Tuesday, May 31, 2011
This blog has fallen a little bit to the wayside. I've been super busy being depressed, watching too much True Blood, procrastinating on my huge to-do list and wondering what the heck happened to our summer schedule. Sorry about that, I'm going to try and get back on the horse, as my Grandpa would say, and get things (andy myself) together again.
The major event of today was that we went out to dinner. Whoo hoo! This is a big event in our family, as it doesn't happen often. Mr. T picked the place (Mexican) and I left work early to meet Peter and the kids there. The kids choice of dessert was ice cream or jello and while I really tried to steer Mr. T to the ice cream, he wanted to try the jello (for the first time ever). One bite later he told me that Jello was a "thumbs down". I know buddy, I know. It's gross. His sister, however, decided to be awesome (like she usually is, unless she's not) and shared her entire ice cream cone with him. While there is something undeniably gross about 2 children passing a single ice cream cone back and forth, each licking it until it's soggy, there is also something incredibly sweet when it's your own children and the ice cream cone is a symbol of their kindness to each other.
Monday, May 30, 2011
I almost didn't post this picture but I just had to. Sigh.
Let me start out by saying this: I had 2 natural births. My babies were both breast-fed almost exclusively. We eat about 90% organic food. The kids only watch public television because there are no commercials. They both had an abundant amount of wooden, european baby toys. They both can parrot the phrase "there's no such thing as girl toys or boy toys, you can play with whatever you want.". Miss E barely wore pink the first year of her life. And I made it exactly 6 years, 7 months and 7 days into parenting before one of them owned a gun toy.
Hello, my name is Sarah, I'm a crunchy granola-type mom and my son owns a gun toy (hangs head in shame).
Oh I knew this day would come at some point but I didn't quite picture it happening today and for some how I had pictured water guns before something like this. But this is what happened today. A bright yellow gun with a hammer, a barrel and a trigger. And darts that shoot out.
I guess Mr. T had wanted one of these while I was in Spain and Peter told him to save up his money, earn some extra doing jobs around the house, and they would buy it. Well, today was the day that he woke up, wanted to count his money, figured out he had enough and he and Peter made a special trip to the store to get it. Despite all the heavy sighing coming from my direction, I don't actually care that much. I grew up never being allowed to have Barbies because my mom thought they sent the wrong message to girls (which I agree with) but the result of that was that I felt left out when all my friends were playing Barbies. It kind of became a statement about deprivation rather than femininity. I don't want my kids to feel that same sense of deprivation. So I knew, when Mr. T's friend had a nerf-shooter dart gun that they days were numbered until he asked for one and kuddos to Peter for throwing in a monetary lesson and making Mr. T buy it himself.
He has, of course, been instructed not to point it at people or the animals or the TV or computer. But he is so dang excited about it, that I just can't rain on his parade. However, he wants to clip it to his pants and take it every place and, well, let's just say that having him packing heat at the local organic grocery is a little bit humiliating for me but at this point in parenting I am mostly immune to the judging looks of others so we are strapping it on and going grocery shopping.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
We stayed home today. All day. My keys were locked in the van (as per yesterday's Starbucks incident) and the bikes were locked in the van so the kids and I stayed home. We read books, cleaned rooms, cleaned drawers and read more books. Then Miss E read some books to Mr. T. And that is about it.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
My mom has deep roots in this part of Oregon, and by extension, so do I. She can trace relatives back to pioneer days who lived around here. When I was a kid we went every Memorial Day weekend on a day long trip to visit 3 (later 4) cemetaries and put flowers on graves. For most of these relatives, my mom is the only one who still visits and puts flowers on their graves.
I have fond memories of this annual excursion. We would get hot chocolates and pastries, sing in the car, run around at the less crowded/modern cemetaries, eat a picnic lunch and stop at this little tiny store to buy penny candy. Honore and I would each get a dollar or two and we would spend probably half an hour deciding what we were going to buy with that money. After we went to college, the trips got more sparse - my parents still did it and Honore and I tagged along when we were in town. Once I moved back we did it a few times until we had kids and then we missed a few years because it does involve about 4 or 5 hours in the car and you can't really give a baby penny candy. This year we loaded my parents and the kids up in the mini-van and went.
First stop: Veteran's cemetery in Portland. This is the new one (well, new since high school) as both my grandparents (my mom's parents) are buried here.
Second stop: Starbucks. Peter puts my keys in the glove box unbeknownst to me which will later lead to the kids and I being stuck at home for an entire shift tomorrow since my keys will be locked in the car while he is at work. We will argue on the phone about it. I will tell the kids I am mad at Daddy. Then we will have to make nice in front of them as well. However, all I know right now is that I am getting a latte.
Third Stop: Masonic pioneer cemetery (pictured above). My great great something died at the age of 38 in 1888 and her child at the age of 1. They are both buried up here. This is my favorite cemetery ever. I want to be buried here. It's on top of a quiet hill over looking the Columbia River. The grass is long because no one visits it, although they usually cut it every Memorial Day. This year they only cut around a few grave stones and left the rest wild. It is quiet, wild, peaceful and beautiful up there.
Fourth Stop: Lunch. We used to picnic but since we decided yesterday to take the trip, my parents are still suffering from jet lag, and Peter and I are sick we bagged the picnic and ate at a restaurant. A restaurant called Humps in Clatskanie (I'm not kidding about the name). The food was exactly as you would expect it to be - greasy, tasty, and a waitress who called you hon. The restaurant also has a store where they sell clothes and other tourist trinkets. Posed at random points around the restaurants are mannequins wearing the clothes for sale. Something about mannequins creeps me out. Miss E kept pointing to a "person" and asking me "is that person real?" and more than once I had to tell her no.
Fifth stop: Clatskanie cemetary. We have 8 relatives buried here, including a few of my great aunts and uncles. It is a huge flat cemetery and the kids ran up and down in the grass (being careful not to step on the headstones) and picked up any flowers that had fallen over on gravestones and set them upright.
Sixth stop: Dairy Queen. Yes, I know, the healthiness of the food is blowing you away. But I have to say, Mr. T was SO EXCITED about his milkshake that he was practically jumping out of his skin. He proudly pointed to the picture on the menu that he wanted and then wrung his hands and giggled until it was served.
