Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My family's visit to Spain - (Part 2 of 2)

Hanging out in Park Guell!
On our second day in Barcelona, we spent our entire morning at the U.S. Consulate getting new, temporary passports for my mom, Paige, and Kaicer. Three hours later, after my family finally got their new passports, we decided to actually get out and do something that day. We spent almost the whole afternoon at Park Guell, a famous park in Barcelona that was designed by Antoni Gaudi. It's on top of a big hill so there were about 4 - 5 escalators going up to the park... plus some intense uphill walking. Park Guell was awesome. We walked around for about 3 hours and during that time, Kaicer found a dead, flattened lizard, showed off his dance moves while a band played, and constantly asked me to take pictures of him next to cacti. (Remember, this was the first day without his medicine...)

 Kaicer without his ADHD medicine in picture/video form:
(PS it is not the same in real-life.)

His dead lizard...

The old bullring and now shopping mall
After we spent the whole afternoon at Park Guell, we went to Plaza Espanya where the old bullring is. Since bullfighting is prohibited in Catalonia (where Barcelona is), they turned the old bullring into a shopping mall! My mom thought this was the coolest thing ever. I honestly think it was her favorite part about Barcelona (she just went on and on about how impressed she was with it), but if you ask her, she'll say differently. Just take my word for it.

 We ate dinner in the old bullring, shopped around a little, then went to the top where there was a look-out area. On our way back down, we stopped on the movie theater level to get some popcorn, and took that with us down the street where we watched the Magic Fountain music show. Not sure what that is? Here's a video clip!

On Saturday, we woke up early to get in line to see the Sagrada Familia, the famous church in Barcelona, also designed by Gaudi. They began constructing this church in 1882 and it is still not finished! It is estimated to be completed in 2026. We waited in line for about an hour, and Kaicer slept the entire time we were in line so Mom and I were lucky enough to hold him until we finally reached the ticket booth. This church was incredible. Neither words or pictures will do it justice. As my mom said, "there is just SO much to take in." So you'll just have to see it for yourself one day. :)

After touring the most beautiful church in the world, we made our way to the Boqueria! The daily market in Barcelona. This was one of my favorite things that we saw. All of the fresh fish, colorful smoothies, fruit, and candies, and assorted chocolates all looked so wonderful! As we tried to make our way through this crowded place, we picked up some chocolates, fresh fruit, and some weird organic wrap things that looked good so we decided to try them for lunch!

After we ate our lunch on the curb and Kaicer had 2 of his favorite coconut smoothies, we took the metro to the bottom of Montjuic, a funicular up the hill, and a cable car up to the very top. Montjuic is a famous mountain in Barcelona that has a castle on top and some pretty great views of the city, as well as the Mediterranean. We walked around this area for a while, did some souvenir shopping, and decided to walk down the hill instead of taking the cable car back down. When we got to the bottom, we took the metro to the beach, ate some seafood, and walked along the beach before we headed back to our apartment.

In the cable car up to Montjuic!

The Costa Brava
Sunday was our drive to southern France! We had planned to go on Friday... but that's a little hard to do without passports. We went to the Barcelona airport to rent a small car, and after driving around the parking lot and restarting the car about 5 times, my mom finally got used to the stick shift and we were France-bound! We surprisingly didn't get lost (even though the driver got mad at the navigator a couple of times) and we took the highway straight to Perpignan, France. We walked around this cute town for a little bit, ate some lunch, and realized that is was Sunday so no stores were open! We probably spent and hour and a half in this town before we got back in the car. We decided to take a different way home this time - along the coast. The Costa Brava to be exact. This drive was probably the most beautiful drive I've ever been on in my entire life. It was a little scary at times, but Mom did a pretty good job driving (especially when we came to a one lane tunnel without any warning signs and a big truck was headed our way.) We pulled over at several small towns and sightseeing stops along the coast where we took some pictures, skipped little rocks, and climbed big ones! After we got back to Spain, dropped off the rental car, and took the train and metro back to our neighborhood, it was nearly 11pm. We still hadn't eaten dinner, so we stopped at a delicious pizzeria near our apartment.

Monday was our last day in Barcelona, and our flight left at 5:30, so we decided to spend the morning and some of the afternoon at the beach. Kaicer had a great time in the water while the rest of us sat and watched his crazy self. When it was almost time to leave, Kaicer met a little Spanish girl and they looked for seashells together. It was one of the most adorable things I've ever witnessed in my life.

