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    Barcelona, Europe, Spain

    Barcelona

    Friday Dec. 29, Barcelona

    Slept in until around 8am and found Davy already up. He was outside on back of the Yacht. He and Corrina bought more groceries last night and stocked our little kitchen and fridge, so we could have breakfasts and some lunch items in the Yacht. I had some fruit and granola mixed into my yogurt, and some good whole grain toast. We got ready and waited and waited for the sleepy gang. Finally, around 11:30, Don and I left to get a bus tour of Barcelona. When we left, Natalie was still sleeping and snoring on the living room sofa (from being out most of the night). We found the bus for our city tour, where we used our ear phones, but it was difficult to hear all the talking. It was cold and drizzling, but soon, the sun came out! So, we went on top of the double-decker bus for better visibility and photos. After 30 minutes, we got off to see the Fabulous Gaudi’s “Sagrada Familia huge Gothic Church.

    Fabulous Gaudi’s “Sagrada Familia

    Fabulous Gaudi’s “Sagrada Familia

    Inside Gaudi’s “Sagrada Familia

    There were so many people everywhere and long lines for the tickets. We soon found out that they were all sold out for next 2 days (because of holidays). It was a huge Gothic Monstrosity from outside, but fabulous inside! It has been in the making over 100 years and will be 60 meters higher when completed. We ran into Dave, Corrina, and girls and decided to pay for a private guided tour for our family. They gave us a “Group rate” of 40 Euros apiece (they lowered it to 30 Euros apiece for us) Don and I helped Davy out by contributing 100 Euros for the girls. The huge church has been built only by the people’s funds, and not the Catholic church or the government, so it truly is a church for everyone and all religions (“the People’s Church of Forgiveness”) It was just amazing, and we especially loved the Stained-glass windows and huge pipe organ! I am so glad we got to see this fabulous landmark! We got back on the City Bus Tour at 4:30, but it was a different city Bus than Dave and group were on. There were two lines, the blue and the red. We thought we would both go to the same areas, but alas, we did not. There was very little history and talking on this new bus, so after 30 minutes, we got off and just walked. Well, we got off way too early, (looking for a bite to eat). so we just walked miles and miles! The city maps were so tiny and awful, and our phones would not work, and we kept looking for a taxi, but did not see any for around 3 hours! In the meantime, Davy called to tell us to meet them on the familiar “Las Roblas” street, one of the most famous for walking. We could not see any street names, and no one seemed to know where to send us! Not that many people spoke English! By then, my feet were killing me in my boots! We passed a
    “Desidual Store” (( have shopped in several European countries in this store) It is big in Europe and started in Spain. Don bought a cute purse there for me for 70 Euros. Still saw no taxis, so we called Davy and told them not to wait for us, as we were still lost. It was 7:30 by the time we found the restaurant where they all ate, and by then, they had left. We sat down and enjoyed a good pizza and shared a Caprice salad. It felt SO Good to sit and rest my aching feet! We later kept walking towards the Marina. We passed a nice Majorca Pearls shop, where I bought some lovely earrings and a matching pendant (a pretty Gunmetal color) Then we finally saw a guy pedaling a go cart and we hailed him to stop and give us a ride! He was on a bicycle pulling a cart for two. He took us to the harbor for 6 Euros apiece. It was Wonderful riding those last 2 or so miles! He was a friendly guy from Mauritania. He warned us to be careful, as there were “robbers” all around who were really pros. I guess we passed several of them sitting on a bench. I am so glad we did not try walking all over that part of the harbor! We did feel safe in our own part of the harbor, at least a mile away, where we were docked in our lovely Yacht. We had him drop us off at a restaurant near the Yacht. It was around 10pm when we staggered back to our “Floating home”. I had blisters on my big toes from my boots and walking for MILES! We watched the last half of “The Devil Wears Prada” with the girls and then they were off for the evening again to go dancing. They left around midnight and arrived home around 6am. (Yawn) We hit the sac around the time they left. Slept in until around nine am (the rooms are so quiet and we love the gentle lapping sound and motion of the waves)

