Phoenix, Arizona — February 16, 2017

After a very rough day yesterday, I did make it home last night in time to hit the hay by 11 pm. However, my body, which was still on Central European Time, was telling me it was past time to get up, not time to go to bed so I only could sleep 4 hours. I was wide awake before 3 this morning.

Because Charles de Gaulle is such a tough airport to get around in and security can take an hour or more during busy times, I caught the first subway at 5:30 am Paris time yesterday and was at the airport before 7 for my 10:40 flight. However, I breezed through passport control and security and was at the gate well more than an hour before boarding time. Those big A380 planes with so many hundreds of passengers take a long time to board despite the fact that there were three boarding jet-ways. Air France allows almost an hour for boarding.

I had flown to Paris on the upper deck of the plane, so I decided to try the lower deck on the flight back from Paris to Los Angeles. There is definitely more space to store carry-on luggage on the lower deck. The photo below shows the spiral staircase leading from the lower to the upper deck.

During most of the flight, a good-luck rainbow accompanied us as shown below. I finally figured out that it was produced by the sun shining through the vapor trail coming off one of the planes wings and then shining through the small porthole in the door at the rear of the plane. Incidentally, one of the advantages of being on such a big plane is that there is plenty of room to walk around and to stand to stretch one’s legs. On a flight that lasts almost 12 hours, the economy-class seat can get very uncomfortable.

Announcements were made on the plane in both French and English. I understood the French better. Most French people who speak English do so with a strong accent and speak very rapidly. It makes it difficult for me to understand their English.

The flight attendant in our section luckily spoke to me in French. I would have found it embarrassing to tell him that I didn’t understand his English. Incidentally, by airlines standards, the food on Air France was excellent and was accompanied by free beer or wine and, if one wished, even free brandy. I did drink two beers during the flight, but I felt that trying the brandy would be pushing it.

As we flew south over Canada toward Los Angeles, I took the following picture through that small porthole in the rear door. I didn’t have a window seat, or I could have gotten a much better shot.

Another advantage to such a large plane is that it responds less to turbulence. After takeoff, the seat-belt sign went off and it stayed off the entire flight until we were descending into Los Angeles. The flight was very smooth.

In Los Angeles, I breezed through immigration thanks to Global Entry. There were dozens of Global Entry machines available and few passengers using them. I had checked no bags (I’ve learned to travel very light with only one carry-on bag), so I went direct through customs without having to wait for the slow process of bag delivery.

When I was walking in the Los Angeles airport, an elderly woman (almost my age) asked me why I didn’t take a wheelchair instead of walking. I know I walk with a limp due mainly to a problem with my left leg, but I didn’t realize that the limp looked THAT bad. I’m not quite ready for a wheelchair yet, thanks. I feel that the longer that I force myself to walk, the longer I’ll be able to walk.

In the Los Angeles Airport, I had a layover of more than six hours before my flight to Phoenix. I have a Priority Pass, which gets me into many airport lounges, so I spent most of the layover in the Korean Airlines lounge. I was so groggy from lack of sleep, however, that I could have sat anywhere and waited. I was too tired to read or even to really enjoy the free food. I’ll admit to having sipped two free German beers, however.

I had bought a basic economy ticket on the Delta Flight from Los Angles to Phoenix. That means that I didn’t get a seat assigned until I reached the gate. When I got my boarding pass, I was surprised to find that I had been assigned a premium seat with more leg room and had priority boarding. I had bought the cheapest ticket possible, but for some reason that I do not understand, I was treated better than the passengers who had paid full fare.

I am still groggy from jet lag and lack of sleep, so I won’t get much accomplished today. If I can force myself to go out for a bike ride today, perhaps I will sleep better tonight. Surprisingly, my leg problem that makes walking painful doesn’t affect me at all when I’m pedaling one of my bikes. However, it usually takes me about a week to get back to a normal sleep schedule when I fly from Europe back to Phoenix.

