Sunday, July 31, 2011


We managed to find our Hotel/BB in London, with a minimum of difficulty. It is located on a quiet little street called Cartwright Crescent which is reminiscent of Mary Poppins. We had to cart the cases up three flights of narrow stairs to the third floor room which was surprisingly large with an ensuite bathroom. Furnishings were plain but clean and comfortable.

I never have very high expectations when I come to London and this visit lived up to my usual notions. Perhaps it is just my negative attitude and my past experiences, but I tend to become agitated and tense in London. It could be the massive congestion, the overpriced cost of everything, the somewhat confusing underground, the inability to get a pint in the pub, or the superior tone of the londoners which I have conversed with or a combination of all of these.

We took a drive around the major sites on a tour bus and then tried to join a pub walk but we abandoned the group when we waited a good twenty minutes in the first stop without getting served. The tour bus, which was £26 a person, stopped running at 5pm so this forced us to take the underground (£4 for one ticket!). The tube in London is not nearly as easy to use as the metro in Paris. The lines have cute names like Picadilly, Northern, and Metropolitan or are referred to by colours. Unlike Paris, there are no free maps to assist tourists. As you await your train a disembodied voice rambles incoherently about cancellations, detours, and maybe even dead bodies on the is really impossible to tell because you can't understand a word that is being said and you just hope like hell that the announcement doesn't
involve your trip!

We also rented bikes in London (cheap at £1) but since the streets of London are a nightmare to navigate, this also proved to be a bit frustrating. Street names do not remain consistent and can change for no particular reason; two way streets suddenly become one way; double decker busses and black cabs whiz by within inches of the bikes; and it is impossible to ride on the sidewalk due to the hoards of people. My efforts to ask directions were usually met with blank looks and a shake of the head. The countries in which the native populace did not speak English had much more helpful people than the Anglos of London ... You would have thought I was speaking mandarin from the responses I received!

A highlight of our stop was a visit to the local near where we were staying. Here we met up with Marios, from Transalvania, Jennifer, a US expatriate, Frank, an English hippie/artist, and a French fellow. We shared a few pints with this group and exchanged different view points on life in general. Good times!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Cruise, Rome and Tuscany

I really do need to back up a bit and write a little about our cruise experience and our stops in Italy. My lack of postings during that week are an indication of the lack of wifi and the breakneck speed at which we were visiting places.

On our first night aboard we joined the group I had been conversing with on Cruise Critic. This was a great way of "pre meeting" some of the people on the cruise. I was lucky enough to strike up a conversation with Richard Lyons. I was asking Richard about his plans for Rome because I remembered reading on Cruise Critic, that like Chris and I, Richard and his group we're going to go into Rome from the port of Ciavvechia by train and seeing the sites on their own. Unlike us, Richard was very well prepared and armed with not only months of research and planning, but with his friend Derrick, who had lived in Rome for a brief time while working their. Richard very generously offered to let Chris and I tag along with them.

Our travel companions in Rome and Tuscany! 
Many thanks to Sheils, Derrick, Margaret and Richard!

Meeting Richard, his wife Margaret, Derrick and his wife Sheila has been one of the best experiences of our trip. Both these couples made us very welcome as we made ourselves part of their group. We were able to visit all of the great sites in Rome while enjoying an informative commentary by Derrick. We visited the Coliseum first, followed by the Roman forum, then the Parthenon, the Spanish steps (bought a Prada purse here), the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican, the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel and finally the basilica. Derrick whizzed us around the streets with great confidence. He also showed us where he stayed, next to the Parthenon, while working on the movie Ocean's 12. We had a fabulous day in Rome but needless to say, we were pretty exhausted!

This did not stop Chris and I from having a few drinks that night at the disco and then listening to some karaoke. We needed a few drinks after listening to some of the singers...

The next day was our stop at the port of Livorno from which you could visit Florence or Pisa or just take in other parts of Tuscany. Unfortunately, the trains and busses, our preferred mode of transportation, was on strike when we arrived, but fortunately our companions of the previous day had decided to get a rental and asked if we would like to join them again. Derrick drove as we made our way to a smaller place by the name of Lucca. This was a charming medieval town which was not quite as crowded as the usual touristy spots. On the way back we stopped at Pisa and had a very nice walk around. Both Chris and I were very impressed with Pisa...originally we had not planned to visit this as I thought it was a bit gimmicky but I'm really glad we did now. I managed to buy a bees suitcase for €20 and Chris picked up a "genuine" Brestling aviation watch for €15 after talking the guy down from €85.

