Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Hop On, Hop Off in Barcelona

The first time I ever rode a Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus was in Barcelona. I was attending an International Quilt Show with two other friends, and we had a ball. I’ve raved about it for years, eager to get AdventureMan to Barcelona. I knew he would love it.

Leaving Sagrada Familia, we hopped back on the HOHO bus. It is the most beautiful day, sunny, warm but not too warm, and Barcelona is full of the most idiosyncratic architectural detail. I am in heaven.

People-who-know tell us we MUST drink Vermouth in Barcelona. I think my parents used vermouth when they made martinis, but I have no idea what it tastes like. We are intrigued.

Imagine, just for a minute, living in this house. It must have high ceilings and spacious rooms. Imagine the added space, up on the rooftops, where you can have drinks or dinner, or put out the clothes drying racks where no one can see.

Fresh roasted chestnuts! They smell so much better than they taste (my opinion)

Of all the jobs I wouldn’t want, replacing huge plates of glass far above the ground would be one of them.

Gaudi apartment building; the same architect who drew up the plans for Sagrada Familia.

We returned to Place Cataluna, starving. We had a great breakfast, but it has now worn off and we want something light to eat for lunch and some famous Barcelona chocolate!

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Cultural, Living Conditions, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Barcelona, A Breast Cancer Run, and Sagrada Familia

I slept lightly but slept from 10 p.m. to 7:45 a.m., so good enough. We keep expecting jet lag to kick in, but I think we are so busy we are sleeping well at night from sheer exhaustion. We took our time getting ready and headed down to breakfast. What a surprise! Different, but beautiful and tasty and plentiful. I had a little cereal, some thinly sliced ham and sausage, and an espresso, then another. AdventureMan had bread and sausages, with some delicious jam and four fresh orange juices. The room was full of cruisers, some from Princess, so I don’t know who will be cruising with us.

From our room after breakfast, we could see hundreds of pink t-shirted women running. I know this race! Where else do thousands of women race in bright pink T-shirts in October and November? It’s a huge run against breast cancer, and it goes on and on. Streets are closed.

Where we thought we would catch the HopOn HopOff bus is closed off. We have to walk a short distance to the next stop, but we don’t care. This is lovely, and wonderful! They were still running when we went to Plaza Cataluña and we had to cross them going to the plaza, then come back from the place because the buses had to be caught elsewhere.

When we got to the bus, I didn’t have a mask and had to go back to the hotel to pick one up. When we got back to the bus, it was perfect timing, we got a great seat up on top.

We got to Sagrada Familia just in time for our 10:30 tickets. I was surprised we had to go through security like airplane security.

(There are many places you can buy your tickets in advance. We bought our Hop On Hop Off tickets and our Sagrada Familia tickets directly from the operators. Sagrada Familia has a very nice website: https://sagradafamilia.org/en/)

Sagrada Familia was beautiful; beautiful lines, like a stone forest holding up the ceiling. The stained glass windows were stunning. The colors were like Matisse, but without images. We just basked in their loveliness. There wasn’t a huge crowd, and it was quiet and respectful. I can’t imagine what it might be like in high season. 

It is a gorgeous Sunday morning, and these people have the most amazing location, just across from Sagrada Familia. What a lovely place to have your Sunday morning coffee and newspaper.

I love the beauty of the statuary, and – look at the frame! It looks like giant teeth!

This has to be a metaphor for the abundance of the Earth . . .

Look how tenderly this (King?) holds this precious baby

It is an artist’s gift, I believe, to use earthly materials to express the inexpressible and barely attainable. Gaudi combines earthliness and Godly tenderness and compassion in a remarkable and awe-inspiring way.

AdventureMan was not wild about visiting Sagrada Familia when there are so many great places to visit in Barcelona. He went to please me. He was WOWED. He still talks about this visit with awe. Best visit ever!

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Sea: Athens – It’s Not You, It’s Me

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We wake up docked in Pireus, the harbor area of Athens. We are relaxed, our bags are packed, with just clothes out for dinner and for travel tomorrow. Very early tomorrow. Our wake-up call is for 0230, that is two thirty in the morning for your non-military folk.

AdventureMan and I have a funny relationship with Greece. Back in the day, when he asked me to marry him, my brash young lieutenant said “Marry me, and I will take you to Greece.” A year later, on our way to Kenya, we were sitting on the tarmac in Athens, in the middle of a coup attempt. I turned to him and said “this does not count as taking me to Greece.”

Years later, when he was working to hard, I called him and told him we were leaving the dark and cold of winter in Germany and spending a week in Crete. We had a wonderful time – it would have counted for me, but AdventureMan said Crete did not really count as Greece.

So, finally, we are truly in Greece. His promise has been fulfilled 🙂

We are taking the panoramic tour of Athens, and the first stop is a photo op for the Acropolis, which is undergoing restorations, and is covered with scaffolding and nets.

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In front of a gigantic, soulless stadium where Olympics were held in the distant and not-so-distant past, an enterprising young man was doing lunges and thrusts; you could have your photo taken with him for a fee.

Only seconds after I snapped this shot, however, he did some kind of maneuver that brought his cape up over his helmet, and it got stuck. He couldn’t see, the cape covered his whole head and he had a sword in one hand and a big shield on the other arm and he was blind as a bat. It was so unexpectedly hilarious. A fellow costumed entrepreneur rescued him before I could snap off another photo.

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Across the street, a statue of an Olympian.

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I’m pretty sure the building below is the university

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The details are all getting jumbled in my head and we are on a bus with 34 people. When we get off at the Archaeology Museum, all 34 have to use the restroom, and I tell AdventureMan to have fun, I am making my escape. I find a wonderful cappuccino and a table in the outdoor cafe where I am happy listening to the birds and enjoying ancient art all by myself. Actually, very shortly a Scottish couple we have encountered a few times invites me to join them and we have a great chat. Some of us are just wired that way.

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Each group has it’s own red ‘lollypop” (in the tour guide’s hand, just slightly to upper right of center)

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We all get back on the bus and are dropped off at the Plaka area, very cool. We wander around and then see one of the guides at the restaurant which I think translates as Plakiotessa, and it has a menu we like, so we go there, too. It is another great day for eating outside, woo hoo, and AdventureMan and I decide to split an appetizer plate. We don’t need to eat the way we ate in Santorini more than once in a blue moon, but we enjoy every bite.

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This was truly delicious! Relatively light and plenty for two. We saw equally beautiful dishes going to other tables, too.

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We’re not quite ready to end our Athens leg, so we explore the area a little, then hop on a Hop On, Hop Off bus. We explain to the lady that we only want one loop, and she gives us a special deal. You get on, you get earplugs, and rush upstairs to get a seat. You plug your ear plugs in and choose your language. My earplugs lasted about 7 minutes.

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The bus took almost exactly the same route as the bus tour of the morning. We were bummed, until just after a big outdoor flower market the bus took a different turn and we ended up in a part of town that reminded us of Doha and Kuwait, an area full of souks, braziers, spice shops, antiquities. We were so enchanted, I didn’t even take any pictures. If we ever go back to Athens, that area will be our first stop.

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We got to see the soldiers marching to the changing of the guard:

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I’m pretty sure these are on top of the National Library:

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The market near which is the souk kind of area we loved.

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Back at the Plaka, we get off the Hop On Hop Off and right on to a shuttle to take us back to the ship. AdventureMan hits the spa and I take a nap. Perfect.

 

It’s not that Athens isn’t a lot of fun. I think it could be. Being in a new city, often a new country, every day is not very relaxing, and I think by the time I hit Athens, my enthusiasm for the struggle had waned. It’s not you, Athens, it’s me.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment