Summer of Amudha – A season of turbulence, a season of triumph!

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Europe » Spain
August 19th 2019
Published: August 19th 2019
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Life goes South, go South with it, South of Spain, South of France that is!

Peru had been on the cards for a long time. Intipinku hike was getting planned for the 3rd time. Vinicunka with its radiant color was calling out to me.

Alas, Maachu Pichuu plans seem cursed for me! 3rd time planning was no charm either!

I was tackling a couple of rough patches in my life.

Don’t want to be a Debbie Downer in this travelogue, so I will keep the ad nauseum discussion about the bumpy road to triumph confined to my raw version of the travelogue for the eyes of family!

Entire Photo Album :

Needless to say, plenty of unexpected bumps, and one of them happen to be child falling sick! As a parent you are their provider, and their caretaker and when both of those are in jeopardy simultaneously, you simply freak out! My first-born developed headaches and dizziness and I ran pillar to post scheduling MRI’s, EKG’s to get to the bottom of it. By the immense grace of God, everything checked out normal, and it is currently chalked down to lack of proper nutrition. Teenagers seem to think they can run on fumes, so I am trying to make sure she eats well and has her vitamins. So, I decided it wasn’t prudent to subject the child to altitude sickness on top of it and the Andean dream had to be put on hold.

South of Spain and South of France was no Cinnamon babka mind you. Babka reference is one of my fave Seinfeld references; indicates “a lesser choice” chocolate babka/pastry is touted to be the best, and cinnamon babka can only be second best!

Planning began in earnest. The lavender fields of Provence and Gaudi’s organic architecture beckoned, and I heeded the call!

There were tons of warnings on the internet about how Barcelona , Granada and it’s treasures were summer vacationer’s mecca and unless one booked the tickets to Parc Guell, La Sagrada Familia, Granada’s Alhambra palace ahead of time one either risked not seeing it at all or one stood in very, very long ticket lines in the sweltering heat. I hastened to book them almost one month ahead of time.

The planning phase happened in parallel with tackling the rough bumpy road. Was very stressful peppered with bouts of deep gut-wrenching anguished sobbing. I am not your calm, collected cool cucumber type but more so your ‘fears and tears’ type. The upside of that type is, one tended to get down on one’s knees and ask for divine providence. I felt the hand of God wipe away every tear and felt divine grace abound in much of what I did to wrestle/wrangle with the rough patches. I’ve always believed every blessing of mine has been received from the hand of God and of whom much grace is given, much is required. I have since set aside $30 K for charity work.

Non-mindful living – The Booking Fiasco

Decided that online booking to the local Barcelona attractions was the way to go. The mistake I made was not double checking if the site was the actual official UNESCO heritage site of the attraction and not an agency-front peddling grotesquely marked up tickets. I started with googling the tickets and picked a site url that read Made the defacto assumption that url’s that have the “.org” extension is the government nonprofit “actual establishment” site. WRONG! This turned out to be a front that peddled the tickets at a marked-up price.

Not that anything is wrong with that, everyone needs to make a living. The problem was the site defaults to same day date and if you aren’t paying close attention you are sitting in the US and have booked tickets to a Church in Barcelona for the same day! After I clicked on Submit, within nano seconds I tried to cancel the reservation, but all options were greyed out. I used the chatbot and spoke to an agent trying to cancel or re-book with the right date but the ‘booking was in transit’ and they couldn’t find it. After the booking transaction did make it through, they said, ‘Sorry too late, transaction is complete, it is now non-refundable’.

I was livid and went bat-sh** crazy arguing with them trying to get it re-booked. They insisted, too bad, too sad, can’t make any changes. I let them expletives fly - not my finest moment and I deeply regret that outburst. That really does not change any outcomes. While it gives you a chance to bloviate and let off steam it really is not mindful living, nor does it leave you feeling good at all!

I googled the agency later and saw a lot of folks had filed complaints against them for similar problems. I think a simple change to their UI where dates don’t default will alleviate much of this angst. Lesson learned. Google the agency before booking, and always try and book through the actual attraction’s official site and not through these agency-fronts. I did call my credit card company, explained the situation and they are looking into getting me a refund.

I made a promise to myself I’ll start on ‘mindful living’ and deal with all curve balls with as much calm and grace as I can muster. I had a chance to exercise this during our Barcelona trip and boy did that feel good!

Having learned my lesson, I actively set out to zero in on the official url’s and booked through them. The tickets are indeed nonrefundable, and you must pick a time slot window for arrival as well. Be careful, you cannot show up in any other time slot other than the one on your ticket! Alahambra, Granada (Nasrid palace) entry tickets were the hardest to acquire. They get sold out 2 to 3 months in advance. After much re-arranging of schedules, I managed to snare the last few tickets for latish the night before we were to fly out of Barcelona back to the US. Granada is a 9-hour drive away from Barcelona. So, I ended up with quite the ‘cutting it too fine’ timelines. The itinerary had us in Granada visiting the Nasrid palaces at 3 PM in the afternoon. Then drive for about 5 hours into Valencia and stay the night at Valencia, wake up the next morning at 5 AM, drive into Barcelona (4 hours) return the car and make the noon flight home!

Alhambra tickets cost about 20 Euros per person when purchased thru the official site, but they are limited. With agencies you could get fleeced for about 10 times that price, so be very, very mindful. Url to use for La Sagrada for instance is :

In the end had quite the ambitious ‘South of Spain, South of France’ trip planned.

US —> Barcelona —> Provence —> Cannes —> Nice —> St. Tropez —> Granada —> Sevilla —> Granada à Valencia —> Barcelona —> US

At times I grieved that things were going south but turned out going south is never as bad as it seems and with faith one can ride out the storms of life!

Barcelona “Industrial strike” drama

Hubby did figure out Iberia (main Spanish Airlines) was on strike and that over 1,000 flights were grounded over the weekend but it was supposed to resolve by the time our American Airlines Flight landed. So, it appeared like we were going to be all clear.

Week ahead of time I’d packed my suitcase. I “marie-kondoed “my new clothes and my suitcase looked packed as clean as a whistle with space to spare. That has never happened before, ever! Marie Kondo is a Japanese woman with a TV show who teaches American audiences how to surround yourself only with things that ‘spark joy’ and jettison off the rest. Her fold and store technique is amazing.

Since tickets to Barcelona were cheaper if we flew out of Palm Beach International, we decided to drive 3.5 hours to PB and fly out from there via Charlotte, North Carolina. First born and hubby took turns driving.

I had packed lunch and snacks for us to eat enroute. We parked in economy parking, sun shaded the minivan as it was going to be out in the open under the blazing FL sun and walked the 5 minutes into the airport. Took a picture of the aisle we parked at, so we did not struggle to find our van on the way back!

We were all excited. We decided to carry our suitcases with us onboard because we did not want to deal with delayed baggage. That has happened to us one too many times in the past.

I had once planned a family photo in blue with the Greek blue dome churches of Fira and the sparkling Aegean Sea for a backdrop and the bags did not show up!

Wanted to have my yellow-clothes running thru lavender fields of Provence “money shot”! Simple girl, simple pleasures!

As our flight touched down in Charlotte there were collective groans from hubby/first-born because they both received a text from the airlines that the flight into Barcelona was cancelled and we could get booked into the flight the following night. All my hotel-stays and attraction reservations were nonrefundable.

