister from work, the sister who rents this apartment and has been working for 48 hours now.

At 8:30, I'm up. The apartment is quiet, no one else stirring, so I'm into the shower. I shave, but then the water runs and runs and only gets slightly warm for a minute, then cold again. I wash my head and go out. But Dora is back, and says it should work. Her father throws a switch somewhere, I think, and soon there's plenty of hot water.

Dressed and out at 9:15, expecting to meet the missing sister, but it turns out Dora was wrong, the sister STILL is working, until tonight.

I also thought the big national Christmas lottery, El Gordo, was going off at 0900 this morning. I remind everyone, they get excited and turn on the TV, then tell me it will take all morning to pick the numbers, with the big one coming at noon, I think.

I'm trying to figure out El Gordo. You buy a 5-digit number. Each number is sold as a group of 180 tickets, which are further divided into 1/10th decimos, where each decimo costs €20. If the number hits as the big winner, and you bought only 1 share of the 180, you get 1/180th of the top prize. But starting at 0900, they're picking numbers that win smaller prizes, €1000 each. And I think that's €1000 for each share, not for the whole group. So you can win €1000 from a €20 stake. There are chances to win €20,000 too, and ways to win by matching last 1, 2, 3, 4 numbers from the top number. But there's some additional complication I don't understand: "series".

As the numbers are being picked now, a child sings them out "34567 for 1000". Oddly, the numbers are not being displayed on the TV screen; you have to listen.

I ask Dora and her sister what the top prize is, and consult
Wikipedia's "Spanish Christmas Lottery", and it seems to be €4M divided by 10, for each 1/10th (decimo) of the 180 tickets in a group. So your €20 can win €400,000 if you hit all five digits of the top number. The total of all prizes is the biggest in the world, a couple of billion Euros. Another explanation here.

Dora and her sisters and mother have bought 4 decimos, different numbers bought at different places across the country, and will split any winnings four ways. And Dora has bought another decimo or two for herself. I was the custodian of Dora's tickets, and brought them out this morning.

Dora and I demonstrate a little yoga, to the amusement of her mother and sister. But her sister has done some before, as part of therapy for a neck problem.

Dora sews the button back onto my pants. I try to use a needle to clear out my eyeglass hinges so I can jury-rig them, but no luck.

Dora calls to set up the opthalmologist appointment for tomorrow, and it turns out hers will be free, but mine will cost €70. I'm not sure I want to do that. I could use a new eyeglass prescription, but I'm not so interested in the eye surgery, and it's unlikely I'd have it done here.

Out at 10:45 or so. Sunny but cool day. We're into the car with Dora's father, and off to a medical office that her always-working sister is planning to rent.

We get there, and find that her sister hasn't chosen between two rooms, and a big box containing an examining table has been delivered and the existing doctor is anxious to get it moved or installed. Lots of rapid-fire Spanish, and Dora on the phone to her sister, until finally the room choice is made. We start moving out existing furniture and moving in and unpacking the new equipment. The examining table has come with no instructions, and there are lots of parts, so we can't assemble it.

Finally we stop and leave, around 12:30 or so. Her father drops us off in town. We hit an ATM, and eventually find an optician where they repair both of our eyeglass frames for €4 total. A big relief to not have my frames coming apart every 30 seconds. But the guy tells me (rightly) that this is a temporary repair, these frames are on their last legs. We have a nice chat with the people working in the shop. We find out the last digit of the big lottery winning number is 7, which is bad for Dora's tickets.

Off through the center (pics), and we find a cafe for a coffee and soda. TV is showing various lottery winners around the country. One guy won €6 million or so, an old-age residence bought a whole batch of tickets and are sharing another big payoff.

Start heading home, and the streets are busy and we're semi-lost, and Dora is on the phone non-stop with various sisters. We emerge somewhere, Dora buys another batch of Christmas postcards, and we head home. A bit lost, as streets are curving and splitting. Finally home by 2:15 or so.

Dora and I eat at 3 or so; chicken and rice and lentils and soup. The rest probably won't eat until 5.

Time drags on, we're supposed to go to the supermarket, Dora's father is getting antsy as the women are on the phones and taking forever to get ready to go. Finally at 5:45 we're out, Dora and niece and I in back seat of the small car, Dora's parents in the front. To Mercadona, where we grab two big carts and a couple of smaller baskets. And find Dora's sister inside the supermarket, wheeling the twins around in a double stroller.

Shopping in a supermarket with 5 adults and two babies ! I think it's going to be a disaster, but they're in bulk-buying mode, buying staples. We buy a ton of stuff, load it into the car, and then it turns out Dora and sister and niece are off to a beauty salon, I'm going home with the grandparents.

We get home, and I try to carry all the heavy stuff, but Dora's father keeps grabbing stuff and toting it. Up into the apartment, I help them unload stuff, until I'm shooed out of the kitchen and start folding up reusable bags. Then Dora calls and says the beauty salon was closing too early to handle her, come meet her half a dozen blocks away.

So I do, and we go into a nearby bar and have tea while Dora writes Christmas cards. She takes so long to do the first one that I suggest we go Christmas shopping before the stores close. So out into the center, and start trying to get ideas of what to get for people. We duck into various toy, clothing and jewelry stores, and eventually buy a couple of pieces of jewelry. And then Dora's on the phone for a while again. Nice Christmas lights: pic.

We go several blocks toward home, then stop in an ice-cream shop I'd seen. We hit the bathrooms, I have a lovely brownie ice-cream cone, Dora has coffee and a muffin.

Home by 9:30. And the missing sister is there for the first time, so I get to meet her. Everyone's in the main room at the same time: the grandparents, the three sisters, four grandchildren, and me. Set the alarm for 7, but Dora's up at 6:20; I get up at 7. Almost no hot water in the shower; you have to let it run and run before it gets hot, I guess, and I just don't let it run long enough. But Dora showered before me; why aren't the pipes full of hot water ?

We push to get out at 8, and hustle to the bus station. Catch the 8:14 bus to Cadiz.

A long bus-ride, through El Puerto de Santa Maria, and to Cadiz by 9:35 or so. Along the way, I'm grumpy and debating with Dora. She has committed me to a €70 examination for something I generally don't want (LASIK-type eye surgery), in a place where I'm unlikely to be again. It turns out this is some kind of reduced-price deal, since it's in the hospital chain Dora's sister works for. And Dora and her sister had the surgery, four or more years ago. I change my mind back and forth a couple of times. Finally I'm persuaded because Dora is trying to make some professional connnections through this, and her sister would be embarrassed if I backed out of the appointment now. At least I'll get a top-notch eye exam, and maybe a new eyeglass prescription, out of it.

And Dora needs to hustle back to Sanlucar after the appointment; she wants to wish Merry Christmas to her sister's director at the hospital there, to do some more netorking. So we won't get to see much of Cadiz.

We cross a big street into the old town, and are lost. Dora wants a picture of me looking grumpy:
pic. We get directions from a couple of people, emerge at a big plaza where Tourist Info is just opening. The lady gives us a map and then writes all over it; I hate when they do that. The street names on the map are printed in tiny light-grey lettering; horrible. And little in this town is square; streets curve and split.

We walk on, stopping every now and then to ask directions to the private hospital, and a couple of people give us flat-out wrong directions. Finally I locate us on the map, and we're making progress. To the hospital by 10:15 or so, for our appointment at 11.

Into reception, where there's paperwork and Dora pays the €70 (I later give her that, and more). Soon I'm being tested and given eyedrops, and I'm a bit frustrated: I can't understand a word the nurses speak. The doctor is nice, and Dora is chatting up everyone. But this is going to take a while; they're not even doing Dora in parallel with me. It turns out after she had the surgery 4 years ago, she skipped the follow-up appointments she was supposed to have. And I was right all along: the surgery she had was not laser-only, it also involved physical cutting to open the cornea.

We go to the cafeteria for lunch at noon; we order chicken sandwiches but get ham-cheese-egg sandwiches. Back upstairs, more eyedrops and stuff, then Dora disappears for 45 minutes or so, disrupting the schedule. Turns out she went to chat with the director of the hospital chain.

Finally we're done. My eyes are fine, my prescription doesn't need changing, I could have either LASIK or PRK surgery, they would fix my myopia (nearsightedness) but not my presbyopia (inability to focus on very close objects). One of Dora's eyes is fine; the other could use a little tweaking. But it can't be done during this Christmas holiday; the doctor's starting his vacation this evening. We get reports and documents and say good-bye to everyone by 2:15.

As we leave, our eyes still are swimming and itching a bit from the eyedrops, and outside the bright sunshine is painful. We head back toward the bus station, mostly staying on the right route, and arrive with 15 minutes to spare. A few pics from today.

Onto the bus at 3 (€5 per person one-way). Long bus ride back, and I'm tired and headachey and my feet hurt. Home by 4:30. Take a paracetamol.