Derrick, Sheila, Richard, and Margaret were, once again terrific company. These four long time friends are from California but Derrick and Sheila we're originally from England. Perhaps one day Chris and I will be able to take Margaret up on her offer to come and visit them!


Well we are now on the Eurostar, the high speed train that will take us through the Chunnel to London. I am quite impressed with our ability to navigate the Gare North train station in Paris and our success at making all of our travel destinations without stressing out or killing one another.

Yesterday we visited the Palace of Versailles. This is the ridiculously ostentatious abode of the Sun King himself, Louis XIV. Louis built this little get away to escape the crowds of Paris and to have greater control over his nobility. It was also the last home of his great great grandson Louis XVII and his wife Marie Antoinette, who both became a head shorter after being carted away from the palace by an unhappy crowd of peasants. Off to the guillotine in Concorde Square in the middle of Paris for this hapless pair! Marie is somewhat famous for supposedly having said, "Let them eat cake!" when told that the populace of Paris were starving because of the high cost of bread. I had always wondered why she would tell them to eat a nice black forest or angel food cake if they couldn't even manage to get bread but I have learned something on this trip. Cake is the black crap on the inside of the baker's oven...finally the expression makes sense!

Back to Versailles...

Although the palace itself, with all of the gilded gold is remarkable, Chris and I both thought the the most impressive part of this excursion was the gardens surrounding the buildings. The manicured bushes, trees and flower garden stretch for miles and are littered with fountains, roman type arches, Greek statues and paths. There is even a man made canal which stretches for a full mile down the expanse of the gardens. Chris and I rented bikes and had a great ride around the place. A few things to know for anyone who is going to visit Versailles:

1. do not purchase tickets from the people at the train station...they are €2 more
2. the gardens are the best part and they are free...just walk in
3. if you want to go into the palace buy the €15 pass (the €18 pass includes the smaller Antoinette estate)

Versailles is about 10 miles from the centre of Paris but the train system is so efficient it is really easy to reach. Urban Paris has a series of train lines which are numbered and the outlying areas such as Versailles, are reached by the RER routes which are identified by letters. Total round trip cost is about €6,20!

Chris and I met two women while waiting for one metro line. They were Americans and were overjoyed to hear people speaking English. It seems they felt that, as Americans, they were not being treated very nicely by the French, and sure enough a rough looking french national walked by and sneered at them openly (I guess Chris and I don't look American). One of the women expressed the opinion that the French should really treat them better as "We (meaning the Americans I assume) saved them (meaning the french I assume)". If she was referring to WWII, then I think maybe she really is pushing the whole gratitude thing and for that matter....who did she think had been fighting the nazis for three years before the US decided that it might be in their own best interests to join the effort. In any case, I digress...I did help the women out by giving them a couple of Canadian pins so that they could disguise themselves and perhaps be treated better! They were thrilled and proudly pinned them on. We were so engrossed in making sure that our new American friends were well camouflaged, that Chris and I missed our stop and had to double back, but being metro experts at this point, this was not a problem.

Unfortunately we were running low on tickets. Chris had been checking things out however, and figured out that if you were quick, and walked right up against the preceding traveller, you could both make it through the turnstile on one ticket. Chris made it through one spot but I was still stuck on the other side without a ticket. Luckily, a sketchy looking fellow motioned for me to get behind the guy in the turnstile and he then swiped his pass while I went through with his buddy ahead of me. Chris and I are traveling the metro like native Parisians now!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Around Paris

On the first full day in Paris Chris and I managed to have a nice little lie in. We have been pounding the pavement and hitting all of the sights at a breakneck speed for two weeks now so Paris was just going to have to wait. Our breakfast consisted of croissants, baguette, tea and coffee...not exactly the Egg and I special but as they say, "When in Rome..."

