Monday, August 31, 2015

Goodbye Spain...Hello Iceland!

Halló halló!!

Okay, so we are in Iceland right now. Woot!!
Picking up where we left off, we officially left Barcelona laaaate Saturday night (after a lovely dinner out!):

Thank you Eidler-Perez family for the summer of a lifetime!!!!
I am already feeling Barcelona-withdrawal and missing my heavenly family and the cozy apartment we shared with them for so long... ;_; But don't worry, I will definitely be doing a "Best Of Spain" post soon -- to feel some closure after our departure. ♡

Anyway, after boarding the plane at midnight, it was a quick 4-hour flight to Iceland, which landed us here at 2am... @_@
You can imagine how beat we were so Sunday consisted of mainly two things: securing our car and  hotel and then hitting up...Blue Lagoon!!!

Allow me to explain:
I must say, for it still being August, Iceland is a lot chillier than I'd anticipated. >_<
And with our suitcases packed with clothing for the primarily 80+ degree weather of Barcelona, we are poorly prepared to say the least:

Ella has adopted my favorite purple hoodie. And looks like a ghost~!
So we decided to warm ourselves up from the inside out and treat ourselves to this incredible geothermal bath experience.
For those of you unfamiliar, Blue Lagoon is a super popular attraction because it's super close to the airport and just what you need when you get off the plane and are shocked by the chilly summer weather.
I loved the contrast of chilly gray outside the pool and then cozy-cozy hot geothermal pool~ Reminded me a lot of Japan, and even though it was rather populated, it never felt too crowded and besides, I really enjoyed all the people-watching ;)

The water in the Blue Lagoon is super saturated with silica so it made our hair super stiff and ugly upon getting out, hence the lack of photos. Sorry!
But speaking of silica, I got to take advantage of a little silica face mask so that felt nice...

The rest of the day we chilling in the room (William and Dash fell asleep) and then dinner across the street. ZZZ

Today is our one full day here in Iceland so we decided to do some driving around to take in the sights:

What a lot of the coast looks like. Fog and cloud cover are prevalent!!!

Pretty impressive mountain structures~

We also hit up the capital of Reykjavík to "sightsee".
Gonna be honest, Iceland is so sleepy compared to Barcelona and the rainy/cloudy/cold weather doesn't help. So we just stopped by this one church landmark:

Leif Erikson!!
My shawls are really coming in handy here as lifesaving scarves!!

And then had some hot soup in bread bowls at Svarta Kaffi.

If anything, there's a lot of knitting here which Ell and I very much appreciated :)

We foresee the rest of the day as resting (Dash isn't feeling 100%...) and then maybe hitting up a local geothermal bath.
So far the words I mainly use to describe our Icelandic experience are sleepy, gray, and cold.
A lot like home in Corvallis during the winter! :D

Anyway, I probably won't be doing another blog entry until we are "settled" back home, so until then...
Take care and Happy Iceland!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Last Day!!

'Allo 'allo!

Oh, man!
I haven't written for a couple of days, and now here we are on our last day here in Barcelona.
As a recap as to what the rest of our week has been like:

On our Last Thursday we were accompanied by little cousin Peter (his final day in Spain) so we finally hit up two major tourist destinations: Park Guell and the Magic Fountains

As you may recall, we had hit up Park Guell on Tuesday but it was an incomplete experience on account of not having bought the tickets in advance.

This time we were ready!
So we spent the hotter portion of the day in the home: I was working on wrapping up a book, and the kids played with Daddy, etc.

At 5pm, we departed for the city and finally got into Park Guell at 6pm.
What a sight!!

The view from the upper plaza. The two buildings that flank the entrance
The required shot of the lizard on the staircase

Dash did a series of all our hands on the lizard's claw.

Sorry, I can't find the one of Ella's and mine, d'oh!
As you can see, William was asleep for the first half of it.
But Ella was awake and took plenty of impressive ceiling shots much mosaic tile work ♡♡♡
Ella looking wacky...
Ella looking cute. Love those crescent moon smiley eyes!!