I had made a conscious decision to try ‘mindful living’ and not sweat the small stuff. That adage of “God, gives me the serenity to accept things I have no control over and the courage to change things I have control over and the wisdom to be able to tell the difference” is key to mindful living. I looked at the bright side, our day 1 Barcelona itinerary had us doing Las Ramblas and Gothic quarter self-guided walking tour, so no biggie. Outside of losing one day, we were going to be OK and we could always play catch up.

The problem was if we were to take the airline re-booked flight the following night out of Charlotte, we will not be able to use our pre-purchased Parc Guell tickets. That flight landed past noon.

As a family, we watch the TV show Amazing Race all the time and often we hustle up pretending we are on the show and look for alternatives routes to save time! This was one of those Amazing race moments. We figured if were fly into JFK, NY there was a flight leaving the following evening and would get us into Barcelona at 7 AM instead of past noon. We swiftly went to the ticketing counter to book ourselves out of NY.

There were 2 families there. 2 girls, one of whom was crying inconsolably because she was holding tickets to local attractions for all her other friends who had already made it to BCL. I told her about the JFK route and said she could email the barcodes of the tickets to her friends and they’d be OK.

Is overdone PDA ever appropriate?

Then there was this other family a contingent of 15 people in all. This family did the same thing we did. Decided to fly into JFK and take an earlier flight out of JFK the following night which would get us into BCL at 7 AM. This family had a few twenty-something couples who seemed to think public ‘makeout sessions’ was the answer to everything! Even my girls who are extremely liberal found the PDA (public display of affection) rather disconcerting! They promptly nicknamed them ADP (PDA in reverse). The ADP family was constantly tailing us and squeezing ahead of us at every line. It felt like the amazing race!

We had dinner at Charlotte airport. Feasted on yummy southern comfort food:

baked beans
corn bread
tender, melt in your mouth beef brisket
pork ribs
collard greens
fried okra
fried jalapeno pickle!

We stood in various lines got re-booked, got our meal vouchers, transport vouchers and overnight stay in NYC vouchers. Some of these could not be done in Charlotte and had to be done at JFK. The flight landed into NYC well past midnight and the ADP family beat us to the counter for hotel, transport and meal vouchers. Lucky for us another counter opened, and we managed to finish up.

Around 2 AM we walked around the deserted airport trying to figure out F doorway from where the Skyway cab service was supposed to pick us up. The ADP family tried to steal our cab, but luckily the driver checked the name! Very Amazing race indeed!

Unexpected Layover Drama!

By the time we reached the Courtyard Marriott in Long Island City center it was well past 3 AM.

Cab driver told us that we should have asked the airline to book us into a hotel closer to JFK or at least closer to La Guardia instead of all the way out on Long Island. Good tips for future reference.

Once we arrived at the hotel, the lady at the counter said the check in code that the airlines had issued did not work and she could not check us in! We were exhausted, but very calmly we called the airlines and after a hold time of 20 minutes, calmly explained our situation to a sleepy support person who was very confused between our Skyway transport reservation and kept asking us what ‘Courtyard Marriott’ was. Hubby was the epitome of calmness and after about an hour we’d sorted it all out.

Serenity now, serenity now!

The counter lady felt sorry for the girls and gave them complimentary chips and candy! The room was comfy and clean, and we promptly fell asleep.

The hotel had given us complimentary breakfast vouchers and we had very nice warm croissant, ham and egg sandwiches and fresh fruit at about 11 AM at their Cafe.

We called for our cab service giving ourselves plenty of time to deal with NY traffic. The cabbie went past the hotel front entrance a couple of times without stopping and did not see us waving at him. We called the service to let them know and they reached out to him. After a few anxious moments we were on our way. After clearing security, the girls wanted to eat Sushi and we had a nice lunch at the airport before we boarded the flight. The ADP’s were back in full form and as luck would have it were seated near us!! Hanky-panky beyond a certain point does get decidedly uncomfortable for the audience!

The airlines served up delicious dinner. I had the special veggie Thai dinner and sliced up fruit.

The Catalunya leg

Arrival into Barcelona

Flight arrived into Barcelona 45 minutes ahead of schedule. That was a great omen and we were delighted.

None of us caught any proper sleep on the flight, so we were quite exhausted. But the Parc Guell nonrefundable tickets mandated we get to the attraction no later than 10.30 AM.

Hubby wanted to step out of airport for a bit to look for the Tabacas shop which people had blogged about that sold cheap Orange carrier SIM cards at 20 Euros per person. Inside the airport it was double the price. I told him after a long flight I was not in favor of venturing out the airport on foot in search of any shop. So, we decided we’ll look for cheap SIM cards inside the city and caught a cab to our Hotel Rekord located in the heart of the city and close to all the attractions.

Just follow the signs for taxis inside the airport - no issues. Effortlessly caught a taxi and he charged us about 35 Euro’s to drop us off which was exactly what other online bloggers had mentioned.

Roads were empty in the morning and we arrived at the Hotel within 25 minutes.

Even as we headed out the airport, we saw a lot of trucks with Bimbo bread Ads blazoned on them. It had a cute girl on the Ad.. Lauren said, “That is no Pillsbury dough boy” and Cassie quipped, “No Laurie, it is more like Pillsbury no boy”. We all laughed so hard. Subsequently, we kept bumping into the Bimbo bread trucks all over the place causing us to chuckle!

Hotel Rekord, Barcelona

Charming, say 3-star hotel it turned out to be. No major fru-fru or frills, but comfortable.


Reception/service was good and inviting, check in was easy. Had to sign a bunch of forms for GDPR privacy in keeping with new European internet privacy laws. Having successfully led a project in the recent past for GDPR, I got a kick out of it
We got 2 rooms with wood flooring, spartan but very clean and a bathroom done in Calcutta marble.
Children’s room had a sofa pull out bed, a desk and TV and they liked it. Sheldon snores rather loudly, so they liked the idea of their own room.
Our room had a nice double bed and work horses to keep our stuff on.

Cons :

The A/C was not working. You can imagine how important that is to me. That is one thing I check for repeatedly when I book. I can hoof it and sight-see and run myself ragged but I need a soft, clean and cool room to go back to after the tiring day. If you take that away from me, I don’t function well.
The clean white towels shed a lot of lint covering me and my clothes in fluff. Not a big deal, minor nuisance but when you pack new clothes for ur vacK you want to look put together.

At that point we had been travelling for close to 48 hours. Serenity now, serenity now, indeed!!!

Calmly we went down and told the reception A/C was not working and they needed to get it fixed. They said about 10 AM they’d be able to get a maintenance guy in. At that morning time of 8 AM rooms felt warm but not intolerable. We opened the window. The room overlooked a rather disheveled courtyard and folks could see right into our room. I was very disappointed and felt a little tearful and fearful of dealing with the heat but ‘mindful living’ and not sweating the small stuff prevailed.

Since we were exhausted, we lay down for a 30-minute power nap. Then, weather quickly turned oppressively warm in the room even with the windows open. At 9.30 AM we got up, got dressed and headed out to Parc Guell. Once again, I reminded the lady at the counter to please have the A/C fixed. There was no complimentary bottled water in the rooms, and they gave us one at the counter.

The beauty of Hotel Rekord/Barcelona in general was : it was incredibly easy to hail a cab and get from point A to point B. Online bloggers mention T10 public bus/metro tickets were very convenient too but given that most attractions were only a 10 Euro ride away for a family of 4 it was almost the same price to ride a bus/metro as taking a cab. So, we rode the cab everywhere.

Parc Guell

In 20 minutes, we were dropped off at Parc Guell. It is a smallish Park by US standard.

