Saturday, October 19, 2013

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

We made it to the Magic Fountain today!  We had a leisurely morning mixed with a good rest time. We then headed off to Placa d'Espanya where we could see the Magic Fountain in action.  On our way to the metro, we stopped to take pictures of a Guadi-designed house.  Once to the Placa d'Espanya we ran in the mall which was converted from a bullring to grab dinner to-go.  We took our dinner up the hill to the fountain and stayed for two showings of the Magic Fountain.  

The Magic Fountain was built in 1929 for the International Exhibition.  It offers a spectacular display of music, water acrobatics, and lights.   We all loved the experience.

Amelie in front of the Gaudi-designed house.
The fountain in the center of Placa d'Espanya with the Venetian towers in the back ground.  We thought they looked familiar. With further research, we found we were right. These towers were modeled after the bell tower of the San Marco Cathedral in Venice.
This bullring built in 1899 was converted to a shopping center a couple of years ago.
We grabbed some food to-go inside.
Eating on our front row seats to the show.

The area was packed with other onlookers. 

Amelie and Liam have to dance if there is music playing.

Warning: Castles are Built on Top of Mountains

When Bobby posited for us to visit Castell de Montjuic on October 18th, I readily agreed.  Little did I know that we would be walking up a mountain for what seemed like hours to reach the castle.  We had two options: 1. ride the funicular up to the castle OR 2. walk and enjoy the views.  Can you guess which option we chose?  Can you guess which option we would choose if we were to do this again?  :)  Okay, enough complaining.  Although I was tired (and I wasn't pushing both kids on the stroller), it was worth the stroll (the term stroll used loosely here).  

We exited the metro stop at Espanya and walked up the hill past the Magic Fountain, the Palau National (National Art Museum of Catalonia), the Olympic Park (from the 1992 Olympics), and up to the Castle.  We got detoured a couple of times, but finally made it to the top.  We had about an hour in the castle before it closed.  There was not a lot to see of the castle, but the views of the city and port were nice.  In addition, it was free to enter which is always a selling point for us.  We were able to talk to Amelie about the purpose of a port and how ports operate.  Liam and Amelie loved racing from one end to the next.  We also walked through the grounds and climbed on the large guns.  When we asked Liam if he wanted to get out of the stroller to climb on the guns, you should have seen his face.  He lit up like we had offered him the moon.

After the castle closed we walked back down the hill, but this time through a more populated park.  After going on switch back after switch back we came to a slide.  Surprisingly, for the size and grade of the slide it was really slow.  We then decided we were tired of walking and caught a bus for the remainder of the ride down down to the main square.  

Our goal was to eat dinner and then go to the Magic Fountain.  As we drove by on the bus, we saw the Magic Fountain lit up.  I had done faulty research and thought the shows started at 9 p.m. and ran until 11 p.m.  With it being Fall, the hours were different.  Oops! We ate dinner at an overpriced street cafe, and then walked back to the Magic Fountain to discover we had missed the last show.  Although we missed the last show, we had fun being out again at night.  When traveling, you have to be flexible.  You have to roll with the punches.  We talked it over with Amelie and Liam and had no melt downs or tantrums.  I am thankful they are learning to be flexible as well. 
Amelie and Liam in front of Palau National.  This area rivals with Trocadero Square in Paris.
The palace on the hill with the many fountains and shaped hedges....pretty cool.

Climbing up hill on a less traveled road.

We made it to the castle entrance!!!
The moat was beautiful!  I loved the view across the moat to the sea.

View of the port.  We even heard cruise ships blowing their departure horns.
"On your mark, get set, GO!"
The view of the city right up against the Sea is remarkable.
Great views of the city.  Amelie can now point out Sagrada Familia on her own.

Palau National lit up at night.

Playground Hopping

After rest time, we set out to go to an art museum.  However, on our walk to the museum we came across a couple of playgrounds.  We decided to play instead of making it to the museum before closing time.  I am glad that we didn't rush around, and we took this time to really play with Amelie and Liam.  The first playground we stopped at, it was a traditional playground with slides and swings.  There was also a large boat and Liam loves driving me around.  While we were playing another couple came up with a boy the same age as Liam.  We ended up talking with this couple for a while as they were from Eastern Europe and Germany, but have lived in Barcelona for 10 years.  We exchanged contact information with plans of meeting up again.  Bobby and I are amazed at the friendliness of the families that we have met on the playgrounds in our neighborhood.  We do miss community and are ready to be in a place where we can invest in relationships again.  I hope we are able to find other Gulf-Shorians to hang with!  
We ran out of diapers so we stopped by the store and pushed around a big bag of diapers for our stroll.
Liam does not like riding in his stroller these days.  Whenever we are in a safe place, he is out and walking.
We walked to another park within Barcelona University.  Amelie climbed a tree.  We saw parakeets eating berries in a tree. It was fun walking through this park.  Afterwards we came up to a large mall area with a grocery store and patisseries.  We needed diapers and water, but then also grabbed a tasty treat from the patisserie.
We then walked to Palau Reial de Pedralbes which is a palace that the royal family would reside when they visited Barcelona during the early 1900's.  We did not go in the palace, but walked around the gardens and then played at a playground within the grounds.  The gardens were beautiful with little ponds and fountains throughout the well maintained green spaces.

"Serious" pose. 
Being loved by your kids is so special.  I am thankful that Amelie and Liam want to be near me.
I am humbled by their love and their affection to me.  
There were a couple of bamboo tunnels to walk through.
Amelie and Liam love being adventurers and going off the beaten trail.  
We found a fountain designed by Gaudi, The Font d'Hércules (Hercules fountain).  Amelie began splashing a bit which caused Liam to want to get retribution.  He put his whole arm in the fountain to make a giant splash. His shirt was completely soaked.

