Las Aventuras

The exciting part was the myriad ways you could fall, trip, stumble, crash, bash, or slide.  Each outing provided possibilities.  Unlike in America, where your ability to self-maim is limited by the amount that you can sue, here in Spain we had the opportunity to severely injure ourselves without any legal apparatus to interfere.  


Aventura Amazonia is located in the Sierra de Huétor and consists of 22 zip lines, 4 adventure circuits, and 69 “games” — “games” being the term used to describe death-defying activities to be completed without a helmet because this is Spain, for crying out loud, not namby-pamby America.

After listening intently to a rapid fire explanation of important safety procedures that employed vocabulary rarely encountered in any Spanish language text book, D. had a vague idea of what we should do once the instructors left us on our own.

{Optional Quiz:  Please translate, in the next 7 seconds, the following words — la tirolina, sujetar, asir, sostenedor.  Next, use these words to help you safely jump off the roof of your garage or your neighbor’s garage.}  

The tirolina is not a problem, as long as you remember to properly attach both carabiners to the metal line, make sure the device is placed in its correct position, and hold on desperately.  

The following demonstration video illustrates the ease of the whole process.



Hanging bridges, towering peaks, rushing waters, narrow tunnels, swift flowing acequias:  what’s not to fear?  The most dangerous part of the adventure:  a bumpy bus ride on the way to Monachil and sitting too close to a gaggle of smokers at the café as we waited for a ride back home.  In between, a chance to get wet, a chance to fall down, and a chance to be bit.

To hike the Los Cahorros loop is to find yourself suspended in a gorge 50 feet over Río Monachil crossing a 180-foot long bridge.  It is to crawl through dark, narrow fissures, and for the special few, it is to wonder how many more kilometers you have to go before reaching total meltdown phase.

As usual, we started out strong, adding an extra two kilometers to the overall length of the hike by getting off at the bus stop in Monachil and refusing to pay for a taxi to take us directly to the trail head.  Mistake?  Only in retrospect.  Following another tradition, once at the start, someone in our party led us confidently in the wrong direction for a good half kilometer.  Problem?  Only if you don’t like to walk.  With time, we settled into a rhythm, one that would only end on a discordant note if blood sugar levels got too low.


Though Henry David Thoreau declaimed, “I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion” (Walden, Chapter 1), it was Lionel Messi who stated:  “What I do is play soccer.  That is what I like.”  The upshot of the analogy is clear:  If you want to be alone, don’t come to Spain.  In general, the Spanish people like to hang out with lots of other people, Spanish or otherwise.

On this outing, the only danger was walking on narrow or wide paths and bumping into students and parents from Gómez Moreno.  The other constant threat was the many children running recklessly with sticks.  The hike began in Olivares, crossed the Río Velillos, and wound upward to Castillo de Moclín.

P.S. —  We made it through the day without mishap.

Hiking up to Llano de la Perdiz; taking a bus to Beas de Granada to walk the 20 kilometers back to town; crossing through Huétor Santillán or along Cruz de Viznar; driving south to walk the twin-peaked Boca de la Pesca:  these were the places that adults would escape to while their children were at school.  Known to the cognoscenti as Humans who Walk, this group of parents made sure to be back at Gómez Moreno in time to pick up the kids by four.  So what if we had had a beer or two by hike’s end.  Truth is, we had started out in the morning with café con leche, so it all evened out.







Fútbol, Part II

When we last left off, J.’s coach had nutmegged the FIFA bureaucracy and J. was playing with his club Rayo Eneas under the nombre de jugar of a Spanish national who had dropped off the team, Emberto (not his real name).  Now, on the occasional chance that J. scored a goal, Emberto’s name showed up in the stats.  

These kids were just seven and eight years old but they played like pros.  The coaches and parents took the games seriously and our family poured over the team standings each week.  For away match ups, we travelled to outlying pueblos where each field featured the requisite café/bar:  a frazzled fan could order café con leche, cerveza or vino tinto like a civilized person and try to enjoy the agony of the game.

Pulianas, Albolote, Santa Fe, Atarfe and Armilla all offer beer and other beverages at the field.

  Play was rough.  Occasional scrapes were inevitable, especially since most matches were held on Astroturf which resulted in a faster ball and some mean road rash when players fell.   But the tenor was positive.  Teams shook the hands of the referee and opposition, then turned to the stands to applaud the parents before kick off. 

