European reminiscing


Notes on Barcelona
I hate figuring out bus routes in Barcelona, but I love the trains. The bus drivers are no help and just shrug and point (either meaning go in that direction, or just go an leave me alone).
I like how all the intersections have large diamond shaped open areas, except when trying to walk somewhere fast, since you can’t go straight down the road.
I like how everyone smokes and they hold their arm straight done when striking a pose, making the cigarette the central focus of the picture.
Speaking of smoking, here in America, those pink breast cancer ribbons are ubiquitous. We did not see one pink breast cancer ribbon in our whole 2 weeks.
I like our magic park that always materializes out of nowhere, like it knows we are weary and hungry; it takes us to our favorite deli.
It is cool that everyone wears scarves all the time, even with tee shirts.
I like how they try so hard to communicate so hard with us, most of whom speak NO English, but we always manage to get our point across.
But mostly I like traveling with my wife who always keeps me relaxed and contented.
The Gaudi buildings are actually gaudy, good name huh.
Coffee, expressos, latte places are on every block, yet Starbucks thrives.
People everywhere are overdressed in warmer coats than are needed for the weather. The reason, it’s because they all ride scooters and it is cold riding a scooter in the morning.
There are bars, cafes, brassieres, restaurants on every block, yet there are very few fat people
The Gothic section did not have any goths. There were lots of gargoyles there however.
Out hotel room (upgraded) was edgy and funky, yet stylish in a 50s kind of way. Its a tossup if the room would be a better room to break a heroin habit, or take Calvin Klein underwear models for a shoot.
Don’t forget, if you are packing light, with just carryon bags, that cute little spoon sets are actually deadly weapons.
Bathrooms are always in the last place you would think of looking, no matter where you are. Also, when all the stores in a mall close for siesta, why do the public bathrooms need to take a siesta also. Your bladder might not want a siesta.
What’s the deal with siestas? Are they 2-4, 2-6, 3-5? You would think since so many places take them, they would be standardized.
Since they quit bullfighting in the Barcelona arena, the men now focus all their attention on football (soccer). Its funny to walk down the streets during an evening match; at the bars, the men are just inside the door packed together like sardines with their eyes glued to the TV, while their women are all grouped around the door outside on the sidewalk talking, smoking & waiting… They must really love their men.
The hotel staff kept popping into our room just walking in without knocking. It reminds me of the joke “I was laying on the bed naked when the maid walked in… Finally!”.
Is it proper etiquette to rinse your hands in the bidet, if the sink is full of socks and underwear soaking?
The best way to turn away a pan-handler is to say to them, “No hablo español”.
I like that they play Reggae music in Citges.

Notes on Paris
Our hotel room was very small, but exquisite, kind of like all the dogs in the city.
roller bags on the sidewalks are like the Harley-Davidsons of the luggage world here. Loud bags save lives.
The trains and buses are very easy to figure out. The menus are difficult to figure out. The wines are very difficult.
Take the train to/from the airport into the city, not a bus that gets stuck in traffic. Plus you need to be a very trusting traveler to relax at the bus stops, knowing that your bags are in the under-bus storage that is opened to the sidewalk at every stop. I’m not a trusting traveler.
Some of the coolest places to take pictures are in the spiral staircases and mini-elevators of the hotels.

A day in Sitges


Sitges is a beach town South of Barcelona. We waited till the day before we had to fly home to go here, since the weather was supposed to be nice, and im glad we did. From the hotel, it’s a 10 block walk to the Passeig de Gracia train station (where we stopped in several shops for some shirts and a scarf), then a 45 minute ride to Sitges.

As usual, the European trains are nice, clean and punctual. In fact, we never needed a cab during this trip, just taking trains, buses or walking everywhere.


A very quaint town in miniature. The streets are a narrow twisty maze with beachy shops and you never know how close to the beach you are, but it is never far.






Our table for lunch had a nice sea breeze and a lovely view of the beach. The seafood platter was the best so far with enough variety that I could skip the mussels and not feel guilty. Somehow the waiters always knew that we are Americans and just handed us the English menus.







