We left the Netherlands last week and returned to Sunny Spain. This is my 3rd visit to Spain and the family’s second. Part of the “Schengen Shuffle” requires us to leave Europe, which we obliged by going to South Africa, but now we get to come back for a little while to continue our ‘sploring. So if you’re following along in chronological order this is Schengen Round: 2. First stop: Netherlands. Second stop: Spain.
We wanted to check out Barcelona in early summer when we knew the weather would be a little better. Even in the south of Spain in January it was too cold for our comfort, despite sunny days and blue skies. So we knew Barcelona would be out of the question for Dan. Fast forward to May and June and it’s the perfect time to visit!
After 4 days in Barcelona we can now say “We get it. We get what all the hype is about.”. This is an amazing city. Dan is not shy about his frustration with many parts of Spain but even he said that he could live in Barcelona. The city is active, cosmopolitan, it has great weather (at this time of year) there are many many things to do, it’s gorgeous and it just has a really neat vibe. We loved it, although with only 4 days we didn’t get a chance to fall out of love. Here are just a few things we did while in Barcelona.
We are trying to balance our activities to engage all members of the family. In 5 weeks in the Netherlands I can count at least 8 museums we visited. This is all fine and good for the transcript but Zoe’s personality and learning style don’t always jive with museums. Art museums in particular seem to suck the life out of her, like a Death Eater from Harry Potter. So when we learned about a Barcelona tour via Segway, I voted yes in order to vary up our activities to engage her as well. She was very enthusiastic. The girl is 11 and it’s her second Segway tour. Lucky kid. Anyway, we met up with our guide and took off for parts unknown.
Touring a city on Segway is one of my favorite things. You can cover a large distance in a short time, it’s easier to manage than a bike, you can stop easily and look around but also get to your next destination quickly and easily. Our guide was great, showing us some of the interesting parts of the city but also stopping and taking a break from the standing. That was the only downside is that you are constantly standing while on the thing. Here are some of the sights from our tour.
Zoe wasn’t the only one who loved this tour. Haley has always been a fan of mini forms of transportation so she was very content to cruise along, although she probably would have preferred to ditch the whole family and go off on her own. At one point her teenage brain and need for adrenaline took over the mature, adult-ish part of the brain that deals with common sense and she tried to speed up her vehicle. The tour Segways are equipped with speed limits and when you reach a certain limit it automatically drops you back down by pushing the handlebar back into your chest. Sort of like it’s trying to lean back for you. But Haley decided to try to override the vehicle’s safety movement and she pushed it forward with a lot of force… AAANNNDDD down she went. Hands out in front of her, sliding along the dirt almost on her face. Dan was videoing just SECONDS before it happened. He is sad he didn’t get it on video. Her new nickname of “Tumbling Teen” given to her after falling down the death spiral stairs in the Netherlands is now even more appropriate.
No harm, no foul and we got her palms fixed up with a few band-aids and continued our tour. She determined that she could still text Texas so everything was just fine. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
Picasso was born in Malaga so we visited his museum when we lived down there earlier this year. But he spent a lot of time in Barcelona so we wanted to see what this museum had in store. As usual, the energy from Zoe went down to a -1 when we walked in, but when I said we could skip the audio tour she perked up. We zipped through the museum and took in the art, but frankly we liked the Malaga museum better. It seemed to have more of his later works on display. But it’s good to see it and complete some additional art electives for homeschool.
Om Nom Nom
Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city and you can find any type of food you could possibly want. But first, we got back to some of our favorites, this time in the form of Good Burger. We used to go to Good Burger almost weekly during Spain 1.0 and on Thursdays we would take advantage of their “2 por 1” special. We found a Good Burger about 20 minutes walking distance from our apartment hotel and after a fairly simple travel day, off we went. It did not disappoint.
Another old favorite is Subway sandwiches. Zoe wanted to eat Subway for lunch one day but I was having none of it so I went to the sushi place next door and Haley tagged along looking for teriyaki chicken. When Subway didn’t have flatbread, Zoe ended up with us. Haley ordered something new (she’s starting to be much more adventurous with food) called Bao and ended up really liking it. Zoe ordered one too and she also liked it. Yay! New foods! Worldschooling is working!
For dinner one night we wandered aimlessly for a long time and were on the verge of giving up and going back to our apartment to order food delivery when we stumbled upon a Korean restaurant. It was 6:45pm so they weren’t quite open yet (seriously??) but we insisted that we were so tired from walking we were happy to just sit and zone out on the wifi until they could get ready. It only took about 15 minutes and then we were ordering kimchi and bulgogi. Daniel lived in Korea (twice) while in the military so he took over the ordering. The girls tried all 4 of the new items that preceded the bulgogi, to mixed reviews. The bulgogi itself got 2 thumbs up from each girl. This was the same day as the Bao. This was really unheard of: the girls trying TWO new foods in one day and liking BOTH of them.
The next night Dan did some research on a restaurant and we went to a place that served just meatballs. Haley loves her food in a ball and I loved their dessert menu (chocolate balls) so we took a cab to the Gothic Quarter and found the bola place. We had called ahead to get a table for four at 7pm, probably about when the employees were showing up to open up the doors, because we are still in Spain you know. Turns out that was a good thing because the restaurant only seats 12. Just 12! There was only 1 table and then a bar so we were lucky to get the one table. We all had meatballs to varying reviews (Dan and Haley: meh; Zoe and I: yum) but the chocolate balls did not disappoint. Their lemonade got rave reviews on Trip Advisor but they served it lukewarm without ice. When we asked for ice we got one cube each and they said that’s all they had. So the lemonade got thumbs down from us. We enjoyed adding our mark to the bathroom wall, though, where they provided chalk for your graffiti pleasure.
And of course, you can’t be back in Spain and not get churros. The kids begged for some so one afternoon we obliged but Dan said he didn’t want any.
One thing we absolutely loved about Barcelona was the architecture. You could simply be walking down the street looking for a bathroom and “wow!” a beautiful building. They were everywhere. Of course, the most famous one is Sagrada Familia, which will be described in it’s very own blog post. But there were plenty of other places to admire the art that is in the form of an edifice. It was really neat. We did more building watching than people watching. Zoe did a lot of dog petting while we took pictures of buildings.
Hola Spanish, My Old Friend
The girls and I were happy to be back in Spanish speaking areas again. It’s like an old friend that feels comfortable and nostalgic but also makes you use your noggin. We were happy to find that although it was rusty, the Spanish came back quickly. Although in this area, most people speak Catalan, which is a lot like Portuguese crossed with French, with a bit of Italian thrown in for good measure. But Spanish was easy to switch into. Even Dan got back to ordering his drink “con hielo” and saying “grathia“. Except when the lemonade came with no ice. Then he said “no es bueno” and a few choice English words… but this is a family blog.