As I said earlier, we had a bit of a false start because the batteries on our cameras gave out and we came back to our B and B where we had lunch and a bit of a snooze. We left for a look around the city at about 3, well rested and fed. We headed for Notre Dame where we had to put up with huge crowds and then we went for a nice little stroll on the left bank and through the Latin District. We managed to stumble upon a crepiere that was recommended to us by a dinner partner on the cruise. It was owned by the woman's god daughter. We shared a couple of crepes. Yummy! Typical Parisienne cuisine! Large crowds in this "old" part of Paris. We have now seen so much gothic architecture and so many cathedrals dating from the 1200's or so, that everything is becoming a bit of a blur!

Luckily we came across this bike rental station and decided we needed to step up the pace. With the help of some very kind people we figured out the whole machine thing and how to get the bikes out of their locks and we were off and biking. Paris is great for bike lanes but the traffic in this city of eleven million can be a bit frightening. We rode along the left bank of the Seine, which is the river dividing Paris, towards the Eiffel Tower. We rode around the tower and through the park then headed off along the Seine on the right bank passing some beautiful bridges and buildings until we reached the Louvre. We kept riding until it was dark and then we had to search for a place to return the bikes...not exactly easy. Each bike return we came across was full. At about the sixth place we found one spot, not two. This was getting a bit frustrating and we were beginning to think we would be keeping the damn bikes, riding them back to the B and B and maybe bringing them home as souvenirs, when we managed to score two spots. Bike riding in Paris has definitely been a highlight!

The other highlight has definitely been riding the metro. After 24 hours in this city, both Chris and I feel like pros and look pityingly on those new arrivals studying the big maps at the entrances with confusion. We feel so confident that we are thinking we should use a French accent and begin helping other tourists. Seriously, the metro is an amazing thing to those of us that don't have it in our home towns. These underground tunnel systems are very quick and amazingly simple to navigate. They can be frightening...crackheads, pickpockets; entertaining...gypsies with their portable music systems serenading and playing musical instruments; claustrophobic, on one ride, I swear that if someone died they would still be standing since we were wedged tighter than sardines in a can; and definitely efficient. I love going underground at one point in the city, transferring between trains, reading the maps, and popping up in a completely different spot. Like I said, this would not seem too thrilling to those who live in mega metropolitan areas where this is a regular method of transport, but for someone who only travels by car (even when I go around the corner to the Hasty Mart) it is pretty cool!

Picked up another couple bottles of vino, for €2,85 (gotta love Europe just for the wine prices!), and headed back to our room. Tomorrow Versailles!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


So we managed to take the metro to our little, and I stress little, bed and breakfast which is in the Monmartre area of Paris. This is what is called the "artsy" district which contains many cabaret type places, cares, and the red light district ( go figure)! Our b and b is call l'Ermitage and is quite the hike from the closest metro, all up hill! We are within steps of the Sacre Couer, which is a very impressive church on top of a hill which supposedly has the best views of Paris.

Our room is small, dark, and decorated with flowers all over the room. There is a small but comfortable double bed, a small table and an ensuite bathroom which boasts the smallest little bathtub we've ever seen. The halls a dark and reminiscent of The 18th century. Some would call this place quaint but I'm thinking it is a bit dreary. The view is nice!

We headed out for a walk as soon as we arrived and as we headed up a woman drinking a beer at a little cafe table asked us what was below. We explained that we had just arrived and were looking for a place to eat and a beer. We entered the establishment but as the woman we were speaking to began arguing with the manager who wanted to charge €8 for a skinny little glass of wine, we made our way out in search of a more economical drinking establishment. A few doors down was a little store with tables. He was selling large cans of Heineken for €2,50! We bought three and called to the woman who was now finished yelling and was heading down the street. We ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out with Violet, from San Fransisco. Violet has been to Paris numerous times and is here for a five week visit with her daughter. We walked around Monmartre and found the moulin rouge then stopped for another beer and vino. We had a terrific time just orientating ourselves.

We headed back to our room for the night at about midnight leaving Violet in the thick of things.