Paris, France — February 14, 2018

There are no pictures to share with you today. I was out twice yesterday in the cold, but I didn’t photograph anything and didn’t go anywhere really interesting. For some reason the cold bothered me more than it has on other chilly Paris days.

Today is my last full day in Paris. Tomorrow I plan to leave the hostel at 5 am heading for the airport. Charles de Gaulle Airport is a nightmare to navigate, and it is recommended that international passengers arrive at least three hours early. The American Airlines website recommends four hours. I hope to catch the first subway train of the morning and then the suburban train to the airport.

I am flying with Air France to Los Angeles and then Delta from Los Angeles to Phoenix. I was able to check in for the Air France flight early this morning.

I do hope to go out and see some sights today, and I will try to do tomorrow’s log post from the airport once I have cleared security and passport control. If things go smoothly, I should have plenty of time. If things don’t go smoothly…that’s the reason I plan to arrive three hours early.

Paris, France — February 13, 2018

It’s difficult to believe that I’ll be flying home in two days. Vacations don’t last long enough. Even though I will be happy to have better weather in Phoenix, I wouldn’t mind if my vacation in Europe were to last a few weeks longer.

I have not spoken English since I arrived at the hostel and have been able to get by in French. If I had the opportunity to live in France for one more year, I think I would be fluent in the language.

Yesterday morning as I was waiting for the cafeteria to open for breakfast, I saw a blind man wondering around the hostel lobby tapping his cane and looking lost. No one bothered to help him. Well, with one exception. I did. My French is far from perfect, but it’s good enough to get me by, so I asked him where I could lead him. It turned out that he was also heading for breakfast. Just then, one of the hostel workers opened the cafeteria door, so I took the man’s arm and steered him into the cafeteria and got him seated at a table. He was very grateful. From there, the cafeteria staff took over and served him his breakfast at his table.

I don’t remember if I posted it then, but the first time I left Girona, headed for Madrid, something similar happened. A blind man was tapping with his cane in the Girona train station and obviously wandering around not knowing where he was. The Spanish sat mute and watched him until I noticed that he needed help and approached him. He explained that he was  looking for the information office, so I took him by the elbow and guided him there.

Why so many people can watch a blind person obviously lost flailing around with his cane and do nothing to help is something that I cannot explain.

Every morning at breakfast, I see some of the same people. One of them is this enormous woman pictured below, one of the largest women I have ever seen. Her language sounds like Russian to me, but whatever the language is that she speaks with her female companion and with a little girl who may be her daughter, it’s not a language that I understand.

Most of us fill our trays at breakfast with a bowl of cereal and milk, a piece of fruit, perhaps two small pieces of bread eaten with cheese, ham or butter and jam plus a cup of coffee and a glass of fruit juice. This woman’s first serving consists of two trays jammed with food, one tray in each hand. She starts with two bowls of cereal, about a loaf of bread, a stack of ham and cheese slices and four or five pieces of fruit plus two bowls of applesauce. Then she goes back for seconds and then thirds, etc. I have seen her pack away six entire oranges for desert. I always make sure I get my breakfast before she gets hers or there might be nothing left. By the way, her jacket is not floating out away from her hips. Her hips are really that wide.

The day started sunny and dry although with a cold breeze blowing. I limit the time I spend outdoors both because I am not accustomed to the cold and because I get a sharp pain in my left leg when I walk (piriformis syndrome?) Nonetheless, I was determined to go back to the Saint-Sulpice Church and see the inside. I navigate by walking as far as I can until I can no longer stand the pain, and then I find a place to sit down. After I sit for just a few minutes, the pain goes away, and I can walk another few blocks before I have to sit down again. One good thing about visiting churches is that there are plenty of pews in which to sit, and I rode the subway to within a few blocks of the church. (Yes, I have an appointment to see the doctor about the pain a few days after I get back to Phoenix.)

In the plaza in front of the Saint-Sulplice church stands this monument. I believe it is actually a fountain whose water has been shut off due to the cold weather that has been plaguing Paris for weeks. I imagine the monument has an interesting history, but I do not know it.

