So I've been collecting some random, odd details of our trip in a notebook so that I could share them here--strange little things I've noticed, or weird (but non-earth-shattering) things that have happened to us while we've trekked around Italy and Spain. This is the post I've been planning for a while--not an informative and useful day-to-day account like Rob's been posting (and yeah, I'm kinda jealous), but bits and pieces, along with a few more photos. Hope you enjoy.
- In both Italy and Spain, we often found rather surprising numbers of cats--semi-tame, I suppose--living in public monuments like Rome's Sacred Area or wandering around Montserrat or gathering around plastic water containers left for them at Tarragona's under-construction Roman amphitheater.
- Speaking of cats, when we were in Montserrat on a rather steep (but still paved) hiking trail up to a small historic chapel, we saw a young woman who had brought her cat along on a hike. Of course, a cat's not going to follow in quite the same way as a dog; she occasionally had to stop and call it coaxingly, at which point it would come trotting leisurely along. While she checked out the interior of the chapel, it waited patiently for her outside. I'm pretty sure our cats wouldn't go for that kind of thing.
- Speaking of animals, we saw flocks of green birds that appeared to be small parrots flying around both Parc Guell in Barcelona and in the gardens of the Real Alcazar in Seville. A bit unexpected, but very cool.
- Speaking of animals again, we discovered that there are fish living in the various canals of Venice, something we hadn't seen during our 2007 trip there--and these fish are lurking under just about every boat if you check the less-busy canals.
- In Spain, a "Ferreteria" is a hardware store (attributable, I imagine, to the Latin word for iron). However, I keep thinking it might be a good place to buy ferrets and ferret supplies.
- In Barcelona, we somehow spent an inordinate amount of time searching for our evening meals. We started to joke about how we had to spend at least 45 minutes walking around before we could actually find a place to eat. This was sometimes due to misremembering where a restaurant was that we'd seen earlier (thus prompting some wandering in order to find it) or sometimes because we just couldn't settle on a place we liked. Pretty silly. However, this hasn't been the case in Seville or Madrid.
- There are a lot of Roma (Gypsy) in Spain, especially in the South. I actually often wasn't sure who might be Roma and who might be South Asian, since there are plenty of both in Italy and Spain. It occurred to me that that's yet another ethnicity I could probably pass as; since the Roma did originate in South Asia, it's not farfetched. Sadly, the situation of many Roma seems to be quite poor and disadvantaged, and they appear to have been extremely ghettoized in Granada, where there's a large Roma population.
- You can still smoke in most bars and restaurants in Spain, much to my minor annoyance. My sinuses do not like it. Fortunately, we seem to have chosen reasonably well-ventilated eating situations--I remember one really stuffy restaurant in Shanghai where I felt almost too sick to eat, it was so smoke-filled.
- English-language 80s music is very popular in Spain, at least in public places like restaurants and on buses. On the bus from Barcelona to L'Escala, we heard "Private Eyes" by Hall and Oates, and on the way to Ronda from Seville, we heard "Man-Eater" (again by Hall and Oates) as well as 70s mega-hit "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart. Tonight in our restaurant in Madrid, La Casa del Abuelo, we heard "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna and "Maniac" by Michael Sembello (the song from the Flashdance movie). It's a little hilarious.
That's it for random observations for tonight. You can check out a few more photos at my flickr page.