Author Archives: Isabella

Random thoughts…

Names: The Catalan language is something unlike we’ve ever heard before. From what we can decipher, it’s a hybrid of Spanish and French, with an awesome lisp on various letters. That said, we decided to take on psuedo-names for the trip. Miguel’s Castelonian name is “Sergio Sebastian de Barcelona,” pronounced “theregio thebathian of Barthelona” and mine is “Vicky Christina de Barcelona,” pronounced “vicky chrithina of Barthelona.” Evidently Vicky Christina Barcelona is actually a movie title that we’ve now added to our Netflix as I’m sure it will provide some post travel entertainment. Yeah, we’re silly, but adds to our entertainment when we hear people pronounce various words in the city.

Architecture: We spent a day touring various Gaudi architectural wonders including the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló. The Sagrada Familia is a church that started construction in 1882 and still isn’t finished. Currently it’s estimated to be complete in 2030. Definitely some amazing architecture, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit swindled when they charged us 13 Euro to enter a church that isn’t complete. And by not complete, I mean the entire inside of the church is blocked off with raw materials (marble/concrete, etc) on the ground and the exterior has 4 cranes. What I couldn’t understand is that we were one of a few thousand people paying entry, so I’m not sure why this thing isn’t finished yet. Mike said I was full of sour grapes.

The Casa Batlló was far more impressive, and completed. Gaudi was commissioned by Josep Batlló i Casanovas to convert an existing building, and WOW: I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was somewhat mythological while also very aquatic. Miguel took a whole lot of photos of this, which will describe it better, but we definitely enjoyed it.

Cigarettes: One of the best things about Europe is that you can smoke virtually anywhere. I mean, I’ve seen mother’s smoking with their kids sitting next to them (taboo in the U.S.) and pregnant women sitting at a table full of smokers (also taboo in the U.S.) I think I read somewhere that the life expectancy of Europeans far exceeds the U.S., but you’d never guess when you see how many people smoke here. Anyhow, we finally ran out of our last carton of U.S. smokes, so we had to go on a quest to determine which non-U.S. cigarettes were suitable. We started with Habanos (too much like a cigar), tried the French brand, Gauloises (not bad), but found our preferred brand is John Player Special White. Very smooth and comparable to U.S. carton prices.

Nigerian Prada Kings: All around Spain, at least in the cities we’ve been to, you see African men wandering around with big white bundles. These bundles are full of Prada and Vuitton knock offs, and not very good ones at that. Anyhow, the bundles, when on the ground, form a sheet where they can display their various bags for people to buy. Of course this is frowned upon by the Policia here. So to solve for this there is a string tied to each corner, and if you watch these guys they are constantly looking over their shoulders. When they see the Policia coming, in one quick pull of the string, their sheet pulls in all 20-30 bags and they are off and running. They also travel in packs, so when they come running, it’s about 20 guys coming at you at full speed. Pretty entertaining sight to see, I’m just disappointed I didn’t get it on video :)

That’s all for now. We loved our time in Barcelona, but it’s time to head to the French Wine Country :)

Loving Madrid

A quick blog before we head to dinner. While I’d been here before on business, I didn’t quite get what the city was about since I was mainly hanging out with coworkers from various offices around the world. But this is definitely our kind of town. The food is fantastic (who doesn’t love heaps of chorizo, el jamon serrano and manchega) and the people are wonderful. While Paris was beautiful and Monaco otherworldly in that James Bond sort of way, it was challenging for us since neither of us speaks much French beyond “bon jour” and “merci.” In only 3 short days Michael’s Spanish is getting us around remarkably and he’s even taken to the Castillian lisp, which I fear may stick with him – the people in Mexico DF are going to love him the next time we visit – HA! Really, to hear Michael pronounce “gracias” as the Castillian’s do is hysterical (it’s “gla-th-ias”, by the way.)

Anyhow, we’re off for our last evening in Madrid. Barcelona, ready or not, here we come!

The Casino

We did our obligatory stroll through The Casino tonight after dinner. Very interesting experience in that they:
1) Have a 10 euro cover charge, complete with bouncers at the door. At first I was a little offended, but when I got inside it made sense. The fare, while pretty substantial given the exchange rate keeps the tourists from meandering through and basically keeps the riff-raff out. I can only imagine that this was what Vegas was like in the yesteryear.
2) There is no smoking in the casino, but they have what I can only imagine was developed in Asia, a smoking bubble. Basically you walk into a round Plexiglas room that fits about 4 people, close the door behind you and light up. The air travels into the room through holes from the outside and gets filtered into the ceiling.
3) This one is for the ladies and may be too much information for the men reading this blog. But, in case you don’t know, women do not under any circumstances sit on a public toilet seat. They basically squat over the seat and you can imagine there is some sprinking that happens. A polite woman will wipe it down upon exiting (though this is not always the case – gross!) At The Casino, they have a contraption attached to the seat that lowers onto the seat and the toilet seat itself spins to clean it off. Pretty impressive, I must say. Okay, that’s it for my toilet rant.
4) Similar to exiting a restaurant in LA, there is also the Paparazzi out front, only in this case they are tourists. Upon our exit, about 30 flashes went off. We felt like J-Lo and Phil Collins, who are coincidentally staying at our hotel right now.

More from Spain tomorrow…or today, depending on where you are in the world.

P.S. The 20 euro bet on red (for Ferrari, of course) didn’t pay off. That was the extent of our gambling in Monte Carlo. We came, we saw and we lost. Mike doesn’t get to yell “I’m the man that broke the bank in Monte Carlo” the next time he rides a camel through Saudi Arabia.

P.P.S. – Liz wrote this, not Michael.  Michael would never name drop Phil Collins 😉

Children are behaved?!

Since we arrived, we’ve noticed how remarkably behaved the kids are in Europe. They basically act like adults, albeit small adults. Anyhow, while waiting for Mike to sort out the rental car, I saw a small girl playing on a parking curb. It only took 2 falls for the mother to administer a beating like I’ve only seen my sister give. So it seems a little “fear of god” does the trick. If only CPS wouldn’t be notified immediately in the US.