Soon Dora and her mother and I are sitting down to a nice rice-eggs-beef meal. Earlier today, I mentioned to Dora that I'd like to try some manzanilla (sherry), which this town is famous for. So now they haul out an unopened big plastic jug of the stuff, unlabeled, probably from some local cooperative. It's dry, and we don't like it, but then Dora mixes some with fruit juice and that's okay. Connoisseurs would faint. [Later, I read that manzanilla should be stored in refrigerator, served chilled, and once opened the "bottle" should be finished within a week. This has been stored and served at room temperature.]

After 5:30, Dora is off to the beauty salon. Not back until 9 or so.

I installed a new, flat-screen TV in the apartment.

Showed my family pictures to Dora's parents. Dora loves to see pictures of my family, and me as a child.

Fun with the babies: pics.

Eggs and toast and tea and orange with Dora and niece at 11:30. The day starts with the typical confusion and uproar. Today, Dora and I are moving to a hotel so 3 more in-laws can arrive. Yesterday, Dora said they're arriving in the afternoon. This morning at 8, the story changed to: they're arriving soon, but going straight to the hospital for a couple of hours. At 9, the story changes to: they're arriving here in 5 minutes.

I want to wait in bed until people come and go to the hospital, but Dora says no, get in the shower now, before anyone else can. So I get in the bathroom, and as usual there's no hot water. I let it run and run, for 5 minutes at least while I shave etc, and the water is totally cold. I give up and say I'll shower in the hotel later.

Back to the bedroom, but Dora chases me down and says there was plenty of hot water 10 minutes ago. Checks with her father, and the flame in the hot water heater is off. I think it has been doing that a lot. Back into the bathroom, and have a hot shower. Out, and Dora asks if I want to be introduced to the new people. No, I want to dress and breakfast and not talk to anyone and try to get out of my bad mood; I'll see them after the hospital. Argh.

I should have mentioned earlier: this apartment may have 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, but all rooms are small, the bathroom I use is tiny, and all rooms except the bathrooms are piled high with toys, clothes, medical books, medical equipment, and who knows what else. I thought Dora's apartments in Barcelona were cluttered; this is a whole new level. And the bed I'm in is 6 inches too short for comfort, and basically a lumpy mattress on the floor, plus headboards.

Five minutes later, Dora's mother is knocking on the door and dragging me out to have breakfast. I suppose she's cooked something, and go out. But no, it's just bowls of cereal that Dora probably poured before she left. I go out and eat.

Met one of the new people, the father of the twin babies.

Looked at hotel web site to find check-in time, and of course that info is nowhere to be found on the very fancy web site. Sent them an email.

Dora called at 10:45 or so. Out to meet her and her father in the center, in the cafe where we had ice cream. I find them, we eat a bit, then I'm off with Dora to visit a medical center nearby to say Merry Christmas to a doctor and have Dora do some more networking. (The clinic has a space-heater, which turns out to be a pretty cabinet and grill around a big propane or butane tank, and an open flame. Surprising to find that indoors.
Pic.)

I end up waiting for more than half an hour as Dora is in with the doctor; turns out she was discussing her sister's limited hours in this clinic, etc. Eventually out and back to the cafe, where her father has been waiting. To the car.

To her sister's new office, where a new gynecological examining table, rolling shelves, and doctor's stool are waiting to be assembled. And the instructions are extremely limited, just diagrams showing how things should look when finished. I spend a couple of hours assembling everything, with only a few false steps. But they seem to have given us a few too many long bolts instead of shorter ones, and I'll have to come back some other time to see if they can be shifted around to make everything work. Right now, all the parts are in the right places, but a couple of bolts are sticking out and not holding as they should. Pics. I feel like a parent assembling things on Christmas Day, although the results usually aren't similar to this.

Home by 3, to more confusion than usual. Two more grandparents in the mix. Turns out they're going to the same hotel Dora and I are going to. So why do we have to move ? I thought they were taking our room in the apartment. Do we go to the hotel now, then out to a restaurant, or to the restaurant first ? Is there room for all of us in the car ? I thought we were going to eat a big meal before going to the restaurant for tapas; obviously I was wrong about that. Have to call the hotel to make sure they hold our room. The hotel-restaurant decision gets made one way and then the other and then differently for 10 minutes or more. I need to hit an ATM; so does Dora's sister. We need to get to the restaurant before 4 or so, because the big rush (which requires reservations) starts at 6.

Dora with a baby: pic.

I go out in a car with the two sisters so I and one sister can hit an ATM. Back to apartment.

Dora and her father and I go to the restaurant "Mirador Donana" by 4:15 or so. At first they say it's full, no tables. Then Dora finds the manager, who she talked to yesterday, and we're in and going to the mid level, which overlooks the main area. A waiter grudgingly helps the manager push together three tables. The upper level is reserved (but an hour later, the people there are done and leave). So I had all the story wrong.

We wait a bit for the others to appear, and it takes a while, but Dora's sisters parents arrive. And we start ordering tapas. But the waiter says up here, you can't order individual tapas, you have to order a half-ration (about €9) or full ration (about €12) of each. So we order drinks and some shrimp tapas and some calamari tapas.

I'm not so happy here; it's noisy and formal and everything is seafood and I can't understand what anyone is saying and the others are not appearing. The drinks are good (I have manzanilla, then cerveza, then some of Dora's champagne), and some of the tapas are very tasty (but it's all fried and very salty).

We eat and talk and hope the band will start up. It's almost 6:30 before the others of our party appear; by then we're full, and it turns out the kitchen closed at 6, and there are no reservations in this part, we can stay as long as we wish. Pics.

The zombamba band starts up, to great acclaim. Dora and her sister and I dance, and both of them know how to dance. I don't like the music, don't understand what Dora and the other people see in it. There are short periods when it is rhythmic snd danceable, but other parts where you just can't do anything reasonable with it, and when people start clapping with the music, many of them seem to be clapping in different beats. But Dora is having a good time, so I dance along with her.

Most of the others of our party who came have left, mainly because the babies were here and didn't like the noise very much. And it turns we're going to have a big midnight meal at home, and one sister has to go do much of the cooking. So we're back down to four grandparents, two sisters, and me.

The grandparents leave around 8, and we leave around 9. Dora could dance all night, but I'm bushed. Home is only 3 blocks away; walking in the cool air and quiet is pleasant.

Lots of good smells coming from the kitchen. A big turkey was in the refrigerator yesterday.

Earlier today, we were pressing to find out how early we could get into our rooms at the hotel. Now I suggest going now, and coming back to the apartment later, but Dora says no, we'll eat at midnight and then go to the hotel afterward (1 AM ?).

20 minutes after getting home, the plan has changed again. Pack up, we're going to the hotel now. Downstairs, into car, to hotel, no problem at check-in, into a nice room by 10.

Only one free AC outlet in the whole room; Dora says that's normal. She brought an extension cord and I have a 1-to-3 US adapter, so soon we're charging devices and doing Wi-Fi. I feel better after a shower, and she's in bed in comfy robe and says she may never leave.

But we got out and over to the apartment by 11:40 or so. And found everyone sitting crowded around the dining table, waiting for us. Shrimp, octopus, hardboiled-eggs-with-tuna-salad, some sandwiches I didn't get to, turkey, ham, potato cake, some kind of champagne. And we all wore Christmas hats. (The northern relatives don't eat turkey; the rest of the family has immigrated from South America, and is used to eating turkey.)

At midnight, turned on Christmas music, poured champagne for everyone and "saluded" each other, "feliz navidad", multiple times. (Apparently this midnight-of-24th thing is an Andalucian tradition. Other parts of Spain, and South America, don't do it.)

Around 1, Dora and I and the 6-year-old daughter had to pretend go to bed for a while, so the others could bring out presents and then tell the daughter to wake up, Papa Noel had come and brought gifts. So up at 1:15 or so, and there are a ton of presents. The daughter got 4 or 5 dolls, and some other big sets of toys, and roller-skates that light up. The adults exchanged gifts, and I gave several sets of baby clothes to the family with the twin babies. Hard to take pictures with so much happening so fast in a small space. Pics.

It was fun, but I was sagging and wanting to go back to the hotel to bed. But at the end, the daughter wanted to sleep with her aunt Dora, either in the apartment or in the hotel, and she was tearful. Finally we just had to leave, and the son-in-law drove his parents and Dora and I to the hotel. Into the room at 2:10. Argh. Mostly awake around 9:30. Eat some muesli for breakfast. Feeling cotton-headed. Back to bed.

Out of the room after 1:15, feeling hungry. Took some pictures in the hotel:
pics. We head for the apartment, which is full of leftover food. But we go by way of the beachfront promenade, because it's a nice sunny day and I want to stroll there. Lots of people out, strolling.

We get within 3 or 4 blocks of the apartment when everything changes. I've been telling Dora to call ahead, and finally they call her, and everyone is not at the apartment, they're at the ice cream parlor, and want us to meet them there. So we go there, making a big loop and ending up about 2 blocks from our hotel. The parlor offers little real food, and they don't make it easy to find out what they do offer. I order a couple of hotdogs, and 2 minutes later, I'm told we're going back to the apartment to eat a big meal ! Why does this keep happening ?

