Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Off we go again!

Well, it took me 8 weeks to write about our last cruise-the Regal Princess from New York along the Canadian coast and back.

Now, we are off again on another cruise. We always take a cruise to the Caribbean in January to escape the freezing cold of Chicago for a week of sun and sea. It's happening on Friday January 12th so we are flying to Florida tomorrow morning, getting there the day before we sail as we always do.

We are boarding the cruise ship Crown Princess and setting sail (er, engines) to Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire for 8 days.

When I come back on January 21 I will begin another long review on so will be off  these pages for some time.

Here is the link to the most recent review for those who may be interested (copy and paste)

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lunch, Casa Batllo and bye-bye!

We used a Rick Steves recommendation for lunch and walked down the upper half of La Rambla to find it. We had to sit outside of course.

The restaurant has their name in Spanish and also in Catalan. The kitchen is across the street and our tables are on a long pedestrian island that runs the length of La Rambla

We will be eating Tapas, a variety of small dishes

Like our favorite white anchovies in oil and vinegar

Iberico ham

Tomato bread

Spanish omelette

Coconut and caramel cake for dessert

A delicious and filling lunch and now we could walk slowly back to our next treat.
On the way I stopped to get some ATM cash. You can choose the language you understand.

Casa Batllo

As we had bought tickets online we didn't have to join the queue that was permanently waiting outside from open to close. We walked right in and picked up headphone guides. We wanted to begin on the roof .

There is a small elevator which can hold two people comfortably but two other folks crammed in just before we hit the UP button. Our bodies became ONE.

Chimneys as art

For us , there is beauty in everything Gaudi could imagine

There's a skylight that takes up much of the roof space. This photo was taken after we used the stairs to go down into the building.

Unlike Casa Mila there are not a lot of rooms to explore, nor were they fully furnished so it takes a lot less time and is less compelling to visit

The building was a private home and the owner Josep Batllo hired Gaudi to renovate it in 1904 and the work was completed in 1906. In 2005 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Such imaginative and striking windows!

We made a visit to the small and crowded gift shop before leaving, returning to the street level via the stairs, to return our headsets which incidentally used music from Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin between informative readings. Very apt with it's wistful dream-like music.

By the time we left, making our way past those still waiting to get in, it was 7 pm and we decided to return to our hotel to pack and then relax. The light was fading.

We had to be up at 5 a.m next morning-Monday October 5th to go to the airport to fly home and there was no better place to spend our last few waking hours in Spain than the rooftop bar of the Majestic hotel.

The blaze of light that is Casa Batllo

No one is taking a dip in the pool

After a couple of pleasant hours it is time to return to our room

and step out onto our balcony to enjoy the warm Barcelona night air

and burn the sight of Passeig de Gracia into our minds to be remembered in the future

Sleep....time to sleep

By 5 am i was up again and walking through the hotel lobby to get a double Nespresso and some mini-croissants

It was dark outside but I went out for half an hour to enjoy my coffee and a cigarette.

We always plan to be at an International Airport 3 hours before take-off and this time was no exception. The hotel bellman waved to a nearby waiting taxi and we left the city in the dark.

When we get to our United Airlines check-in desk we find it is closed and won't open for another hour so we take a seat and wait. When it does open and we check-in the Spanish Customs officers want to interview me as I am standing in line. After 10 minutes of answering questions regarding why I came to Europe on this trip they let me continue with my journey.

Now we have 90 minutes to wait before we take off for Newark, New jersey, USA where we will wait for a couple hours for a flight home to Chicago. (It took us 12 hours to get home to Chicago.)

And so our amazing visit to Rome and to Barcelona with an Italian cruise in between was now over and although it has been two years since then, the memory hasn't dimmed and we long to return to both Rome and Barcelona. But when?

We have 4 cruises booked as I write on October 12 2017 and one of them begins in 2 days! Which means that it will be a while, maybe  6 weeks, before I will talk to you again as I will be writing about my new cruise adventures on the Regal Princess on the website.

So, until December, thank you for reading this far!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What goes up.....must come down

Now as we descend a couple of floors from the roof of Casa Mila, is the part of the visit I was most looking forward to. I loved the crazy imaginative roof, out there in the fresh air on a quiet warm October Sunday but the interior promised a look back to life in the early years of the 20 th Century around the time that my Grandparents were born.

But first we would see some of the models and watch some videos of Barcelona way back then in an exhibit space under the roof.

Floor plan showing the atrium/sunlight areas. No two apartments were the same layout....


Some Gaudi furniture is on display as we walk towards the apartments

Poster art from the time of Gaudi

First stop and the most important room in most homes-the kitchen

We are at the head of the line of tourists making their way from room to room. Got to stay ahead!

Spacious bathroom

The toilet flushing tank had gravity working on its side. Nice to see that bidets were already in luxury homes back then.

The maid's bedroom

and the Master bedroom

A view to the balcony with it's fancy wrought ironwork

The Study with writing desk

Must have music!

A coffee and tea service in pewter designed by Gaudi, like everything else you see here

The others have caught up with us in the dining room

We keep another apartment

Butterfly headboard and child's crib

 La salle de bain

Reception area for waiting guests

Rather than take the elevator I took the stairs to exit the building now that our apartment tour was over.

The view from a landing window

The stairs brought me down into the gift shop, just as the elevator would have done

Carol had stayed behind to absorb more detail but I was looking forward to a double espresso and a cigarette and some people watching on the sidewalk cafe outside the gift shop...

I saw some of those African sidewalk salesmen unfold their sheets containing an instant boutique on the sidewalk trying to interest people in buying leather bags and CDs for example. If a Police car came by they would quickly pull the corners of the sheet to form a large bag and prepare to walk away. I wasn't buying of course. A strolling busker got a tip from me....

Soon Carol appeared after her visit to Casa Mila. She had loved every minute of it as she is very interested in architecture and particularly that of an innovative genius such as Antoni Gaudi.

She sat on a bench and checked Rick Steves Barcelona guide for a lunch recommendation.

We said goodbye to Casa Mila and walked towards La Rambla, thinking about tapas all the way..