"Europe's most unconventional church, the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, is an emblem of a city that likes to think of itself as individualistic. Crammed with symbolism inspired by nature and striving for originality, it is the greatest work of Gaudi." (Barcelona and Catalonia Eyewitness Book) Gaudi began work on the church in 1883, "it became his life's work and he lived like a recluse on the site for 14 years... At his death only one tower on the Nativity facade had been completed, but work resumed after the civil war... work continues today..." In other words, almost 130 years later and it still isn't complete! It's famous for it's 12 spires, it's Passion facade, a bleak and controversial work, "it's sculptured figures are angular and often sinister." And it's Nativity facade, which is the most complete part finished in 1930, it's "doorways represent faith, hope and Charity. Scenes of the Nativity and Christ's childhood are embellished with symbolism..." Even if it's not your style, it was pretty amazing in person, and very interestingly unique. This is one of the most famous sites in the city, and a visit to Barcelona wouldn't complete without a stop there. And there is your Barcelona, architecture, and history lesson for the day!
First of all, Barcelona is in the Catalonian region of Spain and the people are fiercely proud of this heritage and will call themselves Catalonian before they will call themselves Spaniards. They think the bull fighting popular in other regions is barbaric, they pride themselves on being creative and modern and civilized and associate themselves more like northern Europeans, just some interesting thoughts on the people. Other than the pickpockets on the train, we found the people we met to be absolutely delightful and helpful.
Another thing they are very proud of is their style and architecture called Modernisme, started by the famous Antoni Gaudi. His architectural mark is all over the city, when I saw pictures of some of his work before we left, I have to admit I was very skeptical. While his style is still not my favorite, I respect and admire his unique vision and creativity. I only say this, because there are a few pics of his most famous works including but not limited to: La Sagrada Famila, Park Guell, Casa Battlo, and La Pedrera (aka Casa Mila). This is Casa Battlo, designed as a residence, interesting no?
When we arrived in Barcelona, we were tired from a long day of traveling but still wanted to jump right in so we decided to buy tickets for the Barcelona City Tour, which is a double decker bus that travels all over the city and stops near many of the highlight attractions, you can hop on or hop off wherever and catch the next bus. We figured this would be a good way to get a feel for the city and take in many of the sights while still being able to sit and relax on the top deck. It was pretty fantastic. And travel tip for anyone going to Europe, we noticed that most of the major cities offer services like this (and could potentially be great ways to take in the sights, particularly with limited time, like our port days off ship). Here are some of the fantastic sights we were able to take in from the comfort of our bus.
One thing that struck me about the city (and later all of Europe) is how amazing and historic most of the streets and buildings really are, even the nondescript unasuming building in the historic districts are so beautiful. I absolutely loved the neighborhoods with historic buildings towering over narrow streets with ornate rod iron balconies and beautifully aged wooden shutters. And how, you would turn a simple corner to find another building more beautiful than the next that has been there for hundreds of years, and tucked into these narrow streets are shops, homes, hotels, cafes, even churches all tightly packed side by side. I loved to watch the changing architecture in every street and city that we traveled, absolutely amazingly beautiful. So when you see lot's of pictures of random old buildings with beautiful balconies and details, you'll know why ;)
Unfortunately, the way this is working, it's making it difficult to label and describe specific pictures but I'll work on making that better. The odd rounded shaped building is called Torre Agbar but we had our own nicknames for it, and interestingly enough it houses their water dept... and lights up at night but we never did see it all lit up. The wavy metal and statue are the Monument Colon (monument to Christopher Colombus), and Port Vell area, the beach is of course the Mediterranean close to the Barcelona Olympic Village from the 1992 Olympics. And just some other beautiful buildings and neighborhoods.
So with so many days and so many fantastic places, I figured I would break these posts down by our days traveled. Here is day 1, Thursday, May 14th. We dropped our kids off at Sonny and Patty's house on Wednesday night in order to prepare for our early departure. Our flight was supposed to leave at 8:30 am, which in travel terms meant we had to be out our door at 5, up at 4! Yikes... but we got a call at about 2:30 am saying the flight was delayed, which at first thought is, yeah, we can sleep in an extra hour, but in real life means I get up to go check the internet to find out everything I can until about 3:30, etc... either way, it was an early morning.
We drove up to Nicole and TJ's house in Draper to leave our car and have them take us the rest of the way to the airport. Thanks T for dropping us off early, and picking us up even though it was during a Laker game ;) But we got to the airport, checked in, and got through security, and as we sat down to wait to board... I thought, yeah, we're past our first nightmare hurdle. I had been having nightmares for days that we got to the airport and forgot our passports and they wouldn't let us go, and that when we tried to get on the ship, we had misunderstood some documentation requirements and they left us behind, and that in some foreign country we get mauled by gypsies who steal our passports and we get stuck, and that we don't make it back to the ship from some port and they leave us behind, and that we oversleep and miss our flight home, and that our luggage gets lost with all our souvenirs on the way home, you get the idea. So every once in awhile I would turn to Chris and say, "One more hurdle." So we boarded the plane and were on our way to Minneapolis...
In Minneapolis, we ate at the Wolfgang Puck Express while waiting for our next long flight to Amsterdam. (That's where these pictures are taken). Unfortunately I wasn't in my japanese photographer mode yet, so I don't have pics of us in the airports, etc. like I should to tell the full story, some days I did better than others about remembering to document silly detail stuff...
The funny note about our long flight to Amsterdam was that when we got our seat assignments, Chris and I were not only not sitting next to each other but not even in the same cabin. Once we got on the flight we quickly realized that we weren't the only ones, they were scrambling to get kids sitting with parents, and couples were negotiating seat switches, so I traded with another man so he could sit behind his wife, I was now at least in the same cabin... oh well. I told Chris he should enjoy the quiet while it lasted. He was alright sitting with a window seat, I got stuck in the middle section between two larger older ladies, for more than eight hours, it was a long flight.
One more funny sidenote was that I got the one mean flight attendant in the whole industry! Flight attendants are notoriously patient and polite... not mine. I only say that to establish that you don't ask for anything more than is necessary, so when she asked if I wanted Chicken or Curry, I thought, let's try something different, I'll have the curry. It was after that, that I heard her say it was the Vegetarian curry, and being the carnivore that I am, I was already a little worried. When I opened my meal, I was downright disappointed! It looked like rice separated by slimy spinach and corn goop that was the consistency of some diapers I've changed! And then I thought, duh, don't be brave with airline food! So I took one longing look at the teriyaki chicken dishes surrounding me, and figured I'm a good sport, let's give it a try first... turns out, it didn't look appealing at all but it actually tasted pretty good. Ah, a sigh of relief. So I ate it all and wondered what Chris was eating, wishing I could laugh about it with him. When I got the end, I had some Oreo cookies, and had heard someone else ask for milk, yum, so I asked my favorite attendant for some milk (when she was standing by me serving drinks by the way, I didn't drag her from somewhere else asking for a huge favor) and no lie, she said, "Maybe if I remember, I just want to sit down" then she growled a little and walked away, I never did get my Milk.
Arriving in Amsterdam was exhausting and exhilarating. We arrived about 6 am local time, but for us it was about 10 pm, so we felt very much ready to go to bed and the world was just waking up there... it was a rather weird sensation, now I know what they mean by jetlag.
Our final flight was from Amsterdam to Barcelona, and was the easiest to sleep on simply because I was now really tired. But they serve the best snacks on KLM. Our domestic flight, we could choose between two little cookies or a bag of peanuts- whoop di dee doo! On KLM, they served these great little dutch sandwiches that came in a pack of two, one a herb bread with gouda cheese, and the other a sweeter white bread with Mascarpone Cantucci (like Almond Cream Cheese), and they were fantastic! And then later we got some syrup cookies- yum! And they served drinks about four times (on a 2 hour flight) I just wish they flew around here.
We arrived in Barcelona at what felt like 3 am, but was actually 11 am--- so we had a full day ahead of us. We had originally thought about taking a nap, but figured we should just stick it out so we could get onto a normal schedule there.
