Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Deep Sea Fishing (or at least pretending to be)

The weather in Nova Scotia this summer was positively delightful while we were visiting. Especially exciting since Jimmy's parents have a cabin just back from the water at Cape George. It is a gorgeous spot on a hill overlooking the ocean towards PEI and Cape Breton. I love it when they invite us out for the afternoon or dinner and we get to sit on the deck facing the water.

You can understand why I was quite excited that it was going to work out for Clairise and I to go down and visit them, hit up the beach, have a delicious dinner and even get to go out on a boat.

The cape is a beautiful little natural cove along the north west shore. It is surrounded by rocky cliffs and the water is crystal clear. It has a working warf with many fishing boats and a few pleasure boats docked along it.

Someday I hope it works for us to be 'home' when lobster season begins as I would love to be there to witness the blessing of the boats and the official send off. This year I was really hoping it would include a big party when Gerard rolled it with a $30K tuna but alas luck was not to be this year on the tuna.

We spent an afternoon basking in the sun and swimming in the ocean. The water was a little cooler than some of the other beaches but it was still nice and warm and made for a refreshing break from the heat of the sun.

After a fabulous meal, Uncle Jackie was heading out on his little boat to enjoy the evening and had invited his sisters along. Clairise and I were quite excited to be included on this little adventure as well.

Part of what made the whole experience so delightful was to witness the pure joy on everyone else's faces. Aunt Mary relaxing at the back of the boat in her little lawn chair on one last ride before her and Uncle John start the trek southward again. Jimmy's mom grinning from ear to ear as she slid off her sandle and slung her leg over the side of the boat skipping her toes along the water. Pooksie taking pictures of everyone and responding 'yes, yes' to the conversations swirling around her.

When we were a little ways out, Uncle Jackie killed the motor and Aunt Mary quickly scooted to the front of the boat to grab the fishing rods. (On a side note, I love families, how the big sister is always the big sister regardless of how old anyone is. And the brother is always the brother with the sisters doting on him. Love it. Curious to see how Trev and I will interact in a few years time.)

Uncle Jackie had de-barbed the hooks for this pleasure fishing. Being that I wasn't too sure what I was doing, I was told to let the line drop for quite a ways and when you start to feel a tug, you know it is time to reel in.

How exciting, we seemed to have stumbled upon a school of fish and Clairise and I kept her dad and Uncle John busy taking the fish off the hooks for us.

This was one of the fish that I caught.

A beautiful night on the ocean enjoying fantastic company and embarking on new adventures. I think I might need to make Jimmy take me fishing next summer. Aunty Elaine - be prepared for some visitors!!


Wow - I totally thought I had posted on here that Jimmy is safe and sound and at home but apparently not so much. So alas - he is!! He got in on Sunday. It was great to see him again - it had only been a week but in that week, life managed to make the vacation feel like it was eons ago.

Not too many stories to tell you - will get Jimmy to help me write the highlights to share with you but I can tell you he thinks he is a rock star since he received red carpet treatment all week but most certainly Thursday night for the big party. Good thing he had his Calvin Klein tie on so when they asked him who he was wearing - he could truthfully report Calvin. I don't think that Tip Top would have carried the same weight.

Friday, September 25, 2009


As you may have discovered - Jimmy was a contributor to the daily blog but not the writer. And I am sure that many of you have heard from him at some point throughout the week. But for those of you who haven't, he continues to report of a fantastic time, beautiful scenery, great companionship (although not as great since I came home . . . ) and yummy food.

Apparently the hop on hop off served him well as we all knew it would. I cannot wait to see the pictures and will share some with you once he is home!! Woot woot!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 15 - Goodbyes and Airports

We have certainly experienced a few airports during our little trips. And one of the things I like about airports is that it is a place of true joy for those reuniting and sadness for those parting. There is always an exciting energy and I like watching others trying to guess who they are meeting or where they are going.

On a side note, the day we had our gong show airport experience to fly from Palma to Barcelona there was a girl that was on our flight with us. She was all dolled up in pink 3.5" stiletto shoes, skinny white jeans, a pink shirt with a white jacket, pink purse and a cute little black and white hat. As we were needing to drag our stuff from gate to gate the girl was looking like she was regretting her shoe choice. By the time we were walking out to the plane on the tarmac and climbing the stairs, she was barely shuffling along. But when we arrived in Barcelona, we knew why she had made the choice she did!!! She was meeting her boyfriend. We hear a little shriek and see her running into his waiting arms for lots of hugs and kisses!! Too fun!!! Crazy the pain we put up with to look hot for our dates.

And alas, it was our turn to part ways after two weeks of fabulous days. I was checking two suitcases to accommodate our purchases and lighten Jimmy's load for his last week. As such, the thought of trying to navigate the tube by myself for my afternoon flight for the sake of an extra couple hours of sleep was more than I wanted to endure. So 5:30 am wake up call it was.

Got to Jimmy's terminal with more than enough time to get him checked in and ensure that he wasn't overweight on his suitcase. Too fun for him that he is now off to Ireland for some more adventures. And I don't doubt that the Guiness party is going to be unbelievable as we are seeing nothing but contests to go to it and advertisements for similar parties at local establishments.

