Thursday, November 25, 2010

Back to Madrid

It was an early morning because today was another travel day. We dragged our suitcases all the way up the main street, las ramblas to find the bus to the airport. It seemed much shorter when we did not have our luggage the day before.

I have to apologize for the shortness of my post because I am at Kate's host family's house, and I don't have internet at the hotel.

Anyway, at the airport a Mr. Bean looking character stopped me at the baggage x-ray. It turns out that I had forgotten to pack the beautiful bottle of olive oil that I bought for Cheryl and Dee in my checked luggage. I was informed that they had to take it, so sad. But what made it worse was that this Mr. Bean looking man also told me that he suspected that I had a knife in my bag. This was news to me. Where would I have gotten a knife and why was it in my bag. So he proceeded to unpack my entire bag and call his friends over in search of the knife that didn't exist. After he realized that it did not exist he shrugged his shoulders, gave me a stupid smile and threw the olive oil in the garbage! I do not like this man.

When I finally got myself back together, Jess and I walked around the Barcelona airport for a while. On this walk (the airport looks like a beautiful mall by the way) we saw snakes in a glass case as an advertisment for a car. Loco! The rest of the travel was uneventful, and we made it to Madrid without any problems. Many metro stations later, we arrived at our next hotel after getting a little bit lost in the streets.

We found a place for lunch...(for now I will just say that it was an interesting adventure). A little while later we went to a famous museum with Goya paintings and lots of other famous Spaniards whose names I cannot remember. Then it was on to the host family house for a Spanish Thanksgiving which was amazingly close to what I would have at home. The family is great, and we shared lots of stories around the dinner table. It was a really great night.

Tomorrow the three sisters are going to Segovia to see the castle that inspired Walt Disney to build Cinderella's castle and eat suckling pig. Hooray!

This will probably be my last post until I get to the final airport, so don't get worried, I'm fine.  Happy Thanksgiving to all, I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday with your families.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Still in Barcelona

We had big plans for leaving the city today to visit Montserrat, a famous mountain with lots of interesting things to see. We got up, had breakfast, and were off to the cave of information. This was an information desk under a statue near the port. We were trying to make the 11:30 train, so we had to hustle. Through the metro station, upstairs, downstairs, down long corridors, accordian music playing. It felt like we were in a strange movie. After taking the metro a couple of stops we navigated through the train station only to find that there was a railroad worker strike and they would not be having any trains that day to Montserrat. The man told us to come back tomorrow, but we would be leaving to fly back to Madrid tomorrow. Fail. So, we went back through the stations and returned to the cave of information to get a refund. Turns out the cave of information didn’t provide much information at all. 

Well we had the rest of the day to wander the city, so we took a walk to an outdoor market that had everything you could think of: fruit, vegetables, meat and fish of every kind, candy, chocolates, and much more. It was enormous! I had a strawberry and coconut juice, absolutely lovely. 
The day was beautiful and warmer than it had been, so we walked for what seemed like forever to a couple of Gaudi museums. We didn’t go in, but instead admired them from the outside. The streets were lined with expensive shops and outdoor cafes. Again, it made me think that I would really like to live here. 

After a really long walk, we headed over to find the Picasso museum, but not before we found a cute little place for lunch. It was awesome. We had pita and hummus, pasta with fresh tomato and basil sauce, mozzarella with tomatoes and pesto, and prawns in an avocado and aioli sauce. Yummy! 

It was so good, I forgot to take a picture when it looked pretty.
On to the Picasso museum. About half of the museum was closed for some reason, so we saw some of the lesser known work and the blue period. It made me think of elementary school art projects, so perhaps my students can do some work with cubism when I get back. The owl continues to follow us around because there was pottery this time that had owl on it. I would have taken a picture, but I had already gotten in trouble earlier for taking pictures in the museum. I did get a couple though. 
Taken before I got in trouble for taking pictures.

After the museum I was completely exhausted and needed a nap, so we headed back to the hotel, and I immediately fell asleep. I really haven’t adjusted from my jetlag, and my sinuses are really bothering me today. After my nap, we got ready and headed out to find a place for dinner. 

We decided on Taxedermista, yup I think we ate at a restaurant named after one of the strangest professions. It didn’t bother me though. The music was an excellent mix of Spanish accordian and American 50’s, especially the song about the cheetah. We had a goat cheese salad with mango vinagrette and a prawn pallea, both fantastic. After a short walk, it was back to the hotel to pack up again, blog, and go to bed. 

Goat cheese salad
Prawn Palella

Tomorrow is another travel day back to Madrid for Thanksgiving with Kate’s host family. Should be an interesting time!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Barcelona a la Gaudi

 Where do I begin today? It was a day jam- packed full of all things Barcelona. Jess and I had the best intentions of waking up early, but we decided that sleeping in a little was totally acceptable for a vacation. We had a quick breakfast at the hotel, and then we were off to find the double- decker tour bus. We found it, and hopped up to the top deck. We were also able to listen to a guided tour with a headset, so that was helpful. 