And that was pretty much it. We skipped the Mayger cemetery this year because she knew other relatives would be visiting and we were all tired. Next year we will make it up there. I have never remembered this trip as a sad trip even though we are visiting cemeteries. I have memories of it being a fun family day and I hope my kids do as well.
*Spain posts are done! They are the ones dated May 3-16
Friday, May 27, 2011
My parents finally made it home from Spain. They stayed about a week longer than I did and then had a marathon trip home which included 2 extra nights in airport hotels, cancelled flights, boarding passes to flights that didn't exist, lost luggage and hours spent in airports. A couple of days ago they did arrive back in Portland and I sent Peter to surprise them at the airport by picking them up. My mom called him her "knight in shining armor".
Today she made it over to our place to give the kids the presents she got them in Spain and to see them since it's been over a month since they have been together. The kids were thrilled. Miss E and I came home from our mother/daughter podiatrist appointments this afternoon (does everyone have all 4 members of their family see a podiatrist?) and Nana was here! There were dresses and spanish candy and toys and art supplies and the kids got to show her all the things they have been up to since she left. And then Mr. T got her to read a few pages of his (extremely painful for adults to read) Batman book while I was cooking dinner.
I'm so glad we decided to move back to Portland. There were many factors in our decision but for me a main one was that when we started a family I wanted to be close to my parents and I have never truly regretted that decision. There have been a few times where Peter and I have wondered what our life would have been like if we moved someplace new, a new state or country and started a fresh life together there but our families are so entwined in who we are and so important to us that I can't imagine doing that. Now that we have kids I know we could never move them away from their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. They enrich our life so much and we are so blessed to have them.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
My kiddos are a little bit under the weather. I am much under the weather. I kept Miss E home today simply because I didn't want to deal with getting her to and from school and I think she's been feeling crappy for the last few days although I don't know because that is the sort of thing she keeps to herself. Anyone else ever kept their kid home for their own convenience? Bad mommy award?
Well, we all had a sick day, although Miss E did go to gym because she seemed fine but afterward was pretty wiped out. I don't know. It's so hard to guess how someone else is feeling especially someone who won't/can't tell you. We stayed home though and did laundry and watched TV and read books and made cookies. Miss E also made some crazy invention out of a plastic bottle, glitter, a chopstick, some straws, a foam leaf and tape. Mr. T made a ton of those little melty plastic bead things. It was quiet, they cuddled and we rested.
*Spain posts are done! May 3-16
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Miss E came home today and busily started making all these paper cut outs. When I got home from work she eagerly asked if she could show me the stories of the houses on Beat street, like her music teacher showed her. At first I couldn't figure out what they were learning with this but then I realized that this was a way of showing the kids spacing and time in music.
Here's how it goes. It starts out with four empty "houses" (pieces of paper). A single note moves into each one and each have funny voices, some talk really high and some talk really low. Their names are all "ta". So once they move into their houses, you can go down the street and say "ta ta ta ta". Then they decide to have friends (the pink papers with double notes on them). Some have friends and some don't. The friends are named tee-tee (said really fast). So again, you can go down the street and say all the names. Then some one decides to go out to eat (leaving an empty house) and when you go down the street saying the names, you pause at that house because no one is home.
I could not believe what a brilliant way this is to introduce kindergartners to written music and timing. Miss E was super excited and told the story over and over again to us and Mr. T, and while she doesn't realize what this is laying the foundation for (reading music) she does understand the concept of the spacing and the notes. I remember starting to learn about reading music and it was so BORING, that is just made me want to quit the piano. I love that this has become a fun thing for them to learn.
*Spain posts are done! May 3-16 if you're interested.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Oh what a day. Miss E, I think, is not feeling well. Or she's upset about the transition of school to summer or the planets aren't aligned properly. Whatever the heck is going on, she is out of sorts and we are all paying the price. Hmm...anyone else I know get super mean and grumpy when they don't feel good? Me? Really? I had no idea....
Anyway, she was not being her best bubbly cheerful self today and all the ignoring and politeness and reasoning I was throwing at her wasn't working so I pulled out the play dough. 5 brand spanking new containers of play dough to be exact. Mr. T started building stuff himself and she eventually joined in and in the end, they built the walled compound you see above together. And in a happy manner. He formed the wall pieces and she put them together and built the tree in the middle. They are quite the team most of the time.
*New Spain posts up - dated May 3-14
Monday, May 23, 2011
This is one of my favorite bushes in our yard. I have no idea what it is, but we've had it for a couple of years and every spring it drops these beautiful, dainty red flowers.
Today was my day to parent help in the Kindergarten classroom. I love doing this. Love love love doing this. Kids this age are so interesting and funny and inquisitive. However. (Let me just put in here, that there is no way to say what I'm about to without coming off as snarky and judgmental so if you're sensitive to that just stop reading here. Ok? OK.)
There is a group of boys in the class who are struggling academically. In kindergarten, at this point in the year, that means they are having a hard time writing letters or very simple sentences. Or they are having a hard time following simple (1 task) instructions. When I parent help, I usually work with this table of kids so they can get some extra attention. Since it was Monday today, they were writing in their journals about what they did over the weekend. Now, I know some of these boys have ADHD issues and I have no idea about their home life. But if it were me, and we were at the end if kindergarten and my child still couldn't write their letters properly I would be all over that. As I sat down to help them write their sentences every single one of them told me that their weekend activity was some sort of video game. "I played DS" "I played Lego StarWars" "I played my Nintendo". As I walked around to the other kids there was much more of "I went to my Grandma's" or "I played with a friend". Now, I know that is not what they did ALL weekend, it's just what stood out to them. AND I have nothing against video games. Miss E and Mr. T both play games on the computer and the DS. It seems to me though, that it's not helping these boys at all.
*New Spain posts up! See posts dated May 3-May 11
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Today was the ultimate Sunday. No plans, no place to go, the entire family home. We played, did a few jobs and I made a huge pot of chili. I also forgot to take any pictures so here is one of Peter's. He really wants a new bike and wants a nice one. To pay for it, he's craigslisting a bunch of stuff from around the house that we need to get rid of (yay!). Including the 3 bikes he owns. Already. However, I have been told that the new bike will be the "one bike to rule them all" so there you have it. Never argue with a bike snob. In other news, here's a fun conversation we've been having on a fairly regular basis for the last month or so.