Than it was off to Terminal 3 for me. The two suitcases were kinda heavy so I thought that pushing around a little trolley would be easier!! Mercies I'm a gong show most days - i ran over more small toes, jackets, bags and heels. The sad thing is that of that list - 99% of them were my toes, jackets, bags and heels. I know talented I am - really!! But alas I managed to fill up my time while I waited, enjoyed a little 'Quick English Breakfast' which is more like our regular full breakfast back home - 2 eggs, 4 big pieces of bacon, toast and potatoes (certainly would hate to see their full breakfast), enjoyed many cups of coffee and soon was boarding the flight for Calgary.

With all that time and watching people coming and going to so many other locations, I will admit that the idea of buying a last minute ticket to somewhere else and calling in sick to work was tempting. I do promise you that sometime in my life I will do a last minute trip to somewhere but I did exercise self control and came home!

The flight was brilliant as the English would say. Brenda came and picked me up. It was soooo fun to catch up with her and grab a quick bite. All too soon I was starting to zone out in our conversation and so home I came, unpacked, called mom and dad and was soon crawling into bed.

And for all of you out there . . . I received a couple notes from Jimmy last night. He made it safe and sound. Says he is being treated like a King with his own 'personal driver' and an amazing hotel. I am certainly glad he is experiencing this after our vacation or we would have never wanted to slum it in the 4 star hotels we stayed at. LOL!!!

Stay tuned as I am going through the pics and promise to post a couple of links to our pics soon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 14 - Viewing London from new Heights

Our final day to explore London proved to be a busy one on the
streets. The concierge pointed us in the right direction for the
London eye and we were off. After coffee at the hotel of course.

We started on our foray and found ourselves in the theatre district.
It was fashion week and they must have various fashion shows in the
theatres as well since we saw many a feather strutting down the street.

The interesting thing about London fashion which I have discovered is
that as long as it's bold or quirky and you walk with confidence you
seem to be considered high fashion. And they stretch their summer
wardrobe into fall by merely adding tights or leggings. However when
Jimmy tried the leopard print leggings under his plaid shorts it
didn't seem to work quite as well. Guess we will transition to pants
and light sweaters instead!!!

In the midst of pink sateen, chunky necklaces, black and white
stilettos and high top runners, we found a little Australian
restaurant to get a bite to eat and check our emails. Interesting fact
is that free wifi is available at most British pubs. It's a great
opportunity to check our emails, weather and of course the sports
scores on my little iPhone. I seriously think this is the greatest
invention for a traveller!!!

Once we hit the river walkways everything was incredibly busy. We
wound our way down to the London eye and quickly got into one of the
pods to take us a gazillion feet above the ground. Beautiful sights
from up there. We noticed so much construction around the city and
have heard rumblings that the majority of it is in preparation for the
2012 Olympics. I can only imagine how much crazies it will be over the
next two summers.

Back safely on the ground we strolled further along the river and came
upon a Great Britain cycling tour race being held in London that day.
Our timing was perfect as the cyclists were on the home stretch with
two laps remaining. As we walked along the route we were able to see
the last two laps just seconds from the finishing line. I have never
witnessed a cycling race and there was a neat energy as complete
strangers pounded the metal fences, waved flags and cheered the racers
across the line.

We walked along Trafalgar square and took in a giant chess game. We
strolled up to Piccadilly circus which Jimmy renamed Piccadilly zoo.
Between the pedestrian and vehicle traffic both competing for the
right to be in the intersection it was crazy. More horn honking during
those 10 blocks than our entire holiday!! Lol!!! (although we did spot
our first Tim Horton's so I am sure Jimmy at visions of double doubles
dancing through his head last night) And finally found our way back to
the hotel.

We rested for an hour or two and then headed out for one last dinner.
Italian was the choice and it was delightful. Yummy salad, pasta and
of course dessert.

The rest of the evening found us rearranging Jimmy for the next week
in Ireland and prepping for my flight home.

What a delightful vacation it was. I barely thought about work at all.
And girls you would be so proud... I didn't check my email once. Not
once. Although i am already dreading how many emails I will need to
work through upon my return.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 13 - And there was more

I got so caught up on our travel gong shows specifically the stuffed
cat couple and the cranky British couple that I forgot to tell you
about the rest of our day. After the long travel we finally arrived at
the last hotel on my journey. Kingsway hall. It's gorgeous. Another
hot wire find. And again a great location for the last day in London.
Right in the heart of Holborn and Covent garden. A short walking
distance to the river Thames and house of parliaments. Near all the
theatres and great shopping.

Since we were exhausted we decided to stick close and have dinner at
the hotel. Trev you would have loved the meal... It came with mushed
peas!!!! I even took a pic so I can make it for you the next time you
come to visit!!!

We wandered around discovering the near vicinity area and decided the
remaining adventures would still be waiting tomorrow!!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 13 - Adventures of Traveling back to London

I think the stars align in my life to ensure I have enough adventure. And if one day is lacking in it (that would be the yesterday we had at the beach) the next few days surely make up for it. And I am also certain that these adventures are meant to be shared as they are certainly worth a giggle or two. So without further adieu I will share with you our today...

By 5:53 the cab has arrived and we are ready to head to the airport. We timed our morning such that we could allow for the 40 - 45 minute cab ride to catch our 8:40 flight. After all, this was how long the cab to our hotel was. And within 17 minutes we are pulling up in front of the airport.

