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Sept. 26: Barcelona

I had no meetings planned today -- woo-hoo! But, I did have to prepare my talk for tomorrow. Today we decided we would go walk in the Eixample and see the Block of Discord. Kathleen Gaffney of Elsevier was to meet us after breakfast at 9, and then we'd head off from the hotel.

I met Heide and Pam for a quick breakfast at the hotel, and then we hooked up with Kathleen and headed off to the Metro. I still had a lot of rides left on the three tickets we'd bought at the beginning of the trip, so we just used those tickets to fund our Metro trips.

We moseyed on over to the closest Metro station, and headed on over to the Eixample. A short walk from the Metro and we were at the Block of Discord. This block has several buildings that were done by the leading architects of the time. The Casa Batllo was designed by Gaudi' and has the characteristic wavy windows and balconies similar to his other work. Next door to that is Casa Amatller, designed by Josep Puig di Cadalfalch, which is in a very different style -- far more regular, and a mixture of Moorish and Gothic design. There were a few other interesting buildings on this street, but we really only took note of these two. Pam had already paid to see Casa Batllo earlier in the week and didn't think it was worth seeing, so we decided to keep on going.

We continued our stroll down the Passeig Gracia, towards Casa Mila' (aka La Pedrera), another Gaudi building. The Eixample neighborhood is characterized by gridded, wide, tree-lined streets, with the buildings forming an octagon where the streets intersect. This makes for a bit of a detour when crossing the street, since the sidewalk takes a little detour off to the side on one face of the octagon. The traffic here isn't dense, and there are nice shops all around. The neighborhood is very reminiscent of parts of Paris and New York's upper west side. With the beautiful weather, it was a very nice stroll!

Casa Mila' was several blocks away. Quite a long walk, in fact!

We arrived at the building, purchased our tickets and went inside. Audioguides were included in the price of a ticket. A lift takes you up to the attic.

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Walked down to la Sagrada Familia from here. Did a quick tour, and Kathleen and I hopped back on the Metro. I went over to the conference center and worked on my talk. Ian came in close to quitting time, and we still had things to talk about. At 6:15 I excused myself, and ran back to the hotel where I was to meet Heide and Pam to go to the concert. No time to change, so I wound up lugging my laptop to the concert as well.

Concert was in the Palau de la Musica Catalan, a spectacular building. Beautiful glass mosaic ceiling, letting in natural light. It was a very nice size for a concert hall; even though we were there late, there really wasn't a bad seat in the house.

We were treated to a fantastic hour of Spanish music and dance. A castanet corp started off the evening. Two spanish guitars, a percussionist and a bass player later came in to round off the ensemble. The program alternated with Flamenco dancers and tap dancers, set to music by Spanish composers and occasionally just set to percussion. It was really quite incredible, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

The concert lasted an hour but had started late, so it ended around 8:20. We were supposed to meet Kathleen outside the building at 8, so we rushed down there. Before we could look up her number, Kathleen came running in. She had just arrived and we had both been worried for nothing since we were both late!

From there, we took a cab to Barceloneta, a neighborhood which runs along the sea. Along the main boulevard are seafood restaurant after seafood restaurant (good thing Phil wasn't with us!), with the waiters trying to convince you to come dine at their establishment. We were on the lookout for a restaurant recommended in one of my guidebooks. It turned out to be at the very end of the street, and unfortunately, by the time we reached it we found out that it was closed on Mondays. So we hiked back the way we came and found a suitable looking restaurant to dine at.

Heide and I had paella, which was delicious. We topped off our meal with a lovely dessert. The atmosphere was nice, and the food was good, and a good time was had by all.

We caught a cab and went back to our hotels. (Kathleen was staying at a different hotel so she dropped us off at ours.)

I still had at least an hour's work to finish my presentation. So I went over to the internet connection downstairs in the hotel and worked on my presentation until about midnight. I went upstairs and read a bit before going to sleep.

This trip has been relaxation punctuated by occasional bits of very high stress!