Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas in so many of you, I could post pictures and memories from the past and they would all have the same wonderful sound.....the color of the season, the big morning smiles, the new pj's and the love of family..... and they grow up and become beautiful young , happy and accomplished.....but they are still excited 4 year olds on Christmas morning.

Ozzie is never far from Nicholas's side........

Santa was most generous .....BUT, somehow, he missed the mark and we didn't find these 'must-haves' under our tree......

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Minor crisis .....

........ around the homestead ....... Considering that we live in the land of sun, ice is one of the basic food groups and to have it just up and go away when you put your glass against the dispenser is cause for concern for one's health. After all, one of us has successfully warded off malaria for years with daily use of tonic and assorted medicinals, gently stirred with ice.
The Scott's generously offered us use of their ice maker and would happily leave the door open to fill the glass at all hours. We considered parking the RV in the driveway and utilizing it's ice maker but in the end, it dawned on us that there was a time BEFORE automation .

Works just fine............................

Meanwhile, the weather is glorious. Near 80, no humidity, no wind, no rain.....hibiscus, bougainvillea, azaleas, day lilys, snapdragons, petunias, roses and of course, bushes of poinsettias. It is a riot of color as we wander out and about in the golf cart.

Sooooo, with that scene in mind, we will pack up the woolies and head west tomorrow

where the radar shows Mother Nature painting a white Christmas. Denver will get between 6-12 inches today and tomorrow will be bright and sunny and white and COLD for our arrival. We can't wait !!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where are the Elves when you need them.........

It's still NOT beginning to look a lot like Christmas around this house. The respiratory bug required intervention and hopefully, it will be waning soon. Didn't I just go thru this in the fall ?? Fortunately, our neighbors have brought out the red and green and the lights and the sparkly trims....and they've gifted us with yummy cookies.

With a new iPhone in the house, it has prompted the resident techy to upgrade various components on the various devices. We now have the new Lion OS on the Mac. And we finally upgraded my phone and the iPad to the newest operating system so now we are on THE CLOUD. And everything kind of flows between all of these devices quite favorite is the iPhoto link which takes my iPhone pictures and shoots them over to the computer without any effort on my part. Before I had to jump thru a few time- consuming hoops to get pictures ready for the blog. Now, they just appear, organized by date. I know there are a lot more important aspects of the upgrades but I only care about the ones I understand.

I love these cute cookies..... Jennifer was the talented baker and sent me the picture but not the cookie....probably
forcing us to travel there in order to try them out. (Jen, put a few in the freezer!)

And now I have to concentrate on kicking this bug because I need to be at my best........ it's only 3 days until TEBOW TIME !!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Well, Paul got a new phone as a reminder of his week in Spain and I got the cold/sore throat bug. Doesn't seem quite equitable.
The phone is fun to interact with. Siri will send emails and texts and send reminders of things you need to do. She seems to understand most anything you can say to her....(quite unlike the voice system on our car). I can see some useful applications for her remarkable abilities but alas, I'm not eligible for an upgrade until April (Birthday gift ??).
Meanwhile, I'm inhaling the Cold-Eze, the water, the Cepacol sore throat lozenges and having some angst about getting everything done. Literally, one minute I was fine, out shopping, spending money, and enjoying my tuna fish sandwich and then ....... I was sneezing, chilling and the throat was raw. I was so diligent about using my hand sanitizer every minute of the trip.....I should have worn a mask.
Sitting here with my hot tea, a pile of Christmas cards, Kleenix and a list a mile long ....I'm wishing I could either get back to a couple of books on the Kindle or begin a new knitting project that I have in mind. I'm the world's best procrastinator but despite feeling like I have cement in my head and flames in my throat, I can't escape the season. Plus, we have a Couple's golf match tomorrow (a neighborhood thing) and the odds of us coming out on top are slim to none.
And next week, we're leaving on a jet plane one more time.........

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Home with most of what we left with......

