Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 9 & 10

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 9 & 10

After dominating Todd in archery, we hopped in the car and got on the road to Dublin. It was about three hours south of Ashford Castle but very scenic so I didn’t mind the drive. I took in all the green, sheep pastures, cottages and B&Bs. Todd, on the other hand was a little uneasy and understandably so due to the narrow roads and driving on the donut. In an effort to get the clipped tyre (the Irish spell it “tyre”) fixed, the castle staff was super accommodating and called several tyre shops along the route to Dublin to see if anyone would be able to patch the tyre. So I guess hardly anything is open on Sundays there… On the route there was one tyre shop that seemed like it would work and had Sunday hours. We detoured off our route to get to this place only to be greeted by two young mechanics standing around and told us they didn’t have the tyre fixing machine in house until the following day. So what are you doing all day then? You’re a tyre shop. It’s like Arby’s saying they’re out of roast beef. C’est la vie.

We finally made it to Dublin, after driving slowly the entire way since we were on the donut and letting all the other crazy Irish drivers pass us on the highway. We were staying at the Westin in Dublin (points) and it happened to be right next to the Temple Bar district. Nice. Lots of restaurants and of course, lots of pubs. We took a brief rest and then met Tessa and Anthony in the lobby to head out for the Guinness tour followed by dinner. They arrived the day before from Galway and had already spent some time in the city. The Guinness Brewery was super old and industrial as you would imagine it to be. Sadly the tour lacked in excitement as it wasn’t free, wasn’t guided and you walked through, watching screens of Guinness employees going over each step in the brewing process. So Budweiser > Guinness there. But at the end of the tour you go to the top floor to get your free beer. And what a view from the top! The all-windowed room overlooked all of Dublin, giving guests a view of the beautiful city at night. Good surprise for a mediocre tour! 

After Guinness we headed back to the district by our hotel. Our bellman gave us some recommendations of restaurants in the area and suggested one that served boxty. What is boxty, you ask? Think meat served wrapped inside a potato pancake… but not latke-like… it almost looked like a really thin piece of bread/tortilla. They love potatoes in Ireland. It didn’t disappoint. 

After that, I retired for the evening while Todd and Tessa stayed out and bar-hopped a little in the area. The next day, Todd took the tyre to a shop to get it repaired so Hertz didn’t try to charge us for way more than it should cost to fix. He got back and we wandered around the area for a bit… in the pub area there was a crazy drunk Irishman yelling to himself while wondering down the street and even though we were inside a store, we could hear him before we walked outside and saw him. People we watching him. I’m guessing this is normal. 

We had lunch at a kabab house called Abra-Kababra because we saw it had fountain sodas when walking by. We also really like gyros. So we ordered and the lone Eastern European woman on staff made our meal. Once served, our Diet Cokes were served warm, with no ice. Upon asking for ice we were told she didn’t have ice. Then Todd found a long black hair in his gyro. I thought I was going to be sick and lost my appetite but Todd thought it was pretty good (the gyro, not the hair). 

After that we made our way over to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. The line was a mile long when we got there so we decided against it. We wandered around campus though and it was beautiful. 

I finished the day at the Aran Sweater Store looking for my family’s pattern. Each clan has their own specific weave and each weave means something different. 

“Each stitch carries its own unique meaning, a historic legacy from the lives of the Island community many years ago. The Cable Stitch is a depiction of the fisherman’s ropes, and represents a wish for a fruitful day at sea. The Diamond Stitch reflects the small fields of the islands. These diamonds are sometimes filled with Irish moss stitch, depicting the seaweed that was used to fertilise the barren fields and produce a good harvest. Hence the diamond stitch is a wish for success and wealth. The Zig Zag Stitch, a half diamond, is often used in the Aran Sweaters, and popularly represents the twisting cliff paths on the islands. The Tree of Life is one of the original stitches, and is unique to the earliest examples of the Aran knitwear. It again reflects the importance of the clan, and is an expression of a desire for clan unity, with long-lived parents and strong children.”
– History of Aran Sweaters, http://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters

Farrell was pretty easy to find but I knew I wouldn’t wear a sweater or scarf with Texas being as warm as it is a majority of the year. We did find a throw blanket but with all the stuff we were already bringing home, we didn’t get it. It would be an awesome gift though, and that was hinted to Todd. 