The part of the Park where you get to see the famous Gaudi lizard sculpture and serpentine park benches constructed almost entirely of tiny mosaic tiles were in an area called “restricted access”. All it meant was you pre-paid to see this section and had to adhere to the time slot you were given to enter. You were given a plus 30-minute grace period window. My research online and pre bought tickets made it easy-peasy.

We made it in perfect time - no issues!

Turns out Gayle King (Oprah’s BFF) visited Parc Guell at the same time. I would’ve stopped to tell her how KB, RK, Hanns, Vins … were all my Gayle Kings and how much I enjoyed my time with them, and how I was going to miss them oh so, so much!!! I bet that happens to her a lot. Lucky for her, I did not bump into her!

Barcelona has very charming terrain, hilly in some region and lovely oceans on the other. Some of the roads close to Parc Guell had a very San Francisco crooked Lombardi street look and feel!

Parc Guell Backstory

A rich and famous investor had purchased a parcel of land plum in the middle of Barcelona city in the late 1890’s. He wanted to build beautiful, exclusive homes with spectacular views of the city, surrounding hills and ocean and commissioned Gaudi to architect it.

Antonio Gaudi was a brilliant architect with an interesting building aesthetic and philosophy. He strongly subscribed that architecture needs to draw inspiration from nature. Deeply religious man he believed God was the most brilliant architect of all! And, ain’t that the truth!

Gaudi managed to construct 2 model homes with completely organic aesthetics on the parcel of land and had laid out the strictest of by-laws for potential buyers. Only 1/6th of each of their parcel of land could ever be covered by building and remaining 5/6th needed to be garden. Completely different aesthetic from say the Trump towers!

Turned out the buyers were not interested and construction on the project had to stop. The investor sold the unfinished project to the Government who turned it into a public park for all to enjoy. Today, the Parc enjoys a UNESCO world heritage site status.

Gaudi had a rec area created which was flat open space supported by 80 Ionic columns (columns that were streamlined and did not have decorative bases or top unlike their Corinthian counterparts). The edge of this space had a large serpentine bench that extended throughout the entire perimeter. The bench was constructed with thousands of mother of pearl mosaic tile that glistened in the sun like an albino anaconda! This space overlooked the Barcelona city!

Down below the Ionic columns were being touched up. The columns were not straight but rather leaned in giving it a very ephemeral look!

The Parc had a lot of interesting flowers, shrubs and trees some of which had been imported from Austria. Parc also featured a wrought iron gate that had an interesting palm frond forged in metal detail. There were several aqueducts networks that crisscrossed the terrain.

One very interesting feature of the park was a tidal wave sort of sculpture/open semi tunnel that ran a complete circle making for an exciting, textural walk through it. Unlike anything I’ve seen before.

The girls had gone at high speeds ahead of us, while hubby and I dawdled taking pictures. We finally caught up with them in the square down below. We stopped by the Parc museum store and I picked up a shot glass done in tiny mosaics in keeping with the blue lizard Gaudi sculpture that has come to symbolize the parc.

We also stopped by the Parc restaurant and had delicioso breakfast of :

Mango smoothie
Marshmallow ice cream
Lemon sorbet
Caprese Bocadilla (sandwich bread topped with feta goat cheese, sunripe tomatoes, spinach and drizzled with melted cheese and olive oil).

Was overpriced but tasted very good.

Gaudi Museum @ Parc Guell

I had also purchased joint tickets to La Sagrada familia Church by Gaudi and the Gaudi Museum. Museum was located at Parc Guell.

So next, we walked over to the other side of the Parc to visit the Gaudi museum.

This was one of the earlier residences of Gaudi which has now been converted to a museum. He lived on the premises when he oversaw the construction of Parc Guell and continued to live at Parc Guell when he had first started on the construction of the famous La Sagrada Familia church.

Gaudi the man had a very inspirational philosophy. The home itself was rather austere. Being a man of deep religious convictions, he had a little altar in his bedroom and a rather narrow footstool where it is believed he spent several hours praying for divine inspiration. Adjacent to his room he had a private chapel as well.

The home housed several pieces of nature inspired Gaudi furniture. His chairs had a very curvilinear aesthetic although I must admit some of them did not look very practical. They were more whimsical than practical, so form over function in some cases?

Doorknobs were fashioned after floral shapes and peep holes after hexagonal beehives - very appealing to the eye.

Gaudi took care of his ailing father and niece at the Guell home assisted by nuns. The last 12 years of his life he moved to live on La Sagrada property to oversee construction of the massive cathedral.

The Gaudi home was in a massive garden in a “hilly” region. The girls took off at high speeds while their Dad and I ambled at a leisurely pace. At one point, we completely lost sight of them causing some anxious moments for me. Their phones did not have SIM cards yet so made it tricky. Sheldon and I searched for them, and eventually caught up with them closer to the exit on the other side of the garden. I promised myself next opportune moment we’ll get their phones Sim’ed up!

The jet lag and complete lack of sleep caught up with us. At that point we’d been on the move flitting from airport to airport for about 48 hours, so we decided we’ll do a small siesta. Hopped into a cab and went back to the hotel. Cabs are plentiful and so very easy to hail and made our stay extremely pleasant and easy.

Hubby and I decided to walk up and down our road to see if we could locate a SIM card store but couldn’t find any. Also, we had forgotten to get our 220 V plugs, so we looked for those as well. Girls just went back to the room to rest up.

Back at the hotel, reception told us A/C man was more likely to show up at 5 PM. I asked if we could be transferred to a different room but looked like the hotel was packed.

The room was rather warm. We left the windows open and lay down for a bit. We had our La Sagrada familia tickets for 4.30 PM entrance. I chose that time because around that time the sunlight was expected to hit the stained-glass windows at an angle that would cause the cathedral to be bathed in brilliant colors giving it an ethereal look! We took a cab and arrived with time to spare.

As we left, I asked the nice lady at the reception to please make sure the A/C was fixed. She assured me it would be done.

La Sagrada Familia

From Catalan it translates to “The Holy Family” in English. This is hands down one of the most distinct and beautiful churches I’ve had the joy of visiting in my lifetime and this will forever hold a very special place in my heart.

Let there be heavenly light!

How do you explain the depths of darkness and the heights of redeeming light? There are simply no words that would explain the deep despair one feels when encountering unexpected turbulence. One searches for a sliver of divine light when plunged into a seemingly dark abyss.

Being a woman of faith, I had turned to God on my knees and I can boldly say, “More things are wrought by prayer than the world dreams of”. Suddenly through that darkness, burst forth rays and rays of brilliant and amazing light and grace that engulfed me and swept me to new chapters that I had hitherto only dare dream of …

The experience in La Sagrada was in many ways an affirmation of my own reality!

As soon as you enter the church, the light engulfs you in a way like no other. I stood there absolutely mesmerized and in deep spiritual wonder. The stained-glass windows on one side are cool blue and green and on the other side a brilliant yellow and orange and as sunlight hits it at various angles it creates a surreal experience that resonates deep within your soul. I sat in the pews in absolute wonder, contemplating God’s guidance in my own life. Amidst bustling tourists and sounds of whirring camera shutters, sat there I, composed in inner solitude, surrounded by the breathtaking brilliance of light.

Inside I wept like a child filled with immense gratitude toward my savior, as I allowed the light to wash over me. My heart sang in grateful joy for I'd found God's guiding light through the turbulent times:

Andrea Bochelli/Celine' Dion's beautiful rendition of this song which I listened on a loop all thru summer :

I pray you'll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way

Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe

I pray we'll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

I felt awash in God’s boundless love and amazing grace.

