Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Brits "Invade" Barcelona.... The Cousins Come to Visit!

The last 6 1/2 months have been anything but easy for our family.  But for the next few months, we have a lot to look forward to.  Aside from spring having made it's arrival in Barcelona, and there is little better than spring in Barcelona, we have a lot of visitors lined up for the next 6 weeks.  And while it means less travel for us, after traveling at the pace we have been for the last 4 1/2 years, it's a welcome relief to have visitors coming our way.  First up, our cousins from England!

For a family who hasn't been able to get our shit together to visit each other during the first four years of our time living in Europe, we've now managed to see our British cousins, not once, not twice, but now three times in the last 6 months and in a word, it's been awesome!  Hanging with them is just so easy, so relaxed and so much fun and I wish we'd done it sooner.

When we were visiting with them back in March, they decided to plan a visit to see us during the April break.  It made saying goodbye a whole lot easier that weekend knowing they would be here in just 4 short weeks.  The kids talked non-stop about "the cousins" coming to visit.  We had an über busy few days planned with them and as I type this, I'm sitting on the couch where I don't plan to leave for the next 24 hours.

As "the cousins" didn't arrive until late Monday night, Aidan had a sleepover Sunday into Monday. They were in bed late and up very early (like 5:45 early...though in Aidan's defense, I did hear him say to his friend "I'm going back to bed, but here's some books if you'd like to read").  Given the intensity of the week, that might have been a mistake in hindsight as the kids have yet to be in bed before 10:30 any night this week.

We had 3 full days and totally different activities planned for each of those days.  A day doing an intense tour of Barcelona.  A day in Collioure, France.  And finally, a day in Sitges, a small beach town about 30 minutes south of Barcelona.  We covered a little bit of everything.  Early days, late nights and meals on the go, but it was worth every moment!!

Barcelona day of insanity!

We started the day off early with a tour to Sagrada Familia.  Now, I should probably also note that a few of the things that we did on Tuesday neither Josh nor the kids had done either.  Given that we are likely leaving Barcelona in the next few months, it was a great opportunity for them to see those places and it would have been a shame to say that we lived here all that time and they never got to see some of these world famous places.

Thankfully we ordered our tickets for Sagrada Familia online since I have yet to not see a long line outside the famous basilica.  Unfortunately, I didn't order them far enough in advance and all the audio tours were sold out.  This was fine because the kids really didn't have the patience to get thru the audio tour anyways.

We went up to the top of the towers to see the outstanding views of the city and worked our way back down.
Aidan and Liam waiting to get into Sagrada Familia

Cousins re-united!  Liam, Angus, Aidan and Eden

At the top of the tower

Fiona and Angus near the top and Liam and Angus back at the bottom...

The way the light was coming thru the stained glass was amazing!



Sagrada Familia museum

After the Sagrada Familia we took a little time to play on the playground

Liam has become quite the monkey these days and was swinging back and forth over and over again

Angus gives it a try...
After Sagrada Familia we were off to Casa Batlló, yet another Gaudi creation.  And again, a location neither Josh nor the boys had been to before.  On our way there, in what would not be the last time this week, we lost Liam.  It was a bit of a panicked moment as Passeig de Gracia is incredibly busy street, full of locals and tourists alike.  It was hard to see thru the crowds to try to find him.  Thankfully he hadn't gone far (he had been off in his own world and did not see us stop and had continued on ahead) but it was still a few minutes of panic wondering where he had gone and how we were going to find him.  