First stop for us was Sagrada Familia, which is an amazing cathedral created by Gaudi, but sadly he was hit by a tram car and died before he could finish. This was after 40 years of work. It was truly amazing. The pillars reached to the sky looking like a forest of trees. Gaudi was inspired by nature, and this is evident in all of his work. The cathedral has two main facades including the nativity and the passion. The modern detail work is truly stunning, it is so detailed in fact, that the cathedral is still not finished. We were able to take a look at the museum and see where they are working making models to ensure that it will continue to stand. 

Soon it was back on the bus, but we were not done with Gaudi. We were headed to Parc Guell where nature was interspersed with Gaudi touches. Spread out through the park were many performers and people selling scarves, jewelry, and small figures. It was a beautiful day, so we just wandered around until we were hungry.

From there, we grabbed a couple of sandwiches and hopped back on the bus where we proceeded to a monastery and the rest of the bus tour of the city. 

It was starting to get really cold on the top of the bus, so we found a little cafe for a cappuccino. Then it was back on the street to find Barri Gotic or the Gothic Quarter. This was a pretty amazing part of the city. It felt like a little village set back in time. We also found another cathedral that had a central court yard complete with a fountain and huge geese swimming in it. 

After our stroll around the streets, it was dark, so we stopped into a cute little place to waste some time before dinner. None of the restaurants open before 8, so we sat and relaxed for a while. Fast forward to dinner at an adorable little place in some square not far from las Ramblas. We had duck with a strawberry sauce over a bed of sweet potatoes and seared tuna with roasted tomatoes. Yum!
Now it is off to bed to get ready for our day trip to Montserrat. We have no idea how we are going to get there, but that is the fun of it right? Until next time.....

Barcelona Here We Are!

Sorry for the delay on this one...I have been so busy there was no time to post. I figured Cheryl and Mom have kept themselves busy by talking to each other through commenting on the other posts.

Today was a travel day, so that meant that Jess and I had to get up EARLY! We did a good job though we were up and out before the sun came up, and we were able to successfully navigate the Madrid metro system all the way to the airport. This is no easy task dragging luggage up and down flights of stairs changing trains three times. We made it in plenty of time, and I was even able to order breakfast for us in Spanish. 
We soon got on our flight to Barcelona. Since I was still pretty congested, the flight was not pleasant, but it was over before I knew it. Then, little did we know we would have an hour of travel ahead of us. We had to take a bus to get a train to get the metro, then walk toward the sea. On the train though, there was a group of musicians who played some original music for everyone. I love how there are musicians and artists everywhere. Eventually we got to the Hotel Gaudi, and we have a balcony view of Gaudi’s house. He is the famous artist who has all of the crazy architecture all over Barcelona. And we are right in the middle of everything!
After a necessary nap (I didn’t give Jess a chance to suggest anything before I fell asleep on the bed), we headed out to explore the city. It is a little warmer here, so that made me happy. We headed toward the water to a tapas restaurant overlooking the water where we had an assortment of different food on bread and a pitcher of sangria. Here we watched the sun set and a huge cruise ship looking boat parallel park in the harbor. Amazing!
We had been there for a pretty long time, so we headed over to Barconleta, a little neighborhood near the water. We explored the streets where we found lots of pastry shops, restaurants, and lots of other stores. There were people standing outside of their restaurants inviting us to come in to have some free tapas, so we found one that looked good and went in for a while. Here, we had a couple drinks and some wonderful tapas. I wish there were more places like this in the states. After being there for a while we moved on to explore some more. The buildings are beautiful here. We soon found our last destination of the evening for our seafood pallea. Our waiter was very helpful and very nice. He kept bringing us things for free! I think I like Barcelona better than Madrid!
Tomorrow should be very interesting. We will attempt a tour bus to see the historical sights of Barcelona. Hasta luego!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Madrid Experience

Today I bought calcitines (not sure if I spelled that right). Sounds exciting doesn't it? Well it's not; I bought socks. They are very nice socks, but socks nonetheless. That was not the highlight of the day, in fact, today was such a full day I am just going to start from the beginning. I even took notes so I wouldn't forget anything.

Journey was pretty hungry after a day of walking!
We got a bit of a late start by American travel standards, but we were right on time for El Rastro, a Sunday market. It was full of all sorts of strange things. It was like a cross between a garage sale and a farmer's market. After experiencing all of the smells, sounds and people, and after Kate's fantastic purchase of an owl statue we were off to find lunch. Kate took us to this shady place where you had to ring a buzzer to then go up 6 floors, but it was awesome. There was some 80's music playing with Spanish waiters walking around singing. We ordered potatoes with egg and some kind of meat that the waiter recommended. (And bread of course; the bread is soooo good).

