Barcelona We Love You

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When we announced that we were going to be living in Barcelona for the summer, I was shocked at how many people said they would be there, and might be able to meet up with us. We live on the East Coast in the States, so we rarely get to see family or friends from the West Coast. I thought it was so funny that we were going to be even farther away, yet only now getting visitors. My husband said it’s because North Carolina is really not a tourist destination. While I may think NC is just as cool for it’s serene beaches near the dunes, and lush verdant forests in the mountains, I guess I have to agree him.

There is so much to see and do in Barcelona that even living there for three months, we couldn’t see it all. I have been asked by friends who came to visit while we were there, friends who are going to visit after we’ve been there, and random strangers what the best things are to see there. This is my list of our favorites:

GOTHIC QUARTER

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This was our absolute favorite place in Barcelona. On weekends when we were ‘home’ we would spend Sundays taking a stroll through this area. Every time we were there we found something new. It is quintessentially Europe. There is no other way to describe it. The narrow and winding streets are lined with little shops, cafe’s, restaurants, and bars. Above the shops elaborate wrought iron balconies spill over with plant life. Some streets are decorated with colorful bunting, others showcase laundry swaying in the breeze.

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The Gothic Quarter literally has something for everyone. If you’re a history buff, some of the old buildings and structures you’ll see date back to Medieval times. Love arts? Museums? This area is packed with little galleries featuring local artists, and there are several museums for exploring, including the famous Picasso museum.

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The famous Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catalana is also located in this area. We didn’t get a chance to see the inside, but you can see from the picture above, it’s just as breathtaking from the outside.

There are beautiful cathedrals to tour, (do bring a scarf or wrap if you are wearing something that doesn’t cover your shoulders- the Cathedral of Barcelona will not let you in otherwise), the shopping is amazing, and of course the tapas abound.

The Gothic Quarter really is something spectacular to see. If this spot does make your list when you visit Barcelona, do yourself a favor and lose the map. This is somewhere you just want to get lost. You can keep your phone close by to orientate yourself, but promise me you’ll let yourself go and wander.

BASILICA OF THE SAGRADA FAMILIA

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This was our second favorite. Sagrada Familia is the church of all churches. To put into perspective, we had to walk to the park that was in front of the church, about a block away, just to get the whole of the church into the frame. If you try to get a picture of it when you are actually next to the church, you won’t be able to get it all in.

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I have never been near, or inside a church that made me feel so small and simple by comparison. If the sheer size of the building doesn’t take your breath away, the detail work that covers every inch of this beautiful building will. You can see a small sample of it in the picture above, but it covers the entire facade of the church. The crazy thing is that construction is still ongoing, so with each passing day this church becomes even more grand than it was the day before.

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The outside of the church will leave you breathless in awe, but the inside of the church will knock you sideways with its beauty. Top to bottom the finest work of art I have ever had the privilege to walk through. It is actually incredibly difficult to photograph, at least when you only have an iPhone, because there is just too much to take in. The columns and pillars tower above you, branching out to connect with a starry ceiling high above.

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The stained glass windows are ablaze with color. The windows are so vast, and numerous, that the pillars surrounding the main nave of the church actually glow with a rainbow of colors. I’m afraid my pictures don’t do it much justice, but it is such a sight to behold.

If you do visit this church be sure to check out the museum that they have underneath the building. They have detailed photos and descriptions of the construction of Sagrada Familia, along with some of the original furnishings. I was fascinated by the scale models that Gaudi used with weights and strings. Such a revolutionary way of thinking.

I am happy to share that this is also very much a family friendly activity. There were a lot of churches we visited in Europe that we had to rush through, because of a certain excitable toddler. Here there are so many tourists, that your child’s noise kind of gets lost in the crowd.

When we visited Sagrada Familia, all we could keep saying over and over again was ‘Wow!’ We spoke to each other in hushed voices to be in the presence of such beauty, even though we were surrounded by numerous tourists all chattering together. To me this is something to be seen because you don’t just see something amazing. You feel something amazing. You feel the presence of something bigger and greater and more wonderful than you can put into words.