Miss E: What's for dinner?
Me: Chili and cornbread (or chicken and rice, or BBQ chicken and salad, or tacos or.....)
Miss E: I don't like chili (or other item...)!
Me: I'm sorry babe, that's what we're having.
Miss E: (with downcast eyes and in a very sorrowful voice) I guess I'm not going to eat dinner then.
Me: Sorry to hear that hon. You still need to sit at the table with us as a family.
Miss E: Fine. (Either stomps to room or melts away in a puddle of self-pity)
When dinner time comes around, lately she has been "changing her mind" and eating something. We did have a LONG stretch of her going to bed with no dinner. I feel like it's her choice at this point but I'm really hoping that she never catches on to the fact that the meal I do care about, that I will go to the mats for, is breakfast. So far, she thinks it's dinner and I really want to keep it that way.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
This morning I had to take the kids into work and they were super good sports about it. This afternoon, we played/worked in the yard. Well, I worked, they played. Made hide-outs to be exact. Miss E claimed the space between the deck and the BBQ and Mr. T claimed the space back by our little shed. They both worked very industriously for a few hours creating their hideouts using what ever wood, sticks and extra cement blocks we had laying around the yard. At one point, Miss E grabbed an extra piece of flagstone we have to make a sign for hers and and asked Mr. T if he would like one too. So they now both have entry signs. Miss E's say's "E's Spokey Witch's hid out! Doom!" and the hide out is 2 layered.
Mr. T's says "T's bat cave hid out" and is complete with a control panel and booby traps. Miss E desperately wanted to sleep in hers tonight (you know, on gravel under the BBQ) but I finally convinced her that she needed a parent to sleep outside with and since Daddy was at work it would have to wait. They settled for eating dinner in their hide-outs while I sat on the deck stairs in between them. The upper level of her hideout (pictured) makes me a bit nervous as the front pieces of wood are held on by masking tape but she worked so hard at it and it's so creative that I just kind of have to hold my breath, hope for the best and let her have it. Someday soon the weather will clear up again and Peter will want his BBQ back. Not today though.
*First few trip posts are up - dated May 3-10
Friday, May 20, 2011
Well, I slacked on pictures today so this is what we have. When Mr. T and I went to the garden store yesterday, I was worried that we were super late planting our garden. Not so, said the humor-less very serious garden lady. In fact, we are too early. Well, what the heck am I supposed to do with these plants now? So, seeing as we have no indoor space to store them, it's too cold at night to plant them and we still have the windows we replaced in the fall, I made a greenhouse. It's crude, it's unstable but I think it will do the trick.
*First few posts from my trip are up. If you're interested in the hike, check out posts dated May 3-5.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Mr. T and his super-cool shades that he has been wearing everywhere.
The truth is, everything was fine while I was gone. In a way, I knew it would be or else I wouldn't have left. To some extent I let others opinions on leaving the kids for 2 weeks and my own fears of flying/traveling feed into it and it made me over stressed about leaving. But really, it was fine.
Peter is with the kids a lot anyway so it wasn't like they had a completely new parent taking care of them. They had school, gymnastics, library and rest time just like always and Peter has a job that does not pile up while he is gone for 2 weeks. It all worked out OK. And all the parents I talked to who were so aghast over me leaving them for that long had younger kids that I do and yes, I would be more appalled about leaving a 2 year old. But Mr. T is almost 5, and Miss E is 6 - old enough to deal with mom being away for a few weeks.
And as for me, (this is going to be the oddest part), I didn't miss them that much. Don't get me wrong, I did miss them but nothing I was doing would have been fun for them. At no point did I think "gosh, I wish the kids were here to walk 12 miles over cobblestones and look at paintings for hours in an art museum, then tour a few churches and finish it off with a 10pm dinner of clams." They would have hated it. There is literally not one part of the trip that the kids would have liked. Peter would have loved it, but other than that, it was the perfect trip to take on my own. Sure, I was homesick and I missed cuddling and being there with them but overall, it was much less of a big deal than I thought it would be.
Every day I was gone, Peter very sweetly sent me an e-mail with pictures of what they were doing and Miss E sent me a few e-mails on her own. I took pictures with my ipod and sent them home when I had internet so they could picture where I was and we talked on the phone a few times. I think those daily e-mails made it better since I knew they were happy and doing fun things.
Despite the fact that they were fine and I was fine and none of us occurred any damage from the separation, it did feel good to load everyone in the mini-van this morning, drop Miss E off at school, say hi to her teacher, take Mr. T to the coffee shop, the garden store and to get the groceries and then home to meet Miss E's bus. This afternoon we ate lunch, had rest time and played/worked in the yard. It felt like putting on a pair of favorite comfy old pajamas. The routine. I love it. I'm happy with it and I'm glad to be back to it. But I'm also glad I left it for a few weeks.
*First 2 posts on Spain are up - check out posts dated May 3 & 4
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Today was better. Peter came home, I parent-taught at Mr. T's preschool and didn't feel overwhelmingly tired until about 5. Fell asleep with Mr. T while I was putting him to bed, but then woke up for another few hours so as to be on a more "normal" schedule. Things felt easier with the kids too. Not as frantic (they have to show me everything!) or strange (what did Peter tell Miss E about gymnastics on the couch?). While I was gone, Peter sent me an e-mail every day (including pictures) telling me about what they were doing. This was so nice and really helped me feel on top of jumping right back into parenting. As for the house, the e-mails are slowly getting answered, mail is being opened and I am starting to figure out what we do and don't have in the house.
Most of my time has been spent "reading" each kiddo, especially Miss E, trying to figure out what they need from me and how they are doing. This afternoon I blew it by not picking Miss E up at school. I had told her this morning she only had to stay at after-care until 2, but by the time I got home from Mr. T's class it was 1:30 and I hadn't had lunch. So Peter went to pick her up and bring her home (a 5 minute drive and I was waiting at home) and she was UPSET that it wasn't actually ME at school to get her. Neither he nor I knew this would be such a big deal, she's never really cared which parent picked her up but today, it mattered. She was pissed at me. Stomped to her room and shut the door. I apologized profusely and eventually it was OK. There is bound to be a bit of adjustment period for all of us.
