Tuesday, March 31: back home and Thank You

I am happy to say that our three flights yesterday were uneventful (although it was a l-o-n-g day) and we got back home last night at about 10:30. I unpacked and went directly to sleep and am hopeful I can get back in the time zone here without too much adjustment.
( This is a ridiculous thought because even turning clocks ahead an hour a couple weeks ago created sleep problems!)
Thanks for following my adventures over the past two weeks. I’ll update my blog throughout the busy summer, as well as 109daystoalcatraz.com

Adios for now,
-Susan
[mrslud@aol.com]

Cans of fish- tuna, octopus, salmon- that will be a nice treat in the months ahead, and the old, heavy candelabra we got for ten euros at a street festival.

Cans of fish- tuna, octopus, salmon- that will be a nice treat in the months ahead, and the old, heavy candelabra we got for ten euros at a street festival.

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Drank my coffee without milk this morning since the refrigerator is just about empty (choices were beer or mustard)

Sunday, March 29: last day of vacation

Today was the last day of vacation, and we really did not do much. We had a late breakfast (because we lost an hour with the time change). Then we packed up all our purchases (mostly clothes I got over the past two weeks).

We wandered around Barcelona, but it was packed PACKED with people today. It wasn’t easy to get around in some places. Many stores were closed since it’s Sunday so that’s probably why people were just out and about.

Here is some of what we did today:

Bought some (more) shoes at this really colorful store.

Bought some (more) shoes at this really colorful store.

Stopped to listen to this fine group of musicians, who had their bikes in a pile beside them, which raised some questions about traveling safely, at least in my head

Stopped to listen to this fine group of musicians, who had their bikes in a pile beside them, which raised some questions about traveling safely, at least in my head

Went back to this place for lunch because we enjoyed it so much last night ( and of course they remembered us, and chatted with us since they weren't that busy)

Went back to this place for lunch because we enjoyed it so much last night ( and of course they remembered us, and chatted with us since they weren’t that busy)

Saw this interesting shop. It had a bunch of customers and I wandered in. It's candy, but only small varieties that you put in a glass jar, ranging in size from baby food to peanut butter-sized. Crazy, but I bet they'll do well all summer.

Saw this interesting shop. It had a bunch of customers and I wandered in. It’s candy, but only small varieties that you put in a glass jar, ranging in size from baby food to peanut butter-sized. Crazy, but I bet they’ll do well all summer.

Saw this guy cooking rotisserie chicken outside his shop

Saw this guy cooking rotisserie chicken outside his shop

We hadn’t had paella at all during our trip, so thought we had better do that tonight. We probably should have found a small restaurant on a side street instead of the one we chose on a main thoroughfare. Our dinner (seafood paella) was not great, neither good nor bad. I had hoped for delicious!

We are leaving early tomorrow morning and of course I’m hoping our trip back is uneventful. It will be a long travel day, regardless.

Adios,

-Susan

Saturday, March 28: Barcelona

I began today reading emails and Facebook, and Twitter, and the newspaper headlines over a cup of coffee in the hotel restaurant. Facebook reminded me that one year ago at this time, I posted birthday wishes to my son. I figured they knew what they were talking about, so I posted birthday wishes anew and carried on, believing that today was March 29. Of course it’s not (and last year I posted at night, the day before, because I had scanned a photo). In any case, vacation is taking its toll. We only have tomorrow, and leave early Monday morning.

Today we went to the Picasso museum.  He was born in Spain and spent much of his adolescence here in Barcelona. The museum isn’t as big as the Picasso museum in Paris, but it does have about 3,800 of his works. He set this museum up during his lifetime ( in 1963) and his widow donated more to the collection after his death in 1973.

It was overwhelming to see this huge chunk of his work, and I’m not sure all of the collection was even displayed. I enjoyed seeing how his style and focus changed through his life. If I lived closer, I think it would be great to be able to look at even just a wall at a time since it is too much to take in in just a few hours.

From there we walked around in that part of the city, went down to the water for lunch, bought a new piece of luggage to hold everything we have bought over the past two weeks, and ended up at a very small leather goods store, owned by a husband and wife.

Roger wanted to buy a belt and the selection displayed was nice,but not exactly what he was looking for. Rafael, the owner said he’d make a belt and brought out a nice piece of leather. He asked us to come back in two hours.