The picture below was taken just after I entered the Saint-Sulplice church through the rear door. It looks toward the main altar. The church has individual wooden chairs with cane seats instead of pews. The chairs in each row are fastened together at the back so that moving one chair moves the whole row. In contrast to heavy wooden pews, these chairs are very light and easily rearranged. I saw someone doing just that while I was in the church using only one hand to move each row of chairs to its new position.

Below is a photograph of the sanctuary or area where the altar is located taken from the sanctuary’s left side. Note the enormous candle sticks.

The altar pictured below is behind the main altar and belongs to one of the many chapels within the cathedral. I believe there are more than 20 chapels within the church.

Below is another of the chapels showing its simple stained glass window. I have read two reasons as to why the newer stained glass windows are simpler and clearer. One explanation is that the art of making elaborate stained glass declined over time. The other is that windows in later churches were so designed as to let in more light.

As I was riding back to the hostel on the subway, my left leg began to hurt. The subway train was crowded, and most of us were standing. The pain must have shown in my face, because suddenly a young woman jumped up and offered me her seat. There was a time, until perhaps five years ago, when I would have felt insulted. I felt until my early 70s that I was just as strong as any young person. However, the 70s have taken their toll, and I now admit to myself that I am going downhill. I gratefully took the seat and thanked her for offering it. I still had a long way to ride on that subway, and not having to stand made the ride much less unpleasant.

There is another group of teenagers in the hostel. They were talking loudly at breakfast this morning. However, the hip-hop music that the hostel management put on the PA system for them was at a much lower volume than the music that was played for the last teenage group. Believe it or not, I like kids, although they are much easier to get along with if they are well-behaved.

Paris, France — February 12, 2018

I had a couple of chats in my basic French this morning. I was the only person at breakfast when it opened at 7 am, so I had a chat with the guy who was setting it up. Then I had a short chat with a cleaning lady who wanted to scrub the floor and clean the table where I was sitting. She wanted to know more about the United States, which she hopes to visit someday. That didn’t stop her from chasing me away from the area she wanted to clean, however.

Both of them are of African origin. I noticed long ago that it was easier to talk to the French-speaking Africans that to the native French. The Africans are more open. The French people tend to be reserved and to treat strangers in a formal manner, which gives them the undeserved reputation of being stand-offish. I think “shy” is a better description.

It was chilly and wet outside yesterday, but it neither rained or snowed. As many times as I have visited Paris, I have never been to the city’s famous Luxembourg Gardens, so I decided to go. The Gardens, which are very formal and manicured, would have been more attractive in warm weather, of course, but I had to accept this year’s chilly winter. Some of the flowers that had been planted to early were wilted. I don’t think anyone foresaw this cold snap.

The Odéon Theater, pictured below, is located outside the Gardens. Currently, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is playing there, I assume in French translation. I have a flyer for the play, in French of course, but the flyer has no information about ticket prices. In my experience, those of us who have to ask the price of things can’t afford to buy them.

When you enter the Luxemburg Gardens, which are surrounded by a high iron fence, you first priority is not to be trampled by one of the hundreds of runners who jog along paths throughout the park.  The group shown below came barreling down on me as soon as I walked through one of the gates. Most were running in the same direction, but as you can see, there were a few who had to run against the current.

One of the main attractions in the Gardens is the Luxemburg Palace, shown below. It was built in 1625 for Queen Marie of Médicis and over the years has served as a residence for the royal family, a prison, and a place for the French Senate to meet. I’ve read that its library contains 450,000 books, but I wasn’t able to enter to confirm that. Not only is the palace surrounded by a high fence, it is also guarded by gendarmes sporting mean-looking military rifles. You can’t just walk in.

I understand that only way for commoners to gain entrance is as part of a group tour. The group has to be invited by one of the senators and accompanied by a guide. Anyone without a formal invitation is in danger of being shot. Oh, yes, notice the runners zipping along the fence.