  With that in mind, we approached our second season match up with Armilla de Arenas, Rayo’s arch nemesis.  This rivalry had a history beyond our ken.  The coaches played on adult club teams and so had their own reputations to maintain; people remembered who beat whom and by what score from games gone past.  Already Armilla was ahead by a game in the season’s earlier match up.  Their goalie had a tendency to delay play by holding on to the ball and flopping to the turf.

  For this rematch — one that would determine the season’s champion — a photographer from the local paper was present, some moms had created a fanciful banner, each coach brought his entourage, and because it was a home game, the stands were filled with parents, fans, relatives and kids from the local escuela pública Gomez Moreno. 

      On the field, the boys shouted pasa, sigue, falta and saque de mano like professionals.  J. on defense for Rayo and Migué on offense for Armilla battled for possession.  True to expectation, the Armilla de Arenas goalie hogged the ball.  Then, with the score 1:0 Armilla, and before anyone could order another café con leche, two grown men from opposing teams — who had been coaching on the sidelines — started slugging it out and throwing chairs.  The referee blew his whistle.  Players raced off the field, scrambled up the cement wall and into the arms of their parents, tears running down their faces.  ¡¿Qué está pasando aqui?!

 In the end, Rayo Eneas lost the game, coming in second place in the season’s standings — still worthy of a  crowd-pleasing trophy.  On Rayo, the assistant coach had to leave his position in disgrace and the team brought in a psychologist for the boys to have a full-on session of counseling to deal with the adult display of violencia.  Ultimately, Rayo invited Armilla de Arenas back for a friendly.  Apologies were made, pictures of unity were taken, though every Rayo fan confirmed that it was the coach from Armilla who started the whole thing.  For objective reportage, go to

After months of matches, the season ended some time in May.  J. had survived the aggressive European club style of soccer, travelled to the pueblos of Atarfe, Abolote and Pulianos — to name just a few — developed a following of fans, made good friends and learned some choice Spanish swear words.  For the final celebration, the coaches arranged for a fiesta at a local café in the Albayzin and each boy on the team got his turn to take the trophy cup home for some days of glory.


Of the 55 internationally recognized countries on the continent of Africa, we chose to visit Morocco.  Why did we do this?  First, because it was only a one-hour ferry ride from Tarifa, in Spain, to Tangier, in Morocco:  17.37 nautical miles. Second, because we had heard of a magical town from Aladín, the barber in the Albayzin who cuts J.’s hair, and who is from Morocco. He recommended we avoid his hometown of Casablanca and instead visit Chefchaouen, located in the Rif Mountains.  And third, because throughout our stay in Granada we had been eating at La Mancha Chica Chaoen on Camino Nuevo de San Nicolás and the Moroccan owner had posters of Chefchaouen on the blue-painted walls of his cafe.  He said his mother still lived there, and he recommended we try Restaurant Granada during our visit.  All these reasons compelled us to go.

A driver met us at the port in Tangier.  We rode for two hours along narrow well-paved roads, past fields and farms, animals and rebar to the edge of the medina in the center of Chefchaouen {“Look to the Horns” in English, due to two hornish-shaped mountains that nestle against the outskirts of town}.  We wandered through squiggly alleys until we found our habitation, Riad Rifandalus, where pictures of the Alhambra adorned the walls.  

As we learned before our journey, and as confirmed by the owner of Riad Rifandalus, Chefchaouen had long been home to both Muslims and Jews, expelled from Granada centuries before.  The town is famous for its blue-washed walls.  One theory submits that the painted walls date back to the arrival of yehudim in the 1490s, who used the color blue to remind them of יחוח, who presumably resides – even to this day – in the blue empyrean above.

D. had located a trekking company in Chefchaouen, so the next day we rode an hour through the Rif mountains with a driver and our guide, Lotfi, to hike a couple of trails in Talassemtane National Park.  We first trekked upstream to a secluded watering hole.  Lotfi was a knowledgable guide who spoke Arabic, Berber, French, Spanish, English and German.  He possessed a discrete sense of timing, absenting himself when it was time for us to change our clothes or eat a meal.  He kept J. from floating down the river.   

After descending from the waterfall walk, we were eager to continue hiking to Pont de Dieu, a favored rock formation along a semi-treacherous route.  Although Lotfi had never taken on kids as young as ours, J. & A. had proved their mettle.  We persisted!    As we made our way up river, we began to pass seasonal cafes:  wood fires, charcoal-blackened tea kettles, and tables for four.  If you place your tagine order on the way up, your meal will be ready by the time you come back down.  We opted for glasses of steaming, hot mint tea, sweetened with enough sugar to induce hyperglycemia after a single sip.