Even my girls said this will absolutely go down in their books as an ethereal moment in time.

I have to say, this Church is unique and like none other. Gaudi had managed to take the beautiful Gothic architecture of yester-years and infuse the marvel and beauty of refracted light to lighten the stuffiness of ornate design!

Since we had the pre-bought tickets, no lines to contend with. We got the audio guide, which is a must because it makes all the difference.

Beneath the central altar is Crypto Chapel where Gaudi is buried as per his wishes. Gaudi died tragically in an accident when a tram ran over him. His funeral mass was held at the Barcelona cathedral and 1000’s of mourners escorted the son of Barcelona and one of the finest architects of modern times to his final earthly resting place. Gaudi had spent 46 years if his career on La Sagrada project and the last 12 years if his life exclusively on the design and construction of the Nativity facade and the design for the rest of the facade for architects to follow. I wanted to go to the Crypto chapel but that was policed by a dress nazi! She turned away almost every person there for some reason or the other. My shoulders were covered but she said my skirt was not covering my knees. Who knew my knobbly knees would prove to be a distraction amid Gaudi splendor???!

My familia had scattered, each armed with their audio guide. Eventually we all managed to catch up with one another outside as we listened to fascinating stories about the symbolism of the exterior, together. The entire life of Jesus was etched in 3D on the external facade. The sadness Peter felt on his betrayal was brilliantly etched in stone.

Instead of the usual gargoyles, all of Gaudi’s details were nods to living creatures.

There were 2 turtles bases of the columns flanking the main facade- a sea one, a nod to Barcelona beach which Gaudi was endlessly fascinated with, and a land turtle.

Each facade has massive doorways and uniquely designed. One doorway had several Biblical texts inscribed on it. Hordes of tourists saw it as a beautiful backdrop for their money shot. I too succumbed to it!!!

Here are the highlights of our visit:

The facade of LS (La Sagrada) was very impressive. An interesting marriage of Gothic and nature. In the stark grey/sand brown color a splash of color. On one of the spires an entire green tree of life with white dove sculptures

There are multiple facades with the main one being the massive nativity facade. Gaudi made sure he personally saw to the completion of this facade in his lifetime. He knew the entire church would take several centuries to complete, but felt with a phased approach, if he got the main facade built, his successors won’t run the risk of the project getting cancelled. So, he did the MVP (minimum viable product). How very “Agile” of him”!!!

The church has been over a century in the making and is expected to officially complete in 2026

2026 marks the 100-year death anniversary of Gaudi.

Gaudi built a lot of models in plaster to work out the dimensions and figure out weight bearing columns and the material to use

There are quite a few facades outside of the nativity facade that are still under construction.

There was one facade with beautiful white steeples that were topped with bright oranges, one with persimmons and another with lemons. This was a nod to nature that so inspired Gaudi. Almost every unusual, think outside the box detail that Gaudi put in was inspired by nature.

Gaudi stipulated that the tallest spire could be no talker than 172.5 m because the nearby Montjuic mountain was 173 m and he felt man made creation should not top God’s creation!

Get Audio guide, folks!! Makes all the difference

After the tour of the exterior, we headed to the basement, the Sagrada museum. There were live workshops where additional designs are being drafted to take the project to completion! Gaudi’s plaster molds, and his model were on display. His workshop and his original blueprints and sketches were on display as well.

Lauren felt exhausted and decided to power nap in the film room where a short documentary on Gaudi’s life was running in a loop. The rest of us walked around admiring the plaster models and reading the details behind Gaudi’s design. Eventually we picked her up and headed out.

Hunting for elusive SIMS

I told hubby it was paramount we SIM the girls up. I was worried sick when we couldn’t find them at Parc Guell. This way if we split up, we just text each other. Went into several phone stores and no one seemed to carry SIMS!! One store clerk gave us good direction and pointed us to a Pakistani store about a block away. For 20 Euros a pop and 13 GB data plan all our phones got “sim’ed up” and I was mighty relieved that we could track each other. Girls tend to go at a much faster pace and not dawdle as much as we did! I like taking pictures and they hate taking pictures!

We also managed to find cheap 220 v plugs. Most sockets in Spain had rounded pins so you need the 220 V plugs.

Tapas virgin – no more!

After her power nap, my first born was feeling all refreshed and ready to hit the road, so we decided to play catch up and do some rambling in Las Ramblas.

Las Ramblas is a nice stretch of road with plenty of eateries, shop fronts and filled with hordes of people.

As we headed toward Plaza De Catalunya we chanced upon a nice little outside-seating Tapas bar. Rick Steve’s documentary on YouTube mentioned that many a hidden gem of Tapas bars were these chance encounters. Proved to be very valuable advice.

Weather in Barcelona in the evening was extremely pleasant with a terrific cool breeze - LOVED IT!! Days can be brutally hot, but there seemed to be a lovely cool breeze that keep you from being stifled.

We sat outside and decided to go Tapas galore. For the uninitiated, Tapas to Spanish are what Dim-sums are to the Chinese. Small divine portions of appetizers. We were thrilled. Nice goblet of Sangria and the following tapas made our first dinner at Barcelona memorable:

Spice Bombs - mashed potato balls drizzled with spicy tomato sauce
Bravas - potato wedges in warm mayonaisse and gooey cheese
Tomato bread (almost bruschetta like)
Aromatic spicy sausage wedge on sour dough bread slices

Rambling along Las Ramblas

We were very, very pleased with dinner. Armed with that good dinner, we decided we’d play catch up to make up for the loss of one day induced by the strike. We walked to Plaza de Catalunya and walk on Las Ramblas.

Plaza de Catalunya is a central square with tourists and locals alike rambling along. Not to be left out pigeons by the hordes flock to this place. There were interesting sculptures - a booby woman and one with an inverted staircase. Laurie and I joked that’s what women must master to get ahead in a man’s world - master climbing upside down stairways to break glass ceilings and do so in stilettos!

Las Ramblas was super crowded as expected with vendors galore. We walked for a bit while clutching our purses gingerly as we had read plenty of warnings about pickpockets and it was late in the night. Barcelona is considered pick pocket capital of the world, but we felt safe. Perhaps, because we took the usual pre-cautions?

Day 1 with all the making up we did felt very “fruitful”. Pleased as “sangria-punch” we hopped into a cab a little past mid-night and headed back to the hotel for sleep. Our cabbie was a cheerful Pakistani who regaled us with very good “life in Barcelona” stories, gave us good tips on what were must-sees and told us where to go if we were in the hankering for Indian food!

When we reached Hotel Rekord we were given the very cool news that A/C was fixed, and the room was cold like a fridge. Turns out the janitor had accidentally turned off the power switch in some closet!

I could have wept for joy in relief!

Mad Dash to Casa Battlo

Was still jet-lagged so I travel-journaled for a bit and then fell asleep. We had drawn the light block shutters in our room and the children’s room and slept like babies! So much so, I woke up at 10.45 AM the next morning and panicked when I realized we were going to miss our entrance time to Casa Battlo of 11 AM.

We did a mad hustle to get dressed and rushed downstairs to hop into a cab for the 10-minute ride to Casa Battlo. I wasn’t going to lose the $110 I had paid in tickets! If you are a Seinfeld fan, you can picture the episode of Elaine trying to get her unwelcome boyfriend into his pants both legs at a time, so he won’t miss his flight home! That is the type of hustling we had to do.

Discord street & Casa Battlo

I had thought I’ve seen the coolest and most blinged out pads on MTV Cribs, but then again, I had not seen Casa Battlo!!!

