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
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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.


At last!


Sky Bucket


Rachel is completely at ease on this ride, really.


Selfie with Jesus!


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.


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.


They grow the veggies big here!


The ants are also sizable!


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.


Kind of terrifying


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.


Perhaps my favorite picture of Rachel ever.


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.



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.


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
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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…


Noms at Omom?



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.


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*).


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.





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!


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
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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.


I believe this was known as Gaudí’s Gingerbread Period


Ceiling selfie


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!


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.


The view when we arrived in Montserrat


Wall of fog


Stairway to ???

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


Basilica atrium


Shrine candles


I love everything about this.


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.


Vineyard selfie


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.


Lotus flower chips–pretty and delicious!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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 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.


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


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.


Nativity facade of La Sagrada Familia


LSF exterior detail


LSF columns


LSF interior


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


Two of the towers of LSF


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.


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.


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!


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.




Barcelona Day 1: Jet-lagged and Jumpy but Jovial July 14, 2017

Filed under: Life tales,photography,Travel — lizardesque @ 3:43 pm
Tags: , ,

Neither Rachel nor I had managed to sleep more than an hour or so on the 8-ish hour flight, so by the time we arrived in Barcelona on Friday morning, we were somewhat bleary-eyed and dazed but excited. After all, our vacation was officially under way!

Our first task was getting from the airport to our hotel, which seemed like a simple enough prospect. In an effort to be thrifty and save our money for important things like cava, we eschewed the idea of taking a cab and set our sights on public transit. We located the bank of machines in the airport that sold transit passes and gazed at them for a few beats in our sleep-deprived haze before I announced that I was sure I’d read something in my guide book the various available passes. We pulled our suitcases off to the side so as not to block the machines while I unearthed my guide book (score 1 point for self awareness in public spaces!).

At first, I just partially unzipped my suitcase and felt around for the book, certain that I had put it right on top so it would be easily accessible, but it managed to elude me, so I fully unzipped the case and continued to feel around. The guide had to be somewhere near the top! Then again, things might have shifted in transit. I rooted around a while longer, pushing stuff out of the way, groping for the book. WTF? It had to be in there! I’m a little obsessive about packing. I make lists of the lists I need to make, then I check all the lists at least three times. I would not forget my guide book.


I was nothing if not prepared for this trip!

At that point, I decided to take a more systematic approach to my search, and I proceeded to unpack most of my bag, piling its contents on the top flap, but still finding no guide book. Then I remembered the front exterior pocket of my suitcase. I unceremoniously swept my clothes and sundries back into the main compartment, flipped the flap closed, and unzipped the front pocket. The book was there. Naturally! I had put it there for the easiest of access! “Of course!” I exclaimed. “I’m smart…except when I’m really dumb!”

I consulted the guide book, only to find it didn’t actually contain the information I sought —I must have read it elsewhere. Ultimately, we theorized that a 5-day transit pass would probably serve our needs, and although it took four tries on two different machines, we bought the passes. Never mind that a short time later, we discovered that those passes actually didn’t work for the bus from the airport to the hotel. No matter—we made it to the hotel, and our room was even ready for us despite our early arrival. This meant we could rest our weary bones by taking a little nap (a siesta perhaps?) and clean up before exploring the city.


La Gamba


El Cap de Barcelona

Once refreshed, we got a bite to eat at La Cerería and then wandered around, somewhat aimlessly, taking in some sights and trying to push through our jet-lag. We browsed a few shops and perused the offerings at a local art fair…OK, fine, I actually plunged in headlong and got a jump on my souvenir shopping. Next, we visited Le Pop Cocktail Bar for some extremely pretty and very tasty drinks, one of which was my first-ever cocktail to contain Pop Rocks. After drinks, we set out to find and take selfies with Botero’s cat.


Fairy Forest


Candy Crush



Still coherent enough to find a giant bronze cat!

By then, darkness was starting to fall, and because the next day was the festival of Saint John the Baptist, we were soon surrounded by the sights and sounds of amateur fireworks. My normally kitten-like nerves and my jet-lag haze combined to make me even jumpier than usual. Each time a bang or pop sounded, I practically leaped out of my skin. Meanwhile, Rachel sprang forth as if to shield me from (nonexistent) gunfire. I would later provide her with bandages for her blisters, so I like to think we each exhibited some maternal instincts in our own way. Pleasantly exhausted, we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel.


