Saturday, March 24, 2012

Meghan Visits Barcelona!!

There is no rest for the weary... less than 12 hours after my return to Barcelona I was off and running again to pick up my cousin Meghan from the airport.  This is a visit that I've been looking forward to for more than 6 months and it's hard to believe that she was finally arriving!  Now under normal circumstances this would be a piece of cake picking her up.  But I was already running on empty from the previous few days of little sleep and lots of travel.  And I had hit the ground running early that morning to take the kids to their parent/teacher conferences so that I wouldn't need to disrupt our time together to have to run to school for them. 

Regardless, the kids and I grabbed a cab, slightly later than planned, and headed for the airport with the intention of meeting Meghan when she exited baggage claim.  However, I didn't anticipate our cab getting into an accident on the way to the airport.  And yes, we're all fine (and Ed, I'm still sorry for the heart attack I gave you - next time I promise to end the text with "and we are fine"). The cab driver pulled over in the tunnel on the highway and spoke to the guy who rear ended us... I'm guessing they decided to get off at the next exit to exchange info (there was no breakdown lane) because when we passed the exit, the driver was looking frantically in his rearview mirror and the guy behind us was waving out his window... for once I was thrilled for an irresponsible driver since there was still a chance that we would make it to the airport on time. 

However, first he took us to the wrong terminal (at least he waited while I checked) and then when he took us to the right terminal he took us to the wrong section which the kids and I ran back and forth trying to find the right one... Aidan commented that we have a very stupid family - in this case I wasn't going to disagree because I was feeling pretty stupid given how many times I've been thru this airport (I'm pretty sure it's more than I've been thru Logan).  In the end we found Meghan who luckily had just exited thru baggage claim and had been waiting only about a minute or two.  Whew, what a start!!! 

We didn't give Meg much time to rest her weary bones.  The kids were home from school both Friday and Monday which I knew would limit us as far as how much we would be able to walk around.  So after dropping her stuff off at home we hopped on the metro and headed for Placa Catalunya.  With a quick lunch of crepes, we walked around the city center for a bit and did a few errands while doing some sightseeing.  After that we laid low til after Josh came home from work - then we did an hour or so walk around Gracia and then down to Sagrada Familia.  All in all a mellow, low key day...

It's good that Friday was mellow because Saturday was anything but that.  Josh took the kids to tennis and I ran a few errands while I let Meghan sleep.  Then she and I made our way down to CDLC to meet Josh and the kids for lunch by the water.  The weather was beautiful albeit a bit on the windy side.  Lunch was fantastic and we all had a great time playing on the giant jungle gym by the water after we ate.

Liam and I at CDLC on St. Patricks Day... my little Irish boy...

Aidan is the only one with the courage to make it to the top... Meg and I didn't come close

Saturday night we went out with some friends of mine to dinner and a bar... only dinner and a bar turned out to be dinner, a bar and a club... TIL 6 AM (which is when they close, this is not Boston folks)... and then breakfast.  We walked in the door at just before 7AM.  I'm pretty sure the latest I've been out in recent history is 3AM.  But then in Boston, everything closes by 2 so why would you be out much later than that?  Suffice it to say, we were in slightly rough shape on Sunday morning.  Aidan actually woke up for the day less than 10 minutes after I walked in much to my chagrin (and my friends' amusement).  Thankfully he's gotten pretty independent and left me alone.  It was Liam jumping on me at 10AM that did me in.  Josh was actually proud that I made it to what he calls Stage 5 - Stage 6 would have been going straight to work from there but given it was Sunday morning that wasn't even an option.  And while there were a few moments that I look back on and cringe, it was an unbelievably fun night and worth the exhaustion on Sunday...

I think this is the biggest drink EVER... and for only 10 euros!  Seriously it took both hands for me to hold it.

Ed and Nasi... I was going to say something fresh here about them sharing a drink but I'm just going to bite my tongue

Meghan and me :)

While we were exhausted on Sunday we still managed to rally in the afternoon and Josh was sweet to watch the kids so we could do some touristy stuff.  We took the metro down to Girona and then started to walk towards Passeig de Gracia.  It turns out that Casa Batllo was open on a Sunday (who knew since nothing is open here on Sunday) and since I'd never been inside either we decided to give it a go.  It was the perfect day for it since it really wasn't crowded at all (I was by there today and thinking how lucky we were to do it on Sunday since the line was easily 5x longer today). 

Now after living here for more than 2 years, I'm used to all the attention that Gaudi's buildings get... and I can completely undestand why they get the attention that they do.  Casa Batllo has been one of my favorites since we arrived here and going inside only reinforced that for me.  In a word, stunning.

The front of Casa Battlo which was inspired by Sant Jordi and the dragon, one of Aidan's favorite stories that he's learned since living here...

Upstairs patio

Even the chimney is a work of art!

Sitting area with stove/fireplace

This is supposed to remind you of a snail... everything Gaudi did was inspired by nature

The light/dark of the blue in the tiles changes as you increase in elevation in the house

After Casa Batllo we walked towards Placa Catalunya once again.  We took some token touristy pics by the fountains :)

Then we headed down a bit of the Ramblas with a quick peak at the Boqueria (closed because it's Sunday) before meandering down the streets of the Gotic and Born areas.  We found ourselves at the "oldest stone" in Barcelona.  This is an area not far from Placa Jaume where there are pillars from the first century BC.  Yes, that's pretty damn old. 

First century BC pillars

From there we went to the Cathedral of Barcelona.  Josh and I had been inside before but it was nice to see it again after having been here longer and just having a new perspective. 

The 13 white geese that represent the age of Saint Eulalia when she was martyred in Barcelona.

Our final stop for the day (and we didn't do too bad given how late we were out the night/morning before), was at the Roman crypts that were found in the 1950s.  I've never actually been down into this museum so I have no idea how old these crypts actually are, but take a look at them, they look pretty damn old. 
Roman age crypts

It was early bedtime on Sunday night... sadly at 8:30.  Yes, I know, pathetic.  But hey, I'm not 25 any more... but wait, Meghan, you're 25 and you were in bed at 8:30 too.  I feel better now :)  Anyways, Monday we had the kids once again so we decided to take it semi-easy with them.  So we walked to Parc Guell, another Gaudi landmark - it's not so bad of a walk, only a mile from my apartment.  Only it's a mile straight uphill.  And we had poor Jake with us.  I'm surprised he's still with us after this death march.  Because it was a mile to get there but I'm going to say at least another mile of walking while we were there and then the mile walk back (at least it was downhill).  The kids ran the entire time and were absolutely amazing about the walking.  They are used to it but in short bursts, like a mile...not 3 without a break. 

Perfect hiding spot for Aidan

Whatever Aidan does, Liam does too...

Photo of Jake to prove he was with us!

On the wrong side of the barrier... Liam!!!!

They are too damn cute for words...

Tuesday was Josh's birthday and our only full day where we would get to spend the whole day doing the tourism thing.  And so we started our day with some shopping at Desigual (happy birthday Josh!!) before walking the Ramblas to the end which included a stop at the Boqueria as well (largest open market in Barcelona).

The Boqueria

Chickens with their heads still on... you just don't get them like this at home in the US

We walked thru Barceloneta where we picked up Meghan's first gaufre, a yummy waffle like treat that we had smothered with chocolate and whipped cream (good thing I went to the gym that morning!)  From Barceloneta, we went to Ciutadella Parc where we walked around for a bit before getting some lunch at one of my fave places, Ikibana. 

Mmmmm... chocolate covered gaufre... doesn't get much better

Large fountain (being renovated of course) in Ciutadella Parc

Arc de Triumf

Following lunch we walked over to the Arc for a few minutes before making our way back home.  We timed it just right with 30 minutes to spare before needing to get the kids off the bus.  And it being Josh's birthday, we still had cake decorating for the kids to do.  Thankfully I had an in house expert when it comes to decorating...

Liam rolling out the fondant

Just a little taste...
The final result... the boys did just about everything (can you tell?) and what better gift than one from the heart??

Very proud of his creation

Helping to blow out the candles

We took Josh out for his birthday to our favorite restaurant, Specchio Magico, and it was delish.  A great end to yet another great day. 