Casa Battlo is located on Discord alley. Casa Battlo stands for house of bones. It is several story penthouse apartments architected by Gaudi for his rich clients.

Methinks house of bones is a complete misnomer. The children agreed, it wasn’t a house of horrors. It was more like a whimsical sea-themed apartment building. The “discord” alley got its name from the fact that no two buildings/ houses in this road looked alike.

Keeping up with barcelo-Joneses seemed to be the mantra of the day! Each house/building on this alley seemed to have a facade that tried to outdo the other. There were some resplendent with gargoyles, some with wrought iron balustrades and then Gaudi’s signature ‘no straight line’ Casa Batllo bathed in sea blue!

There was a huge queue outside in the hot sun. One line for ticket holders and one for ticket buyers. I was confused because the ticket buyers’ line was very short. Turns out once the ticket buyers bought their tickets, they just joined the ticket holders’ line and having pre-purchased tickets and an allotted time slot meant jack! The wait wasn’t too bad, in about 15 minutes we were into the sea-inspired wonderland!

We were given an interactive iPad/audio guide which as always is the BEST way to tour anything. As you pointed and moved the iPad camera around the room, the entire room came alive. There were NO straight lines within the home. The windows were all curved and fitted with brilliant stained glass. When you panned the iPad camera over it you saw flying sea-turtles emerge out of the windows. Turns out Gaudi was inspired by the shape and curvature of sea turtles when he designed the windows. Mesmerizing. There was a grand curvilinear staircase!

The Gaudi Magic

Room after room filled with whimsy, and brilliant leaded glass bay windows that overlooked the busy central Barcelona streets. Entertaining in such a home must have been easy, because every feature in there was a “conversation piece”. House was filled with Gaudi’s nature inspired furniture, doorknobs and features that made you feel like you were walking thru a fancy “mermaid penthouse”.

The girls found the audio blurb about the fireplace and the 2 sitting areas surrounding it particularly fascinating. Allegedly the 2 sittings areas where designated one each for the young teenage children that bought their dates home and one for a watchful chaperone! I really liked that Gaudi thought through such important practicalities!

There was a central stairwell/narrow courtyard. The walls of this courtyard were done completely in tiles in varying shades of blue. The lower stories had very light-colored tiles and larger windows, while the upper stories had smaller windows and darker blue tiles. As we ascended to the upper stories, we could see this interesting feature. Gaudi was brilliant in the way he played with light! He figured the light in the upper stories was plentiful, so smaller windows to make sure it did not get too warm and darker colored tiles so when the harsh light hit it, it rendered a lighter effect. The windows on the lower part of the stairwell were bigger to allow more light to enter and the tiles were lighter blue.

Casa Batllo had an outdoor balcony garden/patio that was charming. Had wall of window boxes entirely made up of tiny colorful tiles. The dining and bedrooms opened to this beautiful terrace. Oddly a pillar semi-blocked the French doorway leading into the terrace. Rumor has it, this was deliberately put in place by Gaudi to block too much harsh light from filtering into the room. But, methinks Gaudi figured out that an extra pillar /column was needed to support the weight of the dining room curvilinear ceiling and was forced to plop it in the middle of the French doorway and passed it off as deliberately planned!

We climbed the stairwell and reached the rooms on the top floor. These were laundry room with no frills, and we got to walk on the terrace-roof. The chimney top was very imaginatively decorated with tiles and had a very interesting sculptural feel. Gaudi made even the most utilitarian thing look very whimsical!

In the attic, there was silver ball fountain that had every single one of us reach out and touch the water. Very clever design that awakened one’s sense of touch.

We walked downstairs into the gift shop; I got a whimsical shot glass as a reminder of Gaudi’s design!

Gaudi made recycling popular way back when excess was the name of the game by re-using discarded tiles from other buildings, by breaking them up and lining them up in his sculptural designs.

The Divine Tapas Tapas bar

When we walked out, we were famished. Diagonally across from Casa Battlo is one of the most exquisite tapas bars called Tapas, Tapas. Way back in the day, when I lived in Bangalore my vegan BFF would describe any meal, she considered delightful by titling the quantitative description repetitively! She’d come back to our dorm and ecstatically exclaim, “they had two two types of subjies”. To this day much to the amusement of my family when I cook, if my vegan dishes turned out well, I repeat what I learned from my BFF!!

So, I knew going into the restaurant, if it was called Tapa Tapas - it would be divine! There was a bit of a wait before we got seated. Ambience inside was very good.

In the waiting area, did see a cow leg being finely filleted and I had to look away ...

We were presented with a tapas menu with more than 50 choices. We went tapa-happy and ordered :

• Fried green chilies (perdot) - there was a slight bitter after taste, but I loved it.
• Potato wedges drizzled with warm mayonnaise and cheese (patata bravas) - what is not to love?
• Bocaditos – mini sandwiches with every conceivable filling choices!

No meal in Spain is complete without the delicious accompanying goblet of Sangria. My lil 16-year-old is drinking age in Spain but was not tempted. I am proud of her!

And every meal of ours was topped with delicious desserts as well: Spanish pudding (tasted like crème brulee) and molten chocolate cake.

Gothic Quarters

Fortified by the delicious meal we headed down Discord alley toward Gothic quarters and the famed Barcelona Cathedral. The streets were packed with tourists and was hopping with summer revelers. Felt good because the cheer was rather infectious.

We stopped at Uniq Lo for a spot of T shirt shopping for the girls. They found their Anime, Pokémon Tees and were delighted. I got a lovely (what looked like cashmere) blouse. The store was very tastefully decorated with large staircases, lovely ambient lighting and digital screen projections of falling cherry blossoms.

As we ambled along among the summer revelers a sense of wellbeing washed over me and all the stress of the past year and the subsequent sadness when it all came to a head felt like a moot point. I continued to feel an immense sense of gratitude for the amazing grace of God that guided me in finding a better outcome in record time.

Gothic quarters had several cobbled pave-way of narrow lanes and by-lanes as well as large pave-ways lined with high end stores. Was very charming. I got some cute bracelets and earrings at Loviza.

Barcelona cathedral

This is a must-see cathedral as well. La Sagrada is about 100 years old, but Barcelona cathedral is over 5 centuries old. Each grand and unique.

We got tickets and got the audio guide. Audio guides are ALWAYS well worth it. These were iPhone, interactive video/audio guide which was splendid as you moved the camera over the section you got so many interesting tidbits of informacion!

Highlights of Barcelona Cathedral

The cathedral was funded by the Girona family ( financiers / investment bankers) over the centuries. Some of Gironas lie buried in the ornate cryptos.
There were 3 very grand aisles lined with several enclaves. Each enclave was dedicated to a saint or martyr resplendent with ornate gilding, gorgeous murals and sculptures.
The cathedral is dedicated to St. Eulalia. Eulalia a young 13-year-old was martyred for her Christian beliefs by Romans.

Beneath the central altar is a small chapel which is both visible and accessible from the central aisle. The chapel is decorated with ornate marble sculptures and contains the crypt in which the remains of Eulalia lies buried.

The choir sat on highly decorated pews which flanked the inner sanctum enclave leading up to the altar. The interactive video showed a 360 view of the pews with hymns playing in the background. The choir pews were done in ornate wood with chair backs painted with bright red, green and gold coat of arms. The seats were so narrow and small, one could not imagine how the choir boys could sit comfortably. Perhaps that was the way they got them to hit the high notes??!!

