The Lizard Chronicles

Some of this is true. Some of this is better. –Too Much Joy

Barcelona Day 5, Part 1: Queen of Spain or International Hat Thief? July 26, 2017

Filed under: Clothing,Food,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 2:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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.

Gingerbread

I believe this was known as Gaudí’s Gingerbread Period

LizCeiling

Ceiling selfie

Lizards

Lizards abound!

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!

Churros

Hard-fought and delicious

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.

 

Barcelona Day 3: Montserrat (and more Super Meerkat) July 19, 2017

We had a tour booked for Sunday, so there was no sleeping for 11 hours that night. I awoke after having dreamed of getting a sunburn, so I slathered on sunscreen despite the heavy cloud cover. As we readied ourselves to got out, I discovered that the hairdryer in our room, which had been fine the day before, no longer funtioned. Actually, that’s not entirely true. It worked, but only for approximately three seconds at a time. I sighed, pulled my hair back, and gave a wave to my secret surveillers, as I was now sure that somewhere, people were messing with me. In fact, they were probably going to steal my awesome Super Meerkat idea and make millions. 😦

We got on the tour bus that took us to Montserrat. Unfortunately, a thick fog obscured much of our would-be view, but that was actually kind of cool in its own way.

Fog

The view when we arrived in Montserrat


WallofFog

Wall of fog


Stairs

Stairway to ???

With the fog and occasional rain, indoor activities became preferable, so we explored the basilica, the museum, and some shops.

Basilica_Atrium

Basilica atrium


Candles

Shrine candles


Hippo

I love everything about this.


Savior

Break glass for savior?

After that, we were hungry and thought it would be especially unwise not to eat before the next part of our excursion (i.e. wine tasting). The first restaurant we saw was packed to the gills, so we found a less crowded place, not really stopping to consider why it was so sparsely populated. Now, to be clear, we hadn’t booked this tour for the dining opportunities, which is good because our meal in Montserrat would not rank among the best on our trip. Even by tourist attraction grab-and-go food standards, our sandwiches were very, very sad. What’s more, I took one bite of something I’d thought was yogurt, only to find it was not. I’m really not sure what it was, other than repulsive. Seeing my reaction, of course, Rachel had to try it too. She concurred with my assessment.

By early afternoon, some of the fog had cleared, and we got to see some of the previously obscured scenery before we got back on the tour bus.

On our way to the winery, we passed by the Saint Bernard Convent, which naturally sparked in me a mental image of Saint Bernard dogs dressed in habits. We also passed a ferreteria, which is Spanish for hardware store, but what came to my mind was an eating establishment for ferrets. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could weave all my goofy mental images from this trip into one story…

The sisters of Saint Bernard Convent are shocked to discover that their storeroom has been robbed! Someone has taken the entire supply of brandy that was kept on hand  to refill the little barrels around their necks. A few of the pooches trot down the road to the ferreteria to ask if anyone there had heard or seen anything suspicious in the area. The ferrets tell the sisters that they hadn’t noticed any unusual activity, but they still want to help, so they call on their cousin, Super Meerkat. She uses her truth-seeing powers to uncover the thief and return the brandy to the Saint Bernards.

I would totally watch this movie.

Before long, we arrived at Parés Balta, where we toured the grounds and sampled some of their wines, all of which we wanted to take home. Our tour guide referred us to a wine price sheet that also listed shipping costs by destination and number of bottles. She was also sure to note that they also sold suitcases at the winery and would pack up any purchased wine to minimize the chances for breakage en route. I must say, this was a pretty brilliant move on the part of Parés Balta. Whereas shipping 6 bottles of wine to Chicago would have cost €98, the suitcases were €20. Sold! As a bonus, there would be room left in the suitcase for some shoes we’d seen during the first day of the trip.

Liz_ParesBalta

Vineyard selfie


LotsofCava

Lots of cava!

After getting back to the city that evening, we had dinner at Teresa Carles, which may have been my favorite meal of the entire trip–it’s a tough call. Suffice it to say, it went a long way in making up for our sad lunch.

Lotusflowerchips

Lotus flower chips–pretty and delicious!

