Saturday, October 9, 2010

Honeymoon Pictures

Following the post of my bridal portraits, these will look very amateur. But here they are.

Roman Wall, Barcelona

Here's our itinerary, so that the pictures have some context:
  • Day 1
    • Fly to Barcelona
    • Arrive at the Hotel Grand Central, in El Barri Gòtic (The Gothic Quarter)
    • Stroll through the Barri Gòtic for our first attempt at ordering tapas and views of some old Roman walls and La Seu Cathedral
    • Walk down Las Ramblas for some good people-watching (and a knock-off Yoda sighting)
    • Visit the Moll de la Fusta (the port area)
    • Walk back to the hotel for a siesta, then some more exploring and a stop for some traditional hot drinking chocolate with churros. 
    • Cab ride to the fountains on Montjuïc, which, it turns out, weren't running, but the palace grounds were spectacular (even at night) and a musician was playing outside.
    • Back to our hotel for dinner at its restaurant, Avalon
  • Day 2 (The Strike!)
    • We knew that the metros would be running only in the morning and evening for commuters, because of a country-wide strike, so we woke up early and set out. We caught one train, but when our second train whizzed right by us, we had to go back up and catch a cab to the Sagrada Familia.
    • The Sagrada Familia, one of Spain's most famous landmarks. This church has been under construction for over 100 years. It has been handed over to various architects, the most famous of whom is Antoni Gaudí. 
    • Cabbed to Park Güell, another of Gaudí's famous landmarks. The mosaic lizard and benches are trademark Gaudí.
    • Lunch with Chris's cousin Katie, who's studying in Barcelona. This is where we realized that the strike wasn't just people refusing to go to work, but angry mobs of people all over the city refusing to go to work. The police were everywhere in their riot gear, and we were shut in to the tapas restaurant after going in the doors as a protection for the big glass windows. A perfect opportunity for a long, leisurely Spanish lunch!
    • Walked around L'Eixample district and found Casa Mila and Casa Batlló, other Gaudí works.  
    • A stop for water in a local coffee & tea chain found us once again locked in. Our waitress tried to explain that we really should go home, as the metros were running until 8:30 only and that it was getting dangerous outside. We dodged the angry mobs, who were by this time burning things and putting obstacles in the police's way so that they could not stop their marches, and finally found a metro station that was operational.
    • Back at our hotel, Chris napped and I watched the craziness from our hotel room on the 7th floor. The police would drive up and down the street, unload their vans, run around, get back into the vans, and drive away. This continued for hours. A crowd of people marched by with a banner, followed by a van with a loudspeaker attached. Fires were set on the sidewalks and shots were heard occasionally. Then, everything seemed to slowly return to normal by around 10:00. 
    • We went out for dinner and cleanup crews had washed away the burned trash fby the time we walked back to our hotel at 12:00.
  • Day 3
    • Still in Barcelona, we slept in, then took the metro to Montjuïc so that we could take the cable car up to the top. We were going for the view, but when we arrived at the top we found a very large castle. 
    • We toured the castle, then started to walk back down through the gardens, but decided that a cab was a better idea and took one to the city. 
    • Lunch at Tapas 24. Very very good. Dessert was football-shaped chocolate drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt. Mmm. MM!
    • After a nap at our hotel, we made it to Cacao Sampaka, where we had more thick, hot chocolate and some white chocolate mousse with espresso grounds sprinkled on top. Heaven.
    • Hotel Neri for dinner, as recommended by the folks at Tapas 24. We had a great time. Our waiter was one of the best, and the food was perfect. We thanked our waiter as we left, and he told us that we had to come back in  a year, and that Hotel Neri was our new home. A perfect last night in Barcelona.
  • Day 4
    • We took a train to San Sebastian. We slept most of the six hours, arrived, and checked in to our little pension (small, privately run b&b style hotel), Pension Edorta. It was in the heart of the "old town" of San Sebastian and walking distance to the beach. 
    • First stop in this town known for its great food, a tapas bar. We tried the seasonal delicacy, baby eels on toast. Not my favorite. 