Within a couple of hours, we were all starving so we made our way to the Plaza España station where there is so much going on.
There's a the "Arenas de Barcelona" which is an old bullfighting ring that's been converted into a mall:

Not my photo, but a grand night shot!

That's where we grabbed dinner, on the top-most 5th level that overlooks the city and has a nifty terrace all around it.

By the time we finished dinner, it was 11pm...but that didn't stop us from scoping out the fountain!!

The Font Màgica de Montjuïc (Magic Fountain of Montjuic) is a music-and-lights spectacular with dancing fountains to boot! It had a huge crowd around it, which was actually the more fun part of my experience. Ella was practically comatose, and William was pretty close behind, but man Peter was living it up, dancing like you would at a rave party. That made the whole thing worth it :)

Do a google image search for "Font Màgica de Montjuïc" and you'll see what it was like~

Anyway, what with delayed nighttime schedules of the mass transit system, we finally got home around midnight. Woo-ee! It was a huge day and a wonderful way to spend Peter's last hours in Spain, that's for sure.

Okay, so then for our Last Friday:
I didn't want to have a mad rush of packing and forgetting things and freaking out on Saturday, so I spent the first half of Friday packing. I am proud to say that nothing important is missing, and that I was able to pack it all away in our bags, no more no less.

I finished off my work (which means I have no deadlines until Sept 11th, woot!) and then we had our big final homecooked meal with the whole family :)
Chita cooked up a delicious tortilla patata, and fixed a tremendous tomato and we ate an empanada gallega from the store. Mm-mm!!
There was Chita, Andrea, Bastian, and David!!

It was a wonderful way to see everyone all together for the last time...
Don't get me wrong, we'll be dining tonight together but it will be only some of us and it will be out of the house.

Anyway, today's plan looks a little something like this:
Dash has to finish off a chapter so that he has no deadlines hanging over his head over the weekend and then we'll maybe hit up the pool/beach, and then dinner out.

And then, poof!
Off we fly to...Iceland!!
Did I not mention that we'll be spending a couple of nights there before we fly to PDX?
Well, I look forward to this land of complete and utter mystery (to me) and will report here shortly on it.

Until then, take care and Happy Last Day!!

Thursday, August 27, 2015



So yesterday was our last Wednesday of our time here in Spain.
Oh, my~

In accordance with our vow to put in as much wonderful Spain time as possible, we hit up the beach!
We have gone so many times that I have lost count. And I have never had a bad time. EVER!
This is pretty significant for me, since I tend not to enjoy the beaches in the USA -- at least, not so much in the past ten years, especially in the Northwest. Just very cold, unfriendly waters...

But the Mediterranean -- my goodness, it is the best!!

We have gone to four sea beaches total: Barceloneta, Sitges, Garaf, and Castelldefels.
Garaf has to be my favorite among all of them.
The time at Sitges was also grand, both for the Primada, and the day trip we took with Chita.

Besides the clean beaches, and clear+warm waters of Spanish beaches, another thing I love so much about it is how you can go topless as a woman, or all out naked as a child!

For being a "free country", the USA really has some silly hang-ups, one of them being little naked children running around innocently at the beach. It's just not so much heard of, unless perhaps it's just a tiny baby. But here in Spain, youths can enjoy their oneness with the sea in their birthday suits until upwards of ten or so years of age! I think it's a beautiful thing, how healthy the mindset toward nudity is here. I really enjoyed how Ella and William could enjoy themselves without shame or the hassles of sand getting into their bathing suits.
Definitely something I will miss when we have to return to the States...

Anyway, here are some shots from our times at the beach!

The lovely clear waters of Garaf~

Ella is always on the lookout for little treasures along the shore

Sitges and its cute old-style changing booths.
Barceloneta also has a ton of seaside bar-cafes where you can enjoy people-people watching and drinks

This was from the day we took a trip into the city while the kids were in casals ♡
The kids loved creating little tide pools in the beach

And covering themselves in mud, of course

Sorry I don't have the typical landscape shots of the beaches themselves -- I just figured if you want to see that, you can google it. It's been a million times, so why add my own pathetic version, yeah? ;)

Anyway, I must say I am going to miss the beach...
The Oregon Coast is just not the same, but oh well! It's not like we won't be back ;)

In the meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying your own water adventures be it at a beach, lake, or pool.
Until next time, take care and Happy Beaches!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Churros & Park Guell

Hello and how are you?