Next Todd headed out to meet T&A for the Jameson tour. I bailed because I’m not a Jameson drinker, or a whiskey drinker at all for that matter. They said it was pretty cool but I didn’t feel I was missing much. You’ll have to ask Todd about that one!

We ended our last night of the trip out and about at the bars around our hotel. Most had live musicians playing and we had a few drinks before dinner. And then we got on the plane the next morning to come home. Sorry for the anti-climactic ending there, but I think it reflects our tiredness.

What was one of the first things I did when I got back to the good ol’ US of A?!? I went to RaceTrac and got a 32oz fountain soda with lots of ice, of course!

So, in summary…….

Favorite part of entire trip: Hands down, Ashford Castle… and the archery.

Favorite parts of Japan: Robot Restaurant, Kyoto steakhouse, people-watching and scenery in Kyoto

Favorite parts of Ireland: Listening to an Irish band play at an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day, archery, the people, Irish pride

What did I like better… Ireland or Japan? Ireland

One thing I wish I could bring back but can’t: The weather in Japan

Top 3 favorite cities visited to date (based on EuroTrip Part Une, Eurotrip Part Deux and this trip:

1. Galway

2. Prague

3. Barcelona


Guinness tour


Near Temple Bar District


Trinity College

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Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 7 & 8

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 7 & 8

[There’s not really a day 6… unless you want to hear about the longest travel day ever. I’ll spare you.]

…From the Land of the Rising Sun to the Land of the Lucky!

We arrived in Galway late on the 16th after the longest travel day of our lives. This includes a flight from Tokyo to London, followed by another flight from London to Ireland and then a two hour drive from Dublin to Galway. To say we were exhausted was an understatement. We arrived at the g Hotel around midnight and crashed. The g is a boutique hotel in Galway as there are no major name hotels Todd could’ve booked with points there. It was cool but the dirty carpet in our room deterred me a little… Galway is a cool city though, so I let that slide. 

Since we arrived in Galway so late at night, it was dark and hard to see any of the city while pulling up to the hotel. We saw a Petmania and a movie theater… so I figured Galway was like Plano, a suburban Irish city. In the light of day though, the town took on a whole different look. Very quaint and cute and along water, so a fishing town. There were daffodils growing wildly along the roads, which only added to its charm. We woke up on the 17th ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland but we opted for Galway, as opposed to Dublin, wanting to bypass any craziness and drunkenness in the streets. 

It was pouring rain in Galway on St Pat’s Day but we figured that was the norm in Ireland anyway so we trekked it out to the parade route with a huge golf umbrella and our rain gear. Before we left on this trip, I checked the weather and it was supposed to rain in Ireland every day we were there… Luckily we live by the outlets so I was able to run to the North Face outlet and pick up a rain trench at 60% off. Best money I’ve spent in awhile! I definitely needed it! Anywho, the parade was quaint like the town. Lots of youngsters marching as part of their club football (soccer) and hurling teams. They start them young there! There were more daffodils on the roads as well as a carousel along the parade route, with pubs flanking the streets on both sides. When the parade ended, we ducked into a pub nearby to dry off and have beers. It was everything I imagined in my head and hoped it would be! Your typical Irish pub but actually in Ireland with Irish music playing in the background. We went to another pub and then made our way back to the hotel to meet our friends, Tessa and Anthony who were meeting us in Ireland for the remainder of the trip. Anthony is Todd’s boss/friend and Tessa is his wife and our realtor who became a good friend. We ventured out and spent the evening listening to live music and trying to find a pub with seats for all. I got to hear an Irish band play Galway Girl in a Galway pub and my day was made. It was pretty crowded in the evening so we eventually ate and ended up going back to get some sleep. I did notice they like Papa John’s in Ireland… interesting. Lots of them around. 
The next day we woke up, did some shopping and I found Nick a newsboy cap and mini rugby jersey that was baby-size. We also found the jewelry store where the claddaugh ring got its start (Google claddaugh). Exciting stuff. 

