A small disruption – Hurricane Ian

Wow! Been awhile since a hurricane has closed the Disney Parks, but thanks to Ian we did.

Speaking of work…………….that’s what I was doing when I heard the news of the actual closing. And to be perfectly honest I had misjudged the timing. I really thought I would be working a partial day on Wednesday, so I didn’t bring comfortable clothes & shoes. Wrong! All that work needed to be done before going home Tuesday night. It was a v.e.r.y long day.

What did my team need to do? Our main focus was mobility. What’s that you ask? Strollers, wheelchairs and ECVs that we rent on a daily basis. They have to be rounded up, organized and stored – creatively. We have waaaaaaay too many to store in our building. We bring the extra to a nearby guest locker area – perfect.

It was time to activate our plan! We rely upon partners to gather our random (lost, abandoned) items, place in designated pick-up spots and my team drives a box truck to load them – repeatedly. One obstacle………..guests! We can’t finish until the park was clear – hence one of the reasons the day was long. We’re usually one of the last to leave…………and the first to come back.

One positive from the night’s experience – night-time photos. Yep, it’s damp outside and it was just starting to get windy for the photo below.

I made it home safely and was able to convince Eric I needed a foot massage before bedtime. 🙂

What to do while waiting for the storm to arrive? LOTS!

We had a few chores around the house to get things ready like pulling in lawn chairs, placing potted plants next to the house and laying down anything that could go flying. Eric thought we might have two weak spots. One was the front door; this was his solution.

Notice the sandbags at the bottom? He decided (late) that a few sandbags were needed and we had to make our own. East-facing windows were our second weak spot with the direction of the driving rain being the main factor. Here’s one of them. Not very pretty, but effective.

Outside secured – check. What’s next? Time to head inside.

I think we’re fairly secure with the power not going out since the utilities are underground – but there’s always a first time. I want to be sure we have clean laundry, and several loads of wash were done.

It was also a good time to iron shirts – for when we return to work. Crazy I know, but got to be prepared for afterwards.

What does Eric concentrate on – food! He drove around until he found one grocery store open. When he couldn’t find all of his needed ingredients for gumbo, he went to plan B – chili!

Not to be outdone, I baked some Toffee banana bread to satisfy my sweet tooth – very tasty.

Now all we had to do was wait, while listening to the wind, the rain, the wind, the rain and more wind. One way to ensure a good night’s sleep? This was courtesy of my leader. It worked.

I woke up to this. The eye of the storm was south and east of us and now we just had to deal with bands of rain throughout the day. I can do that!

Walking outside, things didn’t look too bad. THANK goodness we had our trees trimmed last Fall taking away some of the weight and branches over the house. Clumps of leaves and branches were all over the front yard. Got to find the rake!

One of the funnier things I saw…………this wrapped tree in my neighbor’s yard. Really? We’re expecting rain and wind, not cold temps.

Bottom line – we made it through unscathed. Others in Florida were not as lucky.

I’m closing with a photo after working 15 hours and finally heading home to wait out mother nature. We still had icons lit so I took advantage of the moment.


Exploring Orlando – again

Sundays are a good day for food trips. On a recent day we stopped at Market To Table. It’s described as ‘modern American cuisine with classical influences’.

It’s typically an evening destination – except on the weekends when they add a 11am – 2pm dining period. No better way to start than with some special brunch drinks: 2 bloody marys and 1 Market mimosa (vodka, orange, hibiscus & sparkling wine) – v.e.r.y delish! Can you guess who had the market mimosa?

Starting with the salmon Gravlax was an excellent choice. I would go back just for that treat.

Between the three of us, we chose very different entrees. I had been craving eggs benedict and they had their own ‘market’ version. Loved it! Except for the breakfast potatoes left on the plate, everything else was gone.

Adrienne’s selection looked absolutely delicious: pork belly B.L.T. Her fries looked great. Maybe next time I could substitute fries for breakfast potatoes?

Eric enjoyed his braised short rib hash. Not my thing but he ate every morsel.

