So we've had three glorious days in Barcelona - one of our most favourite places - and this time it has had a special significance.
This is our third visit to this eclectic, exhilarating city and each time we find new places to explore and old haunts to revisit. We have our 'must-do' restaurants and bars, shops and sights but this city of wide tree-lined boulevards and twisting narrow alleys always holds surprises. Why do we love it? Because it embraces the cosmopolitan (more later!) whilst remaining passionately Catalan. Because every museum, shop and bar packs a welcome to all whilst remaining sleek and stylish (can you imagine saying that about Leeds or York?) and the Catalan is very much on show as we arrive the day after the local elections. There are flags in the upstairs windows of every building declaring their allegiance to the independence of the red and yellow stripes.
New things to us this this time included A Walk with Gaudi which having spent so much time at La Sagrada Familia on our last visit was the perfect way to try to understand Gaudi's use of light, colour and the shapes of nature. We also visited the underground Roman city and walked amongst its dye shops, wineries and laundries. But the highlight was certainly the Xavier Miserachs exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. The Blanc i Negre exhibition of photographs from the early 1960s is an emotive tour of the faces and life of those times in Barcelona by the celebrated photographerhttp://www.macba.cat/en/el-born-barcelona-1964-serie-barcelona-blanc-i-negre-4382.
But as this is a short break with my beloved, it must also be a gastronomic tour. Included then is a return visit to Agua where the bustling city meets the beach culture and the superb food is accompanied by watching people learning to walk the high wire tied between two palm trees - just for fun! This is where we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in 2014. Returns too to two very contrasting tapas bars - Catalana on the Carrer de Mallorca where you fight for a seat at the bar amongst the suits and the tourists and the tapas and wine are delivered by expert and rapid bar staff. And to Irati, another tapas favourite which nestles in a narrow alley near Las Ramblas and could so easily be missed. Here you point to the tapas on the bar top and help yourself, waiting for the moment when the delicious hot tapas come from the kitchen and you hope that they make it far enough down the bar to reach you. Each succulent morsel has a cocktail stick in it and when you're done they just tot up the sticks and present you with a bill.
And our new gastronomic discovery is an Argentinian restaurant where the steaks are sublime and the service quirky but very generous. And we have found indisputably the best best rooftop cocktail bar at The Majestic where I may have had one too many cosmopolitans...
So why is this visit of such significance? In April 2014 when we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in Barcelona I found the lump which was the start of my year of treatment, and by going back to Barcelona - perhaps not quite the same person as I was then - I feel I have put a full stop to that time. Enough... I may not be as brave or full of energy as I once was but I am here and looking at life in a new way. Even if I don't look the same (still getting used to that...)
Back in glorious Yorkshire walking across the fields of stubble with two dogs whilst the woodland shows the first glimpses of autumn colour I know that that chapter of my life is now complete with Barcelona as bookends. Fingers always crossed...