The entire cathedral has comfortable pews and we could sit anywhere and meditate, reflect, pray and contemplate. Armed with the guide we had an immersive experience learning about the Cathedral’s rich history.

Church Architecture cheat sheet:

Facade: easy-peasy, stands for the exterior.

Sacristy: a room in a church where a priest prepares for a service, and where vestments and other things used in worship are kept.

Apse: a large semicircular or polygonal recess in a church, arched or with a domed roof, typically at the eastern end, and usually containing the altar.

Nave: central and principal part of a Christian church, extending from the entrance (the narthex) to the transepts (transverse aisle crossing the nave in front of the sanctuary in a cruciform church) or, in the absence of transepts, to the chancel (area around the altar).

Narthex: Entrance to the main aisle

Can I walk on the Cathedral Roof, pretty please!?

Who wouldn’t love the unique experience of walking on an inky dinky makeshift bridge on top of the Barcelona Cathedral?

Sheldon and I did all the side enclaves (mini chapels) together. Each enclave was sponsored by a different family and contained intricately carved wrought iron gate/railings and housed beautiful paintings, sculptures and artistic relics. Back in the day each family did their best to outdo the other in decking out the chapel that they sponsored. So, we saw some pretty ornate gild work. Little did I realize then the older Cathedrals in Granada would completely out shadow older Cathedrals in Barcelona! La Sagrada will continue to be my favorite!

After we did the chapels, Sheldon and I stood in a stuffy cloister in line for 20 minutes to take the elevator to go up to the Cathedral roof top. I almost gave up because it was hot, stuffy and all of us were sweating profusely and were reeking! Organic deodorant was no match for the Barcelona heat. I am so glad, while a hot body was willing to give up, cool head prevailed, and I stuck it out. Girls were still in the meantime checking out the chapels. I quickly went over to tell them they could come join us if they wished, but they were keen on doing the chapels first.

The elevator took us straight to the cathedral turrets and its makeshift bridge-platform. The cool sea-breeze and the million-dollar views of Barcelona city and encountering the church spires up close and personal, so much so I could rub noes with it is a memory that continues to remain etched in my memory. We could see the La Sagrada spires from our vantage point, as well as Montjuic. This experience felt surreal and made me feel like I could reach out to the skies and touch divinity. We dawdled for a long time soaking it all in.

We tried to ping the girls but there was no response from them. We decided to ride the elevator down and we encouraged the girls to do the turret walk. I will give this experience two thumbs up and it ranked as one of my 2 most memorable moments in The Catalunya leg.

Gaggle of Geese

While the girls rode to the top, Sheldon and I sat in the pews and genuflected in silence. Once the girls came back down, we went outside to walk the side chapels and cloisters. Was very open and breezy. There was a nice garden and a koi pond, and 13 geese wandered around happily. The 13 geese symbolic of the age of Eulalya when she was martyred. When any of the geese die, they wait for another to die and release new ones in as pairs. This is to ensure no “mean-geese” clicks go on!

We were exhausted and decided to go back to the hotel to take a quick break. A 10-minute taxi ride got us back to our room.

Magic Fountains

Here is what I was told about Montjuic - If you want to play checklist with a popular tourist attraction to say you saw it, then it is a must. If you want to make the most of very limited time, it's a can miss. You know me, I played it safe by working in Montjuic and the magic fountains. In my mind it is really a must-see.

Around 8 PM we decided to hop into a cab and head towards Palau Nacional situated on Montjuic hill.

This Palau Nacional (which hosts a beautiful museum) is perched atop a small mound (hill) with an impressive facade reminded me of our very own Capital building. An imposing building, perhaps housing a few freemason type political leaders and could be backdrop for a future Dan Brown novel! There were 4 massive Ionian columns soaring into the sky lending to the grandiosity.

We took the escalator some, and walked up the mound some ...

The view of the city from up top was impressive. There were several hawkers and vendors who scrambled to close shop every time they thought a cop was showing up. Cassandra liked a painting of the facade of Palau Nacional building peddled by a local artist and she bought it for 16 euros.

It was 9.30 PM and folks started finding ideal vantage points to watch the music/lights magic fountain show. Slowly the smaller fountains up top started up. Then the cascading fountains started up and we made our way down to where the biggest fountains were located. Lauren my monkey decided she would like to view the show perched up on the pedestal base of the Ionian columns, Sheldon hoisted her up and the rest of us made our way down for a seat closer to the big fountains. Lively music started up along with fountains and beautiful lights. Music was popular songs from the 90’s and classical music. Music played included Chariots of fire. The air was filled with cheer and joy as the beautiful music, sound of splashing water engulfed us. I texted Lauren asking her to make her way down because our vantage point was good. She gave her seat on the columns to a child and joined us.

In search of Indian Food

We decided it would be nice to have some nice Mughlai style Indian food. We started walking and found ourselves down a deserted street and thought we could get mugged readily. We decided to turn around, yelped restaurants, found one, gave the address to a cabbie who took us there. The restaurant itself was located down a deserted one-way alley. Cabbie dropped us off on the main road and we tried to make our way on our own. We finally found the restaurant with Google maps. It was close to 11.30 PM and no guests were at that restaurant, but a cheerful waiter greeted us. Food was really good and delicious:

• Fresh made chili naan
• Fresh made butter naan
• Super spicy Mughlai lamb
• Mild creamy butter chicken
• Gulab jamoon for dessert
• Jeera pulao

Pleased and content, we walked with bellies full. It was well past midnight, as we walked thru more alleys and walked through the Muslim quarters. We were surprised to see the children on the playground accompanied by Moms dressed in Burqas. Teenagers merrily skateboarded in the park. It was buzzing with activity at 1 AM!!!

We hailed a cab with ease and went back and caught a good night sleep. Major attractions on the agenda for Catalunya leg were done!

French Riviera Leg

Rent a Car

To me, whenever I heard Provençale it evoked an image of Martha Stewart, blue and yellow majolica dishes, wispy curtains and fresh, mildly flavored food and countryside. Seemed like a perfect Chapter 2.

It was about a 4-hour drive to our service apartment that we had booked on Aix En Provence. We checked out of the hotel in Barcelona, hopped into a cab and drove to the airport to pick up our rental.

Girls and I sat on the floor of the rental kiosk while hubby went into the airport Avis rental to file the paperwork. Hubby remembered to get an IDP (International driver’s permit from AAA) in the US, so it was easy-peasy. We got a Citroen , automatic and after a smidgeon of trouble with locating the start button - which wasn’t anywhere near the wheel but offset towards the center of the dashboard (not very intuitive) we were on our way!

Drive to Provençale and brunch in the French Countryside

The drive through open farmlands, hills and vales of beautiful Spain and French countryside was delightful. About 5-hour drive from Barcelona to Provence and you pay quite the pretty penny in tolls! About $50 to $75.

Enroute, I answered my final email, and with an ever-grateful heart signed on the final dotted line and set a start date to begin the next glorious chapter of my life. And my heat sang:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow with humble adoration
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee

How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

The sun seemed to shine extra brighter and hills and vales seemed extra green and lush!

Be aware of navigating “roundabouts”, it takes some getting used to. Directions to take the 2nd turn, 3rd turn etc can at times get confusing. We found it rather useful to looks at the loopy arrows on apple maps to figure out the right exit at the roundabout.

We stopped by a French boulangerie enroute for a late lunch. Lunch consisted of:

Salmon sandwich
Brie cheese, lettuce, farm fresh tomatoes and jamon sandwich
Lemon tarte
Chocolate cake
Washed down with copious quantities of hot coffee and orange/lemon fantas.