After lunch we were back out into the cold. Yes it is very cold and windy here. I think it was 10 degrees celcius and pretty windy. There were all sorts of things going on in the streets including lots more street performers. Today we saw a tuba and accordian player on a side street, and a man playing an electric violin near "the palace." We spend the day wandering around all of the streets and stopping in stores. The buildings are old and beautiful with modern touches. It just makes me happy to be here even though I am still sick. (I have regained hearing in my right ear so that is a bonus).

As we were wandering, we came upon a Mexican festival of all things. There was a big concert going on and a market. Kate was sad that we had just eaten lunch because apparently Mexican food is hard to come by and they were serving all sorts of tacos and such. After a full day of walking and taking pictures of Journey Bear and our new friend Owl, we headed back to the hotel for a nap before dinner. (not before stopping for some empanadas though).

We closed the day with a 9:00 dinner at a restaurant called Ginger (and may I add the wine is so cheap here). For those of you who are keeping track of what I am eating. I had a mixed green salad with apricot compote and pomegranate seeds, wild mushroom and truffle risotto, tempura prawns, and penne pasta with a sweet red sauce. Yum! Soo we were soon back at the hotel to pack our suitcases. Tomorrow is a travel day. Jess and I are going to Barcelona for 3 nights and we have a very early flight. I'm not sure if I will have wi- fi where we are staying, but I'll try!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wandering Madrid

After a long, but necessary nap, Jess and I headed out to explore Madrid. After examining the paper map in lieu of google maps we were on our way to Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol to meet Kate under a statue of a man on a horse. The sun had already set, but there were people everywhere. Street performers and legs of ham lined the calles or streets including a techni- color goat puppet type creature and Sponge Bob Square Pants. There is a vibrancy here, an old world vibe that just makes you happy to be here. We walked around a bit taking in the whole atmosphere and noticed that there were lots of people lined up to buy lottery tickets. We later found out that on Dec. 22 there is a huge nation-wide lottery event that lasts all day.

After the Dowd sisters had been reunited, we walked to a tapas restaurant to sample some calamari, patatas bravas, and croquettas. This is the kind of eating I like to do, small plates to share and good conversation. We soon moved on from our cozy restaurant Tapa Tapa to my favorite place so far Mercado de San Miguel. It is an inside market that has all sorts of local and regional specialties. There were truffles, chocolates, breads, wine, meats, and many more wonderful things. I wish Orlando had something like that.

Finally, to end the night we went to a famous churro shop to have churros with chocolate. This was a nice treat. I can't wait to see what's in store for us tomorrow! My guess is a lot more food!

I Have Arrived

I am in Spain, Madrid to be specific, and I am quite sick. Before I get to that, let me backtrack to Orlando. My flight was delayed over 2 hours, and I only was scheduled to have a 2 and a half hour lay over in Newark so I was going to have to run to my gate upon arrival. As it turned out, most of the plane had close connections, so it became a bit of a battle to get off. As luck would have it, my gate was right next door, and Jess was waiting for me. The plane hadn't arrived yet, and as we came to find out, we were delayed about an hour. Meanwhile, I am becoming sicker and sicker and my ears feel like they are going to explode. The flight to Madrid was a bit of a bear; lots of turbulance and totally uncomfortable.

Because of this, I did what I don't usually do when I get to a new place. We took a cab directly to our hotel, checked in, and took a nap. I felt pretty awful, but I figured if I could get a couple hours in before we meet up with Kate (my other sister) then I may start to feel better.

Time for me to finish getting ready for our dinner tonight. I'm not sure what we are doing, but Kate is supposed to get in from Grenada or some place, and tomorrow who knows.  Wish me luck, and let me know if you have any remedies for this terrible cold!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Trying to leave

In a mad dash from work, back home, and off to the airport, I come to find out that my flight out of Orlando is delayed over 2 hours. This poses a bit of a problem because that means I won't get into Newark until at least 7:45 and my flight leaves at 8:20. I told Jess that she would have to come up with an excuse to hold the plane, but she wasn't too thrilled at that possibility.

So here I sit just waiting for my vacation to begin listening to Christmas music, and charging my electronics. It could be worse though I could be doing bus duty right now.

Hopefully the next time I write I will be in Madrid and not trying to find a comfortable space in some corner of Newark Airport. Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Didn't I just get home?

It feels like I just got off the plane from Tanzania, but it has been at least three months now, and I have the travel bug again. I am so excited because my next adventure is Spain, Madrid and Barcelona to be specific. I will soon be meeting my sister Jess in Newark, NJ so we can hop the pond to Europe.

I have been slowly getting myself ready by making sure I have enough sweaters to wear, while my sister, currently living in Boston will be wearing short sleeves. Journey Bear is also getting ready. He has a snazzy new outfit and a Thanksgiving shirt for the big festivities.

I still haven't made any solid plans for what I am going to see while I am in Madrid. Any suggestions? What cities are close by where we can take a day trip? (I'm hoping my students will do some research and let me know)