TIBIDABO

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This is a place for anyone looking to have fun. It’s a 100 year old amusement park set on top of a mountain top overlooking the city of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea beyond. The views here are incredible, and were it not for an early bedtime (for Esmé, not us), we would have loved to have visited around sunset. That way you would be able to watch the whole city glow in the setting sun.

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They have rides for big kids and young kids alike. We took Esmé’s for her very first ride on a carousel and she absolutely adored it. This particular carousel is a vintage one from the early 20th century and it looks like it belongs on top of a music box it’s so charming.

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The Templo del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus sits at the very top of the park and is not only a lovely church to visit, but offers you some very choice viewing areas of the city. We went up the stairs to the very first level ( in the picture: at the top of the taupe looking stone, before the grey starts), but you can actually pay to take an elevator to the top.

Getting to the park is also part of the fun. We took the subway and buses, and got to see some beautiful areas of the city. If you take the Funicular, which is a cable car, and little more expensive, I am told that you get an even better tour of the city as you go up the mountain. Either way, this is a wonderful activity to make a day out of with a group of friends or the whole family.

PARK GUELL

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Park Guell is another iconic work of Gaudi’s where you’ll see the famous, colorfully tiled, curving benches overlooking the park grounds, and the city beyond. This is a wonderful place for everyone to enjoy. There are flat, sometimes paved, pathways that go all throughout the park; but you would definitely be able to see it in a lot less time if you don’t have a stroller with you as you could take the stairs.

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If you follow the paths, or stairways up past the main terrace area, you’ll end up getting to see some spectacular views of the city. There is actually a hill at the highest point in the park that has a cross at the top where, if you get there early enough to beat the crowds, you can get an amazing panoramic view. We got there around 10:30 in the morning and it was already packed.

Beautiful views, and historical works of art aside, there are restaurants here if you want to stop and get something to eat after hiking around the park. There are also two wonderful playgrounds for kids to play: one for very small children like Esmé, and the other for much bigger kids.  This was one of the very first places we visited in Barcelona, and it really made for a spectacular start to our stay in this gorgeous city.

CASA BATLLO and LA PEDRERA- CASA MILA

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Here I have to make a confession…I walked past Casa Batlló on at least a weekly basis, if not twice weekly. Yet we never actually toured the inside of this building!

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Same goes for Casa Milà. I know, I know, it really is terrible. I wish we could have done the tour for both, but looking back, I think it’s probably best that we didn’t attempt it. Esmé never really cared for being inside smaller, closed spaces. We also left our baby carrier at home, so navigating our stroller up several flights of stairs inside these beautiful homes would have made me a nervous wreck.

Based on what I’ve read and heard, both of these are a must see, which is why I added them to my list. La Pedrera is supposed to be even more spectacular at night as they have a light show that really plays with the architecture of Gaudi’s work.

I think it would be family friendly for people who have children that are a little bit older, or people with baby carriers where you can contain your toddler, and minimize the amount of terror they can inflict upon other people. For now, I’m happy that I got to see the outsides of both on a regular basis, and even get a picture of the hubs kissing my baby girl. Doesn’t get any better than that.

A FEW LAST POINTERS

Take a tour bus! You will get to see everything the city has to offer, so you can see what you think you would enjoy the most, then go back and focus on just those things. In addition to an audio guide that you get to listen to while you’re on the bus, they will also give you a pamphlet/tour guide that you can take home. What I did was fold down the pages of places that caught our eye, then did a little more research on them when I got home to see if it was really something worth checking out. They also give you coupon books for several of the tourist attractions, so if you do decide to go and check some of the things out at a later time, you’ll get to get in for a discounted rate.

Buy tickets online in advance for anything you want to see. This includes: Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, and any museums you want to see. You will be able to skip the lines this way and save yourself hours of waiting time. When we went to Park Guell, even though it was around 10 when we got there, we would have had to wait 2 hours to get into the paid terrace area. Because we had Esmé, we opted to skip the paid park, and just walk around the park surrounding the area.