Apartotel service apartments in Provence

We arrived into a rather quaint little French town in Aix En Provence where our service apartment (Apartotel Adagio En Provence). Immediately we noticed maneuvering the Citroen through the narrow streets was exercise in extreme caution, patience and deftness. Glad I wasn’t the one doing the driving. In general, even on broad roads I hate driving with a vengeance and do it when required like for work etc. While on vacation most of the time hubby drives and on the rare occasion if he got tired I did.

He enjoys driving, finds it relaxing, I don’t. So, it works out well.

We arrived relatively latish in the night. Maneuvering the Citroen into a VERY narrow garage and into parking spots that were narrow and had large inconveniently located supporting pillars was well-nigh impossible. No amount of 16 point turns with both Lauren and I hopping out of the car to guide Sheldon with verbal commands helped. After 20 minutes of trying, we gave up and went to the other side of the garage and found a slot with no pillars, heaved a sigh of relief and parked. Since we did not have our room cards yet, the receptionist had to buzz us into the garage. When we went up finally to get checked in, she said she was wondering what took us so long and acknowledged, the garage was from yester years and was not designed for modern, larger cars. They had some orange flavored water and candy.

We had a nice apartment, a living room with pull out sofa bed along with a trundle for the girls, a decent master bedroom, a kitchenette, beautifully appointed shower with sink in a very pretty shape. Reminded me of the petal of a flower.

There was a half bath as well!

Round 4 or Round 5 of toasts? Frankly I had lost count!

After freshening up, we decided to walk around town and find a nice sit-down place to eat. Since it was past 11 PM, most places were closed. We did find a really nice Chinese/Japanese restaurant and since the girls are always up for Sushi settled on it.

I decided that since I had just signed on the final dotted line, we’ll toast to it with some nice local French bubbly.

My 16-year-old was of drinkable age in Spain, but not in France and in any case even if we were OK with her taking a sip, she said she was not a fan and absolutely refused to taste it. My 19-year-old liked the bubbly, so we toasted. And for all things, I prayed in gratitude.

What I do know for sure being a woman of faith is: God is an ever-present partner during turbulent times.

Long may my joy continue ...

Japanese dinner in Provence?

The children shared their fears and hopes at the table and we bonded as a family, so much so Lauren even said that meal will always be one of the standout moments of the trip!

We had delicious:

Sushi/Sashimi - delicate and wonderfully plated
Lobster meat fried rice
Beef tenderloin
Short ribs

Bellies full, hearts delighted we walked back to apartment for a wonderful night of sleep. Turns out, I had forgotten to give the girls both the fluffy white comforters, so they make did with one and it was a bit of tug of war. Oops!

French Riviera :

Re-Chartering the Course

Next morning, hubby pointed out the classic travelling-salesman problem and the non-optimal path I had chartered, and I agreed it made sense to do Cannes and Nice first.

Original plan had included Monaco and St. Tropez but we dropped that from our itinerary in favor of doing Cannes and Nice at a leisurely pace.

Besides: (a) Us poor folk were not going to fit in with the jet-setting St. Tropez crowd (b) we would have our fill of gawking in Cannes, did not want to binge-gawk!!

It took us about 2 hours to get to Cannes. The suggestive sign-board of Nice, Cannes, FreJus amused us endlessly! I’ll leave it to your imagination of what double-entendres we were thinking of!

What the heck is Adblue?

Enroute to Cannes, the Citroen popped up a red flag on the dashboard about ‘AdBlue low, car will auto-shutdown in 1,000 km’. Since we were traipsing (or should I say tapa’sing’) not only all over the South of France countryside, but also all over the South of Spain countryside as well I told hubby I did not fancy being stranded at the most inopportune time. We had to figure out what this Adblue was and get it done.

Goggled it as we drove into a gas station. Noticed some of the gas stations in these quaint towns (both in Spain and France) do not have ability to pay at the pump. You had to go inside and prepay or leave your credit card with the cashier and go out to fill. Interesting, but not very quick.

The Citroen took diesel and not gas. The signs read Gazole and unleaded and premium. Gazole sounded very Gas to me (not to say the least the juvee part of me giggled thinking it rhymes with a certain naughty word), so we stood there pondering for a few minutes. Google translate to the rescue, turns Gazole is indeed Diesel!

Now on to problem #2 - what the heck is Ad Blue? Google said it was some sort of fluid to keep carbon emissions down. Where do we pour the darn thing? Turns out next to the fuel opening there us another opening that takes Ad Blue. Thanks Google/Youtube.

We saw a nice French woman manning a kiosk and asked her for AdBlue (made it rhyme with Cordon bleu) and she pointed me in the right direction. That was a giant 5-gallon container, but she said I could get a smaller 1 gallon inside the store. We walked into the store which had an Auto Grille restaurant attached to it. I found the smaller 1 Gallon but needed a funnel. I tried telling the clerk I needed a funnel, but she did not understand. I tried to mime it for her and we both burst out laughing! Trusty Google to the rescue again. Turns out, ‘entonnoir’ was attached if I bought a 2-gallon container. So, we did, and left poor hubby with the task of pouring it in, while I took the girls in to buy some breakfast.

Delicious patisserie section yielded :

• Fresh fruit parfait
• Chocolat Beignets
• Salmon patisserie
• Rasberry tarte
• Cream filled croissants

We sat and enjoyed our breakie at the Auto Grille. Hubby came back semi drenched in AdBlue - said the 2 gallons was rather unwieldy and the flimsy entonnoir was rather ineffective! The Adblue had spilled over by the side of the car leaving white streaks and the streaks continued on the rear tire as well. Made a mental note to squeegee it out if I found one. Decided not to over tax Google for the squeegee hunt next!

Cannes Ooh La la, Oui, oui La Croisette

The ride into Cannes was delightful as well. AutoPistas are heavily tolled roads and AutoVia’s are non-toll roads. Autovia would take longer and did have a scenic coastal route but time was of the essence. French Riviera beckoned! Toll ran up to about 70 Euro’s in that stretch but got us there in a short time.

On our last Europe trip to Greece, we had plum-smack landed in the “Grexit” Oxi/Nai vote and currency was king and with banks not operating as normal it was risky to be relying on CC. So, I had withdrawn lots of Euro’s at that time. I had about 700 Euros with me and we blew thru that during our numerous car rides on this trip. But folks, for a family of 4 driving around much cheaper and more convenient than flying.

I even had sackful of coins and in a couple of toll sections emptied out quite the bulk, leaving my pocketbook much lighter - literally and figuratively speaking!

As we were entering Cannes, we saw an spectacular one-mile coastal stretch (La Croisette) with sapphire colored waters, dotted with sailboats in the distance and sparkling white sands and rocks rising like magma. It looked so picturesque, we pulled over for several Kodak moments, or in this era of social media several Insta moments.

While I am barely active on social media these days and don’t really do Insta moments, travelogues I do still write because I find it very therapeutic. Honestly, much of my writing these days is almost like a personal dairy for me to read and reflect on the various chapters of my life, the ups, the downs - good, bad and the ugly.

It warms my soul when my readers tell me they get a kick out of reading my ramblings ...

Cannes - Red Carpet Walk:

We arrived into Cannes and the city was buzzing with life. In the heart of the city is the famous Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès (Palace of Festivals and Conferences) is a convention center in Cannes, France, the venue for the Cannes Film Festival and the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The building opened in 1982.

We walked around the building for a bit. I spotted a purple carpet first and thought to myself I’ll have a controlled exhibition of delusional grandeur and did a picture as a TV starlet!