Wow, really??? And of course this sparks the barrage of teasing about lady cab drivers verses the much more competent male driver we had this morning. And the feeling of injustice that we were had the first time around with no opportunity for recourse. Oh well. As has been my motto thus far...better early than late.

We check in to our flight. Find our way through security and spot a coffee shop. After a couple cups of java each the day is just a little brighter. Or maybe that was because the sun was finally rising!! And to make things even better our gate was posted right next to the coffee shop. Ahhhh this travel is going to be a breeze.

Well to make a long story short ....

•they changed our gate to one down the hall
•we got the last seats available at the gate
•they changed the gate board to display Madrid but didn't update the departure board with a new gate
• finally 10 minutes after our flight was supposed to leave an attendant personally came around to tell us our new gate 7 minute walk away
•we arrive there and see our flight posted only for 15 minutes later for them to change it to a Munich flight
•we wait
•another lady arrives to tell the Munich passengers of a change in their gate
•we board and have a peaceful flight into Barcelona
•we wait extra long for our luggage and go in search of our next airline
•apparently as couples many of us missed the memo indicating that to show our true affections for each other we should have matching full sized stuffed animals with merely their heads poking out of our bags as that was the couple also waiting for their language who started to get quite annoyed by the delays
•in half Spanish half English we learn that they haven't moved over to their posted terminal yet so we need to transfer to the other terminal
•the second airline is a total gong show as they don't have a continuous queue and so they keep taking people behind us in line to the new queues they are opening up
•my carry on is far too heavy but we have no available weight in the suitcases so I give my breeziest expression as I 'casually' lift all 50 pounds of it up to the agent to tag as carry on all while not breathing for fear it will sound more like a grunt - whew, did it
•by now the 5 hours between our flights have dwindled to an hour and a half
• we do our best to get seats together in EasyJets rush seating policy which translates more literally to 'take no prisoners'
•as we settle in Jimmy overhears the couple ahead of us complaining that I am kicking her seat ...does she not realize that my 36" legs include thigh bones longer than the average person (on a side note that is another reason why I know I was meant to be rich and take my private jet. Even first class cannot accommodate my thigh bone!!!!)
•the gentlemen in front us lamented how fed up he was with the euro and all that goes with it and how glad he was to come home to the land of the pound
• we then witness a fight between the couple in front of us and this girl about my age who was sitting on the aisle regarding the fact that she neglected to turn her iPod off when requested to for landing and that could have caused us to crash

By the time we were settled in to the hotel the day had done us in. Over 15 hours of travel for 3 hours worth of flights. I have a feeling tonight might be an early one. Lol.

Day 12 - The Coveted Day at the Beach

Finally a day that was quickly proving to be fantastic weather. After a hearty breakfast we were off to the beach. There are beaches all along the coast and so within a ten minute walk we were feeling the sand between our toes and could hear the water lapping against the shore.

And really at the end of the day we didn't accomplish anything other than a healthy color in the cheeks a few laps to the buoy and back flipping every six songs and ice cream for the stroll back. And that my friends with winter fast approaching is the perfect way to spend a September day in Palma.

Topped it off with a little shopping along our hotel strip a subpar meal ordering the safest thing on the menu and another incredible lightning storm. We sadly bid a 'see ya later' to Palma.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 11 - Discovering the Mallorcan Coastline

Today started with a lovely breakfast at our hotel. Lots of coffee, delightful bread, eggs, fruit, meat, cheeses - too yummy really. We needed to be all ready to head out on our adventure by 10:30 as that was when the rental car would arrive.

Not really sure why they would be close to punctual but by 11:15 we were disappointed that they hadn't arrived yet. Jimmy called to find out their new ETA and by 12:30 we were on our way to discover some of what the island has to offer.

Our first stop was Genova. Apparently it has some of the most beautiful caves on the island. But not so beautiful that they need any signs for tourists. However, after a few wrong turns we stumbled upon a sign pointing us to the parking lot. We ponied up the 8 euro each and we were ready. The little man arrives with his little flashlight after a few minutes of waiting. He queries 'Dutch' to which Jimmy replies 'Canada, English' and this is where our adventures begin.

Other than knowing enough English to cover his basic script following every two or three word phrase by 'okay' the tour involved a lot of flashlights, fantasies and back lighting. He would repeat himself over and over again if we didn't approriatley respond when he would look to us for validation with his 'Okay' punctuation mark. Telling us to shut it while he played fantasy music and showed us fantasy cauliflower. We think this man has spent far too many hours in the cave as he sees images in all the stalactites and stalagmites. But in all honesty, the caves were beyond stunning and a neat island adventure.

Next stop was the beach. We wanted to time the stop so that we could take full advantage of the sun. After much driving along the coast through resort town after resort town we caught a glimpse of some beautiful spots. We headed off the main road to see what we could find and drove into a dead end. Upon further investigation (and validation by another couple who were doing the same thing) we headed down the steep rocky embankment to a little cove down below for a refreshing swim and some sun! It was absolutely gorgeous there.