If shopping is top on your list, Passeig De Gracia is where you want to go. This world famous street has everything from Chanel and Louis Vuitton, to Zara and H&M. There were also quite a few really lovely boutiques that I had never heard of before, if you’re looking for something you can’t buy anywhere else. If you want to shop til you drop, you have to check this out. While you’re there you must go to Boldu bakery and replenish your energy levels with a little donut man.

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Get the lemon one, (unless citrus desserts aren’t your thing, in which case I would feel sorry for you), or the dark chocolate one. Literally the best donut I have ever had in my entire life. EVER. I walked 3 miles round trip just so that I could have it one more time before we came back to the States.

If you want to know what the best beaches are, see my post here.

Go wandering on Sundays. Nearly everything is closed on Sundays. Restaurants, and bars will stay open, but all grocery stores and retailers are closed on Sundays, (save a very few in heavy tourist areas near the harbour, or in the Gothic Quarter). As such, everything is a little less crowded, and a little more peaceful than it normally would be. It makes for the most wonderful wandering environment. You don’t feel so rushed, so you really get to enjoy the scenery around you.

Lose the map and look up! Otherwise you might miss this…

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Or this…

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Some of the best things we saw were things that we found by accident. In Barcelona, if you are too busy walking around with a selfie stick, or messing around on your phone, you will miss the best that this city has to offer. Because you don’t see it at street level, where all the shops and restaurants are, it’s up above them. That’s where the magic happens.

 

Barcelona Beaches

A little while ago a couple from Canada asked me to take their picture at one of the tourist attractions here in Barcelona. Initially she asked using very basic English with lots of hand gestures.

I laughed a bit, because she thought I was from here, and obviously didn’t speak English. I don’t blame her. Not many people here do, so I actually sound like she did most of the time. The only difference is I’m speaking broken Spanish to the people I’m gesturing at.

I told her sure I’d be happy to take their picture, and she carried on with the gesturing of what she wanted, still not realizing that I’d responded to her in English.

After a few sentences, it dawned on her that I was speaking the same language she was, and she started making small talk asking how long we were staying. When she found out that we had in fact been here for a little over a month for work, she wanted to pick our brains for the best things to see and do.

I was so excited! We were actually helping tourists, because we were (kind of) locals! We were able to give them a ton of tips until they asked about where the best spots were for nightlife. Uh…bars? Clubs? Dancing? What are these things you speak of? We have a toddling tyrant who requires us to be home in the evenings. Therefore we are completely useless in that category.

The one thing that they were most interested in were the best beaches to see. I figured since I have also had requests from friends, who will be visiting in the near future, on where to go and what to see, that I should do a beach roundup of our favorites. Here is my inordinately detailed list of the best beaches in and around Barcelona:

Barcelona

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If you are looking for a beach with all the action, Barcelona is the place to be. There are literally stretches of semicircle beaches as far as the eye can see, jam-packed with people looking to have some fun. There’s beach volleyball, soccer, tons of restaurants and bars (huge plus for Americans like us, who generally bring coolers with our own libations to enjoy), and, if you’re brave enough, there are nude beaches for those hoping to get rid of tan lines. Or maybe they just like to strut their stuff? Flaunt it if you’ve got it? I don’t know. I’m certainly not that brave. Working in a dermatology office makes you afraid of the sun.

These beaches are also very easy to get to if you’re only staying in Barcelona for a short while and don’t have the time to drive an hour away to the other beaches listed here. You can also rent umbrellas and lounge chairs, which is handy as I don’t think many people travel with one.

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The beaches in Barcelona are also very kid-friendly. People who have strollers to worry about needn’t worry too much because there is a wide, paved area for pedestrians and bicyclists the whole way down the beach. The sand is also a little bit finer, similar to that on the coasts in the States, so if your toddler is into eating sand/dirt and sand immersion (see above), it’s easier to digest than beaches I’ll talk about in a moment.

The thing that we didn’t like about the beaches here were that they were very crowded. It kind of feels like people soup when you go to take a dip in the ocean, and the water is a little murky because there are so many people there kicking up the sand. We like to have a little bit of breathing room, particularly when swimming with our little one.