Todd and I headed out from there to make our way to Ashford Castle in Cong (that’s the name of the town it’s in) and split up from T&A, who were heading to Dublin a day ahead of us as they had already spent time at the castle before meeting us in Galway. We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way out of Galway to get fountain sodas because again, McDonald’s is the only GD place outside of the US you can get a fountain soda with ice. ***Sidebar – I’m so proud to be an American… in the land where you can get a 44oz fountain Coke Zero with lots of ice almost anywhere. God bless the USA! (first world problems)*** Anyway, the only reason the part of this story is important is first to declare my love for fountain sodas and then also to mention this is when Todd clipped the car on a curb because they drive on the left (wrong) side of the road in Ireland and Americans have to deal with that in rentals. We put the donut on and proceeded onto Ashford Castle, navigating on tiny, narrow, two-lane country roads. At least the scenery was beautiful. More daffodils, sheep, stone walls and green land as far as the eye could see. They don’t call this the Emerald Isle for nothing. Despite the rain, this is probably one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s all relative but I enjoy the country, and Ireland definitely lived up to all my expectations and more. 

Ashford Castle was the bomb.com (yep, just wrote that). We pulled up and immediately felt sadness that we were only staying one night but excitement to tour the grounds. We checked in and the staff took us on a brief tour and explained the activities they have on site. In the lobby we noticed several raincoats and pairs of wellies/Hunter boots for guests use while doing various activities. We checked in, checked out our room and immediately went back up front to borrow bikes so that we could ride around the grounds. We also borrowed some boots and raincoats but that’s really because I love wearing colorful Hunter boots. 

Bike riding was short-lived as we made it five minutes when Todd’s chain came off his bike. Todd must’ve been cursed that day because first the car and then this? But it was fine and we just walked the grounds after that. It was cold and rainy so we followed our walk with a trip to the castle’s bar. Todd had beer and I had afternoon tea. It was lovely. 

The next day we woke up, got ready, ate and then made our way to the activity area for archery. Hopefully no one’s thinking what dorks they as for doing activities (not that I care), but it’s the norm to take part in activities at this place just because they all sound awesome! We really needed more than a day there to enjoy everything but archery was fun. The instructor gave us a quick lesson and we did some challenges… in which I beat Todd. I’m a quick study. I asked the guy if archery was popular there and he said it was on the uptick due to The Hunger Games. Shocker. Next time we visit I want to pack in clay shooting, horseback riding and the school of falconry. Yep… sounds straight out of Harry Potter or something but really exists. 

Ashford was awesome… no, magical. 

So that sums up the first leg of Ireland. I’ll post about Dublin so this breaks things up a bit. 


Rental car… driving on the wrong side


St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway


Ashford Castle


Archery… when I beat Todd. 

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 4 & 5

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 4 & 5

So many shrines, so little time. Kyoto is stuffed with temples and shrines, one more beautiful than the next. During our last day, we visited Tenryū-ji, a temple with grounds famous for zen gardens, koi fish and cherry blossoms. We didn’t go into the temple since we’d have to take our shoes off and my boots are hard to take on and off and Todd can’t really fit into the tiny slippers they offer you. They’re also hard to walk around in. At the end of the shrine, we walked into the Bamboo Forest with – surprise!… Bamboo trees! They were as tall as the eye could see and surrounded you on both sides. Neat.

Before the shrine and forest, I will have to back up and tell you about some pancakes I had that day. We found some hole in the wall breakfast place and I ordered strawberry pancakes. I guess I had to travel all the way to Kyoto to have the best pancakes of my life. The place was called Eggs & Things and it was actually Hawaiian-type food. Aloha.