    • After a walk around the old town, a nap, and more walking, we made our way back via the beach at night.  This place has a lot going for it and I wouldn't mind spending more time here. 
  • Day 5 (Arzak!!)
    • We started the day with pastries and cafe con leche for breakfast. Chris found a bakery with apple tarts that were great.
    • We walked around some more, and then headed to the gym & spa on the beach called La Perla. We spent 4 hours there, getting in a workout and lots of time in the various jetted pools, saunas, and lounge chairs inside. The walls on the beach side were all glass so that you had a constant view of the ocean.
    • Lunch at La Perla's out door cafe, overlooking the beach. Perfect weather and good food.
    • Back to our hotel for a nap and a shower before our big night out -- dinner at Arazk.
    • Arzak was beyond our expectations, and too complex to be described by an amateur foodie like myself. As one of the world's best restaurants, it delivered in every aspect.  One course came out in a bowl with dry ice in the bottom. One small fish bite had been surrounded by a little nest of something that resembled straw in color but cotton candy in delicateness, fried, and perched onto a tiny steel tree. Everything tasted even better than it looked. I almost cried when I bit into my lamb, served with a tiny side of smoked cucumber with pear sauce. It just didn't make sense, and it was fantastic. By the end of the night, we'd met both chefs and eaten so much unbelievably good food that I could not move.  And then they served us two desserts each, and a house-made herb liqueur, and coffee, and a small sampling of creatively-shaped chocolates. Really.
  • Day 6 
    • The next morning we woke up in time to get breakfast and buy bus tickets to Bilbao.
    • We stayed at the Grand Domine hotel, right across from the Guggenheim. Our view was of the museum and it was as good as you could get (unless you owned one of the gorgeous mansions across the street on the other side of the museum).
    • The museum was really great. Chris has always loved Frank Gehry. We saw an exhibit of giant steel sheets made into different shapes. Steel, we also learned, is a huge export from Bilbao. There was also an exibit featuring Anish Khapoor. I didn't know he'd done "The Bean" (actually called Cloud Gate) in Chicago. His works (including metro stations) were very cool. There was a large room with different "mirrors," our favorite of which made you feel like you were passing through a Star Trek style time-space continuum as you walked from 5 feet to 1 foot away from it. It was surreal and everyone in the room was surprised by the unsettling feeling they got from this simple mirror sculpture. Most of the exhibits seemed to really mess with your perceptions in some way. We had a lot of fun.
    • We spent the rest of the day exploring the city, which I really loved. It's too bad we were there on a Sunday and most of the stores were closed. Apparently Bilbao was given a huge grant which was able to pay for the Guggenheim and other large restoration projects.
  • Day 7
    • We woke up early to a huge deluge, ate a peaceful breakfast  that was great. I love that Europeans eat cured meats and cheese for breakfast. It's one of my favorite parts about going abroad.
    • After breakfast, we went to the train station and took another long train ride to Madrid.
    • We got in at 2:00, which was lunch time, and didn't get to our hotel until 3:00, and into town by 4:00. We stayed at the Hilton by the airport (thanks Mom!) and it was a 40 minute walk/metro into the heart of Madrid. 
    • We passed by the oldest restaurant in the world, but it was closed. We ate a chain bocadillos (little sandwiches) place that had a special on huge beer for 1 Euro each. Pretty good!
    • We walked around Spain and were reminded that it is the capital of Spain. I'm used to living in a capital city, but Madrid is very ornate and definitely has the feel of an old, regal city. 
    • We saw the main plaza (Plaza Mayor), a monastary, and the royal palace. The gardens at the palace were beautiful. It was closed to the public, so we admired its grandiose from the outside only. 
    • I was a little sick and the wind wasn't helping, so we ducked into a McDonald's for some free WiFi and bathrooms. Thank you, unofficial American Embassy!
    • We took the metro back to our hotel and chilled there for the rest of the day. I had come down with a slight fever so we ordered room service and watched all the different international news channels. Romantic, I know. Our last night in Madrid was pretty laid back, and I enjoyed hanging out with Chris in my PJs.
  • Day 8
    • Back to reality. 

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