The food comes, Dora and I eat half of the hotdogs. Then she and I are out, and her father is taking us in the car back to the apartment. It seems the others, including the lady with a bad leg and a cane, are going to walk there. Crazy ! I give up.

We get to the apartment, and Dora gives me "panetone" (Italian bread with raisins and candieded fruits, vaguely related to a fruitcake) and hot chocolate milk, and I start to feel less grumpy. Soon the hordes are home, and I retreat into a quiet room for a while.

An hour later, we're crowding around the table again for a big meal. A huge leg of turkey has been broiled for me, and I do a pretty good job of demolishing it. Dora and her son are the only others eating turkey; the rest have seafood. We all have potato cakes and juice and champagne, and I have another glass of manzanilla poured for me (it's still not very good).

The others tell a lot of family stories, and bring out an album of family pictures. Sometimes I can follow the conversation a bit, other times I'm understanding nothing. But they're having a lot of fun with each other, and it's a nice time.

After a while I retreat for a while again. Now and again I get to hold a baby for a while. I really should go out for a walk in what remains of the sunlight, but it's too late.

Around 7, Dora and head back to the hotel, with her niece. The girl will enjoy seeing the hotel, and spending some time with her aunt.

Skype-called New Jersey and talked to some of my family who have gotten together for Christmas.

Took turns drawing pictures of each other, for amusement. pics.

After 9, we were running out of ways to entertain the girl, so we went back to the apartment. Still trying to take a decent picture of the decorations: pic. Soon everyone was there, and the babies and their parents and Dora's son are packing to leave and drive home to the north of Spain. Dora and sister are doctors, so they have accumulated a huge trove of medicines to send with the other sister, who's not a doctor. I just stayed out of the way. Dora made some food for us around 10:30. We left after 11:15 or so, saying good-bye. To the hotel through empty streets. I'm looking forward to loafing in the hotel room all morning, but around 10:15 Dora's phone starts ringing. It's her sister, she'll pick us up downstairs in the car. The phone keeps ringing every 2 minutes for a while; no, she'll pick up some equipment and then pick us up, no, she'll take the equipment home and then pick us up, no, we'll meet her somewhere and later go to Jerez, no, ... Argh !

Dora rushes out at 10:45 to meet her sister, I'm to follow soon. But 10 minutes later she's calling to tell me to meet her for breakfast, we have to wait for her sister, we have time. Argh !

I tell her to eat without me, and I have some muesli in the room. Out and find her in the cafe. Soon we're going back to the hotel to check out, and her father dirngs the car around. To the apartment, drop off luggage, and soon five of us are back in the car and heading out to Jerez.

The father is driving, and both daughters are criticizing his driving, and there's a little uncertainty about exits as we get near Jerez.

Turns out we're going to an area of big-box stores and huge shopping malls, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. What fun. Parking is horrible. We stop first at a toy store, where the sister buys several doll-type things. Then to a big indoor mall. They want to buy me shoes as a Christmas present, and need to exchange a jacket bought for the grandfather from the north.

Into a horribly crowded Primark store. I'm left to look at shoes by myself for a while. Prices are very low, but only a few shoes in my size, and all are too narrow for my feet. Eventually out of there, to a shoe store, more choices but still they don't feel right to me. The Spanish generally are smaller than me, and the shoes narrower. My feet have spread out while using sandals. Eventually I talk Dora out of buying shoes for me.

Across to a perfume/bath store, where the sister buys a bunch of stuff with Dora, while us three men wait outside and I enjoy people-watching and wander a little in the mall.
Pics.

Finally out, and we're heading home, the sister has to work in Puerto at 3. We drop her off at a place to catch the bus, and we're home by 2:30. I'm hungry, and the women start doing stuff in the kitchen. The apartment is a lot quieter now that 5 people (including the twin babies) have left to go north.

Rice-lentils-beef-fruit dinner starting around 3; nice. And I start the drawing game again with the niece, drawing pictures of her and her dolls. Pics.

Wanted to go for a walk with Dora in the sunshine, but she was busy. Finally out at 5:30, when it was already getting fairly cool. Walked on the beach promenade, going fairly far down. Were turning to start heading into town, thinking of what we wanted to do, when we realized we'd promised to Skype to my sister in Indiana. So we hurriedly got some groceries and headed home.

Skyped to Indiana and had a nice conversation.

A light dinner (soup, toast, some turkey, fruit) at 8:15 or so.

Headachey; took a Neobrufen. And then Dora gave me some melatonin. Loafed in bed, and then using laptop in bed, until after noon.

Out after 1. Stopped at beauty salon so Dora could complain about the work they did a couple of days ago. Into a couple of hardware stores to look for something to diagnose bad electrical outlets in the apartment. To the hotel to pay our bill; turns out we left without paying; I thought we had paid in advance. Into Tourist Info, where of course the maps are not out on the racks, they're behind the counter, so you have to wait in line to get them.

Then back and forth, trying to catch a bus to visit some old couple that Dora used to live next to when she lived here. Confusion about what bus and when, and then Dora's sister calls and says everyone else is at a restaurant, she wants to treat us to a big dinner. So we catch a taxi out of town, to a restaurant "La Braseria de la Abuela".

Soon there's a big plate of flank steak and hotdogs and fried potatoes in front of us, and a beer and salad and bread. We stuff ourselves. I'm not used to having so much meat at one meal. But it's all tasty.
Pics.

Some guy comes around selling shares in a raffle, and I tell Dora not to buy any, but she does, and soon her mother wins the prize, a big box of cookies and pastries (pic).

At the end of the meal, we get some sweets that I don't like so much, but I think maybe they're a local specialty. And we all get glasses of "herb liquor". We had something similar in one of the bars, a pale yellow drink. But these are in smaller glasses, maybe 2 or 3 times as big as a shot glass, and the liquor is about 5x as strong as what we had before. Dora makes lots of faces as she drinks (pic), but she and I each get through 2 glasses over the course of the next half hour or so.

The others leave to drive home, and the father will come back for Dora and I. But 15 minutes later, the news is that he's not coming back, we should walk to a bus stop. Which is okay with us, it's a nice afternoon and we need to walk off food and liquor.

We walk about a mile along a fast road with very narrow shoulders; not pleasant. Then we get closer to town, and there are sidewalks. Interesting billboard: pic (NSFW).

Find a bus stop, ask a bus driver, have to go to stop on other side of street to wait for other bus. Promised 10-minute wait turns out to be more like 45 minutes. And just before the bus comes, huge clouds of black smoke start billowing up from something on the other side of the hospital from us. Pic. Dora calls the equivalent of 911, traffic starts to back up, she's out at the edge of the street telling cars to stop so the road won't be clogged when the firetrucks come. I'm telling her to get out of the road. Soon police and firetrucks go past, then our bus arrives. To my surprise, it turns around at the roundabout next to us, and heads back into town.

The bus does some kind of triangle route, through the poorer, grimmer outskirts of town. But then we're out and down a driveway, and the old couple are delighted to see Dora, and she has a nice chat with them and gives them Christmas present. It's a nice old house, nice plates from Spain and France and Jerusalem decorating some of the walls, nice garden outside with a working well.

We leave there after 6, and walk down into town. Cold wind is blasting up some of the streets, and they're narrow and have plenty of cars coming through. But we're dressed warmly, and soon we're out into the center. Into a store to buy another Christmas present, to the "cow cafe" (La Ibense Bornay) for coffee and hot chocolate and bathrooms, then to the eyeglass place. I'm amazed at the prices; I can get frames for €45, or frames and lenses for €50, a lot cheaper than I expected. But I don't particularly like the frames they have, can get frames cheaper online, and on Monday when they'll have more frames we'll be leaving. So, out of there, and we walk home. Home at 7:45.

Around 9 PM, I find something online that Dora wants me to print. We excavate a new printer from the clutter, but there are no cables. Minutes later, Dora walks in with her sister's work laptop, and asks if I can check why her sister can't save medical image files onto it. Sounds like days of work to me: everything will be in Spanish, the system will have no backups, no updates, no anti-virus, etc. Sure enough, I start it up, plenty of free disk space, lots of Windows Updates waiting. I start those going, and Dora walks in with a second of her sister's laptops to deal with. Then a couple of USB thumbdrives containing her sister's entire medical practice data, not backed up. There's an external hard disk on a shelf, but she doesn't know how to use it. I'm sitting on our bed with three laptops and various other equipment around me, and only one electrical outlet. I'd like to move everything out to the main dining room table, but can't find an electrical outlet out there.

Backed up the thumb-drives onto my laptop.

Dora went out and cleared people from the table and daisy-chained extension cords to it, and soon we had three laptops, printer, two thumb-drives, and external drive out there. After much futzing, decided we couldn't get the printer working; the proper power adapter probably was left behind in Barcelona a couple of years ago when her sister moved here. Can't get Wi-Fi working on the home laptop. More Windows Updating on the work laptop, and turned on automatic updating.