Next we ventured over to Teramachi Street, which is a shopping arcade with lots of random goods: junk, foods, souvenirs, clothes, etc. Here is where I found my officially official Kimono (Yukata maybe?), but I still don’t know how to tie the obi. I’ll have to YouTube that one. Now Nick, Todd and I can go as a Japanese family for Halloween in all our Japanese wear. I’m pretty sure we’ll be the coolest family on the block.

Once finished at Teramachi, we walked to the Nishiki Market. It’s a fresh food market and we’ve gotten into a pattern of ending up in these places on our travels. But unlike the Naschmarkt in Vienna and Las Ramblas in Barcelona, I don’t know what the hell they were selling in this market. Fresh seafood definitely, but what, I couldn’t tell ya and I definitely wouldn’t try it. I’m not that adventurous. We saw lots of stuff with tentacles, and while the locals eat these things on sticks like kabobs, Todd and I passed on the blind taste test. We did stop in a sweet shop for some ice cream though, and tried the green tea flavor. Excuse my French but that sh*t is nasty!

We ended the day eating at a gastro pub. Yep… sometimes you just need to eat the familiar. Pizza. And it was delicious.

The next day we headed back to Tokyo as we had one day left in Japan and were flying out of Tokyo on Thursday. We made it to the Akihabara Electric City, which was somewhat of a disappointment. We expected it to be so suped up with lights and activity but instead all the businesses were closing down for the night around 8:30. So I guess you have to get there a little earlier to enjoy the crazy lights? It did redeem itself when we saw people dressed as Super Mario characters zooming down the street in go carts. Mind blown. Did I mention that Todd and I stopped into an arcade for some old school Sega Street Fighter II during this trip? Because we did. Brought me back to age nine when Jimmy would occasionally share his game console with me so I could learn the ways. Todd was Ken… does anyone else think Ken looks like Owen Wilson? Because he does. I was Vega. Then for another round I was E. Honda because the joystick jammed and that’s who it landed on for me. I wasn’t pleased.

So my overall take on Japan? It’s very different from the US. Tokyo is bustling and populated and Kyoto is its opposite. It’s very clean, with a lack of trash cans on the streets, and plenty of super toilets and face masks. People stand and walk to the left, whereas Americans tend to go to the right. Their food is different… mostly tasty but some a little too weird for me. Eggs tend to be orange-tinged and unnecessarily put in a lot of stuff. And they like tofu and tentacles. I’ve gotten used to eating with chopsticks so it will be an adjustment going back to forks and knives. Their language takes dominance on all marketing, maps, signs, etc… but hey, it’s their country! And if you look around on public transit, a lot of their posted ads are super weird and funny; Think large muppet monsters and cute Asian girls or robots tucking people in their beds at night. I’m not sure what was being advertised but they made me laugh.

Thursday (today) is a travel day so I’ll spare you the details. Nothing too exciting.

Now we head to the motherland to see if we can find any hearts, stars, horeshoes and clovers! Yes, that would be Ireland.

Sidenote: Japan followed by Ireland, you might ask? A little random, you think? Yes, we know… they are two pretty random countries to visit on one trip and have nothing in common. It was just on Todd’s bucket list to fly around the world, so we are literally flying around the world: east to west. We only have enough vacation time for two countries so these are the two that got picked!


Best pancakes in the world!


Tenryū-ji

Raked zen garden


Tons of koi


Bamboo Forest


Real life Mario Kart

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 2 & 3

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Days 2 & 3

We made it to Kyoto yesterday after a quick train ride. They don’t mess around with public transit here. Buses, subways and trains come and go right on time, with a very quick window to get on and off. If you’re not on when the train is scheduled to leave, too bad so sad. And everyone is very quiet during the rides. I felt like those loud Americans chatting with Todd while riding the bus today, even though I was speaking in a hushed tone. Again, everyone seems to keep to themselves here. I’m starting to feel akin to the quietness of their culture. I don’t like to talk to people either… unless I know them well… and sometimes not even then.
Anywho………

So back to Kyoto. I think it’s fair to call Kyoto the introverted little sister of Tokyo. Unlike the bustling streets of Tokyo, Kyoto is very quiet and runs at a slower pace… which I like. It’s very charming and old-world Japan with its cherry blossoms, shrines and kimono-clad women walking around town. It’s a very bike-friendly city and I’ve noticed less locals sport the protective face masks here than in Tokyo (I forgot to mention in my last post how many folks wear sickness-prevention masks in Tokyo.) If Tokyo is the future, Kyoto is the past.

