happy birthday, Dad
happy birthday, Dad
Sorry for the delay. Life got in the way a bit. Here’s the last installment.
27 September 15
I was ready to be home, simply for the fact that there was no more time to do anything.
We tried to find something to eat but it was so early, there weren’t many places open.
Sonia & Eric drove us to the airport and came in with us, which initially annoyed me. (This will be a running theme for the day).
Barcelona is an amazing city, but the airport leaves a lot to be desired. It is chaotic and a bit of a nightmare. However, we finally found where we needed to check in. We didn’t quite want to say goodbye, but there wasn’t really anywhere to hang out. So we said our tearful goodbyes to Sonia & Eric and got in line for security. I was no longer annoyed that they had come in with us.
It turns out it was a good thing we’d gotten in line because it was for passport control and was super long, and by the time we got through it, it was almost time to board.
Mom was wearing sunglasses as we waited, which annoyed me (I told you). But then we realized that she was crying, and I felt terrible. While I was just eager to start the long journey back, my mom was leaving her homeland, and she was sad. I calmed the ‘f’ down, and we finally boarded to head to Atlanta.
We had 3 seats together in the middle aisle. Between the two flights, I watched 6 movies, but I only remember 4 of them (Inside Out, Get Hard, The Wedding Ringer, and Into the Woods). I was trying to stay awake because when we got to LA, it would be 7 pm.
When we got to Atlanta, we had to go through security again. That’s when we discovered that Mom had put the oro de Toledo letter opener in her carry-on bag. I had to rush back to a counter to have it checked. I told Mom & Sandy to go on and that I’d catch up with them. Atlanta has a huge airport, but I made it just in time. We were the last ones on the plane (again).
Mom & I had aisle seats, and Sandy was next to me at the window. I don’t remember much from that flight. I probably watched some of those movies I mentioned.
When we got to LAX, we got our luggage and found a taxi to take us to La Mirada. Mary & Dewey were there with Dad. It was good to see him. We were tired, but we chatted with them a bit. It was difficult to encompass two incredible weeks to chit-chat. We went to bed around 9 pm.
The next day (Monday, 9/28/15), we caught up with Dad. He had had to go to the ER once. Mary ended up taking care of him better than the nurses who came by. We told him stories and showed him the album that Sonia had made for us. Suddenly it was nearly time to leave to take Sandy to the airport and for me to drive back to San Diego. There were teary goodbyes all around. And the vacation was over.
In present time, the Santa Ana winds are blowing and the first presidential debate just happened. I’d much rather be where I was a year ago.
26 September 15
We are waiting for Sonia & Eric to arrive. We’ll go back to Enrique Tomas for ham sandwiches. This morning, I got up around 9 am. Sandy & I left around 11 am to go to Sagrada Familia having secured our tickets online. We stopped again at the churreria for churros & Cacaolat and ate them again in the park. Then it was time.
I don’t quite know how to describe it. Stunning. Masterful. Genius. Awesome. So much has been done since I was last here, and there’s still much to do. I took tons of photos which simply can’t do it justice, but here is just a sampling.
At one point, Sandy & I went to a quiet prayer area. No photos, no talking, just silent prayer. It was very special. I thanked the spirits for allowing me to be there and experience this amazing city. I meditated how Gaudi made this place for God, but he also made it for everyone. I was very moved by the opportunity to take a moment, especially on our last day, to appreciate it all. After that, Sandy & I lingered and stared and tried to take it all in. We left around 2 pm and walked across the street to get another angle of it.
When we got home, Mom was sleeping. When she woke up, we left to go to the Arc de Triomf. I for some reason really wanted to see it. It’s cool 🙂
On the way, we passed by Tia Carmeta’s apartment near Plaza Tetuan. After the Arc, I was getting pretty hangry. I hadn’t eaten since the churros that morning. We were looking for a taxi but there were none around which was weird. We ended up walking to Parc Ciutadella:
I was having a conflict, because as much as I was enjoying being there, I was hungry and tired. We walked over to El Born and found a cafe. It was around 5 pm, and the kitchen was closed. We started walking back and finally found a taxi. We learned they were all up at the stadium because Barca was playing!
We went back to the apartment and went basically across the street to a little cafe called Snack 55 where we had croquetas, patatas con aioli, torrada de queso, ensaladilla rusa, un bombe, and a bocadillo con sobresada. Plus sangria de cava. Whew!
Finally satisfied, we went home. I sort of showered and got my bag ready.
I truly love it here. I feel it more now than I ever did. I will return.