A repeat visit was to Hall On The Yard.

It’s not your typical restaurant or food hall. The concept involves one owner for the building with different chefs & company. They cook their specialties without sinking a huge fortune into a building, infrastructure, kitchens and waitstaff.

One (very large) menu highlights the diversity of flavors and one waitstaff brings your selection to the table as selections are ready, no matter where it’s coming from.

We started with the ‘zazzy’ fries from the Indian restaurant. Mm, mm, good. Loved the salty & spicy coating and remoulade.

We added their guacamole and homemade chips before the main dishes arrived. We all agreed the flavor was unique (quite good!) so much so that Eric went to it’s kitchen and asked their chef. Honey vinegarette was the ingredient that ‘made’ the dish interesting.

Wow! This looked great – Greek octopus salad.

Adrienne’s choice

Eric ordered two more appetizers, samosas and a chicken quesadilla.

Remember at the top when I said I had been craving eggs benedict? Yep, I got another one the following weekend. Hidden underneath those eggs…………salmon (after the replacement dish arrived).

When my first plate arrived, I started digging in, got about 1/2 way through one of the eggs and said ‘Wait a minute”. While it was tasty it wasn’t what I ordered. There was homemade sausage underneath. Eventually we flagged down our waiter and he didn’t seem to understand why I wanted my original order. Really? BTW – much better with the salmon.


Barcelona – the end

I’ve said this before, but going to say it again………..I just hate, hate, h.a.t.e to write the final blog at the end of a trip. I can pretend it’s all about jumping back into work and trying to recover the lost time, it’s not. It’s the realization the trip is over.

I was scanning through my photos and they were bringing back great memories of the awesome food we had. That’s the reason I’m writing this post – food, glorious food. Let’s get started.

Here we go. Right outside of our door was Tapazia, a tapas spot. It’s literally so close we are standing in our AirBNB doorway for this shot.

Naturally started with Sangria, along with these croquettes.

Below was the main attraction: Spanish tortillas. They were these eggy, cheesy, tasty, chock-ful of potatoes very filling meal. Add in some protein or veggies and you would be set for the day. One day, these were lunch – SUCH a long walk.

One evening we visited another host recommendation……………. lo Pinyal.

No surprise, another tapas restaurant.

Top – anchovy and stuffed olives. Middle – sheep cream cheese with fig and almonds. Bottom – romesco eggplant

We finally learned the art of ordering tapas – don’t order everything at once! So simple, but effective. Otherwise (most) everything comes out at once, not leaving time to savor the small plates already at the table.

More of the tomato bread and their fabulous Iberian ham, thinly sliced.
Mixed olives – they taste better here!
Sheep cream cheese with anchovy and olive
Fabulous chactuerie with local cheese.

And always to top off the meal, Sangria.

We had a few repeats our last few days, one of which included going back to the market and snacking at Bar Boqueria. Yep, there was a lot of sangria drunk while in Barcelona. This was NOT the same day as the photo above, let’s keep it straight.

Potatoes, always taste better on vacation.
Grilled aquid, yum!

Yes I did……ate a tenacle.

Not just a repeat, but a three-peat. Never happened before! Our first meal in Barcelona was at Tapeo and we made Tapeo our last meal. YEAH!!!!



Our last day in Barcelona, we wandered more of the historic streets and found this second story bar. Great for afternoon refreshment and people-watching.

I snuck a tasty little sweet treat with me on the plane. We had walked past these several times and I finally succumbed. They were just so darned cute. Basically, they were donuts with a theme or ‘dressing’.

Yep, it was sweet and very tasty.

Okay, that’s it, the trip was over and so are the photos.


Montserrat Monastery

Founded in the 11th century, then rebuilt between the 19 & 20th centuries it was the destination for a booked tour. Why was it rebuilt? During Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, the abbey was twice burned down and sacked by his troops.

