Italy with the Family Day 11: When Mark and Beth learn again that it's all about family

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April 7th 2014
Published: July 7th 2014
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About two weeks ago, our niece got married. At the end of the reception as we were saying our goodbyes, I hugged my nephew Wil and said, “I’ll see you in Barcelona!” He said, “See you in Barcelona! How freakin’ cool is that?” So cool! Again, thank you Mom!

We were up and at ‘em early today. Alarm went off at 5, which meant up, shower, dress, finish packing. We had done most of the packing the night before so not too big a deal. The hotel desk clerk said we needed to be at the airport two hours ahead of time. Our flight to Barcelona was at 9:55 so we ordered a car to pick us up at 7. We had breakfast at 6:30 (really, this is vacation?!?) and met the driver right on time at 7:00. Made it to the airport in zippity time, got checked in, and got through security with no problems. Okay, one problem. Something Mark had on kept setting off the metal detector. BEEP BEEP BEEP. First he took off his pedometer and dog tags. BEEP BEEP BEEP. Then he took off his belt. BEEP BEEP BEEP. Next he lost the shoes. BEEP BEEP BEEP. Next came the watch and glasses. BEEP BEEP BEEP. He said later that if they had him take off one more thing he was going to cue the Chippendales music. Finally they wanded him and sent him on his way but, of course, by this time, he had to put 87% of his clothing back on.

We believe the desk clerk assumed we were traveling to the United States as we were really silly early to the airport. By the time we cleared security, the gate for the flight still hadn’t been announced. We went to the probable gate and hung out for an hour until the actual gate (which was not the probable gate but was close) was called. As an aside, we were flying Vueling Airlines which is a Spanish regional discount carrier. It was definitely no frills and the seats were pretty tight but it was on time, efficient and cheap.

We landed in Barcelona just before noon, a few minutes late but that was mostly due to ground congestion in Rome. We gathered our luggage and headed to the taxi stand. We told the taxi manager (the guy directing the line for people who wanted taxis) that we were 4. He pointed to a taxi and we went over. The taxi driver put two bags in the back of his compact car, looked at the rest of the luggage and us and took the bags out and said something in Spanish to the taxi manager. The taxi manager said something in Spanish and pointed us down the way to an area with a couple of gaggles of people. A woman down there pointed us to a taxi but again the driver, when seeing 4 people and 6 bags, shook his head and said something back to her. Finally a van showed up and we were motioned towards it but before we could get us and our stuff going in the same direction, a man with a bag (A bag, one, uno, singular) threw said bag into the back of the taxi, himself into the backseat and there went that opportunity. Then someone else who was a large group came up and the man taxi manager put them in a van. By this time we were ready to just take two taxis. I mean, enough is enough! However, man taxi manager moved us even further along the sidewalk and said, “One minute,” and sure enough, a taxi pulled up and we started loading, FAST, I don’t mind telling you, before some other one-bag-wonder got in the way again.

We made it to Barcelona with no further incident. When we walked into the lobby of the Hotel Pulitzer, Mom and Michael (my brother) were standing at the desk. They had gotten in that morning and were tired but had already been out exploring. Mom looked like she was ready for a nap but was in great spirits. She said the Watkins (my sister and family) were out exploring, Jack (Mom’s husband) was resting and the rest of the crew was who knows where. She went up to her room, we got checked in and thankfully our rooms were ready as well. We met Andrew and Erika in the lobby but I had forgotten my phone so went back upstairs to retrieve it. In the elevator on the way back to the lobby, I looked on Yelp for somewhere to have lunch, and when I came back downstairs, the desk clerk had recommended to Mark the same place I had found. That sounded promising! We had purchased hop-on-hop-off bus tickets and thought, “Perfect! A quick lunch and then we’ll be on our way!” We found the place with no problems but it was very crowded. It would take 25 to 30 minutes to get a table. We decided that since it had been so recommended, we would wait it out. Our table was indeed ready in about 30 minutes, and the waiter gave us menus and a tapas menu. Mark said he thought it was too late for tapas but none of the sandwiches appealed to Erika and me so we ordered a ham, mozarella and melon tapas, I ordered a grilled calamari tapas and she ordered a grilled shrimp tapas, the only seafood besides tuna fish that she eats. The melon and ham tapas came out first—and crowning it was an anchovy. I like most seafood but I cannot eat anchovies. Erika was totally weirded out and couldn’t eat any of the skewer, which wasn’t that big anyway. Mark ate my anchovy but I ate the rest which did have a slightly fishy taste. Mark and Andrew both ordered sandwiches which were skinny little things with a small amount of beef (for Andrew) and sausage (for Mark.) I thought, this is okay, everything is coming out in small portions so I should be fine with the calamari. Then my calamari actually came. It was three pieces of squid, each the size of a medium sized foot. I mean, it was A LOT of calamari! I ate about 2/3 of one piece and that’s all I could do. It tasted okay but there was just so much of it! I ordered another grilled shrimp for Erika since I figured 3 shrimp were probably not going to be enough. This is the first time since we have been abroad that Yelp let us down. I cannot remember the name of this place but I would not recommend.