This morning we headed out late and visited the Arc de Triumph before taking a stroll down the Champs Élysées. Chris stopped at all of the high end car dealerships and at Mikky D's for a genuine Parisienne cafè! (by the way, a large is barely a small by our standards)

We were forced to return to our room when the batteries on both our cameras gave out so we picked up a baguette, some cold meat, cheese, fruit and a couple of bottles of vino to have a picnic in our room. We are now heading out to Notre Dame, the Latin district and then to take in the Eiffel Tower at night! Bon soir!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Train Ride

Chris and I are enjoying our train ride in first class. We have had several glasses of wine and some tasty little smoked salmon sandwiches as we make plans for Paris and talk about Amsterdam. After our visit to the show in the red light district, Chris is thinking of quitting Dofasco and pursuing a career in Amsterdam as a live sex show performer. Good luck Chris!

As we passed through Belgium, Chris said, "I guess this is where they make cookies."

"Yep", I replied, "It is the backbone of their economy!"

....more later

Leaving Amsterdam

We have just boarded a high speed train called the Thalys which is taking us to Paris via Brussels.

What can I say about our short visit to Amsterdam. We visited the Anne frank museum which was very interesting after having read the books and seen the movies. It was definitely worth a visit but I am very relieved that we purchased our tickets ahead of time so that we could go right in because the line up must have been at least 2 hours long.

Amsterdam is a small city, geographically speaking with a population of about 700,000. It is situated on the north sea and is divided by an intricate canal system which form half circles from the central train station and port. We took a short canal cruise (my choice) and were able to see some amazing architecture dating back 5 and six hundred years. The canals and bridges are quite a site but the fact that they seem to be used as a very handy garbage can really detracts...cans, bottles and rubbish can be seen floating along wherever you look!

We walked along the small streets for quite a while. Since our stay was short we were mainly in the touristy area around the famous red light district. Here you will find tourists....lots of tourists...."coffee houses" with the familiar sweet smell of cannabis wafting from the doorways, tourist shops with inflated prices for umbrellas with a cannabis leaf, t shirts, plastic knickknacks such as windmills, ashtrays....and other "typical" dutch items.

Since we were in Amsterdam and wished to take in the full cultural experience we strolled down the red light district. It was smaller than I expected with one after another red lighted windows with girls scantilly dressed in florescent bikinis trying to entice the passerbys. Most people strolling along seemed to be people such as ourselves out for a look- tour groups, couples - rather than serious customers. Some of the girls seemed quite young to girl opened her door and I asked her how old she was...she replied, "twenty one," but when I said, "Do you have to say that?" she nodded. The girls do look healthy and clean ... Not your typical Emerald street hooker types!

Wanting ton take in the full cultural experience, Chris and I decided to attend a show. Surprisingly the line to attend was filled with couples, ranging from their twenties right up to their eighties, and tour groups. I really can't say I saw any leering men in trench coats. The show itself is advertised as "tasteful" and I suppose as far as sex shows go it was but since I've never been to any others I really am not an expert. The performance occurs on a stage with theaters type seating. There are a variety of acts with some audience participation. Some of it was light hearted and humourous but other parts, although I won't go in to detail, could make you squirm if you are not used to this kind of thing. It was an experience and I'm pretty sure Chris enjoyed this particular cultural experience.

The primary mode of transport in Amsterdam is by bicycle. There are literally bikes everywhere. Bikes line the roads, literally piled on top of one and other. Some look like sturdy vehicles in steady use but others look as if they have been in the same spot for months with rusted chains and broken parts. Carmelos, the owner of the B and B which we stayed at told as that abandoned bikes are regularly tagged and taken away but judging by the number we saw, I think someone is not fulfilling the duties of his job!

Amsterdam is definitely a breeze to walk around or see by bike or tram. There are hardly any cars and once you get a feel for the general layout of the city it is quite easy. There are plenty of places to stay in the city centre but it is relatively pricy. We stayed in a bed and breakfast with a comfortable, large room and shared bath. It had a very,very steep winding staircase which you pretty much had to crawl up and I would definitely not want to come down, after imbibing in a few drinks! The BB was a bit odd as there was no central living area or breakfast room. We were given coupons to eat at a greasy spoon down the road! The manager eras helpful however, and the room served it's purpose.