Sonia and Eric arrived around 10 pm. The ham store was closed so we ended up at a random cafe that was run by some Chinese women. I opted for plates of ham and cheese and patatas bravas. I was very tired. There were sheets of lightning intermittently, and it even rained a little. Here’s a photo that we asked someone to take of us:
We went back to the apartment where Sonia gave us a photo album from this trip. It was so very sweet. I cried. And then I went to bed. Back to the USA tomorrow.
This recap is coming into its last days, but there’s still plenty more to talk about! Here we go!
25 September 15
Mom went to the doctor and was back quickly. Her foot seems fine they said which is good!
We took a walk to take the portrait that Nuri gave Mom to a UPS store to send it back to the US ahead of us. Accomplished! I remembered that we were right near an orxateria that Mom wanted to try, so we stopped there and she got one that she had there and got some to take home. Success! We stopped at a couple granjas until we found ensaimadas including ones with cabello de angel (Mom’s favorite). We stopped at the market and then went back to the apartment.
Around noon, we left to go to Sitges! We took a taxi to Paseo de Gracia to the train station. The train left at 1 pm so we waited a bit. Once on the train, I read for a while. We arrived in Sitges around 1:45 pm. We decided to have lunch first. Mom had put together a list of places where we could go. The place she wanted to go we decided was too expensive so we looked at a few other places along the street and decided on Sunset on Sitges.
It was very good. We had sangria de cava. Mom had gazpacho and calamares. Sandy & I had calamares to start following by entrecot con patatas. For dessert I had lava cake.
Super tasty and very filling. We all enjoyed it very much.
After lunch we walked around, to the church, by the water. My memories of Sitges from the last time I was there in ’94 with Dad are very special. I feel like I fell in love with it. I didn’t get the same feeling this time, but it was still awesome. It’s a quaint beachside town that honors its poets and artists.
We took the train back around 6 pm and were back at Paseo de Gracia by 7 pm. If you remember from the Bus Turistic day, Paseo de Gracia is where a couple of buildings that Gaudi designed, Casa Batllo and La Pedrera. We spent some time at Casa Batllo and considered going inside for a tour but thought it was a little too expensive. [When I go back, I’ll definitely do the tour. It looks amazing inside from photos I’ve seen since we’ve been there.] The street where Casa Batllo is is called Manzana de la Discordia, which means Block of Discord. Three different modernist architects designed three different buildings.
I really loved it Casa Batllo 🙂
We took a taxi home. We talked about going to the Arc De Triomf, but it was getting dark so we decided to go get tapas. I found a place nearby called Rene. We walked to it a little after 9 pm. We ordered canas and sat outside. It was a cool looking little place. We had patatas bravas, croquetas, and asparagus. The food was photo-worthy, but we had a good time.
The service was slow. In fact, I had wanted to see the postres menu, but they took too long and I got tired. We paid and left. On the way home we walked past the oldest bar-cafe in Barcelona, Café del Centre, est 1873. One more full day, and we have tickets to go to Sagrada Familia.
If I haven’t mentioned it, you should definitely check out my mom’s blog (https://akinderworld.blogspot.com/) and my sister’s blog (https://redredhothead.blogspot.com/). They are both posting some about our trip last year with different photos and commentary. It’s awesome! Now on to the next installment!
24 September 15
Mom got up early and headed to the doctor to have her blister checked. She was back quickly because they were closed due to the holiday (La Merce).
Let me interject here a bit about the apartment. While the interior is quite lovely and modern with big comfy beds, where it significantly lacks is in water pressure. My god, it is non-existent. I got up early this morning to take a shower, and it was a complete joke. I learned a whole new level of patience as I tried to wash my hair. Sandy didn’t even attempt it.
We headed to La Sagrada Familia. The neighborhood we were in (L’Eixample) is very near the church. We stopped on the way for some churros. We watched them being made and put in the little paper cones just for us. They were incredibly delicious! Fresh and hot. We sat in a park and ate them and people watched.
We approached the LSF and saw there was a line going in so we got in it. Turns out the line was to go down to the crypt where Gaudi is buried. It was really beautiful.
We went back up and tried to figure out how to get inside LSF (now that you can, last time we were here the inside wasn’t done yet). We found out that tickets were sold out for the day and that you need to buy them ahead of time online. Sandy & I will probably do that.
We went into the gift shop where we all happily purchased a bunch of stuff, gifts and things for ourselves. I became a little obsessed with Gaudi on this trip. His impact on the city is immense, and his passion for God is unmatched. That kind of stuff usually doesn’t do much for me, but his art and architecture is so pure, and so incredibly imaginative, but in a different way than a Dali. Gaudi was inspired by nature and the inherent beauty of it. Truly fascinating.
We also stopped at a Barca store where Sandy bought some things for T.
