Sunday, June 16, 2013

College Reunion, Barcelona Style

About a year ago, one of my best friends from college, Ursula, and I had started talking about her doing a trip out here to visit us with her family.  The plan was for them to go to France for a week to visit her host family and then a week here. We talked about it... a lot.  We researched flights.  But it was hard to pull the trigger and figure out what made more sense - fly into Barcelona and then take a local carrier to France or vice versa?  And we had to pin down the dates.  Before you know it, it was only a few months before the planned trip and the prices had gone up significantly.  The hopes for a visit seemed to be going down the drain.

But all hope was not lost.  We started talking about perhaps instead of a 2 week trip with the entire family, what if she came out to visit 2 weeks before our original dates (while the kids were still in school thereby making childcare a bit easier) by herself for just one week instead of two?  And then we threw in, do you think our other BFF from college, Caryn, would be in as well??  Josh was going to be away most of that week so other than when my kids would be out of school it would truly be a girls week.  And to top it off, my birthday was at the end of the week, what a celebration!!

Caryn was in!  Suddenly a hope was becoming a reality!  My two best friends from college would be here for the first week of June!  We all live in different states at home so even when we are all stateside, we don't get to see each other all that much.  Josh was a little bummed because he is actually good friends with them too so he would only get about a day or two with them out of the entire week.  But I was excited to know that two of the people that I love so much were coming here to visit!!

I think we emailed more in these two months than we have in the last 2 years.  While the best of friendships stand the tests of time, it's always nice to know you can pick right up where you left off.  Life gets in the way - kids, work, life... it's not always possible to talk as often as we would like.  We talked about all the things we would do while they were here, including a quick trip to France!

Finally the day came when we had to pick up Caryn and Urs at the airport.  Liam helped me with a poster to welcome them to Barcelona and kudos to Liam for doing all that coloring!  And in the lines too!!  I was so focused on what Liam was doing that I didn't even notice Caryn and Urs til they were right in front of me.  But it was emotional and a bit surreal (are they really really here???) regardless!

Liam is ready to welcome Caryn and Urs with his poster!

From that moment on, we were at warp speed.  We got home, dropped off the bags, handed over Liam to Josh for tennis lessons and immediately hit the ground running.  Grocery shopping, a quick lunch and then up to Parc Guell - tourists abound but it is a must see and it was a gorgeous day, with spring (yes spring, not summer!) finally arriving with them.  It was nice for Josh to have some time catching up with our friends since the next day we were leaving him and the kids and heading up to Provence, France.

Aidan was determined to drink from this fountain... the mom in me shivers in disgust (though I'm sure it was fine)

For the boy who didn't want to go, he seems pretty happy here

Seriously goofy



Did I mention must climb EVERYTHING?

Caryn, Urs, me, Aidan and Liam

In the 4 hour drive on Sunday up to Arles, France, there was never a moment of silence in the car (except for Caryn, who like Josh, can sleep anywhere ;)).  Living in different states (and now countries), having families and careers, we just don't get this kind of time together and we seized every single moment.  I don't think during the entire week that there was a lull in the conversation - we had so much to catch up on... years worth of stuff!  But like I said before, it felt like we just picked up where we left off which was such a good feeling.

Arles, France was beautiful as was our hotel where I had been to before with Michelle.  It's such a pretty little town to explore with it's own Roman arena and amphitheater.  Unfortunately, in France, many restaurants are closed on Sundays (while everything is closed in BCN, for the most part restaurants are always open) and we were hard pressed to find dinner and ended up in a slightly touristy place, but the wine was flowing as was the conversation and so the meal was secondary to the rest.

Roman colosseum in Arles, France

I love the doors and windows in this town

Beautiful pedestrian street

View from by the church on top of the hill

Cool dial that actually showed what we were viewing in front of us and how far away it was

That is actually the sun in the lamp - just managed to get the shot at just the right moment

Eglise St. Trophime

Van Gogh gardens

Our hotel

With only one night in Arles, we got up the next morning and just enjoyed a relaxing few hours chatting before heading out to Collioure, a beautiful French village about 20 minutes from the Spanish border.  This is one of my favorite places to go.  It's a seaside town with picturesque views of the Mediterranean, a windmill, a castle and great little French restaurants.  Unfortunately I will never be able to go back there as I've decided it's cursed.  Yes, watch for the blog entry on the Curse of Collioure, it's coming soon.  After an "adventurous" day in Collioure, we headed back to Barcelona, albeit a little worse for the wear but still all smiles.

