# 13 – Sagrada Familia & last day happenings (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

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.

The Birth:

The Death:

Doors:

Inside:

Other Details:

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 🙂

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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:

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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:

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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.

# 12 – Sitges (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

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.

day-12a-sunset-at-sitges-cafe2Around 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.

Beach:

The church:

Seaside:

Town buildings:

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.

# 10 – last day in Playa de Aro (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

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 day-10b-walk-with-sandy15beachside 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!

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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.

# 9 – San Feliu & a home-cooked meal (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

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.day-9b-sonias-apartment

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 tomaday-9c-dinner-by-ericte, 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!

# 8 – Mediterranean moments y familia (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

Here’s the look back on what happened one year ago today!

~

21 September 15

Sandy got up at 7:30 (not on purpose). But we had noted that sunrise was at 7:30. Mom got up, too. We hurried outside and saw a beautiful sunrise over the sea.
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I wrote in my journal for a while, then Sandy convinced me today-8a-playa-de-aro2-primas get in the Med. I was waffling. But she told me to remember what MT’s advice had been: no regrets! It was about 10:45 am. The chill of the water literally took my breath away, but as I got used to it, the only word to describe the experience was perfection. It’s so calm, you just float in the salt water. Estoy muy contenta. Sandy didn’t get in, so after, we went up to the apartment, and I showered. We were sitting outside when Sonia came.

We chatted some, then went into town to change money and go to the pharmacy. Eric and Nicole were going to meet us at a restaurant for lunch. Changing money took longer than we thought. We walked by the old apartment and took a photo. Then to the pharmacy where they told Mom she should see a doctor about the blister. We will go tomorrow.

Then it was time to go to a restaurant that Sonia & Eric knew about called Rosamar. It sits on a cliff above the Mediterranean with spectacular views. It was stunning.

We went over to where Eric & Nicole were waiting, but there were some bees coming near so we moved under a covering but still outside. The flies and bees were still ‘bugging’ us. Nicole couldn’t take it. She kept jumping from her chair and waving her arms. The waiter brought a citronella and placed it right by her, but it didn’t help much.

We ordered and were talking nicely, shooing away the flies, but Nicole was very agitated and sassy to her parents who were upset by her poor behavior. It was uncomfortable. Eric yelled at her. She was crying. Sonia was embarrassed & Eric was pissed. Nicole is a teenager, and it showed. I felt bad for all of them.

For lunch, Sandy & I shared croquetas, then I had maccarones. Para la postre: un crocanti! 2 cervezas.

After lunch, we walked a little bit to take more photos.

It was mostly a pleasant afternoon. Eric & Nicole left on his moto, and Sonia drove us back, but not before we stopped to take more photos of the sea.

Then we awaited the arrival of Nuri, Monica, Aida, and Irina.

When they arrived, it was good to see them, albeit a little strange. We all hugged and kissed right in the middle of the sidewalk in front of our apartment. The best surprise was that Nuri had brought the portrait that had hung in the living room of Roca y Batlle and gave it to Mom. I almost burst into tears, but I held it together.

We walked and talked and ended up going to La Pijama to get drinks and some food. It was a little late for lunch, but too early for dinner, but we were there, so we went with it. I had some deep-fried camembert.

We sat and talked, either as a large group or in smaller groups. Nuri & Mom mostly talking together. We took photos.

Through the evening, it was clear that Nuri dislikes Sonia, pero mucho. Es una lastima. We were walking back to the apartment, Nuri & Mom were behind all of the cousins. That’s when we heard Nuri say some not very nice things about me and Sandy and Sonia. It was a bummer. We’d had such a pleasant evening up til then.

After they left, and the plan for tomorrow was still kind of up in the air, we went up to the apartment. Mom hadn’t slept very well the night before so we decided to switch beds. So I ended up in the ‘master’ bedroom that night.

