News from Washington
Actually nothing new
News from Washington
Actually nothing new
After four nights in our hotel, I finally was able to remember which switch on the wall next to my bed corresponded to the bedside lamp and which controlled the room’s main lights. With this accomplishment, Rachel bestowed upon me the title Queen of Spain. It’s possible she does not actually have the authority to grant such a title, but I had no readily available proof that she didn’t, so I gladly accepted it.
We began our day with breakfast at the hotel, which, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned before was the Ayre Hotel Gran Vía, but owing to some humorous garbling in my brain, we had come to refer to as the Ariana Grande Hotel. Anyhow, the breakfast buffet was good, despite being somewhat treacherous (at least for a grace-challenged person like me) by tables placed too close together. It included chilled cava, so we could see no reason not to make ourselves mimosas to toast my coronation. There was a minor incident when I pressed the cappuccino button on the magic coffee machine and received only hot milk. Eager to remedy this grievous error, I pressed the espresso button, which delivered the sought-after caffeinated liquid but caused my cup to overflow and created a bit of a mess. How thoroughly embarrassing on the first day of my reign!
Next on our itinerary was a visit to Park Güell. To get there, we climbed numerous hills and roughly half the stairs in the world. In the middle of one of the staircases, we encountered a man who apparently thought it was the perfect time and place to initiate some sort of packing reorganization project. He had taken the contents of several plastic bags (bottles of soda and sundry items) and spread them out across most of the width of the steps (-1 point for lack of self-awareness, dude). All that aside, Park Güell was really cool and made me feel vaguely like I had stepped inside a Dr. Seuss book, albeit with less rhyming.
When we finished exploring the park, we set off in search of snacks, persevering through additional skirmishes with Google Maps and managing to evade a woman on the street who seemed to be trying her best to light us on fire with her cigarette (-1 point for lack of self-awareness, -1 point for attempted incendiarism of pedestrians). But it was all worth it, for, to the victors went the churros!
Since my vacations tend to feel incomplete without a visit to a local hat shop, we went next to Sombreria Mil. Upon entering the store, I knew I was about to undertake a marathon of trying on hats, so I removed the hat I’d been wearing, stuffed it into my purse, and got right to work. A few minutes in, while attempting to extricate a particular hat from a stack, I knocked over a foam mannequin head and sent a different stack of hats toppling to the floor. Then, in trying to tidy up that mess, I managed to drop the hats I’d been holding from the first stack. A shop employee rushed over to tend to the situation. Although I apologized profusely, she simply shot me a death glare and went about restoring order.
I shrugged it off, thinking that perhaps she was just having a bad day, and again began my quest of determining which hat would come home with me. Rachel also continued to try on hats, even though she’d all but decided she was going to buy the first one she’d tried on (which, I do have to say, was adorable). All this time, I couldn’t help but feel that the shop-tender was still giving me the stink-eye. Granted, I was a bumbling tourist who’d knocked some stuff over. Some righteous annoyance at me was reasonable, but I wasn’t sure I deserved the amount of ire conveyed by her glowers. After several minutes of this, I finally made eye contact with her, confronting her glare, and giving her a look as if to say What?!
“Could you open your bag, please?” she snapped.
That’s when it hit me. She must have glimpsed me stuffing my hat in my purse after entering the shop and thought I was stealing. “Oh!” I said, opening my bag wide and pulling out the hat. “I was wearing this when I came in!” I held it out for her to see, practically inviting her to examine the sweat stains and feel the slightly gritty film on it from being accidentally immersed in the sea the previous day. The woman’s face relaxed, she apologized, and the rest of the shop visit passed very pleasantly. Rachel and I both left with new (fully paid-for) hats.
I am way too tired
For today to be only
The start of the week
I never set out to start collecting Ferris wheels. In fact, I’d lived in Chicago for eight years before I got around to riding the (old) one at Navy Pier. My first European Ferris wheel was the London Eye, which my husband and I rode during a trip in 2007 because…well, why not? It offered nice views, and if there’s ever a time for somewhat overpriced brief experiences, vacation time seems to be it. A few years later on a work trip to, I convinced my colleagues to come with me to ride the Wheel of Gothenburg (before it moved from Kanaltorget to Liseberg) in the limited amount of free time we had. A year later, while in Amsterdam, I happened upon a local carnival and rode the Ferris wheel there. By then, I had three European Ferris wheels, and everyone knows that if you have three or more of something, it can be considered a collection, so it sort of became my thing (well, one of my many things). I subsequently added the Wiener Riesenrad to my collection but was unfortunately robbed of my Irish Ferris wheel opportunity. So, I had my sights set on Giradabo for the Barcelona trip, and Monday was to be the day for that.
After being confounded once again by Google Maps, Rachel and I eventually found our way to Milk, where a waiter who reminded me of Iggy Pop served me a delicious bagel sandwich and Popeye juice (a juice concoction that contained spinach). After we’d eaten, Google Maps continued to ferhoodle us, but we persevered, made it to Plaça Catalunya, and visited an information booth to ask exactly where one catches the bus to Tibidabo. The man in the booth said the bus wasn’t running that day, so we asked how else we could get there. He said the reason the bus wasn’t running that day because the park was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Okay, so we’d have to go to Tibidabo on Wednesday (our last full day in Spain), which left the rest of our Monday wide open. What to do, what to do? We made our way over to a shady bench to mull over our options and ultimately decided that the beach was calling us. On a recommendation I’d received, we decided to go to the nearby town of Sitges. We had the options of taking a bus or a train there, but the bus looked more straightforward and took only slightly longer. So, after a quick trip back to our hotel to change clothes and grab our beach gear, and once again found ourselves at another information booth inquiring about the location of another bus stop. A woman there pointed us in the right direction. The thing is, there were multiple bus stops in that direction. After waiting for a while at what we thought was the right one, we started to doubt ourselves. I partially blame Google maps for this, as it had been shaking our confidence multiple times daily. However, we got confirmation from someone else waiting at the stop that we were in the right place. At long last, the bus arrived. I was momentarily crestfallen to find that our transit passes did not work on that particular bus, but we were able to pay cash, so all was well. Already a little worn out by the days ups and downs, we both had a little nap on the bus to Sitges.
We quickly found a beach, rented chairs and an umbrella, and the rest of our day pretty much went like this:
We topped off the day with dinner at The Beach House, where my meal consisted of approximately 80% grilled haloumi. I regret nothing!