Happy Birthday, Josh!!

Wednesday was a big day... SPA day.  Yes, I'm sooooo lucky, I got to spa twice within a week.  Once with the girls in Cordoba and now with Meghan.  We went to my favorite spa, Rituals d'Orient and enjoyed the luxury of the hammam bath, an exfoliating scrub and then a 40 minute massage.  It really doesn't get much better than that. 

Though before we hit the spa we went over to Sagrada Familia.  It was the perfect day for it because it was pouring rain out so there was practically no line (which is good since normally you need to be there by 8 to get in line and we were more like 10:30 since I went to the gym first...damn addiction!).  I hadn't been inside Sagrada Familia since before the Pope was here (which I think was fall 2010) and there have been huge improvements since then.  It still blows my mind that there are more than 25 more years left before this thing is completed and that's after it's already been under construction for more than 100 years.  Seriously, how long does it take to build a church????  Attention to detail is one thing but really... just get it done.  Regardless, it's absolutely the most beautiful church I've ever seen and no church I have been in since even comes close to this one.  Filled with hues of blues, greens and pinks it just feels fresh and inviting unlike most concrete filled churches. 

This is supposed to be what it looks like when it's complete... someday around 2030

Thursday was our last day before Meghan was heading back to the States.  I had these grandiose plans of us heading to France for the day.  And we did go to France... for an hour.  Let's go back to Wednesday where it was pouring rain.  All weather stations indicated that it would be raining again on Thursday so we had to decide, do we go or not go?  After having done the majority of tourist sights here in Barcelona and potentially getting stuck inside due to rain, we decided let's risk it and get the hell out of dodge. 

Our sexy Cabrio convertible for our trip to France

We couldn't help but be amused that our car had no cup holders but it did come with a VW bottle opener...

So off we went in our Cabrio convertible (we found it really amusing that the car rental guy felt the need to clarify to us that it was a convertible like it was a good thing on a rainy day to which I replied that I didn't really care as long as it was an automatic) to France.  Only our GPS seemed to have an issue getting us out of the city.  An hour later, we were on our way to France!  The weather held up ok until around the last 40 minutes which were fairly miserable.

We arrived in Collioure, France (about 15 miles over the Spanish border) around 1:45.  However, unlike Spain, the French like to eat their lunch significantly earlier and are pretty strict on when they close their doors.  We attempted one place that gave us a look of death and told us that absolutely not, they couldn't help us.  With doors closed all around us, we finally found a pizza place that had some people inside.  Thank god because the handful of chocolate chips I'd had for breakfast just wasn't cutting it at that point (breakfast of champions I know).  So much for my hope for a yummy French steak for lunch but alas beggars can't be choosers. 

So we ate our pizza as we watching the torrential rain pouring down on Collioure.  The town was absolutely desserted.  I think I saw 4 people walk by.  After lunch we decided to walk around for a little bit despite how hard it was raining.  But it wasn't the rain that deterred us... it was the fact that NOT ONE STORE WAS OPEN.  This was not just a siesta issue folks... this was a not yet open for the season kind of thing.  I have never in my life been to a seasonal town where not one single place was open.  It kind of blew our minds but we had no choice but to take it all in stride.  We made it for about 20 minutes before deciding to call it a day and head back to Barcelona.  Yes, you read that right... we drove 3 hrs to spend less than an hour in France to then drive another 3 hours back to Barcelona (it should have been 2 hrs but our GPS had issues getting us back to the right street to drop off the car).  But hey, I promised Meghan France and I delivered... just not in the way I'd hoped.  And we got a good laugh out of it.  The irony of it all... it turns out that after 12PM, it was sunny for the rest of the day in Barcelona... figures!

The castle

Chairs outside the one restaurant that was sort of open... only they were closing so they wouldn't let us in... off for pizza!

Flooding streets and stairs

Raining pretty hard

Welcome back to España!!!

Much needed drink after 6 hours of driving...

So while Thursday didn't turn out as we planned, my hope is that Meghan still enjoyed her week in Barcelona.  I know I loved having her here!! 



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