I’ve been back from vacation for 2 weeks. The same amount of time I was gone. It seems like much longer since I’ve been home.
It seems that while I was gone, the heat did not abate at all. And we had a momentary lapse where it rained pretty good for a couple days, but the last few days, it’s been 90+ (Fahrenheit). Ridiculous. I also caught a kind of cold. Whether it was from the airplane or working at the Ashford graduation where I handled probably 50+ phones taking photos, I caught something. I had a sore throat for days. It’s uncommon for me. I stayed home for one day, and guzzled sore throat liquid and sucked on lozenges like there was no tomorrow. I think today is the first day I’ve felt just fine.
It was surprisingly and a little disconcertingly easy to fall back into my pre-vacation routine, albeit less stressed about life in general. I don’t know about you, but I don’t take a lot of true vacations. Yes, I take days off here and there, but full-on vacations like going to Spain are rare for me right now. I’d like to change that, but that’s another story. Anyway, getting away from your everyday life can be intoxicating. No cares, no real worries as long as you have what you need. And so then you try to bring some of that attitude back with you. It lasts for a couple days or a week at best. One thing I tried to bring back was some of the food. I can’t tell you how disappointed I become most mornings when I can’t just walk to a nearby granja or pastisseria and get a croissant or ensaimada. For the first week back, I took a loaf of french bread to work along with some chorizo, Spanish cheese, tomato, and olive oil. It was good to make pan con tomate, but the tomato didn’t spread right, and it wasn’t the same. It’s been so hot to cook at night, though I did buy a couple potatoes and some eggs. I haven’t yet had the guts to try to make a tortilla de patatas.
Simply put: I miss Barcelona. Or maybe I just miss being on vacation, being with my mom and sister, seeing my cousin so often. My mom and my sister are both recounting the days chronologically and including photos, which is awesome.Since we were together almost every day and took many of the same photos, I don’t want to write about the same things or show you the same things. You can check out their recaps: Mom’s and Sandy’s.
What I’d rather do is give you my impressions, maybe just relay my thoughts on different topics. Not all at once, just little bits here and there. We’ll start here:
They say Barcelona is a walking city, and they’re right. I mean, it’s a big city, but their public transportation is remarkable, so you hop on a subway or bus, or if you need to, get a taxi. You get where you’re going and you walk. Sometimes, if you’re really ambitious, you can just walk. Late in the trip, Sandy & I went to Parc Guell, full of Antoni Gaudi’s brilliant work. It’s up on a hill, overlooking the city. Ferran, my mom’s cousin, dropped us off fairly close to it. We had to climb a lot of stairs, but we got up there. He had told us that we could walk home, while Mom had told us to get a cab. After staring, photographing, oohing, and aahing through the Monumental Zone, it was probably around 7 or 7:30pm. It would be dark pretty soon so we had to decide what we would do. I had taken a map (one of the few times we had remembered to do so), and I felt like I could get us back to the apartment on Arago. And we did it! It took 35 minutes, and we covered a lot of ground, but it was all good. We commented how we felt safe because there were a lot of people out on the streets, walking their dogs, walking with strollers, sitting at cafes, heading home with a few groceries. The city is alive.
I logged a lot miles (thanks for keeping track, FitBit!) I think the average was probably around 5 miles/day. Not so much in Playa de Aro (except the last day). There was one day when I walked 8 miles. It also happened to be the day I was wearing my pink tennis shoes and socks (not my compression socks). And boy, did I pay. I developed these horrific and super hot bands of redness on my lower legs, above my ankles and about halfway down from my knees. Both legs. They were super tight and did I mention hot? That happened, I believe on the first Wednesday. We’d been down to the Gothic Quarter, exploring the side streets, seeing la Catedral and soaking in the atmosphere. We stopped for tapas at Els4Gats, a little bar that had once been frequented by such luminaries as Picasso and Hemingway. We loved it, scratch that, we adored it. Unbeknownst to all of us, Mom was developing a blister (como una casa!) that was giving her a lot of pain. She said she was done but that we could stay out if we wanted. It was about 3:30 pm or so. We wanted to keep going. We said our goodbyes, I think each of us wondering if we were making the right decision.
