Tuesday, March 24, 2009

el martes

As I write this blog, I am full from just eating a delicious coconut gelato (gelateria can be found just outside our apartment)...after having eaten a delicious hamburger (yes, we strayed from the Spanish cuisine)...after polishing off a bottle of the tastiest sangria I've ever had...after sharing some delicious nachos with Chris. Amigo, that dinner at Princesa 23 in el Born was delicioso!! I was drawn to it by the dim red lighting, fabulous interior, and big comfty couches. I remember telling Chris before we left Rhode Island that we'd be eating and drinking our way through Spain...I wasn't kidding!

Today we got a late start (that's been the "vacation" mode lately...love it!) and began with cafe con leche. The coffee here has definitely been one of the highlights! Then we wandered by the sea to Barceloneta. Chris got his first feel of the Mediterreano and we enjoyed some paella and flan. We walked around the port, saw the statue of Colon (Christopher Columbus was sent to discover the soon-to-be Americas by the king & queen of SPAIN!), and did lots of shopping. Actually, it's less shopping and more window-browsing...you know how it is. I did buy a new pair of shoes today :) and Chris got a torro t-shirt. On our way home we stumbled upon the cathedral of Barcelona. It is quite beautiful and I was just as impressed with the garden area inside as I was with the structure of the building! Overall, a rather mellow day in our Spanish voyage, but a welcomed one. Tomorrow is our last day here and I think we may head to the top of Tibidabo and visit a particular area where the local artisans live/work. I can't believe our vacation is near the end....but I must confess to greatly missing my two little peanuts back home!

el lunes

Barcelona...a cultural hub filled with people from all over the world. Incredible architecture steals your attention ~ fine details on each building, numerous fountains and statues, monumentous works of art. Here the narrow, winding streets meet a modern edge that welcomes all people to explore and enjoy.

Monday was spent walking to La Sagrada Familia. I had been there when I studied in Spain - in 1995! - and was excited to see the amazing new developments. It was incredible. After enjoying all the intricate details of Gaudi, and learning more of his life & style, we went to Restaurant Saint Joan for lunch. (Another wonderful recommendation from chowhound). We walked back to el Barrio Gotico via pg. Gracia and enjoyed the big center plaza where thousands of pigeons gathered. We met up with La Rambla and found our way to the enormous market place. We bought some cheese, chocolate, ham, bread, fruit, and wine. What more could one need? After a little ciesta (when in Spain...) we went out to hear some live jazz. I could not have been more thrilled with our choice of music venue. We went to Jamboree - it was a dark, cavernous bar underground with exposed brick walls and cool blue lighting. It was a random group of musicians (well, random to us) and they kept inviting new people on stage...rotating the performers. There was a pianist, drummer, bass guitar, and two horn players along with the occassional female vocalist. I loved the singers! We found two bar stools and spent hours listening to the music. Actually, many people were sitting on the floor in front of the stage which we found interesting. Everyone was definitely there for the music - not banter or chit chat. That was cool. Around 1am we headed back to our apartment, ate some late night tapas, and went to bed.

I did some laundry today (yeah!) and somehow accidentally threw my cell phone into the washing machine. UGH. Of course, I haven't used it once and can't imagine how it got mixed in with my clothing. Alas, it did. So, I might be emailing out requests for numbers soon. C'est la vie! Que sera sera!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

el domingo

It's hard to keep track of the days when you're on vacation, isn't it?

Well, today we left Madrid...but not until experiencing el Rastro! While we didn't take advantage of the shopping quite as I had hoped, it was fun and I did buy a cute little wallet and an art piece for the coffee table :) And, of course, our shopping was immediately followed by cafe con leche, which we are determined to make at home...delicioso, and some churros con chocolate. We were sad to leave our incredible hotel (which we are sure to mention in every conversation about Madrid!), but I will say, our apt. in Barcelona is not too shabby! Yes, we have un apartamento!

Oops...let me back-track a little. Last night we went out with Belen, Batisto, and Janis. They took us to a typical Andalucian bar where they only serve Jerez wine. Belen is actually from Granada, a bit more south in Andalucia, so she insisted we experience things typical from her region of Spain. (Side note: might I add that her boyfriend of 7 years, Batisto, is from France and her friend Janis is from Venezuela...and they all met/lived in Paris for 10 years!) So, we drank this vino, which was not particularly my favorite, but I am open to new things, and we ate some tuna seco. Dried tuna. As in tuna fish. Weird! It was like a leather strip made of raw tuna. Hmmm. So, a cultural experience, yes. One to be replicated in the near future? Not likely.

They also took us to an amazing little bar with delicious tapas....ah, tapas! These I will be trying to make at home :) Who's coming over for tapas y vino next week???

So...Barcelona. We arrived, by plane, this afternoon and we came to our new home. It's beautiful! (Pictures coming soon!) We are very well located too - just off Las Ramblas, in the Barrio Gotico. After getting settled a bit, we went to Born for some dinner at Restaurante Morelia. Everything was amazing! Our walk home was more like a stroll through narrow, cobble-stone streets with ancient buildings and modern bars/shops throughout. It's a great mix of old and new. We got back "home" and did a video call with the kids! Such fun. Drew was so excited; and even Dean seemed to get it: waving at the camera! So cute. I think in a way it does make me miss them more, but knowing they are with Mama and Pop and Mama-mama helps me relax a bit. They are having fun. This week they've spent time at the playground, walking to the beach, going out for ice cream, visiting the windmill, riding on a tractor, exploring the biomes...yes, they're happy! And we're enjoying this adult time...an opportunity to re-connect as friends, explore the world around us, ignite new interests & passions, and feel young again. I guess we're re-connecting with ourselves too! It's been an amazing vacation. And while I look forward to the days ahead...I can also say I look forward to going home - to our home - too!