Overall, I have just felt very quiet and very tired, but also normal-ish. That doesn't make much sense but there you have it.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Got home late last night from my trip. I could write this two ways:
1) I am so glad to be home to Peter and the kids. I missed them terribly, their faces, cuddling with them and just being in the comfort of our family. When the plane landed in Portland, it felt like I let out a breath I didn't know I had been holding. I missed talking to the kiddos and hearing about the day to day activities of their lives. I missed having Peter around. Today I have just been drinking them in.
2) I am so incredibly tired and strung out. I don't know if it's jet lag or trip let down or what but I feel like crap. The kids and Peter all want and deserve some one on one time with me and I want to give that to them but at the same time, I kind of feel like a zombie. And I'm out of sync with everything at the house. The schedule, the e-mails, the pile of mail, it all feels overwhelming. Went to bed at 7:45 tonight (P is at work) because I could not keep my eyes open any longer. Then proceeded to wake up every 3 hours wondering where I was (that's what staying in 9 different beds over 14 days will do to you) and freaking out that someone left our hotel (bedroom) door open.
Hopefully tomorrow will be better, I'm sure it will be. I was kind of glad Peter was at work today so I didn't have to subject him to what a mess I was. I keep reminding myself to take it one step at a time. I don't have to re-orient myself to the household stuff all at once. The e-mails can wait, the schedule can wait, the most important thing right now are the kiddos, my husband, and getting myself feeling more on top of it. Eventually, I will go back and update the blog for the days I missed but for now, I'm taking it one step at a time.
Monday, May 16, 2011
This is a very blurry photo from my ipod touch of the Mediterranean coastline. We made it to the airport this morning, and after a small hiccup (umm..our flight to Madrid was canceled/no longer existed) we had smooth travels home. The plane from Madrid to Philadelphia was larger and newer than the plane we crossed the ocean in the first time which made things much more pleasant. The flight from Philadelphia to Portland was a little rough just because it was 6 hours long with no food or movies and I couldn't sleep because my contacts were already bugging me and I knew that if I closed my eyes for a long period of time it would be no good. However, we landed, I didn't have any anxiety attacks and we made it home.
Future me knows that in a week or so it will take my parents 3 days to get home from Madrid. Cancelled flights and delays will have them spending not one but two nights in airport hotels along various legs of the trip. We are lucky to have arrived home on time.
I am so glad I went on this trip. As always when I do something hard, I learned that I am stronger than I think I am. Honore and I had a great time together and we are really good traveling companions. And I feel like I really got to know Spain. We tried new things, I got my travel legs under me again (not that I will be using them anytime soon...), and I got to spend some quality and memorable time with my family. It will not soon be forgotten.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Oh my goodness did we walk today. Maybe more than any other day INCLUDING the Camino. We woke up slightly hung over this morning (mental note: blue mystery shots + beer + framboise + gin and tonic do not make for a great feeling morning) but you know what works off a hangover? Walking up hill for about 4 miles. Lost. We went on a walking tour of Barcelona today and I mean ALL of Barcelona. We walked from our hotel up to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's masterpiece and walked around taking some pictures. Then because it didn't look far on the hand drawn map we had from Rick Steve's and because he suggested using the bus system that we didn't want to figure out, we ended up walking up a huge hill trying to get to Park Guell. Except we walked up the wrong side of the hill and had to go down and traverse across to get there. Once we got there, it was still uphill to the highest view point. I just want to note that, as was not unusual for this entire vacation, at this point all we had eaten was breakfast which in Spain consists of 2 pieces of toast, coffee and a glass of orange juice. It was noon and we had hiked quite far uphill. I was starving but food was downhill and the top of the park was uphill and I didn't want to go down and then go back up so we skipped food and hiked to the top.
Our reward was a beautiful view of the city and the Mediterranean beyond. Also, of Gaudi's house down below. This park is gorgeous and my kids would have loved it. This was one of the few times this trip that I actually thought "ohhh... I wish the kiddos were here". It's not that I haven't missed them, it's just that nothing we have been doing would have been fun for them. This park however, is awesome.
After the park we headed back down the hill in search of some food, a few more Gaudi houses and to see the neighborhoods. We walked by our hotel and went in for a 20 minute rest and to change camera batteries and then it was more walking - all over the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic). This is the beautiful old town area of Barcelona. The cathedral is here, the old Roman walls, some Roman tombs and a labyrinth of stone streets and buildings. We walked and walked, got lost, and visited a museum. We saw the cathedral, various squares and did a little shopping. When we finally made it down to the waterfront we stopped and had clams at a little tapas place. I was joking with Honore that it was the first time in my life I had ever had clams and coffee together when she reminded me that actually, it was the second time this trip I had clams and cafe con leche. Yum.
Tonight, since it's our last night in Spain, we went to a fancy restaurant for dinner. We had hoped to have Paella but since it's a Sunday night and many places are closed, it was not to be. Still, we had a lovely dinner and bottle of wine and ended our trip in a really fine way. Tomorrow we will rise at 5:30, catch a bus to the airport and fly home.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Madrid to Barcelona
This morning we hauled ourselves out of bed and caught the 9:30 AVE (high-speed) train to Barcelona. I don't know why we don't have these trains in the US. It took about 3 hours and we went the same distance as on our 7 hour train ride from Santiago to Madrid. Once we hit Barcelona, we spent some time figuring out how to get to our hotel on the subway from the train station, checked in, dropped our bags and headed out.
We walked from our hotel down to the water front on Las Ramblas, a very long pedestrianized walk way through the middle of the city. Our first stop? El Corte Ingles, a HUGE department store. I got a few new tops, Honore got some bling (the necklace and earrings she has on above) and a new hat. Next we wandered amongst the street vendors, kind of following the Rick Steve's tour and kind of just wandering. We saw roman tombs, had a quick lunch, and visited La boqueria market. The market had maybe the most food I have ever seen in one place. Meat, nuts, vegetables, fruit, candy.... they had everything. We grabbed some stuff for the plane ride home and walked on. I got some cigars for Peter (fine Cubans) and a couple of T-shirts for the kids as well as a book in English to read on the plane home. At the end of las Ramblas, is the port of Barcelona. This is the place that Isabel and Ferdinand welcomed Columbus back home so there were several sculptures commemorating that. There is a wooden walkway that extends out along the port which makes for a nice end to the walk. Somewhere along the way Honore acquired new sunglasses to accompany her jewelry so I had to get a picture of the fanciness. After our walk we caught the subway back to our hotel to get ready to meet our friend this evening.
