Spain, 2017

(part 1, Barcelona)

Robert had never been to Spain, and I was only there on a somewhat rushed tour group as a high school student and then an even-more-rushed concert stop with the college choir. We wanted to go somewhere warmer than Boston, where I could use my Spanish, and where we didn't need to drive, so when Alitalia/Air France had cheap tickets to Spain over winter break, we decided to go. We flew from Boston to Barcelona on New Year's Eve, on a half-empty flight--having four seats across for Marcus, me, and Helen, while Robert had another four across for him and Samantha, was pretty sweet--and after a fast layover in Rome (barely enough time to make our connection--I had to flag down a security guard as we stood in an endless line waiting for customs and show him my boarding pass. Everyone else who tried this, with similarly tight connections, was met with a classic Italian shrug and raised eyebrows, but I got "Ah, you have baby! Come right this way!" and we were ushered to the front) we landed in Barcelona on New Year's Day. Everyone had been sick the week before we left, and the big kids were still drippy from colds. I was coughing, and Helen had a fever and was clearly under the weather the first couple days of our trip, but we all managed well enough, and somehow, magically, despite this inauspicious start, this did actually become The Vacation Where No One Threw Up on Mommy.

Below, sick baby resting on me on New Year's Eve before we left the house, and the big kids spending energy at a playground at the same time.

Happy airport and airplane times:

Arriving in Barcelona on New Year's Day, Samantha dozed on Robert's back a bunch and we took the bus from the airport to the city center and walked the rest of the way to our hotel. We did get some of the best donuts (really cronuts) I've ever had from Choc, right near our hotel, and those helped perk Samantha up.

Barcelona is dotted with small playgrounds, and we made good use of them.

Since almost everything was closed for New Year's Day, we took the subway to the Sagrada Familia church and just walked around the outside, spotting animals (turtle, lizard, snakes) and doing some of the "missions" in the guide book/spy book/scavenger hunt book that Marcus had for Barcelona. All of this, plus supper at Flax and Kale, which had (unsurprisingly) nice kale chips and salmon toast, and which was actually open in that awkward pre-dinner time of 6:00 in the evening, rounded out our first day.

On Monday we took a food walking tour with Culinary Backstreets, the company we took one with in Istanbul in 2013 and loved. This was great as well--it was just us, which was convenient for bathroom breaks and emergency chocolate stops (hello, praline-filled chocolate sardines).

We had ham tastings and mussels and croquettes and squids--everything was delicious. We realized quickly, though, that adjusting to the Spanish time zone didn't just mean adding on the specific number of hours from Boston--we also needed to add on an additional three hours to get our dinner time to line up with the Spanish dinner, so that after five days we were finally able to make it until 8:15 to eat dinner (most places didn't open until 8:00). Some days we just settled for churros y chocolate at the unfashionably-early-no-one-could-possibly-eat-now time of 5:30 or 6:00.

Since we happened to arrive on New Year's Day, we had the extra thick hot chocolate (middle pic above) which really was like warm pudding, it was so thick, which is only served on New Year's Day and one day in June, we were told. The other days we had "regular" Spanish hot chocolate, which still is quite thick and soupy, and coats the churros nicely.

Above, wandering the streets of Barcelona: Lady Lent, a drawing showing people in centuries past what they were allowed to eat during Lent (what she's holding) and how long Lent lasted (seven feet for seven weeks), the cathedral (we didn't go in, but Marcus read all about it and Saint Eulalia and the doves in his scavenger hunt book), and an alley in the Gothic Quarter.

We went to the Picasso Museum, which was very doable with kids--it's small, it progresses from his early realistic-type drawings and paintings to some experiments with brush style (pointilism, etc.) and then to the great series of works on Las Meninas by Velasquez. I was able to pull up the Velasquez on my phone and show it to Marcus and talk about the differences between the two, and with Samantha we talked a lot about how he changed people's features. Later that night she drew a person "like that silly artist in the museum," with two differently shaped eyes at different heights, "a crazy pig nose," and square feet (she recalled that he made one of the dresses almost square in the final painting). It was a lot of fun! Around the corner from the Picasso Museum was a little old-fashioned churro y porra place, and we stopped there for nourishment. Above center, Marcus displays a toy dragon from one of the Kindereggs we acquired in Spain. Careful, they're contraband in this country!

Since Barcelona is the city of Antoni Gaudi, and the kids had read books about him and Samantha had a Gaudi coloring book, we went to a little mosaic studio in the Gothic Quarter and they took a class in making mosaics. They used glass cutters and goggles, and then when they were done placing and gluing their pieces, the staff grouted their work and we came back the next day to pick them up. Now each kid has a lovely mosaic box in their room that they made in Barcelona.

One day we took the train out to Colonia Guell to see a model factory community with a cool Gaudi church that the kids had read about. The train took less than 20 minutes and walking around the little village, with the forest right behind the church, was very nice.

Marcus was particularly fascinated by these boys (it was still school vacation for the Christmas holidays, so there were lots of local kids around playing outside) carrying a 20-foot-long branch and a plank up from the woods.

That same evening we also took the funicular to the teleferico (gondola) to the top of a park in the city. Samantha pretended to be driving the funicular, giving a running commentary that the English speakers on the train chuckled at.

At the top, the kids climbed all over an old cannon, and then went with Robert into a castle at sunset, just before it closed, while I nursed Helen outside. We had great views of the city, the harbor, and the coast.

Our whole time in Barcelona, we stayed at Hotel Casa Camper in the city center. It was a really perfect location, easy to walk to everything or else to the subway, and we had a suite, with a fold-out couch and a hammock (both kids adored the hammock for sitting in, but Samantha didn't sleep well in it, so she used the couch and Marcus took the hammock at night) and a separate bedroom on the other side. Robert loved that there was 24-hour-a-day snacks and coffee in the lobby, and a made-to-order breakfast, all included. There was also a lovely roof garden and lounge area as well.

On January 5th, Robert's birthday, after a chocolate cherry muffin cake with a candle in it at breakfast, we headed from Barcelona to Madrid via the high speed train (2.5 hours). It was a very comfortable and easy trip. Robert had a nice birthday, with kids around him all day long, and another candle in a chocolate dessert at a Madrid restaurant (Metro Bistro) that evening too.


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Created: 1/13/17. Last Modified: 1/17/17.