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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Epilogue: April 24th & 25th

We got up and caught the early train to Girona, paying an extra 3Euro for the faster service which had seats for us as well as plenty of room for our bikes. I looked at a map and found a much closer train station which enabled us to get to hotel within 10 minutes of departing from the train station, getting us to the hotel by 10:30am. The staff of SM Sant Antoni were once again very accommodating, giving us plenty of space to disassemble and pack our bikes. Even more amazing, by the time we were done packing our bikes, they'd somehow gotten our rooms ready, 4 hours before the designated checkin time. I cannot praise the hotel highly enough.
Google Trips suggested Montjuic Castle, and I suggested to Mike that we visit the market for lunch, but he misunderstood and thought I meant the supermarket and objected violently. Non-plussed, I pulled out trip advisor and we ended up picking a restaurant that was horribly over-priced despite its good reviews. After the restaurant, we took a taxi to the castle and got grand views of Barcelona as well as an overview of the history of the Castle, which was unusual in that it wasn't just a defense against external invasions, but also a tool of oppression against city citizens.

We bought a combo ticket to the botanical gardens, but that was a surprisingly long walk, and by the time we got there Mike was too tired to go in. I went in and enjoyed the strangely empty botanical gardens, but we had limited time before our tour if we wanted to walk (or even take the bus) there.
The walk to the bike tour place was fun, taking us through parts of the city new to us (and old to us), and mostly downhill to soothe Mike's aching knees and feet. We arrived at the e-bike tour place and were surprised to be told that we were the only people to have signed up, so it was like getting a private tour from Juleo.
The bikes were obviously in bad shape, squishy brakes and rattles from daily use by tourists. But Juleo was great as was the tour. We got a great feel for the city, as well as a ton of history, including how Catalan the region came to be part of Spain. He explained all the yellow ribbons we saw painted on the roads as we rode around in Girona, and also the recent politics. What was amazing were the pictures of Barcelona from before the Olympics and the explanation of why a lot of the infrastructure was so new. This was a great tour and I'd highly recommend it. We even got to see inside a building (what was originally proposed to be a library which got canceled once they discovered ruins of medieval Barcelona underneath the proposed site) where medieval buildings were preserved.
After dinner, Juleo sat down with us and gave us a bunch of recommendations on what to bring home for friends and family as treats, and where to go to dinner. We picked 4 Gats, a Picasso themed restaurant nearby, which served a large portion and was opened early.
With our bikes packed we were in no hurry to get back to the hotel but we were already pretty worn out by the day's activities, so we went to bed early anyway.

The next morning, we had breakfast at a chain breakfast cafe recommended by Juleo which was very good, and had great stuff that you could pack and bring onto the plane for food as well. As scheduled the taxi arrived to take us to the airport where I scanned my VAT refund documents easily and got through customs in record time. To make up for that when it came time to board the plane I was randomly selected to undergo another major inspection.

The flight passed by surprisingly fast (I had plenty to do), and at Oakland Airport I was once again reminded by how onerous passport control and customs was on the USA border. Once out, Supershuttle again disappointed us by taking half an hour to pick us up, but we were soon home and I was saying hello to Bowen and Boen. What a great trip!

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