It looked like some weather was rolling in so we headed out to finish the loop around. The road opened up into another beautiful fishing village with a little tourist strip so we stopped to check out the action and grab a bite. The fishing boats were trawlers and had much sharper bows (I pointed that out to Jimmy . . . ha ha ha . . . just kidding . . . i still don't know if the bow is the right or left side . . . ha ha ha. . . ;-)!!) but the fishermen looked the same. Weathered from many sunny days on the sea and glad to be home with money in their boat.

From this port we wound around for a couple of hours and came upon the mountain ridge that we had been hearing about. Crazy as the forest looks tropical but the rocks still have the jagged edges and layers like home. The road became much more narrow with hairpin turns and very few spots to pull over for pictures. And as such, we weren't able to capture much of the beauty to share with you. But I can say it is among the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

Since we were driving along the west coast, we were able to watch the sunset over the sea with the cliffs below. And this is when Jimmy's real adventure began. The roads are well maintained but they barely fit two cars, have crazy sharp edges, no shoulders, treacherous cliffs and turns that are amazingly sharp. At times it felt like we were doing a 270 degree blind turn. We laughed over the fact that the speed limit was posted as 50 and yet we were clinging to the side handles barely going 40 km/h. It was incredible and truly stunning!!!

Towns built right into the side of the cliff that have been there since the island has been inhabited. The road markers indicating where to turn have been faded by many years in the sun. We enjoyed every minute of it but were extra glad to arrive back safe and sound. Ha . . . whose kidding who . . . Jimmy was glad the car was back safe and sound as there were more than a couple of times when you wouldn't be able to fit a hair between the side mirror and the mountain. I was just a secondary thought. He barely wanted to pay for the insurance on me . . . I reminded him how much he likes my chocolate chip cookies . . . he soon forked over the extra 10 euros!!!

Day 10 - Rainy Day in Palma

You guys are seriously going to think I become the biggest ditz when I have vacation brain but it is all for very good reason. At least that is what i tell myself. And this morning was no different . . .

I decided after having crazy hair for the entire trip (just enough humidity to make it frizzy and the blow dryers are either extra hot frying your hair or barely dribble out any air so after 20 minutes, it's still sopping wet!!!) that I would curl it all cute. That usually gives me 2 days of fantastic wear. First day down and the second day in a swooshy pony tail. And yes for all the gentlemen reading this blog these are important details. In fact details us ladies dream about as we must look photo worthy at any moment when on vacation. You never know when you might catch the most beautiful glimpse of something that requires a self portrait. And let's face it . . . Jimmy is cute . . . but we all know who looks better in front of a fountain or war hero monument ;-)!!!

So i jump out of bed, plug in my curling iron being careful to use the adaptor and then the converter, tie my hair up so it won't get wet in the shower. After a few minutes picking out my outfit and organizing my suitcase, I am ready to hit the shower. Suddenly I smell something hot. Then I hear a slight sizzle as the lights in the entire hotel room turn off. Next I notice a faint black smoke coming out of the converter box. Oh dear, this doesn't look good. And it smells even worse!!!! I proceed to shower in the dark pondering this situation. What kind of extra bill will that be for the hotel room. And i even used the converter. Double checked and sure enough I had it on the right ampage setting!!

After alerting Jimmy to the situation he headed down to the hotel desk to inform them. They ensured they would have someone up to look at it. As we were waiting, Jimmy re-read the converter small print: 'do not use in cases of constant heat like curling irons and blow dryers'! But the Best Buy employee indicated this was exactly the type of converter we needed. Argh!!!!!!!!!

The technician soon knocked at the door. Jimmy explained the problem. The guy removed a lovely picture off the wall revealing the breaker box. Once the breaker was flipped, the lights blinked their way to life. And all was good. Except, of course, for the still smouldering converter box on the patio. And the jury is out as to how the curling iron survived the incident. So much for cute hair. Really, frizz is quite fashionable this season!!!!!

So after that ordeal, it was time for lunch. Unfortunately, the weather was not being kind and again it started to rain. We pondered the days itinerary and decided to head into Palma. Then tomorrow we will rent a car to do the south west side of the island which is supposed to be the prettiest. And the following day was supposed to be sun sun sun which of course means the beaches and a scooter will be calling our names!!!!!

The hotel is again in a fantastic location. The pools are crystal clear, the restaurants overlook the pool and the sea, every room has a balcony with a sea view and the bus stops right outside the hotel to take you directly into Palma's shopping and sightseeing district. So that is exactly what we decided to do!!!!!

Palma is a much smaller city but certainly has all the amenities a large city would have. Apparently it is also home to the busiest airport in Europe which could explain why there are so many hotels, restaurants and fantastic shopping spots.

After wandering around the stores for a while, the heavens opened up again. I had packed an umbrella but it wasn't quite big enough for two. So we wandered around in the rain looking for a coffee shop to stop for a cappuccino and try out one of these famous ensamaidas that mallorcan culture is known for. Unfortunately that took a fair amount of wandering so another umbrella was in order instead!! LOL!!!!!

Finally we found a little coffee shop. Shared the most delightful ensamaida filled with whipping cream. Dried out a bit and headed off again.

Suddenly the sun appeared. The weather is kind of crazy over here. But we won't complain about the sun when we see it!!! It was delightful to wander the little streets in search of the cathedral. The building are gorgeous!! The streets even more quaint than Barcelona and the cathedrals slightly smaller but every bit as ornate and awe inspiring.

