The Lizard Chronicles

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

Eclipster Trek to Totality (or ‘There and Back Again…Eventually’) August 22, 2017

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 8:56 pm
Tags: , , ,

I don’t recall exactly when my husband Ian first mentioned the 2017 solar eclipse to me, but it was at least 2 years ago. I had been in Peoria in 1994 and had seen the annular solar eclipse, which was pretty cool. Weather permitting, a total eclipse would be much more impressive, so I said was down for a road trip to be in a good viewing spot for that. In the following 700+ days, we revisited the topic occasionally, then with increasing frequency as E-day drew nearer. Vague ideas gradually gelled into firmer intentions, and we eventually had a plan for a fun road trip and great geekery with some good friends.

In early July our plans to travel downstate for the event came up in casual conversation more and more often. I sometimes forget that not everyone is married to someone with an astronomy degree and had not been hearing about the eclipse for years, so I was a little surprised by how many people were unaware there was an eclipse in our near future. By late July/early August, though, people had started to catch on. With each day, I saw more news items and Facebook posts that mentioned the eclipse. I admit I may have rolled my eyes a little at people who were just starting to get hip it. After all, I was an eclipster–I had been into this long before most people.

With just days to go, I began to hear stories of people scrambling to obtain and/or pay exorbitant prices for proper eye-wear and started to think that maybe we should have gotten more than 6 pairs of glasses and made some sweet bank by price gouging. Meanwhile, Ian did the final test runs with our new camera and solar filter. I procured road-trip snacks and chose a knitting project to work on for at least part of our time in the car. Texts began to fly about what we were going to do about watching Game of Thrones on Sunday. That question had not occurred to me as I haven’t watched the show or read the books, but appropriate plans were arranged.

On Sunday evening, Ian and I (along with fellow eclipsters Rachel and Matthew) drove from Chicago to Peoria, the home of the remainder of our crew (Michelle and Friday). That evening’s Game of Thrones episode was waiting on their DVR. As it aired, I occupied myself with other things but did have my attention drawn to the show by flaming undead bears and an epic javelin throw. I also recall a fair bit of shouting at the television. I know close to nothing about Jon Snow, but apparently he doesn’t plan very well.

We set off bright (well, actually somewhat dim) and early Monday morning. Our intended destination was Goreville, IL, but we knew that traffic would be heavy and  unpredictable and were content to stop anywhere within the path of totality. For much of the way, we avoided the interstate in favor of state roads, where traffic was certainly heavier than usual but not too bad. We passed the time with activities like a Bohemian Rhapsody sing-along and Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon, Serial Killer Edition*.

During a pit stop in Vandalia, we perused the souvenirs available at a gas station. In addition to the variety of mainly gun/hunting-themed signs, stickers, and mugs, they offered US-state shaped magnets for every state (well, there were slots for all of them, but several non-IL magnets were sold out, which brings many questions to my mind). Little known fact–Canada is actually a US state (at least according to this display); we had great fun pointing this out to Matthew, who originally hails from the Great White North. We also discovered coffee nut M&Ms (thumbs up) and got some breath-freshening, on-theme Eclipse gum before getting back on the road.

Beatlemania

Somewhere near Benton, IL

We got on I-57 a bit south of Vandalia, and traffic flowed pretty smoothly for a little while but then slowed dramatically, and before long, it became clear that we were unlikely to make it to Goreville in time. Rather than risk being trapped on the interstate between exits, we got off I-57 in Benton. At that point, we were already within the path of totality but went a little further south, eventually stopping at a park in Johnston City roughly an hour before totality. Ian got the camera set up with time to spare before the eclipse began.

