2019-04-14 Spain Day 7: The Exit 🇪🇸

Today we are headed home. Our adventure begins by trying to find the rental car return. All I can say about that is that some things are easier than others. 😜 The two hours they advise to arrive at the airport before departure is definitely a necessity in Barcelona. The airport was line after line of waiting. I think we had to show our passports 4 times. As an added bonus, my ticket got flagged for a random screening and so I got a special tour of a private screening area. Unfortunately, I didn’t even get a pat down. Finally we made it onto the plane and it brings me much relief to be taxiing down the runway.

Normally I would be full of anxiety but this time it’s just feels good to be headed home. We still have customs ahead in Newark but I’m hopeful that it will be uneventful. Until then, I have 8+ hours to spend writing or watching shows. I feel inclined to try and capture a few more details before they start to disappear from memory.

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A list of memorable moments – In order of our 7 days (starting at zero as all proper indexes should)…

Day 0 (Saturday): The cheeseburger in the New Jersey Airport at the Vesper Tavern. This would be my fairwell to the US as we would not be eating beef abroad. Jim’s parents urged us not to as there is still a threat of mad-cow in Europe. I feel that with as many hambourgesa establishments we saw, this was overly cautious, but I heeded the advice anyway. It’s the longest I’ve gone without beef since I was 2 years of age I think. 😂

Day 0 (Sunday): Our drive down the coast and first taste of Spain in Tarragona. We walked(climbed) to great heights in an ancient building and took in breathtaking sights of the Mediterranean Sea and the city. This was one of my favorite days the whole trip. I was scared and electrified at the same time to be over the Ocean and in a different land and culture.

Day 1: The morning was the Segway tour and my favorite part was the parks and walkways built on the dry river bed. The City of Arts and Sciences was impressive but I’m a sucker for pretty flowers and interesting plants so that wins out. That day we also had our introduction to Tapas at elDorito cafe. We did shopping at a local grocery store and cooked several of our own meals while in Valencia. Our apartment was cozy and well cared for. We were on the 6th floor and the terrace overlooked a school where the children would play all morning and afternoon. There was a book of poetry from Pablo Neruda on the nightstand and I even spent time trying to translate. Our stay there was lovely. I must also recount that the bed was the worst I’ve ever slept in (aside from a sleeping bag on the hard ground) and the shower only had enough hot water for one quick one. Despite these details it was still my favorite of the three places we stayed. It says a lot about what one values I suppose.

Day 2: More of Valencia.. We visited the central market and Valencia Cathedral and one more beautiful church in the morning and then the Aquarium in the afternoon. Honestly my favorite part of the day was sitting and having lunch and drinks at a random place close to the apartment. The drink was Agua de Valencia and we shared capris salad and margarita pizza. Mmmm.

Day 3: We wake early to drive to the beach to glimpse sunrise and then pack our bags and say fairwell to the fair Valencia. We travel back up the coast to Barcelona stopping on the way to see the ancient Roman aquiduct. In Tarragona we had our first bad meal experience (but not the last). That afternoon we arrived at the Hilton and checked into our room (on the 16th floor) and had a nice long hot shower. Since there was not a lot of hot water at our first apartment, it was so good. Here’s a fine detail though.. the shower setup at the Hilton was the dumbest I’ve ever seen. One narrow piece of glass to contain the water spray from the shower and so each time someone showered, the water went everywhere. It was a slipping hazard as far as I’m concerned. They may have been trying to keep a modern look, but someone is going to slip and break a hip and sue them I’m certain, but I digress.

Being on the 16th floor we could see a long distance, both of the city and the coastline. It was an incredible.

Day 4: This was my mostly solo day and I was content to wander the hotel for familiar things. I found the exercise room and the pool area (which was super nice and quite void of people as I was passing through). I wrote a little and then went down to the ground floor to cross the street to the mall for lunch. I was quite nervous to be out alone and wondered (as I have several times this trip) how I ever did this alone 9 years ago in London, England, France and Ireland. I think I’m getting more and more fearful of the world as I age. Perhaps I was just naieve back then and certain that my super power was “traveling invisible” (so very, very many blog posts ago).