While calling for the ducks, he stopped to growl at a pigeon.  Pigeon beware!
The playground was designed for older kids, but we made it work.  I was tired of walking and almost sat on a nearby park bench to watch them play.  Instead, I jumped on this circular spin-around bench.  Bobby hopped on too while Amelie and Liam had a blast spinning their parents around and around.  They thought it was hilarious as both Bobby and I almost fell off multiple times.  We then held Amelie and Liam on while we spun around which was also a bast.  After having a good laugh, I was glad that I resisted the urge of being a spectator.  
We ended the fun day by making Nachos.  We have not had much Mexican food since we left the States and I was so happy when Bobby made us this treat.  It was good comfort food!

An Evening Stroll

Work is keeping Bobby and I pretty busy these days.  We battle with ensuring we are doing our jobs well while also wanting to be out exploring Barcelona.  We have to remind ourselves that we are not on vacation, but living life in different cities.  It's all about having a good balance.  Will we be able to see and do everything in the cities that we visit?  Absolutely not.  However, during times when we are not working we are fortunate enough to have new experiences.  During this past week we have taken little strolls here and there as time affords. As we are nearing the end of our trip, my thoughts have been of home.  Will we miss not having new adventures awaiting us at the turn of every corner?  Will we enjoy a simpler schedule?  Will we appreciate our surroundings and find beauty wherever we reside?  How will we think back on this year of our lives?  Am I truly appreciating the now?

On this particular day, we left to find dinner.  We were all happy to be out of the apartment!  We found a little pasta shop that reminded us of Mirko's.  However, taste-wise it did not come even close (Mirko's is just so good).  The kids were given big bouncy balloons with their meals that entertained them while we walked in the streets and played in the squares.  

We are not usually out at night so seeing Barcelona come alive was a fun experience.   We headed to the Barcelona Cathedral and walked around this area for awhile before heading home to bed.  

In Paris, I became focused on finding the dates on the buildings of when they were constructed.  I continue to enjoy seeing buildings of old.  The Barcelona Cathedral was built between the 13th and 14th century.  In my opinion, the Sagrada Familia is not as impressive as this cathedral.  I know I might be in the minority that think this way, but when we walked into the square I was amazed.

Amelie and Liam enjoyed climbing the steps and running through the square.  I have realized that I say, "be careful" constantly.  I am cognizant of this, and am working on showing my kids that I have more confidence in their abilities.  However, it is very difficult for me to back up and let them be!  You can see in the picture above that I was hovering around Liam as he was climbing.  He is very proficient at climbing up and down stairs, ladders, hills, etc but it still makes me nervous every time.  He is now saying, "Liam do it self!"

We could only see the back part of the cathedral as a service was being held.  I enjoyed hearing the organ playing while enjoying the quiet of the inside of the building.  The lights on at night gave the church a beautiful glow.  I am hoping we have time to come back to see the church during the day too.

As we walked around the exterior of the church, we came upon a small square in which a lady was singing.  Her operatic songs with the night surroundings made me feel like we had just stepped into a movie.  She eventually had to stop because she was growing hoarse.  She was really belting it out and it was amazing.  She was singing with such passion.  After walking away Bobby and I discussed, would we have had the same experience had we been able to understand what she was singing?  There is a portuguese singer that we learned about while living in Portugal.  We love listening to him.  However, when we found his songs translated into English we were not as impressed.  Is part of the experience heightened because you don't know the words?

Barcelona at night is more alive than during the day.  We were surprised by the big crowds on this weekday evening.  The restaurants, streets, sidewalks were all packed to the brim with people.  With small kids, we normally do not get to be a part of the energy of the nightlife, so it was fun experience.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Museum Day for Amelie

Amelie recently told us that she was tired of going to museums because she "couldn't run around, they are boring, all you do is look at things, and you have to be quiet."  We have definitely slowed down our museum-going, but in researching things to do in Barcelona I found there was a Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata).  This small museum reviews the history of chocolate from the first time the cacao “bean” touched the shores of Spain to present day. While the history is interesting, the real stars of this museum are the astonishing array of chocolate sculptures –everything from a bull fight, to dragons, soccer stars, and lots more.  However, I knew Amelie would not be completely impressed so I signed her up for a Chocolate Artist Activity.  She was able to spend an hour, sans her family, playing with chocolate.   She was very apprehensive about leaving with the others in the group, however when she was finished she could not stop smiling and raving about how much fun it was.  She gave us lots of kisses and hugs thanking us for this experience.  While she was playing; Bobby, Liam, and I walked leisurely around the museum reading up on the history and examining the chocolate art.  After we met back up with Amelie, we enjoyed eating our tickets...actual chocolate!
Liam loved pointing out the sculptures.  

We thought we would not get to see Amelie, but when we rounded one of the corners in the museum we were pleasantly surprised.  We could see her working AND see her drawing in the large mirror overhead.   However, she was more concerned with licking than with drawing. ;)

The museum is located in the Born district of Barcelona and is an area that we had not yet explored.  We walked around the city streets looking for a more substantial food option and came across a really neat tapas open air market.  After eating we walked through Parc de la Ciutadella.  There was so much activity on this weekend day.  We watched slackliners practice, jugglers, and more.  Amelie and Liam popped large bubbles for a while in front of a cool dragon fountain before we called it a night and headed home.

Watching the slack liners play/practice for such a long time led Bobby to deep philosophical questions:  What comes first, dreads or interest in slack lining? The correlation is proven, and now it's definitely a chicken/egg conundrum for sure.
Barcelona's Arc de Triomf