Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quite a Legacy

La Sagrada Familia - spire construction 2

I was close to crossing this off my list of things to do. After going I can't believe I almost missed it. Having seen many of the greatest cathedrals in the world, seeing Gaudi's interpretation and vision of a cathedral is amazing. He takes the plan and grandiose volume typical of a cathedral and makes it organic and a bit funky in his quirky art nouveau style.

La Sagrada Familia - Interior 2
La Sagrada Familia - Interior 6

This project started over 100 years ago. It's currently about 50% complete, it was about 25% complete at Gaudi's death. He knew other architects would continue his vision with their own interpretations which is amazing and has created much debate in Spain over whether the newer work is really staying true to Gaudi's. Personally I really like the newer work (passion facade)

La Sagrada Familia - Passion facade
it's a bit stripped down and abstracted in contrast to the more Gothic, busy and ornate original entry.(nativity facade)

La Sagrada Familia - nativity facade

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

By a Few Threads

We just barely made it.

This stroller has the huge rip on the side, the frame poking through at the bottom and then this morning the net ripped through when I put the guidebook in it and the top where he rests his head now has a gaping hole.

Stroller falling apart

I guess we have to come home.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ehren's First Topless Beach

We have loved every single day trip we have taken but at the same time seems like the trips home from all of them have been miserable. After Toledo we thought, totally our fault we can do this better in Morocco and then there was that nightmare so last night we made a quick change to the plans and decided not to put Ehren through another day trip so that we can see some really cool mountains and hear a boys choir at Montserrat.

Instead, we stayed in Barcelona and decided that when Ehren plays 2 Truths and A Lie, one of his truths can be that his first trip to the beach was at a topless beach in Spain.

See. We are excellent parents and always looking out for his best interest.

Beach-Ehren digging

We googled around and found a place that lends out shovels and toys and made quite a morning of it. We all wore sunscreen and since I had forgotten my bathing suit I laid on my bathtowel and read a book (that they also lent out at the shovel lending place) and documented the experience.

Beach-Ehren & Dad

I think I was careful and only got PG photos.

Beach - Ehren & Dad 2

I have always pictured topless and nude beaches as tucked away and not easy to just stumble on. Yeah, this is the beach that has office buildings right beside it on the other side of the road. For those of you that know Corpus...like the beach on Ocean Drive. Ladies just walking up to the shower getting fully tan. Quite interesting to say the least.

Overall probably one of the greater last minute plan changes we made and it was a great way to see a different part of Barcelona. This is a great city that you have to dig into to get away from the urban feel but it has so many different personalities. The beach, the old city, the weird Modernista architecture and then full urban. I'm glad that this is in the north of Spain so that when we do come back to do France we can hop over here and visit it again because 5 days only scratches the surface.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Not for 2.50 Extra

Now the temperature here in Barcelona is a high of 82 and a low of 70 degrees. Sounds nice, right?

Do NOT be fooled.

I have no idea how it is only a high of 82 but this is probably the hottest location we have been to. By 11am I have sweat rolling down my back and it only gets worse from there. This morning Ehren was out of the stoller running around for probably 25 minutes and he came back with his hair totally soaked and I have never seen sweat pouring down his face but he was drenched.

The moderate sounding forecast also tricked me into booking an apartment with no AC for us and let me save you that painful experience.

Get a room with AC.

Now if we could keep the windows open at night it probably wouldn't be so bad but we are on the first floor (what Americans think of as the second floor) and we've had 2 strangers and our apartment host tell us that we need to lock our windows at night or when we leave. I don't feel unsafe at all, however, I did read a review in this part of town of someone who didn't heed that warning and they ended up with someone in their apartment. In the middle of the night. Spraying them with pepperspray and taking their computer.

I can take a hint with the best of them so we are sweating it out at night in lieu of a pepperspray incident.