After lunch, we got on the bus and went down the Serguda Familia, the Gotti basilica in Barcelona. The line to get tickets was insane so we went across the street to a park and I learned that we could buy tickets for 5:15 that night (it was about 3:00 at this point) or we could go the next morning. We opted for the next morning. Erika got a Starbucks mug that said Barcelona (she got one from New York on their honeymoon so this is now an official collection) and we got back on the bus.

The hop-on/hop-off bus tour would be great if you had two full days in Barcelona but since we had more like 23 hours, I’m not sure it was the best value for us. However, we did drive a loop that had a lot of Gotti architecture around it, got off at one point and visited a beautiful local church and made it back to square closest to the hotel. The bus stopped in front of a department store and Erika said, “I’ve seen those all over. I’d like to go in and look around.” I said, “I’ll go with you.” So we went and explored the 10 story plus basement department store. They had everything—clothes, shoes, cosmetics, yard equipment, outdoor living furniture, car supplies, crafting materials. We made it a point to go all the way to the top floor (just to say we did) and there was a restaurant up there with beautiful views of Barcelona. We went back down (past two floors of toys, kids clothes, furniture, men’s cothes, women’s clothes, gloves, you name it) and got off the escalator at floor 0—the ground floor. Erika said, “The only thing they don’t have is food.” I started looking around and sure enough, there was a staircase going down and when we walked down that, the food stalls were there plus a pharmacy and some candy stores. We went to the pharmacy and got some insect repellent (a blessing) and then headed back to the hotel.

By this time, the roof-top family reunion party was in full swing and we grabbed our men and joined in. It was so great to see everyone! For those of you who don’t know my family, there is Mom (aka Grammy) and her husband Jack (aka Papa Jack), my brother Michael and his wife Tami, his sons Matthew and Wil and Tami’s daughter Selah, my sister Julie and her husband Steve and their children Liz, Brian and Katie, plus Mark, me, Andrew and Erika. That’s 16 in all. I ordered a sangria which came in a nice respectable wine glass. And it was good because, you know, it was sangria. We greeted, hugged, kissed, laughed, it was a great reunion although all of us had seen each other three weeks before at Michael’s daughter’s wedding. But we are a pretty loving and happy family so it was good to be together.

At about 7:30, we headed down to the hotel lobby to see if they could help us find a place for dinner for 16 on short notice. Believe it or on, on a Friday night, this was a challenge! Finally found an Argentinian steak house that had availability and was about a 10 minute walk away. Sold! We set off in a pack. About half way there, I looked around and said, “STOP!” Everyone did. “Where are Mom and Jack?” Michael said, “They took a taxi.” Oh, okay. They were indeed waiting for us when we got there. The restaurant had 3 tables set up for us, two with 5 and one with 6. Mom quickly turned the round table for 5 into a table for 8 (the hostess kept saying, “Is for most 7. You will be uncomfortable!” but she, apparently, had never met my mother. It ended up four kids at each of the other tables and Mom, Jack and all of Mom’s kids plus spouses at her table. It worked!

My sister and family had been in Spain for a week (except Liz, who has been here since last summer working) and Julie said they had not had a really good meal since they got to Spain. I said, “Um, you think that’s cuz of the places Liz takes you?” This dinner in Barcelona proved that there ARE good meals in Spain. I wanted to Argentine sirloin and Mark wanted the rump roast. (He kept making comments about “wanting a piece of ass” but I digress.) Turns out Michael wanted the rump roast an Tami wanted the sirloin so we ordered one large cut of each and split them, girls and boys. We kept teasing about how ours was so much better than theirs, comments to which they totally disagreed, an to which Mark chimed in, “Hard to beat a good piece of ass.” My husband. Gotta love him!

After dinner and dessert for some, we left the restaurant and started on our way back to the hotel. It was 11:30 or so by this time and we were just about to turn the corner onto the street where our hotel was located when someone said, “Who’s up for a nightcap?” We all said, “Yes please!” Julie and Steve had been in Barcelona since Thursday and had rented an apartment for a couple of days so they had a much better idea of the lay of the land. We continued down the street we had initially been on for about another 8 blocks or so and then all of these sidewalk cafes started springing up. The Brazil vs. Columbia World Cup match was going on that night so we heard eruptions about that now and again. Eventually, we turned down a street and found ourselves on a piazza that was ringed with cafes. Julie said, “It’s all about the location.” We found a table for 6 right on the square and had a seat. The ladies and Mark ordered sangria and Michael and Steve ordered beers. I was thinking it would be the same kind of sangria at the hotel. When the waiter returned, he had four steins of sangria. STEINS! The men had even larger steins of beer. Well, we ordered it, might as well drink it. We did sip instead of guzzle but wow—that was a lot of sangria. Okay, let me rephrase. That was a lot of yummy sangria. At 1:30, when we decided to head back to the hotel, I don’t think either of us were feeling any pain.

So tomorrow (or later today) we set sail for the cruise part of the vacation. It’s going way too fast but we are having so much fun. Looking forward to the new adventures tomorrow (um, later today) bring!


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