Spain: Valencia (Day 3, Part 2)

We left Barcelona for Valencia on the 4 pm train, arriving at about 7. Ann & Brian met us at the station and we walked to their apartment. The boys were happy to see us, but also pooped after the school week and ready to hunker down for a bit.

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So we took off with Ann!

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Surprise! We visited another church!

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We found a delightful spot for tapas, and I tried a yummy local beer.

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We got our bearings a little bit...

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And took off for the park. Jardin del Turia (Turia River Gardens) is a huge garden/park located in what was formerly a riverbed. There are, indeed, gardens...also foot and bike paths, soccer fields, a children's playground called Parc Gulliver, and more, all leading to the City of Arts and Sciences.

We happened upon an Alternative Craft Fair in the park, just before closing time.

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Maddy & Annie found some amazing handmade shoes, and each came home with a pair!

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I found an adorable dress for Gin (modeled by Jun, below).

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And some lovely earrings for myself.

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Made by Anna Panyella Joies. I can't stop wearing them!

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And we walked, enjoying the park and admiring a few of the beautiful bridges overhead that cross over it. We made our way to the City of Arts and Sciences and, once again, found ourselves agape.

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It's gorgeous, day (this photo taken a few days later) or night! Hi-tech, sci-fi, modern... very Star Wars-y. And the whole thing -- everything -- is covered in mosaic tile, almost all of it white. Incredible.

By then it was about midnight and it had been a long, busy day. We head back to the apartment and to bed. Mack kindly gave his room & trundle bed up for the girls, and I slept in Addy's room. We were on the 6th floor, had a tiny shared balcony, floor-to-ceiling windows -- it's really a cute apartment! The boys were thrilled to camp out in a fort they'd made in the living room, so it all worked out.

It was nice to know that we'd be there for a few days/nights, too! To be continued...


Spain: Barcelona (Day 3, Part 1)

We checked out of our Airbnb early Friday morning and hailed a cab, stopping at Locker Barcelona on the way to once again stow our bags. These places are great! Just as at the airport, there were a variety of locker sizes (we needed only one each time) and the cost is very reasonable!

We caught another cab and headed to Basilica De La Sagrada Familia. Those were the other advance tickets we purchased; we needed to choose a time to visit, and also a time to ascend one of the towers -- and, unlike The Book of Kells, they were quite particular about the timing!

It is an amazing place -- still under construction (always and forever?) (at least until 2030 or so!).

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And, indeed, men were working and those cranes were moving!

Breathtaking, is all I can say...

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Everywhere you look, there's something to see... and then something else catches your eye, and something more... Parts of the ceiling looked as though giant millefleur beads were embedded.

And the color!

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We visited the Nativity Tower.

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We ascended by lift and then walked up, across, and down. The views were amazing... that spiral staircase seemed endless!

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The reflection was terrible, but this model of the cathedral was fascinating!

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It looks a little bit like a drip sand castle from afar, doesn't it?

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We grabbed a bit to eat, then headed back to explore the area near Locker Barcelona.

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Including another church and a fabulous children's shop!

I wish we'd had time to visit some of the other amazing Gaudi sites, such as Casa Batllo, Casa Milo, and Park Guell -- and a whole bunch of other things -- but, as my mother always said, it's good to leave something for when you return.

We retrieved our luggage, hailed another cab and headed to Barcelona Sants to catch our train for Valencia. Stay tuned for Day 3, Part 2!

* * * * *

Mom

Missing you every single day, Mom. I can't believe it's been 3 years. xoxox


Ireland to Spain: Madrid > Barcelona (Day 2)

We checked out of our Dublin Airport hotel at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday and hopped the shuttle for the airport. Our flight to Madrid departed at 6:15 a.m. * Yawn *

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We arrived in Madrid at around 10, and the plan was to meet Maddy, who was flying from Sydney, in Barcelona later that day.

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Kate & I had already booked our tickets from Madrid > Barcelona on the high-speed AVE train, and that entitled us to a free train ticket from the airport to the city. I'd printed out all the information about that and how to retrieve those tickets from a ticket vending machine, which really came in handy, except that it wasn't working for some reason and we ended up standing in line at Customer Service, anyway. Turns out, those tickets are only valid 4 hours prior to the main departure time -- and we were too early!