 

It’s That Time of Year

Filed under: Food,Poetry,Yoga — lizardesque @ 8:07 pm
Tags: ,

Went to yoga class

Tonight: free bonus produce

Garden cucmber

 

Barcelona Day 2, Part 1: Gettin’ Churchy With It (Also, Super Meerkat!) July 16, 2017

I had briefly toyed with the idea of setting an alarm for Saturday morning so Rachel and I could get a (relatively) early start and make the most of the day, but I decided against it— we probably needed to catch up on sleep to feel our best. With the blackout curtains in the hotel room closed, I had no clue as to the time when I awoke. I rolled over and looked at my phone. Holy moly! We had slept eleven hours! Ah, well, maybe with such a good night’s rest, we’d have our jet-lag licked.

Before we headed out for the day, I went to retrieve some of my cash from the room safe, but when I keyed in the code I’d set the previous night, the safe merely beeped at me and did not open. I punched in the code again with the same result. I tried again with a different set of numbers, thinking that I was miss-remembering and had used something other than my usual hotel safe code. More beeping. No opening. I sighed and decided to deal with it later. Someone at the hotel would be able to help…or we’d be forced to stay in Barcelona forever because the safe held our passports. Either way, it wasn’t urgent at that moment.

We left the hotel in search of some breakfast (or at that point, more like lunch), unwittingly embarking on our first of many Google Maps Follies. On Friday, our navigation efforts had been fairly successful, all things considered, and I’d attributed any minor hiccups to our lack of sleep and jet-lag. But that Saturday, we discovered that even Google Maps gets confused by roundabouts, which further supports my position that the damn things really should not exist.

HappyTogether

Slightly lost and hungry but still happy!

After turning around a few times and thoroughly confusing ourselves, we abandoned our attempt to find our Plan A destination and sought a different café as Plan B. We managed to find that one, but it was closed for the holiday. By then, we were rolling with the punches and quickly devised Plan C. This took us back toward the dreaded roundabout. We ignored Google’s directions until we had traversed the circle of peril, then waited for the app to recombobulate. From there, things were somewhat better—only a few times were we told to turn where there were no roads. When we had (according to Google Maps, which I was rapidly losing faith in) almost reached Plan C, we happened by Plan A. Go figure. We took a look at it but decided to continue on to Plan C (since it was so close) and eat at whichever place looked more inviting. Plan C—also known as Cometa—won out. Coffee, ginger orange juice, and delicious sandwiches for the hard-fought win!

Tourism

Erm…my bad.

After eating we walked over the Barcelona Cathedral. Thankfully, navigation was not an issue because all we had to do is look up toward the towers to know we were heading in the right direction.

BarcelonaCathedral

Found it!

We’d read up on the cathedral beforehand and, although we were both wearing sleeveless dresses, we’d come equipped with clothing to cover our shoulders and respect the establishment’s dress code. Indeed, there were guards at the entrance enforcing the  code (as well as people just outside selling scarves for anyone who came unprepared). I donned my wrap and went in. Although I tend to be the first person in any room to feel chilly and the last to get overheated,  it was June in Barcelona, so it was hot. And humid. And it’s amazing how weighty a thin shawl can suddenly feel in such an environment.

Inside_Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

The cathedral was beautiful, but before long, sweltering discomfort began to detract from the experience. Around me, I noticed several people who had bucked the customs and shed whatever garments they had put on before entering. I shot them the stink-eye, felt just a little morally superior, and fanned myself a little harder with the cathedral map. We got a reprieve from the heat when we took the elevator to the top of the building and got to enjoy a nice breeze along with the lovely views.

Panoramic

Panoramic view from atop Barcelona Cathedral

Purportedly, the cathedral is home to a unique unicorn gargoyle, but we couldn’t find it (maybe we should have consulted Google Maps!. After a while, we had to halt our search in favor of seeking out hydration and electrolyte replacement.

gc3a0rgola_unicorn_absis_catedral_barcelona

Unicorn gargoyle we never found–but thankfully, the interwebs has pictures of it!  — By Pere López (Own work (own photo)) (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Sheep

We didn’t find a unicorn, but we did find a sheep!