Aha ! Found the magic Wi-Fi button on the home laptop. Works now. Updating anti-virus. Home laptop is running Windows XP Professional; work laptop is running Windows 7 Enterprise. Ran anti-virus and installed Skype on home laptop. Copied thumbdrives to work laptop.

Dinner at midnight. Decided to stop the computing and put the room back to normal. We had planned to go out dancing tonight, but we're tired and it's late and cold, so we cancel. In bed after 1. Push, push to get Dora out the door a bit after 11. Into the center and past it, up the hill a little, to the Palacio de Medina Sidonia, for the 11:30 tour. We're there at 11:30 exactly, tour starts 5 or 10 minutes later. It's all in Spanish, I'm the only non-Spanish-speaker, which is fine, I just want to see the architecture and art and furniture etc, but they make a big deal out of it.

And unfortunately the tour guides love to hear themselves talk, and insist on all of us staying together. So 5+ minutes of lecture in a boring vestibule before we get to the good stuff. I keep wandering away and looking at things on my own, getting a beady eye from the trailing guide. Lots of interesting stuff to look at, but no photography allowed. They even made all of us turn off our cell-phones. And then halfway through, as they're carefully keeping us on the covered path to avoid walking on the tile floor, here come two loudly barking dogs into the main room. Turns out they belong to the secretary-director of the foundation, so have the run of the place.

Done with the tour, into the gardens, then into the cafeteria, which is quite nice.
Pics.

Out and down the street to Castillo de Santiago. Big, cold castle with great views over the whole town and river, and a cold wind whipping through. Up steps to the top of the tower. Back down, around outside a little, then inside to a very small display of costumes and weaponry; I was expecting a lot more inside. Pics.

Out around 2:30, and I thought we were heading home for dinner. But no, a call from the sister, and suddenly we're going to the hospital so Dora can have a free echography of her kidney to see how many stones she has. So into the center (pics), quick stop at the cow cafe, then her father picks us up in the car. All the way to the hospital, he's giving her static about the nice dinner waiting at home, her mother bought roast chickens, why the heck are we going to the hospital ? I agree completely.

He drops us off and heads home; we're on our own to get back. Into the busy emergency room area, and soon we find Dora's sister in an office. Dora wants to introduce me to everyone, and wants me to come along as she gets scanned, but I'm grumpy and I plant myself in the waiting room and listen to my MP3 player. She says I can get a free EKG, it will be fun, come along, but I'm not buying. So she goes off by herself.

She's back in less than 10 minutes. She had an EKG, but the doctor who does the echographies, the whole reason for coming here, is not here. So the trip was a waste.

Out of the hospital, and it's a half-hour wait for any bus. So instead we walk back into town. A longish walk, maybe 2 miles, to home. But we stop at the bus terminal for the bathroom and to find times for tomorrow's buses to Sevilla.

Close to home, we try oranges from one of the many orange trees growing in the sidewalks here (pic). Dora has been told the fruit is no good for eating. We each try one, and they're soft and ripe and juicy and have a nasty bitter taste to them. Yuck !

Home at 4, a bit footsore.

Dinner makes me feel better: roast chicken and fries and a little lettuce, and soda. Pic.

The niece digs out Halloween wigs, and we clown around a little. Pics.

I thought we were supposed to dash back out to see an old lady friend of Dora's at 5, halfway out of town. At 5:10, we're still here, Dora is making no move toward the door, and I'm not going to bring up the subject. But at 5:50, she says "let's go"; I beg off.

More drawing and picture-showing with the niece. But now she reacts to funny drawings I make by crossing out her name and writing "Este Bill".

Installed Skype on the home laptop, then found it has no camera, and the audio isn't working. Tried everything I could think of to get the audio working, drivers and user manual and BIOS, but no go.

Dora back at 8.

Installed Skype on the iPad, and Dora was able to video-call a relative in New Jersey.

Various messing-around. Somehow we're eating a meal at midnight-thirty again; have to stop doing that. In bed by 1.

One thing I've noticed: Dora keeps saying people here in the South are "very Catholic". She says her father goes to Mass; I don't know how often. But no one else in the family (which is not Andalusian, they're Peruvian and Northern) has gone to church at all during this holiday season. Dora up by 5:30 or so; I'm waking at 7:30.

Dora injects herself with a blood-thinner (Clexane), since we'll be sitting on bus and then train for total of 7 hours today. She wants to inject me, too, but I say no.

Have to go out the door to bus station at 9:45, so of course a little after 9 Dora is going out with the two ladies to bank and pharmacy. Argh !

But they're back at 9:45; turns out they skipped the bank, plans changed several times already this morning. And we're going by car to the bus station, which means we'll be in plenty of time. Tough to load 2 big suitcases, 2 smaller suitcases, 2 carry-on bags (Dora's big purse and my hand-backpack) and 4 of us (Dora's parents and the two of us) into the car. But we're to the station by 10. We say fond good-byes, and they're off to pick up Dora's sister at the hospital. We didn't get to say good-bye to her or the niece.

Of course the bathrooms in the station all are being cleaned. Finally we get in, then get water and a can of soda. And almost forget to buy bus tickets.

Bus arrives on time at 10:15, we load in a hurry, and it's out of there quickly.

Long ride to Sevilla, stopping in 4 or 5 other towns along the way. Arrive on schedule, around 12:30. Loads of people in the parks and on the streets. Nice bus station:
pic.

We find a nice cafe (Casa Ricardo) right across from the bus station, and pig out on coffee and four montadito sandwiches (chorizo, pollo, pork, mixture). Too much food, but we're hungry, and the whole bill comes to €11. And Dora did Wi-Fi.

Over to the edge of the park to find the bus to the train station. A little confusion for a minute, but onto a bus. Slow ride through a lot of traffic, but we're to the train station by 2:10 for a 2:50 train. Perfect.

We use the bathrooms once, Dora tries to find stamps. Then 15 minutes before the train leaves, Dora heads for the bathroom and doesn't come back (turns out, after the bathroom, she went to buy a lipstick !). I had told her "quick, quick". I'm getting antsy. Finally I hump all four suitcases over to the boarding gate, and the lady there says the train leaves in 4 minutes. No Dora. I call her via the mobile phone and say get here now, now, now. She arrives in a minute, we dash down onto the platform, baggage through the scanners, our car is right in front of us, in with 2 minutes to spare. And no place to stow the big suitcases. Other people's luggage won't fit too, and a couple more people come after us. Train leaves. Our suitcases and others are out in vestibules where they're not supposed to be, but the conductor does nothing about it.

Uneventful trip to Barcelona. At every stop (there are only about 5 of them), Dora gets up and watches to make sure no one goes out the door with our luggage. I manage to photograph a nice castle as we whiz by: pic. Halfway through the trip, I make a long, swaying walk to the front of the train to buy a coffee for Dora, get all the way back, and 5 minutes later they're bringing a cart down the aisle and Dora buys another coffee.

Arriving at Barcelona Sants, we're all standing over heaps of luggage blocking the door, and counting down the arrival time. The train is late, and since it's a high-speed AVE train, if it's 15 minutes late or more, they refund half the fare. And this holiday-season fare was not cheap: €96 per person, each way. We arrive 16 minutes late.

Out, hump the suitcases up escalators. Find out we can't get a refund tonight, have to come back during business hours. Hump the suitcases down stairs to the Metro entrance, over the turnstiles, down more stairs to the platform. Train comes quickly, long fairly crowded ride to Virrei Amat station. Lift not working, up more escalators. Down streets toward home.

Into the apartment by 9:30. Everything looks fine. I promise my nice big bathroom with nice shower that I will never leave again. A flurry of unpacking. Dora finds the two sets of earrings she meant to take to the south as Christmas presents; they're still sitting on the table where she forgot them while packing.

Eggs and cheese and salami over toast, and tea, at 10:30. Then banana. Out around 11 with Dora. Retrieved keys from downstairs neighbor. To other apartment, I don't know why. Found a delivery notice in the mail, so off to the post office. Huge lines there. Took a number, left to walk around the block, couldn't find anywhere that would sell stamps or cash our lottery tickets. Dora says the postage prices are about to go up, so none of the stores are selling stamps until they get the new ones; she couldn't get stamps in Sanlucar either.

Finally out of the post office, got the package, but the sending line would have taken another half-hour. So down to El Corte Ingles to mail postcards and letters. Checked one lottery ticket there (zero), but other has to go to place Dora bought it.

To key-shop to have a key duplicated. To Metro. Long ride, out, try to find her son's school. Decide one stop too far, back in, back. Still no go. She didn't call ahead, doesn't have the address, finally someone says the school is closed until Jan 7.

Into Metro, to Sants Estacio. Slow line to the AVE counter to try to get a refund. I'm unsurprised when we come away empty. They say "have to wait 24 hours after trip, until we decide if being late was our fault, and if we say not our fault, no refund". Long Metro ride home. [A week later, via some email, I manage to pull this explanation from RENFE: "The delay of your train was caused by public disorder incidence - stolen cables in our railways." No refund.]