One of my favorite views in Collioure

Part of the "curse of Collioure"

Another favorite view, these colorful sailboats always in the harbor

The week was already off to a great start and we just kept going.  There is no rest for the weary.  There wasn't a single night where we were in bed before 1AM and with Josh away, I was up at 6:15 with the kids Tuesday - Friday and then again at 7 the morning Caryn and Urs had to leave.  It was a rapid fire pace and yet, I wasn't exhausted by it until after they left (when Josh, the kids and I actually took a family nap we were all so tired!).  We just all ran on adrenaline and the excitement of getting to spend this amazing quality time with each other that we hadn't had in YEARS.  I do wish we'd had a day or two that we could have just chilled and done nothing but then we wouldn't have gotten to see all the sights and why fly all this way if we aren't going to see the sights of Barcelona?

So we set Tuesday and Thursday aside for "in town" touristy stuff and Wednesday we headed down to Sitges for a little fun in the sun (and the bikini Challenge) to go along with our touring around town.  We did so much walking that I actually felt no guilt (for the first time in a long time) about not making it to the gym.  I think Caryn said we walked over 75,000 steps in the course of just a few days (according to her Nike fuelband).  We hit all the big sites on our BCN days - La Pedrera, walking along Passeig de Gracia and Las Ramblas, Placa Catalunya, Casa Batllo, walking along Barceloneta to Villa Olimpica and then back thru Ciutadella Park, thru the Arc de Triumpf and back home.  And then a tour thru the Raval, Gothic and El Born along with a trip up to Montjuic (thanks to my friends Eddy and Ricardo for taking on that part while I waited for my next babysitter to relieve me and thanks for some of the pictures for this entry!).  We finished with a tour of Sagrada Familia (which is also Liam's new favorite topic as he just started to learn about Antoni Gaudi at school).

Dinner at La Muscleria - yummy mussels and great company, a perfect combination!

Julie, Caryn and Ursula in the Gothic area

And in the Raval

Ricardo, Caryn and Urs on Montjuic

Urs at the Cathedral and the group of us at a great organic restaurant in the Raval

Caryn and Ursula on Montjuic

Eddy, Caryn and Urs on Montjuic

Besties :)

Speaking of my friends, I'm so glad that Caryn and Urs got to meet some of mine here.  I've met such lovely people here that I wanted to share them with some of my oldest friends.  Eddy and Ricardo met up with us a few times for dinner and tourism (and they are the best tour guides!).  And then on Friday, my birthday, we had a big bbq and send off for Caryn and Urs so they got to meet a bunch of people at once.  Always social, I had no worries about them fitting in with the "new" crowd.

Friday night was a late night (3AM) but it was a perfect end to a perfect week.  Josh manned the bbq and we had meats, veggies and desserts galore.  It was a feast fit for royalty!  And it meant so much to me to have my friends with me on that big day.  But sadly it also meant our vacation was coming to an end.  Saturday morning I saw them off to the airport with big hugs and promises to see them when we are home in August.

You'll have to wait for my birthday blog entry for the rest of my birthday pictures

I feel like friendships have been renewed and revitalized.  We've caught up but could still use another week (or two) to truly feel caught up in each others' lives.  I feel so fortunate that they were not only able to work out logistically a way to get here, leaving their families behind, but that they wanted to come visit and found a way to do it.  We've had so few visitors in the last 3 1/2 years and each one who  comes, I hope you know how much it means to us to have you here.

Last but certainly not least, Aidan and Liam bonded with my friends.  Now with Liam, this is no major surprise, but for Aidan to put himself out to others so quickly is not normal.  And I think it speaks worlds of the women I have chosen for my closest friends.  They have only met the boys a handful of times in the last few years and so the boys really had no recollection of them beyond a day here or there.  And for them to be giving kisses and hugs at the end of the trip and telling them how much they would be missed, well, that's a big deal to me.

And so it was with tears in my eyes that I had to say hasta luego to Caryn and Urs when they headed out last Saturday (yes, I know I'm a bit late with this entry).  But I'm so thankful for their visit which not only rekindled our friendships, but rekindled my energy here and that was much needed.  Thank you both for being such a huge part of my life and for coming out to see us!!


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