First things first, we had read that the train was easy and convenient, funny thing right off the bat was that we found the train station no problem, but they wouldn't accept any of our credit/debit cards for some reason, so we had to hunt down an ATM to get some Euros, strike one.
Once on the train, standing room only, we were travelling with half tourists like us, and helf sketchy characters. This is my first experience in another country besides Mexico, and I thought "we're not in Kansas anymore." Before coming we knew to be careful for pickpockets and heard stories, but didn't expect to experience it so quickly or so blatantly. About three gangster looking guys got up close and personal with Chris, and he stared down the main one and told him no way. They backed off a little, but then he watched them steal right out of the backpack of the guy standing next to him- Welcome to Spain!
After getting off the train, we just wanted to get to our Hotel and started walking in what turned out to be the wrong direction with all our suitcases. We got ourselves oriented, backtracked and walked the remaining blocks to our Hotel, we arrived safe but hot and tired. So it was a quick refreshing shower, and we were off to see some sights now having been awake for about 27 hours already.
This is Chris at the Amsterdam airport, looking ready for a nap. Sorry, I was too afraid to take pics of the pickpockets and too surprised for pics of the corn diaper goo, I mean Curry!
So I just downloaded my pictures because it sounded like more fun than laundry ;) and I had a couple requests, it's going to take me some time to get them organized (almost 1400 of them!) and I plan on doing a series of more detailed blogs about the many places we visited but I thought I would share just a couple pics to get you excited about seeing more.
Most of our internet availability has been very limited, but we are now checked into our final hotel and have easy access to internet and no one else around, so...
We've checked into our hotel for our last night in Barcelona... and I believe I've officially broken Chris, he's dropped on me like a horse that I can't budge. I almost got him into the Picasso museum but I guess it wasn't meant to be, I tried to get him to the beach, but at least we found the internet. I was afraid before we came that I wouldn't be able to keep up with him, but it was quite the opposite and I've worn him out.
Our trip has been absolutely amazing, I even scanned through a couple pics this morning while waiting for disembarkation, and I've got some great pictures and some great memories to share and even some very funny stories! I'm pretty sure that my legs are slimmer, and my waist is thicker! I'm also pretty sure I won't have to eat for about a week. The food on the cruise was not amazing but there was plenty of it, we were only bummed that we didn't figure out about room service until last night because the BLT's at midnight with Milk and Cookies could have been a great habit this week, or maybe that's a good thing.
We keep trying to pick out our favorite moments and there are so many it's really hard but I think, nope, just kidding I can't choose but I really enjoyed hiking the duomo, maybe not so much the hike, but the view was unbelievable! I even loved the train ride to Florence through the hills of Tuscany, and taking a bus to Grasse through the countryside of Provence, France.
The only real surprise of the week is that the only thing I didn't use in my suitcase was my swimsuit and sunscreen... not really sure why??
Now if we can just get all our flights home, and wake up in time to get to the airport before 4 am tomorrow, and get our luggage home with all our precious cargo in tact, we will be doing good! Hope you are all ready for more stories and the grand slide show presentation! See ya soon... Ciao!
We are getting ready to get off the ship and then it's our final day in Barcelona before taking our LONG journey home... it's been the most amazing experience and I definitely have the travel bug now! Sorry Chris... but we'll be happy to get home tomorrow night and see our kids and get home.
We love you and miss you all and will have some great pictures to share in our future more detailed posts about our trip... if you are not sick of hearing about it already.
Well it has been a while since we updated. I guess we were lost in the beauty of Florence. OK OK, enough of the cheese I know. This is Chris and I have to tell you that I didn't know I was going to be vacationing with "Frank the Tank". Heidi walks me into the ground trying to suck the marrow out of each minute in each place. What is a fat computer geek like me to do. I am not used to this exercise stuff.
Enough joking. Florence was AMAZING!!! Heidi didn't get the leather she wanted but truth be told she just got a bag from Coach (so I don't feel too bad telling her no). She did get a glass writing pen and we both got Venetian mask for a Masquarade. The Medici's had great taste in art. We saw David and words can not describe how awe inspiring it was. We also made it to the top of the Duomo. Feel the burn.
