Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Day Nine: The Final Full Day in Barcelona, Spain

Family Shot


  • Hit the Beach
  • Make it to Parc Guell
  • We have to see Sagrada Familia
  • Do we get a night out?

We had luck today; the God's decided they had given Barcelona its yearly allotment of rain and so we were allowed to venture ontoFood or Water? the beach for a soak in it's lovely blue waters and warm sun. We were early enough to pick out a pretty spot and pull up a few chairs under one of the umbrellas (20 euros, so you'd better enjoy them). The beach was not a shallow and gradual beach like some, but a little steep with a drop-off just a few steps from the waters edge so keeping a close eye on the younger ones became even more vigilent. They had great fun in the sand and water though and kept themselves busy in the waves. Eventually we blew up the floats and pulled them away from the sand for a while. The older two could stay afloat in the salty water reasonably well and enjoyed "swimming" between mom and dad. Even mom and dad had an easy time staying afloat and after we swam far enough out not to be able to touch enjoyed a good half hour treading water without the kids. It was the first time we were awake enough and alone enough to actually catch up on each other during the trip. Oh, rubbish, the first time in months.

We overstayed our visit on the beach and left mid-afternoon with red marks across our bodies and an appetite. We were planning a visit to Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia and both of them being a distance from the city center we had to plan our route. The park has given its fair share of tourists a sporting chase so we double checked the bus numbers and street names. Lo and behold we hopped on the right bus, just heading the wrong direction. No biggy, we just got to see the other side of Barcelona before backtracking again. Once we had arrived at the park the sun was on it's last rays so we walked the winding paths and with a brisk step in order to see all that it had to offer. Dinner was on high demand and there were signs leading us to a restaurant, but following them as best we could, we never ran across a single one. Instead we enjoyed what we could of the unique Gaudi design, took lots of photos (including one which I had , Sisters in Parc Guelland once the sun was down wandered down the long hill towards the nearest metro stop. We past so many shops with great looking gifts, but each one yelled at us that they were closing the minute we tried to step over the threshold. Okay, so we weren't meant to bring home souvenirs for anybody.

Still we were starving! We were at one of those awkward moments again when everybody wants to make a decision, but nobody actually wants to follow through. Ah, the joys of traveling in a foreign country on an empty stomach in a state of serious lack of sleep. We convinced ourselves to follow the metro line back down towards the center of town where there was an abundance of restaurants on La Rambla, skipping the famous Gaudi church. Sure, we'd end up eating at some touristy place most likely, but at least it wouldn't be a pizza shop. Fearless Leader led us over to what looked like at decent looking place serving a variety of tapas and sidewalk seating. After the trip through the steamy and hot metro tunnels we were ready for some fresh air. There was no seating left for 7 of us on the sidewalk, but when I looked up and saw a dreamy looking view from the second level Fearless Leader convinced them to let us up. It was a glorious restaurant with top notch service. The kids were doing well on very little food and actually let us eat our meal without too much interruption and the food was amazing. I don't care if they cater more towards the tourists, it was amazing. They served me a fish with it's head still on. Coming from a state that pulls a fish straight out of the river, puts it on the stick still wiggling, and cooks it over the fire for dinner, I wasn't too shocked, but the waiter politely cut the head off for me after he placed the plate in front of me. He really was the nicest guy. I don't know if all the tales he told were true, but he sure was fun to listen to nonetheless.Gaudi's Promonade

We eventually made it out the door and walked back to the stuffy metro line to catch our ride home. The girls were now exhausted and so were we. The late nights were finally catching up on us and everybody was talking of bed. Once into the apartment our first mission was to get the girls into their pj's and tucked under the sheets, which Grammy and Daddy seemed to have well under control. Pa slipped into their bedroom and I slipped back out the front door. I needed some alone time. Tensions tend to start running high during "vacations". I know they're meant to relax you, but there are moments when trying to fit that part of the equation in can create more nerve racking then you'd experience on a normal day. I wish I could say I'm the type of person who lets things roll away like water off a ducks back, but for some reason those genes evaded my pool. Instead I let the steam build up like a boulder atop a volcano and if I don't let that steam out when and where it's appropriate it tends to make a big fuss at just the wrong moments in ones life. So, to the beach I wandered in the late summer evening.

This part of town was quiet and the only cars on the road were lines of taxis or an occasional police car. The lights were still switching their signals, but there was rarely a car to respond. When I got to the beach it was cold and dark. There was a group of people using the patio tables and chairs of a closed snack bar, but their din was distant compared to the rhythmic sound of waves upon sand. I sat on the beach and watched the lights of boats out at sea blink and cross the horizon and demanded of myself some time to consider all those scrambling thoughts which bounced around my mind. The last year has been a whirlwind and the emotions and thoughts which were caught in it haven't seem to have settled back to their normal pace yet. There have been decisions I've made and actions I've taken which would have led to other outcomes if I'd made one small step in the other direction. I allowed myself to consider what life I would have been leading if I'd taken those missed steps and compared the two versions. It's easy to see the road not taken lined with roses and dappled with sunlight, but in the end you have to find those patches of sun and sweet fragrances along the path you're walking and realize the correct choice is to keep walking and plant the seeds or clear the weeds along the way. I laid on the sand and looked at the stars long enough to empty my mind of the most confusing thoughts to the point that I could actually take in my surroundings with a clarity I had not experienced for what seemed a decade. The majestic view of the heavens was expansive, the sound of the ocean surrounded my body and yet lay inches from my feet, and the coolness of the sand I lay in soaked into my senses which were no longer too crowded to acknowledge another intrusion of sense. When I'd spent enough time in the forgotten sense of peace and pressed past it's uncomfortableness long enough to enjoy it, I picked myself up, said farewell to the sea, and walked the deserted streets back to the apartment. My husband had known I was leaving and had spent some reflective moments himself out on the balcony; we must have both had the same amount of chaos to sift through as we each entered the apartment from opposite doors at the same time. Did I want to tell him about all the thoughts I had sorted through? No, I would sleep in peace tonight.

W.C. Report:

Don't they believe in toilet paper? It seems every toilet we found didn't have toilet paper and no way of even paying for a square or two. In the park the toilets were stalls built into the side of a cave. The toilets were backed up probably by the various items used in place of toilet paper and the trash bins in the stalls were overflowing with the same. We were thankful for the few kleenex tissues we had on us. If ever traveling in Spain be sure to bring a roll of toilet paper with you.

Tragedy Report:

While on the beach we were running between the towels and sun bathers over the sand and just as we got close to the water Squirrel Monkey yelled out in pain and grabbed her foot. I was tempted to believe it was probably nothing and gave her a little tug to encourage her to pull out of it and jump in the waves with me, but she refused to budge. Dreading the worst I dropped down beside her and lifted her foot for inspection. The poor child was bleeding from two gaping cuts on the sole of her foot and she was letting the whole stretch of beach know about it too. There was sand mixed with blood and I knew it would need to be cleaned before we would know the whole extent of injuries so I handed her off to dad and returned to the scene to inspect what could have caused the injury. It was a well worn path towards the water and nothing visibly poked it's sharp head out of the sand, so I began running my hand over her trail. Just below the surface of the sand was a small block of worn wood with two rusty nails pointed up towards whoever was unfortunate enough to step on their hidden points. I was thankful I went back and found them, but sad it had to be our child who had to suffer their surprise attack. She complained after a long days walk on the foot and by the time we laid them down for bed the soars were red and swollen. Fortunately we had a nurse along who carries a bag full of goodies just for these sort of occasions and her wounds were properly attended to along with the knowledge we keep our children's vaccinations up to date.

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