“I know something interesting is sure to happen.”
When I first visited Spain in the 1970s, it was to give short courses that had been organized by Daniel Peña and Albert Prat. George Tiao and I taught time series in Madrid, where Daniel lived, and Stu Hunter and I taught experimental design in Barcelona, the home of Albert.
I had never before realized that Catalonia is a state, for many purposes, separate from Spain, with its own language. Albert was proud of his heritage and was a wonderful guide. He was also an expert chef, and he knew a great deal about wine. Whenever we visited, he took us on a tour of all the restaurants, which while the best, were not necessarily the most expensive. (One place he took us to eat delicious seafood was down a narrow alley where there were a few people who had seemingly passed out on the ground, and I almost feared for my life.)
I remember one day, when we had a free afternoon, he asked me what I wanted to do. I happened to remember that Freixenet, a maker of Catalan champagne, was not far away. When we got there, the gate was closed and it was clearly not a day when they allowed visitors, but Albert found the gatekeeper and chatted with him in Catalan. It was like magic: We were soon shown around with almost royal treatment. On another occasion, Albert's talent as an organizer reached its pinnacle when he put on a conference in Barcelona that featured a dinner at one of Franco's former palaces, replete ...