Algeria was once a part of France, not a possession, but an actual French department just as Hawaii is one of the United States. However, many Algerians wanted their own country and their own nationality and resented being French Arabs. The Algerian War for Independence lasted from 1954 to 1962. During and after the war, there were many terrorists attacks in Paris. One tactic involved planting bombs in public trash cans. To discourage this, Paris did away with closed trash containers and replaced them with transparent plastic bags. Those see-through trash receptacles can still be found all over Paris including in the Luxemburg Gardens.

Back in the 1980s when I used to visit France with my daughter Inge, we had to send our passports off to the French consulate in Las Angeles to get a visa for France. We carried traveler’s checks in those days, and when we went into a bank to cash one, we had to go through two sets of doors. First one door would open to admit the customer in from the street. Then that door would close, and another door would open into the bank. The double doors were designed to prevent terrorists from rushing into the bank. There were also guards with high-powered rifles standing in front of the banks. Both the visa requirement and the high security at the banks were responses to the terrorism.

The fountain in the following photo was ordered built by Marie Médicis back in the days when France was sill ruled by a king and the Luxemburg Gardens were the front yard of the royal family. The fountain was not bubbling when I visited it yesterday, presumably because the cold weather of the preceding days would have covered a working fountain in ice.

As befits a royal garden, it is full of old statues including the one shown below. I didn’t take the time to find out the significance of this particular statue. Naturally, just as I snapped the picture, a runner came jogging into the frame.

A short distance from the Luxemburg Gardens stands the Saint-Sulpice Church, the second-largest church in Paris, taking a back seat only to Notre Dame Cathedral. Construction of the church began in he 1600s on the site of an earlier Roman church. I understand the church was featured in Dan Brown’s novel The Divinci Code, although it is claimed that Mr. Brown took great liberty with the church’s description and history.

I didn’t go inside the church, and I’m now sorry I didn’t I still have a few days left in Paris, so perhaps I will go back and enter the church. If not, I have something to look forward to on my next trip to this city.

The scene below looks like some scrap metal that fell of the back of a truck, but it is actually a sculpture. When I examined it more closely, I discovered that it is a fountain with the water turned off due to the cold weather.

When I got back to the hostel, it was full of kids: teenagers and pre-teens. I don’t mind the kids, but in order to make them feel more welcome, the hostel management put teenie-bopper music on the PA system and cranked the volume up to an ear-splitting level. I can’t stand being in the common area. I believe the music is loud enough to contribute to hearing loss, and I don’t have that much hearing left to lose. I am writing this locked in my room, two floors up. Even here I can hear the pounding of the bass notes.

I wonder if the hostel management knows (or cares) about the possible hearing loss those kids may suffer as they get older as a result of being subjected to such loud music.

Paris, France February 11, 2018

My month-long vacation in Europe is drawing to a close. In four days I’ll fly back to Phoenix, and it will be an exhausting trip. First, I plan to get to the Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris more than three hours in advance, because it has to be the world’s worst airport to navigate. Then, after an almost 12-hour flight to Los Angeles, I’ll have a seven-hour layover before my flight to Phoenix. I can’t sleep on planes, so I’ll be a walking zombie by the time I get home close to midnight Phoenix time. I can’t sleep on a plane or in an airport, so I expect to go about 27 hours with no sleep.

Walking was treacherous on many Paris sidewalks yesterday. I believe mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry that the night before I had walked from the subway station here to the hostel through slush. Overnight the slush froze into ice, which then began melting again yesterday. An icy sidewalk with a thin coat of water on top of it does not make for secure footing. At my age, I am not interested in taking a hard fall.

I read yesterday on a French news site that there are an estimated 400 unaccompanied children living on the streets of Paris in the cold. Most of them are immigrants who have become separated from their families. Not only are they suffering from the unusually cold Parisian nights, but there is fear that many of them are being exploited both sexually and for cheap labor in exchange for some warm food and a warm place to sleep.

The old bridge (or perhaps it looks more like s short tunnel) in the picture below is on a side street not far from where I am staying. It isn’t the sort of thing one would find in a residential neighborhood in an outlaying neighborhood in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.

Paris, France — February 10, 2018

I left Girona yesterday afternoon. My train departed just after 2 pm. Naturally, because I was leaving, the weather turned sunny. It was still chilly, but the bright sunshine promised warmer weather to come. I took the following photograph as I walked across the bridge from the hostel to the train station in the main part of town.

If you really want fresh coffee in Girona, I suppose the shop shown below is the place to buy it. I took the photo through the shop’s front window. The big, black machine is a coffee roaster. There were also huge sacks of Colombian coffee beans lying around that I presume were waiting for their turn in the roaster.

Of course, the shop shown below was more up my alley. Just look at all of those bicycle jerseys! If I didn’t already have enough jerseys hanging in my closet to last several lifetimes, including one from Girona, I might have been tempted. As I mentioned in at least one earlier post, Girona is a favorite winter training location for professional bicycle racers including several Americans. I saw a number of well-dressed cyclists riding in the rain during my stay there, and all were skinny as rails. That reminded me that I need to slim down if I am to be a competitive amateur bicycle racer in Arizona this year. I need to defend my 75 years and older state criterium championship.

This poor bronze lady must have been suffering terribly from the Girona cold weather given that she was wearing almost no clothes. Perhaps the flash from my camera warmed her up a bit.

The last time I left Girona, en route to Madrid, I had a promotional first-class ticket that I had bought online months in advance. With a promotional ticket, first-class passengers are not allowed to use the first-class waiting lounge in the railway station. This time my ticket to Paris was another promotional first-class ticket, but the ticket did not have the word “promotional” printed on it anywhere. So, I marched into the first-class lounge and flashed my ticket at the man sitting at the reception desk. He said, “Paris, OK,” and motioned me in.

It was pretty nice inside. In addition to comfortable chairs and TV screens for just two of us, there were free snacks and beverages including wine and beer. I first watched a discussion on TV Española about the US stock market crash (yesterday it recovered part of its losses) and then a discussion about Brexit.

The latest news on Brexit is that there are court cases attempting to keep Brexit from taking away the European citizenship of British citizens. (I have both American and British nationality.) The argument is that we British became European citizens when the UK joined the European Union. Once you have citizenship in a country, it cannot be taken away from you unless you obtained citizenship by fraud. Could the same thing be true of European citizenship? I don’t know the answer, but it is an interesting idea. The courts could decide that all of us British who are citizens prior to Brexit will retain our European citizenship for life.

The train ride from Girona to Paris was long. I made the mistake of asking the ticket collector where my carriage, number 12, would halt on the platform. He told me at the other end. The platform was VERY long, and after I had walked halfway to the end, I decided that guy might be wrong and I should walk no farther. It’s a good thing I did. When the train arrived, carriage 12 went whizzing by me as the train slowed in preparation to stopping. I had to run the length of the train to get to it. Watching a 75-year-old trying to run is not pretty, but there was no helping it. The train was only scheduled to stop for three minutes.

En route, the train came to a stop in Southern France for some reason that was never explained. The upshot was that we arrived in Paris 50 minutes late. Fortunately, I know the Parisian subway system well, and I was able to ride from the train station to within blocks of where I am staying before having to wade through the melting slush on foot. It was 11 pm until I hit the hay, later for me.

I’ll leave you with this photograph that I just took out of the front window of the hostel. Although the snow was melting when I arrived in Paris yesterday evening, some of it survived the night.

Girona, February 9, 2018

This afternoon I am taking the train to Paris, so naturally the weather forecast for today calls for temperatures 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer here in Girona. The forecast for Paris, on the other hand, calls for continued cold weather through next week. I think that cold weather is following me around Europe.

I see the stock market is in real trouble. It seems beyond correction territory and headed for a real crash. That’s another thing that happens every time I leave the country; the stock market falls.

Because of the unusual cold, I cut my walk short yesterday. When I lived in Chicago and first visited Europe, I thought the weather here wasn’t really that cold. However, after decades of living in the warm climate of Phoenix, I am no longer adapted to the cold, and even temperatures above freezing seem intolerable now.

