A few days after we returned from Garmish, we headed off for Barcelona, Spain. It was kind of a long road trip (since the children add hours on to any estimation), so we split up the drive and stopped overnight in Dijon, France. Yes, we bought mustard there. No, it probably wasn't made there. I don't care. It tastes good. Anyway, we were talking about Barcelona. So! Spain is somewhere that we've wanted to visit for a while. Not only does the city contain a lot of historic, beautiful things, but their food culture is renowned as some of the best in the world.
Interestingly enough, although we certainly took plenty of pictures, we actually didn't shoot much of the food. The restaurants we sought out were mostly out-of-the-way local haunts, so we wanted to make as little a disturbance as possible, and not offend them by being too obviously "touristy" during our meal. Also, we were able to get the children on Barcelona time, meaning that we ate a late lunch each day (at 2 or 3), and then got dinner at 8:30 or 9. We, of course, grabbed snacks in-between the meals, and this schedule allowed us to actually go to the restaurants of our choice, since the places the locals go (the places that do not cater to the whims of tourists) don't even open until 8 at the earliest.
A note for those of you who travel, as we do, primarily for the food: seek out restaurants using TripAdvisor and get any literature you can on that city's cultural sights and restaurants. It's well worth the time and effort, and helps with planning your trip.
Although this trip was largely planned around food, even more importantly, we had a lot of precious together time as a family. That is something I'll never be able to take for granted again.
There's a heck of a lot of pictures from this trip, so I've laid out some of the highlights below, but if you want to see the entire collection of sets, click here.
Playing at the beach:
(Their beaches are clothing-optional, as you can see from the sunbather behind us)
L'Aquàrium de Barcelona:
The children really liked it, but it was really quite small (no dolphines, only a handful of lethargic penguines...). We had a nice day though, and went through the whole thing twice, so that the children could look at all of their favorite fish again. Of course the most exiting part for them was the play area.
Mercat de la Boqueria:
We love markets! This one was pretty small compared to others we've seen, but they're always colorful and entertaining.
The trick is figuring out what the locals eat, and going for that instead of the expensive stuff they feed to tourists. This is a Jamon sandwich -- cured ham on a baguette, which is the local "fastfood" of choice.
A "statue" street performer.
(Eating Churros and hot chocolate. Mmmmmm....)
The animals were kind of repetitive (A LOT of flamingo displays. Seriously?!), and it's most famous resident, the albino gorilla, was nowhere to be seen (as it turns out, he died in '03.)
However, there were dolphines.
Although the area to go up and sit in the stadium seats to watch them was closed. A brief explanation in spanish was on a chain barring the way. Sad.
The children had fun though.
The best part for them was this huge playground that included a zipline.
And these bouncy things.
Daisy and Billy just did their own thing.
Castell de Montjuïc:
To get up to the top of the mountain that this castle is on, we first walked up this steep road, then climbed a ton of stone steps.
Next, we took a gondola/cable car. Not my favorite thing to be swinging up in the air so high. Everyone else thought it was superfun.
The view was really cool though.
Once up there, we found stuff to climb on, of course.
The castle itself was nice.
Although really it was the view of the city and the Mediterranian Sea below that made the trip truly worth it.
(Yup, three pictures photo-stitched in Photoshop. Magic, I tell you. I know, I'm amazing.)
Olympic Stadium in Barcelona:
We rode bikes around the stadium for a few hours before dinner (there was always time to kill at the end of each day before our Very Late dinner). There weren't many other people there so we had the place mostly to ourselves (besides the various couples huddled together on benches making out).
You can just barely see Billy's little head behind me here:
He was asleep.
(Daisy was getting tired)
Font Màgica - Magic Fountain show:
(Watching it from the roof of our van)
Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi. This has been under construction since 1882, and is not expected to be completed till 2026(!!):
Playing at a park nearby:
One of my online knitting and spinning friends owns a yarn shop in Barcelona's Gothic/Gotic quarter, so of course we stopped by.
Lovely proprietress Jen/KamikazeKnits is in the middle; she introduced me to the other knitter, Danielle/LaraCroft. (Yup, I bought something, and no, you can't see it yet -- haven't loaded the pics into my Flickr yet. But her store rocks, and I wanted to buy the whole durn thing. Mmmmmalabrigo. Oh yeah baby.)
A day at the Parc de la Ciudella:
Breakfast one morning (from the pastry shop downstairs from our apartment):
Breakfast of champions, I tell you.
The Barcelona pastry shops remind me of the French. They have much of the same types of baked goods, but with their own unique flair and none of the pretension.
Tibidabo Amusement Park (Spain's oldest amusement park):
The rides certainly weren't the screamers that Americans expect at places like Six Flags, but it was the perfect level of excitement for our little guys.
("Yay!! We're riding on a seal!! We're so glad we waited 30 MINUTES TO RIDE THE SEAL!!)
Greg, Sparky, Max and Daisy went up in the ferris wheel:
Happily, Billy and I remained on the ground.
They had these fans spraying a cooling mist at different intervals throughout, which was very welcome in the hot sun.
Eating ice cream:
(Greg loves it when Billy is such a help)
The two littlest ones took a nap:
I finally agreed to go on a "scary" ride.
And it scared me.
But didn't scare Greg (or the boys).
Overall, the trip was wonderful. Spain was dusty and hot (although Greg says "are you freaking kidding me? IRAQ was dusty and hot. Spain was fine."), but it was beautiful, the food was great, the people welcoming, and we had a great time.
For all of you crazy people who actually want to see every photo we took, check out the collection here.