Thanks to my crazy husband’s obsession with credit card points, we are staying at the Ritz in Kyoto. No, we are not rich… he just loves points that much. Once we arrived, I almost didn’t want to leave the hotel. With our zen garden view and origami swans to greet us in our room, it’s easy to understand why. We have another future-toilet and a traditional Japanese bathroom, with wooden slats instead of a shower floor. I won’t bore you with the rest of the hotel details but it’s pretty sweet.

So anyway, last night we Yelped where to eat and found a teeny tiny hole in the wall known for its fried gyoza (dumplings). Super tasty. I’ve had dumplings before but never fried. Two thumbs up for whatever this hole in the wall was called.

Yadda, yadda, yadda… Fast forward to today… We took the city bus around town. We visited Kinkaku-ji, a beautiful Buddhist temple and probably one of the most famous in the city. While there, we noticed people burning punks and tying paper to horizontally tied strings. All probably Buddhist traditions we were not knowledgeable of, but neat to watch nevertheless. It kind of smelled like incense mixed with the smell of a fireworks stand in summertime. Lots of ponds and serene scenery, followed by our first taste of sesame ice cream in a waffle cone. [Hey, Japan… you know where the waffle cone started?!] Sesame ice cream is gray and tasted like Butterfingers in my opinion. Definitely two thumbs up again.

Next we ventured to the Higashiyama district, near the Kiyomizudera temple. Lots of small restaurants and souvenirs shops along the main drag, starting from the top of the hill where you can find the temple. We are a little early for the cherry blossoms but some were in bloom by the temple and you could see several women in traditional Japanese kimonos posing for pictures in front of the shrine and the blossoms.  Very beautiful and old-world.

The day ended with a serendipitous discovery of a tiny Japanese steakhouse. I had to look it up but the style of dining is called Sukiyaki and you dine in private tatami rooms while being served by traditionally-clad servers. It was the first place that required us to remove our shoes upon entry and in exchange they provided slippers to wear to your private room; These slippers were to be removed outside the door of the room. Once inside, we sat on floor chairs at a low table and ordered saki and wagyu steak, which was cooked at our table and served with various vegetables, rice, miso soup and then dessert. Our room was flanked with paper walls and a view of what looked like a garden.  Super traditional and I’m so glad we ate there. Here’s the Yelp link in case anyone cares enough to check it out: https://www.yelp.com/biz/qtplM-MXwixDeDArZBCZKQ?uid=N4BbeIbQNgtUEEMutu9U3w&utm_source=ishare&utm_medium=s_nb_i_mg

So that’s it for now! I’ll post more as our trip continues.

Goodnight (or good Monday morning to all of you)!


Room view


Kinkaku-ji shrine


Sesame ice cream


Kiyomizudera and cherry blossoms


Japanese steakhouse

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Day 1 

Our [Abbreviated] Amazing Race – Day 1 

(Technically day two but we were so exhausted and jet-lagged when we arrived that we passed out cold. We’re getting old and we have a baby. So those who are following, I’m writing about our Saturday, which for all of you was your Friday. Confused? We’re fifteen hours ahead. Literally in the future.)

Which brings me to my first post about Tokyo. It is the future. When you can order your udon noodle meal by pushing a button and putting money in and then your order is placed, you are in the future (think Coke vending machine). This totally does away with the need for a wait staff. 

Anywho, I’m exhausted so I’m just going to bullet point our experience on this first day out. 