In any case, I was glad to be reunited with Jim I’m the afternoon when we had dinner and drinks. That night we cuddled in the comfy bed and he started a movie on the TV and I could barely stay awake.

Day 5: In the morning I woke again before the sunrise and that was probably the best one of the trip. I wanted to let Jim sleep so I was careful to slip behind the curtain to watch. Mid morning was our bike tour in Barcelona and that was just OK. Our guide was Maurice. We hit three or four noteworthy places but didn’t stay too long at each. Had I to do it over again I may choose to just visit the Sangra Familia and spend time inside. Had I to do it over again we would have researched and bought tickets for Guell Park ahead of time too. I think we were short changed on both and will carry some regret for that.

Still, I am grateful for what we did see… parts of the park, the outside of the Cathedral, the Arch, the beautiful flowers and fountains and the beach. The city is a good one. The narrow streets with endless shops and cafes and residences. It’s very unique compared to what we are used to.

Day 6: We took a bus Tour to Girona. It was very much more of the same… old buildings, structures, walls, churches. On this one we even got to tour a very old ruined castle. I was pretty tipsy by then though due to too much wine at lunch.

Here is where I must correct an earlier statement in my blog. At one point I said something like, “they already voted for Pedro so everything was cool”. I was trying to be clever quoting Napoleon Dynamite. Pedro is the current President, this is true, however this counties politics are not without their issues. You see, Barcelona is in an area known as Catalonia, and that area had some politicians that wanted Catalonia to break free and become independent from Spain. Those people were arrested and thrown in prison and are currently on trial. Someone asked our tour guide why there are yellow ribbons everywhere. It’s the people of Catalonia showing their support of their leaders who started “the resistance”. As my eyes were opened, I started seeing them everywhere.

I guess it’s not “all cool” and it seems like even a seemingly peaceful country such as Spain has its problems. And while I’m at it, I might also mention the graffiti that is out of control everywhere. Every city and street and garage door and building had some. There were some that looked like works of art and otters that just looked like gang-tags. It looks as though it’s just expected or accepted.

Our last night in Spain was uneventful and we shared a few more drinks and another pizza in a sports bar near our apartment which was worthy of a poor review on airBnb.

That brings us back to today.. day 7 and our trip back home. By now we are probably most of the way across the Atlantic Ocean. We watched one movie to pass the time and the rest was spent on this. It was time well spent I think.

As I recall the Newark airport does not have free WiFi and so I’ll not be able to post until we land in Omaha. Hopefully the rest of the journey home will be smooth. Can’t wait to see my kittens 🐱🐱 tonight!!

☮️ 💕 and 😊,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-04-13 Spain Day 6: Tour de Girona

Today we took a bus to the northern Provence of Girona Spain where the capital city is Girona. It has grown in popularity in recent times because parts of season six of Game of Thrones was filmed there. There are many areas which we have visited on this trip that looked like they could have been used in scenes in that show. There were some scenes from Bravos which were done in one part of the town and also some scenes from King’s Landing. Yes, that sounded interesting enough to us to take a tour, so we are among the many who have made that choice. It was an hour bus ride and we were with a group and had an English speaking tour guide.

I think most people on the tour were from the US. We had a walk through the oldest part of town and were shown some specific points of interest and given their history. Like Valencia and Taragona and Barcelona, Girona was started by the Romans, so the city center and original design is similar. After a bit we were cut loose to wander about on our own, and we climbed a lot of stairs to get to a very scenic spot that overlooks part of the city. That was lovely.

Jim took a pic of me sittting on the steps where Aria sat in Bravos as a beggar. There were other silly things about the tour as they continued to make connections to the show. For example, at one point when we all met back in a main square, we were given popsicles from a local gelato shop that were in the shape of Jamie Lanister’s hand. When we would stop at a spot, the tour guide tried to make us guess what scene was shot there and gave out “points” for correct answers.