We met up with our friend Josh and his sister Julie tonight. Josh is someone that Honore and I went to high school with and I went to a few years of college with him. We hung out a bit, even traveling down to Oakland together to see the Dead a few times, but I haven't really seen him since then. It was a little awkward and I was a little nervous but it ended up being a great night. We met him at his apartment where he made us a few tapas - blood sausage on bread, bombas, chicken croquettes and a salad. He was super excited about the blood sausage and it seemed like a bit of a delicacy and since there were only four of us there, Honore and I kind of had to eat some. Honore is a bit of a vegetarian - only eats fish and chicken and while I do eat meat, blood sausage is well outside of my comfort zone. However, we are polite and we were game so she ate one piece and I ate another and then I ate a second one. It wasn't awful, it wasn't good and as I am eating my second piece I hear Honore say "How do you make blood sausage?". Oh my God. I shot her a look that clearly said (mid-bite) "WHAT THE HELL" and she quickly saw that and said "never-mind" before anyone could answer her. Sisters.
Our motto for the trip has become "try something new every day" which has been kind of a joke because we have been doing many many new and uncomfortable things every day but this certainly counted. I ate 2 pieces of blood sausage people. Unfortunately, you can't put that on a resume.
After a few beers and some kind of blue shots we all went to a bar, and then to the modern art museum in Barcelona which happened to be free tonight. We looked at modern art for a bit and then went to another bar. It was really fun to see Josh again and to hang out with some Americans in Spain. I got a much better view of what Barcelona is really like from them. Plus blue shots and blood sausage.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Best day ever. My feet wouldn't agree they might tell you it sucked, but the rest of me had the best day. I am in love with Madrid and definitely will be coming back here again.
We started out the day with a quick breakfast and then a ride to the Prado. And oh my goodness. Before I came here I had read that the Prado is considered the world's best painting museum. I was skeptical. I mean, I've been to the Paris art museums and I have a hard time believing that it could be more spectacular than the Louvre. Well, I was so wrong. It was floor after floor, room after room of masterpieces by masters. Not minor works by masters, not masterpieces by minor artists, but incredible masterpieces by the greatest artists in history. (OK, European history but still). I was seriously regretful that we only had the morning here but we did so we followed the Rick Steve's (yes, I love him) tour of the museum and hit the highlights. It was AMAZING. I can't say that enough. Prints just do not do justice to the actual paintings. The size, the light emanating from them, the brush strokes, it all leaves me in awe. Some of my favorites were the Velazquez and both the early and late works of Goya.
After the museum, for a break for the eyes, we hit the Royal Botanical Gardens which are right next door. Since Honore is a gardener by trade, this obviously was more interesting for her but I enjoyed it very much. It felt good to be out in the sunshine walking around. It was a great place to take pictures, the plants were lush and colorful and they had a bunch of statues and water fountains interspersed with the beds.
By now my feet were good and tired but we still had the Reina Sofia to go. We were tiring at this point so we went radical and hit a Starbucks. Usually when I'm out of the country I try not to do that but it's really hard to get an iced coffee in Spain, and actually what passes for one is a cup of coffee served with a cup of ice. Not quite the iced latte I was envisioning. After a salad and an iced latte (which was so so so good I should have ordered 3) we were ready to go to the Reina Sofia, Madrid's modern art museum. The big draw here is Picasso's Guernica which is stunning. It's HUGE. Bigger than a wall in my house and very impactful. They have a room next to it which displays the studies he did for the piece and it was interesting to see the dates on them. Apparently he was in Paris when the bombs dropped on Guernica and within a few weeks had creating the work.
The rest of the museum was organized chronologically which I liked, my favorite other painting was this one, called "Nudes on a Beach" in english. I think there is something so sweet about this couple. They are just darling. A few hours in to the museum though (or around 1955 in the art work...) we started fading. My feet hurt, 2 huge world class museums in a day is a bit much and we were tired. The last few rooms we just kind of glanced at before heading back to the hotel to rest for dinner.
Since Madrid has a wealth of good restaurants and we only have one night, I planned a tapas style pub-crawl for dinner. I had 4 spots in mind but one was closed so we ended up hitting three of them. We went out at 8:30 (early, so it was mostly tourists in the restaurants) because it's less chaotic and easier to order then (at least according to my good pal Rick). And oh we were not disappointed. The food was incredible at every place! The first place we had gambas ajillo (garlic shrimp) which are served sizzling, and beer. The second place was super grimy but we had the pimientos de padron (broiled hot peppers) and more beer. This place also had a pig (cow?) leg that was literally stuck in one of those thingy's that wood workers use to hold pieces together - a vice? - with the hoof sticking up and over the bar and they shave meat off the other end. I ended up next to the hoof and Honore could not stop cracking up as we chatted because I was sitting next to a huge hoof. The last place we went we had patatas bravas and sauteed mushrooms and more beer and one other thing that I can't remember. We were stuffed at the end of the night and it was easily the best dinner we had so far. Even including the fancy schmancy 12 course feast we had in Santiago. Which was good, but this was better.
Whew. This post got really long, but it was a great day. Madrid is such a lively, modern, fun and cultured city. I always thought Paris was my favorite in Europe with Vienna running a close second but Madrid is nosing in there. I am definitely bringing Peter here some day and the kids as soon as they are old enough to appreciate art and clams.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Santiago de Compostela - Madrid
This morning after breakfast we said good bye to my parents and Aunt and Uncle. They are heading up the coast for another few weeks of traveling in the little seaside towns. Part of me wishes that we could stay together for longer, but another part of me is eager to hit the big city - my favorite part of a Europe trip.