Before we knew it, our stomachs were growling and the rain was again rolling in. We stopped in this little tapas place, people watched, ate tiny little grilled baguette sandwiches, bacon wrapped dates and meatballs and enjoyed the fact that we beat the crowds as the rain started.

When there was a break in the rain, we headed out to find our way home. Cities always look so different under the blanket of night. The neon lights make certain establishments stand out that otherwise you would pass by without giving a second thought. And little markets slip by unnoticed. I love the transition. You never know what new things you may see!!!!

Good night all!!!! We promise more adventures to share!!!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 9 - Palma beckons us

Today started with a bit of an oops on my behalf. I was the keeper of the schedule and was certain last night that our flight left at 10. As as we were about to leave, I double checked the emails only to find that I had been checking the wrong day and the flight didn't actually leave until 11:20!!

Since we had been up late the night before, the extra sleep would have been nice but better too early than late!! Mercies I haven't proven to be the best navigator on this trip!!!!

But alas our flight was soon on it's way and as we flew over the island I was anxious to explore. You could see the changing shore front scenes from beaches to rocks and caves. The little farming land. Homes that look like they have been there for centuries. It was going to be a fun three days.

After grabbing some lunch at our hotel snack bar which overlooks the sea, it was time for a rest. Already you could feel the pace of life slow down and relax. All the little shops around the hotel were closed for their afternoon siesta except the tourist convenience stores with their plethora of floatables, selection of tacky beach bags and plenty of sunscreen.

Once we were back at the hotel, I grabbed a delightful nap and then we headed back down to the front desk. There they loaded us up with maps and best restaurant locations, the scooter rental localles and the most fantastic discotheques in the area. After all, Jimmy's moves really are dying to bust loose again.

To let you in on a little secret - my first rule of thumb when travelling somewhere new is to explore the hotel. Then you venture out to the immediate area around the hotel. Once you know what amenities are available within the near vicinity it is time to venture out within casual walking distance making note of the markets to buy fresh produce and snacks, the little coffee shops, breakfast specials, yummy dinner restaurants and of course any fantastic looking desserts.

As such with the hotel tips in mind, we were off to explore! We found a little shop flowing over with pearl jewellery. We stumbled upon a cute little beach strip and dipped our toes. We noted some coffee shops and a couple spots for tapas. We certainly noted the menus with pictures and kept walking. Found a few trattorias promising us delightfully yummy dishes and finally settles on a little Spanish bbq for appetizers. Mainly because they boasted these sought after empanadas which I was told I must try.

All I can say about the empanadas is that we started with one of each kind. We couldn't leave without ordering a second round and making note that we will have to come back again.

Enroute home, we thought this would be a great evening for cappuccino and dessert so when we found a cute patio with inviting smells we quickly stopped. And none too soon as we were about to find out what storms on the island can be like. The heavens opened up with huge bangs, the place lit up like daytime and then all went black. We could see by the glow of the candles that the rain was pounding down washing away the heat of summer.

After raining like this for an hour or two it let up so we could walk back to the hotel. Thankfully the power didn't stay off long. However it was a bit of a sleepless night as it started all over again and worse than before shortly after we arrived back at the hotel.

Craziness!!! I hope the weather lets up long enough for us to explore some of the beaches Mallorca is famous for!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 8 - Bidding Farewell to Barcelona

After the late night before the morning was slow in coming. But once we got it underway there was no stopping us.

It was our last day here and we still had a couple things to cross off the list. Spurred on with energy from the delightful fruit we headed off to Park Guell. We had decided to take a taxi from our hotel and very glad we did. It was quite the hike.

On the way we pondered what a Spanish family would do on a Sunday since stores and many restaurants are closed. When we arrived at the park we knew. The park was teeming with people.

It certainly is an incredible place. Gaudi's architecture speaks of his delightful imagination as the abstract shapes and curves were beautiful. He uses a lot of glass mosaics to cap his towers and create interest in his spaces. But you couldn't find a spot to sit and enjoy or take a photo. Soon we were on our way.

We were walking towards the Gracia district when we felt the first rain drop. Oh dear. But since we were in search of lunch we were sure to get out of the open air before the sky opened up on us. Many many many blocks later and many many rain drops later we found our way to a small bakery for a croissant and cappuccino. Lol. But I will not complain as they sure do make a great cappuccino here.

I don't know why but we seem to be picky when it comes to food and their typical tapes cafeteria shows pictures with a fried egg on the side of any dish and as such our rule has become if their menu is posted at the door with pictures to keep walking. And walk we did. Finally stopping for a meal when we reached the waterfront 2.5 hours later. As Jimmy noted though, thank goodness it was all down hill. And as always, we discovered many new sights along the way. Including a beautiful 'football' stadium with a match underway.

After our lunch the sun was shining brightly so we headed down to the beach to catch some sun sand and surf. Despite the constant pleas we declined all massage offers but did give into the gentleman with the green bags selling coca cola, cervesa or agua. What an interesting home business that would be. Tough sale today though as the beach didn't have nearly as many people as Friday.

With the sun starting to dip down we headed to the pier for some gelato and a stroll around the marina. Some of the yachts are incredible. Hot tubs. Water toys. Big sun decks. That is a life I would like to try for a few months!! Anyone care to fly into Barcelona to join us on the Mediterranean for a week or two?