After LSF, we came back to the apartment and shortly thereafter grabbed a taxi to go to Ferran’s house for lunch. He had graciously invited us. His wife, Mercedes, made us a giant paella de carne. Nice of her since it was her Saint Day!
And oh my goodness, was it tasty. Also there was his daughter, Gloria, and her daughter, Patricia. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but Sandy, Mom & I noticed right away when we first arrived in BCN that nearly every Spanish woman, young or old, is well put together. They are stylish without looking like they try very hard. It was a source of envy and something to aspire to. Let me tell you, Gloria was a well put together Spanish lady. I couldn’t help but just stare at her sometimes. And to think we’re distantly related! We also had a lovely fruit tart for dessert and some cava.
After lunch we chatted about their upcoming election (to decide if Catalunya should separate from Spain). It was an interesting discussion and to also hear from the different generations their thoughts.
Ferran very nicely offered us a ride home after lunch. Sandy & I wanted to go to Parc Guell, so he dropped off Mom at the apartment and then dropped us off near the Parc. I say ‘near’ because it wasn’t at the entrance, I think he missed a street or something. We had to walk up a bunch of steps but then we were there. Parc Guell (another Gaudi part of BCN) is divided into 2 parts, a free area and a paid area. Much of the cool stuff that Gaudi built is in the paid area. The next entry time into it was 6:30 pm and it was about 4:45 pm when we were there. But we called upon our mantra of “no regrets” and bought tickets and used the time to wander the large ‘free’ area.
Within the free area is the Casa Gaudi Museum, which is not free, but we paid and went in. It was really cool. Gaudi lived there while he was working on the park. The park was meant to be a neighborhood which overlooked the city. I think only a couple houses got built though because it was too difficult to get the supplies up the hills. I don’t recall if he built the house that he lived in, but I still enjoyed it.
After that we went and sat on a bench while we waited for it to be time for us to go into the Monument Zone as it’s called. I think I snoozed a little.
Finally, it was time. They let in 400 people every 30 minutes to help preserve the Parc. We kind of started backwards, but there’s no wrong way to go. It was truly awesome. He was a genius, yet so humble and unassuming. I’ll just add the many photos.
The Hypostyle Room:
The Dragon Stairway:
Entrance and Porter’s Lodge Pavilions:
We were done around 7:15 pm. Mom had said to take a taxi back. Ferran had said to walk. We decided to walk after we’d looked at the map. I felt so happy to have understood where we were and how to get us back. It took us about 35 minutes to get back to the apartment. It was getting dark but there were plenty of people out and about and never did we feel like we’d made the wrong choice.
For dinner, we walked to a little café called Enrique Tomas to get sandwiches and took them back to the apartment. Sandy & I enjoyed a cana while we waited. The sandwiches were good. We watched the celebrations of La Merce on TV. We had thought about going to Montjuic where the celebrations were happening, but there were a shit-ton of people down there and we didn’t want to deal with that. We enjoyed watching it on TV. Mom sang along to many of the songs that were played. Another fabulous day!
I can’t believe we’re already at Day 10!
23 September 15
We got up around 8:30am. It was cloudy, but I asked Sandy if she wanted to take a walk and she did. We left around 10:30 am (after breakfast of croissants) and walked to the arches along the beach. It was a good walk with beautiful views that I remembered so well, views that I feel are etched into my DNA. The sea looked incredible. (lots of photos!)
On the way back, I couldn’t help but take a photo of this beachside bar that Mama Pepita frequented. It’s changed a lot looks-wise, but the name evokes images of her sitting there with a beer and some chips, getting some sun on her arms and legs.
We got back around noon. Turns out Mom had been fielding calls from the hotel bugging us to leave the room, so we hurried out of there and spent about an hour waiting in the lobby for Sonia & Eric to arrive. While we waited, I walked around a bit more by myself, close by. When I returned to the lobby, Sonia & Eric had arrived, but Mom was not around anymore. I went looking for her, and while I was gone, she had returned. I was kind of upset with her since she knew we were going to be leaving, and then I saw that she had been crying, and everything I was feeling melted away. She was sad to be leaving Playa de Aro, and I totally got it. I probably could have stayed another day, but it was still very good.
On our way back to Barcelona, we decided to stop for lunch at a roadside place they know about called Grill Ruta Baviera. We sat outside and had canas. I had croquetas and everyone else had some form of grilled meat (steak, chicken, sausage). We also got a huge plate of fries and pan con tomate. It was a great lunch, and a nice way to end this part of the trip.
