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Cue the choir I went to Europe…

Part 3 Barcelona

Jun 8th, 2011 | By | Category: Cue the choir I went to Europe...

My first stop in Europe was Barcelona, Spain.
I don’t remember Barcelona very much because I was so tired. I also did not get a lot of sightseeing in this city as I planned on spending the majority of my time in France, Italy, and Croatia. Here are a few things that stand out to me now.
The mullet is alive and well in Barcelona. So many guys still wear a mullet. And here is a woman mullet with two kid mullets. I took this picture because of the interesting pets for sale in that cage but I honestly don’t remember what they were now. I’m thinking now they were not that interesting after all.

A really impressive thing I could not get over is the dogs are not on leashes but follow perfectly behind their owner. Even when the owner rides his motor scooter all around the city the dog would just follow calmly behind.
I did not see one insect. No flies, bugs etc.
The streets were very, very clean. I have not seen US city streets kept this clean.
Graffiti. I don’t like it in any country and it is all over Europe. People call it a form of art but I’m never going along with that.
I liked the coffee here better than any other country I went to. The food was spectacular.
Outside of Barcelona the landscaping is very lush. Almost jungle like. It was beautiful.

Here is the view from my room looking down. I loved the location. And I could keep my window open and not worry about bugs because I guess there aren’t any. OH! Small detail to note. When in a hotel in the US and someone says go up to the 4th floor we mean enter the elevator and hit button 4. The door will open and there you are. When in Europe and someone says go up to the 4th floor they actually mean WALK up 5 levels that somehow manage to hold at least 30 flights of stairs. They count the ground level as 0 not 1.

I stayed in the area Barri Gotic which is the old town quarter along La Rambla. Basically, the best part of the city where you can walk to everything. This area is full of awesome shopping, restaurants and unbelievable architecture. The very narrow, winding cobblestone streets were designed like a maze to get tourists lost. Ok, maybe not tourists since this area dates back to Roman times. I think I recall it was to keep the enemy lost while the locals could escape.

You just walk down any winding narrow street and then suddenly you will be in a new square or plaza. I loved the plazas. Music, restaurants, dancing, street shows. Each one is better than the next. So charming.

I would say the biggest surprise I learned about Barcelona, SPAIN was they do not speak Spanish. They speak Catalan. Catalan was not a language I had planned on. Here was my plan. I cannot sleep while flying so I had the brilliant foresight to use my time wisely on the airplane and attempt to learn 3 languages. Well, that is a slight exaggeration. I thought I would learn Spanish on the first plane to New York because I did take some Spanish in high school and still retain an impressive ability to count to 30 and say, “Me llamo Debi”. I figured a quick review in a travel book would cover the basic needed Spanish in about an hour. So this should leave me plenty of hours left over to start on French before I even landed in New York and I’d be ahead. Then I’d finish the complete French language from New York To Spain. Two languages down before I touched the ground of Europe! I could then learn Italian if I studied while on the trains touring around Spain and France. By the time I would get to Italy I would know 4 languages including English. Five if you include Pig Latin. And my emergency back up plan was to use sign language because I do know a tiny bit of that. But sometimes even well thought out plans are not successful. According to my travel journal (which I foolishly fantasized would be extremely interesting by the time my trip was over) this is what really happened on the plane…

Journal Update #1
Probably flying over Oklahoma. Hot guy in front of me.
Language progress going better than expected- Italian numbers mastered…

Looks like I jumped right past my plan and thought the most important part of my communication would be counting in Italian. I’m going to blame the hot guy in front of me.

By the time I landed in Spain I had another journal entry I won’t bore you with but it ends with… I can now count to 20, I think!
Arrived in Barcelona, only to find out their voices did not sound Spanish. And that was because they were not speaking Spanish. But the good news was I could count to 20 in Italian.

One famous place I did tour was Sagrada Familia. Construction started on this in 1882 and it still is a work in progress.There is so much history to this place, the construction and why it looks the way it does. Something about combining styles and religions. And nature. Inside there are giant tree like columns. The plan began with Architect Francisco de Paula del Villar and then one year later Antoni Gaudi took it over and spent 40 years on it. And I think he may have had A. D . D. He changed his mind and plan over and over. All I can say is when I looked at it I was overwhelmed. Sometimes it looked like a stalagmite, and sometimes it was glorious.

Overall I found it to be one hot mess. I hope I don’t get hate mail for that statement. But it was way too much for me to look at with no sleep.

This building next door was my favorite.

And this is where I will stop on Barcelona because I lost my camera.


Nov 19th, 2010 | By | Category: Cue the choir I went to Europe...

Gorgousosity! This is where I stayed.  You can see two white umbrellas on my veranda.

I took more photos of Dubrovnik than any other place on my trip to Europe.  I am not exaggerating when I say there is no ugly view from any where in that city.

First, you need to know I am a horrible photographer. I just hold out my camera and click.  Not much else. Sometimes I don’t even stop walking to take the photos, let alone aim.
If I messed with settings or pretended to search for an artistic angle it usually backfired. My camera appreciated it when I left it alone and let it do it’s job.  And in exchange it gave me some lovely shots.

Even though I took a great tour on the history and sites of Dubrovnik Old Town I didn’t retain much other than jokes and a few bits.  Everything I retained was visual images with a few interesting facts I could have imagined so take my historical information with a grain of salt.   I must report exactly how cute my guide was. He was perfectly groomed, with perfect posture, and he held an umbrella in a perfectly clever way.  His braces gleaming, as he dazzled me with information that left me very impressed with the Dubrovnik education system and not so thrilled with the education I have had. He could have been 18 or 28, I just could not figure it out. I would insert a photo of him but I did not take one unfortunately.