While the kids didn't have a great attention span here either, it was definitely better than when we were at Sagrada Familia.
Waiting to go into Casa Batlló

Selfie :)

Eden and Julie


Angus inside Casa Batlló




Family shot!  Josh, Liam, Aidan, Angus, Fiona, Eden and Julie

Selfie again :)

Hanging out on the roof
After Casa Battló, we had a great lunch at our favorite tapas place, Ciudad Condal.  It's touristy but has some of the best tapas.  Of course, in typical Spanish fashion, our 20 minute wait was well over an hour.  But it was worth it an full kids are happy kids!
We took the rest of the afternoon to wander around the city.  Placa Catalunya, Las Ramblas, La Boqueria, el Born and la Gotica.  Eventually the kids had enough though and we took the metro down to the beach which is where they really wanted to go!
Walking thru the Gothic



Placa Catalunya


Julie and Angus

Just the boys


Blowing big bubbles


Spelling out the letters "Barcino" the old name for Barcelona




Aidan and Eden on the climber at the beach

Collioure, France

We love Collioure.  It's a must see when we have friends and family in town.  Just two hours north of Barcelona, along the Mediterranean coast, Collioure is the epitome of what you think of when you think old world Europe.  And with Fiona, Angus and Eden all speaking French, they were super excited for the visit there.

We took the kids thru the castle, ate at Creperie Bretonne (my favorite) and walked all around town. The weather, while a bit on the breezy side, was beautiful with a clear blue sky that would be hard to match anywhere.  The kids laughed and ran and played.  Really, it doesn't get much better than this!


Hanging on the castle wall... and Liam in a pouty moment...

Getting ready to skip rocks into the water

Eden, Fiona and Angus

My baby isn't much of a baby any more... before I know it, he's going to be as tall as me!

Walking into town


Yummy lunch!

Running to the castle

Aidan and Eden

Angus, Aidan and Eden

Aidan and Fiona

Inside the castle

On top of the castle wall



The big boys

View from the castle



Happy kids



Throwing stones

Do these kids take great pictures or what?

Sitges, Spain

Another one of our favorite places to show people when they visit is Sitges.  And bonus for our Sitges day, Aidan's friend Luca was in town from Stockholm and staying in Stiges so we got to see him and his brother Roan and my friends Saskia as well.  We took the train down to Sitges, just about 40 mins south of Barcelona.  We walked past the Cathedral down to the boardwalk and walked for about 20 minutes to meet up with Saskia and the kids.

Getting psyched for the beach!

More pictures???




The kids all immediately ran for the water.  Personally, I think crazy.  It was maybe 65F out, not exactly swimming weather.  Well, unless you are a kid.  Apparently it was swimming weather for them. The adults, meanwhile, just relaxed at the churinguito (beach bar) and chatted the day away.  It was a mellow, fun day for all.  And full of some good laughs too...especially when Fiona came back from the porta potty telling us about how a couple had just walked out of it sheepishly.  Who does it in a porta potty??  Ewww!!  But it made us laugh incredibly hard!!!

The kids all had so much fun on the beach.  Whether tossing the football around, exploring the rocks or building sand castles, the kids all got along fabulously and played hard all day.

The whole brood in the water!

Happy to be on the beach!

Aidan and Luca

Aidan, Luca and Angus playing football

Eden and Liam had a great time building sand castles

Eden and Liam

Aidan and Luca


Bamboo sticks were washing up on the shore - all the kids were determined to collect as many as they could.  Liam considered himself to be Gandalf (Lord of the Rings) with his stick.

Aidan and Luca

The end of the day... still all smiles!


Liam and Roan chatting away (a note here that they were too shy to play with each other the entire day but when the day ended they were sudden BFF's)


The day was a blast and we didn't make it back home til after 9.  We had to stop of ice cream before we even left Sitges.  And like our first day, this was also the day we lost Liam AGAIN.  Crowded streets + Liam's world = trouble.  And trouble he is.  When we found him, he knew that once again he hadn't been paying attention and that while we were very happy we had found him (of course), we were not happy that once again his lack of focus meant we lost him.  His excuse (and clever at that) was that we were not going the correct way (not true) to the train station and so he was going the right way.  Uh huh... nice try.

Ice cream!!!



All in all though, it was a fun, fun 3 days with our family and friends.  We were very sad to see them leave and look forward to our next reunion, hopefully in June!!!  And it was great to see Saskia, Luca and Roan as well - hopefully we'll see them again soon too!!!

Besos,
Julie