Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bien venido a Espana!

You all know that we have loved living abroad and try to take full advantage of our surroundings while we're here. One way we do that is by planning trips to cities we wouldn't normally get to go to. The first week of February Keith had to go to Barcelona for work, so we thought that would be the perfect time for a family weekend away. It happened to coincide with Carnival, which meant that most people had off work in the Netherlands that following Monday and Tuesday, so it was easy for Keith to take off as well. Keith's birthday also happened to be that Friday at the end of his work week, so what better reason to take a trip??

Day 1 - Friday

lunch in the airport
Liam and I flew out Friday afternoon (all on our own, God bless me), and met Keith at his hotel to pick him up and head to our apartment for the next five days. The location was perfect, walking distance to several sites we wanted to see, on a busy shopping street, and close to plenty of restaurants (more on that later . . . ).

I am SO glad Keith got an apartment that was in conjunction with a nice hotel in Barcelona. We had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living / dining room and a full kitchen -- plus maid service every day. It was the perfect arrangement to have with a toddler. Once we got settled at the apartment we walked a block away for dinner at a local tapas restaurant. We all got something delicious for dinner (the chicken and veggie risotto -- OMG), and kept Liam fairly busy while he sat in the booth because there were no high chairs. Turns out, we would come to find that no restaurant had high chairs. Like none. Zero. And we tried, oh did we try! On our very last meal over the course of five days we finally lucked out with a high chair. We figured either there were no toddlers in Barcelona or people just didn't take them out to eat. The latter I suppose . . . sigh.

We put Liam to bed as soon as we got back as it was already getting late, and he went right to sleep, exhausted from the day's events.

Day 2 - Saturday

Well Liam must have been really tired because the boy slept in later than he's done in a LONG time. Keith eventually went in and woke him up at 10:00 am! Seriously, his bed must have been super comfy because the boy was passed out. We fed him a quick breakfast and headed to the Metro to take the subway to La Rambla, a long wide road full of street vendors, markets, cafes, shops, souvenirs, etc. Let me just say here that we immediately noticed that the locals in Barcelona thought it was a cold day -- they were all bundled up in parkas, gloves, hats, and scarves tied around their faces. Not even kidding. Keith and I thought it felt great coming from Eindhoven and we were in light coats, enjoying the beautiful weather! It was cracking me up every where I turned! Anyway, we milled around on La Rambla, even stopping in a beautiful, gigantic Apple store (what can I say?). We ate at American Soda for lunch (no high chair -- disastrous) before heading back so Liam could nap.

Liam chasing birds on La Rambla
one of the most famous markets in Barcelona -- full of any food you could imagine!
Beginning this day, Keith and discovered a new favorite afternoon snack while Liam napped -- a baguette with sliced cheeses and meats, just like the Spanish do it. Paired with a little wine and we were in heaven -- why don't we do this at home??

When Liam woke up we headed to Casa Mila, one of Gaudi's famous buildings that is now an apartment where people can actually rent space. After some debate, we decided to head to the rooftop of La Pedrera to see the views which are supposed to be amazing, before making the climb back down, viewing some of the apartment rooms that are built and decorated in true Gaudi style -- with no strollers allowed. The lady warned us that the tour takes about an hour and a half, but she had never done this with a little boy like Liam! We spent about twenty minutes on the rooftop, letting Liam run around and climb up and down the hundreds of steps all around before beginning the rest of the tour. I definitely think it would be nice to do this without a toddler because I don't really remember much . . . we basically chased Liam around, trying to steer him in the direction we wanted without letting him touch anything. I don't think I read a single plaque or stopped enough to listen to any audio that explained what we were seeing. I'm pretty sure we were at the bottom again in 45 minutes flat.

Sagrada Familia in the far distance
Afterwards we walked a little further down the street to see Casa Batllo, more of Gaudi's work. We didn't go inside, but just admired from across the street . . .

Day 3 - Sunday

On Sunday we decided to head to Port Olimpic and walk around for a bit. It was really relaxing and Liam got to see the beach, which he absolutely loved. He would have stayed there all day had we let him!

We made our way back through Barceloneta, missing the metro stop we wanted several times while we tried to navigate our way around. By the time we got to one we were pretty beat and headed back to the apartment for lunch. After Liam we all napped, we just felt like staying in that night, so we played in the apartment, watched some TV, and walked to get take-out for dinner. We had been on the go so much that we needed a night in!

Day 4 - Monday

Our goal for the day was to head to La Sagrada Familia, a beautiful cathedral designed by Gaudi. Luckily it was only about a twenty minute walk from our apartment, so we headed there right after breakfast. However, we soon discovered that the line to get in was ridiculously long (wrapped all the way around the church), and there was no way we could do that with a toddler. So instead Keith got us some Starbucks while Liam played in the park across the street from the massive cathedral. It was an insanely gorgeous backdrop for spending the morning at a playground.

The first thing Liam discovered was the Bubble Man -- a street performer who worked his days enthralling children with the gigantic bubbles he could produce (all in the hopes that Mom and Dad would be guilted into throwing a few coins in his hat -- which we absolutely did seeing the joy he brought Liam!). He even would let the kids come up and help him make the bubbles, which Liam did willingly! And when other kids were too nervous and didn't want to do it, Liam would step back up and try to help, like saying "My turn again?!"

One of the bubbles as it burst 
Liam made a huge bubble and was so happy!
We then played at the playground for a while before heading in search of some lunch. I mean seriously, is there a more amazing backdrop for a playground?? SO cool.

Liam digging with a shovel he found
Riding the horse in the playground
While Liam napped that afternoon, I took advantage of some free time and headed out shopping on my own for a few hours. It was great to be able to pop in stores, try clothes on, and go about my merry way without pushing a stroller or trying to entertain a little boy who hates to go shopping (and a big boy for that matter!). When I got back to the apartment I figured out I had walked several miles just going down and back up the shopping street outside our apartment!

After nap we took Liam to Imaginarium, this amazing children's store that has all kinds of toys, books, riding toys, etc. Liam loved it! We spent about an hour in there just hanging out and letting him look at all the cool stuff. That night we had Japanese food delivered to the apartment and got some rest before our long travel day the following day.

Day 5 - Tuesday

Our flight wasn't until that night, so we still had a pretty full day to do some exploring. We headed out to the Museu d'art de Catalunya -- a huge, beautiful museum at the end of a long walkway. Our intention wasn't to go in, but just to let Liam run around and get some energy out.

Liam in front of the Museum
We made our back to La Rambla and found a great place for lunch that actually had a high chair. Finally! After lunch it was nap time, pack time, and head to the airport time. Liam did great on the plane and stayed awake until we walked through our door at 9 pm that night.

It was a wonderful five days spent as a family, and I love Barcelona even more than before! Happy Birthday to Keith!


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