Honore and I spent the morning touring the cathedral's museum in Santiago, getting some food for the trip and drinking one last cafe con leche. Then it was a taxi to the train station, and another cafe con leche, followed by a 7 hour train trip. And then a 40 minute subway ride, changing trains twice. Before our trip, I had been worried about the fact that we would be arriving at the hotel after 10pm. It wasn't the fanciest hotel around and I was worried they wouldn't hold our room because it was so LATE. I even had Honore compose an e-mail to remind them that we would be getting there late. Well. I clearly had no idea what the Spanish daily schedule is like.
Our hotel is on a pedestrianized street - Calle Arenal. As soon as we walked up the stairs out of the subway, it was packed with people. So many people! It looked like middle of the day, at the mall, Saturday. Crazy. We found our hotel, dumped our bags and after the front desk guy warned us repeatedly about watching our bags (apparently bag theft is a huge problem) we headed out to walk around. Our hotel is just down the road from the Royal Palace and since we aren't going to have time to properly visit it, we spent about 20 minutes walking around the grounds.
We had decided to skip dinner tonight since we ate on the train and we were here late, blah blah blah and instead went straight out for churros and chocolate. This place was about 6 blocks from our hotel and it was PACKED. It's now about 11:30 at night. The nightclub next door to the churros place just opened and we snagged the last table in the street. Holy cow was it worth it though. Just for the chocolate alone. So sweet, but not too sweet, and drinkable but a little thick. We sat there for about an hour, sucking down our chocolate, eating fried dough and just enjoying all the craziness that is Madrid. I've only been here 3 hours but so far I love this city. Tomorrow - the Prado.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
(L to R: Dad, Uncle Mark, Mom, Aunt Judy, Honore)
Rest day! Well, we actually didn't rest a lot but we didn't hike. After breakfast (a feast!) Honore and I grabbed Mom's iphone for it's maps and headed off to find Zara's for a bit of shopping. It felt like a huge victory that we found the store, figured out the sizing, were able to try on clothes and pay for them. Yay us! I guess shopping is really a universal language. OK, not really but it still felt good.
After a brief siesta I met up with my Aunt Judy and Uncle Mark (pictured above) in the hotel bar for some beers, cafe con leche and olives. We sat and chatted for an hour or so until it was time for our rooftop tour. Mom, Honore and I had signed up for a tour along the roofline of the cathedral. For some reason, I forgot that we would actually be CLIMBING ON A ROOF and wore a short skirt and sandals. Appropriate, no? The tour was in Spanish but I caught enough to kind of figure out what the lady was saying. And let me tell you, it was DIZZYING up on top of the cathedral. You are literally walking on the roof and it's slanted. Not flat at all. It's like climbing slanted stairs, with no hand-rail, in the wind, about 3 stories up. I found it uncomfortable but gorgeous and informative (at least if the parts I translated were correct.).
The roof top tour was over at 8:20 which made it only a bit early for dinner. We went to a little tapas place that specialized in pairing wine with food. They had a huge cellar of Spanish wines and the waiters were extremely knowledgeable. We have a few bottles of wine (Alberino's) and tried about 8 types of cheeses with it. Delicious. I'm a little sad we aren't going to be spending more time with my family. Tomorrow they are leaving to drive along the northern coastline and then work their way down to Madrid. Honore and I are taking the train directly to Madrid tomorrow.
Santiago has been a wonderful reprieve after the hike. It has been peaceful, calm, and had a lot of fine food and wine. It has been joyous seeing my aunt and uncle and meeting up with my Dad for a few days. I feel rested.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
We made it!!!!
I have to say, looking over these past entries that 1 picture and a short summary does not do justice to this hike. Really, there was so much more to it to tell but it would be impossible.
On to today though! WE are here - in Santiago de Compostela! This last day of hiking was BRUTAL. Maybe the hardest of all. The last 6 km involve hiking up a mountain, down that same mountain and then about 3km through city streets. My feet were numb by the end as was my mom's toe. Honore was cranky because she didn't want to lead, but she also didn't want to slow down and let me lead. It was not our finest day. But we made it! I am so proud of us. We were so tired that we snapped a few pictures in front of the cathedral and promptly headed across the square to our hotel. And then everything got better.
Let me put it this way:
Last night: huge hostel, super rickey bunk beds, a shower that you pushed once to get a warmish squirt of water and then had to keep pushing to get more warmish squirts of water, dirty.
Tonight: fancy hotel, shower with 2 shower heads, super comfortable beds with starched linens, turn down service (ok that one doesn't really matter but is still fun).
We walked into the hotel and as we were checking in the bellhop took our packs. As we were heading to our room, my dad showed up! So we got to briefly hug and kiss him and then head to the showers. After my shower I wandered around the hotel. It was built in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabel as a hospital for sick pilgrims. It is huge and there are 4 inner courtyards that the building is built around. We have to walk through 2 to get to our room. Since it was originally built for the benefit of pilgrims they still offer a free meal to the first 10 pilgrims who arrive there everyday.
Post wandering I went to the bar to meet with my parents, my "aunt and uncle" (not by blood but by friendship) and to have a drink and snack. It was so nice to meet up with my Dad, see Aunt Judy and Uncle Mark and be done walking. For dinner we had 9pm reservations and ended at 11:30 and I didn't fall asleep. It's the little things you know. Tomorrow we have a day just to rest and explore Santiago.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Arzua to Arca de Pinto
This is one of the route markers that line the way. These tell you how many km we have to go before Santiago. The other route markers you see everywhere are yellow arrows. It would be very hard to get lost on this section of the trail. At dinner last night, Kris related to us the "4 stages of a camino"
1) Whee! This is so much fun!
2) Why the heck am I doing this?
3) Will this never end?
4) Awww...it's almost over..
You can go through the four stages in a day of hiking and I found it quite funny (and true).
As we are nearing Santiago, we are still in rural areas but things are gradually getting more modern. You can tell we are getting close. More and more pilgrims are on the trail. There is a weird sense of entitlement from the pilgrims who started way back in France that they are the only "true" pilgrims but it seems to me that the road is open to anyone. Especially those who are not physically able to do the entire thing or who can't take the time to. I have so enjoyed seeing everyone and either hearing their stories or guessing their stories.
