The Lizard Chronicles

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

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!


Northeast Road Trip Part 5: Seizing the Day and Relaxificationizing July 22, 2015

It was the penultimate day of our trip (and the last one that wouldn’t be taken up almost entirely by driving), and we were ready! The socks I wore said it all.

Hell yes!

Hell yes!

There was a threat of rain that day, but the forecast looked most promising in the morning, so we decided to hike first and beer/wine taste later. Off we went to Watkins Glen State Park, which had been described to us by scores of people as a must see. Indeed. It was stunningly beautiful.


Behind a waterfall

Behind a waterfall

Living (not very) dangerously

Living (not very) dangerously

All that hiking and beauty and nature and stuff made us thirsty, so we went to Wagner Vineyards, which is home to a brewery, a winery, and a cafe–what more could we possibly want? Well, it had a lovely view to boot!

Our view while beer tasting at Wagner

Our view while beer tasting at Wagner

Beer rainbow

Beer rainbow

We tasted beer and wine and then fortified ourselves with lunch so we were ready to move on to our next stop: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. There we encountered some of the friendliest and most entertaining staff members in recent memory. Also, the tasting glasses and many of the wine labels had a cat theme going, so I was sold.

RedcatWe weren’t done yet. We tasted spirits at Finger Lakes Distilling, more wine at Heron Hill, and cider and mead at Earle Estates.

Selfie at Finger Lakes Distilling

We were in good spirits at Finger Lakes Distilling

The choice of discerning herons

The choice of discerning herons

At that point, we considered the day pretty well seized and headed back to the hotel (excuse me, castle!). We strolled around the grounds for a bit and enjoyed the view from the patio as a we watched a rain storm roll in on the other side of the lake.

Neener neener, we're on the dry side!

Neener neener, we’re on the dry side!

To top the day off, I coined a new word: relaxificationizing, to describe the combined effects of wine and a soak in a hot tub.

Diem carped.

The next morning, we ate breakfast under guard of the brave knights at Belhurst before beginning the trip home.

Brave guardian of the buffet

Brave guardian of the buffet

We had plans to visit two wineries on our way out, but between the breakfast and the car ride, I began to doze off and was unable to help navigate. We missed the turn for our first intended destination and didn’t realize it for several miles, at which point, we didn’t feel like turning back. So, we proceeded to the next spot on our agenda: Bully Hill. This delightful place is home to many delicious wines, the labels of which bear the beautiful artwork of the late Walter S. Taylor, who was one of the winery’s founders and, by most descriptions, quite a character. A sign in the tasting room indicated that, after one complimentary tasting, additional tastings were one dollar each, but our friendly server assured us as he poured that he was absolutely not keeping track of how many wines we tried and told us just to leave a few bucks, whatever we thought was appropriate.

Last selfie of the trip!

Last selfie of the trip!

During our travels of the preceding week, we had collected about a case of wine, some beer, several gifts, various other souvenirs (including the all-important rubber duck, Isabella), and a lot of great memories. It was time to head home. The drive was long but mainly uneventful save for a traffic jam outside of Cleveland. Isabella enjoyed the scenery and looked forward to seeing her new home.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound