The good, the bad and the really ugly

Let’s start with the good.

The day started with the hotel buffet breakfast.
First on the agenda was checking out and getting our luggage put away at the hotel.  Then we headed to Casa Batllo.  This is the house Gaudi designed, including the furniture.  The house is really crazy looking.  I had pictures up of this yesterday.  I am being respectful of the sign in the building that said pictures may be taken for personal use, but may not be published without permission.  Should I ever get permission, I will post these pictures.  The place is really neat and architecturally so ahead of it’s time that it is still modern for now and this was built in the early 1900s.
One nice thing about this is that the price includes the audio tour guide.  The cost, if you use a 10% off coupon from one of the tour companies comes to 16 euro.  They now offer a cafe inside if you wish to purchase snacks or beverages.

The next thing that you should know would be that nothing is open on Sunday’s in Spain.  The museums and other sights are open, but shopping is a no-no.  We did discover that the one shopping mall MareMagnum was open and it was just a short metro ride away.  It was really easy to do and the station was right under our hotel.
This mall was so busy, and I am guessing this was because it is the only place open.  It is also on the water and has great views with a nice breeze. 

Here is a really neat place with cookies and chocolate sweets.

Although those things looked good, I was really in search of lunch, so we went to Pans and Company, which is really just a fast food sub place.
This is how I know it is fast food.
I did like that for french fries we had the option for patatas bravas.
I ordered a Norwegian sub which had smoked salmon, hard boiled egg, and gherkin pickles.  It turned out to be really good.
I love this tiny fork for my patatas.
We kept walking around and a found this place Xocoa
Look at their fancy chocolates.
I know this looks like all we did was eat, but we actually ate very little at this point.  Many of the restaurants were open and while we were out searching for a coffee, we found this place.  It is called Nostrum and they have a clever concept, which is really different for Spain.
I liked that they had ice cream too and not just meals.
The idea here is you pick your entree from this case.  It is a refrigerated, but still fresh meal, and if you order a combo it comes with soup or a yogurt depending on the option you choose.
Since these are all prepackaged meals that are refrigerated, the back of this place had a few microwaves.
Here are some of the selections in the case.
Joe ordered a sweet bread to enjoy with our lattes.
At this point we took a little nap in the hotel lobby before heading to the airport.  At this point we are still at the good part of the day.

Ah ha, as we were driving to the airport, I spotted this sign, so Mer, this one’s for you.
Next stop, Royal Maroc Air at the Barcelona airport.  This is where it starts to get bad.  The flight looks as thought it is delayed an hour.  The guy at the desk says no, but the sign says yes.
I love being able to go to the duty free shopping.  Here we got a nice selection of cheeses that we could eat later on.
Again, we ate at Pans and Company.  These are everywhere and we are already familiar with the options.  We got the Greek this time, which had tomatoes and cheese with some lettuce.
Here I am at the gate.  Now it is starting to get really ugly.  The flight really is delayed and no one has any idea about this.
On all of this mess, I spotted a beautiful sunset, which brought on some calm, but only for a short time.  We were able to call the hotel and the tour guide to let them know.
I got out some of the candy I bought for the plane.
I love these things.
Oh, now we are to REALLY ugly, although it does get worse.  At this point there are angry passengers yelling about wanting their food vouchers.  Three flights are delayed at this point and everyone is angry.  No one working for the airline is available for contact and no one is near the gate with any information.  
A major issue is that we cleared customs and once past that point you can’t exit.  The place we were sitting had limited options for anything to do.  Then we found out we were being escorted out to a restaurant downstairs for our meal because we were delayed for 4 hours.
The options were limited to meat, so I asked for both of the starters.  This was mixed veggies and a salad.  They were only fair, and I barely ate anything.
At this point, it had been some time since we arrived at the airport.  We were a little on edge and it only made matters worse that no one from the airline ever came to talk with us about the situation.  In fact, it was lie after lie about the whereabouts of the the plane.  Each time we asked we were told that it just left Marrakech.  By now the Casablanca flight was cancelled, but ours was still on, just very delayed.  Here you can see large crowds of people standing around.  Many of the kids took to playing with the carts, and some even started large games of soccer up and down the halls in the terminal.  We actually were the only people in the entire terminal and we had the run of the place.  Ok, the children had the run of the place.  Lets just say, kids can amuse themselves for hours by sitting in luggage carts and pushing themselves down the moving walkways, so that they pick up speed to continue to race down the halls.  I am sorry I didn’t get video of this, it was really something.
One of the major serious problems was being trapped passed customs.  Since we went through already and our passports were stamped, we were not allowed out.  People ended up smoking in the terminal because they could not get outside.  After a while the lights went out as it was late and the airport was “closing”.  The one cafe in the international terminal did stay open for us, which was nice.  I honestly think the store would have been looted if the employee left.

Around 4:32 am, yes AM, we got word that the plane was landing soon.  Most of us did not believe them.  The trouble now was that our tour guide was to meet us at 9 am at the hotel and we had things planned for the day, so now we would need to rest at some point.  I did not sleep at all.  I actually did a lot of work on the computer.
Here you can see the estimated departure at 5:40 am, and you can just barely see it was scheduled for 21:00 or 9 pm.  The Casablanca flight was cancelled, but some of the Marrakech passengers left and others decided to be put up in a hotel, so they came up with a plan.  The hotel was not really an option for us since we would never get to Marrakech to see anything because we only had 2 nights and 2 days there.  So we waited, as did others from the cancelled flight.
At just after 6 am, we left Barcelona on a plane carrying passengers from 2 different flights, with open seating because they had no record of the seats from each flight.  Some seats would be double booked, but there would be enough seats for everyone.  This was not so good for us since we were assigned row 3 and this was like business or first class on this plane.  We wound up all the way in the back.

It was a really stressful experience getting on the place because many other cultures do not respect manners in the same way we would expect.  They had no concept of a line even though most of us were standing in one and they had no problem pushing and cutting you off.  The often bumped you while waiting and did not carry if they smacked you with their bags.  It was very difficult to deal with because you would expect people to get this idea of waiting your turn, but it is just a very different culture with some of the European and African cultures. 
The time finally came for us to descend on Casablanca.  This was of course an unscheduled stop to allow those other passengers off, but at least we got to say we stopped in Casablanca.  Here is the view from the plane.
This is the Casablanca airport.
After about 20-30 minutes, we took off again for Marrakech.  This time we moved up front and had more room to spread out.  Here were are approaching Marrakech.
Oh yes, we are here, and only 12 hours later than we planned for!
This was a very happy moment, walking in to the building.  I was glad we were going to be able to visit Morocco.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever been delayed on a flight?  Ever stuck at an airport overnight?

