Thursday, January 14, 2016

Beautiful Barcelona for the Weekend

Though Rob and I each visited Barcelona during our college and post-college days, we were excited to go back with the kids and maybe even feel some Mediterranean sun on our faces (it's been gray in Luxembourg for quite a few months now.)
We took the kids out of school on Thursday. A quick flight later, and after checking into our 250 year old apartment in the heart of the stylish El Born neighborhood, we walked straight to the beach along the harbor with gelato in hand. It was only 50 degrees, but the kids peeled off their socks and shoes, playing in the sand and surf for an hour until the sun started to set -- we had to drag them away. I looked on with Rob and was overcome in the moment. This is it, I told him. This...right everything. Happy, healthy children; our family together, having fun and traveling the world.

All six of us in one small carry on. 
The street leading up to our door...
Fresh coconut on the beach blew young John's mind!
On our way home, we stopped in a tiny supermercado so we'd have some eggs for the morning. While the kids warmed up in hot showers, Rob brought home fresh pizza (an El Born specialty!); each slice had different toppings -- Iberian ham, corn, Spanish sausage. Even though we rented a four bedroom apartment, Madeline, Charlie and John slept together in the same room every night; they were so tired after our long days that they didn't even have enough energy to giggle before they passed out.
The next day we had exciting sense that the city of Barcelona was unfolding before us. The city workers scrubbed the streets, and the bells rang in the gorgeous Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, which was 100 feet from our front door. There was so much to see and absorb! But with the kids so young, we really balance sightseeing with what their little legs can handle. Lots of resting. Lots of gelato.
We took a cab over to the Basilica de la Segrada Familia, Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece. Even though I'd seen it 20 years ago, I still gasped as we climbed out of the taxi. My guidebook said it looked like "a cake left out in the rain." As always, we got there early so there was no line to see the interior. After walking through so many European cathedrals, it's amazing that they're still actively building this one -- only four of the 16 spires are built, and there were construction workers scaling the sides of the church, mini excavators tearing into the Earth around it. I felt like a part of living history. However, four year old John didn't. He wanted mango. So we crossed the street, got him a smoothie, popped in a FC Barcelona soccer museum and took a cab over to La Boqueria, an open air food market that's been around since the 13th century. We bought John an overflowing cup of fresh mango and walked around, taking in the sights and smells -- octopus, eggs, fruit, vegetables and fresh empanadas, which we ate for lunch.
Chocolate-covered strawberry Light Sabers!
From there, Rob took the kids home for a rest and I went to the Picasso museum, which was so close we could have jumped to it from our apartment balcony. Bitsy was taking her afternoon nap in the carrier so I needed to stay on my feet.
Saturday was the perfect travel day. We tossed the guidebooks aside and explored with no agenda. Within minutes, we stumbled into what we thought was a train station and turned out to be El Born Cultural Center with excavated ruins from the 1700s.
One block further, and the kids were running in the sunshine though the Park le la Cuitadella. Orange trees, wide gravel paths, cultivated plants, a gorgeous fountain and balloon vendors. Rob took the kids out in a paddle boat while Bitsy napped on me in the carrier. We had a beautiful Argentinian lunch, then walked over the Palau de la Musica Catalana. Since the tour was an hour and the kids were getting tired, we crossed the street and let them spend their allowances in a store called Ale Hop -- a bit like Claire's, but strangely packed with elegant looking adults too. I only mention it because the kids loved it so much we went five times for alien pens, cheeseburger and oreo shaped pillows, and sunglasses. It was an easy concession for us since the kids were being so good as we explored Barcelona.
We stopped at a local farmers market and bought homemade carrot cake 
The kids took a seat at a public water fountain
Ways to guarantee people know we're tourist: Buy a 5 Euro balloon and tie it to the stroller. I couldn't stop laughing as I took this shot! 
The Catalan Music Palace
That night, we had an early Tapas dinner and it was a highlight of the trip! The restaurant was packed and convivial. They led us up to an alcove with low tables, a bench and four tiny stools. The kids lapped up mussels, meatballs, spinach with pine nuts, goat cheese over roasted red peppers, Iberian sausage. John flirted with two women on the other side of the window the entire meal. As we left, John's new best friend complimented the kids on their manners and the way they ate such interesting and different foods with gusto. These small moments mean so much to me.
We had to order John a second round of mussels.

The next morning we had just enough time for one last trip to the beach. Then we hopped on our plane, flew over the gorgeous Alps, and arrived home in Luxembourg to a yard full of snow! Barcelona the second time over was absolutely fabulous!
Pictures don't do this any justice.

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