Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Epic European Tour, Part II: Spain

And now we continue!  We flew from JFK to Barcelona.  It was a long flight, but we made it, and were so happy to set foot in Europe at last.

Now, those who know me well know that when I was young I was in Spanish Immersion program during five of my elementary school years.  I later took some high school and college Spanish courses, and I always enjoyed the language, but when the time came to learn Hmong, my attention shifted completely to that, and ever thereafter whenever I tried to speak Spanish, it came out in some bizarre mixture of Spong, or maybe Hmanish.  In any case, our travel buddies kept telling me I better be brushing up on my Spanish for our time in Barcelona, and I didn't really, but I was really curious how it would work out when we were there.

How it worked out was great!  I wasn't perfectly fluent, but I was kind of amazed at how much I could understand and communicate!  The cabbie from the airport to the hotel was a perfect test run for the rest of our time there (he thought we were English, actually).  It was a little different than the Spanish I learned, since Spain and Mexico have very different dialects, but there are a lot of similarities so I could hold my own.  I even tried to actively engage him in conversation rather than just listening because I just wanted to see how I did.  It was nice to be at least fairly conversant.  I'm sure my teachers throughout the years would be very pleased with this result.

So then we had an evening and all the next morning so we did some sight-seeing!  (After a much-needed nap, of course.)  And I had a chance to speak the language more when we went to eat and shopping and here and there.  We didn't have a lot of time, but we were still able to get a good idea of the city and its architecture and some of its history, and of course the highly questionable material that you see in the subways (yikes).
First item of business:  the Sagrada Familia!  It's a cathedral that is famously unfinished and continually under construction.
See?  You can see the cranes and everything!  And that also accounts for the VERY many architectural styles.
I am a bit suspicious of Spain's architecture... (or something)
What a perfectly serviceable picture of us.
And then someone has to come along and photobomb it!  Nice one, Elise.
There were a lot of notable buildings, many designed by Gaudi, like this one.
This is another Gaudi building.  So ornate!
This one isn't Gaudi, but it's interesting.  There are interesting buildings all over the place in these European cities!
It's pronounced Tay-pass.
The menus have plenty of pictures, very convenient for language barrier purposes.
The menu turned magically to food!
This bread was so very delicious.
We were pretty hungry.
The rain!  It stays anywhere BUT the plain, apparently.
At first I couldn't even remember what this was a picture of, but it's me leaning out of our window taken by Elise leaning out of THEIR window.

Time for breakfast!
Let's look around!  Jeff was a fantastic navigator.  Then I didn't have to do anything hardly at all, ha (except for be the language guide!).
We went into this aMAzing marketplace in which we wished we could have spent a lot more time.
Assorted Foods!
This is the map.  Just look at it!
A building with cool umbrella detail.
Even this lamppost is cool.
The birds in Barcelona are not nearly as amenable to being fed as the birds in London.
Wife on a street!
If there's one thing this girl loves, it's an ancient wall.  EsPECially an ancient ROMAN wall.
And we found another church!  There are also always old churches in these European cities.
It makes you want to think.  And strike a careless Senior Pictures pose.
OMG a playground!!!  (One of many, really.)
And on the other side, it has a face!
Ha ha, Elise is fatter.
Boo, now I'm fatter.
We saw many many buildings and the bay with all the cruise ships, and ate delicious tapas in a real Spanish tapas restaurant, where the waiter told us he also didn't drink alcohol because he was a Christian (?).  And THEN we learned the hard way that the rain in Spain does NOT stay mainly in the plain, it definitely makes its way right into the city.  We headed back to the hotel after dinner in the pouring rain!  It was amazing, and our shoes and jeans were very wet

Speaking of the hotel, the cruise deal we bought included a stay in a really great place with nice rooms and VERY comfy beds, which was quite important after such a long flight.  We thought if we ever come back to Barcelona, we'll have to stay there again.  It even included free WiFi (for which I had to call the front desk a few times and use my Spanish more, hee) and a great breakfast buffet.
The Wife looks grumpy because we went to great lengths to load and watch the episode of Project Runway we missed, which turned out to be a real cop-out, since they didn't even eliminate anyone that week.  LAME.
Keep your hands off the mini-bar!
Once for Reflections I wrote a song about how much I like Spanish and how I hoped to go to Spain one day.  It was kind of a pie-in-the-sky idea then, I don't know if I ever really thought I would go to Spain, but now I have!  It's kind of crazy to think that I have finally been to that country.

And the next morning after we ate at the buffet and walked around for a little while longer we joined a bunch of older couples in the lobby and took the shuttle to the ship!!!  More on that later...
A picture of all four of us!  We didn't even have to find a poor unsuspecting soul.
Elise was great at chronicling our adventures in her little journal all along the way.

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