Sandy and I walked down to Port Vell with the intention to ride the sky tram across the port over to Montjuic. We could see it, we went in the direction it was located, but from where we were walking (and again, without a map), we ended up a good distance from it. It was across the harbor area and to go back to take the right way would have been too time-consuming, We had to be back at the apartment (Carrer Bertan) by 5pm or so as Eric and Sonia were bringing Nicole, and we were going to see Jordi and Elvira (Jordi is Nuri’s ex and my godfather, Elvira is his wife now), then we were going to meet Eric’s other daughters for dinner. Anyway, so we walked around the port. It was nice, but it didn’t seem very special to me. It was more recently built (for the Olympics in 1992), and we had never spent much time down there. I don’t think I even took a photo. Then we walked back up La Rambla, stopping for un helado. I had crema catalana flavor that was a little odd, lemony, but it was still good. We got the subway back to Avgda Tibidabo and got to the apartment in time to change for the next part of the day.
Eric drove us to Jordi’s, then down to La Barceloneta (Sonia & Nicole took the bus). I was started to feel my legs hurting a bit. We had a drink at a fun little place called Juanita LaLa, then walked to 3 Nusos for dinner. Boy, it was good. (I’ll do a separate entry on food), but by this time, if felt like my legs were going to burn right through my jeans. It didn’t really hurt to walk, but they felt tight. It was lovely to meet Eric’s daughters, Melani and Katya, but it was a late night, probably midnight by the time we left the restaurant. When we got home (by taxi), and I took off my pants, my legs were in full effect. There are photos that neither Mom nor Sandy have, but I’ll spare you. Just suffice to say that since I’ve been back, I showed them to the nephrologist and my acupuncturist and their reactions were justified.
Thankfully, the Barcelona pharmacies are filled with magical potions. The next day I got an ointment that I used 3x a time for about 2-3 days and all was well. Plus I wore my compression socks from then on.
For all the walking we did, Mom was a trooper. There were a couple times, as the blister was forming, that she had a tough time, but she was right there with us for the most part. The day that Sandy & I went up to Montserrat, she had her own adventure, going to La Rambla, finding the granja where Cacaolat was invented. I was very happy for her.
The first day we got there, we arrived in the morning, having travelled overnight across the Atlantic. Sandy was determined to stay up until bedtime. I was also determined but succumbed to an hour nap because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. When I woke up, Sandy was close to losing her battle so she said she was going to get a Coke. I said I’d go with her (Mom was asleep having not slept AT ALL on the overnight flight). There was a supermarket directly next door to the apartment so we decided to walk a little further. We ended up going to El Putxet, a park very near the apartment, which was also very near where my grandparents (and of course my mom) used to live on Roca y Batlle. God, it was awesome to be there again. Sandy & I even commented on how the sidewalks are the same. They’re not just ordinary sidewalks of concrete but tiles. Here’s a photo (and for more, I found this great blog post):
Anyway, El Putxet. It had been on my list of places to see that I hadn’t seen before. Remember it was our first day there, and as we walked into the park, we looked up and saw Tibidabo. Hooray! And then we came upon an opening where it seemed the city gifted itself to us. We could see everything, from Sagrada Familia to Montjuic. We were beyond thrilled, breathing in the pine, looking across this magnificent city to the horizon of the Mediterranean. God, I could just cry thinking about it. It was magical. That was a good walk.
I mentioned that the last day in Playa de Aro, Sandy & I took a walk. It looked like it might rain, but we headed in the direction of Palamos along the beach walk. Then we walked up a trail that skirts the edge of the Hotel Costa Brava, but not before we took numerous photos of Cavall Bernat, the famous rock of Playa de Aro. This photo is an aerial view that shows the trail that circles the hotel. Sandy & I walked to the arches you can see in the top of the photo (the internet is an amazing thing):
We walked across that beach to get to the calas that are near the arches. Walking in that sand was a workout in itself. On the way back we walked up near the top of the beach which went a lot faster and didn’t leave me gasping for breath. It was a gorgeous day and the sun shimmered off the water in such a way that was downright enthralling. I took a lot of photos on that particular walk.
We walked every day. You can’t help it. We also didn’t hold back on our eating, so the good news was I didn’t gain any weight (although I didn’t lose any either). Of course, walking more is another thing I wanted to bring into my daily activities post-vacation. I haven’t cracked 10,000 steps since I got back, but I have been taking walking breaks at work here and there. Gotta get better at it though.
I’m sure I could think of more walking stories, but I’ve got to get to bed for the night. Until next time and next topic!