Loose women didn't seem to be a problem in Barcelona but the pickpockets were true to their reputation. Despite our precautions, they found a vulnerable area and took immediate advantage and P's iPhone has a new home. He noticed it quickly and
we were able to make fast contact with Jon via texting on the iPAD (somehow it can be done without using expensive data) and he was able to disable the phone remotely (did we raise a HACKER?) He also changed some passwords and such very quickly. He thinks they don't want the phone data, just the phone and it is quickly swiped, a new SIM card put in and on the market ASAP. We do have password locks on our phones to slow access somewhat...... We feel very supported by our smart sons and could have gone to anyone of them and they would have accomplished the same thing but we had been discussing with Jon the texting on the iPad so that was our first call for help. We did access the ATT website to try and disable the phone but that was a useless and inexplicably difficult website to deal with and we never did succeed. Maybe a phone call to ATT would have worked but being in another country complicates that access point.
P will now have to replace the phone with the NEW iPhone 4S and will get to have SIRI at his beck and call.... as an aside......I was reading a blog written by a Morman woman and she refers to her husband's iPhone as her "Sister-wife".....!!
Despite the pocket 'snatch and grab' episode, the trip was great. It happened on Thurs evening at the height of the downtown Christmas shopping crowds near the big department store. Think of being in front of Macy's windows in NYC this time of year and this was the throng of crowds we were in...all pushing and squeezing togetherness.
Barcelona is clean, friendly, easy to get around and I didn't see one guy in a BASEBALL cap until we landed in Newark....!
The flight across the pond was over 9 hours. There was one First Class seat available and I know that P was seriously weighing the comfort of that vs. leaving his wife in steerage....he chose the right path. Because the plane was only half full, we got an entire row.....that's 3 seats for each of us with an aisle in the middle......and with lots of blankets and pillows, it made for a nice long nap after a really good lasagna meal. Later, I watched " A Fish Called Wanda"....probably one of the best and funniest movies ever....
And , once we arrived in Newark, we found that Jon was there on his way to Miami......kind of serendipitous that he should be there to see us off and vice versa..... We got to thank him in person for his hacking abilities......
Our flying- standby- luck took a hit a bit later when the full plane left without us but the 8 o'clock flight had a couple of middle row seats and we got home about midnight. (You can always count on the Disney express to have its share of rambunctious children and crying babies).
It is good to be home to the familiar bed, the morning newspaper in English and the K cup coffee maker. It's the little things...............

Thursday, December 8, 2011

All good things have a final day...........

We headed out earlier today for a chance to get an English speaking tour of the Palau de la Musica Catalanya. Completed in 1908 it is a stunning concert hall. Designed by a teacher of Gaudi's it continues the modernistic theme of nature. They did notallow cameras and these two pictures are off the web and just don't begin to capture the magnificence. There are stained glass windows on all sides and this stunning ceiling dominates the interior. It is 3 levels and holds over 2,000 patrons. The columns along the sides are all mosaics and designed to represent trees. The ceiling is covered in large ceramic red and white roses.
During the tour, they turn on the huge pipe organ and it is played via was a thrill and privilege to listen to. Outside, the mosaic columns continue. There is no way to capture
this gorgeous place by camera.......Attending a concert would be on my list for our next visit.

After reluctantly leaving the beauty of that we walked to the nearby Gothic Quarter again and wandered through the Museum of the History of Barcelona. This area of the city was built on top of a Roman city and recent excavation has uncovered the well preserved walls and buildings. They have built see thru walkways over the ruins throughout the museum. No flash was allowed and I did not edit these like I should have.......
The above is the wine making area with large vats and chambers for processing the wine.

The mosaics and columns were quite's just so hard to think that these are from over 2000 years ago and so well preserved.
Above the Roman ruins is this Gothic Chapel built in the 1400's and in the same square as the picture where Columbus returned. And yes Jeff, there were even more people waiting for him today.
We stopped for coffee and chocolate croissants ( so fresh and flaky and sinful) and then walked La Rambla again. Today there were "statues" present......
They stood stone still until a coin was placed in the box and then they would move to the delight of all the children. Don Quixote and his horse would rear up suddenly and the little kids would scream and run. Not sure how long they manage to stay in those positions before they need a bathroom break or a change of position. It was much more crowded on the streets today and many more children of all ages.