So we walked around, window-shopped, actually shopped, people-watched, and came back for the belt a little early. Carmen, his wife welcomed us back with excitement. She dragged two chairs out for us to sit down, gave us water, Spanish magazines to read, and opened Google translator on her laptop to help us communicate. We found out that she and Rafael have also been married for thirty years, and that they’ve had the shop for 28. He makes beautiful briefcases, purses, wallets, and other goods and seems to do well.

We talked for a while and eventually the belt was ready. After we said goodbye, they asked where we were going next. I said we were going to dinner, but we were not sure where. Carmen jumped up, waved to her husband, and escorted us to a really nice tapas restaurant about ten minutes away. We were sort of amazed that she brought us in, walked us downstairs, and showed us the unique setup before hugging and kissing us goodbye and returning to Rafael.
We enjoyed dinner at this place we never would have found on our own, and sat with a nice couple from Frankfurt who were there for a long weekend.

Tomorrow we need to wind things down: pack up and prepare for an early start for our journey home on Monday.

Adios,
-Susan

The clever restaurant Carmen led us to. You walk up and select with tapas you want, then they write up a bill based on the number of toothpicks you've placed in a holder on your table.

The clever restaurant Carmen led us to. You walk up and select the tapas you want, then they write up a bill based on the number of toothpicks you’ve placed in a holder on your table.

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At the waterfront after lunch

At the waterfront after lunch

At the leather shop. I wish the photo with Carmen had come out. She was adorable and so kind.

At the leather shop. I wish the photo with Carmen had come out. She was adorable and so kind.

At the Picasso museum today

At the Picasso museum today

Friday, March 27: Barcelona

Today we took a tour of the Segrada Familia, which is a very well known and interesting place to see here in Barcelona. By taking a tour, we got a nice ride from a location near our hotel, met two nice women from Brooklyn, and were treated to details of this huge project that is taking almost literally forever to complete.

The Segrada Familia is the largest Roman Catholic church still under construction in the world, and began as just a neighborhood church in 1882. The first architect left the project after a year, and Antoni Gaudi stepped in with much, much more grand and complex plans than originally imagined. It is sort of astonishing to see, and the closer you are, the more you realize it is not just a masterpiece, it’s overwhelmingly impossible. The intricate stone work on the outside and the unbelievable detail on the inside can never be finished, at least not by 2021 (for the outside) and 20 or so years later for the inside. Gaudi died in 1921 and left his plans, which are being followed closely. The 2021 date for finishing the outside is to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his death.

With our tour group of maybe 20 people, we got some interesting details from our tour guide, our tickets handed to us, we were ushered in through a separate entrance, and were eventually led out. It was well worth our time. There were already thousands of tourists there today. When summer hits, I think it will be paralyzingly slow to get around.

After that we walked around for a while, did some shopping (I got some shoes) and tried to avoid pickpockets (who are all over the place and everyone everywhere warns about them. Still, there are people walking around with unzipped purses and backpacks. Easy prey.)

We went into the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Barcelona opera house since we found ourselves walking right in front of it. We were able to have a quick tour. It opened in 1847 and is a very beautiful place. The two opera singers who died in the recent airplane crash had performed there just a few nights ago. That was very eerie in a way, and the young woman walking us around teared up talking about it.

We went back there this evening for a Beethoven orchestra concert. The music was terrific and it was a treat to be at the grand theater for a performance. Sitting next to us was a student of the pianist who was on stage for part of the concert, and he was a wealth of information about the orchestra company. So we lucked out having Edoardo and his friend Juan beside us. Juan is from Barcelona and I mentioned to him that the Segrada Familia would never be finished, and he insisted that it would be. Someday. He said he walks past it every day and sees progress.

We had a very late dinner and called it a day. By then I was having problems walking in my new shoes.

Adios,
-Susan

This building is in the shape of waves, and it's like that on the inside, too. A Japanese architect designed it.

This building is in the shape of waves, and it’s like that on the inside, too. A Japanese architect designed it.

Barcelona opera house

Barcelona opera house

There's a magic square on one part of the outside of the Sagrada Familia, where all the rows add up to 33.

There’s a magic square on one part of the outside of the Sagreda Familia, where all the rows add up to 33.

The inside of the church was massive and it sure looked finished to me. It's not though - the have at least 25 years of work left

The inside of the church was massive and it sure looked finished to me. It’s not though – they have at least 25 years of work left

The Sagrada Familia is a huge unfinished church in Barcelona. They're actively working to get the outside done by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

The Sagrada Familia is a huge unfinished church in Barcelona. They’re actively working to get the outside done by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Thursday, March 26: Barcelona

We left Lleida at about 9:30 this morning. There was something a little off with that hotel, the Nastis, and although I guess I slept okay, I was glad when we left.