  • Toilets in Japan are super high-tech… Our hotel room toilet has a butt warmer and several buttons to make your elimination experience top notch. Once your full elimination is complete, there’s usually a built in bidet to give you the ultimate clean, fresh feeling. Public restrooms have several buttons to push as well. 
  • Japanese people seem very polite and they seem to keep to themselves. It was a sunny day today and we saw very few wearing sunglasses. Interesting. Tokyo is like New York City on crack. Lots and lots and lots of people. No one says,”Excuse me,” or “Pardon me,” but it’s not offensive because there are so many people walking; It’s pretty unavoidable to bump someone a little when walking around. I would say most signs and storefronts/restaurants are in Japanese. They don’t give a crap here about catering to English-speaking tourists when it comes to that. While I would say a good amount of cab drivers, store associates, etc knew enough English to wait on us, we kind of had to figure things out when it comes to shops and where we were walking into. You are in their country and it’s apparent… but not bothersome. We made do and it’s not terribly hard to figure things out. And again, not offensive. I think we’ve been spoiled by traveling to Europe where things are typically translated. 
  • We ventured to the Harajuku District, specifically Takeshita Dori Street. Shoshanna on Girls called it Katy Perry’s Vagina due to all the pink-centric Harajuku girls walking around. In our experience, we saw lots of trendy young people, but I wouldn’t say it was a sea of pink. Super touristy and JAM-PACKED but worth a visit for our first and possibly only time in Tokyo. Full of tons of tchotchke shops and creperies… and a cotton candy shop that sells cotton candy the size of your head. We had luck at the Oriental Bizarre. An awesome shop for fun souvenirs. The visit to this district definitely made me claustrophobic but I’m glad we went, even if just to people watch. 
  • Imperial Palace and gardens were beautiful. Cherry blossoms, koi fish, bamboo trees… very neat. 
  • The subway played a little jingle when we got off at one of our stops. It sounded like we got a star or one-up in Super Mario Bros. 
  • We tried what we think was real ramen tonight. Udon noodles in broth. Going to go ahead and say it was. Pretty damn good.
  • Remember when you were little and you went to Showbiz Pizza for birthday parties? Well imagine going to Showbiz while on an electrical, magical acid trip… in Japan. I’ve never done acid myself but I’m pretty sure the Robot Restaurant is what it’s like. This really deserves a post of its own. Wow. Just wow. There’s nothing like it and it’s so unbelievably bizzare and amazing. So weird and I’m so happy I got to see that in my lifetime. 

Anywho, that’s all she wrote for tonight. Off to Kyoto tomorrow. 

Oyasumi nasai. 


Morning view and tea. 


In case your baby needs to use the toilet, here’s one. 


Imperial gardens


Koi


Takeshita Dori (Harajuku District)


Todd’s so excited to go to the Robot Restaurant!

EuroTrip – Day 9 – Barcelona

EuroTrip – Day 9 – Barcelona

Me in the sidecar

Me in the sidecar

Hilltop in Olympic Village

Hilltop in Olympic Village

Me taking over

Me taking over

Riding dirty with João

Riding dirty with João

Buenos noches a todos (if I said that correctly)! Today marks the final day of our EuroTrip. I’m just going to go ahead and say that Barcelona has been my favorite city visited on this vacation. It is so unique and has a flavor all its own. It’s a big city with plenty to do and see and it also sits next to a beach. What more could you want? I also think the food here has been my favorite… So many tapas, so little time.

Today we slept in until about 10AM, woke up, ate breakfast at the hotel and then went back to bed. So outside of the hotel breakfast, not unlike a typical Saturday for us. Sleeping in felt great considering we really haven’t slept in much on this trip. We finally got up and got moving in time for our motorcycle tour through the city. That’s right… I said motorcycle tour.

Our guide, João (pronounced ‘Joe-ow’; Portugeuse for John) came to pick us up at our hotel around 2:50PM. He was originally from Portugal but has lived in Spain for over ten years. He was a cool guy… A hipster Spaniard with neat hipster glasses. The motorcycle was old school and looked Iike it was made in the 60s. So how do three people ride on one motorcycle do you ask? It had a sidecar of course! Being fearful of motorcycles, I rode in the sidecar and Todd rode on the bike behind João. We headed out throughout the city and he explained the history of Barcelona… How the Moors came over from Northern Africa and Arab nations and that’s where Spaniards get their typically dark features from (olive skin, dark hair, etc). He also explained how Catalonia came to be and how the Catalonians thrived during medieval times. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabell of Castille changed all this, uniting all regions of Spain to make a more powerful country, but taking away the affluencey (word?) of Catalonia. We are glad this marriage happened because of the part they played in Columbus discovering the new world… But the Catalonians have pushed and fought for years (even into present day) to become their own independent state, with a language and culture of its own. We also learned about Gaudi (God’s architect) and his commercial work for the city of Barcelona. There are private residences that have been repurposed into commercial businesses designed by Gaudi but he eventually gave this up and dedicated the last years of his life to the church and the design of Sagrada Familia.

Now that I’ve given you a history lesson and bored you, I’ll get back to the ride. After stopping and honking at several Asian tourists who would stop and stand idly in the middle of the street, we eventually stopped to stretch our legs and I got ballsy enough to trade places with Todd and ride on the back of the bike. João drove slowly so it wasn’t that scary and I felt like a badass. He took us through various districts in town… La Rambla (touristy famous street), Passieg de Gracia (rich district…all your designer stores and rich people), the Olympic Village (designed for the 1992 Olympic games), Barceloneta (beach and marina area where you can see the Christopher Colombus statue) and finally in some district (can’t remember the name) where several Arabic immigrants have settled in the area (this makes up a good chunk of their Islamic population). We ended the tour in a part of town that was really laid back and somewhere we’d hang out on our own if we lived in Barcelona (can’t remember this district name either). João gave us suggestions on places to eat and also advised us to try vermouth, another liquor they are famous for in Barcelona. It was amazing! A nice change from what I’m used to. Sweet but spicy at the same time. After we parted ways with João, we walked around and did a little shopping. I stumbled into a vintage store and purchased some sunglasses circa 1975 and they are huge. You know I love some big sunglasses! They also had a vintage Hermes bag that was beautiful but since the cost is a quarter of our monthly mortgage, it just wasn’t meant to be. I’ll remember it fondly, though.

We finished the evening with more tapas and a final jug of sangria. This time the sangria was super delicious and light… Not overly sugary. Maybe we got a bad batch the first night. In any case, we ended the trip on a great note and I’m about ten pounds heavier and super happy (fat and happy as they say).

I hope you’ve enjoyed my account of our EuroTrip! If anything, I hope it provides some guidance if you plan any upcoming travel to any of these countries… or at least a laugh or some good toilet reading. We had an amazing trip and if you read any of these blogs, I’m glad you were along for the ride with us. Now it’s back to Texas to see my Frannie-dog!

Arrivederci, au revior and buenos noches!

EuroTrip Part Deux – Days 7 & 8 – Barcelona

EuroTrip Part Deux – Days 7 & 8 – Barcelona

In front of La Sagrada Familia

In front of La Sagrada Familia

Top of La Sagrada Familia

Top of La Sagrada Familia

Stairwell in La Sagrada Familia

Stairwell in La Sagrada Familia

Tapas

Tapas

Sangria time

Sangria time

My silhouette

My silhouette

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

Park Guell

Hola from Barcelona! Although here it’s pronounced ‘Barth-elona’ and gracias is pronounced ‘gra-she-as.’ A little different from how we speak Spanish in the states but easy enough to pick up on.