P.s. I spotted a riders jersey today in our travels. We truly do bleed green wherever we go. And on that note Jimmy did mention that Barcelona must have him really charmed. Today is the first Sunday of the American football season and it didn't even cross his mind until he spotted the Minnesota Cleveland game at the shisha lounge we stopped at. And worthy to note one of the few places we have found with any big screens.

And to our great fortune the following game was Redskins verses the Giants so of course we had to stay. This meant I had plenty of time to shop for and write up the family postcards. With Jimmy's help of course.

It is now way past our bedtime so I shall sign off. Tomorrow we will be hailing from Palma!!!

Day 7 - Discovering Gothic Quarter

The morning dawned on another gorgeous day. Now that we were on our own we wanted to explore some of the areas we had seen from the bus but didn't have time for before.

Our first stop was the market right by our hotel. From the bus I had noticed the cutest little cafe that was promising crepes. First problem, to find the cafe again. Second problem ordering crepes in spanish. Unfortunatley they didn't have any bananas nor nutella and the four cheese quickly became two cheese. But alas all was not lost as we made our way through a bunch of market kiosks purchasing gifts for others.

We wandered through the fresh food section to stall upon stall of fresh fish, nuts and spices, meats and cheese, beef lamb pork and a mystery animal with beady eyes and a small tuft of white fur staring at me, chicken, fruits and veggies, pastries and bread and one lone bar/cappuccino stall. Funny that this stall was the busiest of all. Did I mention it was 11 am!!!

From there we wandered along the shops. Barcelona has more shopping options than any city I have ever been in. Soon we tired of shopping so stopped at a fresh market to buy some peaches. I am not going to lie. These were the best peaches we have ever tasted. Yummy!!! So good in fact that as soon as we were finished we went looking for more. Why oh why did we not discover these markets sooner.

Since we were carrying our wares and peaches, a stop back at the hotel was in order. By the time we arrived we were hot and sweaty and ready for a dip so off to the pool we went. What a refreshing afternoon stop.

Next it was off to our favorite part of the city... The Gothic quarter. I don't know why I love this area so much. Perhaps some of the same reasons many others do: the narrow streets that zigzag through the city, the mixture of restaurants, high end shopping, souvenir stores and random discount shops or the fact that there is a surprise waiting for you around the most random corners-like a stunning building you had no idea was there or a little courtyard filled with chairs and umbrellas or the most delightful smells from a homemade waffle shop. Or maybe it's because there are so many streets, restaurants and shops that a few thousand people doesn't feel like the same crowd you would have elsewhere and maybe it's because the locals are more likely to be in this area dragging their shopping bags along filled with bread and fruits. Maybe it's because every last detail on the building is thought out, carefully built and stood the test of time. More beautiful now than it was centuries ago as time has added it's stories both of celebration and sadness to these very places. Needless to say... I absolutely adore it.

We wandered through the streets stumbling upon the most famous and awesome concert hall in the world which has stood for over 100 years. We followed the twists of the street to the Arc de Triomf. We strolled down the walkway stopping to enjoy the many iron gargoyles along the way. We ducked into the narrow streets and came upon a little shop to pick up a Barcelona football jersey. We continued to make random turns through streets when we came upon an open court with so many delightful smells escaping the 5 restaurant kitchens we couldn't help but stop for dinner. We meandered through the cobblestone when we looked up to see an awesome church spire. By following that spire we found another beautiful and incredibly large church that was hidden from view 5 minutes ago. And there we found some beautiful jewelry where I bought myself the most adorable ring. The streets led us through more twists and turns, passed another church, down to the water and back into a beautiful circular courtyard. We sat for a while soaking it all in.

Before long the cobblestones were dancing beneath our feet again taking us to his large open plaza where people dined, sipped cappuccino, found a space to sit and read, crouched into the most awkward of positions to get that one awesome shot. We continued through to our next adventure which found us along the old shipping district by the water. There we stopped for dessert and cappuccino ourselves. But alas our adventure was not over. We ducked across the bridge to stroll the water front before again losing ourselves in the maze. We spent almost 40 minutes trying to retrace our steps back to a little shop we had seen earlier. We finally settled on one like it before we headed to find a taxi.

Along the walk out we did find that first shop we were looking for. We also experienced the Gothic quarter as they shut the lights off. Those dark alleys didn't seem as playful and adventurous as they had earlier. But I still loved every minute of it. And in case I haven't given you enough reasons yet: I like it because over the course of the 7 hours we were there we never ran into the same person nor did we ever stumble upon the same plaza that the taxi originally dropped us off in.

By now it was late, our feet were tired and we were ready to dream about all of our adventures.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sad news

Despite the fact that we were in a beautiful city, the last two days have had a dark cloud around. I received word that my uncle Glenn passed away. He was in a serious accident in February and despite a valiant fight went to dwell in heaven. It is at these times you truly wish you could be in two places at once. The wonderful thing is that we can send our thoughts and prayers towards heaven regardless of where we are.

Bug hugs to you my family. Love you.

Day 6 - On the Streets of Barcelona

With our bellies full of another delightful breakfast buffet we were off. This time we wandered down to catch the red route at a little shopping plaza not far from the hotel. And were we ever glad we caught it there!! By the time we reached Placa de la Catalunya (starting spot of the world renowned La Rambla) the bus line ups were crazy long. This route took us to the northern part of the city where we saw Barcelona's incredible football stadium, large estate homes, beautiful Gothic monastery and some of Gaudi's famous work.