Vacation Prologue July 10, 2017

Filed under: Life tales,Travel — lizardesque @ 10:07 pm
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Greek Getaway

Spanish Sojourn…Probably

A while ago, I got a text from my friend Rachel asking if I wanted to do something crazy with her. My initial thought was Yes! but I figured it might be best  to ask for a few more details before responding in the affirmative, lest I unwittingly commit to wrestling alligators in banana pudding while wearing hot pink lederhosen–not that was a likely scenario, but still…

Turned out, the aforementioned something crazy was a trip to Greece. Yes! I wanted to do that!

This would be my first experience with what is known in the lingo of the airline industry as nonrev travel (short for nonrevenue travel), using a buddy pass, and traveling on standby. Rachel, who had been nonrevving for a while, assured me she would try to make it as painless for me as possible. So, one Saturday afternoon a few weeks later, we sat down on my couch to work out the details regarding flight and lodging options while our husbands sat in the kitchen drinking beer and discussing viable substitutes for quince jam in mixology.

Rachel started to seem nervous as she looked at flight loads and option, which, in turn made me more than a little on edge. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel, and by love to travel, I mean that I like to be in a lot of different places. The actual travel (as in the getting from here to there) part, I’d just as soon do without. In fact, if teleportation were safe and economical, I’d be all over it (so, if someone out there could get on that, I’d really appreciate it). Anyhow, it happened that Rachel and I had discussed going to Barcelona a while back, but that had never come to pass, so we considered it again. Both the number of available options and the flight loads looked better for Barcelona than for Athens. Barcelona offered two other bonuses: a Ferris wheel and an opportunity to use the Spanish I took in high school. So, after little debate, we decided. Barcelona it was! We celebrated with buttermilk margaritas* sans quince jam.

About a week before our departure date, Rachel let me know that our first-choice flight, although not oversold, had few seats left and that we might need to come up with a backup plan. I had known this might happen and that flying standby meant that we might get to Barcelona in a roundabout, seemingly nonsensical, way, later than we’d planned.



In the next text, Rachel asked if I’d ever been to Brussels. Again, I figured this might be part of a hypothetical weird hop to get to Spain. It was suboptimal, but no big deal. I congratulated myself for non panicking.

Several hours later, I got a text saying that flights to Santiago were wide open.


I really didn’t want to be a pain or look a budy-pass gift horse in the mouth, but my anxiety was starting to mount. Erm, should I be nervous? I texted back. Nervous? Nah, ready for adventure! Besides, Chile is a Spanish-speaking country with vineyards, so it’s practically the same thing as Barcelona…except that I’d spent weeks mulling over my packing plan for taking only a carry-on bag and the fact that it was winter in Chile would throw a big old wrench in all of that.

But hurrah! Flight loads to Madrid didn’t look bad, so we decide that would be our backup plan, and, if needed, we’d get from Madrid to Barcelona via train or other means.

When departure day finally arrived, Rachel and I met at the airport bright an early and  got onto a flight Atlanta without an problem, but really, that was the easy part. We waited in the Atlanta airport, watching as we moved down, down, up, and then down again on the list of standby passengers for Barcelona while also keeping an eye on the list for Madrid. For a time, things looked somewhat grim, and we found ourselves in front of the Departures monitors, looking to see where else Delta flies that might constitute an option for eventually getting ourselves to Barcelona. Paris didn’t look good, nor did London, Amsterdam, Rome, or Milan. Dublin looked like a possibility, but getting from there to Barcelona presented another set of difficulties that I won’t even go into here.

I was anxious, for sure, but I was not hyperventilating, nor was I doubled over with stress-induced stomach pains, so I was actually pretty impressed with myself for being pretty chill (for me). I told myself that however and whenever we got there, it would be an adventure and kept my fingers crossed that our current positions on the Barcelona standby list would hold. In the end, they did. We didn’t get seats together, and we were in the last and second-to-last rows of coach, but we got on that plane before its wheels went up and it it headed toward Barcelona! ¡Olé!


* Earlier that week, as a joke, I’d suggested we look up cocktails that contain buttermilk so we could use the buttermilk that was remaining after my last batch of waffles. Ian took this as a personal challenge and found this recipe. I was not expecting to like it at all, but it was surprisingly decent.