Located 30 miles northwest of Barcelona, Montserrat means ‘serrated mountain’. During the 12th and 13th century, a Romanesque Church was built and that was our first destination in the morning. It was at that time this monastery began to see pilgrims visiting.

As expected, beautiful and ornate inside.

A little closer to the pulpit.

The organ was unlike what I had seen previously with some of the pipes placed horizontally.

While a great deal of this church was old, one of the chapels had this sculpture V.E.R.Y different and modern.

Exiting the church you came upon these prayer candles.

This fountain holds the secret to a youthful beauty. I’ll try any and everything to hold back the years – just saying.

A few last shots of the church before heading to other parts of the monastery. Also, it should be noted 1223 was the first account of a boys’ choir which continues to this day and can be heard during one of the daily masses.

The detail in the prophets above the doorway was amazing.

Earlier I mentioned this became a stop for pilgrimage. Why? Legend places the finding of the statue of the Virgin of Montserrat around 880. These carved Madonnas are believed to have been created in Jerusalem at the beginning of the religion and can be found all over the world. This cross indicates the chapel where it’s displayed. No, we didn’t make the trek.

There are accommodations on the property.

Along with a number of statues. This was carved in a nook along one of the pathways.

We had some free time and chose to take the funicular to the top of the Monserrat mountain. A group of young children and their adult chaperones squeezed in amongst the adults. Needless to say, it was quite noisy on the ride up.

The mountain is considered a park.

Right near these signs, several lilac bushes were growing – reminded me of spring time in the Midwest.

Ultimately, this building was our destination.

On the way we had some clear vistas from the surrounding area.

Eric led the way followed by Adrienne. The jackets needed earlier were quickly shed.

And we made it! Peeked in the (barred) windows and nothing was inside. Oh well, we had the satisfaction of getting there.

One last shot from the top of the mountain.

What goes up, must go down…………via the funicular. We were the only ones on the downward trip and got this cool video from the front car.

With about twenty minutes to spare, it was just enough time for some liquid refreshment. You just never know what you’re going to see.

Before they arrived, a motorcycle group were escorted to the mountain. This mountain welcomes all.


Paella-best known Spanish dish

Non-Spaniards consider this Spain’s national dish. Spaniards consider this a dish from the Valencian region. Valencians regard this as one of their identifying symbols. Regardless, it is one of the best-known dishes in Spanish cuisine. Why does that matter????? If you’re in Barcelona………..you’ve got to eat it! And we did.

Earlier I wrote we’re staying at this fabulous AirBNB in the Gracia region of Barcelona. The owner had a list of recommended nearby restaurants. This was the second one nearby on her list for those seeking a traditional paella – Envalira Restaurant.

It was described as a traditional, no-fuss restaurant in the heart of Gracia with good hearty Catalan food and professional service. Yep, that’s pretty accurate.

Since we’re not eating on ‘Barcelona’ time walking up to the restaurant, it looked closed. Opening the door, it still looked closed since it was empty. A waiter walked up, we explained we had a reservation, and we were seated. We had the restaurant totally to ourselves for most of the meal.

We all selected their daily special. We needed a bit of help with the Catalonian translation and so did the waiter when translating to English, HA! We could figure out a few worlds here and there and hey, we’re here for the food so it didn’t matter quite as much.

Our starters were:

Then came the main attraction, the seafood paella. By the time we were done, nothing was left except for a few carcasses.

Dessert was part of the meal (naturally) and gave us the opportunity to try three different ones.

Just when you thought you were done…………these were brought to the table, a digestive.

I tried, I really tried to get it down. Nope. I tried a small sip and I was done.

Okay, so we had our paella. It was good, very traditional and hearty. What’s next? A Paella class!!!!!

Eric did his research prior to coming and this was one of the highest rated classes. After experiencing it, I can see why, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

First thing upon entering, you’re giving a glass and Cava wine is poured in – and kept full the entire time.

We were the first to arrive and got a quick shot of the cooking stations before everyone joined.

Eight stations with 16 participants was a full class. We had 16.