    Sat. Dec. 30 Barcelona

    After breakfast in the Yacht, I journaled and Don did some puzzles on his phone. We got ready for the day. It was a Gorgeous, warm day, much like our weather in Laguna Beach, Calif! It must have gotten up to around 70 degrees, and we were all really enjoying it! Then around 12:30, our Skipper “Sergio” came to take us all for a wonderful ride through the harbor and out around it. Later, we anchored and just enjoyed the lovely day and surroundings. Davy and daughter Delanie even dived into the cool water of the Mediterranean several times! (photos) We saw some fabulous Yachts in the harbor and the biggest private Yacht in the world! It was 8 stories high and had a crew of 80. Owned by a Sultan from Brunei. The cost was a Billion dollars. Every year, he puts 10 % of that fee with gas and maintenance. Barcelona has some of the biggest mega yachts in the world, and it is cheaper to dock there than other areas of Europe. The owner of the “ Dandy” , our rental “Air B& B “ Yacht, actually makes a 100,000 dollar profit each year (after all the expenditures). He is an Estonian farmer. The Dandy is worth 800,000 Euros now. There were some lovely shopping areas and nice restaurants surrounding the Marina. We really enjoyed our lovely 4 hour Yacht cruise through lovely Barcelona (photos). After being out on the water for a while, we were getting hungry! Corina and Dianne had made a wonderful brunch for us all consisting of eggs, mini tapas of bananas and Nutella slices, and fruit. Now we were all getting hungry. After thanking Sergio for a beautiful time and tipping him, he took us back to our slip and said goodbye. We all got ready to go out for dinner. We enjoyed dinner at nearby restaurant called “La Barca Del Salamanca” at Port Olympic (where we were staying). It was a very nice restaurant with very good food! We shared a huge Cod/Veggie Paella(the Spanish Specialty), and also a huge Capricci salad. The bread dipped in oil and vinegar were amazing, and also the bowl of olives! Of course, we were cared for all of this. We also enjoyed delicious Sangria. We were just so stuffed, we asked for a “take away” box. Then they brought a plate of yummy little almond cake squares and a delicious peach brandy. This was on the house. We could only eat one square as we were so full, but we brought the rest of it back to the yacht. The dinner cost around 75 Euros. Our server was a nice guy from Bangladesh. We walked around the harbor for an hour after such a filling dinner, then went back to our state room and watched a Meg Ryan kidnapping thriller.

    Sunday Dec. 31 Barcelona

    Awoke at 9am to have my coffee and found a wonderful surprise in the kitchen of “The Dandy”. Several bags of fantastic “Paul’s Goodies”. We had a wonderful croissant, and got ready for our last day in Barcelona, and be back by late afternoon, so we could all meet for a meal out together. We left at 11:30 and walked several miles (I wore more comfy shoes this time) to the Cathedral of Barcelona, which was beautiful and SO Crowded with it being New Year’s Eve Day!

    Barcelona Cathedral

    Gaudi’s Park

    Mime

    We could not go inside unless we attended a Mass. We walked around the complex and found a wonderful bakery (just what we needed) Then we went to the Gaudi Museum, which was very interesting. Don wanted to see the Gaudi Park, so we took a taxi to get there (it was way too far to walk!) It would have taken an hour to walk! We were again disappointed, as the park was completely booked with no more tickets available for several days. We walked around the lovely grounds and took more photos (photos) At that time, we received a text from Davy telling us to be home by 6pm, as the girls were making us dinner, so we could have one dinner in the Yacht. We took a taxi back to Las Ramblas to walk around more and to see the special market “Don Fernando” the kids told us about, but It was closed early because of New Year’s Eve, so we walked back to the harbor. We walked through some beautiful shops in the Marina and got a coffee at Starbucks. We could not believe the crowds of people crossing the bridge!