Sitges

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I love love love this city! I think it may partly be due to the fact that it was the first smaller ‘Europeanish’ town that I saw, but I absolutely fell in love with it. This place is a little over half an hour away south from Barcelona, and the drive can be quite lovely if you take the highway near the coast. The beaches here are still busy, but the one we saw was smaller, so it wasn’t the huge crowds that you would see in Barcelona.

The thing that I love most is that there are all these white-washed homes with bright colored doors and windows that lead up to the beach. I haven’t been to Greece yet, but that’s kind of the feeling I got. Lots of narrow, winding streets, where you’ll turn a corner and be completely surprised by some new charming detail.

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This is also a very good place to go if you are looking to do some shopping. While Barcelona does have limitless opportunities for shopping, it is still a little expensive, particularly if you are visiting when they aren’t having sales. Sitges offers numerous little shops tucked away in between restaurants and homes that are much more affordable. So if you’re going for a beach day, be sure and check out the shops while you’re there, as you’re bound to find something you’ll love.

Lloret De Mar

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The beaches here are an hours drive north from Barcelona. They are near the beginning of Costa Brava, as such is quite a sight to see. It’s a rocky coastline that has several beach areas to choose from. If you bring your snorkeling gear you can swim out among the rocks shown above to see the brilliant colors of the water. We did a beach day here and my husband did just that, and he absolutely loved it.

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If you decide to make this location your destination for a beach day, you have to check out the ‘Jardins De Santa Clotilde.’ Even if you are not a beach person and you’re visiting Barcelona, it’s worth the drive just to see the gardens. The fact that it is #2 on Tripadvisor of things to do in this city should tell you something.

Finding the gardens was a little tricky for us because if you search for it on google maps, it will route you to an Oficine de Turisme, which is not close to where the gardens are. I would use Apple maps if you have it( it took us to the right place), or look for Avinguda Santa Clotilde, which will become Passeig Jardins. The entrance to the gardens is at the front of the traffic circle, where Av. Santa Clotilde becomes Passeig Jardins, and there are signs that show you where to go.

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We also thought that you could get to the gardens from the beach, or vice versa, because some of the photos on Tripadvisor appear as though it leads out to the sea, but it does not. It does offer you amazing views of the sea, and you can see a smaller beach that’s tucked away behind the gardens (in picture above), which was the beach we chose for our beach day!

This beach does not have the fine, Barcelona sand though. Instead it is lots of very small pebbles, so when your toddler tries to eat it, be prepared to hear a much more pronounced crunching sound. There is also little shade available, so if you are sun-phobic, or have a fair-skinned child as I do, you should bring an umbrella, or sun-tent if you plan to be there all day.

This is also the place to be if you are looking for fun-filled night life. Driving around the city we saw countless clubs, bars, and casinos everywhere. You could drink, lay out at the beach day all day (please use sunscreen), walk back to your hotel, have a nice little siesta, and then boom! Ready to party! Again, not really our thing, so can’t recommend specific places, but there were many, many young people wandering around the streets there, so that tells me that’s where the parties at. I can’t believe I just said young people. Now I feel and sound old.

What we didn’t like, again, was the fact that there were so many people in the water with us. If you go to the smaller beach near the gardens like us, there are less people than over on the main beaches, but it does mean that everyone there is squashed into a much smaller area of water. Also for families traveling to this beach, it is a bit of a hike to get to the one behind the gardens, so it is a little cumbersome with all the baby things.

Tossa De Mar

IMG_3842We thought that Lloret De Mar was pretty amazing, until we saw this place. I mean who doesn’t want to see a castle on the beach? Tossa De Mar is only 20 minutes north of Lloret De Mar, so it’s an hour and 20 minutes north from Barcelona. If I had to choose between the two of them I would choose this one. I felt like it was a little less party-central than Lloret De Mar.

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The castle is actually called Vila Vella and the original structure dates all the way back to the 13th century! Inside the walls there is what they call the Old Town, which is a village where all the buildings and streets are cobbled. It is such a charming place to see.

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If you walk all the way up the hill inside Vila Vella, you will not only get gorgeous views of Costa Brava, but also see the remains of a late Gothic church that was built during the 15th century. I think that may be one of the reasons why I prefer this beach to Lloret De Mar. There’s a little more history and personality to this location… lots of places that make you stop and wonder what life was like for people when all of this was built.