Dubrovnik is stunning in architecture and charm.

A fishing town and shops for trading.

I love how people still live a normal life here right here in the same old shops and old limestone streets. This is the place the people come to buy fabric, yarn, umbrellas etc.  This is the whole fabric store! Oddly, I did not see any of my fabric designs for sale here. ha!

People think the streets are marble but my guide said they were built from local limestone, polished by centuries of feet walking on them. That is romantic to me. The photo below shows rush hour.  When a cruise ship arrives there is tourists milling around.  But when they leave a few hours later it’s back to a lovely fairytale.

And a nice photo of some local pirates…

There are no cars, or scooters. Just people, hundreds of fat, well mannered cats and possibly 2 dogs. At least that is all I saw.

The walled port town has been inhabited since Roman times.  The walls were built to fortify the town around the 13th century. You can climb on the top of the wall and circle the entire city with a walk you will never forget. I think it was 2 kilometers long.

I love this next photo looking down on a rooftop.  They managed to build a soccer court and the local kids were playing.

This walk was so beautiful. And a bonus was being up at this angle fulfilled my snooping urges that I can’t seem to hold back. I tried not looking in every  single window but one eye would stretch over on it’s own and see what was going on inside.

I am probably related to this woman spying on the other’s laundry.

Speaking of laundry.  I found Europe’s entire life style of hanging out the laundry amazing.  And I now have tons of photos of people’s laundry.  Laundry is actually gossip in a rope. Those clothes lines usually stretch to opposite neighbors across the narrow alleys.  This  forces neighbors to be kind to one another or risk the end of your clothes line.

A disastrous earthquake in 1667 happened which crippled the city and also a large number of Gothic and Renaissance palaces were destroyed.  As the city was rebuilt they decided to create the new buildings with similar fronts so as to keep a sense of equality with the people who lived there.   As you walk down the main street you see this.

More pirates…

I also saw this… a woman urinating fountain…. and it was right outside  a restaurant.

The Franciscan Monastery was built near the front entrance so the monks could be the first to defend the city.  Apparently this was convenient as  as they have no wives or children to leave behind.  There is a Pharmacy at the Franciscan Monastery that creates hand creams and other toiletries based on ancient recipes. The pharmacy is one of the oldest in the world and it has been working from the time of its foundation.  And there is always a bit of gossip isn’t there… The old convent across the street is rumored to have an underground passage way straight to the monks.  I will leave the rest to your imagination but it brings me to another interesting fact.

I also remember they have the first or one of the first Orphanages. From 1344 on the women of Dubrovnik brought their children who were born out of wedlock here.
At night, the woman laid the baby on a specially built rotating platform, called the “ruota”, rang the bell and snuck off. They say that anyone who approached the mother and discovered her identity was severely punished, either by exile from Dubrovnik or death.

Dubrovnik was a successful city due to location.  A maritime trade city who tried to remain neutral with other countries.  Dubrovnik was heavily bombed during the Croatian War of Independence from 1991 to 1995. Almost all of the damage has been repaired.  You can tell which roofs had new tile and which were still original.

But as you look closely around the old town, mortar damange in the cobblestone streets and bullet marks in the stone houses are visible. I saw marks all over.  Even on the side of the house I stayed in. It made me sick to think of that bombing.  I just love that city and the people.

In the distance is Fort Lovrijenac. The monumental fort on high rock. It changed roles in the course of history. The main purpose of its construction was defense, and the main idea was to protect the freedom of Dubrovnik. And now it holds a famous annual Shakespeare play.

The people here speak perfect English. They are delighted with the tourists and let you know how happy you are visiting.  There is no crime.  Flip flops were the best anywhere I have ever shopped.  Just the cutest styles.  Some nice artwork.  There is a lovely market to get fresh fruit and vegetables daily.  In the evening the locals are hanging out in town. I saw a fantastic opera one night held in a church.  It is so great in Dubrovnik I believe I have to have a Part 3 so you can see what is outside of these Old Town walls.


Aug 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Cue the choir I went to Europe...

In no particular order I will start with Croatia.  Mainly because I found the photos for it first. The journey there was on a 9 hour ferry ride from Bari, Italia. (That’s right, I say Italia.)  All aboard the smelly, sinking, creaking, leaking ferry! Enjoyed about an hour on deck then down the 643 flights of tiny stairs to the last level below where they keep cars and buses.  And here is my cabin. Pried open the door and attempted to sleep while thinking about the cars and buses directly above me. The air smelled of cigarettes, auto fumes and electrical fire.   We traveled at night, bobbing every which way in the darkness along with  waves somewhat like in that movie A Perfect Storm.  (It’s possible I may be exaggerating a tad. But during those 9 hours it felt that way.)

OH! Before I forget. While in the customs line to Croatia I saw a woman with at least 4 massive suitcases yell at a nun who’s tiny carry on backpack was in her way. Wow! And then that cute, young nun let her have it in return.  This was all in Italian so I missed the details but it was quite exciting. Who would ever yell at a nun? An Italian woman. What kind of nun would yell back? An Italian nun.

Arrived to a slice of heaven.

The view from the terrace where I stayed.

If I walk out the front door,

over the moat bridge,

look down at the park,

past the guards, Hi Boys!, I could then walk right into the fairyland of Dubrovnik.

To be continued because I have to do some work today.