On the way to Barcelona, I slept. Once we reached the city, I wanted to try to understand the geography of the city and know where we were since we were staying in a different AirBnB. We arrived to Calle Arago. The building seems very old. Case in point, check these photos (miniscule elevator, the view from the elevator to our door, the staircase!):
However, the apartment is super modern. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, everything updated. Very nice. The host, Anna, was there to meet us and show us around the she left.
Sonia & Erik hung out with us for a little bit but left around 6:30 pm. We lounged a while and got on WiFi, then it was time to get ready to meet Mom’s cousin, Franc, for dinner. Tomorrow is La Merce, a big festival day here (and the anniversary of my parents meeting). We took a taxi to the Gothic Quarter, and there were a lot of people out and about, plus concerts happening and it was all very festive.
The restaurant we went to was another awesome experience. Can Pitarra, est 1890. Franc is very nice, very smart, very talkative. We arrived around 8:30 pm. We had cava all night. For dinner, I had grilled asparagus, then a whole dorada fish that Franc had to filet for me, and for dessert chocolate truffles in whipped cream with coffee syrup.
The fish was really good though I had to work around the bones. It was served with potatoes and the best aioli I’ve had here. This meal was spectacular! We were done around 11:30 pm. Wow!
We took a taxi back to the apartment, where Sandy took advantage of the laundry facilities. We also talked to figure out our plans for tomorrow. I wrote this entry, and it’s currently raining in Barcelona.
Today’s installment of where I was and what I did one year ago today. Enjoy!
22 September 15
This morning we got up leisurely around 8:30 am and got ourselves ready for the day. We all walked down to La Mallorquina and got ensaimadas. Mom got some other dulces, too. We went back to the apartment and ate on the terrace until Sonia came.
She dropped us off at the doctor’s so Mom could have her blister looked at. They have universal health care here so Mom paid 62 Euro and was treated by a super nice doctor and nurse. They dealt with her blister and bandaged her up. She’ll have to have it looked at again in BCN.
After that, we went walking and looking for a new oro de Toledo letter opener for Dad. We found the store we were hoping to find and the proprietors were phenomenally nice. They warmed my heart. Sandy & I also bought some stuff. Then we went back to the apartment after stopping for an horchata for Mom who is still searching for a good one.
Sonia was at the beach when we got back. But she came up shortly and she, Sandy, and I went to get lunch at a local bar/café where Sonia knew the guy working. She & Eric used to have a bar here, then they had a restaurant, so they got to know a lot of the service folks around town. We got sandwiches and fries and took them back to the apartment. The sandwiches are simple: meat and cheese, or just meat, or just cheese. The bread is smeared with tomato. Delicious.
It started to get a little cloudy and slightly chilly. Sometime between the night before and now, we’d made a plan to go see Monica and Nuri at Monica’s place in San Feliu. So we took off, Sonia driving us (bless her heart!) She drove us first by S’Agaro to see it. It was nice. She dropped us off at Monica’s and said she’d pick us up in a couple hours.
Nuri was staying at Monica’s. It’s a pretty big apartment. Nuri has a room for herself, then Aida, Irina, and Monica all have their own rooms as well. We sat and talked, or rather listened to Nuri. Thank goodness Monica has a dog, Willy, that we could give attention to! When Irina got home from school around 5 pm, Mo, Sandy & I took Willy for a walk so Mo could show us around San Feliu. It’s very old, dating back to the 1200s. There are little history markers around town which gave historical tidbits. It had been a ship-building town and was bombed heavily during the Spanish Civil War. I found it quite charming with its old buildings, very narrow streets, and conveniences.
We went back to the apartment, and Sonia & Eric arrived. We exchanged addresses and said our goodbyes. I’m glad that Mom got a chance to reconnect with her sister, and I hope things are fine between them now.
Before we went back to Sta Cristina, Sonia & Eric took us to meet his mom, Carmen, and her partner, Jose, who happens to be the cousin of Elvira. Small world. We had a lovely visit with them.
Then we went back to Sonia & Eric’s apartment where Eric would cook dinner for us. While he cooked, we all chatted and got caught up thanks to Sonia’s WiFi. Sandy & I took this selfie. I think Sandy looks super cute.
We had dinner around 10 pm, and it was a feast! I had been ‘complaining’ about how I hadn’t had breaded pork yet, so Eric hooked us up. We had escalopa de lomo, butifarra, jerdez, chorizo, pan con tomate, roasted red peppers, and sangria. A home-cooked meal. It was spectacular, all totally delicious.
It was a wonderful way to end the day, among family & great food. Eric drove us back to Playa de Aro. Tomorrow, he & Sonia will pick us up in the afternoon to take us back to Barcelona. It’s supposed to rain here tomorrow, so I’m glad I got in the Med when I did!