Beach and Mountains

Saturday was our first and last full day in Barcelona.  There is so much to do here that there was no way we could see it all, so we had to pick and choose.  We did the orange line tour on the Barcelona City Tour bus, so Saturday we wanted to go with the green line.  This included the east city of Barcelona.
Our morning started with the Avenida Palace breakfast buffet.  Here are some of the options.
Fresh squeezed juices, which taste much better than anything I have had in the states, but then again I do not usually seek out juice…I prefer to eat the fruit rather than drink it.
Here is what I ended up with on my plate.  The yogurt in the back is a fat free and sugar free pineapple yogurt.  I picked this because I know I like it.  We have this on the island.
Once we finished with breakfast, it was time to head out and get moving for a long day of touring.  We only made it a few steps down the road before we spotted this candy store.  We didn’t buy anything, but there was a crazy selection and everything looked good, but it was too early to start buying candy.  Plus, we would have been carrying it all day.
When we turned the corner on to the next street, we saw this.  This store is called Happy Pills.  Can you guess what they sell?
It’s a candy store!  What a clever name!
The 1st stop for the bus was only a short walk from the hotel, so it did not take long to get there.  Many of these buildings I just took pictures of them, so if I happen to know what they are, I will let you know.
This was a street sculpture near the marina.
I thought this was too cute.  It says El Sombrero Loco.  It’s a poster for Alice in Wonderland.
Our first stop was the beach.  They have beautiful beaches here in Barcelona, which lies on the Mediterranean Sea.  Since it was a Saturday, the beach was very busy.
I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my jeans, and walked along the beach.  My mom and I did stick our feet in and it was cold, but not too cold.  Plenty of people were swimming in the ocean.
This is me with my mom.
Then I sat down in a cool little stone chair and cleaned off my feet so i could put my shoes back on.
The beach was really nice, but I will tell you it was definitely a topless beach.  Not everyone was topless, but many were.  Even older people, like a lady I saw standing topless doing thai chi.  The beach also had lots of guys on pull-up bars and other beach type gym equipment.  Some older men were playing tennis on the concrete near the beach.  I can see that it is not only the Mediterranean diet that leads to their good health, but the total lifestyle and inclusion of physical activity starting at a young age and never stopping.
Speaking of physical activity, as we walked away from the beach, we noticed people playing tennis with what appeared to be a volley ball net between the 2 person teams.  It turns out this was the World Cup of beach tennis in Barcelona.  Here I am with the poster and standing behind the bleachers.
These are some of the players.
This is a hotel.
This is the fish sculpture.  I took this picture from the beach, and it was a good thing because you will see in the next photo that it was hard to get a  good shot from up close.
This is the fish up close.
They happen to have a lot of slots and bingo halls, but this was a big casino and it was right on the beach.
More casino action.
This is the Forum.  It is a large exhibition call created by Swiss architects.
Right across the street was a mall, and who can resist a mall!
We wound up venturing in to a Walmart type store.  It was ridiculously huge with multiple levels.  Out front they had these freezer bags that were on wheels and locked in up front.  I think they were so that people could wheel their cold goods home, but they lock them up to avoid being stolen.  It was an interesting thing to see.
This is the Agbar tower.  It is the 3rd tallest building in Barcelona and it is the headquarters for the water company.  At night you can really tell it has different colors because it is lit up. 
At this point, we decided to walk back to the hotel to return some items and wash up.  On the way, we passed this market.  It was like a big flea market, and definitely the biggest one I have ever seen.  It was like a village in there.
These are the tent tops.
Also on the way home, we spotted the Bullfight Museum.
One thing we found interesting was the Jewish stars on here.  There were also the Muslim stars we learned about in Granada.
This place was huge.
Since we were walking, and walking, and walking, we found a market for some fruit.  They had a nice selection.
These peppers were huge.  But, I was not about to eat a pepper on my walk home.  For some reason, even though I like peppers, this did not seem like a refreshing treat at that time.  I had a banana instead.  I thought it would be best to replete my potassium stores as I had been sweating with all the walking in the heat.
We only rested for a few minutes at the hotel before heading to find lunch.  We passed a few places, but then selected this and took a table inside.  This place is called brown 33.
It was really nice inside.  Around here lunch is the biggest meal of the day, so places you might think of as a dinner spot and meals that seem larger, are rather normal around here.
They had great plates to go along with their brown theme.
We split a salad.  It had lettuces, onions, tomatoes and balsamic dressing.
For lunch, Joe had the pesto pasta.  This was super fresh.
Both my mom and me ordered the homemade pasta, similar to a baked ziti.  We both ordered this without the meat.
That did it for lunch.  It was a great meal.  We didn’t waste much time, and only relaxed for a few minutes at the lunch table before getting back to our tour.