We headed toward Barcelona and arrived in the city at about noon. Arriving was really just the first hurdle. Next we had to return the rental car by finding the Hertz drop off in the middle of the city. It was tricky because of all of the traffic on the major road, the inability to see the numbers on any building as we quickly drove by (there was no way we were going to slow down), and again: our lack of GPS.

We finally figured out where the storefront should be, but of course there was no Hertz sign there. We turned around and drove back. At the time I thought we were very close to the address, a long bus drove by us slowly, completely blocking my vision. We decided to park the car and walk and look. We found a spot in the street right away, which is as improbable as finding one quickly in New York. We were able to find Hertz and get rid of the car.

We need to get another bag to carry all of the things we have bought, but for now we have a bunch of shopping bags. They were sort of cumbersome to deal with as we tried to hail a cab, but we did it, got to our hotel in a really nice part of the city, and checked in.

Another improbability: I found an Apple Store just a five minute walk from our hotel. We went immediately because I needed to get my iPad rebooted. Fortunately they were able to do that as I waited (there were probably 60 or more people sitting at tech support tables). We were out of the store in an hour altogether, and then had some tapas and wine. My iPad now is wiped clean, but I’m okay with it and happy it works (note to self: do not upgrade until you read what people say about it.)

We walked around by our hotel this evening, and arranged to take a tour tomorrow of la Sagrada Familia, a huge church which is the major attraction of its type in Barcelona. It is interesting especially because construction began in1882 and won’t be completed until 2041.

Adios,
-Susan

A cute tapas place we went to

A cute tapas place we went to

Long drive, long ordeal, long time putting up with me :-)

Long drive, long ordeal, long time putting up with me 🙂

Wednesday, March 25 p.m. : on to Barcelona

We left Laguardia at about 10:30 this morning. It was snowing pretty hard about an hour before that, and it turned to rain as we were packing up. We have a six-hour drive to Barcelona and hotel reservations for tomorrow so we will drive for a while today to make a dent in that. We need to return the rental car tomorrow before 3pm, and that probably won’t be a problem. (We finally figured out that a warning light that was going on intermittently meant that the road was wet. It had been cause for concern.)

We drove out of the rain and of course the more south we went the warmer it got. We stopped for gas about an hour into our drive. I got out of the car and the wind was so strong it lurched the car door open when I pushed it. It easily would have blown away a small child. We noticed that there are wind-breaking trees in that section of the highway, and the doors there are all sliding, pocket doors. It must be extremely windy all the time. I wouldn’t be able to stand it.

We drove to about an hour outside of Barcelona, to the city of Lleida. It seemed a good place to stop because it was written in LARGE letters on the map. It is a busy little city and we drove all around it looking for a place to stay. We found a “hotel and spa” that looked fine, but was it very strange once we got inside. It reminded me a bit of the bar in Lisbon: there, with random collections of CDs, toys, and other sort of random things. These were all around the lounge and made it (at least to me) uninhabitable.

But the room is very nice and it seems a comfortable place to spend the night. I tried to check out the spa part of the hotel, but it is in a separate area and I couldn’t find it (the sign outside an elevator said it was on the 5th floor, but the elevator only went to the fourth (?) The pool is temporarily closed. Still,it seems fine.

We went into the city at 6:30 to find a restaurant (first, a place to park – sheesh they were scarce. We parked at the soccer stadium) and were happy to find a terrific-sounding place for dinner, Xalet Suis. We learned that it, and the other ones here, don’t open until 9. That’s typical of all of Spain, but we’ve been going to places that open earlier, probably to accommodate Americans.

So we walked around, had some coffee, checked out the city, and went back for a delicious late dinner. We were the only ones in the old, very good restaurant for most of the evening. We enjoyed the whole dinner and this little, busy city.

Tomorrow we will check out Barcelona. (See photos in post that follows)

Adios,
-Susan

Wednesday, March 25, p.m.: Photos

Coffee shop we stopped in to bide some time before dinner

Coffee shop we stopped in to bide some time before dinner

Lunch today about two hours into our drive

Lunch today about two hours into our drive

Lounge area of the hotel we are staying (the rooms are nice though)

Lounge area of the hotel we are staying (the rooms are nice though)

Really odd seating in the lounge area at the hotel

Really odd seating in the lounge area at the hotel

Entrance to hotel where we are staying. Sort of odd

Entrance to hotel where we are staying. Sort of odd

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