There were a few other small groups of people in the park, and a few more arrived shortly after we did. We laughed and took pictures of each other wearing funny-looking glasses and looked skyward through protective filters as the moon started to gradually edge its way in front of the sun. We hydrated, snacked, and took refuge from the heat in the shade of trees. Someone in the park played the obligatory Bonnie Tyler song. Rachel made PAC-MAN noises. We made pinhole “cameras” with our thumbs and forefingers and looked at the resulting tiny crescents cast upon the ground. We texted with friends and family members both inside and outside the path of totality. The light around us started to dim, resembling that of an overcast day, but with mostly clear skies. An exciting eeriness descended on us, and I began to understand why, before anyone figured out what was really happening astronomically speaking, our ancient ancestors were more than a little freaked out by total eclipses.

Cracker

Snacklipse!

Liz

Looking up

Astonomizing

Astronomizing!

There

There…

Liz_Ian

Eclipster Love

 

Then came totality. I can show you pictures of the sun’s corona and the sky otherwise looking like sunset in every direction. I can try to describe the experience with metaphor and say that there was electricity in the air as everyone in the park marveled and gasped, alternating between excited chattering and speechlessness, as we all drank in those two-ish odd minutes. But I know I really can’t do it justice. I’ve had a few experiences in my life that have made me understand what the word breathtaking truly means–this was one of them.

Totality

Panoramic view during totality

Eclipse

O M G

Post-totality

Just after totality

With totality behind us, we hung out in the park for a while longer, still buzzing about what we had just witnessed and watching as the moon slid out of the sun’s way. When it was all over, we packed up and headed for the nearby Dairy Queen where we enjoyed frozen treats and got our first looks at some of the pictures after they’d been transferred to an iPad. We started to kick around ideas for the 2024 eclipse, which included some talk of a ukulele band (Total Ukeclipse?), as well as customized t-shirts and/or hoodies.

Backagain

…and back again!

Around 3:30 pm, we started toward home, Michelle and Friday heading back to Peoria, and the rest of us toward Chicago. Traffic was slow, even on state highways. Google Maps projected a travel time of just under six hours, which we took with a grain of salt. Additional grains of salt were added as traffic continued to crawl. After we’d been on the road for two, three, and then four hours, Google Maps continued to predict that we’d arrive home in around five hours. We remained cheerful, reminding ourselves of what an incredible experience we’d just had. Plus, we got to see some cool lightning and a rainbow on the way home.

Rainbow

So much neat stuff in the sky in one day!

I recall it was still somewhat light out when Matthew, who planned to work on Tuesday, started to joke that we might need to drop him off at work on the way home, as he might not have time to actually go home first. There was the small problem that he was wearing shorts and needed pants to go to work, but several potential solutions were offered: 1) we could stop at a 24-hour pants emporium; 2) I could knit him some pants, which, with the yarn selection I had on hand, would be technicolor dream pants; 3) he could barter for pants at a rest stop.

Around 9:30, Michelle texted to say she and Friday had finally made it home. At the time, we were at a rest stop north of Effingham (as was roughly 2/3 of the state’s population by the looks of it), still more than 250 miles from home. Rachel urged Matthew to consider not going in to work on Tuesday if we got home after midnight.

It was my turn to drive, and for about two hours, we made slow but decent progress. For some stretches, I actually drove at or near the speed limit. Then, around Rantoul, traffic came to a dead stop. We were stuck with nowhere to turn around and no exit for seven miles. Every few minutes, we inched forward a little. Signs told us the left lane was closed 4.5 miles ahead. Reports indicated that this lane closure was supposed to have been suspended in the days surrounding the eclipse, but apparently that had not happened, and there had been no signage in advance to divert traffic to an alternate route on a state highway. However, short time later, when blinding sheets of rain began to roll through the area, I was actually grateful not to be driving more than a few miles per hour.

About two hours later, we finally reached the next exit, stopped to switch drivers, and continued on Highway 45. Some time around 3:30 am, I remarked that Rachel’s previous comment about possibly getting home after midnight seemed like a quaint, distant memory. We finally made it to our house just after 4:30 am, approximately 13 hours after we’d departed. Rachel and Matthew left for their apartment, Matthew having long ago abandoned plans to go to work (with or without pants). As Ian and I collapsed into bed, we mumbled about plans to sic undead flaming bears on the Illinois Department of Transportation.

All that said, it was totally worth it.