We find the Metro so efficient, spotless and easy to use so Paul took this brief video for you to share in the experience. There is an electronic sign giving the time to the next train and we have never waited more than 2 minutes.
We came back to the apt early afternoon to begin the packing and prepare to head home. It has been a great experience and we would come back here in a minute. We have not seen even half of what we expected to accomplish but also have not gone at a break neck pace.....we are old after all !!
We love to just walk the streets and narrow passages and take in the atmosphere. We have felt totally safe, we drink the water, eat the food and just wish we were better tourists and spoke some of the language. As much as I enjoy shopping, the carry-on bags do not allow for any extras. I did pick up a pair of earrings, a scarf and a coffee mug. I DID NOT buy gifts for any of you.!! We hope to make it all the way to Florida tomorrow if we make the right connections.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 5 Barri Gotic

I think that today's wanderings were my favorite. But before I show you where we explored, I have unfinished business..........
I forgot to include this picture from Parc Guell. This is the entrance once you get past the gate houses. The stairs go up to the columns in the market place and the serpentine benches are on top. Behind the greenery in the middle is the tiled lizard, where the crowd is gathered.
This is my cute guide and personal body guard and keeper of the coins.
All over Barcelona, we have seen these red and white bicycles. Apparently, you pick one up, ride it around and return it somewhere else. They are locked in and I'm not sure how you pay for them. But they are very popular and no one wears a helmet. There are bike paths everywhere....a special lane has been added to the major roads and on the walks where we were very careful not to stray .....rollarblades are also very popular on these pathways.
Today we explored Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter) located in the heart of the city. It is a labrinthe of narrow passage ways and medieval buildings (700-1500 AD) and gothic architecture. It was initially the site of a Roman walled city in the 3rd and 4th century. The Portal de l'Angels remain of the original wall. These are right next
to the entrance to the Cathedral of Barcelona in the heart of the Quarter. Built between 1350 and 1448 it is undergoing restoration so more cranes and scaffolding.
This is reputedly the darkest cathedral in Europe and I had to significantly edit the pictures. I tried with flash, without flash and using various adjustments and finally got the best result with the editing tool in iPhoto. It still isn't great quality but I didn't change
the color, just the brightness. The orangey glow was when I used a flash. Located around the perimeter are a couple dozen chapels dedicated to various saints. There are stained glass windows but mostly small
and they don't add much light.

I do like cathedrals altho when I toured Europe with my mother many years ago, they all started looking alike.
Leaving the church, we ambled along rough cobblestones and narrow streets.

There were some lovely shops and little restaurants that called to me. One was all ceramics, apparently a specialty in Spain. The Lladro shop guarantees their work for a year.....against breaking in your luggage ????
The Gothic Quarter was built over a Roman forum and these Corinthian columns were part of the Temple of Augustus built in the 1st century. They are below street level and hard to photograph as they are in a small , tall room. and yes , that is the color of the walls. There were a couple groups of students listening to their instructor but unfortunately, not in English..
Here is the square where Columbus was welcomed back in 1493.
This plaque was midway up a wall and has the date of 1636 inscribed.
Carrer del Bisbe is called one of the prettiest streets in the Quarter. The connecting bridge looks Gothic but was added in 1928.! We reluctantly left this area altho there was much more to see. We really needed some rejuvenation in these old tired bodies and headed out to a Starbucks on La Rambla.
This is not my picture, I copied it from a web site. La Rambla is a long and busy pedestrian boulevard. It is always busy and crowded and lined with vendors of all sorts. I especially liked the flower stalls. During weekends and holidays, it apparently is a colorful place with street musicians, mimes and towering pyramids made up of performers......and home to the professional pick pockets.
Located off La Rambla is La Boqueria, a market just so colorful and amazing and filled with every imaginable food.
It was busy but not mobbed as it seems to be. There are stands of cheese, mushrooms, fish (of indescribable shapes and sizes...not all so appealing) , many meat stands filled with unrecognizable animal parts and some very the small head WITH eyes and cow faces.....I would have taken a picture because it really was a blog worthy moment but I couldn't bear to look after the first glance. This was the egg stand. These are ostrich, emu and assorted large and small eggs. Who knew that eggs didn't need to be refrigerated ? We saw them on the shelves at the supermarket also.
I loved the fruit stands best of all.....the color was brilliant and each was prettier than the next. We did stop at a bread stand for a baguette but otherwise, didn't buy the pastries, nor any fruit and especially no cow faces.................. It was a good day, just like the previous ones in this beautiful city.
PS: All of these photos were taken with either a very expensive camera or an iPhone.....and no, I can't tell the difference either.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 4 Parc Guell