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We sat and waited an incredibly long 4 minutes... I took a photo of the airport ceiling... and then it worked perfectly and we were on our way!

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The Atocha station in Madrid is beautiful -- and huge! We had a few hours in Madrid before we needed to catch the train, and I had done a little research ahead of time, so we headed toward that sign on the bottom right that reads "CONSIGNAS" to stow our suitcases in a locker and took the short walk from the terminal to Museo Nacional del Prado -- Prado National (Art) Museum.

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We walked past the Royal Botanic Garden on the way, but couldn't see much as they were having some work done. On the list for next time!

We rushed through Prado, finding the locations of the most important (to us) pieces/artists -- of course, seeing plenty more as we made our way through -- and leaving enough time for a bite at the cafe and a visit to the museum gift shop.

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There was quite the garden/atrium at Atocha station!

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We retrieved our bags and then went to catch our train, which turned out to be a little hairy, as we hadn't printed out the actual tickets... I had them on my phone, but they wanted paper! Kate rushed over to a machine to try and figure it out, while I held a spot in line at Customer Service; she was finally successful and we rushed to (successfully) make our connection!

The train ride was very nice, and oh how I wish we had a train system like that here! It was non-stop from Madrid to Barcelona, and I saw top speed of 299 kph (186 mph). Maddy's flight had been late arriving in Doha, but she was able to make her connection, and we found each other within minutes at Barcelona Sants!

Our Airbnb was located in the Gothic Quarter and, according to Google Maps, was about a 40-minute walk from the station. I figured, after all the planes & trains, that we'd like a good walk; called our host and let her know we were on our way.

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It took us a bit longer than 40 minutes, as we made our way through unfamiliar territory and took a couple of wrong turns looking for the "pedestrian street" on which our apartment was located. Luckily, our host was patient enough... and offered me her fan when we arrived! She was utterly dismayed that we were staying for only one night, having previously sent me a list of things to do in Barcelona that we'd have trouble completing had we stayed a month!

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Gorgeous basilicas & cathedrals everywhere!

We had a wonderful evening together, traipsing around a bit, finding a spot to enjoy some delicious tapas & drinks...

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Smiles! (And terrible lighting.) (But SMILES!)

...and went to bed "early" as we had another busy day on tap!


On the way to Spain: Ireland stopover (Day 1)

I'm back!! Everything went smoothly until the very last bit of the last flight home. Weather was a problem, causing back-ups and delays at O'Hare, and the powers-that-be diverted us to Detroit. It all went south from there for a bunch of reasons and, after several (overnight) hours of waiting, we ended up taking a train to Chicago and making our way from downtown to O'Hare to fetch the car and drive home. Soooo tired. It was a struggle, and we frequently switched drivers; we arrived home at 7 pm and I was in bed by 8!

I ended up taking half the day off on Friday to do the things I'd intended to do on Thursday (fetch Maddy's vehicle, reinstate insurance, reactivate mobile phone, unpack, do laundry, etc). I did some other errands on Saturday, and on Sunday I had an unplanned but well deserved Pajama Day! I didn't even venture outside far enough to see if the paper had arrived... I found it this morning in the driveway.

Anyway, here's the total of my luggage for a one-week international vacation! The tote was my "personal item" while traveling, and the suitcase is carry-on size; I checked the suitcase only on the return flight home, as Maddy had to check her backpack, anyway. I folded & packed my new Baggallini Medium Avenue Tote inside my suitcase for my everyday running around purse (so many ways to carry that bag, including cross-body). I plan to do a more detailed post about What I Packed (used/didn't use), but this is the lightest I ever packed for a trip of any length in my life!

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Our flight departed O'Hare on Tuesday evening. Kate & I both worked until noon that day and she picked me up right from work; we arrived with plenty of time to spare, and that's always better than the stress of rushing!