Two more big boxes of medical equipment have been delivered (downstairs neighbor accepted them); the apartment is filling up. One more small box expected. Home a little before 3, tired and thirsty. Dora starts cooking.

Before 4, turkey and rice and pepper-milk-cream sauce for dinner.
Pic.

Then the heater is on, and Dora is in bed opening gifts from my sister, and very happy. Pic. Then we both crash for a long nap. I'm headachey; later took an ibuprofen.

Just as we're about to go out the door, here's another (unannounced) deliveryman with two more (smallish) boxes of medical equipment.

Out at 7 to go to key shop, ATM, Dora's friend, then big grocery shopping at Dia. Home at 7:45, I'm tired and still headachey, Dora wants to go out to a shoe shop. I talk her out of that, but then she has us emptying and cleaning the refrigerator.

Around 9, got to the things I wanted to do: tonight is big-rubbish night, so we took out a broken chest of drawers and a perfectly good sofa. We need to remove furniture and throw away tons of clutter to turn this place into a home medical office with most of the medical equipment that's been delivered.

Still had headache. Dora gave me a rub with sulphur, supposedly to remove bad ions. Still had headache afterward. Took a paracetamol-plus. Have a bit of a cold. Took down the Christmas tree. Would like to leave it up longer, but we're going to do major furniture-moving and clutter-removal and equipment-assembly, and we need every bit of space. Moved a couple of chairs out onto balcony.

Did some yoga, for first time in about 5 weeks.

I hoped Dora would spend some time today throwing out clutter, getting ready to move furniture. But instead she was out at foud different banks until 2:30, then we had a big dinner and she crashed for a nap until 5.

Out after 5. To shoe shop to pick up shoes and drop off more. To used appliance store to buy a washing machine. To a couple of shops to buy a present. Onto a bus, to a nursing home to visit friends of hers, give the present, write prescriptions. Onto bus again, back near home. To a shop to buy red underwear to give to each other as traditional New Year's presents. To another shop for makeup, then I went home as Dora went to one last shop and then home by 7:30 or so.

Then at 8, Dora was rushing out to buy one last thing at a pharmacy. Supposedly the sales tax rate is doubling next year, so she wanted to make a bunch of purchases in this year rather than next year.

Occasionally coughing and sneezing, and still a bit of headache; I have a cold.

At 9, Skyped to Pennsylvania where all of the immediate family except me is gathered for a party. An odd sensation, being steered through the house on an iPad, saying hello to everyone.

Had a really bad coughing fit, and afterwards Dora convinced me to start antibiotics; she started them yesterday. So, 5+ days of Augmentine Plus twice a day.

I wanted to get out the door at 10:30, but as usual Dora is taking forever. 11 o'clock and counting. The red undershorts I put on are itching me. Finally out at 11:10.

To Metro. I have to put on a gold bracelet; wearing some gold is another tradition, apparently. Short ride, transfer, then the train gets more and more packed as we head toward Placa Espanya. Finally we're jammed in. Eventually to the stop, then a wave of people pouring out and through the station. Up the final staircase, and we're packed at the top as we reach a jammed crowd at the plaza. We're exactly where I didn't want to be, in the middle of a massive crowd; I wanted to be at an edge. And Dora is wriggling us further into the center. People are jostling and pushing through everywhere.

I expected music, but we don't hear any. In the distance, we can see the metal man, but the magic fountains don't seem to be running. At least it's not cold; there's no wind at all. After 5 or 10 minutes, the crowd is counting down 10-9-8-etc, but I don't see a clock anywhere. Then cheering, and fireworks. Every time the fireworks stop, and I put away my camera, they start again and I have to dig it out again.

Right after midnight, we each ate 12 grapes (I brought some extras, so 14, I think). And Dora said we were supposed to make 12 wishes as we ate.

Soon people are shoving to get out and go home or to parties. We shelter behind a group around a guy in a wheelchair, and people are pushing past on both sides. We use elbows and shoulders to stand our ground. People flow around and past for 15 minutes or more, until finally things start thinning out. We walk up toward the museum and columns. But the metal man is gone, and soon the lights on the columns are turned off. No magic fountains either, and no music. Disappointing.

We head off to a side street, heading for Hostafrancs Metro to avoid the crowds, starting to feel colder. We stop in a cafe and have coffees and a bathroom stop, and relax for a while.

Out and to the Metro, and a reasonable ride home. We get to the apartment a little before 2:30.

Then it's time for a couple more traditions (I keep telling Dora, I think she's just making these up as she goes). We each crawl under the table and out the other side; I don't know what that means (online, it says "to find new love"; not what Dora had in mind). Then we take suitcases, go outside, and walk around the block; that means we'll travel during the year. Home at 2:40.

Drinks of some cognac-like liquor, then hot tea with lemon and honey etc.

Pics.

Into bed at 3:10. Up at 7:30, took antibiotics and had a nice breakfast, then back to bed until noon. Still coughing fairly badly; everything else is good. Dora doing massive clothes-sorting and ironing in the living room.

Around 1, yoga with Dora, then we're dancing to a very popular song on the TV ("Bailando" by Enrique Iglesias and Sean Paul).

At 3, a big dinner with Dora. Rice-bean-tomato stew. Spaghetti with tomato sauce. Turkey.

Around 4, we crashed for a nap. Around 7, dinner (stew, salad). Starting to straighten up the apartment, moving things around. But it's tough; every time I suggest throwing away or donating away something, "no, that's practically new" or "no, that belongs to my sister, she'd kill me". Hard to see how we're going to make this into a home doctor's office, AND bring over two pieces of furniture from the other apartment.

Taking down curtains and stowing various boxes, as Dora starts into a whirlwind of cleaning and re-arranging.
Feeling okay, but still have cough and still taking anti-biotics. Dora has been working hard to clean up the two smallest rooms, and we're starting to see progress.

Out at 12:15 for a massive trip to Caprabo, buying 8-10 jugs and spray-cans of various cleaners and detergents, as well as food. Home by 1.

Around 4, nice dinner of ribs and rice and salad and stew.

Around 4:20, power failure. Look at the fuse-box, nothing wrong. Then at 5:45, it's dark outside, and suddenly we realize other apartments have power, but we don't. I flip the main breaker to off, then back to on, and we have power. Strange.

Out after 7, to buy curtains. Zillions of people on the streets; I think Jan 6 is the big gift-giving day for people here, so shopping is in full swing.

Around 10, a bit of late dinner with Dora. Then tea. It turns out she's been spiking my tea with Chivas Regal; I thought it had a bit of bite to it, but with lemon and other stuff in there, it was hard to tell. Now we're out of the scotch, so she used Jagermeister. Not sure how well this mixes with the antibiotics.
Over to other apartment around 10:15. Hanging out laundry to dry, taking down curtains, etc. The washing-machine people showed up an hour or more late, but it's in and Dora is happy. Back home by 1:30 or so.

Nice rice and beef and salad dinner with Dora.

At 3:30, Dora brings me an absolutely enormous cup of tea, spiked with Jagermeister:
pic (banana is just to show scale).

Dora out to pharmacy in early evening, comes back with 3 or 4 medicines for me that I don't particularly want.

We wrestle a light but bulky and awkward sofa-bed out of a small room, through the congested living room, and stash it on the front balcony.

Out around 9, I think. To Metro, and to Hospital Sant Pau to see a light show projected on the front of the building. ABout 50 people watching. Very pleasant show, but hard to photograph: the lights are changing reasonably quickly, but my camera wants to gather light for 10 seconds for each picture. Really should have a tripod, and it would be nice if each completed scene lingered longer on the building. Pics. After 15 minutes I'm ready to go, and Dora is having a long conversation with a woman.

Finally we go, and head for a restaurant I found online. It's "Il Capriccio", an Italian and pizza place. To get a nice booth, we have to sit right up front, and if the door is left open, it's a bit cool. But the food is fine, we're happy, it's nice to be eating out. Dora has spinach cannolli, pork elbow, tea, and a nice yogurt for dessert. I have a quattro stagioni pizza (ham, olive, mushroom, artichoke) and a beer. We share the food, and it's good. Dora thought it was silly to order Italian pizza in Spain, and finds a little fault with the crust (she lived in Italy for a while), and maybe no Italian would eat such a heavily-topped pizza, but she eats some of it and likes it.

Out and down to Sagrada Familia Metro, a longer walk than I expected. Dora is cold, but really it's not bad.

Home a little before midnight. On the way home, Dora was cold and tired and complaining of her cold getting worse. Into the apartment and turn the heat on. Five minutes later, I turn around, and she's emptying out my suitcase and folding everything and sorting things to be ironed. I tell her three times to stop and go to bed, then give up. Out at 9:45 or so with Dora. Up the street to a bus stop, then a long wait for the bus to arrive. Up Villdaura and off, and to a friend's apartment. Strange building: two elevators side-by-side, one that does even-numbered floors, the other for odd-numbered floors. And each floor is split into two half-floors, separated by a brief flight of stairs. So her friend's apartment is the lower half of floor 6, and the even elevator is a half-floor up from there, and the odd elevator is a half-floor down from her door.