Most of the ingredients were measured out at your station. I partnered with Eric and he (naturally) gravitated to cooking. Look at that serious face, so studious. Out of the way buddy!!!!!!!

I had to grab the utensil out of his hand and literally push him out of the way so I could get into the action!

The multiple glasses of Cava may have a hand in that – just saying.

Adrienne had a partner, Rachel from England, who was solo and we pulled her into our group.

Unlike Eric and myself, there was no fighting over the cooking. Adrienne had to take the lead, ha!

But let’s get back to the cooking. After sauting some of the ‘aromatics’, we browned the meat (our protein was chicken) added in stock and the paella rice. Can you smell it?

Added in a few sprigs of rosemary before placed in the oven (to speed the cooking for our class). That was not traditional, however another class was scheduled in 3 hours and we still had to eat and vacate the premises.

There was one V.E.R.Y important aspect of the class……………the owner, Alex. As you might guess from this photo – he made the class FUN!

We got a photo of the four of us before sitting down at the community table.

Before the finished paellas arrived, we each made our own tomato bread. Take crusty bread (think 1 week-old dry, crisp slice), rub a plum tomato over the crustiness, drizzle some local olive oil and sprinkle sea salt before eating. Yum.

Then came the cooked paellas. Our class of sixteen made three different types. Why was this cooked meal called paella………..that’s the name of the cooking vessel.

chicken paella
vegetarian paella
seafood paella

My favorite…………..the chicken paella.

Just when you thought you couldn’t eat another thing, dessert came. Glad it was a small portion.

salted chocolate mouse and almond praline

While no photos with the entire group, we had one moment that had me in stitches. The young lady across from us asked what else we were going to do with our ‘daughter’. Excuse me, what did she say? Yep, she thought Adrienne was our daughter. All three of us were dying laughing!!!!! Let’s just say for the remainder of the trip, Adrienne remained our daughter, ha! Really going to get some mileage out of that.

So let’s talk about Alex. He is the owner and the story of The Paella Club is one of determination, passion, cultural heritage, community and of course, love for food. This is a place where people from all ages and background can come together and share love for global cuisine. We were the last to leave and hopefully we see him when he brings his nieces and nephews to Walt Disney World in the coming years. You never know, stranger things have happened. It is a small world after all.

When we talk about our time in Barcelona, this is one of the first things we mention – and still do. Alex ‘made’ the class into a memorable experience; one we will talk about for years to come.


Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

Whew! That was definitely a mouthful to say………….or just call it Sagrada Familia like most do. It is the largest, unfinished Roman Catholic church and ‘related’ to other buildings in Barcelona. One of my first Barcelona blog posts mentioned a gentleman named Gaudi. This was his largest and most involved project – and it’s not done – yet.

Crowds are so big, arrival reservations are needed to space out the people. We were actually late. 😦 Earlier that morning, we got on the subway, and waited and waited and waited. An announcement came on and everyone that understood, got off. Finally someone explained it to us. It had broke down and no immediate fix was coming. We started walking.

Time for a few quick photos outside of the church before heading in. There is soooooo much detail on this facade. You could look at this for hours, look away, then start over again finding many more things you missed earlier.

Everyone enters the basilica through these doorways, with the entrance called the Nativity Facade facing the rising sun.

Enter those portals and you’re greeted by this. It is an amazing sight.

Construction was started in 1882. At one point Gaudi himself took over the construction project and devoted the remainder of his life to it. He is buried in the crypt, below the pulpit. At his death one quarter of the basilica was complete.

Right above this was one of the organs in the church having 1492 pipes, placed 2010. To overcome the unique challenges of this building and size, several organs will be placed in other parts of the building. They will have the capability to be played separately or simultaneously with over 8000 total pipes when complete. That is a lot of sound!

As found in all religious buildings, there was an abundance of stained glass. This takes it to a whole different level.

Construction for the basilica passed its midpoint in 2010 with 2026 an anticipated completion date. Covid will have an impact upon that, pushing it back several years. No updated timeline has been shared – that I could find.