Going by the Temple de la Sagrada Familia it was amazing to compare it to the cathedral from the day before. After many years of construction it still wasn't even close to being completed. And I don't know if I can really say this as I don't know Gaudi's intent but the building seemed to be more about leaving his legacy rather than a tribute to an awesome God. Once we post pics upon our return, you can make your own conclusion!!

We listened to the full route before getting off at La Rambla and touring that strip. The amount of people was amazing. It was like the red mile all over again. And of course with the crowds comes performers, markets, little food stands etc. Even Burger King and McDonald's had a strip front presence.

La Rambla takes you down to the port where we were able to check out a cute little port side residential area in search of a spot for lunch. The cool thing about Barcelona is that in every little area you find tapas bars, convenience stores, markets, fresh fruits and veggies, butchers, and restaurants scattered along all of the streets with residential flats above. And of course many lines of laundry being hung to dry.

Our next plan of attack was the green route through the more modern areas before finding ourselves back on the beach front. What a contrast in architecture there was in that area of the city With a quick change and light snack Jimmy dived into the gorgeous Mediterranean sea while I slept on the beach in the beautiful sun. The water was a gorgeous aqua and clear and the beach was certainly crowded. Apparently we stumbled upon a national holiday to celebrate the Catalan heritage so things were certainly closed in the non-touristy areas and busy along the waterfront.

Another refreshment stop and we were on our way to ride the red route one more time at dusk and head back to our hotel. After two late nights and long days in the sun and walking we were due for an earlieri'sh night.

Another successful day in the beautiful city.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day 5 - A little Hop on and Off in Barcelona

This day proved to be even better than I imagined. After a bit of a sleep in we decided to grab breakfast at the hotel first. Potato tostados, sausages, eggs, yogurt, fruit, meats, cheeses, pastries and of course endless amounts of coffee. It was just the kick we needed to get the day going.

And in case I haven't stressed enough how fantastic our hotel is... Let me reiterate that it's in a fantastic location. Not only is it across the street from the train station but it is also right by one of the hop on hop off stops. Needless to say that is directly where we headed!!!

I am glad that I convinced Jimmy (not that it took much) that these are the best way to navigate around and learn all about the city you are exploring. As always we were not disappointed.

Today we explored the blue route which took us up Olympic hill down along the port past the beach and into Gothic quarter. This where we took our first leave.

Not going to lie, did a small happy dance when we were off the bus. It is even better than I imagined. The quaint little winding streets, shopping, markets and faint hint of sea air. After snapping some pics in the open area we wound our way down the streets. Of course I couldn't pass by the gelato (apparently strangers were laughing at me as I snapped the gelato fashion shoot) and slowly wandered on our way window shopping as we went.

All too soon, the store owners started to shut down for their afternoon siesta so we decided a little lunch was in order. We found the most adorable little foccacia shop and enjoyed our little snack.

Since we were right by the cathedral and everyone was still siesta'ing it was our next stop. A beautiful work of art by Gaudi; every book said it was sure to please. So after paying our admission and buying a piece of fabric to cover my shoulders out of respect (what a delight that the cathedral is so sacred they still maintain a dress code) we quickly came upon some of the most awesome sites we had ever seen.

To this day I will not understand how architects in the middle and early centuries could design and carefully supervise the creation of such stunning buildings. We wandered around in complete awe. I must admit, when entering these buildings I always find myself with a lump in my throat. The awe and beauty they wanted to bestow on their faith...How did we become so complacent and simplistic in ours.

Just as we were finishing in the cathedral my battery light came on the camera. I suppose taking 100+ pictures in a few hours will do that. However this meant a stop back at the hotel. Perfect timing really since we were hot and sweaty, ready for a little more bus learning and wistfully thinking about the pool.

A little dip and a quick poolside nap gave us the energy we needed to head back to the bus so we could stop at some of the earlier sights. With pictures of the Barcelona sky line, sunsets and the port we were ready to hit up La Rambla for a delicious meal and a quick stroll.

All too soon the day was over and slumber was calling our name.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Day 4 - Ola!!!

After leaving London and the fabulous fashion behind (p.s. Jimmy is adding to his skinny jeans and one lens sunglasses a deep tight v-neck shirt that highlights his strong collar bone and frolicking chest hair) we were off to Barcelona. Fortunately enough the flight was uneventful!!!

Upon arriving, we managed to figure out the train route and after a walk the long way around the block find our hotel. And what a delightful hotel it turned out to be. Fantastic rooms. Roof top pool with lounge chairs. Terrace sip n chill. Very helpful staff.

By this point we were nearly starving and so headed off to grab some lunch at a little spot across the street. The dear folk back in Nova Scotia are going to be amazed at the Norwegian lobster that topped the risotto. And after the salad incident I couldn't wait to eat more than a leaf of lettuce. So yummy after the morning of travel.

With the early start, warm sun and yummy food, the pool was begging us to come and lounge before heading out on the town for sites and dinner!! So that is exactly what we did.