After having our popsicles, we walked to a restaurant for lunch. As always, lunch takes a while. At this place they sat bottles of water and red wine on the table and so the longer lunch takes, the worse it is for me. I had too much and then getting back on the bus, I was tipsy and sleepy. It was about 20 minutes to our final stop before heading back to Barcelona, which was the ruines of a castle on the top of a hill. Again, great views from so high and I was still feeling the red wine and sat down to look out upon the world and savor the time and space. I composed some brilliant poetry in my head in that moment, but alas, it flew away with the wind as we began our descent.

I slept more on the bus on the way back and woke with a nasty headache. We rested for a while after arriving back at our apartment so I could recover and then wandered out for a bite to eat. We had beer and pizza at a sports bar near our place (no beer for me) and it was good enough. At the start of this trip I would have been taking note of the name of the place and probably taking pictures, but now, I just wanted food and to get back “home”. I think we are both very much over sight-seeing and tours and just ready to go home. We have an early morning tomorrow and a long travel day ahead so we aren’t doing anything wild on our last night. I miss my children and my kittens and am very much looking forward to seeing them all soon.

Until Tomorrow,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-04-12 Spain Day 5: Tour de Barcelona

I just spent 5 minutes trying to think of a catchy title for this blog post while Jim is cruising Netflix for something good. Nether one of us was successful (yet).

I feel like today has been another full day in transit. We had to check out of our upper class hotel and abandon the booshie life. We loaded up our car with everything and had our first adventure driving and parking in this metropolis. The streets are packed and much like Tarragona, there’s one way to go and if you miss the turn be prepared to drive a lot more or find a lovely roundabout to do a u-turn. We had about 5 hours in-between check out and check in and it was the perfect amount of time to do a bike tour.

The three hours went by very fast and I’d be better off just listing the things we saw from their website than trying to remember. We started in the city center, the oldest part of the city which was originally divided three areas, two for residential and one for planning and keeping livestock. The idea was that if people were cut off from the outside due to attack they could still survive on what they grow inside the city walls. That, of course, only works until the population outgrows the space and they had to create “the expansion”. The only section of the old town I remember is “the gothic”. Also like Tarragona, characterized by the narrow streets and continuous 5/6/7 story buildings. It all looks the same after a while and it would be easy to get lost.

From there we ventured outward, into and beyond the expansion and to the beach. Biking along the promenade on the beach was my favorite part of the tour. More open space and wind through my hair and the sun shining off the Med. That area was also relatively clean, which was a nice change from the inner city.

Soon after that we turned out bikes back inward and uphill to go to a few of the “must see” attractions in Barcelona. The Sangra de Familia is the most famous. It was Gaudi’s vision at the start and is still in construction long after his death. He was an artist, visionary, and engineer. His work is characterized by combing the imagination, forward thinking, and in the case of the Sangra Familia, lots of mathematics. He did not typically do scetches of his structures, he built models. So after his death, the model of the church was destroyed and therefore the newer parts of the construction continue with only fragments and a general idea of the mathematics he employed to design it. Every detail configured to 7.5.

We did not have time on our tour to go inside and I wish we would have. I think it is one of the things I’m going to regret later because our time in Barcelona is too short to go back. But these are the things you don’t know until you know. Sometimes there’s enough time and sometimes it’s too late. That’s life.

The trade off was that we were able to see so many other things in the space of that three hours, other parks and monuments and historic buildings and locations.

Our tour ended where it began and we quickly found a lovely little restaurant for a lunch of tapas which included dessert. Food, I have found, always takes a while. It’s a leisure activity here and it seems to eat away a fair bit of time (pun intended). By the time we got to our AirBnb it was late in the afternoon and we were both spent.