We just left France today and Heidi made her own perfume from one of the factory. We also picked up some gifts. The rolling hills and the French Rivera were beautiful. The French people were some of the nicest we have seen and the city of Grasse and Cannes were very clean. We didn't see anyone famous at the festival though. Heidi was looking for Bono.
Hello from Rome!They say that you cant see Rome in a day... but we came pretty close! We took our own train in today, even though chris was scared that I was going to get us lost... and weve done what I call our photo op tour... weve been to St. Peters, Castel San Angelo, Bridge of Angels, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Pnatheon, Spanish Steps, more piazza and palazzos than I can remember right now, Il Vittoriano, bernini stautes, and of course the Roman Forum and Colosseum... and even ate pasta at a sidewalk cafe overlooking the Coloseum... and much more, but youll have to wait for the pictures. Chris is awestruck at the money spent to build this catholic empire! Im just amazed at all the old architecture, and standing on roads and with buildings that are hundreds and thousands of years old. Nothing prepares you for seeing many of these famous places in the flesh, takes your breath away. And we still found a minute for this post, and were off to the races again!! Ciao! Ciao!
We just visited St. John's Cathedral and saw more art than any person should be allowed to see including Caravaggio's "Beheading of John the Baptist". The most beautiful thing was arriving in our port this morning in the early morning sun. The say Malta is the city of gold for the fine workmanship in the precious metals, but the island looked like gold when the sun hits the limestone in the morning.
We have walked through the armory of the grandmasters of the holy order of St. John and stood in awe at their ornate platemail.
The people here are so nice. I love being in this city.
Cheers all and we will see you soon with the pictures promised.
Today we are at sea, the best part is I got to order three soufles last night. We are constantly eating. Internet on the cruise ship cost .75$ a minute, so this blog will not be much. More detail later. Love you miss you goodbye.
Yesterday, we had a fabulous day, Chris says the best ever. We ate Croissants in a small cafe for breakfast with Hot Chocolate as thick as pudding. We walked down the entire Las Ramblas and had a blast finding and eating fresh foods in La Boqueria, the fresh fruit juices were AMAZING, fresh fruit, chorizo and cheese, and Awesome Gelato with some fruits you´ve never ever seen or heard of before. Then we hopped the tour bus and saw Montjuic and the National Art Museum- beautiful, Olympic Stadium, Futbol Stadium, etc. and got off at the top of Passeig de Gracia and worked our way down to Barceloneta by intentionally getting ¨lost¨ through the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter- which was probably my favorite part!! We bought some original art to hang when we get home from a street vendor, and enjoyed the various random performers- amazing guitarists, dancers, opera singers- you know the usual.
Anytime you are hungry, you can find great food everywhere you go- we stopped and got a great ham and cheese sandwich on a crusty baguette that was fantastic, and found a cute little cafe down an alley that served fabulous hot chocolate and churros. I found some handmade pottery down another alley. And we eventually found ourselves in Barceloneta for dinner, where we ate fresh mediterrannean seafood by the marina. It was good, but ordering in Spanish means sometimes getting something you didn´t quite expect. A future post will include pictures of my appetizer of fried fish, heads and all, and yes, I did eat them! Funny side note, you have to beg the Spanish to take your money (ie bring the check) they expect you to eat and talk as long as you like, no rush to turn tables. Now, we´re off to our favorite morning Panaderia and Cafe for more yummy breads and chocolate!
We arrived in Barcelona yesterday, exhausted and exhilarated... but still managed to start our tour on a Double Decker tour bus (since someone already tried to pickpocket Chris on the train). We are getting familiar with our part of the city and have already visited La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell... we love the Gothic Quarter and tried some Paella and Tapas last night, I even ate Fried Sardines! We couldn´t believe how many people were out last night... but we went to bed early by their standards. And people smoke everywhere here!! But we´re off to explore more on Las Ramblas, Montjuic, Gothic Barrio, and eat some more fabulous food!!