I like the way some old buildings in Girona have been converted to a more modern use. The building in the following photo, for example, makes use of old stonework polished to a modern finish.

Below is another building of that type with walls of old stone that have  been polished and fitted with modern windows. I suspect that the interior is also very modern.

I sometimes believe that the economies of both Spain and France run on alcohol. If alcohol were to suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth, both Spain and France would be bankrupt within days. Below is the image of an entire long supermarket aisle devoted only to wine and hard liquor. In fact, the liquor aisle extends even farther than shown in the photograph. Beer? Oh, there’s another aisle devoted to beer. I suspect that only a small percentage of the supermarket’s profits come from selling food. Hmm, given the condition of the stock market, maybe I should be investing my money in booze.

Incidentally, here’s a picture of the bunk I’ve been sleeping in the past five nights. Yes, those are two of my small towels drying on the radiator. One night there was someone sleeping in the bunk above me, but last night I had this side of the room to myself. A middle-aged Spanish guy slept on the other side of the partition.

Here is one of the multilingual signs in the hostel. The first language is Catalan followed by Spanish, English, and French. The English translation could be improved. The lift or elevator is not “jammed.” Someone looked up the wrong word in the dictionary. The elevator is operated by a key, and only the staff has one.

Actually, the first night I slept in the Girona hostel, I was offered an elevator key because of my great age. My room is two floors up. However, I told the personnel that at my age if I stop walking stairs, the day will come when I no longer can.

If all goes according to plan, I should be in Paris by 8 pm and arrive at my lodgings about 45 minutes later. However, the snow in France has been delaying the high-speed trains. Apparently when there are snow and ice of the tracks, rolling along at 180 miles per hour is not safe.

Girona, Spain — February 8, 2018

Yesterday was free of rain, but the temperature was bitter cold, just above freezing, and the sky was overcast and gloomy. It was not a good day for someone who still has a cold to be out and about, but of all of the things people have accused me of, having good sense is not one of them.

I was impressed to see the same sign twice on the building below, “EAT, SLEEP, CYCLE.” Cycle means, of course, ride a bicycle. Now if they would just add “DRINK BEER,” the sign would almost perfectly describe my typical day when I am home in Phoenix. To put things in the correct order, eat, cycle, drink beer, sleep.

While I was walking along the River Onyar trying to keep my hands from freezing yesterday (why didn’t I think to bring gloves?), I came across a statue peaking over the top of a six-foot fence. The fence was solid, so I couldn’t make out the whole statue. I solved the problem by holding my camera above the fence and taking a blind shot of whatever was on the other side. Here’s the statue in all of (his? her?) glory. Thankfully, the weather was so cold that I was in no danger of photographing anyone sunbathing nude behind the fence.

Spanish cities are almost entirely free from trash. There is a waste paper basket on almost every street corner, and the Spanish use them. What they do toss onto the sidewalks and into the streets are cigarette butts. The only people I know who smoke more than the Spanish are the French. Of course, people like the woman in the following picture help to keep the city clean. Here she seems to have spotted a piece of paper to sweep up, but she mostly sweeps up cigarette butts.

I wonder why I took the following picture. Maybe it was to show a typical street scene away from the narrow alleyways of the Old City where I am staying. The buildings have businesses on the ground floor and apartments above. Few Spanish own stand-alone houses. Almost all of them live in apartments.

The parking lot shown below belongs to one of the city’s largest supermarkets. If you drive to the store so that you can haul home a week’s worth of groceries, you’re going to have a hard time finding a parking place. Most Spanish walk to the grocery store — there’s one every few blocks — and carry home the groceries that they need for one day.

Incidentally, I went into this store, part of the Día chain, and the prices were very cheap.  I bought a half-liter can of beer for 71 euro cents or about 88 cents in US money.