 

 

* Eg, John Wayne Gacy: 1) Brian Dennehy portrayed John Wayne Gacy in To Catch a Killer. 2) Brian Dennehy was in First Blood with Sylvester Stallone. 3) Sylvester Stallone was in The Assassins with Julianne Moore. 4) Julianne Moore was in The Hunger Games movies with Donald Sutherland. 5) Donald Sutherland is the father of Kiefer Sutherland. 6) Kiefer Sutherland was in Flatliners with Kevin Bacon.

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Barcelona Wrap-Up: Sky Buckets and Selfies With Jesus August 5, 2017

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday was our last full day in Barcelona, and although I wasn’t looking forward to the end of vacation, I had also been eagerly awaiting this day, as it would mean adding another European Ferris wheel to my collection. We started off breakfast (which included a delicious avocado waffle) at Alsur Café Luria and then headed over to Plaça de Catalunya and inquired at an information where to catch the bus to Tibidabo. The woman in the booth told us the park was closed, and I quickly became crestfallen, thinking I was going to be cheated out of yet another European Ferris wheel opportunity. “Are you sure?” I don’t even remember whether was Rachel or I who said it. “Just the other day, people here told us that the park was open Wednesday through Sunday.”

“Hang on, let me double check.” The woman consulted her colleague in the booth and then her computer. During what seemed like several minutes but was probably more  like 45 seconds, I told myself there were plenty of other awesome things we could do if the park was closed, and I scanned my brain for options—visit the Picasso Museum and the chocolate museum, buy more souvenirs, drink more cava… Finally the woman spoke again. “My mistake. The park is open today.”

I admit that I heaved a sight of relief as she directed us toward the right bus stop, and I briefly wondered if I was a tad too emotionally invested in the idea of riding another Ferris wheel. It was a fleeting thought though, and before long, we were gleefully aboard the bus to Tibidabo. Well, I was grateful. Rachel was somewhat apprehensive. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, she wasn’t super excited about the Ferris wheel as she isn’t terribly keen on heights (a bit ironic for a flight attendant if you think about it), but, being the awesome friend that she is, she’d agreed to ride with me. Actually, I myself am kind of iffy about heights, but my fear is very situation-specific. I stay as far away from the edges of cliff edges as I can, and even steep staircases get my heart racing. However, if I’m enclosed and feel like I can’t easily stumble and/or fall, I tend to feel OK.

When we got to Tibidabo, of course, we headed immediately to the Ferris wheel. It’s a  small  park, and the lines were not long, so in no time we were riding Giradabo, another European Ferris wheel dream finally being realized. After that, we went on a ride call Talaia, which Rachel and I referred to as Sky Bucket. Rachel held on tightly and bravely grinned through gritted teeth as Sky Bucket carried us up almost as high as the statue atop the nearby Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Ferris

At last!

SkyBucket

Sky Bucket

RachelSkyBucket

Rachel is completely at ease on this ride, really.

LizSkyBucket

Selfie with Jesus!

Barcelona

Barcelona from above

We rode the roller coaster and attempted to ride the log ride, but one of the logs got stuck (you might even say there was a log jam!), and it was shut down. We decided that was our cue to stop for some beer and tapas.

BeerFerris

These are a few of my favorite things.

We also rode the carousel and the aerial railway ride. Both were fun, but I couldn’t help but feel that some of the aerial railway experience was lost on us because it included narration that was far behind beyond our poor Spanish comprehension. What I can tell you is that, one point we apparently flew into the sun, which was not as hot as one might think. A short time later, we passed through some sort of laboratory where strange beings were being created and grown. Then a cackling witch popped out of nowhere and startled the bejesus out of us.

Veggies

They grow the veggies big here!

Ants

The ants are also sizable!

WalkonFire

Fire-walkers’ crosswalk?

We also visited the automaton museum at the park, which was cooler and much less creepy than I’d expected. It wasn’t completely without a creepiness factor, though. One of the automatons featured both monkeys and clowns, so Rachel was not the only to face some fears that day. The hell automaton was also a bit creepy but also kinda cool, and the one with ballroom dancing was just comically fast.

Clowns

Kind of terrifying

LizDie

Check me out, I’m on a giant die!

Next, we went to the hall of mirrors, where we donned oversized plastic gloves. They made our hands sweat like crazy, but they prevented fingerprint smudges on the mirrors, which really would have detracted from what as a fun and kind of trippy experience.

IMG_6499

Perhaps my favorite picture of Rachel ever.

MIrrors

I really don’t know where I am anymore.

We made it out of the mirror maze without having to consult Google Maps (not that we would have been any less confused had we done so), rode the Ferris Wheel one more time, and then caught the bus back down to the city. Seated in front of us was an adorable redheaded toddler (and her parents), who began smiling shyly at us and then started making funny faces (which we, of course, reciprocated). After a few pleasant minutes of that, she started to shriek for no apparent reason, and that was what she continued to do for pretty much the rest of the ride.

Once back in the city, we did some more souvenir shopping (my end-of-vacation souvenir panic was starting to manifest) and ate dinner at Vegetalia. In the evening, on the way back to our hotel, we caught the Montjuïc fountain show.

Fountain1

Fountain2

Our voyage home the next day was not quite as smooth as our trip out had been, but not  bad, all things considered. We didn’t get on our first-choice flight (to Atlanta) but got one to New York (JFK) a couple hours later. At JFK, we took a bus to the C terminal where the next flight to Chicago was to depart, but shortly after we arrived there, the gate changed, so we got back on the bus to the B terminal and couldn’t help but notice several emergency vehicles headed toward C terminal. We didn’t get on that first flight, and the next one was supposed to depart from…you guessed it–C terminal! However, it wasn’t due to leave for a few hours, so we decided to hang out at a wine bar in B terminal just in case there was another gate change. There, with a slight wine buzz and some jet lag, we had the somewhat surreal experience of being at JFK while watching the TV news, which featured people at JFK being interviewed about a fire that had broken out at the Panda Express in the C terminal (hence, the emergency vehicles).

Ultimately, we did end up going back to C terminal, and we got on the next flight by the skin of our teeth. In fact, the gate agent, who was non-revving on our flight, told us that he’d agreed to sit in the jump seat so we could get on the flight. We showered him with our sincere thanks, and I even offered him one of my mustache cookies, but he declined.

IMG_6531

Airport snack and source of amusement!

When we arrived in Chicago, it was late and we were pretty exhausted, but we were pleased to find that, not only had our checked bag beaten us home, but it was intact–no wine bottle breakage! ¡Olé!

 

 

Barcelona Day 5, Part 2: July 30, 2017

Filed under: Food,Life tales,Travel,wine — lizardesque @ 8:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

Looking sharp in our new hats, Rachel and I browsed a few more shops in the Gothic Quarter before stopping for lunch at a restaurant called Momo, the name of which, reflected in glass amused me greatly and would actually make a great restaurant name. Omomnom…

OmOm

Noms at Omom?

 

BarcelonaFlower

Panots of the Flor de Barcelona

Full of paella and sangria, we continued in our pursuit of Spanish souvenirs be returning to La Vientinueve, which we had visited during our first day in the city. Since we’d purchased a suitcase to bring home our wine, that meant we also had space for shoes and other items. La Vientinueve has a plethora of adorable dresses, skirts, and accessories, but the shoes are the real stars of this shop–colorful, unique, and made in Barcelona. Rachel tried on one pair and quickly determined those were the ones for her. I had a little more trouble making a decision.

IMG_6532

Do I need to buy another suitcase?

I think I surprised everyone in the store when I finally made up my mind and only bought one pair (along with a dress and some sunglasses). Truth be told, if money and packing real estate had not been concerns, I could have easily gotten about five pairs (*pats self on back for exercising restraint*).

Shoes

These are the ones that came home with me.