Aladín and the owner of La Mancha Chica Chouen in the Albayzin deserve credit for directing us to the town of Chefchaouen.  The people were friendly and polyglot; the food was delicious — tasty tagines, warm breads, fresh cheeses and olives and jam.  Along a pathway in the medina, Abdoul spent over forty minutes earnestly trying to sell us a rug.  We heard the calls to prayer throughout the day, starting very early in the morning with the Fajr, then the Zuhr at midday, the Asr in the afternoon, the Maghrib at sunset and the Isha at night.  We climbed the hill to the Spanish mosque that looked surprisingly like a Spanish church from afar, we wandered the lanes of the medina, and then we left.  Muy túristico y muy divertido, or, for our Arabic speaking friends جدا توريستي وممتعة جدا.

After Chefchaouen, our plan was to hire another car to take us to Asilah, a seaside town about 45 kilometers south of Tangier.  We were hoping to get a different driver from the one who got us to Chefchaouen, a nice enough man, but one with a predilection for heavy metal and shouting nonstop into his mobile.  

 Three hours later, as we entered Asilah, the driver turned off the pelting sounds from the radio, ended his cell phone call and deposited us at our small, fancy hotel, a couple of blocks from the beach.  We were visiting during the off season.  Wide streets leading to the medina were almost empty, but the seaside promenade featured cotton candy, men selling bags of roasted peanuts, and tables set up where you could buy cones of shrimp or snails (to eat).

 We wandered around from the new part of the city to the ramparts.  M. got annoyed at a group of older boys who were kicking a soccer ball in the vicinity of our personal space.   We passed the souk, shops, mosques, and restaurants.  We were trying to find a way up to the ramparts; the sun was beginning to set and lots of people were out and about.  We ran into the boys again and through hand gestures and broken Spanish we all apologized.  

Like almost all tourists who travel to Asilah, we learned of Paradise Beach, accessible by foot, taxi or horse and cart.  The next day we chose taxi, which let us off a good kilometer from the beach due to the almost non-existent road it traveled upon which eventually petered out to nothing.  Goats, emptiness, a few men sitting around willing to grill up shrimp or kalamari — that was it for the day, hence the name of the beach:  Paradise.

Months later, back in Granada, we learned of an ancient Jewish cemetery near Paradise Beach.  Surrounded by three walls, facing the sea, studded with grave stones, it was a place we passed by without knowing.  In it are reminders of the once-extensive Jewish community of Morocco.  If you visit Asilah, please head south of town, somewhere around 35°46’46″N and 6°03’09″W and let us know what you discover.

We missed this.


Our travels ended with a sit-down meal at an outdoor table, 297 kilometers from Casablanca, or 30.48 centimeters, depending on your definition.

The next day, we took a ferry from Tangier back to Tarifa.  It felt like coming home.

Vía Verde via Ronda

A few parents at Colegio Gomez Moreno had arranged a weekend outing in May: on a Friday, families would meet at a guest house on the outskirts of the pueblo blanco Prado del Rey [in English, the King’s Meadow] about 220 kilometers west of Granada.  The next day, we would rent bicycles in Olvera, then ride 38 kilometers along the Vía Verde de la Sierra over viaducts, past meadows, and through tunnels, arriving in Puerto Serrano before the bar closed.  Happily, we signed up for the trip.  We headed out a day early, by way of rental car, along highway A-92 with a short detour to the town of Ronda.

Say the name Ronda and what pops into your head?  An overplayed song by the Beach Boys dating back to 1965?  A fixed form of lyrical French verse based on two rhyme sounds, fourteen lines and three stanzas? Or a pueblo blanco in Málaga province famous for la Plaza de Toros and the enormous gorge, El Tajo?

For us, Ronda means narrow, winding, medieval streets; an enormous, American-sized SUV (thanks to Jose Luís at Hertz Granada for the “upgrade,” which replaced the efficient, compact Toyota Auris — for which we had made a reservation a good 4 weeks in advance of our trip — with a rolling behemoth which terrorized us every time we had to park, turn or back up); and multiple chances to fall 390 feet into the Río Guadalevín.