    Las Ramblas street

    New Years Eve- girls with bling

    Then we were back to the DANDY by 6pm. The girls made Haystacks for us and they tasted great! Davy and Delanie had gone out shopping for he ingredients earlier. It was nice for us all to be here together for dinner! Around 10pm, we gals got on our “Bling” and Glitter, (photos) and bundled up for our walk down the fun “Las Ramblas” street again. It was a great place for New Year’s Eve and a good place to “People watch”. There were foreigners (mostly from Africa) hawking” knock off designer” bags and many other items. We gals all bought a purse (or two) Then after walking quite a while, we found a place in the center of the street to have a light bite and a New Year’s Eve drink. It was such fun to be there at midnight with the fireworks and all the people partying! We met some fun-loving people next to us from Israel. Their daughter was attending the university there in Barcelona, and they were visiting her for the holiday. It was just a great atmosphere there for the holiday! (photos) We all had our “toast” to each other at midnight. We all started back to the room around 12:30, walking of course! We were looking for taxis but could not see any free ones anywhere! We finally saw a Rickshaw guy and he took Don, Albezia, and I back to the yacht. We had to pee so badly! There were just people everywhere! We paid the guy double what we should have, because it took him so long to get us back with the terrible traffic. The others never found another free taxi or Rickshaw Driver, so they walked back the whole way. We got to bed around 2:30 and the others must not have gotten to bed until at least 4am! We were asleep when they arrived back, so did not hear them.

    Monday Jan. 1st, 2018 Barcelona

    We had a lazy morning, and slept in until around 9am, knowing that four of the gals would be leaving for airport by 11am. Don and I had some yogurt, granola, and fruit with our coffee. We said our “goodbyes” and hugged the girls as the Taxi met them at the “Dandy” for the trip to airport. Delanie, Don, and I were leaving the next am and Davy and Corrina were leaving the next evening to go onto India for business.

    Don and I got ready for the day and while waiting for the others, I journaled. The four of us went walking while Davy stayed back to rest. We later caught a cab taking us back to Las Ramblas where we browsed the interesting streets. We walked around for several hours and became famished! So, we looked for a place that Corrina had remembered from the day before, but we could not find it. So we settled on “Don Fernando” just off the main street of Las Ramblas. It was cute and packed! We had some tapas and good sangria. The chicken croquettes and small potato/egg omelet were really tasty! Don, Corina, and Delanie had Paella again. Davy came and joined us there for dinner, and we picked up the tab. Then we looked around and shopped another 2 hours or so. We found a beautiful art store where Davy and Corrina had two very nice pieces shipped home. We walked part way back to the Marina, then found a cab for the 5 of us as it was really getting cold and windy. We went back to the Dandy to pack for the next morning’s taxi ride to the airport. Our last night on the yacht, so one packed, we watched a movie, and I called my Mom back in the states.

    Tuesday Jan 2nd Barcelona to San Sebastian

    We set our alarm for 7am, had our coffee and a bite of breakfast, and were ready to leave by 8:30 am. The taxi picked Delanie, Don and myself up by 8:45 for the short trip to the airport. We told Davy and Corrina “Goodbye” and thanked them again for such a great trip! Poor Davy was really feeling sick, and they were to fly out that night for business in India! We took Delanie for her flight to Rome, hugged her goodbye, and wished her a wonderful few weeks with her classmates for her “School abroad”. She was just graduating from San Diego State in Physical Therapy and would go on to get her doctorate another 4 years. Then Don and I found the car rental area where we rented a Black Peugeot with a stick shift for the next 4 days on our own. This time the car rental cost us a lot more than previous times! It was a $100. Dollars/day. Maybe because of the holiday. We were on our way across the country of Spain to see “San Sebastian” on the other side of Spain. The toll booths were scary, as no live people were inside the toll booths, and we had a hard time understanding how much money they cost. We finally realized we could just use our credit cards at each machine. We had no idea how much we were paying at each tollbooth! Out of around 6 toll booths, we only received 2 slips. It was a long drive, some quite plain scenery and some very pretty. The last two hours was beautiful, as we were driving up in the mountains, with cute chalets on the hillsides, like Switzerland. It was Basque Country with lovely scenery and fir trees and waterfalls. We wished we could read the Basque signs, but they have their own language. We were anxious to try some Basque food as we’d heard how good that food was. As it was starting to get dark, we finally arrived in San Sebastian, and we could not believe how large the city was! We really had expected to find a much smaller, quainter city. There were high rise buildings and freeways and lots of traffic! Our inner net was so lousy, we could hardly find anything on it! We had a nightmare trying to find our hotel, and finally gave up. There was a light drizzle as it was getting dark. Finally, we found a helpful Good Samaritan who spoke English (most people did not), at the gas station getting petrol for his car. He was kind enough to drive us personally to another hotel. There were so many one-way streets and round abouts, we would never have found it on our own! He took us over the bridge, crossing the river, and there it was. It was a very nice hotel, and once we finally got settled, and found out where to park (2 blocks away), we walked a little way down the street and found a vegetarian restaurant. It was a cute place with Delicious food! It was around 10pm and we were so tired and hungry. This was the typical dinner time there in Spain of course. We walked back to hotel and watched a little T.V, though we could never find an English station.