Kaicer with his Spanish novia <3

Taking all of the Kinder Bueno bars!
We flew back to Madrid that night, arriving in Madrid around 7:30 pm. We checked into our hotel and set out to find some tapas one last time. (Well, so we thought.) We had a great time at dinner and had a lot of good laughs. The next morning, we went our for churros and picked up a bunch of Kinder Bueno bars before our flight back to the U.S.! We weren't entirely sure of what terminal we were supposed to fly out of (since our confirmation papers were in that backpack that got stolen) but we needed to tell our hotel shuttle so I told them Terminal 4 because I was once told, when in doubt, go with Terminal 4 because that's where most of the international flights are. Wrong. We got to Terminal 4 and realized we were in the wrong spot and so I asked someone working there and she said Delta was in Terminal 1. This normally wouldn't have been a problem, but at the Madrid Barajas Airport, Terminal 4 is completely separated from Terminals 1, 2, and 3. Whoops.

We got to Terminal 1 and by the time we reached the Delta check-in desk, we had 50 minutes until our flight left. There was no one in line and I went up there and told her we were flying to New York. She said, "Oh, that gate is already closed." I started to think maybe I had our flight time wrong... but no. Apparently for all international flights, the gates close exactly an hour before take-off. They tried calling to the gate twice and both times they said it was too late and they wouldn't open the gate back up for us. Even though we still had 50 minutes! So we went over to the Delta customer service area and they almost got us on 3 other flights that were going out that day, but either there weren't 4 seats available, there wasn't enough time to make it to the gate, or the other airline that they were working with (AirFrance) just simply wouldn't allow it. The only thing they could do for us at that point was get us on a flight for the following day.

Kaicer with the man with no face
We booked a hotel for that night and after spending nearly 3-4 hours at the airport, we waited for our shuttle to pick us up. After we settled into our room, we went downstairs to eat lunch in the hotel's restaurant, then went back up to our room to make a few phone calls. Even though it was raining, we decided to go into the city and make the most of our ACTUAL last day in Spain! We did some shopping along Gran Via, then went to the Sol area to get some pastries at my favorite pastry shop! Then I showed my family Madrid's Plaza Mayor and Kaicer made friends with all the street performers including a donkey, a crying man-baby, and a tall man with no face. We went back to our hotel, ate out at an Italian restaurant where we taught Kaicer the game, Telephone (since he needed to work on his listening skills), and returned back to our hotel where Mom had problems figuring out how the shower with 6 jets worked. However, Kaicer enjoyed his shower once she did get it all figured out.

In the Plaza Mayor
Playing "Telephone" at dinner
Kaicer taking a shower with all the jets!

The next day, we took our 10 and a half hour flight to Atlanta, Georgia where I watched 4 movies that I haven't seen (I've been so out of the loop!) including, How Do You Know, The Tourist, The King's Speech, and Unstoppable. Then we flew to Minneapolis, then from MN to Sioux Falls. We arrived in Sioux Falls around 8:30 pm (3:30 am Spain time), so we were exhausted. After we picked up our bags from baggage claim, Mom realized that she couldn't find her car keys... we eventually figured out that they were in the backpack that got stolen in Barcelona! So she went down the line of car rentals until she found a car that we could rent to drive home, and then she drove back the next morning to get our car. The whole thing was never-ending!

So now we're all safely back home and have been here for almost a week already! Our vacation together throughout Spain was one of my favorite family vacations ever. Despite all of our setbacks, we still managed to have a great time together and so many wonderful memories were made!

It's great being home, but I already miss Spain. I have no doubt in my mind that I'm going to return one day. My time in Spain and Europe was the best time of my life. I've made so many great friends, I've seen so many incredible places, and I've learned so much through this experience. I currently have $1.56 in my bank account but I wouldn't change a thing about how I spent my time/money throughout Spain and other parts of Europe including my 3 trips to Portugal, the Balearic Islands, Paris, London, and let's not forget, Morocco. I'm a little sad that I won't be making any more blog posts relating to this experience, but I want to thank everyone who has kept up with reading this blog! I had a lot of fun sharing all of my experiences with you!

I'm going to end this blog with my favorite photo of my entire time in Spain:

Kaicer's new passport photo.
Okay that's probably not my favorite of the thousands of photos that I took these past 5 months, but isn't it great?!

Hasta luego!


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