The next stop was the Sagrada Familia.  This is the Temple designed by Gaudi that he designed for the Sagrada family.  Gaudi died while he was working on this project (he died in 1918 according to one tour, but 1926 on another), and it has remained unfinished since then.  In recent times, the city is working to complete the building.  They are using the original plans.  Once finished, the six towers at this building will be so tall that this will then become Barcelona’s tallest building.  This place is massive and funky.
After that stop, we continued on to the Hospital de Sant Pau.  Here you can really see the difference in the language.  Barcelona is in a different region, and here they speak a different language, known as Catalan.  It really looks to me like French, but I do not speak French, so this was only my guess.  It made it hard to read signs, but it looks a little like Spanish with less vowels in the words. 
I thought this was interesting.  It is basically a supplement store.  It is much more common in other cultures to practice more of the complementary and alternative medicine practices, including herbals and home remedies.
This is the hospital.  Can you tell I was on a moving bus?
The next stop where we got off took us to the base of the mountain.  These are the Collserola mountains, and provide a lot of greenery around Barcelona.  The part where we went up is the highest point of the range.  At the base is the Rotunda, which I took a picture of because it looks neat.  Now this area contains restaurants and offices.
To get further up, you have to take a trolley car.  This is known as the blue tram, although there is actually a red trolley car on this line.
Here are some pictures as we were heading up the mountain.
After the trolley, we had to the funicular to get all the way up to the top.
This is the car that ride at the angle up the mountain side.
This picture does not do justice to the steep incline.  It was like a Disney World ride.
At one point, the other car is coming right at you, but at the last moment, it goes to the side of you.  I was looking ahead, so I saw the split in the track, but it was really neat how they had it timed perfectly so that both cars entered at the same time and just passed each other.
This is another  view from heading up to the top.
At the top there are not only great views, but other attractions.  This is an early 20th century temple.  At the point where we peaked in, there was a wedding going on.  It was crazy, but many people poked their heads in to see inside.  I did not take a picture, I was not trying to disrespect what seemed like a very religious ceremony.
This is the entrance to Tibidabo.  That is the name of this mountain peak, and therefore also the name of the amusement park.  I was surprised the park entrance fee is only 25 euro.  You do not need a ticket to walk around the first half or so of the park, or what seemed like half the park.  You do however get a bracelet and this is checked in order for you to gain access to the rides.
I took some pictures of some because it was insane that this amusement park is so high up on a mountain peak and some rides carry the riders over the edge so they are dangling.
This was a cute looking play area for kids.
This car goes out and over the mountain side.
There were great views from up top, which is what most people were up there to see.
I zoomed in to check out this swimming pool below.
You can see all the way to the sea.
This airplane is similar to the swing ride in Las Vegas at the Stratosphere.
This was too crazy to watch.
Here we are at the top with the great view behind us.
I thought about cotton candy and then changed my mind.  I really love cotton candy so it was hard to resist.
My mom got a slushie type drink and then I got a popsicle.
When we went to head back down, there was a problem.  Can you spot the issue?
The cable was not attached up top.  This held up our return by 30-45 minutes.  We were stuck waiting in the heat.  These men are discussing and debating what to do.
Finally it was fixed and we could head to the next stop.  By now it was 7 pm and things were closing at 8 pm, so it was not practical to hit up these sights.  The idea was to check them out from the outside, get the hours of operation and the prices, and then head back to the room to rest before a 9:30 dinner.
First we looked at La Pedrera, known as Casa Mila.  It is said to be Gaudi’s most popular work.  This is open for touring.  There is a bank on the top floor, but that is also open to the public.
Our last stop for the day was Casa Batllo and this is not done by Gaudi, it was built using his work.  The other houses on this street are done by other architects in the same style.  This is also open for tours and the bus we were on gave us a 10% off coupon.
Oh yeah, on the way back to the hotel, I saw this ad on the side of the Diesel store, and I took this picture for my friend Meredith.  So Mer, if you are reading, this one is for you.  I will send you the actual picture later.
This would be our last real dinner in Spain, so we wanted to get some sangria and enjoy the outdoor eating that is so prevalent all over Spain.  We looked at a few places, but in the end decided on Divinus.
Look at the great out door patio seating.
Like I said, sangria was a must for this meal.
My mom and Joe split a mixed salad to start.
I has a tomato and cheese salad to start.
For dinner, Joe ordered a pizza.  It had a nice, thin crust.
My mom had the 4 cheese ravioli.
I ordered the steamed salmon with vegetables and a pistachio oil.  It was really good, like really, really good.
For dessert, we went with the restaurant because we were so exhausted that we did not walk far for dinner and did not feel like walking far to find something for dessert.  We selected this pineapple with coconut ice cream.  There were nice chunks of coconut in the ice cream which made it very tasty.
Well, that was it for most of our touring.  Up next we have one more day in Barcelona, but we leave at night for Marrakech, Morocco.  The flight is a little over 2 hours from Barcelona, and with going back one time zone, we wind up landing only an hour or so after the time we take off.  So exciting and so much to see, but also very exhausting.  I could spend so much time out touring other cities because there really is so much that is out there.

QUESTIONS:  Do you speak a foreign language?  Do you visit grocery stores while on vacation?  Have you ever heard of Gaudi?  Do you like amusement parks?