Throughout the day it was quickly discovered that I am not the best navigator if I'm hungry. Somehow after pondering over the map for half an hour, I led us 90 degrees in the wrong direction for 20 minutes. Lol...oops. I deserved to have been stripped of my girl guide navigation badge for that one!!! (but really it was all a ploy to pass the map duties on so I can spend more time gazing about and picking out Spanish men to bring home for Brenda and Nicole!!! That's a hard enough job...)

And this leads me to our favorite part of the day... Dining at 9 pm on a fantastic little patio on tapas. And we ordered it without a stitch of English on the menu. It was also amazing to see the flurry of activity and relaxed gatherings as we were the not the first to leave our table even though it was 12:45. I can't imagine hooking up with friends at 11:30 on a Wednesday eve but it somehow works here. Seriously in love with Barcelona.

So good night all. We are off to enjoy a pink panther. Too excited to discover more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Day 3 - Seeing the Seedier side of London

Gorgeous day in the city of London. In fact a perfect day to drive around in a convertible bus learning more tidbits on London. Like how queen Victoria sabotaged her very own gate which she hated by buying a carriage that was too big to fit through, or where Madonna lives or seeing the most expensive monopoly property, the queens residence, how many people have been hanged in this city, the most expensive hotel room: £8800 per night not including breakfast, or the Aston Martin show room where James Bond buys his car, Wil Smith's fave hotel, that people actually think Sherlock Holmes exists and a boat cruise along the river Thames.

But one of the highlights was following around a tour guide that shared all about Jack the Ripper. In fact, he knows a little too much about Jack the Ripper and took us back to a neighborhood quite close to our hotel to share the grand finale. Crazy story and even crazier that many of the buildings are still standing.

Culminate all of these events with a delightful cheese platter and excellent dinner conversation and you have the perfect London day.

Not going to lie though, quite excited about Barcelona...


Day 2 - Experiencing the Tower of London

Mercies my little feet are tired after that busy day. But a fantastic day it was!!

Starting with the delightful sleep in a cozy bed without being awoken by beverage service every hour. And then the night before as we were out and about we spotted a creperie in the area. Of course I could not resist!!!! Yum!!!

After that is off to see the Tower of London. I had no idea it was so big with so many options of things to do... Guided tours, walking tours, King Henry VIII exhibit, torture chambers, prisons, museums, shopping, tea and of course the most delightful of all -wandering through the vault checking out the crown jewels!!! I thought it would be a1 1/2 hour stop but to my amazement, four hours later we were still walking and deciding what not to do. Nor did i have any clue it was 1000 years old!!! Kind of makes you chuckle thinking how we consider a home built in 1910 to be a historic building in Canada. Another fact I was amazed to learn: people actually live within the tower walls still. As we walked a short stretch of the tall wall we noticed laundry on the line, box gardens and BBQs. (as an aside, I don't think being locked within the walls every night is for me... What if you are craving pizza at midnight???) I truly think our brains grew three sizes today!!!

By that point we were ready for a bit of a break so we rested our weary feet on the hop on hop off as we learned all about the tidbits of London before grabbing an evening bite and taking some night shots on our walk back.

Quite excited for tomorrows agenda which includes a cruise on the river Thames, the Jack the ripper tour, another delightful cafe and the London Eye among many others.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Day 1 - We Arrive in London

Wow. It's hard to believe we are actually here. So let me tell you a few highlights of what we encountered along the way.

First up ... The 8 + hour plane ride. Which of course was delayed cause we were flying with Air Canada. I think this was the worst time I have had trying to sleep on the plane. But at last we had landed and were ready to be on our way.

Due to the lack of sleep, the idea of being brave and navigating the tube was more than we could bare. As such we grabbed a taxi and headed to our hotel. The driver was pleasant enough but he had made the most awkward fashion statement I have seen thus far: sunglasses in which he only had one lens. After noticing this the potential reasons were abundant... Illegal to drive wearing sunglasses, his right eye was a glass eye, just had laser surgery on the left eye, Michael Jackson's influence extended beyond the white glove ... Regardless, I think Jimmy should test out that same fashion statement tomorrow.

The third highlight of the day was the delightful nap once we were all checked in. Zzzzzzz the hotel beds are quite comfy.

Rejuvenated and hungry we were off. Found a little place along the way to sample the finest of London appetizers. Saw some fantastic architecture that blends the old with the new. Made a plan to buy Jimmy some skinny jeans to round off his fashion statement. And stumbled upon the middle eastern equivalent to china town.

Wow the smells were amazing. All these little restaurants serving their curries and tandoori. As you walk along, each restaurant has an employee standing out on the street to entice people in. You can imagine their intensity as every 20 feet you are in front of a new restaurant. Free drinks. 25% off the bill. Best curry in town. After carefully selecting the restaurant we anxiously anticipated the mouth watering dishes everyone around us was dining on. Majah paneer. Chili chicken masala. Roti. Saffron rice. It was all soooo yummy.

The walk back proved the area was as interesting at night as it was during the daylight. The crowds spilled onto the street from various pubs as the patrons had no problems grabbing a seat on the dirty side walk. Men unpacking their suitcases to display all their 'new' or 'new to you' wares for sale. (don't worry we double checked to make sure none of our suitcases were on the sidewalk). And these cute little sidewalk cafes.

It truly was a delightful first day.