It's our last Tuesday -- gaah!
But what a day we made of it :)

Firstly, so as to allow Dash to get some more sleep, I took the kids out in the morning on a couple of errands at the post office and MBE, and...for a treat.

Churros con chocolate!!

This is seriously one of the things I was most looking forward to about coming to Spain. :)
For those of you unfamiliar, churros are a fried-dough pastry, and the "chocolate" they come with is a cup of super thick chocolatey dip -- somewhere between chocolate milk and a melted candy bar. Seriously. You dip the churros in your chocolate and then take a big bite. Mm-mm! So good!!

The place I have frequented three times now for their amazing quality is the local cafe-restaurant "El Torrador."

See that in the top left? Xurreria = they make churros! :)

This establishment is actually owned-operated by a good friend of my cousin, Lea.
His name is Nicolas and he is an absolute sweetie. He cares deeply for his friend, and extended his generosity to even us -- her distant American cousins :D

And handsome, to boot!!

If you are ever in the Esplugues area, I highly recommend his establishment. It is such a pleasure eating this delicious breakfast in their outdoor shaded area. There's a nice breeze, and it's a nice plaza/arcade of sorts! With a fountain!!

Anyway, here is a shot of the kids gobbling up these delicious churros con chocolate:

I like Ella's face in this one...

...and William's face in this one.
So I had to put both.

After this delicious outing, we went back home to pack up a picnic lunch, and then head into the city with Daddy to finally visit Park Güell!

Park Güell, like the Sagrada Familia, was designed by Antoni Guadi. It was originally intended to be a wealthy housing site, but that ultimately didn't pan out, so now it's a public park system.

Remember, how me and the kids tried to get there?
Well, Dash did a touch more research than I, and learned about the escalator that makes scaling the hills to reach it a ton easier.

An outdoor

Now, I must say that we both underestimated the popularity of this place in the summer because, just as with Sagrada Familia, apparently you need to purchase your tickets in advance so that you can enter the main part of the park at a specified time. If we'd tried purchasing them upon our arrival, we wouldn't have been allowed in until 6pm. D'oh!

But that doesn't mean we didn't enjoy ourselves! There is still plenty in the park that you can enjoy (for free!) in terms of the playgrounds, interesting architecture and tucked away garden pathways.

The kids showing off the little lizard keychains I got them. They love the danglies!!

Plus, there are a bunch of amateur musicians performing all over the place. So we sat down to lunch, listening to the music of a guitarist duo. Lovely~

It had been a hot and walk-filled day, so we left for home around 4pm and arrived just in time to welcome my little cousin Peter!!

Peter is fourteen years old and just spent the last two months with a family friend, traveling all over northern Spain. William is head-over-heels for this kid, so I foresee a fun couple of days before he has to leave on Friday.

Stay tuned for more updates on that, and until then, take care and Happy Churros & Park Guell!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Creative Weekend!!

Happy Monday to all!

So today is our last Monday in Spain @_@
Just as yesterday was our last Sunday.
And every day from now on will be our last "___day" until Saturday evening. ;_;
I can't help but count down~!

And going hand-in-hand with that is a desperate effort to fit in all the things we wanted to do but procrastinated on all summer.

Firstly, on Saturday, Andrea took the kids off my hands for most of the day so that I could finish off my latest script while they...baked cupcakes!!