Nice visit with her friend, Carmen, who is 83 years old. Her memory is failing a bit; she repeats questions a few minutes later. Had a little tour of her apartment, then we went down and out to a cafe for coffee and sandwiches and croissant. Nice visit. (At one point, Dora translated something Carmen said as "Where did you find HIM ?"; I'm taking it as a compliment.) Started walking back to the apartment, and there is her son going by in a car, to visit her. So he pulled over and picked her up, and we didn't have to walk uphill again.

We walked home, enjoying the sunny but cool day.
Pics. Heard music coming from a church, so we went in and attended Mass. After 15 minutes, I felt a coughing fit starting to come on, so I went outside and sat in the sun and listened to my MP3 player. Dora came out when Mass finished 20 minutes later.

Stopped to buy flowers and herbs. Home at 1:30.

Huge lunch with Dora at 2:30. Ribs and rice and salad and chicken soup.

At 7, yet another laptop produced that needs major tech support. Half a dozen applications launch each time it's booted, Windows Update has 60+ updates waiting, various viruses or malware, probably no virus-checker or backups. Started working on it.

At 9:45, Dora still was feeling sick, so had me help her do "autohemotherapy" to herself. We stuck a needle into a vein on the back of her hand, pulled out about 10 ml of blood, and then she injected it into the side of her waist/hip. Supposedly this stimulates the immune system to work harder. We'll see. She's been wanting to do it to me, too, but I'm not going for it. Dora feeling better this morning. Maybe autohemotherapy works.

Around 10, Dora out to bank to talk about mortgage on other apartment.

Around 10:45, I took a load of laundry over to other apartment. Bailed water out of the washing machine, loaded it, started it. Took lots of dry laundry off the lines outside. Went home. Right back out, to Dia for some groceries.

Around noon, back to other apartment. Took laundry out of machine, put it out to dry. Loaded machine with curtains that were soaking in bathtub, started it. Back home.

Dora arrived, says good news from the bank, but the only news seems to be that the bank is doing a merger or selling a division, so no decisions until March or later.

We're out of Augmentine, so I switch to a different antibiotic: trimetroprima sulfametoxazol. I thought I had one more day to go, but Dora says three more. I still have an occasional bad cough, but otherwise feel good.

Still working on the infected laptop: multiple rounds of virus-checker, malware-checker, and Windows Update. Have to start deleting malware by hand.

Dora has to go to work, but insists on cooking me rice for lunch. I just want to have sandwiches. She cooks the rice and leaves. I cook the chicken she left out for me, and have it with rice for lunch.

Out at 4; there's a Three Kings parade today. Into Metro, connect, out at Drassanes near the harbor, and I'm about 5 minutes too late. From a block or two away, I can see masts moving through the opened bridge. There's a zillion people here, no chance of getting close enough to see anything more. I walk down to where the boat will dock. It's so flat here that it's hard to find a vantage point to see over the crowd, and the one high area has its view blocked by trees.

Eventually, kings come off the boat, but I can't see much. They go up onto a stage, where they and a couple of suits make some speeches. Why do I see nine Kings ?

Then they're into buses, and they and lots of hangers-on (about 20 buses total) are off to the parade start, I think at the zoo corner of Parc Ciutadella. I walk towards there.

But the crowds are ling the route already, 90 minutes before the parade is supposed to start. I wander around the old town a bit, into Santa Maria del Mar church, back to the parade route again, wander some more, eventually cross Laetana and go into the cathedral for a bit. Out and sit in the cathedral square for a while. Crowds lining Via Laetana too. I wander up to Placa Cstalunya, and it takes 5 minutes to get across the street at the corner near El Corte Ingles. I go into the store and use the bathroom, and back out.

Now it's 6:30, the parade is starting, but it won't get here for another hour or more. And every somewhat-high vantage point here is full of people already. I decide to go home. Dora wanted to meet me at the end of the parade after her work ends, but that won't be for a couple of hours, and maybe she'll change her mind.

Pics.

Into Metro, buy a new T-10 card (price has gone down !), out at F-i-P, home by 7:10 or so. Tired, and dinner hits the spot.

Dora home at 9:30 or so, and we're both too tired to try to rush out and see the end of the parade. She saw some smaller parade in Badalona, and a little party on Meridiana. Around 11, over to other apartment to take in laundry, put out wet laundry, bring laundry back to home. Out again, brought more laundry from other apartment, watered plants, bought bread, back home. Headachey; took a paracetamol.

Out at 3 with Dora. Caught 47 bus up Valldaura, and to Carmen's apartment. She's invited us for lunch, and it's pasta and fried chicken. The chicken is thin slices of boneless chicken, breaded and fried in oil, then drained:
pics. Nice lunch, and the two women talked and talked. I tried to ask about Carmen's experiences here during the Civil War and WW II, but all she remembers is sheltering underground during air attacks in the Civil War, when she was about 6 years old.

Walked home, through quite cold air. Home by 5:30.

We crashed for a long nap. Then moved a tall bunch of bookshelves out of the small room and into the living room. Laptop seems to be free of malware, finally. Put up curtains, my least favorite job. There are 8 solid and 8 lacey, and they are in two slightly different lengths that I never can distinguish. Got them all up, some are wrong, I'm going to leave it that way until Dora notices.

Both of us out at 12:30, Dora to work. I went to hardware store and bought a tarp for painting. Then to other apartment to gather curtains off the line, and wash dirty corner of one of them.

Loafed all afternoon, doing a little work in the room to be painted. Fairly cold day.

Out at 6 for a nice walk down Molist and up and down F-i-P.

Dora home at 9. When she plugged in the toaster, the breaker for all the lights flipped. Turns out when she dug burnt toast out of it yesterday with a knife, she created a short inside the toaster. I fixed it.

Dora and I moved the big bookcase out of the small room and into the living room.
Working to clean the walls in the small room. Popped a circuit breaker, with almost no load except the green steam-cleaner.

After 1, out to the yarn shop for Dora.

Out at 4. To Metro, transfer, out at Drassanes. To the NOMAR free Gaudi museum, which presented just a locked door. Pressed the buzzer marked "Museu NOMAR", and got some woman who seemed to be saying "no museum here".

Wandered up La Rambla, and over through old town.
Pics. Visible police presence in lots of places, I think because of the terrorist attack in France. Past the cathedral, past Arc de Triomf, through North Station park. Past the National Theater, across Bruum Ruum, and to the Museu Disseny (design museum).

Free entry this month. Nice new library on floor 0, and found the bathrooms. Then up to the museum. Floor 1: modern furniture and appliances; not very interesting, and no explanations. Floor 2: antique pottery, cabinetry, etc; terrific. Floor 3: fashion/dresses; not very interesting to me. Floor 4: graphic design; some pretty cool posters and such. Pics.

Down and outside, and Bruum Ruum is running. Into the Metro.

Home at 7:15. Cold and tired and a little headachey. Took a Neobrufen and had some dinner.

Put masking tape on all the woodwork, sockets, other edges in the room to be painted. Interesting: this morning a "smog alert" was issued for Barcelona, lasting through the weekend, "because of a strong anticyclone that is currently preventing the dispersion of nitrogen oxide particles in the atmosphere".

Stopped taking antibiotics. Still have a slight cold.

Out at 12:45. To key-shop, to have a key copied. To hardware store, to scope out the paint and rollers etc available. All of the rollers seemed to be either for exterior use, or smooth interior; we have textured interior walls. Decided I needed to come back with Dora to buy everything. To Dia for groceries.

Made a lasagna. Dora came home and approved.
Pic.

Local handyman and friend of Dora came over with a 5-gallon bucket of paint, but it's powder that has to be mixed with water; I've never done that before. He left and came back with a nice roller on a long arm, and a bucket and tray. Glad I didn't buy any stuff today.

Out at 6:45, to do shopping. Into Metro, out at Horta, wandered cold streets for a while without making any progress. Finally into a "Chinese" discount shop, and bought clotheshangers, paintbrush, coatracks, yarn. Out, and more wandering, trying to find the shoe shop of a friend of Dora's. Into a nice coffee cafe for refreshments. Pics. Eventually out, into Metro, and home before 9:30.

Online, can't find anything about mixing paint from powder. Handyman said 15% mix; I guess that means 15% powder for 1 unit of water. I guess we'll find out tomorrow morning. I woke up planning to paint all morning. To my surprise, Dora wanted me to tag along while she went to post office, bank, pharmacy, etc. No, thanks.

Started painting around 10.
Pic. I thought the paint was powder, but it's liquid. So apparently the "15%" comment was to add 15% more water to the mix. We did so, and I think the bucket we used was contaminated with a little laundry detergent residue (not good), and maybe we added a little too much water (not good). But I mixed up the paint well, and it seems to cover tolerably. Just a little more runny than I'd like. As the handyman suggested, I think we'll have to do two coats.

I did all the edges first, with a brush. Then used the roller to do the open areas. Done by 11:45 or so.