Sometime in the 4th century, Saint Ambrose was said to have declared:  “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  In truth, he proclaimed:  “When I am here [in Milan], I do not fast on Saturday; when I am in Rome I do fast on Saturday.”  Had he stated, “When I am here [in Pasadena] I do not walk back and forth across Puente Nuevo; when I am in Ronda I do visit Casa Don Bosco, and I attend the Ronda Guitar House, located at Calle Pedro Mariano Soubiron, and therefore I do hear Paco Seco play classical and flamenco guitar” then perhaps we would not have had to rely so heavily on our Lonely Planet guidebook.

After descending and ascending the gorge, crossing the bridges Puente Arabe and Puerto Viejo, and sorting through the many bull-themed items at the gift shop of the Plaza del Toro, we stumbled upon a fascinating map of El Cerdo which answered some questions that had been plaguing us as we navigated the restaurants of Andalucía.

BONUS TRAVEL BLOG QUIZ:  Indicate the country of origin of each of the passersby that D. roped into taking our picture during our 24 hour stay in Ronda.

After leaving Ronda, we continued on into Cádiz province and joined our friends outside of Prado del Rey at Cortijo Huerta Dorotea, a rural farmhouse featuring a lodge and casitas overlooking the Sierra de Grazalema.  The next morning, we caravanned to Olvera where we began our cycling adventure across thirty-eight kilometers, through twenty-four tunnels, completing one lunch break, and quaffing zero to three beers, depending on endurance, body weight and legal age for alcohol consumption.  (For historical side note about the Olvera-Puerto Serrano Vía Verde, please scroll down.)

A short walk the next day along the Sendero Rio Majaceite followed by a lazy stop at the hillside town of Zahara de la Sierra, and our trip to a beautiful region in Cádiz province was complete.

There are dozens of Vías Verdes throughout Spain.  They are former light rail lines, now converted to biking and hiking trails.  For a condensed version of our entire Vía Verde de la Sierra experience, please check out this YouTube link created by our friend J.v.H.:

Historical Side Note:  West of Algodonales on the Ronda-Seville road between Puerto Serrano and Olvera lies a light rail line, now converted into the vía verde so described in this blog post.  The military regime led by General Rivera, between 1923 and 1929, decided to build a light railway to carry agricultural products from Almargen to Jerez de la Frontera (General Rivera’s home town).   Thirty-eight kilometers of the 123 kilometer route were completed before the project went bust.  (Please submit any emendations, corrections, or addenda to the Response tag at the close of this post.)


¿Dónde estamos? ¡Estamos en las Alpujarras y en Cabo de Gata!

The Alpujarras is a mountainous region located on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, an hour’s drive from Granada.  This area was the last hiding place of the Moors, once Boabdil surrendered the city of Granada to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella a long, long time ago (January 2, 1492, to be exact).  It was here we brought Tia S. who had come to visit us for a couple of weeks.

Tia S. with Sobrina A.

Steep mountain slopes, hairpin turns, a narrow river valley, farms, villages and small towns, Spaniards and ex-pat Brits, the smell of weed, the shimmer of olive groves, and the gurgle of acequias:  these were a few of our favorite things.  

One day we hiked the wooded trails that led to the summit of Mulhacén, the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada at 11,413 feet.  We stuck to the lower elevations, passing fruit orchards and farms, stone houses, and meandering acequias.  These irrigation channels, first introduced by the Arabs of northern Africa during their heyday in the Iberian peninsula, are a communal form of water distribution still in use over a thousand years later.  At this point, we are undetermined whether you are bored or interested in this topic.  You can always use the “Reply” button to let us know. 

From friends in the Albayzin, we heard of a walk to an ancient Roman bridge from the village of Ferreirola.  The town is easy enough to get to if you have a car, but you will most likely get lost along the way, no matter what.

We stayed in a stone house that featured a swimming pool, three large and lazy dogs, thirty-four chickens, lots of olive trees and an acequia outside our door.  The nearest town was Órgiva, population 6,500.  Besides brownies, tofu burgers and a road race that shut down all access into and out of the town for over an hour, we noted poetry on the city walls, as well.

What follows are all the photos from the Alpujarras that we wanted to include, but that did not fit in the narrative.

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A week later, we headed to the Costa de Almería.  All year we had heard of the wonders of Cabo de Gata from our neighbors Laura and Antonio.  Now a national park, this area escaped the bull dozers of the Costa del Sol and remains, for all intents and purposes, an almost unspoiled slice of the Mediterranean Coast.  We traveled there with Tia. S. to spoil it just a little bit.  We drove a polluting vehicle, drank water from plastic bottles, and contributed to coastal erosion by hiking the lava promontories, but we did so with a tone of remorse, thereby neutralizing our guilty consciences.  A. and J., unencumbered by adult concerns like finding a place to stay, arranging a rental car, and making sure the pizza did not include ham, simply enjoyed the experience.