Barcelona Harbor statue

Today we just explored a bit and thought we would be good parents and do a very vanilla activity for Spain and take Ehren to the aquarium where there was surely air conditioning in the heat of the day. One thing Joshua and I do when we are approaching new attractions with very little information is play the "how much are we willing to pay" game. (I also do this with clothes - I'll show him something and say "what do you think it's worth" and if that matches the pricetag I'll buy it). So as we were wandering around the port trying to find the aquarium we decided we would each pay 15 Euros not because we wanted to but because we were hot and we wanted to be good parents. We finally found it and the ticket was 17.50 for each adult.

Blast it! Why couldn't it be 25/person?

After standing there for a few minutes debating we decided to stick to our guns and instead we played in the shade for an hour on the boardwalk. You have to draw the line somewhere, right?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nearing the End

You can tell because our photos are starting to wane a bit.

Last night we took the train from Granada to Barcelona and we were braced for a horrible night. I expected to get very little sleep and Joshua expected to be snuggled up with Ehren in his bunk for the entire night getting absolutely no sleep. Then, after laying in the dark all night as soon as the light came through the curtains that kid would be up and impossible because he is contained in a 4 x 8 square for 3 hours.

I'm shocked to say it didn't go down like that at all. We splurged on the family room of only 2 beds (paid an extra 40 Euros) and I'd pay that two or three times again for how smoothly everything went. We had enough room on the floor that Ehren got his own pallet and slept until we woke him up at 8:30 even with light shining right in his face.

Ehren-overnight train to Barcelona

Yes there were melt downs as we waited for the 10pm train and yes we caught him licking the floor of the train station not once but twice, however, it was worth it all for a successful night train experience. We now know that night trains are possible with kids and think of all the fun Spanish immunities his little body has.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Columbus' Go Ahead

Just like I never realized how much happened in Berlin, I also never knew how Granada was such a big deal. Granted it all centered on Columbus and Isabel so it isn't as diverse as Berlin but for me it is another "history coming alive kind of place." This is where Columbus got the go ahead to sail, the last stand of the Moors, and this is where Ferdinand and Isabel are buried.

I know I'm a nerd but I love learning on our travels. I love that when our kids study that I can show them a picture of the place where Columbus got his contract signed and that I saw the box he sold to finance the voyage. More than anything the way I'm able to retain knowledge after seeing things makes me think travel is just so much more important. Even with my pregnant brain I can give you a much more thorough explanation of the Reconquista.

Alhambra-detail 2

The biggest Granada sight is La Alhambra which is the original Moorish palace that then the Spanish of course built a bigger palace attached to when they finally sent the Moors back to Africa.

Tiff-Court of Myrtles

We had to get up really early for our ticket time but it was well worth the 6:45 alarm after our 12:30 bedtime. The detail in the wood and plaster work is amazing in the palace. And then the rest of the property is where the 2,000 residents lived and in it are more than a few gardens which are a great mix of plants and walls which makes it Joshua's favorite garden of Europe.

Alhambra-Generalife Gardens 2
One other pretty amazing thing the Moors did here was develop a water system that keeps fresh water flowing to all the fountains, the gardens, the palace and the commoners area. Everywhere you walk you can see and hear water flowing through the paths they made.

Escalera del Aqua
Overall well worth the early morning and the admission price and the carrying Ehren on our back (not a stroller friendly place - for that matter most of the old city of Granada is NOT stroller friendly).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Still Here

In rereading my last post it sounded like it was our last night in Spain instead of just our last night with our friends so you may be surprised to know we're in Granada still soaking up the Spanish experience. That being said, we decided on the drive here that Granada would be our vacation part of the adventure so we are soaking it up at a VERY leisurely pace. Like one thing in the morning and then the afternoon in our garden.

Yep, that's right. We have a garden.

Apartment garden 5

The "apartment" we rented here is actually the guesthouse of a Carmen which is a walled property with a private garden. Online it mentioned a shared garden so I thought it was shared by many people but it isn't. It is a huge garden with over 20 different fruit trees not to mention all the hedges that we share with the owners and we've never seen them out. So every morning we go out and see something and have lunch and then it is unbearably hot so we come home and put Ehren down for a nap and then spend the rest of the day playing in the garden eating fresh figs and waiting for our 8pm dinner time.