The unfinished building could be used for religious purposes beginning mid-2010. Here is a shot from the back, looking toward the pulpit, the focal point being the gold ‘umbrella.’

This was another amazing shot. The ceiling. Taken from the center of the building.

Even the staircases were uniquely designed. I counted at least four that were obvious.

In another corner, we noticed stanchions and a line. What could that be????? Could it be a way to reach the rooftop viewing? YES!!! We were directed to another window to purchase an upgraded ticket which gave us that option. S.C.O.R.E. There was a small elevator taking approx 6 individuals up at a time. Guess who went up?

Adrienne was there also, but somehow, I missed a shot with all of us. Being up this high gave me chance for an overarching view of the Barcelona skyline.

Turning 180 degrees around we saw these sculptures up close. They were a bit odd. Yes, those sculptures represent grapes and wheat. One thing I read was that people of Barcelona either love or hate this building. It is very, very different.

Before going up, you are warned………..you must walk down a narrow staircase. They weren’t kidding. Yikes!!! Not all of the staircase was this well-lit. 300+ steps, down and down and down.

I did see these fun and unique ‘gargoyles’ or downspouts. Not really gargoyles per se’, but they serve a similar purpose.

Eric commented several days afterwards he could still ‘feel’ the unused muscles screaming from walking down the 300+ steps. Did I mention how many steps? Yes, yes I did. 300+

Before leaving the building, wanted to share this brief video of the church.

Walking outside and looking up, you are greeted by this sight. The exit portal is called the Passion Facade. It is striking for the gaunt, tormented characters.

It faces the setting sun, indicative and symbolic of the death of Christ. The facade was intended to portray the sins of man.

One of the things I read about included the ‘magic square’ seen behind the sculpture below. The rows, the columns or diagonal lines have sums all adding up to 33 – the age of Jesus at his death.

Stepping out a little further, the austerity was more prevalent. The pyramid pediment was sculpted to appear bone-like, furthering the look of suffereing.

It culminates in a large cross with a crown of thorns.

While not likely we will be visiting upon completion, inside was another exhibit sharing a virtual view of the temple completely finished. It will be a site to behold.

There will be a total of 18 towers. The central tower will be the tallest, dedicated to Jesus Christ.

The visitor and entrance fees finance the construction budget for this huge project. It was never intended to be a cathedral, but a large building for events. Go figure. Completion of the spires will make this the tallest church building in the world and an impressive site. I can’t wait.


Barcelona Cathedral

There are two VERY different cathedrals in Barcelona that many visitors stop at. The one this post features is the Barcelona Cathedral. The other will be on a future post. The Barcelona Cathedral is one of the most impressive gothic structures dating back to the 11th century. It is also called Cathedral of the Holy Cross & St Eulalia. The seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona is here.

The present cathedral is on foundations of a previous church dating to 1298. Construction was primarily in the 13th – 15th centuries and is Roman Catholic.

The facade around the doorway was impressive……….and new. It was an add-on constructed in the 19th century to replace the humble 14th century facade.

Upon entering, naturally it was awe-inspiring. They had a number of these wrought-iron light fixtures. They were large to fit the grandeur of the building. My photo doesn’t do them justice. They were humongous.

The choir stalls retains the coat-of-arms of the knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The painted shields date from 1517.

The alter was raised and awe-inspiring. Think about it……..this was constructed centuries ago and the work remains.

There was an opportunity to go up to the roof, naturally we (two of us) went up. It was a chance to see the Barcelona skyline.

Got a quick shot to prove I was there.

Even I will admit……..the staircase and subsequent walkway was a tad bit unnerving. Other cathedrals we’ve walked on the actual building, not some temporary metal gridwork.

A few other shots I captured walking down the metal grid staircase before waiting for the small, really small elevator.

At the beginning I mentioned St. Eulalia. She is buried in the crypt under the alter. She was a young virgin that suffered martyrdom during Roman times.

