Archive for May, 2008

is anyone NOT on the road today??

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Next May if we go somewhere for this obscenely long holiday weekend (Thurs-Mon), we’ll go by train or plane. The traffic is horrible. Not in Spain. It starts as soon as you cross the border. Several times we’ve come to a complete stop. And there’s never an obvious reason.

I guess we should have set that alarm clock.

It took 9 and a half hours from the time we left Carrefour till we got home. (That’s 12 hours since we left the hotel.) Bill eventually gave up on the autoroute and got off to try his luck on the two-lane highways. I don’t know that it got us home any faster but it made him feel better.

Grocery stop

Monday, May 12th, 2008

12 may 2008
part 2

Turns out today but be a holiday in Spain. We figured this out when we went to Carrefour to stock up on all the products they have here and not in France. It was packed. It was the kind of packed that at home, I’d have turned around and walked out.

Instead, we braved the crowd and filled our cart. We bought:

Oscar Mayer bacon
refried beans
canned jalapeños
pickles (hopefully they’ll be more like the ones we’re used to and miss)
mint gum (yes, it’s remarkably hard to find in France)
Rice Krispies
plain tortilla chips

We also ended up buying yet more shopping bags. Then we realized no one was using the bags you buy. The stores here use plastic ones.

The one thing I forgot because it was too crowded to wander up and down every single aisle at leisure was Philadelphia cream cheese. It’s probably just as well.

packing up and heading out

Monday, May 12th, 2008

We forgot to set any kind of alarm last night to make sure we got up at a decent hour to hit the road. We woke up at the same time we’ve been getting up the whole vacation… around 9. At least I’d packed a lot of stuff last night.

We checked out of the hotel and drove into Sitges for breakfast (no way am I eating at the hotel again). I’d seen a place with a sign boasting a breakfast buffet for 6 Euros. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was 13 Euros a person… and not worth it. The cheaper one was a heck of a lot better. I don’t know why but Kaitlyn threw a fit that we weren’t going to eat at the hotel. All weekend she’s been determined to insist on doing whatever it is we’ve just said we aren’t going to do. I can’t wait until she’s a teenager.

what you don’t say says a lot

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Earlier this weekend, I asked bill why it seems people we know all have wonderful fun-filled vacations. But now I realize why. If someone asks me how our trip to Barcelona was, I’ll say “we had a good time.” Which is true. But I won’t drone on about the rotten service at the restaurant or the long walk to reach the sand or probably even the rain. Now I know the answer to my question.

toilet paper nazi

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

The guidebooks warn that the closest metro or bus stop to Park Guell is a good 15 minute walk. By driving into Barcelona (we’ve completely abandoned the idea of taking the train), we shaved about 400 meters off the trek. What the guidebooks fail to adequately point out is that the walk to the park is uphill. Up a very steep hill. So steep that the city installed long escalators to help with the climb. (There are stairs alongside for the hearty. Or foolish.)

Our first… vital… stop once we got to the park was the bathroom. Which was not especially close to the entrance. Naturally there was a long line. More unexpected – the bathroom attendant who doled out woefully small rations of toilet paper. I will simply say that we are all very fortunate that I had a travel packet of Kleenex in my pocket.

Kaitlyn really enjoyed the park. I hoped she would, but was a little worried since it’s an unfinished housing development donated to the city and left as such… not a traditional park with big chunks of grass to run on or swings to swing on. She had looked at some pictures in a book t his morning and really enjoyed finding the things she had seen in the pictures. Her favorite was the lizard statue… because it looks just like her little foam lizard we bought earlier.

When we walked through the Gaudi museum, which is inside a model home he’d built, Kaitlyn made up stories about each room and how much work it was for “her guy” to paint the ceilings, etc. I didn’t learn a thing about Gaudi, but had fun with Kaitlyn. I figure I can buy a book about him.

now we know better

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

The plan today was to somehow wash the sand off Kaitlyn, grab a quick lunch, then drive into Barcelona to enjoy some outdoor time and an early dinner back at the Hard Rock.