Probably the 2nd most popular site in Barcelona is Parc Guell (the l ls are pronounced as a y it is something like Gway..... We took the Turista bus to the stop near by and then hiked up 6 steep blocks or so to the entrance. There is no charge to enter but a small museum does have a charge. Gaudi was commissioned by the Guell family to design a hillside garden community built over a covered market. Only two houses were ever built, one of which Gaudi lived in. This is one of two guard houses at the entrance. They have a gingerbread house appearance.
This was an exquisite fence with a look of palm designs. All of his work is very organic and nature oriented.
The picture is not crooked. I don't know what this passageway is but it was very different. The child is sitting in a small nitch in the wall, one of several spaced along the way.
Near the top is a lovely view of the city. (Click to enlarge) On the left you can see the towers of the Sagrada Familia. On the far right is the W hotel along the waterfront of the Mediterranean.
There are many many noisy green parakeets in the trees....I actually took a better picture than this but it was very very slow posting these pictures and I didn't have the patience to redo it.
This was an open snack bar area. We stopped for a refreshment and to enjoy the music from some nearby musicians.....and were unable to avoid the young couple at the next table, devouring each others faces......
These tiles were along a walkway....they are similar to the ones downtown that line the streets and are designed by Gaudi.
One of the most distinctive feature of the area above the columns that are in the market, is the serpentine tiled benches.
They are covered with beautiful broken is not really a mosaic as they do not form a picture. They broke up tiles of color for the top and white for the base. It is just so imaginative and gorgeous. And when you sit, the brown line feels like a lumbar support and it's very comfortable....but a bit cool this time of year.
A close up of one area of the bench...,I have many many pictures of the details.
This was to be the market below the benches. On the ceiling are more tiles and the large colored circles are detailed mosaics of various organic shapes. Amazing.....and so beautiful.
Along the stairs near the entree is this tiled lizard. It is an iconic design, reproduced
everywhere. It was impossible to get a picture of it as everyone wanted a picture of themselves near it. I gave up and chose to take a picture of the most attractive person I saw waiting for her chance.
These broken tiles were a bit different. It looks like they took a tile, broke it up in pieces and then replaced it in its original form.

The other gate house at the entrance with the fanciful tower beside it. The entire park was quite large and paths descended upwards into a heavily treed area. I can see where it would be a nice respite from the hot summer Spanish sun.
Here is another Gaudi building in downtown. It is supposed to be quite spectacular inside as well but they wanted about $25 for a peek and we decided that we'd seen quite enough for the moment. By the way, Gaudi lived to be 74 and died in 1926 when he was run over by a tram. He laid in the street for hours as it was thought he was a beggar. By the time he was taken to a hospital, it was too late.
We have Christmas decorations on our street. The door to our apt. is on the right. We were worn out from our long day and chose to take the easy route for dinner and walk over a couple blocks to the Mexican restaurant again. We were the only ones there......we were told that most won't come for dinner until 8 or so....except that older people come earlier.! Our waitress ..Anna, and the entire staff, is from Mexico. They remind us that they serve authentic Mexican food, not Tex-Mex. They all speak perfect English and we had great fun with them. As we were finishing, two young families did come in but it was nice to have private dining while it lasted. We said we'd be back before we left. It is really good food and so convenient.
The city seems young.....Anna said that the older people tend to stay home or live in the hilly part of the city, which is more exclusive. There are 8 universities and we heard many languages on the street. We also heard familiar southern accents and more obvious American students. A popular fashion statement seems to be leggings or sheer stockings with very short skirts or shorts and boots. Boots and scarfs are definitely the most popular accessory for all ages. Not very many blondes around. I haven't seen any french manicures. IPhones and Blackberry's are common. Backpacks are ubiquitous among the young and old. Smoking is more common than I expected. I've seen a couple of chubby people but they did not look Spanish. I"m not really hung up on the thin or has just been very obvious. Compared to the crowds at Disney, this place is positively anorexic.
Time to call it a night. Tomorrow is La Rambla ......