Andrea really has the whole kit-n-caboodle you need to make the fanciest, daintiest, most delicious cupcakes. She let the kids have a hand in the mixing and the decorating and, of course, the sampling ;)

Here are some shots from their awesome efforts:

Pink for Ella, orange for William
Ella's always dreamed of having one of these tiered displays
I'm proud to say I didn't gourge too much on them, though it was tempting! A good cupcake is one that you are satisfied having all on its own, since it is just so rich. Mm-mm!
Saturday evening, Andrea and I went into the city for our Shadow of the Wind Book Tour!!
It was a lovely, educational, comfortable walk through parts of Barcelona I haven't been through, or at least not since I was a teenager. It was also bilingual, which I totally dug, and reading excerpts through the books before particular landmarks was a nice trip down memory lane for me from early summer. Andrea and I were surprised to see that we were a group of about ten people, some from right here in Barca! I was the only American ☆

I didn't take any photos (sorry!) but I must say it was a super blend of both book location sleuthing work, and general Barcelona history and culture. A must for any fan of the book!!

After the tour, Andrea brought me to a falafel joint for supper and then this super awesome restaurant/bar called El Bosc de Les Fades for drinks (I had Cacaolat).
This place reminded me a lot of my friend Joyelle, and most any friend from Waldorf :D
As its named suggests, it's themed after a magical fairy forest. The attention to detail is awesome and it is really feels like you're in a forest, when in fact you are right by La Rambla.
No photos from here either, because my phone does not function that well in low-light areas, so I just recommend you google the term "el bosc de les fades" in google images. You won't be disappointed!!

On Sunday, after tackling the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time (have I told you we've been playing that with the kids this summer??) I took the kids into the city to pretty much relive the awesome time I had on Saturday.

We lunched at El Bosc, retraced most of our tour, and finally got to patronize the living statues on La Rambla!
Have I told you about these statues?
Pretty much, these elaborately dressed and stock-still people stand set themselves up as statues at the very end of La Rambla, where the Museu de Cera is.
They stay perfectly still, until you drop some coins into their jar, and then they'll reconfigure themselves to take a photo with you.

This was Ella's favorite:

Even let Ella hold her abanico!

 When we got back home, we decided to have a really chill in-house rest of the day, watching movies and all hanging out together in the living room.
Best part of all...I finally got to teach my cousin how to knit!
This was in exchange for her teaching me how to juggle ;)

But within minutes, Ella wanted to join right in, so I taught her how to knit too!!!!!!'s a beautiful thing

The style I taught them is the English style (yarn in the right hand) because that's what I was taught.
And to help Ella Rose understand, I taught her using this little rhyme:

In through the front door
Dance around the back
Peek through the window
And off jumps jack.

It is the four steps of the knit stitch, and creates pleasant imagery in her mind that helps her remember the process.

Anyway, as you can imagine I am proud as pudding over this latest development, as I've tried teaching her in the past, but to no avail. 

First thing she told me this morning upon waking up, was that she wanted to get knitting!!!

So I am off to the yarn store to pick out some better yarn for her -- I taught her using cotton yarn, even though it's super unforgiving in its lack of elasticity. 

And with that, it was a big, beautiful weekend full of culture, creation, and creature comforts. Heh. :)

Until next time, take care and Happy Creative Weekend!!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Festa de Gracia


So this post is about an event we went to back on Wednesday.
The annual neighborhood party of Gracia, in Barcelona: Festa Major de Gracia!

I learned during my time here that every town in Spain has what they call the "Festa Major" which is like a town-wide celebration for...well, their town! It's got food, music, dancing and the local talent groups show their stuff. For example, I attended the Festa Major for Sant Just d'Esvern a couple of weeks back and got to enjoy a comedic improv duo. I probably only understood 60% of what they were saying (Catalá!) but it was still a hoot. :)

Anyway, Gracia's neighborhood festival is like a weeklong celebration of all the arts! Musical performances, DIY workshops, storytelling, visual arts, etc!
Apparently, Gracia is the "Soho" of Barcelona, with its Bohemian culture, organic everything, alternative shops, and more. It also is famous for all their little plazas, which during the festival, offer different shows and activities for kids and everyone of all ages!

But one of the highlights of the Festa de Gracia is their street decorating contest!
Each street chooses a theme and decorates their street accordingly, oftentimes relying solely on repurposed materials! Music to my ears ♫

With the little ones in tow, we got to the festival at 6pm and were only able to hit up a couple of the streets. Here is a little peek at them:

The third-place winning street was themed after Paris!!

Can-Can Dancers's legs~~!

Awesome chandelier hanging up above

Paintings done in the style of the impressionists

A reproduction of the Eiffel Tower -- made out of cardboard tubes!

Lovely Andrea in front of their own Alphonse Mucha metro stop!!

We also passed through a street that had not won any awards, which was no surprise.
Most of the streets show an insane amount of dedication and craftsmanship, but this street's theme was "Toxic Mutation Wastedump" or some other such unappealing theme. Nothing to see here~

The kids were starving, so we hit up a Lebanese pizza joint, and then walked the last street.
It was the first place winning street and themed're not gonna believe it...日本!!!

Insane 桜-themed roof made of dyed bubble wrap. And the lanterns were all paper mache.

My lovely aunt and little Ella. You can't really see it, but there was a huge beautiful Chinese (!) dragon suspended above their heads

The exit had the Japanese flag painted all on empty CD cases

This is such a popular event that the streets were hella crowded, hence our inability to see all the streets. Especially with tired little children...
Tia Chita so generously bought the kids t-shirts, the proceeds of which fund the neighborhood itself! Buya!! I will love seeing them wear these t-shirts and remember the magical time we had at Festa de Gracia.

If you are ever in Barcelona for August, I highly recommend hitting up this event.
A real example of teamwork, camaraderie and the many ways that trash can become treasure. :)

Well, until next time, thanks for stopping by, take care and Happy Festa de Gracia!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Poble Espanyol

Hello again!

Man we are really packing in the activities these last few weeks.
This week, alone, has been a whirlwind of cool outings.
I am waiting on my cousin to send me the killer photos she took of our Wednesday outing to Festa Gracia, so in the meanwhile, this post is about what we did yesterday on Thursday.

Poble Espanyol is this awesome kind of "adult amusement park" where different regions of Spain are represented through recreated architecture, specialty shops, signature foods, and artisan workshops.
It prides itself in hosting only items made in Spain. ♡

We left home for it around noon and didn't leave until 5pm. There is just so much to see!

Here are some of the shops/crafts we enjoyed:

Glass man at work!
Ah, glass...
I have always had a soft spot for glass~
There was a time in my teenage years when I daydreamed about being a glassblower. But man, it is hard to find a studio, especially in Nowheresville, NY. ;D

Anyway, if Spain is rich in any resource, I'd say it has to be minerals mined from the earth, because there are quarries a plenty, the way you see lumberyards a plenty in Oregon.

So of course, there is a lot of glass work, as we got to see in Poble Espanyol.

William being careful around the delicate merchandise~

Ella got to have a taste of what it's like to work with the flame~!

 We also popped into these following stores:

Montones! And Tia Chita sporting a mass veil

Chocolaaaate...themed with Alphonse Mucha art!

 There were also tile shops, a weaver, guitar maker, leather worker, etc etc~

And they had the most comprehensive collection of Lladró sculptures I've ever seen!!
For those of you unfamiliar with Lladró, it's a company that makes these elegant porcelain figurines. My mom has always been a huge fan, and had a couple pieces in our home when we were growing up. I could've stayed in this shop all day~

So lovely. One of the signature looks of Lladró figurines is their long, graceful necks~

Motherhood collection~!!!

I would highly recommend Poble Espanyol to anyone who sort of wants a crash course on Spain and what all the seventeen "autonomous communities" represent and specialize in.

We left Poble Espanyol around 4pm so that we could get to Santes Creus and catch my cousin Bastian's flamenco guitar concert!
Did I ever tell you that I have a cousin studying to be a flamenco guitarist?? I am super proud of him and in awe of his skill.

Here is a (longish) sample of his playing that I took during Abuela's stay with us:

It was great getting to see him perform with his buddy David and their singer Rafa.
Santes Creus is this incredible little town that time forgot, with ancient architecture and vineyards all around. Sorry I didn't take any photos of the town itself, but it really is a gem.

We didn't get home until midnight or so because after the concert we were all hungry so we ate at this restaurant and had an excellent time!! I love my family!!!!

Well, until next time, take care and Happy Poble Espanyol!