I spotted this Peugeot TT-clone in a tiny dealership and ran in to snap this shot before a guard-type ran up an told me “no photos” as I slipped my iPhone into my pocket.
I told him, “I guess I won’t be buying it then” and walked out.


I have to end with this picture that Carolyn took a couple of days ago, since it is so fantasy-looking and I think cool…


St George’s (Sant Jordi) Day in Barcelona

This holiday which is similar to our Valentine’s Day, but the men give their women roses, and women give their men a book to celebrate the occasion. Legends about Barcelona have associated roses with this day since medieval times, in fact St George is the patron saint of Barcelona, so this is one of their biggest holidays.

Heading out from our hotel, just behind Carolyn.


The crowds were huge in the shopping district, but were manageable.
We spent a good part of the day wandering around the city’s main shopping street called Las Ramblas. Hundreds of flower stands selling roses and tables selling books were setup down the street as far as we could see.


The ubiquitous scooters and motorcycles.


It’s appropriate that Carolyn and stopped at the Casa Batlló today. According to some authorities on Gaudí architecture, the roof represents a dragon; the small turret with a cross would symbolize the sword of St. George stuck into the dragon. The bones and skulls on the facade represent all the dragon’s victims.


We rested our weary feet at this sidewalk cafe for a refreshing beverage. There were a group of girls waiting for the cupcake shop to reopen after siesta, so we knew they had to be good.


I gave my novia a red velvet rose cupcake for my gift.


We caught this Spanish gentleman just when he gave his girlfriend a rose.



We had another fine dinner, but tonight arrived at the restaurant at 7:00 PM and we were the first ones there!



Behaving like locals in Barcelona


Here are some pictures we took wandering around the city on Sunday.
Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila that we walked by on our little tour that we made up.


La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudi’s most famous works in Barcelona. It’s a giant Basilica that has been under construction since 1882 and Carolyn heard that it will always be under construction.




During our excursion, we actually had a Starbucks, then found a very nice bakery where we got a baguette and really tasty sandwich that we shared. Carolyn tried out all the exercise equipment back on the roof of our hotel (on our floor actually), and I tried the sauna, getting over-heated and then jumping into the cold pool for a refreshing trifecta. We then went out for a really nice dinner with a bottle of white from 9:00 to 10:30 and the restaurant was very busy.

Barcelona; Exploring the Gothic section


We just can’t stop playing in the elevator, this time as Trinity and Theo.


We fueled up on fruit and strong coffees for breakfast, then we wandered around the lobby, looking at the Ricard Opisso artwork that we had looked at in more detail last night after a single over priced gin&tonic. The hotel bartender asked us if we wanted two ice cubes or three. What’s up with the ice stinginess here also? We considered cutting our trip short to fly back to support Hailey who was having kidney problems related to her pregnancy. After numerous texts and calls, we decided she was getting good support, but ended up needing a stent so we were worried about her today.

The hotel is a minor Opisso art museum. We got our clean laundry back from the cleaners a block from the hotel, got dressed in our spiffy duds and headed out exploring on foot for the day.


The area of Barcelona where we are staying is nice and quiet with lots of shops and restaurants and outdoor cafes. As we approached the city center however we encountered more and more people, till it got ridiculous and we headed down the seven foot wide alleyways into the heart go the old Gothic quarter to explore in more peace.






We found a really nice restaurant in a little square in the middle of this maze and had a relaxing late afternoon lunch.


We walked back up the hill to the hotel and hung out and relaxed and talked all evening. I ran out for some supplies after dark to check out the ruckus in the streets after Barcelona lost 2-1 to Real Madrid.


Flying around to Barcelona


We had our leisurely breakfast with too many pots of strong French coffee, pastries prosciutto and lox.

We packed up our bags and headed off on the #2 train from the Luxembourg station to Charles de Gaulle airport to catch our 3:30 flight to Barcelona. We got off the train into the twilight zone of an empty train station. We eventually found the terminal for Iberia airlines when the girl at the counter told us that ORLY means the Orly Airport on the other side of Paris. F*ck!!!


