The Lizard Chronicles

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

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!

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Sky Bucket

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Rachel is completely at ease on this ride, really.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Sitges

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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
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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!

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

 

Ireland in Real Life (IRL IRL) Day 1: Roundabouts, Rock Walls, and Right is Left October 3, 2016

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 12:39 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I find that plane trips are good times to see movies that I probably would never get around to watching otherwise. Thus, as I set off on my long-awaited trip to Ireland, I fired up Purple Rain on the in-flight entertainment system. Somehow, I had managed to live through the eighties without seeing it…except, when I started to watch it, I realized that I had actually seen pretty much the whole thing (minus some nudity and a few points that I guess were collectively considered a plot), as practically the whole movie was contained in various videos by Prince and Morris Day. Even so, I felt good about having filled in one pop cultural blind spot from my childhood.

But never mind that. This post is about Ireland (which is notoriously rainy but not notoriously purple, so I won’t try to sell you that connection since it would be a stretch). My traveling companions (my husband Ian and good friends Michelle and Friday) arrived in Dublin on a Thursday morning. Not fully appreciating how exhausted we would all be from the long flight and the jet lag, we’d planned to set out right away in our rental car to see some sights, eventually making our way to Ballyvaugn, where we would spend two nights.

I was incredibly happy to not have the responsibility of driving. Even being a passenger in a car that drives on the left is weird. My jet lag-addled mind began to overcompensate for the weirdness, completely reversing right and left, such that, when someone told me to  look at some lovely view to my right, I looked left instead. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure  everyone in the car (and the rest of Ireland for that matter) was glad I was not the one behind the wheel. Ian, on the other hand, did a great job staying on the proper side of the road, maneuvering through the seemingly endless series of roundabouts, and navigating the ridiculously narrow roads, avoiding collisions with rock walls on the left and gigantic tour buses on the right.

narrow_roads

Did I mention that the roads are narrow?

Our first stop was the Hill of Tara. As we made our way back toward the car after taking in the views there, a couple walking about 20 feet in front of us stopped, turned around, and began lightly clapping their hands together and calling, “C’mere Friday! C’mon, Friday!” From behind us, a dog came bounding toward the couple. My companions and I all burst out laughing. The couple regarded us curiously, but hen we revealed that there was also a person among us named Friday, they laughed right along with us.

hill-of-tarahill-of-tara2

hill-of-tara-pan

liz_sign_hill_of_tara

I’m not entirely sure this sign is useful.

Next, we headed for Galway, which held the promise a Ferris wheel. I had never actually set out to collect rides on European Ferris wheels, but it somehow became a thing for me. It started with the London Eye, which was  followed by the Wheel of Gothenburg, a Ferris wheel at a traveling carnival in Amsterdam, and the Wiener Riesenrad in Vienna. Hoping to add to my collection, I did a google search before the trip and found a Ferris wheel at a place in Galway called Leisure Land. The website indicated that a large amusement park, which includes a Ferris wheel, operates throughout the summer months. Score!

Apparently, not everyone considers September a summer month (hello, the first three weeks of it are technically still summer!) because we arrived to find that the wheel had been removed for the season at the end of August. Boo!

sept15

We are sad because someone stole the Ferris wheel!

We assuaged our disappointment with food and beer at Olso Bar and then wandered around Galway for a bit.

salthill_promenade

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Another not-so-useful sign.

We left Galway, braved more narrow roads and roundabouts, and at last arrived in Ballyvaughn alive and well.

goat_farm

At last, a useful sign!

After settling in and exploring the grounds of the goat farm where we were staying, we decided that we should buy some beer (and maybe some food, but we’d had a late lunch, so beer was the higher priority). Alas, we arrived at the local grocery store five minutes after it closed. Next, we tried a gas station, only to discover they did not sell beer. Who knew it would be so hard to buy alcoholic beverages in Ireland? Don’t the Irish kind of have a reputation for drinking every now and then? Perhaps my karmic punishment for putting stock in such stereotypes was coming in the form of beerlessness.

ballyvaughn

Searching for beer in the sprawling metropolis of Ballyvaughn

The gas station clerk kindly advised that there was a nearby off-license store (meaning an establishment that sells alcohol for off-premises consumption–hey, I learned something new!) that opened at 7:30. We strolled about Ballyvaughn until the store opened, purchased libations, and headed back to our place for a few drinks, some relaxation, and sweet, sweet sleep.