My feet are quite sore at this point. My hiking shoes, while awesome, are not built for carrying a pack. Especially carrying a pack over large gravel and cobblestones. I am looking forward to the end, to seeing more family in Santiago and seeing more of this gorgeous country. However, I am also trying to stay in the present and enjoy the part that I'm on now. I guess I'm in the "will this never end?" stage.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Melide - Arzua
Happy mother's day to my mom, and my sister and me! It was a little weird celebrating without the kids but it kind of just made the day no big deal. There was no way we could have brought a present for my mom - and if we had given her something she had to carry she would have been less than thrilled. But we were all together, on this adventure and that was enough.
Today was our "short" day of only about 9 miles. We finished by lunch and ended up staying in the nicest hostel of the entire trip. They had laundry there and an attached cafe bar so we were able to wash some clothes, sit and relax and drink our cafe con leche's.
For dinner we decided to try this little restaurant that had a vegetarian menu and ran into our friend Kris, whom we met way back in Lugo on the bus. We have been passing and meeting her on and off for the last 4 days and tonight we all enjoyed dinner together.
The trail is so funny for meeting people. We have met a ton of people, but we don't really know their names and we can't have long conversations for most of them so we don't know their stories. Hence, we have come up with our own names. Here are a few:
MIke and SHirley (their actual names) - the odd married -to-other people couple from Canada
The grumpy germans - a youngish couple, always scowling, they hike faster than us then we see them at rest stops smoking cigarettes and slurping down coffee
The tall beautiful germans - These people are gorgeous. The come in late, like to sleep in late and are a little annoying but man are they pretty.
The Spanish Grandmas - these ladies may be the fastest hikers on the trial
"Julie" from Texas - having a quarter life crisis.
Kate and Curtis - from New Hampshire. They work seasonally and travel for the other half of the year. So interesting to talk to - they have been everywhere
The LA Japansese - family me met in Melide
The 2 german ladies - stout, happy, always chattering away
The tall nervous englishman and his son
The toothbrushing guy - This guy spent about 6 minutes IN HIS BUNKBED brushing his teeth and SWALLOWING IT while his lady made goo goo eyes at him the entire time. Ick. I lost a little respect for her there. Although, we saw them hiking separately for the rest of the trip so maybe she was grossed out too.
The Italian cyclists - these guys are young, cute and doing shots at every rest stop along the way no matter what time of day it is.
Yes, this sounds snarky but really it's not. Seeing all the other pilgrims doing the trail, seeing the same ones over and over again, it has all added a lovely element to our trip that you just don't get backpacking. This really is a small sampling of the folks that we recognize, say hi to and see at meal stops every day.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Picking one picture per day and only one picture is so hard! Everything was pretty and the days were so full and with so many events and experiences packed into them that it's hard to tell the story with just one photo.
However. Moving on.
Day 3 - Eixede - Melide
Mostly a regular day of hiking. Gorgeous spanish countryside, stone houses with more modern ones mixed in and my feet started to hurt. I was laughing looking over my journal entry for the day because I ended it with "my feet hurt, my ankles hurt". True. We are covering 12-15 miles a day and it has been tough, but tough in a good way. There are so many things I want to write about today that I am going to break it up a bit (i.e., this is going to seem disjointed anyway so I figured I'd go with it and do bullet points).
1. See that structure pictured up above? Every Spanish farm and country house has one. And I mean EVERY ONE. Some are fancy and new, others are crumbling. Some have crosses on top, some not. We spent several hours guessing today. Chickens? (Every house we pass has these as well) Grain storage? Some kind of religious thing? The answer - for those of you trivia folks - is grain storage. Supposedly it keeps the rats out of the grain but over time, it has become a "good luck" sort of thing, hence the crosses and the smaller ones.
2. The Camino - a couple people have asked me what this hike is. It's one of the three largest and most popular Catholic pilgrimage routes in the world. It is third to Rome and Jerusalem. Supposedly, the body of St. James is buried in Santiago de Compostela and folks came from all over Europe to pay respects. There are many camino's or paths to the city. We are on the Camino Francais, the most popular and well supported. Technically it starts in France and takes about 35 days to complete the whole thing. If you finish the last 100 km on foot you get a certificate from the church forgiving all your sins or earthly discretions. It's a little bit like the indulgences for sale in days of old. However, we are not religious and I would hazard a guess that over half the people hiking are not as well. It's just a great (and cheap) way to see Galicia.
3. Melide. This is one of the biggest towns we've stopped in so far. Word on the street (trail) is that the albergue is icky so we opted for a hotel room tonight that has beds! and a shower! and our own toilet! It's all so exciting. One of the things that Galicia is famous for is it's seafood. Melide in particular is famous for it's octopus (pulpo) specifically octopus that has been boiled, sliced and doused in olive oil and paprika. It's so famous in fact, that there is an entire style of restaurant called pulperia's that serve it. Tonight we had pulpo. At 7:30 the restaurant was entirely filled with pilgrims (no one else in Spain eats that early) and it made for a fun atmosphere. The family sitting next to us was speaking Japanese to each other and after we crudely exchanged a few "buen camino's" and thumb's up about the octopus (they had finished eating, we hadn't ordered yet) the woman overheard us talking. She asked where were from and I said "United States" and she says "oh, what part? We're from LA". We had spent a good 10 minutes crudely gesturing to each other because neither party guessed that the other one spoke english. As for the pulpo, as I told the kiddos, I was "thumb's sideways" on it. Didn't love it, didn't hate it, probably not something I'll have again but this trip is all about getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things. So there you go. Boiled octopus. With tentacles. Lots of tentacles. And suckers.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Mercadoiro to Eirexe
Today's hike was kind of brutal. Day 2 of any backpacking trip is usually the hardest, so I just kind of rolled with it. We all didn't sleep well last night, we were sore from the first day and then made the mistake of just starting hiking and figuring we would find someplace along the way for breakfast. Well, we did but it was about 5 km (up and down a hill) before we did. Including over a super high bridge and up some very steep (no handrail) stairs in to the town of Palas del Rei. The town was gorgeous but we had to keep moving to cover the mileage for the day so we had a quick breakfast at a lovely little cafe bar and moved on.