We then took the metro toward our next destination, La Sagrada Familia. It was truly amazing. I’ve visited my fair share of beautiful churches—Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and St. Paul’s to name a few—and what I can tell you is that La Sagrada Familia is astonishingly beautiful in a totally different way. Somehow its disparate styles blend to harmonize, rather then creating a discordant mess, and the tree-like columns on the inside make you believe you’ve entered an enchanted forest.

LSF

Nativity facade of La Sagrada Familia

LSF_detail

LSF exterior detail

LSF_inside

LSF columns

LSF_inside2

LSF interior

Exit_to_Passion

This sort of sounds like the title of a bad romance novel.

LSFTowers

Two of the towers of LSF

Sacristy

The Western Sacristy

After visiting two churches that day, we decided it was time for just a little bit of debauchery, so we stopped at Marmalade, where I ordered, what else but the porn star martini. It was seriously one of the most delicious cocktails I’ve ever had.

Pornstarmartini

Bom chicka wah wah. I want to drink these all the time now!

Next, we had dinner at Sésamo, which was beautiful and delicious from start to finish.

Sesamo_dino

On the wall at Sésamo

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a supermercat to get a bottle of wine to take  with us. I mention this only because these shops were all over the place, and I simply must share the mental imaged they evoked in me. Every time I saw one of the signs, I thought Super Meerkat and pictured a meerkat with a cape and perhaps a little eye mask. Naturally, her special power is super vision, such that she can see people’s thoughts, even from way across the prairie. You cannot hide the truth from Super Meerkat!

Supermercat

When we returned to the hotel, I called for help regarding the room safe. A man arrived at our room promptly, and I quickly reiterated the problem to him.

“Do you know how the safe works?” he asked.

Considering that I’ve used many a hotel safe and that the instructions are clearly printed (in English) on the front of the safe, I was pretty sure that the problem was not user error. Then again, my mind hadn’t exactly been razor sharp the previous day. “Well, I thought I did,” I said with a smidge (OK, maybe slightly more than a smidge) of defensiveness.

Long story short, the hotel employee got the safe open and walked me through the process of setting the code, after which time it seemed to work properly. I still swear I’d performed the same steps the day before, so I opened my mind to the possibility that hotel staff members (along with those at Google Maps) were messing with Rachel and me, secretly recording our gaffes for entertainment purposes. Anyhow, since the safe was working, we no longer had the can’t-get-to-our-passports excuse for staying in Barcelona indefinitely. Thankfully, we still had several days of vacation left.

 

 

 

IRL IRL Day 6: 30,000+ Steps in Dublin December 13, 2016

Filed under: Food,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 11:33 am
Tags: , ,

We began our final full day in Ireland with breakfast at Herbstreet in Dublin. My waffles with fresh berries and clotted cream were delicious, despite the fact that I strongly feel that clotted is one of the least appetizing words in the English language and really has no place on a menu.

dublindoors

I dig the Dublin doors.

After breakfast, we went to Trinity College, where we saw the Book of Kells, which was pretty amazing and a tough act to follow. But I could have sworn I heard a choir of angels singing as I entered the Long Room and beheld more old books than I could likely read in a lifetime…although I do enjoy a challenge.

longroom

 I would like to live here, please, thx.

Our self-guided walking tour of Dublin continued with stops at Christchurch Cathedral and Dublin Castle. We intended to visit the Jameson distillery, but it turned out to be closed for re-development.

christchurgh

Christchurch Cathedral

dublincastleliz

Dublin Castle

dublinbridge

Bridge on the River Liffey

We had also planned to tour the Kilmainham Gaol, but we didn’t plan quite well enough–tickets for the day were sold out by the time we arrived. Since we were all ready there, we  perused the museum there for a while, and that was quite interesting.

deadgeese

I have so many questions.

From there, we headed to the Guinness Storehouse, where we took a tour and had drinks in the Gravity Bar, which offers 360-degree views of Dublin. I’ve taken quite a few brewery tours in my day and the brewing of beer occurs regularly in my kitchen, so frankly, learning about the brewing process is not all that interesting or novel to me. That said, I really enjoyed the Guinness tour. The building itself and the exhibits are impressive, and the tour was structured so that, for the most part, you could go through at your own pace.

guinnesswater

View through a waterfall or impressionistic painting?

ianturtle

Ian wished this was a real beer. I wished it was a real turtle.

tinyguinness

Tiny Guinness is adorable!