Dora went out at 3, saying she'd be back in 30 or 60 minutes. In fact she was back in 2.5 hours.

Out at 6 or so with Dora. Metro, transfer, out at Glories. Into the new Design museum building, and it's free, but there's a long line to get in. So we skipped it.

Walked 6 or 8 long blocks into town (passing an interesting fountain: pic), to a restaurant owned by a friend of Dora's. We knew the address, but not the name, which turned out to be "Dirty Duck". And it was closed. Maybe we're too early, on a Saturday night ? We got there a little before 7.

No problem, I'd scoped out a backup restaurant online. We walked to that, which turned out to be about 3 blocks further than I expected. I've noticed this before in Spain: the numbers on one side of the street are not keeping pace with the numbers on the other side. Found the restaurant, and it too is closed !

Went another block, and found a mostly-empty Chinese restaurant. Had quite a nice meal: Chinese bread, fried rice with several things in it, and nice pork-and-vegetables and pork-bamboo-mushroom. The tea was bad, extremely weak, but otherwise everything was great.

Out, one block over to Passeig de Gracia, and we sat and people-watched for half an hour. Quite nice; there's no wind, so the temperature is nice.

Nice fountain changing colors in the middle of a busy intersection: pics. Into Metro, and home by 9:30. Up at 9, and the usual: I want to paint, but Dora wants me to go out with her and tag around as she does errands. Dora went out, I started painting around 9:45, doing edges with a brush.

Dora back at 10:30 or so, I finished the edging, big breakfast (
pics), then back to the painting, now with the roller.

Finished the room I was painting, and started doing touch-ups in the hallway, with Dora one step ahead of me doing steam-cleaning of the walls. Finished the hallways, did the spot in the bedroom at the foot of the bed, and then Dora said "paint this wall in the living room". I painted the bad spots, but then she wanted the whole wall painted. So I did that.

Dora kept pointing at additional walls and saying "that's not so good", but there was nothing wrong with them. I'd had enough. Done by 1:15.

Big dinner of lasagna, corn, cheese, salad with Dora. Then we crashed and napped for a couple of hours.

Finishing off the painting: removed the masking tape around switches and outlets and molding, and cleaning up with water and a scrubbie. Looks good.

Finally took a decent picture of the creche (pic), then Dora packed it away.

Then mopping floor, putting curtain rods back up, shelves back up (although they need fixing/replacing), desk into place, equipment boxes into room. Pic.

Unpacked and assembled the examination table/chair, and left it for Dora to notice by accident. But when she saw it, her reaction was "it's so big", not a squeal of delight. Then she thanked me.

Out at 8:30. Walked down across Meridiana, to Livingstone bar, to watch the football game, Barca vs. Atletico Madrid. Surprised to find the place fairly empty; I thought it would be full. By game time, it was 3/4 full, maybe. Pics.

I had a hamburger, which wasn't very good, and the fries weren't very good, and the Estrella cerveza was okay. Dora had a pork sandwich which was okay, and a couple of cups of coffee. We watched the whole game, which was pretty exciting, some bad calls by the ref, a bit of shoving and arguing, and Barca won 3-1. Home by 11:15, and Dora's son is back from the north. Did cleaning and then touch-up painting on several bad spots in the living room.

Out before 2:30, and caught 2:40 bus up to Castell Torre Baro. Got there, nice views, but it turns out the tower itself is open very limited hours each day, and I missed them.
Pic. Walked down to another nice scenic overlook, then down a dirt road down the hill. Phone call from Dora; she's home from work very early, and wants to cook dinner for me. So I walk down to the Metro and took that home, instead of walking all the way. Home a little after 4.

Nice rib-and-rice dinner with Dora.

We were going to hustle out to go to her son's school, but fortunately I had her call ahead, and the trip is off, the director has to contact the teachers and figure out the situation.

Did some work opening boxes of medical equipment and supplies, and straightening up old clutter and throwing away as much as I could.

Out after 7, to son's school. Where Dora comes out furious at the news. We go out to Passeig de Gracia and sit for a few minutes, then into McDonald's to use the Wi-Fi for a while, then home by 9:15 or so. A little more touch-up painting, then furniture moving, and starting to assemble two more pieces of medical furniture.

Out a little before noon. Metro, lots of escalators, across big street, then bus to son's old school, hauling a cart of stuff to donate. Dora got her son's records and had a long discussion, then donated books. Out, bus, then walking. Stopped for mushrooms and then bread, and stopped at an orange donation bin to donate the clothes. Home a little after 1:30.

Finished assembling the medical furniture:
pics. Started working on lighting. As usual, snapped a plastic part on one fixture; I still haven't figured out how to get that kind open without breaking it.

Out at 5 or so to sit in Virre Amat plaza for a while, listening to MP3's and people-watching. But it was too cold to sit for long. To hardware store, bought some aluminum wire to fix the light fixture. Back home.

Dora asked if I wanted tea, and made another comically-huge cup of tea for me. This time I took a picture of it: pic. (Dora added the baguette as a joke)(Somehow the cup doesn't look as big in the photo; it holds about 3x as much as a normal cup).

Dora out for errands, back, out again, back. I shut off a breaker and took down the light-fixture to see how the wiring worked.

We tried something her friend the Brazilian handyman and martial artist recommended: avocado with milk and sugar, blended. Tasted mostly like milk, to me. Not bad. Out with Dora around 11:15. Walk, Metro, Metro, L8 train, walk to IKEA. A horrible store. Once inside, very confusing, not clear what floor to go to for shopping. We ended up on some kind of "exposicion" floor, and it took 20 minutes to fight our way out of there. Down to the right floor, and eventually found someone to tell us where to find the shelf we needed, and found light fixtures. Dora went back in for a coat rack. By checkout, the 3 items we'd come for had grown to 10 or so, and we're obviously not going anywhere else but straight home. Dora's card didn't work, so put it on my new with-chip credit card (took a signature, not my PIN, and showed my NJ driver's license as ID). Out, and bus-Metro-walk home. Home by 2:20, tired.

Big lasagna, beef and rice dinner.

Put the new shelf up and leveled all the shelves.

Dora and I crashed for a nap. I got up around 4:45 and worked on the light fixture. Out at 5:15, to hardware store and grocery store. Back and Dora was waking up.

Tried to put up the light fixture, but what I thought was a third hole in the ceiling turns out to just the beginning of a hole. So we'll have to borrow an electric drill.
Around 11:30, over to other apartment to hang curtains, try to borrow a drill, and do miscellaneous stuff. No drill available.

Big spaghetti dinner at 3. By 4, Dora is crashing for a nap.

I'm out at 5 or so to sit in Virrei Amat plaza for a while, listening to MP3's and people-watching. Cold.

Out at 7 or so with Dora. To Llucmajor Metro, and long ride almost to other end of L3, to Forum stop. Out and walked past Museu Blau, to concert area on the waterfront. Inexplicably, no signs at all to what we're going to: a
Chinese Lantern exhibit. But we found the entrance.

We gave them some feedback about the lack of signs, and paid €15 each admission. Only about 3 other visitors in the exhibit while we were there. I'd been expecting it to be cold and windy here, but there's no wind and it's quite pleasant.

Very nice handmade silk structures, with LEDs and other lights inside. I love the rich, bright colors. Nice animals and cartoon figures, dragons etc. Fun. Pics.

To the end, and Dora spent a while chatting up the guy running the gift shop, talking about him maybe renting the other apartment. And she found out the lack of signs was due to the local government dragging its feet on permitting the signs. Crazy.

Out of the deserted surrounding musuem area, and into the huge Diagonal Mar shopping mall. A bathroom stop, some shopping, then to a cafe. We had various versions of coffee-plus-alcohol; nice. Pics. More wandering and talking. Eventually out, and to the Metro.

Lots of serious conversation on the way home, talking about life in general. Home a little before 11. Feeling good.

Dora wants to cook a meal, but I'm still full from the afternoon meal. I never have gotten used to eating at 11 PM or midnight over here. And since I don't usually nap in the afternoon, I'm sleepy by midnight. Got the electric drill from the handyman. Drilled the hole bigger and attached the light fixture to the ceiling. Attached the wires. Turned the breaker on, and the master breaker for that side of the fuse-box tripped. Swapped the live and neutral wires in the light fixture, tried again, same result. Gave up. I'm sure the green/yellow is the ground wire, and is in the right place. Will have to get the handyman to look at it.

By midday, the weather was cold, grey and damp.

Dora home in midafternoon, cooked a meal and filled the kitchen with smoke. She has a habit of setting something to fry and getting distracted and leaving the room, with predictable results.

In evening, worked on the light fixture a little more. Took the bulbs out, connected only hot and neutral (no ground) wires to the fixture, and the circuit-breaker still pops. Used an ohmmeter to test the fixture in isolation, and can find no short. I wonder if I drilled into the wires inside the wall, but then realize that if I shorted them there, the breaker would pop with nothing attached to the wire ends, and it doesn't. I give up.