One more note about this location. There is a petanque tournament going on here at Hotel Aromar. A huge group of French players are here in the hotel, and the tournament is directly in front of the hotel. They turn on the PA early and are making announcements all day. It’s become a bit of a running joke. So much petanque!

# 7 – To Platja d’Aro (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

Sorry for missing a day. I’ll try to double post to stay on track, no promises though. Work has been complete craziness.

~~

20 September 15

We got up fairly early (haha, around 8:30 am) to get ready to leave what I came to call the apartment, Casa Tibidabo. We had breakfast on the terrace (for the first time)day-7a-terrace-at-bertran. Then we set to cleaning the apartment and getting our stuff together. We were done by about 11 am, and Sonia arrived around 11:30 am. After chatting a while, we got our luggage and hauled it up the streets of Barcelona to Sonia’s car, which would have been rather uneventful, except that on the way, we passed by the church where Mom & Dad were married!

Sonia drove us out of Barcelona. There’s a highway now that goes to Costa Brava where before you had to go through towns. It’s very green here. Nice drive, all the while talking about the family and everything.

First stop was Sta Cristina where Sonia lives in a cute little 2-bedroom.

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View from Sonia’s apartment

It’s government housing, and she only pays 300 euro a month, which is quite inexpensive. It was very cute. She made us canalones and a salad. Yummy! Then she brought out her photo albums from when she lived with us in La Mirada. She says it was the best time of her life J After that we all piled in the car to head to Playa de Aro! It’s not far, in fact, Sonia works in Platja.

On the way into town, we stopped at the cemetery where Avi & Mama Pepita (Mom’s parents) are buried. day-7c-playa-de-aro-cemeteryPoor Mama Pepita doesn’t have her birth/death dates on the headstone. Sonia said it might have been a matter of money at the time. Sad. I’m glad we stopped though.

Then it was on to Playa de Aro. It’s changed a lot. It’s much more about la moda. Many stores, not as many bars/cafes. There’s a McDonald’s. L But one part that is still mostly the same is the beach.

We arrived to our next apartment which is part of Hotel Aromar. It’s on the third floor, and it faces the sea. It’s an incredible view.The sea is so calm.

After we got to the apartment & admired its views, we went to the supermarket for some drinks and snacks. Mom didn’t come because her blister is the size of a house. 😦 We took a drink on the balcony and called Nuri and Monica to make a plan for them to come the next day (with much drama in the conversation). Sonia & Nicole then had to leave to get Eric so Mom, Sandy & I walked down to the beach to put our feet in the Mediterranean.I didn’t remember the sand being so rocky, but what bliss to sit there.

Eric & Sonia came back (Nicole wasn’t feeling well) and we walked to a local bar/café called Costa Brava. They were showing a basketball game (Spain vs Lithuania), and the patrons were very into it. We had canas, patatas bravas, chipirinos (fried fish), albondigas (very good), calamares a la romana, and chicken wings. I was tired, the bar was loud, but it was still good. When the basketball game was over, they switched to soccer where Barca was playing. They scored 3 quick goals, and it was festive. Sandy liked being around the locals rooting for their teams.

I was able to show Sonia photos of the Lorca house, and talk a bit about Han and D. Sonia is good people, as is Eric. I said to her, “Te veo como un adulto.” We had a good laugh.

After ‘dinner,’ they left and Mom, Sandy, and I hung in the hotel lobby to use the WiFi.

Then we went back to the apartment where we read a bit then went to sleep. The beds in this apartment are much better than the little monastic beds at Casa Tibidabo.

One last look at the view of the sea from our balcony. Sigh. day-7d-playa-de-aro16

# 6 – Bus Turistic & Tibidabo (memories of Barcelona a year later – a series)

Here’s today’s installment!
~~

19 September 15

I woke up with a cold 😦

Today was the day we would ride the Bus Turistic, thanks to the free tickets from Melanie. We went to Farga to get something for breakfast. Since I wasn’t feeling too great, I opted for orange juice to go with my magdalena. Before the bus, we stopped at the pharmacy where, after hearing my symptoms, they gave me a powder anti-histamine. I poured it into my OJ and drank it down.

