To Barcelona

Enrico is spending a month at the University of Barcelona, doing mathematical research with a colleague there. Since Ross had a long Easter break, we decided to accompany him there and see a bit of the city.

We left Lecco on Good Friday afternoon and reached Cannes for a late dinner with the family of friends of Ross’, there from Lecco on holiday. It was a lovely spring day, so I was miserable with allergies all the way, and when I finally got to bed that night was exhausted from sneezing for hours. (This triggered a cold or something which dragged me down for days and weighed heavily on the whole trip.)

The next morning we explored Cannes, stopping in a supermarket to buy French goodies for lunch: vacherin (my favorite cheese in the world – soft, smelly, and wonderful), paté de foie gras, and various terrines. The cashier, wrongly assuming that we did not understand French, made snide comments about tourists who always buy the expensive stuff for their picnics. We needed a knife, which was eventually supplied by an open-air antiques market on the waterfront piazza – eight euros for an elegant remnant of some former grand hotel’s silver cutlery.

We drove on down the coast, stopping to eat our picnic within view of a famous house that I’ve seen in architectural magazines – can’t remember the name or who designed it, but it’s all weird humps and round windows, like a hobbit dwelling built into a cliff.

We stopped in Avignon for a stroll and coffee, but didn’t find it sufficiently compelling to stay the night. We drove on to Nîmes, where we had an excellent dinner at a tiny, family-run restaurant called Le Ménestrel. Ross and I both had the “Ménestrel” menu – four courses for 30 euros, starting with a melt-in-your-mouth pan-seared foie gras with a sauce of reduced balsamic vinegar. The main dish was steak with a pepper-wine-cream sauce (why are Europeans always surprised that I like my steaks bloody?), followed by a soft cheese with walnuts, then a sampler of desserts, of which my favorite was a violet-flavored creme brulee. By then I had eaten so much that, regretfully, I actually left behind some chocolate mousse.

go on to part 2