Exiting the church you’re directed through a cloister. A number of important Barcelona citizens are buried here. They were buried under the stones we walked on. Felt kind of odd and disrespectful. I know I tried to step around them or over them. They were interspersed amongst the other stones used in the flooring.

More symbolism awaits. The fountain head of the Well of Geese represents St. Michael slaying Evil, embodied by a dragon.

He stands watch over a pool that contains thirteen geese.

Why thirteen? They represent the fact that St. Eulalia was believed to have been just 13 when she died.

Exiting the cathedral, I noticed this bridge reminding me of the Bridge Of Sighs found in Venice. There were many similar bridges but they have been destroyed. These bridges were built so that Barcelona’s civic and religious elite could travel between official buildings without interacting with the citizens and avoid any physical contact.

Gargoyles. They were mostly built between the 13th and 15th centuries with the intention of becoming drains on the rooftops of medieval cathedrals. Their gruesome faces were thought to protect churches from evil spirits by their gruesome faces.

Gargoyles are not limited to Europe. They can be found on relatively modern buildings in Canada, the U.S. and other countries. The Washington National Cathedral is known for its impressive collection of 112 gargyles. Who knew?

Eric gave up on us and found a place outside to wait. He should have gone to the rooftop – just saying. The other cathedral we visited – TOTALLY different, yet having its own beauty. Coming soon!


Barcelona Steet Walking

GREAT meal last night – more to come on that – but our first full day in Barcelona we took to the streets. Gaudi. Ever heard of him? I had not until started researching Barcelona.

Let’s talk about him.

Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was a Catalan architect from Spain and known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. His works were highly individualized with most located in Barcelona. His masterpiece, the still-incomplete Sagrada Familia, is the most visited monument in Spain. HIs work was influenced by his passion in life: architecture, nature and religion. He integrated ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork and carpentry while introducing new techniques in the treatment of materials. Gardi rarely drew detailed plans, instead preferring to create them as scale models. There could probably be a posting just dedicated to him. I’m sure others have done that and I will leave it to them. Let’s start walking!

We took their Metro and emerging into the light were presented with this: Casa Batllo. It was the result of a total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877.

Lots of tourists were lined up for tours. We were good with an outside look. This building was next door.

We continued walking down the street, coming upon Placa de Catalunya, a large square in central Barcelona generally considered to be the city center and the place where the old city and the 19th century-built Eixample neighborhood converge. LOTS of statuses but pared it down to these few shots.

Several fountains.

We also usually found these signs near the fountains. The fox? Someone added their own piece of artwork to the base. BTW – don’t dump your fish here!

One last photo of the square with a reflection pond and different sculptures at opposite ends. All those buses in the background…………the start of Le Ramblas.

What is the Le Ramblas?

It’s a tree-lined pedestrian street, stretching .75 long. It’s popularity with tourists has shifted its composition to cafes and souvenir kiosks – and pick pockets. We were very careful, and all was good.

Historically this pedestrian way was a place for markets, festivals and sports and…………. until 2010 an open-air market for caged birds and other small pets. No more. Kiosks selling flowers, plants and seeds were interspersed amongst the cafes.

Buildings along this street continued to be interesting structures. This one with umbrellas and a dragon lamp caught my eye.

There was one main reason we were here………La Bouqueria Market. Walking under the sign you are hit with multiple vendor stalls. Lots of vendors selling all type of food items, some prepared, others fresh with some ready to take home and eat.

Yep, another market. Like churches, at some point all those markets start looking alike. I tried to find a few things in here that that was not seen previously in this blog.

First up, a stall dedicated to empanadas.

These fruit drinks looked delicious.

These were some of the best looking fruit we saw – and artfully displayed.

The famous Iberian ham.

Of course, Eric and Adrienne drifted to the oyster vendor. Those were some B>I>G oysters. I tried one and it was really, really hard to get down – just saying. Another species was much smaller, very salty and much more to my liking.

Purchases could be made dozen per box or single bivalve purchases.