We hit a few more shops then headed back to the hotel to drop off our treasures and clean up before our much-anticipated fancy dinner that night at Monvinic. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t quite live up to our expectations. First, in order for one person to do the tasting menu, everyone at the table has to order it (which isn’t unusual, but I’ve never understood why this is the case), and they said they could not do a vegetarian tasting menu. Anyhow, I ordered an asparagus salad and the morel stew. Since I’d asked about vegetarian tasting, the server was nice enough to inform me that the morel stew had veal broth in it, which was not mentioned on the menu (again, not unusual in that regard) but that they could prepare a vegetarian version of it. Great!

One of the purported strengths of this restaurant was the extensive wine list and the sommelier to assist in pairing wine with food. The sommelier came along and first asked if we were thinking of getting a bottle or ordering glasses. We told him glasses, thinking perhaps we could dry a few different things that way. Then he asked if we wanted red or white. I said I liked both and was open to whatever he thought might go best with the food I ordered. “Red or white?” he asked again.

“Well, I guess I probably favor red somewhat, but I’m flexible.”

“Red then,” he said and began scrolling through menus on his iPad. “I would recommend this Tempranillo…”

“Oh…” I said. He’d hit on the one type of red wine I know doesn’t agree with me. I like it just fine, but after a few instances of having one or two glasses of it and being very sick the next day, I’ve learned to avoid it. I laughed and gently explained, but the sommelier seemed to take personal offense at my rejecting his suggestion. He turned again to his iPad and recommended another wine (the type of which escapes me) and I said that would be great. When Rachel asked what the sommelier would recommend with her order, he again seemed shocked and confused that we would want to order different things. Why this should be an odd concept to a sommelier, I have no idea. Ultimately, Rachel just said she’d have the same thing I’d ordered.

The wine, whatever it was, was good. I’ll say that much, even though I had been less than impressed with the process of getting it. My asparagus salad was also excellent. When the main dishes arrived, I was rather put off to see a large fried egg right in the center of my morel stew–another thing that had not been mentioned in the description on the menu–and this one I can fault them for. I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so technically, I eat eggs, but only if I can’t taste them. I’m down with eggs baked into cookies or cakes, but I despise the taste of eggs more than anything else I can think of. I ate around the egg, and the rest of the stew was quite good. I know could have sent it back, and I probably should have, but for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like the bother. We declined looking at the dessert menu, instead deciding to cut our losses and go out in search of gelato and found it at Gelats Dino.

IMG_6428

Gelato!

 

Play

Play in the streets with children!

Not quite ready to call it a night yet, we strolled around with our cones and decided to seek out the Arc de Triomf, which we knew was somewhere in the vicinity. Besides, if I saw one in Barcelona, I knew I’d only need one more to have a collection. Since we’re apparently gluttons for punishment, we consulted Google Maps, which then seemed to  indiscriminately pick directions for us to turn at random times. We literally went in circles until we finally spotted a sign on the street that pointed us in the right direction, and we found the Arc…triumphantly!

Arc

Found it!

 

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 (and Beyond) Day 4: Plan ‘B’ is for Beach July 23, 2017

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 9:55 pm
Tags: , ,

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.

IMG_6363

Sitges

IMG_6380

Spotted in Sitges

We quickly found a beach, rented chairs and an umbrella, and the rest of our day pretty much went like this:

  • Apply sunscreen liberally
  • Laze around under the umbrella, drifting in and out of sleep
  • Have a mojito
  • Go in the water for a while
  • Repeat
IMG_2553

I wasn’t exactly made for the beach, but I do enjoy it on occasion.

We topped off the day with dinner at The Beach House, where my meal consisted of approximately 80% grilled haloumi. I regret nothing!

IMG_6382

I only drink these from now on (not really, but they were really good).

 

I’m Not Sure How This Happens July 20, 2017

Filed under: Life tales,Poetry,Writing — lizardesque @ 12:22 pm
Tags: ,

Not my circus and

Not my monkeys, yet somehow

Often, my problems

 

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.

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Vineyard selfie


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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.

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Lotus flower chips–pretty and delicious!