History aside, there are also more shops and restaurants to wander around and peruse as opposed to Lloret, which was focused more on bars and clubs. It’s a really great place for families with young children, or anyone looking for a more peaceful retreat.

The only downside was getting around Vila Vella with a stroller. You either need one that is pretty good for off-roading with all the cobblestones, or one that is light enough (like an umbrella stroller) to carry around. Ours was the latter, so Daddy carried around the baby, and Mommy carried the stroller. Totally worth it.

Camino De Ronda- S’Agaro

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If you can only choose one of the places I’ve mentioned so far for your beach day, this is it. It’s only an hour and 15 minutes north from Barcelona and is a must see. I have never in my life been to a place that just keeps unfolding into postcard perfect views. I felt like I was walking through someone’s Pinterest travel board.

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Camino De Ronda is a path that runs right along the coastline of Costa Brava. It offers view, after view of sparkling clear water in rich blues that blend into bright greens. As you walk along the path, you will notice stairs that lead down to the sea nestled in the rocks.

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If you find that you are perspiring from walking too vigorously, fear not! Simply take one of the many paths down to the sea, enjoy a quick dip, carry on with your walk, and repeat as necessary.

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There is also a nice wide stretch of beach towards the end that actually has a little bit of shade! We were very excited. As you can see, even though it was busy, the water is not overcrowded as it was in some of the other beaches, and we were there on a Saturday. You definitely have plenty of room to stretch out and relax.

The only bad thing about this place is that it was a little difficult with a stroller. The worst part was getting down to, and up from the beach. There were many, many stairs. Once you make it to the Camino De Ronda, you’ll find that it alternates between stretches of path and 3-4 stairs up or down; so you definitely need to prepare yourself for carrying the stroller around. It really was a mission, but we are already planning our next trip here because it’s absolutely the prettiest beach that we have ever seen.

 

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Bus?

When I left to start college at the mature, responsible age of 18, I decided to live off campus, in an apartment, with two roommates from high school. Dorms were so small and depressing. An apartment had so much more space and light! I moved out a month before school started, so I could set myself up and be all nice and organized.

As wise as I was in my thinking, I neglected to recognize the fact that I did not have a car. Therefore in order to get to campus, I would need to take the bus. Ergo I would need to figure out bus schedules all by myself, something that absolutely terrified me.

Why does the idea of public transport scare the bejeesus out of me? Possibly because I had a Mom-taxi most of my pre-driving life, but really there are so many things that could go wrong: What if the bus never comes? What if you miss your stop and the next one is not for a very, very long time? What if you get off at the wrong stop? What if you get on the wrong bus??

Being the mature, responsible person I was at the time, I hid my head in the sand as long as I could. School was still a month away, and there was no need to rush things. I could walk to the grocery store and back, that’s all I needed to do. I spent one whole month watching TVland’s ‘Bewitched’ and ‘I Dream of Genie,’ laying out at the pool, and walking to the grocery store when I got really bored.

By the way 3 out of 4 of those situations did happen to me:

Number one happened twice actually. The first time was when I was 14 and my friend and I had decided to take the bus to the Tucson mall, because at that time it was way cooler than Park mall. We missed the last bus home and had to wait, at night, with some very dodgy people, until our parents came to rescue us. The second time was en route to my very first retail job in college, at Ann Taylor Loft. I had to walk two miles to work, in my work clothes and shoes. I was sweaty and had an insane amount of blisters when I arrived, not particularly retail-friendly.

Number two caused me to miss a Spanish exam in my Freshman year of college. Again arrived sweaty, out of breath, and very close to hysterics.

Number four was also when I was 14, in my first year of public school, consequently my first year taking the bus to school, and nearly caused me to have a heart attack until I saw a classmate. Then it ended up being a very happy accident because we just hung out at her house, and ate junk food until my parents could come and get me.

Now that we are here in Barcelona, I am forced to face my fears once again. We have a car, but my husband uses it to drive to work every day. Even if he didn’t, it’s a manual, so I can’t drive it. Even if it was an automatic, the traffic here is insane. It stresses me out just being a passenger, so I can’t even imagine having to be behind the wheel. Public transport it is.