While we really love visiting markets with the intent of purchases………..this was different. We came to eat! Eric had done his research and one of our stops was high on his list: Bar Boqueria.

Like many places in Spain, this was about tapas – or small plates. Seating was along the outside of the booth with all of the cooking in the middle. We made some fabulous choices.

Tomato bread – naturally. This one was pretty good. Dry crusty bread is the key to success.

Other choices were potatoes bravos and various croquettes. Croquettes were never something that I would normally order, but they seem to be popular, and we’ve tried different fillings. I’m sold.

These shrimp were delicious and had a spicy kick.

Fried sardines – not bad. Seems like a lot of work for very little meat. Just my thoughts.

These razor clams didn’t have much flavor. They were okay, but not repeated during our time in Barcelona.

Last food shot……….more octopus. These slices of smokey, grilled goodness was very tasty. We had them several places and they never did disappoint.

As with most meals………….a little bit of liquid refreshment. This was a GREAT day.


Barcelona Bound

Since we didn’t rent a car, all of our trips started at the train station. This next leg began no different – well…………kind of. Before the picture below was taken, we had a situation.

The taxi dropped us off, we grabbed some coffee and croissants and then this happened. A gentleman said something to us in French, we obviously didn’t understand and then he said ‘get out’. Huh? Looking around, others were getting their bags, throwing away their purchases and heading outside of the station.

We saw what we determined was the ‘incident commander’ and ultimately this turned out as an abandoned bag, eventually claimed, possibly by a homeless woman and we were let back into the building. Geez that was exciting – not.

Eric got us first class tickets again and we’re not riding ‘backwards’, yeah!!!! However, instead of being the first car, we were the absolute last car. I mean, the v.e.r.y. last car.

Yep, still in France as we continue to see vineyards along the route.

One more train before arriving at Barcelona.

Even though we’re on one of the ‘fast trains’ I was still able to get a few photos.

While not visiting the Pyrenees Mountains, I was able to get a quick shot. They straddle the border of France and Spain, extending 300+miles. They are older than the Alps.

A short taxi ride and we were at our last AirBNB for this trip, located in the Gracia region of Barcelona. Dare I say BEST AirBNB ever? We only met the owner a few minutes to handover the keys and do a quick walk. We didn’t have any full-blown meals at the kitchen table but there was plenty of room. Loved the bench seat along the wall.

This was our first place on the ground floor. While Eric was aware (yet vocal) about the steps in our first place (remember 86 steps – one way) it was getting wearying by the end of our stay. Even I will admit that. 😦

This place had three bedrooms.

Adrienne’s choice

Next room was our choice. The headboard was formerly a door, secured to the wall.

The third but un-used bedroom is seen below. The bedrooms were pretty much in line with each other. This place was skinny but had depth as you will soon see. In the photo below a fan is seen in the corner. Each of the bedrooms had one. If put on high……….felt and sounded like a tornado! Thanks, hon for waking me up. At night. After I was settled in.

Small but efficient living area with a TV (unseen). The couch was pretty darn comfortable and big enough for two of us to share easily.

Towards the back of the apartment was the kitchen. Again, small, tidy, stove top & oven along with a small dishwasher. What looks like mats on the floor are tiles incorporated in the concrete flooring.

Turn around 180 degrees and you see a small fridge on the counter but another unseen fridge directly below it behind the curtain. The rest of the space behind the curtain………washer/dryer combo unit. Just like my time in Shanghai. Don’t ask Eric how many times he washed the first load, over and over and over. Adrienne helped him figure out the buttons (her ulterior motive – she had clothes to wash).

The powder room was also tight and the only time we shared one space during our trip. Compact corner shower was a continual fight with the shower curtain! No matter how much you tried, water escaped confinement.

One of my favorite spots was at the v.e.r.y back part of the apartment. It was partially covered with plexi for rain protection, with the remainder open and uncovered letting all the sunshine in.

Every time I sat out there I found more ‘things’ hidden amongst the foliage. There was a lot of stuff placed in the outdoor living area.