Despite being more expensive, this apartment is very underwhealning. It’s very plain and uninspiring. The two things it has going for it is the location and view of the sea and the beach. The other noteworthy thing is that it was originally built just prior to the 1992 summer Olympics for the athletes. It’s a part of the Olympic village. That’s cool.

Still, it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about that when the sheets seem dirty and there’s ants in the kitchen. I’m glad we’re only here for two nights. I’ve stayed in much worse places so I just have to remember that when turning out the lights.

One of the things we did not see on our bike tour was the famous “Park Guel”. It’s another top five attractions and after our visit, it was clear why we did not bike there. The entire park is cut in a hillside and the climb to get there is a massive amount of steps. By the time we arrived it was pretty late in the day and too late to get tickets to go into some main tourist areas, but the park itself is large and we walked and climbed more stairs. From that height, the views of the city below were incredible and pictures just don’t do it justice.

Once we were satisfied that we had seen enough, we made our way back down, and then back home again. It’s just 5 or 6 miles but takes like 45 minutes. I’m the navigator and Jim I the driver so most wrong turns are a result of me not communicating correctly or him second guessing my direction. We are a pretty good team at it and that’s not easy to find. I’m a fortunate girl.

Arriving back to our mediocre apartment, we ventured out again on foot almost immediately for a supermarket. This time for snacks and some supplies that I should have been more prepared for in packing but was not. Whatev.

That brings us right back to the couch in the living room in front of the TV where I started this blog. I still don’t have a good title. I guess not every day can be clever. I think we’re lucky if we break even.

See You In Girona,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-04-11 Spain Day 4 – The Restoration 🇪🇸

Today was a day of restoration. According to google the word restoration has two meanings. One is .. the return of a monarch to a throne, a head of state to government, or a regime to power. (We don’t need to do that here in Spain because they already voted for Pedro and it’s all cool). The Second is .. the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition. – Yeah that’s the ticket. Today I was restored to my former condition, which is to say that I had some much needed downtime and rest and can go into the conclusion of this little SugarCookie adventure fresh and ready to take it all in.

I had a lovely breakfast in the breakfast area of the hotel which included two macchiatos with sugar. I had a two hour “sesh” in the exercise room with a lovely elliptical machine. I had some time to write and reflect on my trip thus far. And I ventured out solo (not far, just across the street to the Mall. I had sushi at the food court. Yeah, that’s right I came to Barcelona and went to a mall and ordered sushi. Loco in la cabesa!!

I had a fair bit of paranoia being a woman alone wandering about. I’d heard stories of the terrible pickpockets here (which was the least of my worries) and kept my things close in front of me (on my lap). There were so many people at the mall and the tables were crowded close together. It doesn’t make for a very pleasant dining experience.

I was happy to go back to he room of my hotel and write some more and try to nap. All in all, it was a good departure from the tourist life of the past few days.

Jim and I were reunited in the evening for dinner and drinks (back at the mall – which advertised 48 restaurants) and we had more after that with his co-worker in the hotel bar. It was a fairly early night in for us. It seems my daily tank of energy runs out around 9pm here too, despite my efforts to rest and relax.

Tomorrow we will be having another full day of adventure. We’ll be on the move again, leaving the hotel and heading to our AirBnb in Barcelona. We have just a quick four hour stop In-between for a bike tour of the heart of the city. This one was my pick so I hope it’s a good one. It will feel great to be on a bike cruising around.

Peace and Love, 🌍

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-04-09 Spain Day 2: A Valencia Daydream

Sometimes life moves too fast. The sun rises and minutes and hours pass and the experiences you have blur into one another. The sun sets and days pass. You try to recall memories but it begins to feel like a dream and fine details slip away. I think this is one of the reasons we are so obsessed with taking pictures. Our minds are fine operational machines but their capacity and synaptic pathways are flawed. We want to take pictures because we know that we will not be able to remember just how that moment looked. We want to be able to see it again and again and the mind may remember it for a while, but eventually it will fade.

