Euro-Trip! - The Grand Finale
Goodbye Barcelona! Goodbye Europe! Thank you for an amazing, memorable, exhausting, enlightening two weeks!
On our final night in Barcelona we decided that due to an early start the next day for our 24 hour journey back to Los Angeles that we should lay low and take it easy. The moment we stepped outside our apartment we were reminded how lively the city is and that you never know what you’ll see around the corner.
Right away we heard the pop-popping sound of, well, maybe gun shoots. We smelled some kind of smokey residue in the air but then also heard the pounding of drums and saw people, with children, rushing towards the action so we knew whatever was happening was not trouble but instead celebration. And this is what we saw:
Two “teams” dressed in decorated full-body outfits were performing a drum line-like routine followed by an all-out giant sparkler/fireworks display. One person on the team rolled a basket behind the others, reloading them with more pyrotechnic tools for each new performance, about a block apart. We rooted for the red team, dressed like devils, who danced excitedly at each intersection where locals stopped to enjoy the show.
Though the whole thing had the feeling of spontaneity, it turned out it was well a organized, government sanctioned Fiesta Major, complete with police cars and an ambulance following along as the parade of excitement moved block by block through the neighborhood, ensuring the show was an exciting, but peaceful, experience for all.
It was an unexpected, exciting way to cap off our time in Spain. How they knew it was our last night and that we were hoping for a big send-off we’ll never know, but we enjoyed it thoroughly, and even have video to share so you can hear the sounds of the performance to enjoy it as much as we did in that wonderful moment.
Euro-Trip! - Part 8
Barcelona - From a Distance and Up Close
With limited time in Barcelona we, in typical Diller form, didn’t waste our time dilly-dallying at the beach working on our tan, we worked on our tan while covering town from one end to the other on foot, by bus, riding a teleferic and via metro.
In the morning we ran up (and up and up) around Parc Guell, peering into the outdoor Gaudi Museum from above, then freshened up before taking the crazy, cross-city 55 bus for an hour to the end of the line where you can pick up the Teleferic in Parc de Mt. Juic. The two-segment ride brought us up to a castle with views of beautiful blue port covered in colorful shipping containers and dotted with a couple huge cruise ships. The view was fantastic, showing off the warm orange hues of the city, which I hadn’t noticed when walking around but were clear when seeing the city as a whole. And La Sagrada Familia stood out amongst everything, even so far away, the heart of the city.
The way down afforded us the opportunity to see huge spaces created for the 1992 Olympics along with the smallest artistic details built into the concrete next to fountains. While we did not experience the fabled Magic Fountain at night it was a pleasure to sit near it, resting our weary bodies, as we listened to sound-check for a massive Pride Festival happening nearby. Barcelona was nothing if not lively at every corner.
Later we took a break near Gaudi’s Batllo House for people watching and sangria pondering the economic split of various neighborhoods and just how people carrying large pieces of art would get them home with only a tiny car or scooter as transportation. We thought the day was capped with hot churros dipped in even hotter melted chocolate, but later we discovered that our trip would not end without a bang….
Euro Trip! - Part 7
Barcelona - La Sagrada Familia
I was very pleasantly surprised when we stepped inside La Sagrada Familia. A fan of Gaudi’s work from my very brief visit to Barcelona more than a decade ago, nothing about photos of La Sagrada Familia made me want to visit it. But my parents generously offered to cover the entrance to any Gaudi work of art we wanted to see. We agreed that the towers (which we were staying within 10 minutes walking distance of) were the best choice. I’m so thankful we did.
Externally from afar Gaudi’s towers, begun in 1883, appear odd and uninviting. Once I stepped inside of this special place I was transported to a whole other world. Sleek, smooth, gentle and heartfelt the church is a true sanctuary, what I would call womb-like. The truest labor of love. A wonderful place to spend an afternoon with my husband, feeling the presence of something greater than us. At the very least the presence of Gaudi who died while this work of art was still in it’s infancy. Someday, after the church’s expected completion in 2041, we will have to return and see the final result of a genius’s artistic vision.
Euro Trip! - Part 7
Barcelona - Eating Our Way Thru La Boqueria
As food lovers our visit to La Boqueria just off La Rambla in Barcelona was a paradise. The moment you want into the market fresh juices greet you with bright colors and fresh smells. At every turn new types of produce or fish met you, welcoming you into their work. I will never again see such a welcoming set-up from which to purchase fresh eggs or gummie candies of every imaginable type. I was a feast for the eyes, and our bellies.
We started with small, traditional spanish tapas like spinach croquettes and cheese-covered potatoes. Jeremy then moved on to an organic spicy taco that gave our local Mexican food in Los Angeles a run for it’s money. I walked around and around the market, with a coconut banana juice in hand, searching for the perfect seafood dish which I decided was a marinated octopus with tiny shrimp which rocked my world.
Our timing was perfect, we had about an hour to explore the market before vendors started to close up for the early afternoon to refresh for the late afternoon arrival of fresh seafood. If I could have found a way, I would have spent all of our time in Barcelona at that market. Of course there was much more to explore, but this was certainly a highlight - there’s a reason why everyone recommends coming here despite it being a touristy spot. It highlights the best of the beautiful culinary delights of Spain.
Euro Trip! - Part 6
The South of France - Part 2 of 2
It was this portion of the trip where the South of France fulfilled my ideas of what this region should look and feel like. Tiny towns with narrow roads lined with once colorful homes now beached from sunshine. Ruins were part of each town, along with stories of attacks by Germany during 1944. Valleys of lavender were paired with peaks where towns were built into the sides of mountains for protection, each with their own eglise or church.
In great contrast to the typical scenery we took a break for a kayaking excursion, which honestly was probably my favorite part of the entire trip. Such a beautifully sunny day on a calm river we each got out own boat and traveled along the water to the remains of an ancient Roman aqueduct called Pont du Gard. We have now kayaked together on three continents. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon amidst a road trip halfway across the globe from our everyday lives.
Euro Trip! - Part 5
The South of France - Part 1 of 2
Neither of us had ever been to the South of France and exploring that area was something I was very excited to do, even if leaving a major city meant facing the complications of traveling into more rural parts of a foreign speaking country. Thankfully our rental car had a navigation system or we might have never made it back to Los Angeles.
Amidst lots of what I like to refer to as ‘old stuff’ like hundreds of year-old wineries with beautifully tiled roofs and a chateau filled with opulent decor we found colorful public art and a peaceful mural on a power plant in the middle of nowhere. We were always surprised by what was around the next corner which was simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.
Euro Trip! - Part 4:
This is what Paris looks liked like to us in June 2014
I present to you: The Amazing Food of France!
*aka Euro Trip! - Part 3