I don’t know what came over me, but I actually suggested eating at the hotel. (Different restaurant.) We walked in and stood for what was beginning to be an eternity being completely ignored by the wait staff. Then Bill spotted last night’s waiter behind the counter of the coffee bar. That was it… we left. We drove up the street to town. There is restaurant after restaurant along the street across from the (sand) beach. None opened until 1, which gave Kaitlyn about a half hour at the playground.

Lunch was very good. Who knew food in Spain could taste that good? Proof that our hotel considers its restaurant patrons trapped like travelers stranded in an airport waiting on a delayed flight.

Too bad the pouring rain kept us from eating in town before. Too bad I didn’t just book us a hotel there, too. Live and learn.

to the beach!

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

I opened my eyes this morning and saw the most wonderful sight: blue skies.

Once Kaitlyn finally woke up (the late nights are going to make the return to a normal schedule very difficult)… she wanted to go to the beach.

I didn’t have her put on her bathing suit. The idea was to go play her new Barbie paddle ball game. (another great find at that stupid mini-mart in the hotel) She put on a skirt, t shirt, sweater and flip flops. I put on jeans and a jacket. It was sunny but hardly very warm… and still very windy.

We walked down to the sandy beach via the rocky stretch. Bill and I both thought we’d find a lot of shells washed up in the storm yesterday. We found a diver’s mask, a shoe insert, some can tops and lots of seaweed. Oh, and some pretty shells, too.

At the sand, Bill and Kaitlyn tried to play the paddle ball game. It didn’t last too long before Kaitlyn was digging in the beach bag for her bucket and shovel.

I shot some video of the two of them building a sand castle, then I wandered off to take video of the waves, the town, the runners along the promenade taking part in a triathlon. When I wandered back to the construction site, I found Kaitlyn sporting a soaking wet skirt and sweater… drenched as she ran squealing into the freezing cold waves. Bill said “what? You don’t have her bathing suit on under that?”

She had a great, sand-covered morning. That made staying outside Barcelona worth the hassle.

Absolutely Awful Service

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Dinner tonight was one to remember. But not for the reasons one hopes to remember a night out of vacation.

We drove back to Sitges from Barcelona since Kaitlyn was in no state to go to a restaurant and the nap she took in the car did her a world of good.

We had planned on driving down the mail beach street in town to see if anything looked good. But it was blocked off. Neither of us felt like wandering the street in the pouring rain, so we just went back to the hotel. Besides, pizza from the pizza place there sounded fine.

Getting a table wasn’t easy. Oh, the restaurant wasn’t full. And we were about to find out why. The waiter successfully ignored us while we stood there waiting to be seated. We should have taken that hint; we didn’t. Kaitlyn had me read her the menu and when I got to the second thing, her mind was made up. Shrimp tortellini.

We closed our menus… the international signal of one’s desire to order… and waited… and waited… and waited. People who’d come in after us had their food and the waiter hadn’t so much as nodded his head at us. We asked Kaitlyn if she’d eat something else at another restaurant. No way. Shrimp tortellini. After about 45 minutes of waiting, Bill walked up to the bar where the water was attempting to ignore several people trying to pay their bills. The waiter acknowledged our existence, so Bill came back to the table. Then I stared in disbelief as the waiter actually left the restaurant. Kaitlyn stood fast to her refusal to leave and after the display of screaming after the gift shop incident, we were not ready to see if she’d do that again. So I left the restaurant to find a solution. I walked across the hall to another restaurant to beg them to bring Kaitlyn shrimp tortellini if Bill and I would order from their menu. I couldn’t get that waiter to notice me, either. So I went to the front desk to complain. The response was barely above “so?” I stomped back into the restaurant to see the waiter at our table. I heard him say he’d come back to take my order and I actually hollered across the restaurant “Oh no you don’t! You aren’t leaving my table after taking 45 minutes to go to it!” As I sprinted past the other diners, I realized I probably looked pretty stupid. But, then again, none of them appeared to be having fantastic service and maybe were secretly happy that someone yelled about it.