    Wed. Jan 3 San Sebastian, Spain

    Awoke at 8:30 to cloudy skies. Got ready and left by 10:30. First, we spoke with the hotel desk clerk, “Maria” who was very helpful and spoke good English, yeah! She told us what places to see besides the names of some good restaurants. We took a nice, long walk starting with the cathedral. Then we walked the whole length of the boardwalk. It was really pretty along the coastline with a nice, picturesque beach.

    San Sebastian, Spain

    San Sebastian, Spain

    Not a lot of people on this overcast and chilly Jan. day, except for dog walkers with their frolicking dogs Good thing we brought our umbrellas along, as it really started to rain. We stopped for Tapas at a popular and crowded place, and the food was great!

    San Sebastian, Spain restaurant Tapas

     

    After lunch, we walked back to he hotel, as the weather was miserable to be walking out in. We actually took a wee nap and did some reading. Don said I was even snoring I was sleeping so soundly. We stopped for a cup of coffee and began walking back towards the restaurants for dinner. We ate at “Gandaries”, a highly recommended Basque Restaurant. It was a fun place with good food! We had a nice waitress named “Ekaterina” from Russia. She was So efficient and fun, and she spoke 4 languages. We really enjoyed a delicious “Russian Salad”, made with boiled eggs, potatoes, cooked carrots, red pepper, tuna, and peas. It was mixed with a small amount of mayonnaise and served on a bed of lettuce with some green olives. Delicious! I ordered steak and fries, typical Basque food. I had to ask that the meat be better cooked, as they eat their meat very rare. The meat was very tender, and was served with cooked red peppers. Don had Fish Stew which we really enjoyed. We walked back to hotel and watched some CNN. In bed by 11:30 and slept like babies.

    Thursday Jan. 4 San Sebastian

    Alarm went off at 7:30 and it was still dark! We had a mini breakfast in the room and were ready and packed up by 9:30 for the day. Left by 10am for another long day of driving across Spain again. The scenery was so green and pretty, and the hills reminded us of the Swiss Alps once again, with the white chalets dotting the green hills. The white villages of the Basque hilly country looked so clean against the green hills!

    Basque country side

    We stopped at an interesting hotel and hostel with a beautiful church that dated back to the 1300’s. We spoke with an interesting guy who worked in the tourist information center there who spoke good English. He spoke of the history of the Knights who were here, and many buried here.

    1300 church where knights are buried

    This was the lovely county of Navarre. He gave us 3 lovely posters of the beautiful areas around there. I wished we could have seen even more and spent more time there! Some of the posters were from Pamplona, of the “Running of the bulls”. We wanted to see Pamplona and also see the tiny nation of “Andorra”(between France and Spain and it’s tax free!) However, it was getting dark, so we drove on to “Lleida” looking for a hotel. We soon saw a nice-looking hotel (4 star) called “N H” (a nice chain of hotels in Spain). It looked very nice and we booked a room for one night (62 Euros plus 16 Euros for parking) Then we headed out to find a place for dinner. We still saw Christmas decorations up and heard Christmas music, which we heard was standard until Jan. 6th. The kids were still out of school until Jan. 9. It seemed the kids were up so late and out eating so late, we wondered how they would get up early for school. We asked about it and learned they started school at 9am. We found a good restaurant called

    “Teresa Carles”. It was another veggie restaurant, which we do like. The food was really delicious! We had a wonderful Italian salad which was huge. We also shared some veggie Lasagna which was good, and beautifully presented. Everyone was so polite here, except for when we tried to cross in the crosswalk, on a green light, and we were nearly mowed down by a taxi driver! Well we did make it back to our hotel. Don was feeling pretty punk, as he was coming down with a bug also.