We are now well rested, enjoying a glass of vino as we travel towards Paris where we will have a bit of a break from this whirlwind pace as we will have three nights there!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


As you can see, I'm having a few issues with using my iPad to upload images. I will keep working on it but this is why I decided to use the iPad on this trip...force myself to learn!

Just pictures!

Just a quick note

Chris and I are in Amsterdam now. I haven't had a chance to write much of anything because for the last five days or so it has been non stop sightseeing! What a has been amazing and the stops on the cruise were phenomenal. We haven't had wifi and I have been so tired every night that I haven't been able to write. We have met some fabulous people along the way and have new friends from California...I will give more details later...

Amsterdam is very cold and rainy but that hasn't stopped Chris and I from having a fabulous time...

I am uploading a few pics until I have more time to write...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Sunday July 17

Sightseeing in Spain

When two people travel together there is always an adjustment period as each gets used to the others particular habits and quirks. Although Chris and I have been for week long all inclusive vacations to Cuba and on a few skiing vacations, an extended sightseeing tour like this can be stressful. We each have a bit of a different style while traveling. I like to wake up early and get going with a laid out itinerary, which I may or may not deviate from. Chris likes to wake up in a leisurely manner and if he wants to sleep in after a late night he is fine with not sticking to a schedule. In fact he really doesn't need a schedule at all. While walking around a new city I like to have a good pre knowledge of where I'm going and I like to move quickly through crowds so I will "dodge and weave" as necessary. This bothers Chris so my solution is to let him take the lead now. This seems to eradicate the problem of him running into me. I can also be impatient and once I know where I'm going then I like to get moving. I usually have a pretty good sense of direction and can read a map quite quickly. Chris doesn't really trust my instincts and wants to study the maps until he is fully confident. This can take a while since he seldom has his glasses with him and, although he has many wonderful qualities, an innate navigational system is not one of them. Both Chris and I are learning to be more patient.

We had planned on taking the Barcelona tour bus which is a pretty good deal at €23 per person for an entire day of hop on hop off touring with commentary, but Chris opted for a lie in so I spent the morning catching up on blogs and my courses then when he woke and had breakfast we took the metro to Parc Guell. The metro is an extremely economical mode of transport in Spain. Once we got off the metro we had a short walk but then a huge uphill excursion to the top of the park. Thank goodness the powers that be realized that this uphill battle would discourage many potential visitors and so they have installed a series of wonderful outdoor escalators! The park is actually the site of an estate commissioned by a Lord Guell at the end of the nineteenth century. He enlisted the help of his good friend Gaudi and they spent several years constructing this magnificent example of this national icons work. As happens with these grand schemes,the money ran out, Guell lost everything and the project was abandoned. The Spanish government eventually took things over and the site became a national park. It really is a phenomenal site. We entered from the back but you can enter from the front where you see two guard houses which remind me of Brams fairy tales or even Lord of the Ring type dwellings. There are then grand staircases with a mosaic dragon, that lead to a columned portico in which there are numerous ornate mosaic designs. On either side there are staircases which lead to a huge plaza area encircled by an amazing bench decorated with broken tile pieces. Parc Guell really is quite spectacular.

The Carnival Magic

Once we were back at the hotel after our little excursion, we took a taxi to the port to begin our cruise. The hotel clerk told us it shouldn't cost more then €10. The ride was short but there was "mucho traffic". (Apparently in Spanish if you put a o at the end of everything english you are good to go!) I kept my eye on the meter as I really don't trust taxi drivers, especially after an unfortunate iPhone incident. The met had read €11.85 but as we came to a stop the driver made some very quick hand movements and the next hinge you know the meter reads €25.85. I quickly said no it was €11.85 and that was what we would be paying. The driver began yelling and pointing at a sign about baggage costs and a port supplement, of course this was in Spanish. Chris began taking the bags out of the trunk and told me to just give him €5. Since I only had a twenty, and I did want to be fair I told the guy he was getting €14.85 - the metered fare plus three euros for three bags. He was beginning to yell, in Spanish, for the police and Chris was yelling for me to give him five and leave. Finally Chris realized I didn't have the correct change so he handed me a ten. I thrust it into the taxi cab drivers hand and ran over to help Chris with the bags. The driver ran over to a male and female police officer and pointed at us leaving. We decided to be prudent and not try to escape the justice system of Spain as this might just interfere with our well laid out travel arrangements! I think the police spoke some English because as the driver yelled about port and bag supplements, I was able to interject the fee that appeared on the meter. The police then said something rapidly to the driver. As they tush ok there heads and began an heated exchange I could tell the upstanding law enforcement of Barcelona was on our side. We knew not to push our luck so I made motions and asked if we were free to go. The officer nodded and we scooted away as quickly as possible!