The biggest town in Cabo de Gata is San José.   From there we began a hike that skirted cliffs and dropped down into secluded coves.  Destination: Playa de Mónsul.

We walked along the ledge to Cala de Los Amarrillos, crossed the beach at Playa de Los Genoveses, climbed up the cliffs and back down to Cala Chica del Barronal, and made our way along the narrow strip past Cala Grande to Playa de Barronal.

Many hours and naked people later, we arrived.  It was then we realized that the car was 10 kilometers away in a parking lot in the center of San José.  While M. hitchhiked back to town, friends from Granada — who had made the trip to San José for the weekend — drove along the rutted road to meet us at Playa de Mónsul where our kids gamboled on the beautiful beach.

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The next day we visited Las Negras, a small fishing village that now caters to many a tourist, Spanish, German, and British.   From Las Negras we walked the 6+ miles to Cale San Pedro, a beach accessible only on foot or by boat.  This has not prevented many a free spirit from making it his or her home.  In other words, even though it was the middle of April, the beach was packed.

Having walked 6 miles, and again without a car to take us back, we made our way to the end of the beach and hired a skiff piloted by a young man, intent on inhaling a joint, to take us back to Las Negras.  With the gas gauge on empty, and the four of us hanging on for dear life as we cruised at lightening speeds, we were unable to snap any photos.

Far be it from us to tell you how to live your life.  Base your decision to visit Cabo de Gata on your own desires, circumstances and proclivities.  

(We rented an apartment in Hortichuelas, but recommend, instead, the village of Rodalquilar.)

Sacromonte y Azúcar

TRAVELOGUE:  If you’ve been following our blog, you will be aware of many of the great things the city of Granada has to offer.  Two in particular are the neighborhood of Sacromonte and the preponderance of sugar packets. 

Sacromonte abuts the Albayzin, its main thoroughfare marked by a statue of Chorrohumo, a Roma from Granada who guided visitors through the city in the 1950s.  When you visit, just make your way to Camino del Sacromonte, locate the statue and then follow the burro up the street.

Many of the Roma of Granada continue to live in Sacromonte.  Troglodytes are common, due to the many cave dwellings.  Free-spirited Western Europeans, young and broke, live there as well, locally known as pies negros, because they wear no shoes and take no showers.  And of course, folk going about their daily lives can be spotted regularly.

 The name “Sacromonte” comes from an impressive attempt to convince the ruling Catholics at the time (late 16th century) of the legitimacy of the morisco  population by linking Islam with Christianity through the manufacture of lead plates that were placed in a broken down minaret and that were discovered in —-  [Sorry about that.  My apologies.   If you are actually interested in the story of the lead plates you can find relevant information in the book Contemporary Archaeology in Theory:  The New Pragmatism, 2nd Edition, by Robert W. Preucel and Stephen A. Mrozowski.]


Eventually, the Abbey of Sacromonte was built in the 17th century on top of Valparaíso hill, providing excellent views of the Valley of Sacromonte and the ever-present Alhambra.

 ANECDOTE: One weekend day after we had made our way to the Abadía, we avoided the paved road and instead ventured home via sheep and goat paths that meandered over the hills and gulleys north of the Rio Darro.  As so happened, we ran into some Spanish friends as we crested a hill.  They had just been celebrating Julia’s birthday at a secret pizza cafe hidden in the caves of Sacromonte.  We followed their directions:  go down and up two ravines, take the right fork toward San Miguel Alto, and head straight on for the blue tarp.


Esther y Julia con paella.


Done.  The owner of the cafe was an ex-pat Neapolitan pizza maker, who was living in a cave and making pizza in an open-air oven on a hillside overlooking: (You are allowed one guess as to what the secret pizza cafe hidden in a cave is facing.) the Alhambra.  The cafe was clandestine because it was illegal, lacking any of the numerous permits required to operate an eating establishment in Granada.  Still, you could purchase cold beer, hot pizza and then go home and tell everyone you knew about the secret pizza cafe.