Out just before 9. Cold, windy evening. To local church. A little confused at first to figure out how to get in, but then up an elevator to a meeting room. There's a talk about stained glass windows, which actually is by a company which is going to make windows for this church. Some nice slides with pictures of various windows in various churches, famous buildings, and a few public buildings. I don't understand a word of what's said.

Out around 9:45, across street and into Metro. Connect, and out at Tetuan. Cold and windy. We find "Dirty Duck", Dora's friend's restaurant. It's a bar/restaurant, small but decorated nicely, and only three or four guys in it, two running it and two customers. We take a table and pick out some pinxtos and pasta, and order coffee and a cerveza.

The food is okay (ham over bread, tuna croquettes, pasta with a little meat), the beer is cold. But at the end we order "tarta santiago", a traditional cake from Galicia (I think this is a Galicia-type place). It turns out to be terrific, and without asking the bartender brings us a bottle of "Vino de Licor" and pours us each a shot. That just translates to "Wine Liquer", it's 20% alcohol, I like the taste, and it gets us tipsy. A great finish, and we loaf for a while. This place is furnished and decorated more expensively and nicely than I noticed at first. And I think we're here at the wrong time; the kitchen isn't open, and the place is closing at midnight (I've noticed a couple of other places nearby, closed on a Friday night; strange). The bill is €22, not cheap but not bad; the pasta turned out to be somewhat expensive.

Out at 11:45, into the cold and wind. The Metro stop is only one block away, fortunately. Easy ride home, cold walk back to the apartment. Home at 12:20.
Heater/electrician guy came at 10. Replaced heater's too-small circuit-breaker in the fuse box, without turning off the main breaker, and as a result there was an alarming bang once while he was doing it, but no harm done.

Then he connected the new light fixture, and I threw the breaker and everything is fine. So what was I doing wrong, maybe not pushing the breaker up all the way ?

He insisted on drilling new holes for the fixture, and ran into the same issue I ran into: we only have very big plastic sleeeves to put into the ceiling, we need smaller ones.

I went out at 11:45. Cold but sunny. To yarn shop for Dora, but it's closed. To Dia for a few groceries. Back home.

Found the guy struggling to get those d*mn plastic pieces into place to hold the cover over the light fixture. I've broken two of those already, on other fixtures. I went up a stepstool to help him, but it wouldn't work. Finally I showed him how I cut pieces of metal wire to use instead of the plastic. He didn't like it, but it worked, and he left by 12:45.

Out with Dora around 2. To Metro, connect, out at Glories. Into Design Museum, and today there is no line. Nice museum (
pics), but Dora is preoccupied by worries. Finished, hit the bathrooms, sat for a little while as she did Wi-Fi. Went outside and sat in some nice lounge chairs in the BruumRuum plaza: pics. But it's too cold to sit for long.

Across street and into Encants market. Did a circuit through it, nice views, but a cold wind is whipping through. Bought a souvenir.

Out, into Metro, out at Urquinona. Was planning to walk down into Old Town, but we saw an Irish pub and went no further. I had a Guinness and onion rings while watching Premier league football, two games on different screens. Dora had a coffee and did Wi-Fi; she tried a couple of sips of Guinness and half an onion ring, but didn't like either. Fine with me ! Pics.

Out, into Metro, and home by 6:45.

Out again at 8:10. Cold but not windy. To a local church, to Mass for 15 minutes or so. I just wanted to see the church. It was packed, standing room only all around the back. A modern church, one step up from cinderblock, with exposed painted piping and so on. Plain but nice.

Out, and walked up F-i-P, but we missed the shop we were looking for, and the others are starting to close, and it's cold. Stopped at a fruit/veg place and bought bananas, oranges, avocados. Home again by 9. Did some yoga with Dora.

Out after 11:30 with Dora; she's wearing spiffy gold boots. To Virrei Amat, browsed a flower shop during the 20-minute wait for the 82 bus. Onto bus, and up to Castell Torre Baro. I've been here twice before, but never while the tower was open. Lots more people here today. And our timing is a little bad; we just missed one group going up the tower, and have to wait more than half an hour for the next group. But there's a lovely big aerial map to look at, great views outside, and a nice coffee and chocolate machine inside.

At 1, we go up thee tower. Cold wind whistling through. The guide gives a talk on the first floor, but it's very fast and I don't bother to listen. Up to second floor and then top, take pictures, look at the views. I'm surprised that we can see Montserrat; I thought it was farther away. Quickly, our time is over, and back down and out.

Down to the scenic overlook, which is very nice. Then I want to explore the back side of the hill, parts I haven't been to before. But Dora wants to explore the restaurant down the road. So we go there. Nice views, nice bathrooms, but I'm not hungry. Dora orders coffee and we sit outside for a few minutes, but it's too cold. We move to the noisy indoor cafe/kitchen area, and eat "bombas", some kind of potato-spice-meat balls covered with a spicy mayonnaise-type sauce.

Pics.

Finally we're out of there, and walking down a dirt road on the back side of the hill. I want to get to a nice arched pedestrian bridge we saw from the tower, but we can't figure out how to get to it. Down into a residential neighborhood, with Dora worried that we're lost and will have to take a taxi back, and the walking is too hard. This from a woman who traveled in the Peruvian jungles and mountains and worked as a doctor in small villages there. We're walking downhill, and we're not off my map.

Sure enough, we come to a bus stop that would take us straight home. We walk down some more, and never can find that bridge. Eventually we come out to another bus stop at the bottom of the valley, and there's a Metro stop 100 yards away. Into the Metro, connect, out, back home at 3:40.

Rice and salad for dinner at 4:30 or so.

Put together medical equipment in the new office, mainly a dermabrasion machine. Put up curtains. Pics. Dora wants me to be the first patient, but she hasn't been trained on this machine yet.

Chicken and rice at 7:15 or so. Grey, rainy morning.

I played patient and had Dora take pictures of my face, to figure out the process. Right away, she said she needs a black background, which we don't have. But the pictures from her mobile phone look fine. Showed her how to get them into the laptop, and we created a directory structure for patient data.

Out at 12:45. Dora went off to work, and I went into other apartment. Hung out laundry. Pulled out the two pieces of furniture she wants moved, but decided not to try disassembling them. Out to yarn shop, bought two more skeins for Dora. Got a few groceries, home by 1:30.

Cold, wet, grey day.

Dora home at 9 or so.
Dora out to work at 8, home at 11. Only to find her son not getting out the door for his doctor's appt. We all went to the health center, only to find eventually that they wouldn't see him, he has to make another appt. Dora and I went shopping, and ended up in a cafe for a while.

Headachey; took a Neobrufen.

Out with Dora at 6. Cold. To store to buy a gift. Into Metro, out, cold walk uphill to hospital. Waited while Dora had a scan. Out into the cold, home by 8:30.

Packing (to fly to USA tomorrow). Mostly a matter of handing back all the extra clothes and medicines Dora has been dumping on me for two months now. I appreciate that she likes to give things to me, but ... too much.

Tried to print a boarding pass, but it said "zero luggage" and gave me no way to change that, so I didn't print. And when I went back to start over, it said I was already checked in, did I want a duplicate pass ? So I'll just have to check in from scratch tomorrow morning.

Headachey; took a paracetamol.
Up at 5:40, out at 6:30. To Metro. Dora with me; she insists on coming as far as the train station. To the station by 7, good-bye to Dora, down to platform. Train at 7:09. To airport, 10-minute line at check-in, through security by 8:10. Flight number has changed, don't see it on the board. No AC outlets in gate area. Got free Wi-Fi (for 30 minutes).

Looks like my flight has changed to slightly earlier. But I think we ended up back at the original time. Uneventful flight, landed in Madrid at 10:30.

Huge, confusing airport. Signs say a 25-minute walk to my gate section, but I caught a train that cut 15 or so off that. Immigration check, was asked when I entered Europe, had to show my old passport as well as my brand-new one.

To gate area by 11:15, for 1:10 flight. No AC outlets here except inside a deli. Enormous airport, no AC outlets. But there is free Wi-Fi (for 30 minutes).

Sat outside the actual gate area, and I think they boarded my flight early, so I suddenly had to pack up and hustle over there and board as the gate was showing "last call". Then the door didn't close for another 5 or 10 minutes, and we sat at gate for another 10 minutes, so it wasn't such a close call.

Uneventful flight, only about 60% full. A little headachey; took a Neobrufen. Landed in Philadelphia around 4; snowing, grey, limited visibility. Got my suitcase, and found my can of shaving cream had emptied itself inside. Out to pickup by 4:30 or so, and my brother picked me up about 25 minutes later. Home to his place by 6:10.

Looks like my suitcase was searched, toiletries dumped out a bit, and maybe they left the cap off the shaving cream, or it just came off later. I should have had it inside a plastic bag. The mess isn't too bad.





[Interesting that the value of the Euro has fallen from about $1.28 to about $1.16 during this trip. During my first trip, in May/June 2013, the Euro was at $1.40 or so.]











Bookmark and Share

Please send any comments to me.

Home       Site Map

Privacy policy