    Friday, Jan 5 Lleida to Costa Brava

    I Had a nice breakfast in our hotel, while Don only had black coffee. He still does not feel great and just feels too full. Good for him! We both felt so fat and out of shape from all the eating and not having the exercise we were used to! Diet and exercise, here we come! Just 2 more days until we were to arrive back home!

    We hit the road by 8:45 headed for the Costa Brava and “L’Escala”, where Don spent 5 days way back in 1964. It was his first trip to Europe (on his own), and the same time that I was there on my first trip to Europe with my folks. We drove through some very thick fog, and later, beautiful mountains with many pine trees. We were really climbing up in elevation. Spain has some really nice roads and auto pistas, and everything was so clean and neat. We saw the little village of “L’Escala, which Don could hardly recognize after so many years. Not much to the town, but the coastline and beaches were lovely. It was much more built up than Don remembered. Further down the road, we saw some really lovely areas with beautiful shops and hotels (around Palamos) We wanted to stop for a while, but there was no place to stop and no parking anywhere! Just way too built up. We could not even see any beaches until we stopped at “Tossa De Mar”, where we took a of a pretty beach with old castles on the coast. We noticed lovely homes, condos, and hotels.

    Tossa De Mar Costa Brava Tossa De Mar

    There were so many “round abouts” and speedbumps. We were so disappointed in the Costa Brava, as it was just way too built up to even see the coast while driving! Don was sneezing so much and looked so miserable, I felt so sorry for him and wondered how on earth I would escape this miserable cold!

    We arrived at our nice airport hotel in Barcelona, “Barcelona Airport Hotel” around 5pm. It was very modern, and we loved our lodging! Besides, we were very close to the airport for our flight home the next am. The hotel has a shuttle that runs every 20 minutes or so, so we took our rental car back before checking into the hotel. We watched some CNN on the news and a special African program for another hour before we were hungry. So, we ate in the hotel restaurant around 7pm, enjoying a tasty, light meal. We shared a nice Cobb salad, and a Veggie Quesadilla. It felt so good to eat lightly for a change. We went back to our room and finished packing up for our flight home. We turned in at 9:30, early for us, as we had to be up very early the next a.m. We set both phone alarms, so we would not over sleep. It was a terrible night for me, as I kept worrying about over sleeping, so I did not sleep much. I kept looking at the clock and tossing and turning. The alarms both went off at 4:30 am, and by the time we were out of the room and waiting in the shuttle line out front, it was 5:30. There was already a line, and we only waited 5 minutes before getting on the shuttle. It only could take 13, and we were the last two to board! There were no lines at the airport, so we boarded on time for our 90-minute flight to London, where we would have a 2-hour layover before our final flight home to LAX. Then we heard the voice over the airplane intercom telling us there would be a delay. Well, it ended up being a 2.5-hour delay! We were worried about our connecting flight in London, which we barely made! The plane was ordered to wait as there were so many of us from Calif. On our flight! Trouble is, once we got to London (a different, smaller airport than Heathrow), they made us go through customs all over again! Instead of the usual “connecting flight”, we had to go through our suitcases and all the hassle again! It seemed they were Trying to take their time when they knew how desperate we were and how stressed! I had to take all my toiletries out of the bag etc. By the time we finally got through, we were Livid and had to literally RUN the long distance to our connecting flight! Shew, at least we made it! We figured it was because it was a small airport and they needed to feel important by going through all our belongings with a fine-toothed comb! We have had the worst luck flying through Heathrow, missing several connections in the past, and nothing compensated to us (like missing our first night’s lodging), and now this! If only we did not have to Ever go through England again!!! By the time we got to the connecting flight, we were a sweaty mess and so thirsty (of course they had taken our water again) so there was a long wait for water.

    It was great to get back home, after 22 hours with no sleep. I can never sleep on a plane, even with a sleeping pill. We arrived us home around 7:30 pm Saturday night, so happy to be home and return to our two beautiful 7-month year old kittens! They looked so much bigger after just 2.5 weeks away!

    We had to thank God again for another safe and wonderful trip, and of course, our son and wife! We have been so blessed to make so many great memories.

     

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