CULTURAL OBSERVATION:  Though we saw the Starbuck’s coffee chain in big cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, these establishments just didn’t exist anywhere else in Spain.  Fortunately, every town, bus station, beach-side cafe, village, hiking lodge, sports center, movie theater, and gas station appeared to possess a fully-charged espresso machine and the opportunity to purchase a café con leche at a moment’s notice.  This we did.  These coffees usually cost no more than the equivalent of a dollar, and often less.  You could choose to have your coffee served in either un vaso or una taza.   You could order normal, grande, or con hielo.  And once ordered, you could sit at your table for 5 minutes or 5 hours and no one would ask you to leave.  

    Every coffee came with a sugar packet.  Actually,  you were given a sugar packet with your fresh-squeezed orange juice, your hot chocolate, your cold chocolate, your tea, and your mint lemonade.  Here is a selection of some of our favorite sugar packets.

 CONCLUSION:   Sacromonte, the Albayzin, Granada and Spain: sweet, with or without sugar.  

B is for Barcelona

> B is for Barcelona:  Here, the people spoke Catalan, the chamfered boulevards allowed easy transit, and friends from Canada, who speak Canadian, joined us for a week of intercambio.  We communicated through gesture, sign language, and facial tics.

> A is for Artistic License: Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Marià Fortuny…the list of Catalan artists is as long as the wait in the check out line at the official Futbol Club Barcelona store at Camp Nou.  FC Barcelona isn’t just 11 guys running around a field in knee socks; it’s “Més que un club,” as evident on our tour of the stadium, the accompanying museum, the press box, the locker room, the official chapel and the invitation to pay 90 euros for the photos we were forced to pose for three times during our visit.                                                           


Footnote: Please scroll past if irrelevant.

“Top Left: The Saint George Cross, or Creu de Sant Jordi in Catalan, refers to the Patron Saint of Catalonia.

Top Right: Four red bars on a gold background are La Senyera, the Catalan National flag, which legend has it is the Quatre Dits de Sang (Four Fingers of Blood) made by 9th century King Wilfred the Hairy to place on a shield before going into battle against the Moors.

Middle: FCB – Futbol Club Barcelona

Bottom: The red and claret blaugrana colours are those sported on the first team shirt and were introduced in 1900. There is some dispute as to whether they refer to founder Joan Gamper’s FC Zurich colours or the the Merchant Taylors School colours, which was attended by early stars Arthur and Ernest Witty.

However, the message the FC Barcelona Logo transmits is of a crest that honours the sporting dimension of the football club as well as its connection to its home city and native country.”  (Google Search)  

R is for Real Madrid: FC Barcelona’s arch rival.   (No information available on origin of logo.)                                                   real_-ai_

> C is for Ciutedella Park:  Built in the late 1800s, Parc de la Ciutadella is a perfect place to navigate a bicycle, row a boat, or marvel at the number of people who want to enjoy the park at the exact same time that you do.

> E is for Entertaining:  That’s what it is to ride on top of the double decker tourist bus, keeping eyes open for hidden gems.

> L is for Lounging:  Having traveled a combined 5,893 miles (9,484 kilometers) to meet in Barcelona, we were all pretty wiped out, so we spent quite a bit of time in our flat in the Eixample district.  Here we plotted our day’s adventures and figured out ways to keep the shower from overflowing on to the bathroom floor.

> O is for Over-the-Top:  Though every other English-speaking tourist tries to connect gaudy with Gaudí, etymologically gaudy [showy, bright, full of trickery] precedes Gaudí [a surname of unknown origin that neither Google nor Wikipedia can explicate] by about three or four centuries.  That did not stop us from visiting Parc Güell and marveling at the gay, playful, and fantastical creations that Gaudí bestowed on what was supposed to be an exclusive housing development created in the early 1900s and that subsequently became a world-famous celebration of the wacky and whimsical.

> N is for noodling around the city:  Every day offered delights, which we sampled greedily, (sin jamon).  For some of us, that meant bicycling along the waterfront or walking the length of Las Ramblas.  For others, it meant pretending to go out for coffee and croissants and instead hiding in the stairwell for a few minutes of peace.  One thing we all agreed on was that nobody had to do anything he or she didn’t want to do, unless we made her or him do it.  

> A is for Addenda:  Our friends returned to Vancouver, and we drove northeast through Catalonia to La Garrotxa, the land of slumbering volcanoes.  Here it was easy enough to rent bicycles and ride the Carrilet Via Verde, hike from one dormant volcano to another through beech woods, and generally be appreciative of most things on most days.