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There was a 24-hour layover in Dublin on our itinerary, and we took advantage of that! (I got a new stamp in my passport, too.) We'd booked a room in a hotel at the airport, took the shuttle over and they allowed us to check in upon arrival on Wednesday morning. We freshened up and changed clothes, and then hopped a bus into the city.

There was a little panic & confusion and we ended up getting off the bus a bit too early, so there was a metro ride involved, too! Haha!

Our first destination was the Irish Museum of Modern Art to see the exhibitions As Above, So Below: Portals, Visions, Spirits & Mystics and IMMA Collection: Freud Project.

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The museum is housed in a portion of the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham, which is an astounding property. It was interesting to imagine the gallery rooms as hospital rooms (they were quite nice, with lovely windows!).

This was one of my favorite exhibition pieces:

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Hilma af Klint, Altarpiece, No 1, Group X, Series Altarpieces, 1915 , Oil and metal leaf on canvas

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But these! All this!! This was an installation outside of the museum by Brazilian artist Stephan Doitschinoff (you can see the panels in the photo of the building above).

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He speaks about the work in the video about the exhibition below (at about 4:23).

We sort of rushed through this art museum (in what turned out to be a recurring theme) because we had tickets for The Book of Kells. Turns out we needn't have rushed, as they weren't particularly strict about the time at TBoK -- as long as our ticket was dated that day, we could have gone at any time. Oh well.

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We were positively agape in The Long Room, but pulled ourselves together for a selfie.

We weren't far from the National Gallery of Ireland, so walked over there, too. They were "between" things, preparing for the opening of a Vermeer show (which would have been wonderful to see), but we did enjoy the Margaret Clarke exhibition. 

I didn't realize, until it began to rain, how lucky we were that it wasn't raining as we made our way about Dublin, as that had been the forecast.

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We ducked out of the rain and into a pub for some grub and beer. Kate had Irish stew and I had shepherd's pie -- it was delicious!!

We made our way back to the hotel. I had a message from Norma, who was also in Dublin that day (life is so weird sometimes)!! And we were up super early on Thursday to catch our shuttle for the flight to Spain!

Stay tuned for Day 2!


Bags are packed

Well, I was up at about 4:15 this morning... not by design, but because instead of popping up every 5 minutes to write things down so I wouldn't forget, I decided to just get up and do.the.things!

Maybe that means I'll get some good sleep on the plane tonight.

I never did get a chance to pick up the book I had on hold at the library, so will surely finish Barbara Kingsolver's "Homeland." I have a few hours left listening to Wallace Stegner's "Crossing to Safety," so have downloaded "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon... it's set in Barcelona, so it seems fitting!! I also have a book downloaded to Kindle called "Illustrated Valencia Noir" by Isis Sousa & Ove Neshaug.

My small carry-on is packed and once I deliver the boxes of graham crackers (for the crust of Mack's requested cheesecake birthday cake) and Cheez-its (for Addy), I'll have room to bring a little something home with me, too!

Besides PJs, socks & underwear, I've packed a handbag, two pairs of sandals, two capri pants, a skirt, a dress, eight tops, a cropped sweater and a long cotton sweater. I'm wearing a pair of cropped pants, a top, a long lightweight sweater -- and will be switching out to a pair of tennies and compression socks when we're at the airport.

I found a nice, not-too-big tote for my "personal item." I have my dossier including schedules, tickets, boarding passes, maps, etc., wallet w/passport inside (it's been there for a couple of weeks -- since I woke from a dream that we were at the airport and I'd forgotten it!) (I got up right then and put it in my wallet), tablet, phone, chargers, tissues, antacid, ibuprofen, and liquids.

And -- because I had so much time this morning -- even some knitting! I've packed the third pair of Squad Mitts, wherein mitt #1 is about 3/4 finished, and a bag full of scraps for hexipuffs! Seems like good, carry-on, portable, small knitting...

Think good thoughts for Maddy. She's flying Qatar Airways and called in a bit of a panic last night after the news. Everything should be OK, from what I've seen. She's a wonderful traveler, except when it comes to actually traveling (flying, in particular)!!

Kate & I are heading to the airport in about :30. So excited.