I need to make a quick aside about the magical pharmacies of Barcelona. Remember my leg pain? After a day and a half or so of using the cream I’d gotten at the first pharmacy, my legs were completely cleared up. Plus I wore compression socks everywhere from then on (the day I got the rash or whatever it was, I hadn’t worn the socks) and didn’t have any issues. Then this anti-histamine was also miraculous. You’ll read below, but seriously, there’s practically a pharmacy on every corner, they have things to deal with just about anything. Mom had gotten some stuff to manage her blister, too, which was helping, but it was still there, and huge.

Back to Bus Turistic. We started out on the top level of the bus. It was kind of a cooler morning, but it was still nice. It’s an audio tour, so as the bus drives around, the audio tells you what you’re seeing. I took a couple pics.

There are three routes of the Bus Turistic. We started on blue, then we changed to red. The bus is a hop-on/hop-off tour so there are multiple buses running all the time. When we switched to red, the top of the bus was full, so we sat in the bus. It was not as good. The windows are decorated or wrapped and it impedes the visuals out the windows. I think on the red route, we went up through Olympic Park. I was feeling rather miserable. We didn’t hop off anywhere. But then we decided to change to the green route. When that bus came, there was room on top, but since I didn’t want to be in the open air with my cold, I stayed inside while Mom & Sandy went up top.

The green route is kind of boring, no big sites, so the bus was pretty empty. It was awesome for me because that’s when the anti-histamine kicked in. It was not a non-drowsy formula, so I snoozed on the bus. I did manage to get these shots either between catching some winks or after.

We decided to get off at Port Olimpic/the beachfront to have some lunch. Mom remembered going to some restaurant with her mom before and was trying to figure out which one. We went up and down the area where the restaurants are, looking, checking out the menu del dia. Finally, we selected El Cangrejo Loco (The Crazy Crab). I was starting to feel better, but then lunch came and everything was better! This meal was one of my favorites. I had for primero a big ol’ plate of Iberico ham. Gah! So good! I also had calamares and then spaghetti con shrimp. For dessert, crema catalana which is like a crème brulee but is lemony instead of vanilla-y.

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We also had a great view!

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We all really liked this restaurant.

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By the time we were done, it was like I’d never even had a cold (miracle pharmacy!) We hopped back on the bus, this time on the red line again. It was much less crowded so we were all on top. I took lots of photos!

At one point, we hopped off near Paseo de Gracia because that’s where 2 of Gaudi’s most famous structures are located: Casa Batllo and La Pedrera (more on those later)

We hopped back on, and I took more photos of the amazing architecture all over the city.

The bus also stopped at La Sagrada Familia, another Gaudi work. We didn’t get off the bus because we knew we were going to come here another day. Still, when it’s right there, you can’t not take photos. Lots more on that later, too.

We ended up back on the blue route which took us back to where we’d gotten on the bus in the morning. The bus handily stopped right near where you get on Tramvia Blau to go up to Tibidabo. So many memories came to me on this ride up the mountain, and then on the funicular up to the top. The tram/car that goes up the street to the funicular passes through some cool neighborhoods with gorgeous houses. Maybe Mom told me this, but I thought of this neighborhood as I read “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The funicular is exactly the same as when I was a kid. It’s equally fascinating and scary. I don’t know if Mom & Sandy were having similar thoughts.

We weren’t going up there to ride anything but just to look at the city. We hit the jackpot. It was clear and not too dark yet. We took photos of the park itself (so old-fashioned!),

of the view,

a nice person took photos of us,

and then the light was hitting the church in such a way that we were crazy trying to capture it.

We also had churros and walked around a little bit. We went down the mountain around 8 pm. We bought some bread. We went up to El Putxet again, then we went home, had sandwiches, and went to bed. Saw so much of the city today. I am so in love with it.