Friday, March 20, 2009

el viernes

Our day began with a mad rush to the Atocha train station in hopes of catching the 11am train to Toledo. Upon arrival we realized the old city was more popular than we realized, and all trains were booked through 2pm. Alas, I wasn't too disappointed as I hoped for another relaxing day in Madrid (sorry Chris!). So we ventured to the Plaza Mayor for some cafe con leche and tapas. We stopped along the way to buy some juguetes for the kids (cars and dinosaurs - what else?!?) and took WAY too many fotos. After our relaxing brunch, we decided to conquer the city by foot! We went to the Palacio Royal and enjoyed local artists, street performers, and shops along the way. Finally, we made our way to the Parque Retiro with some jamon, queso, y pan. It was a beautiful day in the park! The weather has been incredible - trees are budding with new leaves and flowers, children are playing, and everyone is strolling the streets. Spring is here and we are loving it!

Despite the fact that we didn't get our meals right today (some disappointing tortilla espanola...our lunch did not include manchego cheese OR vino...and we didn't have time for paella YET), we had lots of fun exploring the city. Best of all, we LOVED the flamenco show this evening. We went to Casa Patas, which was near our hotel, and enjoyed the music, the dancing, the tapas, and the sangria!

After another quick bite and some local brewed organic beer, we found ourselves back at the hotel around 1am...to be greeted by a note from Belen. She came to meet us at our rooftop bar, but we missed her! Our plan is to meet up tomorrow for dinner around 9pm. (You have to love the Spanish "schedule"!) So, here we are...raging party one floor above, and I'm in here blogging...and ready for bed. Tomorrow is another day. We've had a good amount of sangria y cerveza...necesito dormir porque vamos a explorar (y ir de compras) manana.

Buenas noches!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Madrid - el primer dia en Espana

Estamos aqui en Espana!! After a long flight, with little sleep for me, we finally arrived in Madrid. In an effort to save a little dinero, we took el metro to the hotel (in lieu of a taxi = 40 Euros!). We are veteran subway folks so we found the metro system very easy to conquer. We arrived at our hotel, ME Madrid, near the Plaza del Sol and we were VERY impressed. I thought it was a nice choice from the website, but words cannot describe the sophicated glamour of this fine hotel. Let me just say George Clooney stayed here. Yes, it's that swanky! Marta, who greeted us at the desk, was delightful and chose a spectacular room for us with a magnificent view. The picture below was taken with Chris' IPhone (which has been so useful for navigating through the city!)...more digital camera pics to follow soon.

We were pretty exhausted and immediately got cozy in our hotel room and took a nap. It was just what we needed to revive ourselves...and we were ready to explore! We walked through the streets (our hotel is in an IDEAL location) and we ended up at the Prado Museum. After a good dose of Goya, El Greco, Valesquez...we went for some cafe con leche at a local coffee house (delicioso!) and headed back to the hotel. Then we took the advice of friends on chowhound and ventured to Cava Bajo for the best tapas in Madrid. We ended up at Taberna Tempranillo where we indulged in local favorites: un plato con jamon y manchego con pan, un plato de pato cocido con cebellas pequenas, y cerveza & vino de Espana. Fantastico! After our delicious meal, we strolled back towards Plaza Mayor - enjoying shops, street vendors, and performers along the way. We took a short break for churros con chocolate (can not miss that!) and got back to the hotel by 1am. I can't believe how exciting our first day has been, how relaxed and happy we are, and how wonderful it feels to be back in Spain.

(Of course, it's easy to enjoy ourselves knowing the kids are in excellent hands! We only hope they don't ask to return to "mama's house" when we return!)

Stay tuned...more to come :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

February Fun!

We had quite an exciting month! There has been so much happening...and so little time for blogging. Life with TWO boys is BUSY! I wanted to post an update. Here's the latest:

We had several celebrations for Chris' 35th bday! That's how I like to do things...a month of parties! We had a surprise party for Chris at Tazza Cafe after a couple of family gatherings at home. The kids LOVE birthday parties and Drew helped make Daddy's special ice-cream birthday cake!

During February vacation week, Nicole and I took all 4 kids to the Biomes. It's a small, hands-on aquarium with lots of touch tanks, turtles, starfish, mini sharks, snakes, and lots of sea creatures! The boys loved it! What was most surprising to me was how Dean became Mr. Independent! Drew, Diego, and Layla kind of stuck together - but Dean was running off on his own, facinated with all the touchable creatures, and refused to be held! It was a beautiful day and following our biomes visit we hit the playground. Oh, how I can't wait for Spring!

The NK Library had a puppeteer come (FREE!) and we brought the boys. What a way to spend a Friday night, eh? Well, they loved it! Drew was facinated with the puppets and Dean...well, Dean was facinated with running around the library :)

Chris & Dan took Drew & Trent (a boys' night!) to see the monster trucks at the civic center! I'm not sure who liked it more - the dads or the boys - but I think a good time was had by ALL!!

Drew and Alex have been amazing at entertaining themselves for hours in Alex's basement playroom. This has allowed for mama-friends, Kathy & me, to quietly sip tea, cuddle with Kyle, and enjoy adult conversation. Yahoo! And Dean, my superstar, either plays with the big kids or sleeps peacefully upstairs. Good times!