Day 2: Oxford

20190915_122359-1We checked out Blenheim Palace today. Maurizio Cattelan’s contemporary art was displayed at random places around the place where Winston Churchill was born.

I didn’t like it. A taxidermied horse hung from a ceiling, a boy sat up high and banged a drum, other odd displays were around the historical building. We weren’t able to see the $4.5million 18-carat gold toilet bowl because it was stolen yesterday – yanked out of the wall, causing massive flooding, and tossed in the back of a van.

I tried punting later in the day. This old English sport is difficult – pushing a flat-bottomed boat along with a long steel stick.

Tomorrow we start our row on the Thames.

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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)

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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Wednesday, March 25: Laguardia and Ipad Problems

We had a nice day in Laguardia yesterday even though it was still raining and continued to most of the day. It was also very cold.

We were able to have a tour of a winery <the Fabulista> in English, and it was just a small group of us <five> so it was particularly enjoyable. They seem to have set up for groups of up to 50, which will probably be happening all summer. I am so glad we have beat the tourism rush. There have been no crowds anywhere we have visited.

We also had a nice wine tasting and it was a surprise that the bottles of the red and white wine they sell are about three to ten euros.  I mentioned that in the U. S, three dollars would hardly cover the cost of the glass bottle, or that any wine at that price would not be considered worth drinking. Of course, their wine was very good.

We spent some time checking out the walled village and had lunch at a small wine bar where we pointed to the tapas we wanted. It was good, and also fast and easy.

I am disappointed that my iPad wont start and is in the Recovery Mode. I cannot access my pictures or turn it on to write a blog post. <i wanted to check out the origin of the Fabulista winery, since the woman giving the tour said it has to do with the person who orginated fables and was not a form of the word fabulous, as I thought.>

This hotel computer is set up to type in Spanish and is tough to work with = no apostrophes or parenthesis, for examples. We are leaving here shortly and driving toward Barcelona, and maybe there will be an Apple store there <there was a big one in Madrid> where I can get them to restart it. Otherwise I will plug along on hotel computers.

Adios,

Susan