This Thanksgiving break I went to Barcelona. And Venice. It was A M A Z I N G !!! My travel companions were down-to-earth, laid back people, and shared a mutual interest in maximizing each day. The things we saw and experienced together were everything a good imagination could even begin to dream about. I love Europe so much. I loved Barcelona and Venice.
We ate gelato every day minus one. At night. In the freezing rain. And sometimes twice in one day. It more than made up for the Venice pizza topped with chopped hot dogs on Thanksgiving Day.
I also celebrated my 30th Birthday in Spain. Bah! However, feelings of trepidation at entering a third decade of life were swallowed up and forgotten in the excitement of a perfect day in Spain. I woke up in the morning to delicious aromas - My sweet dad made a full breakfast of meat and potatoes to start the day off right. The biggest surprise was that Jim went out while everyone was asleep in the morning, (at least I was), and bought churros and thick hot chocolate for us. It was especially thoughtful because the previous day Leisha and I finally spotted a churro/hot chocolate cafe after being in Barcelona for two days, but it was a Sunday so we didn't go. We were so excited to return that we took a picture of every crossroad sign so we could find our way back from the metro station a future day. So, Jim couldn't have done a more thoughtful thing. The churros were soft and warm and twice as good dipped in the thick chocolate.
That morning we took a train from Barcelona out to Montserrat, a monastery built in the Spanish mountains, and spent a full day admiring the great cathedral, listening to the Boy's Choir, buying sheep and goat cheeses, and riding the funicular to the mountains above the monastery where we hiked to even higher elevations and saw remnants of ancient monk dwellings. When we returned to our apartment, we got out the maps and our host's written recommendations and left in search of a traditional Catalonian-Spanish restaurant. After walking and walking, we called it a hopeless case and sat down at the first decent looking place we found. It turned out to be the best place we ate during the entire trip! After hiking and climbing all day we were really hungry and ate baskets and baskets of bread until our meal of seared tuna steaks, curries, salmon and soups was served. My parents bought me a rose and everyone sang Happy Birthday to me over a "Grandisimo Chocoloate Cake."
This is my grandisimo cake:
Cliffs of Montserrat.
Here we all are in our first successful selfie attempt.
First successful panorama attempt. With exception of missing part of head.
Later that night, Leisha, Jim and I got to watch some Spanish football history unfold when Lionel Messi scored enough goals to become the all-time top scorer of La Liga, breaking the record that had held since 1955. The stadium was BOOMING with celebration!
During our time in Barcelona we also visited the traditional Gothic Quarter old cathedral, a historic military fort, Castell de Montijuic, toured Gaudi's famous park and massive La Sagrada Familia Cathedral (portions still under construction), Roman ruins, and shopped and ate good food in between.
Barcelona was in good hands this day.
One of the more poignant marble sculptures seen in the cloisters of the Gothic Cathedral. You can't see in the picture, but the woman has a marble tear on her cheek.
Inside La Sagrada.
After four full days in Barcelona we left for Venice, Italy via airplane, touching down around 5:30pm. From Marco Polo Airport took a water taxi over the dark lagoon waters to Fondamente Nove station in the Cannaregio neighborhood of Venice. As we hefted our luggage over a bridge of stairs we crossed the very first canal of the trip. On our left was the Adriatic Sea and to the left was a long and narrow canal with several arched bridges visible in the distance. The air was brisk, and the water softly illuminated by the bridge lamps in the darkness while it lapped against the building walls. Not a person was to be seen outside of our group. It was a magical moment.
I didn't get to take a picture that night, but here are a couple of pictures taken during the subsequent two days:
The Grand Canal, looking out from Rialto Bridge
At the Doge Palace courtyard. The newly elected doge would descend the stairs seen in the back right of the photo to be introduced to the people.
We're on a gondola! And he even sang to us in Italian - I was so glad we did this! ♪ ♫ ♪
HI think two days in Venice was just about the perfect amount of time. The land area is small and most of the sites are grouped close together. We toured St. Mark's Cathedral, went up the clock tower, visited Rialto Bridge and the Jewish Ghetto, took a Doge Palace tour, visited Murano Island for a glass tour, took a gondola ride, the fish market and did a lot of wandering and shopping. Our very last night we had an in-house grand feast with sting-ray and salmon as the main dishes. Happy 2014 Thanksgiving!!