Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Iberian Adventures: Zaragoza

Monday, June 29
After just barely missing the train from Barcelona, we spent an hour at the train station before taking the next one to Zaragoza. The high speed train was fast. The first thing we noticed upon arrival was how hot it was. We definitely weren't on the coast anymore. Took a cab to the hotel, checked in, and relaxed a bit before venturing out for the evening. Our room had a tiny balcony.

We walked to dinner at El Fuelle for traditional Aragon cuisine, stopping in an antique shop and model train store on the way. Then we walked by the Roman amphitheater so Dan could check it out, saw the cathedral lit up at night, and got ice cream since it was so hot.


Tuesday, June 30
After breakfast in the hotel, we walked toward the old palace, stopping to check out the market first. I saw a lot of street art in Zaragoza.

Street art in Zaragoza

Street art in Zaragoza

Street art

Street art

We also passed a honey/bee supply shop, where we chatted with the proprietor with my limited Spanish. We sampled his honey, and Dan showed him photos of our bees on his phone, which he recognized as Italian bees! He showed us specimens of Spanish honeybees.

Eventually we made it to La Aljafería. Unfortunately we could only see the first floor because work was being done on the upper floors, but at least it was free admission.


Dan at la Aljafería

Carol at la Aljafería

Palacio de la Aljafería



Then we walked to the cathedral, stopping for cookies at a bakery. The cathedral is huge. Like a giant enclosed mall, but holy. There were lots of people inside. Dan thought they were there to escape the heat. I saw a beagle outside the cathedral, our first sighting in Zaragoza!

Cookie shop


Then Dan and I had lunch at La Republicana, where we enjoyed another tasty and affordable menú del dia. Dan loves the lunches in Spain!



After lunch we went to La Seo, the other cathedral and tapestry museum. There were many gilded and elaborate chapels, which Dan enjoyed viewing with his binoculars. My favorite part was the mosaic wall.

La Seo

La Seo

Dan checking at La Seo

After lunch we viewed the Rosario de Cristal, a collection of stained glass installations inside a small church. They are displayed in a parade during the feast day of Nuestra Señora del Pilar in October. Then we wandered around and did some shopping. We observed many bakeries and sweets shops. I got granizado from two gelato shops to cool off. We sat down to eat our cookies, when Dan pointed out another beagle! We also saw a large demonstration. We asked about it at the hotel, where the gentleman said they were protesting a new law that curtails the right to protest.


Wednesday, July 1
After breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and took a cab to the train station to pick up the rental car. But unfortunately I had reserved the car for the WRONG DAY. The previous day, and they already rented it. OOPS. And there were no cars. I called AutoEurope, who I had booked through, and the guy was nice, but not helpful at all. Tina went to ask about trains. The first had left already, and the second was full. Dan asked the other two rental car places, no cars either. Tina got the bus schedule, and Johnny checked on his iPhone and reserved a car! From one of the other rental car companies that had told Dan there were no cars. Whoo hoo! My brother saves the day! We had to wait a little while, but eventually we were on the road. On to Basque Country!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Iberian Adventures: Barcelona

Thursday, June 25
After enjoying the Costa Brava, we took the high-speed train from Girona to Barcelona. We saw a Basset Hound on the cab ride to our Airbnb! But, I was extremely disappointed in the apartment, my first Airbnb experience. The location was great (El Born) and there was a little balcony, but it felt dirty inside. There was dust on all the surfaces. Yuck. And not well-maintained. Dan says it's not possible to find nice places 100% of the time, but I think I just didn't do enough research and took a chance on a bad place. Grr.

We walked around and looked inside the cathedral, then saw two beagles! I got to pet both of them. And another Basset Hound. Also picked up some yogurt and groceries at the market. Dinner was tasty tapas at Bar del Pla, which my friend Debbie recommended, and just happened to be around the corner from the apartment. Then we wandered around the neighborhood, so many people out and about!

Barcelona Cathedral

Cerdos Voladores beer

Friday, June 26
We were up early and had yogurt for breakfast, then took a taxi to Park Güell. I had reserved tickets and am glad we got there early as we got to explore before the crowds arrived and the sun got too hot.

Park Guell

Park Guell


Dan at Park Guell

We heard and saw lots of parrots! Dan brought his binoculars, so we watched some nesting in a tree. We walked up to Tres Cruces to see the view of Barcelona, and la Sagrada Familia.

View from Tres Cruces

Then we walked down to Sant Pau, picking up an ensaïmada pastry and coffee on the way. We sat down at a park, and as I took a bite, Dan said, "Look, a beagle!" I thought he was distracting me so he could eat the pastry, but there really was a beagle! I went over to say hello. So cute. We both enjoyed Sant Pau, a gorgeous complex of Moderisme architecture. Also, no queueing or crowds.