Oh! Oh! Until I saw this store window, I had forgotten that Valentine’s Day is coming up. Valentine’s Day will be my last day in Paris. Isn’t Paris supposed to be a romantic city. Maybe I should take the precaution of locking myself in my room for that day.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Girona, and the weather is forecast to be cold and breezy again. The day after tomorrow I take my last long-distance train trip from here to Paris. When I left Paris, it was raining so much that the city soon flooded. Now I read that Paris is buried under a layer of snow and the city fathers are begging the population not to drive their cars. Given the bad streak of weather I’ve had for much of this trip, I think I will be glad to get back to the Phoenix sunshine Thursday evening of next week. On the other hand, given the way bad weather is following me on this trip, the Europeans will be glad to see me leave.

If some Phoenix cyclists is reading this, warn Gordon Goodnow that I plan to meet him on his bike ride at 6 am Friday the 16th and leave him in the dust cycling up Mummy Mountain.

Girona, Spain — February 7, 2017

We have a new roommate in our dormitory, a very tall and very slim Frenchman who insists on speaking to me in a mixture of broken Spanish and broken English. I understand neither his English nor his Spanish, but he refuses to speak French. So, I try to be as polite, pretend that I understand what he is saying, and avoid him as much as possible. It gets tiresome listening to someone jabber away while looking you in the eyes when you have no idea what the person is saying. If he could actually speak English or Spanish or would condescend to speak French, I might learn that he has something interesting to say.

The rain let up yesterday just before noon, so I went out for a walk. As you can see in the picture below taken soon after I left the hostel, the streets were still wet, but the sky was clearing. By the time I got back several hours later, the sun and wind had dried everything. Ah, yes, the wind. Although it was sunny yesterday afternoon, it was nonetheless chilly and breezy. I was glad for my jacket worn over a heavy sweatshirt and my wool cap. I did dispense with the long underwear, however, which I had worn the day before to walk in the cold rain.

I wish I could relate to you what the building in the following picture is, but I could find no signs explaining it. Nevertheless, I found its appearance interesting and could not resist photographing it.

In the following picture, the Girona Cathedral juts above the other buildings in the sunshine. The cathedral is not only taller than the buildings around it, it sits on a hill, which gives it added height.

I walked through a section of town yesterday afternoon that I had not visited before. One of the attractions was a large park, although the park looked a bit sad in its winter aspect with all of the trees bare of leaves. I’ll bet the park would be a delight in summer. I also ran into this city square covered in sand instead of asphalt or stones.

Sitting in the center of one of the nearby traffic circles was this bright, metal sculpture. I suppose we’re all entitled to use our imaginations to decide what it means. To me it looked like some sort of giant bird of prey poised to jump off a tree branch onto its unsuspecting victim below. Hey! Maybe that’s me it’s eying!

I returned to the hostel by way of this old iron pedestrian bridge across the Onyar River. On the way I stopped by a supermarket to buy lunch. Because I have not been riding my bike every day and am therefore burning fewer calories, I’ve cut back to two meals a day for during the trip. I eat breakfast in the hostel and buy something light to eat in late afternoon. Today my second meal was a supermarket salad, a baguette of multi-grain bread, and a Snickers bar. Oh, I didn’t count the beer that I drank earlier while sitting on a park bench reading. The calories in beer and wine don’t count, do they?

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been reading Daniel Ellsberg’s book The Doomsday Machine. I am finding it quite alarming. He makes a very convincing argument that some miscalculation could easily set off a nuclear exchange between the USA and Russia. He further claims that such an exchange would end human civilization. Radiation would wipe out all of us in the Northern Hemisphere, but even the Southern Hemisphere would not be spared. He argues that so much smoke would be sucked into the upper atmosphere that sunlight would not be able to penetrate. No sunlight would mean no agriculture, of course. Perhaps some isolated colonies would find the means to feed themselves here and there and survive, but they would be thrown back into stone-age conditions.

He also explodes the myth that only the president has the power to launch a nuclear attack. He claims that dozens of people have their fingers on the nuclear trigger. it’s frightening to think that there may be scores of people in the world who have the power to end human life.

by Jack Quinn, Phoenix, Arizona USA paybay1(at)