At the conclusion of the tour, you have the option of (after brief instruction) being able to pull your own pint or to have one pulled for you in the Gravity Bar. We opted for the latter, mainly because I figured (incorrectly, as it turned out) that the bar might have options other than Guinness. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of Guinness (*gasp*!). I don’t hate it–it’s just not my thing. I think it has something to do with the fact that when I look at it, I expect something chocolate–not something with hints or notes of chocolate but rather some serious, deep, dark chocolatey goodness–and am invariably disappointed. And frankly, the assumption that everyone who takes the tour and is not a child would want a Guinness seems a bit short-sighted, but oh well. I drank a little, and my companions finished my portion.

gravity

In my experience, it’s the other way around.

After loading up on Guinness-themed souvenirs, we sought out food at Against the Grain and then headed back to the apartment to pack up. Packing is never particularly fun, and according to my FitBit, we had racked up more than 30,000 stops that day, so a couple of beers seemed well deserved. As we drank and packed, we pondered exactly what had compelled us to buy quite so much beer. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but there was no way we were going to finish it all. Ah well, hopefully the next occupants of the apartment enjoyed it.

potato

It’s true–the streets in Ireland are paved with potatoes!

Save

 

IRL IRL Day 4: Goats, Gaps, and General Gaiety October 14, 2016

Filed under: Food,Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 3:33 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I started my fourth day in Ireland with a nice wine glass full of coffee. Why a wine glass? Well, I searched the cupboards for coffee cups but found none, so I had to make do with what was at hand.

breakfastofchamps

Breakfast of champions

Fortified by breakfast, I readied myself for the day ahead, which included using the weirdest hair dryer in the world. I’m pretty accustomed to hair dryers that are attached to walls, but this one looked more like a central vacuum than a hair dryer. It did blow hot(ish) air, but there was no way to properly direct the flow. Plus, all but the slightest move would trigger the dryer to automatically shut off.

hairdryer

What the what?

But anyway, I survived this hardship, and Michelle and I walked into the main part of Killorglin to explore, pausing on the way to take selfies with the statue of King Puck because who doesn’t love a selfie with a bronze statue of a goat wearing a crown?

liz_puck

All hail his goaty graciousness!

Having been on vacation for a while, we’d sort of lost track of what day it was, but we were reminded that it was Sunday upon seeing that the only things open in Killorglin were a grocery store and a lamb farm supply store. Priorities, you know.

The four of us then set off to do some sight seeing by car, giving Friday his first driving experience in Ireland. Nobody threw up, and we all lived to tell about it, so we’ll call it a success. We thought we had seen some narrow roads before that point, but those were nothing compared to the ones around the Lakes of Killarney. The roads were also quite twisty, so it wasn’t actually possible to go very fast, which is good because there were plenty of hikers, bikers, and sheep about.

gapdunloe

Gap of Dunloe

gaphouse

House in the Gap of Dunloe–it’s a bit of a fixer-upper

sheep

Does it get any more Irish than this?

ladiesview

Ladies’ View, Killarney National Park

I absolutely must mention Jarvey’s Rest, where we ate lunch and I had, by far, my best meal of the entire trip—a wild mushroom duxelles and spinach filo strudel served with red onion compote and a leek cream sauce. YUM.

torcwaterfall

Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park

muckrosslake

Muckross Lake

smoochtree

I’ve heard of tree huggers, but it seems that this tree would rather have a kiss!

rosscastle

Ross Castle

lizrosscastle

Look, mom–I’m in a castle!

Later on, we returned to Bunkers Bar in Killorglin, for dinner, drinks, and a traditional Irish music session. At one point in the evening, Ian came back from the men’s room to report that the man who had stood next to him at the urinal was quite drunk…but had a lovely singing voice. Apparently, he had just been warming up because not long after that, he joined the session and graced the entire bar with that voice. Finally, we felt like we’d gotten the true Irish pub music experience!

 

Julaiku 2, Day 24 July 24, 2016

Filed under: Food,Poetry — lizardesque @ 2:16 pm
Tags: , ,

July 23, 2016

Yum, pancakes and a

Couple of bloody marys

Hence, the food coma