At least we have the trains totally figured out now, but we’re out of train tickets and the kiosks are not working, so we hurried up and waited in line to purchase 2 more. We jumped on the train back into the city, hopped on the spur line from Antony station to Orly Airport and got thru security to the terminal lounge bar in time for a couple of large and needed Stella’s before boarding. Amazing that we made it. I was so stressed out on the train ride that I yelled at a group of punks on the train to “Leave us the f*ck alone”.




We got to the lovely Barcelona airport and jumped onto the 1A bus into the heart of the city. We decided to walk the 10 blocks to the Astoria Hotel where we were staying. The room is on the top floor of the hotel with a wonderful view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. There was partying and group singing and yelling, hooting and hollering out on the street till 3:00 AM but we were too wiped out to join in the mayhem.




The next morning, we fueled up on expressos before heading out to find a laundry and get some calamari and cuttlefish tapas. We found a mercado to stock up on munchies and drinks back in the room.






Off to Versailles

The train follows the Seine for a fair part of the 20 km journey out of the heart of Paris


You know you are royalty, when any oaf will do as a bench


The Queens bedroom was the most livable, but you had to go through numerous anterooms, sitting rooms and waiting rooms to get there



Even the entrance to the hall of mirrors is impressive.



The king liked to make a bed-fort



Statues with Carolyn



The grounds behind the Chateau de Versailles are extensive. Hard to believe that this used to be a simple hunting lodge for the king of France.





Walking back to the train station in the rain. Behind us are dozens and dozens of huge tour buses and taxis.



Fooling around on the train on the way back. Once again, there were no tourists on this train.


A hot cup of espresso is sure nice after a day walking around in the rain.



A drizzly day in the city


We hopped the awnings down the Rue St Michael to the Seine, then wandered up the river along the very picturesque buildings lining the Left bank, stopping to admire the artwork being sold by the local painters. We picked up one that captures the area perfectly. No pictures since we have the art.


If we could have rented a scooter like this, rather than the Vespa, then I might not have cancelled our rental for today.





Today was like a nice tasty dessert where someone stuck an olive on top instead of a cherry.





A chilly day in the city of Love

We popped into this pub on the way home late in the evening, since Carolyn’s ears were getting cold and had a couple of Stellas. We ordered the 25′s thinking large 25 ounce beers, and got 25 Ml little beers instead, so we quickly switched. We finished out last night with an English pub in the heart of the student district. The place was warm and packed with the college crowd just finishing up a bar-wide game of trivia. Tonight was USA trivia (we should have gotten here earlier and entered).


We got up early on Monday and realized that this is the day that all the museums are closed, so we decided to spend the day up on hill of Montmartre. We took a couple of trains over to the area and wandered through a slightly seedy district, navigating our way to the hill. Carolyn remarked “Where are all the tourists?”.



Once we got there we found out. Perhaps they all take tour-buses or something, because none of them came the way we got there.


It was lovely walking up the winding paths up the hill to the large Sacre Coeur church at the top of the hill, although it got windier and colder as we climbed. The church was very impressive both outside and inside. I noticed a group of Japanese girls sitting at a pew, feverishly praying with their heads down in their laps. I though it was unusual for a group of Catholic Japanese girls in the church, until I looked closer and saw that they all had there faces inches above their phones and were texting madly.


Next to the church was a square filled with artists selling their art. We found a nice painting of the Seine and the Notre Dame that we purchased, just before popping into a cafe for beers (50′s this time) to relax and warm up.


The tourists were getting annoying, so we grabbed a monster hot-dog on some awesome french bread and found a quiet bench to scarf it down, before heading back to the city. Who is that homeless woman holding a sign?



After a quick nap back in our room, we headed out to a Craperie for crapes and a bottle of chardonnay that had in full view of the Parthenon as the sun was setting. Our waiter was very interested in Colorado and gave us his facebook name so that we could follow him. I told Carolyn that she had “that certain “je ne sais pas” thinking that it was that undefinable character that makes a person attractive and interesting. The waiter told us that it just means “i don’t know”. Oh well, so much for French compliments…