Our adrenaline pumping we headed for the check in line. We have only packed the smaller traveling cases so we could avoid checking in but unfortunately the pulling handle on mine broke the previous evening so I babies that along with my backpack and Chris took his case, duffel bag and our sac of permitted booze (2 bottles of wine, 12 cokes, some water....well 3 bottles of wine....what rebels...well all that plus the two very large bottles of listerene refilled with rye! It ended up being the easiest check in ever and they really didn't seem to care at all about how much bevy you have!

The ship is massive as we expected. The Carnival Magic is the newest ship but, to me it is pretty much identical to the ship I took several years ago when I took a cruise in the Carribbean with Sasha Shelby. In fact, the cruise director, John, was actually the director of the last. Cruise as well, even though at that time he said it was his last as he was retiring. Chris and I had fabulous time at the opening show with John. This guy takes random people from the audience and through his discussions with them keeps the audience roaring with laughter. I think Chris actually had tears coming down!

Our stateroom is very luxurious with a balcony, queen sized bed, large closet, sofa and a coffee table. I feel very spoiled as a sit here in my robe typing at the desk looking out at the Mediterranean!
We went for the initial orientation where we found out that the port of Monaco was closed for the next two days due to hurricane like conditions and since the ship was already rocking badly and the skies were turning an ominous black, we were not surprised! The ships captain has decided that the best thing to do is to travel our intended route in the completely opposite manner. The is fine with as, as the only excursion we haves booked is through the cruise lines. Other travelers are not so lucky as they have booked private tours and pre bought tickets for certain attractions. Chris and I figured we would wing it with local transportation. Some people had planned to get off the ship in Sicily for good, as this was our last stop before Barcelona. Needless to say the front desk has been jammed with people trying to fix there arrangements but surprisingly, everyone seems in pretty good spirits!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Taste of Barcelona

Jordy and Kristina
A few weeks ago Chris was speaking to a man at the Hamilton air show who mentioned that his daughter lived in Barcelona. Chris told him we were going to be visiting Barcelona soon and the man said that his daughter and her husband were actually visiting and called her over to speak with Chris. I have been emailing with Kristina since then and she has been a wealth of information. She and her husband Jordy met us down the street from our hotel in front of the opera and took us on a fantastic little walk around the area. Jordy is a native of Barcelona and has a very cute accent with a wonderful inflection. He told us that he learned to speak English in Amsterdam and that he and Kristina were "introduced" via their best friends who began dating when they attended school in Scotland. After a brief email and web relationship Jordy showed up in Canada, which he finds far too dreary and cold, and Kristina eventually came to live in Barcelona. That was some six years ago.

Kristina, Jordy and Chris after a few Sangria!
Jordy and Kristina took us for tapas first! Tapas are a bit difficult to explain because they could be just about anything and I suppose someone may call them appetizers or finger foods, but I am showing my ignorance because in Spain they are iconic. Eaten while imbibing, one legend has it that an ancient king, while traveling, was given a goblet of wine with a slice of ham slapped on top to keep the flies out. He liked this "tapa" (or lid) so much that it became iconic in Spanish drinking establishments. Apparently at one point in the not too distant past, tapas would have been complimentary while drinking but now tapas are advertised relentlessly the touristo will pay. There are range of tapa places, and a range of prices!

After some debate about whether we wanted fish based tapas, fried tapas, tapas from a certain region and so on,our Spanish ambassadors took us to a nice little place in an area called le Borne. This was a smaller place and the tapas were like little works of art piled onto a slice of crusty breads. They rested on dishes lining the glass countertop and were held together with very tiny toothpicks. You are given a plate and choose your own tapas. Once you are finished you pay by the toothpick. I hate to admit it, by I actually had more toothpicks then anyone else so I moved some over to Chris' plate. These tapas were €1.80 per toothpick but I saw places where you would pay quite a bit more!