Tiff relaxing in the garden

Last night we actually put Ehren down a little early and had snacks and drinks on the tower of the main house with our hosts. Great way to enjoy the sunset and they had just been to Thailand last year so we had a lot to talk about. We finally wandered through the garden to our house at 12:30am like normal Spaniards for the first time since our date night.

View from roof deck

If you ever come to Granada stay here especially if you are traveling with kids.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And Then There were Three and a Half

In 2 days we've been in 3 countries. Morocco, Spain and today we hit up jolly old England (via Gibraltar).

Josh & Ehren at top of Gibraltar

It's pretty bizarre that there is this 2.5 square mile British province or city or whatever you call it smack dab in the middle of the Spanish coast. You show your passport and then all of a sudden everything is in English, the food is still bad but with entirely different ingredients and there are red telephone booths everywhere.

Travel Tip: Don't eat at the top of the rock. It is horrible and expensive and everything has cheese that is unmarked so you don't know if it is pasteurized.

One other thing I didn't know is there are monkeys that live on the rock. They are actually tailless little devils that steal things right out of your hand or bag. We saw one steal a grocery bag with a brand new camera in it and Memry actually got attacked by one right after stepping off the cable car and he ended up with her bag of chips. When they say don't have plastic bags visible they say it in this fun British accent so it doesn't sound serious but they aren't joking at all.

Monkey with Memry's Chips

A few hours later we were relaxing back in Spain. As a celebration of our last night in Spain we ate tapas, gelato, watched the sunset and then had a nice Italian dinner in the span of a few hours (and in that order).

Nerja beach

A great way to end a good time on the southern coast of Spain with our other daring friends who came from England with their baby.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who Takes Babies to Africa?

Waiting at Ferry in Morocco

Don't be fooled by the sleeping babies. This was about 20 minutes into the 6 hour journey it took to get back to Spain from our "day trip to Morocco." We didn't factor in the African-ness of leaving the country since it was so simple and easy to get there.

Like there are no lines. And mobs are very slow moving.

As we were eating our dinner back on Spanish soil we debated the "would we do that again" question. We can now say we've been to Africa and Moroccan food was redeemed for me from two horrible experiences at Epcot but man those hours from 2pm to 8pm were pretty tough.

Tangier 2

Don't tell the people I was with but I found a very small tip Rick Steves had in his book about how to skip that first mob and go straight to the next two mobs which would have saved us about 2 hours. I think I'm going to write him a quick email and let him know that sentence needs to be in BOLD. And maybe on a page by itself.

Our guide was mediocre at best but we did meet one really interesting man there who taught me a few things about sales.

Jimmy- Intercontinental Hotel

While his store has hundreds of options he has picked one way to engage his customers and he excels at it. He knows American area codes. You tell him where you are from and he says..."oh yes 615." I quizzed him on all the Texas area codes I know as well and he even knew that "361" was the "new" zipcode for Corpus Christi (changed around 1999). He has really deep knowledge on one subject and can engage you on that topic. He also is very friendly and wants to help you find something you like. He kept saying "if you don't like it then 1 Euro is too much to spend." I hope I'm as helpful to my customers as he was to us. And fun...but maybe not so much of a name dropper (his store is in a fancy hotel and so he has pictures with tons of famous people).

Monday, September 5, 2011

We'll Do That Again!

Today we rented a van. In another country. And drove down tiny streets with very little signage.

All the headache of getting out of the town though was totally worth it as we traveled around and saw the white washed cities of Andalucia. Driving isn't that hard and with no trains heading this direction it was so much easier than lugging 2 babies and all the luggage on and off buses. Plus, look how beautiful.


Without a car we would have missed all of this.