While at breakfast we noticed a tour group of older folks who were doing one section of the Camino. This is common for folks who can't do the whole thing - it lets them do a little part of it and just get a taste. They hiked out of town ahead of us and apparently somewhere along the way, tragedy struck and one of them died suddenly. Yes, you read that right - died. After breakfast about 1/2 hour up the trail we noticed some of the group standing around in the trail, then I noticed the blue tarp and the boots sticking out of it. And the police. The group spoke German so we couldn't really ask anyone what happened so we hiked on.
After we pulled through town, there was another stretch of farm land which is just beautiful here. Small farms, stone fences, lush fields and happy animals. It was not uncommon to see 4 or 5 fat and contented cows grazing in a huge field of lush grass. You can really tell that the land here has been touched by human hands for hundreds of years. Outside of the towns, it looks like it could be the 17th century.
Along the way we met another American couple and a few other groups of folks. It's hard to tell what languages everyone speaks so you kind of just start with an "hola" or "buen camino" and go from there. Tonight we stayed in a municipal albergie (5 euros) run by a very sweet woman in a tiny farming "town". I say town like that because really it was a clump of about 6 buildings owned by her and her family. As I arrived (a bit behind because I took a moment to call home) it started to thunder and rain. Her husband was across the street at their farm with an umbrella and a stick trying to get their 3 cows into the barn. With the thunder and rain those cows wanted to go anywhere BUT into the barn. Soon he called her over and it was just a riot watching the two of them with their umbrellas trying to corral the cows. Eventually they did go in and it stopped raining. We had dinner, chatted with some people we met and then all slept well.
No food, dead bodies, a long climb next to a highway and sore muscles - Day 2, it's all uphill (figuratively!) from here.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
This is going to be extremely difficult to pick just one picture for each day. There were so many memorable and beautiful things. My mom and my sister on the first day - see how happy and chipper they were? My mom's pack is supposedly "balanced" better with the front bags so it's not as hard on your back but we ended up calling them her man-boobs the entire trip. As in "Mom, do you have the map? Check in your boobs".
This morning we caught a bus for Sarria and at the bus station met a woman named Kris from Ottowa. She was in the middle of doing the Camino - she had started much further back than us - but her knees hurt so she took a break to come see Lugo and was headed to Sarria to start hiking again. You only get your certificate if you hike the last 100 km straight on foot so Sarria, being about 112 km from Santiago, is a very popular starting place. We hiked for most of the day and did pretty good. THis part of Galicia is beautiful, very green and it reminds me quite a bit of Oregon. We met one other American on the trail - she was a 25 year old from Texas who was having a "quarter-life" crisis : ) and I want to call her Julie although I don't thing that's her name. It should be though, she seemed like a Julie. We also saw Kris from Canada a few times this day as we hiked. You kind of end up leap-frogging on the trail with people. Every few kilometers there is a cafe bar where you can take a break, fill your water bottles, have some food and a coffee (cafe con leche for me) or a beer (cervesa).
Most of this day was spent hiking through farmland. Wonderfully old farm land with stone houses and stone walls and little old ladies in their skirts out working an entire field with a hand hoe. We stopped for the night in our first albergie (10 Euros for the night) and had a lovely dinner of fish and gazpacho.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I have to slip an extra post in here due to the travel time change. Because we traveled forward in time, the first day seemed like one long day but really, it switched to morning on our flight over seas. Confused? Yeah, so were we.
When we made it to the Santiago airport, we had to catch a bus to Lugo (where our first hotel was). This began our first travel
debacle adventure, GETTING OFF THE BUS AT THE WRONG STOP. Which left us nowhere near our hotel and the only map we had was a google map of the hotel. We were lost.
L O S T. Honore (my sister) tried asking for directions a few times in her (very good) Spanish but up so far north they speak a Galician dialect and she wasn't understanding it. Plus, we found out later that we were a ways from our hotel. A ways through a maze of twisty turny streets. Finally after walking and walking I realized that my mom, in her infinite wisdom, got an iphone - just for this trip! So I turned it on, input the hotel address, had the GPS thingy on the phone locate us and we followed the little walking path it laid out for us. I tell you, I am becoming a technology lover more every day. The fact that the little thing could locate exactly where we were in a small town in Northern Spain and lead us to our hotel was just priceless.
That night, we went to the town square inside the old Roman walls for dinner. The tapas place we ended up at didn't have menus but the waitress was willing to work with us and we ended up having a pretty nice dinner. They have a tray on the bar of simple tapas (cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, bread and ham, cheese) that you just take - or the waitress brings it to your table and you take what you want. Everything has a toothpick in it so at the end, you pay by how many toothpicks you have on your plate. We ended up eating bread, iberian ham, tomatoes, and some delicious fried shrimp. After dinner we walked along the tops of the Roman walls and then headed for bed. Tomorrow we start hiking!
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Well the title pretty much says it all. We spent 22 hours of this day traveling. In the airplane or in airports. It was exhausting and uncomfortable and more exhausting. However, there was no freaking out, puking, or crying on my part so yay. I didn't even need to excessively overdose myself with Xanex.
Otherwise, the airports were hot and confusing, the plane over the ocean was very small (personal space wise) and the lady in front of me reclined her seat all the way for the ENTIRE FLIGHT. Even when they served food. Super rude.
Monday, May 2, 2011
These sweet faces will be here waiting for me. My heart already aches for them.
I'm not sure if I will be updating the blog, I know I can't upload pictures but maybe I'll fill in a few things as we have internet. Otherwise, when I get back I'll catch everything up.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Peter was home today, the sun was out and we just enjoyed hanging out together. I packed a bit, Peter cleaned off the deck, I worked in the yard and the kids played in the yard. Miss E spent a lot of time looking for bugs for her "TV show" (I'm not sure what that is) and Mr. T rescued worms. The rescuing of the worms involved digging in the dirt until he found one, yelling for Miss E to come help him and then "rescuing" the worm by relocating it to another spot. I'm not sure how much those worms really needed the rescue, but the kids were having fun.
This was our last day with all four of us before I leave and as we headed out for frozen yogurt after dinner, a knot settled into the pit of my stomach. Before I leave for a big trip I always have anxiety. The fact that this one involves a LONG plane ride and a long time being away from my kiddos is exacerbating it. Once I am there, things will be great. It's just the getting there that is hard now.