We did another early morning yesterday so it wasn’t a buenos dias for me with a 5AM wake up. We hopped on the train from Paris to Barcelona, settling in for a seven hour trip. I popped a sleeping pill and zonked out uncomfortably for a bit while Todd watched Ray Donovan. The night before, Megan mentioned when she took the train years before from Paris to Barcelona, when she hit the border of France and Spain, they made her switch trains. We were glad for this tidbit of information because this happened to us. Let me tell you… Waking up from a crappy sleep to a woman yelling we had to switch trains was somewhat unsettling. I thought there was a terrorist on the train or something but Todd reminded me of what Megan told us the night before. With the traffic within the train station you would have thought there was something wrong though, with all the crowds and pushing and shoving to get through. A group of Japanese tourists were riding the tail of a gentleman who’d had enough of them invading his space so he stopped at the top of an escalator, with them crashing into him and screaming at him. I mean I guess you have to ensure you’re personal space isn’t invaded. I get it.

We arrived in Barcelona around 2PM and saw a McDonald’s in the train station. Todd and I got an ice cold fountain Coke Zero and it was magical with all the ice in our cup. We took a cab to our hotel, the Hilton Diagonal Mar, passing the beach we probably won’t have time to get to on the way. Word is, it’s a topless beach. Europeans…

We checked in and Todd let me take a two hour siesta… Since we are in Spain it’s only appropriate. We then freshened up and hit the town. We went to La Rambla, a famous street with tons of shops and restaurants. We found a cute cafe with shaded outdoor seating and ordered our first sangrias of the trip, served in fishbowl glasses. Todd ordered classic and I ordered cava sangria. Both were delicious but SWEET… Somewhat like drinking a liquid pixie stick. My days of drinking liquid sugar ended with Smirnoff Ice in high school so I’m glad I tried it but the local drink might be a little sweet for my taste. A man cut my silhouette and Todd didn’t want to buy it but I talked him into it. Why not? It kind of looks like me. We wandered around a little more, passing a market that was closing so we decided to come back the next day… Which was today. We ended the evening at a restaurant, trying various tapas and my first paella with a mix of chicken and seafood… Pretty good but Todd was not that impressed with the paella. After we finished we went back to the hotel and to bed. It was a long day of travel.

This morning Todd told me I had to be up early again since we had tickets for La Sagrada Familia at 10AM. I was allowed a reasonable wake up time of 7:30AM compared to my 5AM wake up call the day before and 4:30AM wake up call the day before that. I could deal. We had breakfast at the hotel and it didn’t disappoint. Have you ever had peach juice? I hadn’t until today and it was like heaven in a glass.

We headed out for a Gaudi-inspired day. Our first stop was the Sagrada Familia, the basilica Gaudi designed that is still being worked on. It was very cool and modern… Like no Catholic Church style you’ve ever seen. I’ll post pictures because explaining doesn’t do it justice but imagine lots of modern stonework, lots of colorful stained glass and colorful tile work that also looked like stained glass. We took an elevator to the top tower and were able to snap some photos looking over most of Barcelona. Then there was the walk down. It was the most narrow staircase I’d ever seen and I’m not scared of heights, but this got me nervous and clinging to the handrail.

We headed out from there, back to La Rambla to grab a quick bite for lunch. We had mas tapas… Delicious chorizo, croquettes and chicken skewers. We than walked to the Market de Boqueria within La Rambla and took in all the fresh fish, meats, fruits, vegetables and candy you can imagine. The peach juice just may have been surpassed by the kiwi juice I tried there.

We headed back to the hotel after that for a little siesta and when we got back I got a text from my mom that Cigna (my employer) is to be bought by Anthem… I wasn’t sure what to do with that news so I slept it off for an hour.

We headed back out for dinner and liked the market so much that we went back. We ended up eating more delicious tapas and enjoying some street performers playing for us while we ate.

Our last stop of the day was Park Guell, another Gaudi masterpiece. There were lots of beautiful natural views as well as modern art and tilework throughout the park. It reminded me of Candyland a little bit. All of these sites were amazing but the true highlight of our park visit was when a bird pooped on Todd’s head. A big fat splatter on his head. Luckily he had a bandana in his pocket because that bird did a bullseye right on him. Poor Todd.

We ended our evening after that and are now settling in for the night. Tomorrow is the last day of our EuroTrip so we plan on making it count. Stay tuned for my next post!