Thanks to the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, our flights home were cancelled and after a few days of stress we decided to enjoy the most of our bonus vacation week. We considered Paris, but ended up doing a southern loop through Spain to Granada and Sevilla. In Granada we saw the spectacular Al-Hambra, a 700+ year old fortress on a hill that was at various points the seat of the Islamic Moorish government of southern Spain and also of the Catholic government which defeated them in 1492. Highlights included the girls exploring the huge circular courtyard of the Palacio de Carlos V, watching the sunset over the Al-Hambra from Mirador de San Nicolás while Flamenco players performed, and eating some of the best pizza we have ever had.
In Sevilla, we visited the post-Easter Feria de Abril, which was my Spanish friend Alex’s top recommendation for our trip but was after our original departure date. It was really fascinating and fun, sort of a combination of a county fair in the U.S., Brazil’s Carnival, and the Kentucky Derby, with an elaborate social scene, traditions galore (including bright colorful outfits for women), music everywhere, and horses and horse-riding a central part of the experience. Also included are pictures of Juliet wandering around a tiny square, a family horse carriage adventure, and the ride home both in the car we drove to Madrid and the plane that finally brought us home after more than three weeks and enough memories to last us a lifetime (or at least until our next big trip).
Click on the picture of Claire and I looking over the Al-Hambra in Granada at sunset for a slideshow.
Barcelona was one of the main stops on our tour of Spain, and we enjoyed a six-day stay in this lovely city on the Mediterranean that is the capital of Catalonia. We rented a nice big apartment in the Gothic Quarter, site of some of the original settlements of Barcelona over two thousand years ago, and launched into our by-now-usual routine of sightseeing via long stroller rides, making friends at playgrounds, and eating at outdoor cafes on squares where the girls could run around.
One fun thing we did, thanks to Grandma Judy’s babysitting generosity, was go on a tour of the city on Segways, the geeky two-wheeled one-person electric vehicles. Turns out they are actually perfect for tour groups, as you can move around quickly but everyone regardless of fitness level can keep up. We had a great guide, Edgar, who among other things taught us a few local traditions including the centuries-old Catalan addition to traditional nativity scenes. He also helped clear up a mystery from one day in San Sebastián, where we saw groups of people in white clothes with bright red scarves gathered in squares piling up on top of each other while crowds cheered. Turns out that was the day when two of Spain’s biggest soccer rivals, Real Madrid and Futbol Club Barcelona, played each other. Fans of the Barcelona team showed support for their team — and some Catalan cultural pride — by demonstrating the Catalan tradition of forming human towers.
Other highlights included:
- going to Sunday mass in a 600+ year old church
- wandering endlessly with our double-stroller through the narrow alleyways of the old city
- seeing some works of Antoni Gaudí, a modernist architect from Barcelona, including a huge funky cathedral called Sagrada Família and the Parc Güell
- stuffing into lots of taxis as we cruised around town
- having dinner with a few of the local Catalan Wikipedians
- celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary at a fancy restaurant
- as usual, visiting lots of parks and playgrounds including the Parc de la Ciutadella
- watching Juliet walk all the way down the hallway of our apartment, while Claire giggles her encouragement (see video in slideshow)
- spending a few dozen hours on the internet and phone trying to sort out our travel plans in the wake of the volcanic ash cloud closing airports all over Europe.
Click on picture below for a slideshow.