When I said this may be the best AirBNB ever, the owner truly thought of everything. She left us a new box of Nespresso cups for coffee, sugar cubes, snack cookies and a sugar-free option. Recommendations for restaurants, directions for nearby shops and extra powder room supplies were found. This doesn’t seem like much, but I absolutely could not think of a thing in the place that ‘wished we had’. Now, as you can see in the photos above, this place was quirky, which added additional charm.

We had to walk sooooooo far for lunch. Not. 100 yards (maybe) and we had arrived. Tapeo. Remember that name if you ever go to Barcelona. Spanish tapas were prevalent in the area we visited. Perfect for me. Get to try lots of things and not waste food.

Tapas, defined as appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine.

What do (should) you start every meal in Barcelona with?

We stayed with the red wine sangria. First ordering a 1/2 liter. Ordered another 1/2 liter and possibly one additional glass. What can I say, it was that good.

What else did we order? We were introduced to tomato bread. Simple yet oh so satisfying. Crusty bread, grated tomato with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. OMG.

Pan-fried sardines and lemon.

At my request, asparagus tempura with romesco sauce.

Vegetable stuffed squid. Yep I tried it. They enjoyed the remainder.

Now, I did like these…………..if I could only figure out what they were! We poured over this photo more minutes that ‘Id like to admit. And we still don’t remember.

Nope, nada, no way and never going to happen. Stewed tripe with chorizo, ham, smoked eel and chick peas.

That’s it. We’re in Barcelona.

Loved the tapas way of eating and the accompanying sangria!


Basilica Saint Sernin

While you might think this is just another church in Europe, it’s slightly different. This church was considered a major stopping place in a notable pilgrimage through France to Spain. The architecture and history of the basilica can be understood within the framework of two religious realities: pilgrimages and the cult of relics. Hence, the Basilica of St Sernin is one of the type of churches known as a ‘pilgrimage church’.

Medieval faith entailed a strong awareness of the reality of sin. Pilgrimages and veneration surrounding the relics was seen as a means of atonement. Relics were big business and trading & selling of relics was done amongst churches and principalities.

It was built in honor of martyr Saint Saturnin who was the first bishop of Toulouse living in the first half of the 3rd century. A modest basilica was built in the 5th century. Due to his exceptional popularity, the Toulouse martyr contributed to an influx of pilgrims. The building needed to be expanded. This doorway is the only thing that remains from the early building.

We entered the basilica through the doorway in the background of the above photo. The relief above that doorway celebrates the ascension of Christ in the midst of angels.

The nave or central body of the basilica is impressive and grand.

This next shot is a closer view of the tomb.

The area surrounding his tomb was adorned with baroque decor during the 18th century designed to glorify the saint.

Behind this area are five chapels that holds a collection of retables or structure, cabinets and reliquaries in painted and gilded wood. Also called “Tour of The Holy Bodies”. It presents some of the basilica’s numerous precious relics for veneration by the faithful. Relics can be the physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing or some object associated with them.

Underneath this all was the crypt which was open for visitors to walk through. A number of relics from saints are entombed for the faithful to pray over. This shrine had something a bit unusual. Notice the grate at the bottom of the photo? Individuals had dropped coins through the open squares, and it was being collected below.

There was an upper crypt and a lower crypt containing shrines of several apostles and saints.

Going outside of the basilica the bell tower remains striking and seen across the city.

The octagonal bell tower represents two stages f construction: a Romanesque stage, recognizable by its three levels of openings with semi-circular arches: and a Gothic stage with its two levels of mitered arch openings, surmounted by a spire with a cross at its summit.

As we were leaving the basilica the bell tower was chiming. Here is a short recording.

This church really stood out and we kept saying it was ‘pretty’. The detailing and the building materials were meshed together well. Initially the masons used brick and stone but the high price of stone forced them to only brick on the top sections of the building. While this was a necessity of the times, the end result was very striking. It definitely made an impression upon us.