Osborne Bull


Sevilla is in the Bag

This morning we woke up to some potential rain for the day but it was the only morning for the local antique fair that happens once a week. We chanced it to go out and find that antique tile piece I was looking for and totally found it. A tourist store had the same thing for 42 Euro and I bought mine for 10 Euro. Granted we got caught in the rain with not even an umbrella and ended up like this.

Fykes drenched

But it turns out Ehren doesn't mind the rain and laughed most of the way home so I would say still a great decision.

Then after a nice nap for the babies we headed back out to the city center and toured the palace which had a great garden. It is the kind of place I would get a membership to if/when I live here for a little while. A great place to let Ehren run and sit and read and just have a high time.

Alcazar Gardens 1

On the way home to let our friends have their date night we stopped and had a final tapas at the super popular place in the drag. It was only 8pm so you can see the place was empty but nothing like having some drinks with babies at the cool place to be seen in Sevilla.

Tapas Time!

Sevilla does need to go on the must see list. Even with kids it is stroller friendly, low key and very Spanish. Also, it is the city where I have seen the most kids and pregnant women. Come on Americans...we can do this whole travel thing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This Could Get Ugly

So far I've done two walking tours in Europe and both have been wins. Today we learned how to tell if the orange trees around Sevilla are bitter or sweet, that we totally missed a half finished building (that we took a picture in front of yesterday), that the pigs that make the best jamon (ham) are only fed acorns and also that the Roman city was about 7 feet below the current city floor and you can still see some of the columns.


Today tragedy may have hit our travels though. We noticed a small tear during Ehren's nap in the $5 stroller we bought at a garage sale the day before the trip. And by the end of day Ehren had his hand through the hole and was using it to hold on. We have no idea what we are going to do if that gives way. We use the stroller for his high chair and then also as his major mode of transportation. I wish it was as simple as just buy another one (and it may come to that) but we have yet to see a throw away Walmart-esque umbrella stroller. If we have to buy a new one we may end up with the Cadillac of little strollers and that may be our souvenir from the trip. Let's all cross our fingers I come home with a really cool antigue Spanish tile and NOT a ridiculous stroller.

We also went out last night on a Spanish date and our friends kept Ehren. We came home at midnight and thought for sure that would be early but turns out the old part of Sevilla shuts down at a more reasonable hour so midnight was just right. We had a leisurely tapas and saw a Flamenco exhibition. It was great to be out like our travels used to be. In some ways traveling with a kid slows you down but it also speeds you up. At every sight you feel like you need to rush through before he melts down or get through before he wakes up and you know every waiter in town is trying to get you in and out. So, an evening of just sitting at a table discussing what part of town we would live in for over an hour was a nice switch. The flamenco was cultural but the slow meal was glorious.

Dinner @ Las Teresas

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Travel with Friends

Blogging is a little harder when you have friends and two babies running around the apartment. You just don't have as much time as you did in Madrid.

We are staying just a bit out of the old city center so we have a 2 bedroom flat instead of a studio since there are more of us but the downside is...more walking. I'm kind of disappointed that after this trip of walking my clothes won't be fitting any looser. In fact at the rate I'm going I will actually be outgrowing clothes. One of the tragedies of pregnancy.

Sevilla has treated the kids quite well. It's our friend's first Spanish city and so far they love it. Hopefully they decide to just stay and live here and that way we can come visit.

Tiff and Smiths - Plaza de San Francisco

So far we've seen the largest cathedral in Europe although it's only the 3rd grandest. In the Fykes opinion this is the best cathedral we've seen. The Sacrisity and Treasury made this one so much more interesting for us. I could let Joshua go on about the light and scale for a paragraph or two but instead we'll just say add it to your list and honestly if you have to chose one cathedral this maybe should be it.

Cathedral interior 7

More than anything we've just been able to hang out with our friends and soak up some Spanish culture. While having other people changes things, I recommend it. Especially if they are people you really like. Plus you get pictures with the whole family that way.

Josh & Tiff @ Cathedral