You are probably thinking that now that I am older, a parent, much wiser, and more mature I faced my fear head-on. Wrong! Again, most everything is within walking distance here. If it isn’t I wait until the weekend when my husband can drive us. Walking 3-6 miles a day is cool, because I don’t have to risk situations 1-4 getting me stuck, or lost somewhere I don’t know how to get back.

Yesterday, however, a friend was in town and wanted to meet up someplace that was definitely not within walking distance. It was during the work week, so I was going to have to get Esmé and I there by ourselves. The time had come to figure out this whole bus thing.

My husband took me to buy a ticket on Sunday that allows for multiple rides, and I google-mapped out the routes I needed to take. We left a little early to give us some time and we made it on the first bus all in once piece. So far, so good, I thought to myself as I followed the little blue dot on my phone to make sure I didn’t miss our stop. When the bus stopped where it showed we were supposed to get off on my phone, I gathered up Esmé and all our things and headed for the door.

Right when I got there it closed. Panic started bubbling up, and I pushed the stop button several times. A few of the people seated by the door started asking questions I couldn’t understand, because they were speaking Catalan. Instead I just looked at them like a panicked deer in the headlights, pointed to the door, and said ‘I have to get off!!’ They started to shout to the driver ‘Abre la puerta!’ but we were on one of those super long buses, so he had difficulty hearing us. More people joined in the shouting and it got much, much louder ‘ABRE LA PUERTAAAA!!’ and finally the doors opened. I thanked the people over and over again as I very shakily clambered off the bus. SO embarrassing.

I took several deep breaths, and tried to slow my thumping heart as I walked to the next bus we had to take. ‘Ok,’ I said to myself, ‘No big deal. We just have to make sure we are at the door before our stop, so we can be quick enough to get off the bus at the right stop.’ On we went to the next bus, and I made sure that we were by the door ready to get off for our next stop.

I was still not quick enough, unfortunately. I nearly got stuck in the door as the driver closed the door, and some nice older lady helped hold the door for us. I set Esmé in her stroller down on the sidewalk and turned to thank the woman, and stared in horror at a hand sticking out of the doors. Yes it was as scary as it sounds. It’s like those horrible Halloween tricks people play on you with limbs falling off.

The doors did have those cushy, rubbery layers in between them, and when the driver opened the door for her she shook her hand as if to say ‘don’t worry about it! See? It’s fine!’ but the damage was done. I now have a new ‘what-if’ to add to my list of why I don’t trust public transportation: What if you aren’t quick enough for the Barcelona buses and you lose an appendage because the doors shut on you? Or worse your child??

I arrived at my destination shaking, heart-thumping, and very, very sweaty. The journey home was, thankfully, not as eventful. But I made sure we ready to get out the doors as soon as they opened, then raced through them, before they could claim a body part of mine, or some kind, helpful stranger.

To answer the question, who’s afraid of a big bad bus?… I, my friends, most definitely, still am. As such, I’m happy to announce that today I walked everywhere :).

The Third Craziest Thing I’ve Ever Done

IMG_1354Hello friends! I realize that it has been awhile, and I have several posts overdue, but one week ago today we did something crazy. We moved to Barcelona!!!

I was going to say that it’s the craziest thing that I have ever done, but then I realized that the first craziest adventure I ever had was eloping with my husband in Las Vegas, then immediately moving cross-country to start our life together far away from family and friends.

I was then going to call it the second craziest adventure I ever had, but I thought producing and raising a small human being should probably get spot #2. Hence this is the third craziest adventure I ever signed up for. The funny thing is that I have felt the exact same way in the beginning of all three.

When we moved from Arizona to North Carolina I was miserable. I loved being wifey to my new husband, but wanted to be closer to my friends and family. I got lost a lot (this was before we had smart phones with GPS) because the roads were so different than what I was used to, so my husband received many hysterical phone calls while he was at work.

When we first had our baby I was also wondering what in the world I had gotten myself in to. Sleep deprivation + post-pregnancy hormones + painful, healing body = one very emotionally unstable new mama.