Sant Pau

Women's building
Sant Pau


Posing at Sant Pau

Then we walked to the Gracia neighborhood for lunch at La Pubilla, recommended by a student's mother (her parents live in Spain). I liked Gracia, and would stay there if I returned to Barcelona. Lunch was delicious, and 13€ for starter, main, and dessert. Dan was loving the menú del dia in Spain. We checked out the market after lunch.

Pretty green tiles


Then we walked along Passeig de Gracia, looking at the buildings and shops. So many people!

Passeig de Gracia

Passeig de Gracia

After a short nap, we headed back out for a tour of the Palau de la Música Catalana. It was the last tour of the day, with a small group of people, so we got to enjoy the spectacular theatre (and balcony with gorgeous tiled mosaic columns). So many beautiful details! I couldn't stop taking photos, but none really captured being there. Dan said we should attend a performance on our next visit.

Palau de la Musica Catalana

Tiled columns


Stained glass

I picked up some postcards, then we wandered around, went inside Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, and I saw another beagle! We had dinner at Cal Pep, which we had passed the previous night. Chef's choice of tapas. We were served fried artichokes, two kinds of clams, tortilla Española, and more...and I saw yet another beagle during the meal! After dinner, we walked down to the port, again, so many people! Walked along Las Ramblas...even more crowds...then looked for Palau Güell, before heading back for bed.

Saturday, June 27
We walked to the Picasso Museum and arrived before the doors opened. I enjoyed seeing his early paintings and the evolution of his work, as well as the special exhibit featuring Picasso and Dalí, especially since we had just visited Dalí's house. However, most of the rooms had nowhere to sit, and my feet were tired. We walked to Santa Catarina market and got fruit juices after the museum. Dan checked out the meat and fish vendors while I had coffee, wrote postcards, and listened to a band perform outside the market...the perfect leisurely Sunday morning. Then my brother called, he had arrived from New York! We met up with him and Tina for lunch, wandered around, had dessert, and walked down to the beach. It was crazy crowded, waaaaay more people than the Costa Brava. We walked along the beach, then took a taxi back to the apartment. After a nap, Dan and I went on a dessert walk: Churros con chocolate, torrone, and truffes helados at Fargas (pre-dinner snacks). Yum! Did some shopping, went in a couple of churches, and checked out La Boqueria market. Most of the stalls were closed, but I got another juice. We made our way to Paco Meralgo, a tapas restaurant my student's mother had recommended, for dinner with Johnny and Tina, passing a protest along the way. The tapas were delicious. Dan and I biked back to the apartment, and the kiddos went dancing.

Churros con chocolate
Tina & Johnny

Sunday, June 28
Dan and I biked to the kiddos' B&B, which had a great view of la Sagrada Familia. I had reserved tickets, thankfully as the line was already long before opening. We went up the Nativity Tower to see the construction in progress, and Dan was pleased we were the first people in the elevator. Then we toured the church, following the audioguide, checked out the museum, and went in the crypt to see Gaudi's tomb.

La Sagrada Familia
View from Nativity Tower

Dan on the bridge


Nautilus stairwell

La Sagrada Familia


After admiring the view and their lovely, clean B&B, Dan and I shared a Nutella-filled churro. Mmm. We biked to the beach and had a giant seafood platter and paella for lunch. And sangria. Dan and I went swimming, while Johnny and Tina went stand up paddleboarding. They let us try too. We fell in a lot, but it was fun. I took a little nap on the beach, and then we biked back to the apartment, while Johnny and Tina toured the neighborhoods on electric scooters. They stopped at our apartment so we could try them out. I think I prefer just bikes! We had dinner at Senyor Parellada, where I saw a beagle outside! His name was Gordo, and he is scared of fireworks, like Arrow. We ordered way too much food, and the service was spotty for the setting, but I enjoyed my Catalan pot au feu. Our last night in Barcelona already!

Monday, June 29
Dan and I packed up and took a taxi to drop off our luggage at the kiddos' B&B. They were still asleep, so we had coffee and churros. A dulce de leche-filled one, and a chocolate-covered one, filled with custard. Yum. We took some photos on their balcony while the kiddos packed, then walked to Casa Mila (La Pedrera).


Posing on Johnny's balcony

I saw some pretty earrings at Chopard on Passeig de Gracia, so we went inside to try them on...and they cost over 80K €. Yikes! [We didn't buy them.] I enjoyed the rooftop views and seeing the furnishings inside Casa Mila. And the floors.


Casa Mila

Dan checking out models


Tiles at Casa Mila


After a quick and tasty menu del dia lunch, we took a taxi to pick up our luggage at the kiddos' B&B. Then another taxi to the train station, but unfortunately the driver was extremely slow, and we missed our train by about one minute. Maybe less. Grr. So we waited for the next train to Zaragoza... [Spoiler alert: This would not be our only transit challenge during the trip.]