The way the sun shines off of a fragment of metal on that sculpture in the park as you sit at a sidewalk cafe sipping a latte. The smile of your lover as you peek across the table over a menu. The scent of lilac as you walk an unfamiliar path, unsure of where it will take you. These are the details we long to capture and retain, but of course, pictures only tell a part of this story.

April 9th was actually 2 days ago. Yes, I’m trying to use the time I have now, sitting alone outside near the pool and bar of our hotel to remember what we did two days ago because, at the time, I did not have a spare moment to write about it. It has only been two days, and yet, it is already slipping away from me, like a beautiful daydream…

In the morning we cooked breakfast and then made our way on foot through the narrow streets and passages to the “Central Market”. It’s an impressive and beautifully ornate structure which houses about 10 to 15 rows of 10 individual vendor stalls. It’s mostly food, but there are a few specialty “shops”. I think there were nearly 25 that sold fruit and veg. You could clearly see that some people were there for their real shopping but most were just tourists. Apparently it is quite an honor to be a shop owner there, with most stalls being passed down from previous generations.

After the market we made our way to the Valencia cathedral which is one of the main attractions of the city. We did the self-guided audio tour and got an ear full of history. The Cathedrial is massive and inside there are many individual worship areas and rooms that have slight differences and house different art and artifacts from various time periods. Part of the Cathedral, the oldest part, was constructed in a gothic time which is evident in the exposed stone. The addditions over the top of that are more artistic and ornate.

One of the main artifacts that is located there is advertised to be the Holy Grail, though, as I read about it, it seems like several places around the world claim they have the real one. Who knows. I guess if there was a guy named Jesus and he had a “Last Super”, he probably had something to drink and it was from some sort of a cup. That could be the cup we saw or it might not be. People believe will always believe what they want. They believe in what elevates their hope and alleviates their fear. I myself find that seeing is believing but, as with pictures, it only reveals part of the story. I digress.

As with the market there were people actually going about their normal daily rituals there. Mass was being conducted in one restricted area and I saw more than a few pregnant women doing laps around the main hall which is said to bring a healthy birth.

Touring the Cathedral took over an hour and after that we wandered around that area and saw a few more points of interest, but were sort of over the “tour” thing and walked back to our apartment. As I said, the details are already failing me. I don’t recall what we had for lunch, pizza at a sidewalk cafe I think. I’m fairly certain that is when I discovered my new favorite cocktail, Agua de Valencia. It’s orange juice (of course) and cava with vodka and gin. Yeah – that! After just one glass I was feeling it and let Jim take the wheel on where the afternoon went (sort of).

One of the things I wanted to see more of from our segway tour the day before was the City of Arts and Sciences and Jim had found good reviews on the Aquarium there. That was only a short drive away and we luckily did not have any issues with driving or parking. The Aquarium was quite spread out and we walked from building to building which were supposed to represent the various areas of the world. It was a lot of walking and to be fair, coming from a city that has a world class Zoo and Aquarium, it wasn’t that impressive.

The only unique thing was the beluga whales, for which they had trainers out, having them do tricks. It was neat, but I’ve been on the fence for a long time about animals on display in captivity. I guess if the source is rescue and the goal is rehabilitation or preservation, then that’s one thing, but animals in cages otherwise seems cruel. I think on future adventures I will skip any zoo or aquarium.

It was a long afternoon and I think we were both glad when we were back home, relaxing on the couch. And, even though we were tired, it was our last day in Valencia and we did not want to waste it. After a short rest we changed for a evening out which consisted of drinks and dinner. This time, we ventured out on foot and did not have a plan other than having more “Agua” and trying to find a place with paella. We eventually found a fair bit of both. I had a little too much actually and don’t have a good recollection of our walk back home. I guess thats part of the charm of a daydream.. some things are shrouded in a haze of warm feelings. I’m 4774 miles away from home and safe in the arms of my love. No picture can accurately capture that.