As we waited for our food we noticed the cook was so fed up he had started delivering meals to the tables himself, rather than let food get cold waiting on the waiter. The French family at the table next to us got up to find the waiter so they could pay their bill. In France you can wait all night for the check to arrive and even they thought he took too long.

When the food did finally arrive, Kaitlyn’s didn’t look right. I cut one of her tortellini open and there was no sign of shrimp. It was something green. (Which if that was shrimp, shouldn’t have been eaten.) I tried it… no shrimp. She tried it and said “It has a good flavor.” And she ate it. And we never pointed out to her that it was wrong. Although it was frustrating since we’d only sat there as long as we had so that she could have shrimp tortellini.

After we paid, Bill questioned the wisdom of giving the waiter our room number. I don’t think that waiter is smart enough to do anything to get back at us. We’ll see who’s right.

still soaked

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Since we ended our trip to the aquarium at the snack bar (and, of course, gift shop), we couldn’t exactly go to dinner next. Most of what was left on my to-do-in-Barcelona list was outside. But that was out of the question. I’d completely forgotten about the flier I’d picked up for the Olympic Experience Museum, which Kaitlyn probably would have liked. Instead, I remembered the maritime museum. So that was where we went.

We got there by taking a bike taxi. It was dropping two people off at the aquarium as we were walking out. It didn’t look dry, but it didn’t look as wet as walking. The kid stuck pedaling people around said the ride would cost us 6 Euros, so we got in. Water poured off his little roof, onto the plastic bag on my lap, which funneled it into a puddle at my hip. By the time we reached the museum my entire butt and most of my left leg were soaked. I went into the ladies’ room to attempt to dry off using one of those obnoxious hand driers. Another woman was already using it to dry a pile of jackets and hats. None of which were stuck to her body. Since I couldn’t win the showdown over the warm air, and because I’m so short I probably couldn’t have gotten my butt dry anyway, I left the bathroom.

This museum was also very busy. They were out of audio guides. We didn’t bother to try to wait for one, since it’s normally not that successful an endeavor anyway as you run past exhibits to keep up with Kaitlyn. But once we got all the way inside we realized they’d have been handy. All the signs were in Spanish. The few in English didn’t provide any real insight. (“this is a fishing boat.” well, no shit, I figured that out by looking at it) Almost everything in the museum was a model or a drawing. Kaitlyn quickly got tired of it. Bill and I weren’t far behind, really, but we could hear the rain pelting the roof and with that raging outside we were in no hurry to leave.

At the gift shop on the way out Kaitlyn picked up a toy periscope and said she wanted it. We said no. She had a meltdown. From the gift s h op to the car she screamed and repeated “I want that toy.” over and over. It was horrible. Once we got to the car, she fell asleep before we were even out of the parking garage. There was no winning in that situation.

finding Nemo and all his buddies

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

We got into Barcelona (by car) just before 2 and quickly discovered a lot of people had the same rain-avoidance plan we did: go to the aquarium. The line to buy tickets zigged and zagged away from the ticket window. At least it was under cover. Luckily, the aquarium had the good sense to fully staff the ticket window and despite the horribly long line, the wait wasn’t too bad… only about a half an hour.

As you’d expect, it was packed inside and Kaitlyn got frustrated by the crowds making it hard to see the displays. We all found it frustrating, but she was the only one complaining about it.

There were some displays worth pushing through the crowds to see: a tank of octopi actually swimming, cuttlefish who reproduce non-stop until they actually die of exhaustion. Kaitlyn found every fish from Finding Nemo. She wasn’t very impressed by the tube you walk through so that sharks and other fish can swim over your head.

I’d read online about the aquarium’s kid area… touted as being hands on. Touch a starfish! The map you get when you go in had a picture of a kid petting a starfish. But every tank in the kids area had a sign on it telling you not to put your hands in the water. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I saw a single starfish in there! I was more disappointed about it than Kaitlyn was. I think she actually forgot about it. I certainly wasn’t going to remind her.