The next stop for us with was a very charming little bar with a bit of a fantasy, Lord of the Rings feel. Chris saidnit reminded him of the rain forest cafe and at one point, when thunder erupted, I definitely agreed. We were treated to our first taste of Sangria by our hosts and quickly followed this very refreshing drink with a second jug! Jordy and Kristina said they would send us their favorite recipe for sangria and Chris is pretty stoked about getting home and getting some jugs out!

I must say Chris and I were holding up pretty good. I figure jet lag isn't so bad for Chris since years of shift work has totally messed with any natural sleep tendencies!

We ambled along las Rambla and ventured into a very crowded market where we stocked up on wine, pop and water for the cruise. With Jordy's advice we came away with some very decent reds for €4 or €5 and a more suspect bottle of white for less then €2. Man, are we taxed to death at home on alcohol!

We headed back to our room and parted way with our new friends. These two have really managed to make a great start to our vacation and we couldn't thank them enough.

Chris and I headed out again at about 8:30 and took another very long stroll then stopped for some paella, a rice fishy, meaty kind of dish very common in Spain, and then headed back to our hotel for a much needed sleep.

The hotel is just off the Rambla on Carme and is called Hotel Curious. The rooms are small but very modern and clean...these are the important parts. The staff have been very helpful and there is even a tiny lift. Very good hotel for the area but you do pay for the convenience. Breakfast is included and I have been sitting here nibbling away while I wait for Chris. Time to go wake him up so that we can see a bit more of the city before we head off for the cruise ship this afternoon!

Arriving in Barcelona

Our first Sangria!
We had a great flight on which we managed to sleep for a few hours and got through the airport stuff without a problem. Fastest customs I've ever been through. Hadn't really planned on how to get to our hotel...I figured we would wing it. The information desk guy said something vague about taking the "aerobus" to the city centre. We turned right after exiting the terminal and walked a few hundred feet till we found the bus. It was €5.60 a piece and took us to Playa Catalunya which seems to be a hub for everything. All of the tour busses depart from here and it can be a bit daunting with numerous streets coming off of the main circle. The streets aren't really labelled with the biggest of signs and the first person we asked for directions from sent us off in the completely wrong direction. After asking a store clerk, who had very limited English where we were, and then heading off in the correct direction,we were able to find la Rambla quite easily. This is a very busy area in the old part of Barcelona. The street itself is actually two streets running each way, separated by a very large central walk area on which reside the usual bucksters, stalls, boys and men hawking useless little colourful toys and so on. The street statues were actually quite amazing and I will post some if I get a chance! La Rambla runs from The Playa Catalunya down to the Port where there is a statue of Christopher Columbus. This is a very busy area with LOTS of touristos...the street itself is surrounded by areas with certain local names. In the gothic area you find winding little alleys or streets with churches and buildings dating back to the 14th century. A very large Cathedral which actually contains part of the original Roman wall dominates the area. We passed the Picasso museum, saw a Spanish wedding at the Cathedral de la Mar, and strolled through the little alleyways and the beautiful port. Beautiful sunny weather today, with a temperature of about 30...just like what we left in Hamilton.

More later

Friday, July 15, 2011

At The Airport

Well we are finally here and we have about an hour before our flight takes off. Shelby has had all her last minute instructions about watering the plants,and the dog. She always does a great job of looking after things while I'm gone so I'm sure the house will be spotless when I get home,there will be tomatoes on my tomato plant, and all my bills will be paid (from her account)…Shelby, you are reading this, I hope.

Just had an announcement that someone on our flight has a peanut allergy so we are asked not to eat nuts of any kind! Just my luck! The only food I brought was trail mix! Looks like I'll be ready for some tapas once we reach Barcelona.

That's all for now!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Getting Ready

One week until Chris and I take off for Barcelona. I have been going frantic trying to book all of our travel arrangements and accommodations. Just hope we get there and we don't have to end up hitchhiking to our destinations. I'm sure it will all be good!