Wednesday, August 18, 2004

SPAIN Day06//04.May.04 - From Aragon to Catalonia: Zaragoza & Barcelona

I realised that for this trip, I have traversed 4 out of the 5 Spanish kingdoms: Andalucia, Castille, Aragon and Catalonia. Never has one overshadowed the other. Each region and its principal city/cities had charmed me with its panaromic surroundings, elegant architecture and unique character. Therefore today, was another sensory experience as I depart stately Madrid (Castille), for energetic Barcelona (Catalonia), and in between, the scholarly Zaragoza (Aragón).

It was a pleasant drive from Madrid to Zaragoza (pronounced "thah-rah-goh-thah"). We passed by bucolic farms, and flat plains dotted with futuristic windmills. According to Jose, one windmill cost approximately USD1mil. Although the 'fans' spin rather lazily, there is a mechanism within the windmill that multiplies the spinning cycle. With the hundreds of windmills, it was quite an impressive sight and hardly surprising to hear the aunties sigh that it resembled a scene from a romantic Taiwanese serial. I later learnt that Spain is a strong advocate of wind power.

By the time we reached Zaragoza for lunch, we understood why. Strong gusty winds literally propeled us to our restaurant, which was simply enchanting! Sunlight streamed into the patio through the white french windows. The tables wore rich blue skirtings and white tablecloths. On the tables, lain blue napkins at the periphery with colourful flower bouquets as a centerpieces. The chairs were dressed in the similar white and blue scheme pulled together with a smart bowtie. The restaurant sits in between the Ebro river and the Basilica. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. James, patron saint of Spain, on the banks of the Ebro River and ordered him to build a church there (excerpt from Frommers). After lunch, we crossed the street towards the Basilica and walked around the square with its statues for a bit before departing for Barcelona.

We reached Barcelona earlier than planned and had a short city tour before dinner time. Barcelona's modern buildings and places of interests are not unfamiliar to me, afterall, I was here with my best friend for two weeks about a year ago. However I relish the homecoming as Barcelona is both vibrant and artistic. We stopped by Barcelona's trade exhibition centre, Plaza Espana; from there we were driven to the Marina, resplendent with Olympic-era buildings, modern sculptures and docked white yachts. Even the slow drive to the restaurant presented interesting sights like fountains, weird looking buildings and Barcelona's own bullring.

We finally capped today's journey of many miles with a good dinner which was testament to the numerous framed photos of VIPs who had previously dined at this establishment.


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