Anyway, that’s it for day 2 I think. Next stop.. Day 4.

Caio for Now,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-04-10 Spain Day 3: Changes of Scenery

This morning we woke up early to catch a glimpse of one of the most widely talked about attractions at this location.. Sunrise on the Mediterranean Sea. I can’t say I was quite as enthusiastic about it as I was yesterday when we discussed it. 6:30 AM with a warm bed tends to change one’s mind. But Jim said “let’s do it!”, so we did.

We threw on some layers and grabbed the car keys and headed out the door. 40 minutes later we were just north of the pier and walking on a soft white sand beach. It was cold. It was quiet. And it was beautiful.

There were a few other soft souls there with us on that beach witnessing the dawn of yet another day. Another gift from the universe for us to cherish and not waste. Another day to love and live and be kind to one another, and ourselves, and the Earth. It’s hard to say at sunrise where the day might lead sometimes but on this day, our path was pretty set.

After navigating our way through crazy Wednesday morning rush traffic back to the apartment, (which, by the way we are getting really good at) we only had enough time to cook a quick breakfast and pack up our things. We were Anxious to get on the road, and dive back up the east coast to Barcelona. We May have had a little too much to drink last night but still had enough wit about us to map out several strategic stops along the way.

Well, we knew for sure we wanted to stop back by Tarragona to see the remains/ruins of a Roman Aquaduct. Our detour into the city center first was dictated by hunger and we wasted a lot of time parking and walking and looking for a good bite. It’s the first time this trip we didn’t necessarily agree on what to do. I thought any street cafe would be fine but we walked and walked and apparently nothing looked good to Jim. We landed on a corner cafe that had seats outside in the sun and was open to a larger plaza behind. It was sub-par. Ajacent to that was another restaurant with tables outside that looked to be serving full plates and not just tapas.

I kept looking longingly at those plates being served as I picked at the chips and guacamole, smoked salmon, and green olives in front of us. The best entertainment was tossing fragments of corn chips out onto the sidewalk and watching the pigeons fight for them. La Fresca del Forum was the name of the cafe. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad and had I more red wine and time to waste, spending an afternoon that way would be just fine by me. But, as it was, we had an aquiduct to see and a hard-deadline in Barcelona later in the afternoon.

We wound our way back down skinny brick and stone streets to where the city below opened up and we found the car. Navigating around here isn’t too difficult. They drive on the right side just like in the US, thank the Universe, and the map app has been pretty spot on. The two worst things so far have been the lack of street signs and roundabouts with no lane designations and that have too many enterances and exits. It’s chaos!

The Aquaduct was cool. There’s a sign on top warning to not walk on it which I’m sure included words that translate to “mortal danger”, but Jim walked out on it anyway. I did for about 15 feet and then decided to go back and just take his pic instead. Cool pics. Had we more time, it would have been a great area for a hike. Again, the 6:30 business dinner Jim was scheduled for was fast approaching and so we were took our leave for the highway again. Back up the coast of the sea, out my window this time as we were headed north.

As we came near the big city (over twice the size of Valencia) the rain began to pour and traffic became dense. We are staying at the Hilton right on the coastline compliments of the work engagement we are here for. Checking in at the lobby there were women seated in chairs behind us speaking English. It’s the first time since Saturday we’ve even overheard anyone that might be from the US. Everywhere we have gone we’ve eavesdropped on Italians and Germans and people from France. Lots of tourists in Spain, but were definitely in the minority. Here at the Hilton, everything is in English. Much less of an authentic experience than we have had at our little Airbnb the last three nights. It will be a good contrast, I think.

Perhaps I will order room service and just enjoy the view out this 16 story window while Jim is at his dinner. I’ll have plenty of time tomorrow to explore solo while he is in meetings all day. But first, a nice long hot shower to cleanse away the road-travel grime…

Cheers to another Sunrise -or- Sunset, Whichver You Prefer!

~Miss SugarCookie