When we left North Carolina for Barcelona last Friday we faced an insane amount of obstacles that we had to navigate. I’ll have to break this up into three parts:

Friday Morning: We were still scrambling to get all three of our checked suitcases, and carry-ons packed. I had to run to Target in the middle of packing to pick up a prescription, and made it home just in time to finish cramming everything in so we could close the suitcases. We also had to make sure all the trash and perishables got thrown out before we left, so we wouldn’t have things growing when we get back. I was already sweating in my compression socks when the uber car arrived. We loaded everything in and were just out of our community before we realized we had forgotten the stroller. Back we went to fetch it, and were finally on our way!

At the Airport: The self-check-in machines were giving us an error message, so we had to wait in line for awhile to see someone to help get us our tickets. The woman initially wanted us to pay for Esmé’s pack’n’play and her bag, but we told her no, no, no… we had to pay an extra 10% fee for our “lap-child” so her stuff goes free. After holding us up for 20 minutes to make sure that she was following all the rules, and that she wasn’t missing a step that would involve charging us extra, we were finally able to head to security.

When we got there we encountered a line unlike either of us had ever seen, ever at RTP. Emile assured me we would not miss our flight as we zig-zagged repeatedly. Once through, we thought it would be nice to have a Five Guys burger as a last hurrah we could enjoy on the plane. Our plane wasn’t supposed to board for another 20 minutes, so we thought we had plenty of time. I headed down the moving walkway to wait for Emile at our gate. As I stepped off I heard them give the final boarding call. I frantically called my husband, who was not answering his phone, so after the 5th call I told them at the gate we were there, but please wait for my husband who should be here any moment. We were literally the last ones on the plane. We barely made it.

I wish I could say things just got better once we got to Philadelphia for our next leg of the journey but we then found out that the flight was, surprise, surprise, oversold, so we were unable to sit next to each other on the plane. I forced myself to remain calm until we got on the plane and asked a neighbor if they would mind swapping, before having a meltdown. I was not about to spend 7.5 hours wrestling a toddler by myself. We got lucky and Emile’s neighbor took my seat, so we were able to pass her back and forth when she got fussy. She may have slept for 2 hours collectively. Emile may have gotten 30 minutes, I got zero.

In Barcelona: I thought the lines were bad in Raleigh, but at customs, they were longer than some that I have waited in for Disneyland, and we had to carry our non-walking-toddler through all of it because the stroller wasn’t there when we got off the plane. Our bags took 30 minutes to get onto the carousel because it was so full of other people’s bags, who weren’t getting through customs fast enough, so they couldn’t come take them off. After getting our rental car we had to drive to the rental agency to get keys to our flat. Once we got our keys we had to find the building we were in, then drive around the block several times until we could find parking. Upon finally getting into our flat we discovered that it was actually filthy, which is a problem when you have a non-walking-toddler who loves crawling and eating everything. We then had to go out and buy all the cleaning supplies/ food we needed that evening because all the shops are closed on Sunday. We finally got home again and it was time for bath. Lo and behold we discovered there was no hot water! Esmé had a freezing bath that she screamed through, then mommy and daddy had freezing cold showers because we were all filthy.

Suffice to say at the end of last Saturday I was really questioning our decision to move here. This first week has really been trial by fire. Each day things get a little bit better, but it is still new, and scary, and frustrating.

I am familiar with those feelings. I felt them when I moved away from my home for the first time, and I felt them when I held a screaming newborn baby at 3am for the millionth time. I know that any sort of change, big or small, takes time to get used to, but I also know that the biggest changes in my life have brought me the greatest joys.

My husband asked me yesterday if, knowing what we know now, would we still agree to relocate. I told him it’s still too early to ask that question. For now I’m just trying to take things one day at a time. Seeing as much as we can see, and being happy with small victories like understanding that the grocery clerk asked you if you would like an extra bag, and you answer confidently ‘Si’ because you understood her! Then feeling even more confident in your Spanish when you understand that she asked if you want a big one or a small one, so you can even more confidently answer ‘Grande, por favor!’ She may look at you funny because you are so puffed up with pride, but you did it my friend. Savor the moment!