Soon I encountered the red-carpet section and a big line of tourists formed, ready to strut their stuff and have their Cannes film festival moment.

I joined in on the Cannes red carpet delusions of grandeur partay! Who you wearing, who you wearing yelled out a few and I promptly and truthfully elaborated on my haute couture: “I am wearing $7.99 harem pants from Ross and Payless shoes which I got BOGO” 😜😛 to ripples of laughter!

My girls were not least bit excited about walking the red carpet and they watched in amused tolerance. I had to talk them into posing for a picture or two!

Minor Cream Indulgence

We window shopped for a bit in the haute couture stores. I did buy one fancy anti-wrinkle, sun protection cream as a minor indulgence. Hubby flinched at the price, but that is precisely why I am my own woman and make my own living so I can choose what I indulge in!!! I’ve always taught my girls the same thing - you got to make your own living and exercise your professional chops. Am a firm believer that it adds to your sense of pride, self-fulfillment, accomplishment and self-worth. This way you reach your God given potential. I was raised like that by a strong, independent Mom who did hail from a traditional, patriarchal era, but was very self-accomplished herself. Don’t rely on any “knight in shining armor “, instead be the “damsel in control” and live to your full potential was dinned into my DNA. This is fair all the way around and fair to our partners as well.

I UNDERSCORE: this is not meant as a slight to homemakers because hand on heart that is TRULY the hardest job on the planet and the most thankless job as well with enormous self-sacrifices in the bargain. In a way, I see myself as a lesser being for not being able to make that kind of sacrifice.

At the end of the day, whatever rocks our individual boats, I guess!!!

Misc things we did in Cannes :

We stumbled on the museum of Sergio Leone the Director of “The Good, Bad and Ugly” and the father of Spaghetti Western genres, but decided it was too yester-era.
Walked down the Cannes walk of fame and took our pictures with Angelina Jolie/ Julie Andrew handprints.
Walked into Office De Cannes Tourisimo, found a green screen photo booth, took some interesting pictures and emailed it to ourselves.

We went back to the garage, picked up the car and drove on to Nice. Summer weather is brutal and wickedly hot, so had to keep drinking water.

Promenade des Anglais in Nice!

If Cannes was buzzing, Nice was both buzzing and hopping! Took us a bit of trying and driving around to find parking.

So many, many roadside boulangerie and patisserie in the main Promenade des Anglais. We walked around and ate tiny, delectable morsels of creamy, puff pastries. Croissants stuffed with spinach and cheese drizzled with truffle oil and giant macaroons. No wonder French President Macaron was at times quite popular - what is not to love about this sinfully delectable treat?!!!

I even ate what looked like halwa but turned out to be raspberry jam in a thick consistency in a halwa like slab. In that one foodie walk, I nullified all the hard work I’d put in with the intermittent fasting. This was nonstop binging with the finest food!

Girls and I found a nice pay and use restroom in a public garden where we changed into our swim clothes. All of us wore swim wraps.

We walked to the Office of the Turismo of Nice and got ourselves a walking tour map. She recommended we walk the old quarters, climb up the tower/old chateau ruins for a spectacular view of the city, and we did just as recommended.

Parc de la Colline du Château

The view from up top of the Chateau tower went down in hubby’s book as one of his favorite moments! Wonder why the nude sunbathers did not rank high on that list?

We took the elevator up to Bellanda Towers, because with all that food and the blazing sun we could not see ourselves lugging our food coma’ed bodies uphill. We promised ourselves we’ll walk down instead of riding the elevator. It was spectacular walking around and views from various vantage points is amazing. Girls kept moving at super-fast pace and I told them we had to have a meeting point should WhatsApp not be available due to flaky internet connection or low battery. In the blazing heat and humidity, it was no fun hunting for each other thru throngs and throngs of tourists.

There was a bird man, and before Lauren could take pictures with the birds the illegal hawker was gently shushed out of the premises!

Cascade du Château, an artificial waterfall on top, but still very pretty and sound of gurgling water against the breathtaking views made for a very nice visit.

We went all the way to the top, took some good pictures. We debated whether to

(a) head toward the world-famous institute of Perfumeries and attend a class and learn the fine art of making perfumes and concoct our own to go with our individual pheromones or

(b) swim in the Nice beach followed by a nice outdoor dinner at one of courtyard restaurants.

Option (b) the girls said was the way to go and I whole heartedly agreed.

Nice, Nice Beaches

At some point, one MUST head to the beach. The beaches in Nice are: pebbly with the warmest waters you’ll hope to find in France. Just make sure you check where you set up camp – fair warning if you are the squeamish kind ,because there are nude sunbathers. I am severely myopic and while in the water without my glasses, I cannot see the difference between nude and non-nude!!

But, how can you come to the French Riviera and not swim in the dazzling waters? Most section of Nice beach is covered completely with pebbles making for a very, very tricky walk and swim. Gingerly we had to make our way down. I sat on one of the pebble mounds and allowed the waves to crash over me, which also meant pebbles slapping against my ankles and legs. It stung a bit, but I loved the experience. Girls had a blast swimming and we stayed late watching the sun set. The water was pleasantly cool against the blazing heat and humidity. I sat on the beach reflecting on life in general and lessons learned and the journey to become a better, more understanding and evolved being with every experience. Nice has that nice effect on you. The number of puns the name Nice invoked with mia Familia during those hours was high-larious!!

I also wondered how those women lay topless on the pebbles. I could not walk without my beach slippers on and I was so glad I had carried them along ...

Later, we decided to walk around the beach front in search of a nice sit-down restaurant. There was one Viet seafood restaurant but not a flea in sight. We walked in thinking fresh food, but they were peddling stale food from a glass case, so we walked out.

Nicoise Crepes!

We went to the Courtyard of restaurants which was buzzing with activity and extremely crowded. All outdoor seating with a very carnival feel. We debated back and forth and finally decided to dine at a Creperie.

It was overflowing with an enormous wait time. The waiter asked us if we’d be OK to share a table with a single diner and we said that would be great.

We ended up having a very nice dinner and conversation with this charming middle-aged French woman. She had a thick French accent so was a little hard to understand but I generally pieced together the convo using key words. Turns out she worked in Cosmetics around the world and finally retired in Nice a few years ago because she loved the warm weather and happening vibe.

Based on her recommendation the children did a crepe called ‘jazztym Beiber’! Was a delectable 4 cheese stuffed crepe. I did eggplant stuffed crepe topped with a delightful mound of fresh argula Salade niçoise (this was a greens only custom salad, not your traditional tuna, tomato, egg Salad Nicoise!).

Hubby did jamon cheese crepe. We also had chocolate crepes for dessert. Was very nice to partake in a meal in a completely open courtyard and serenaded by music and entertained by street performers.

We had thoroughly enjoyed the day. After dinner, we walked some more around the nice town of Nice, taking in the brightly lit and lively city.

Latish, we decided to head back out to drive back. The drive back showed 3.5 hours instead of 2 hours. Turns out the setting on Apple maps was set to avoid toll roads. Luckily, we’d figured that out and we were back on track.

Tired, but content we showered in the beautifully appointed shower with its terrific lavender scented shampoo and body wash and hit the sack.

Yellow there, but no lavender here?

One of the highlights of my trip to Provence was going to be able to run through the sun-drenched fields of lavender and sunflowers in Provence.

This was inspired by a picture I had seen of a dainty lady dressed in yellow amidst a sea of brilliant lavender, set against the backdrop of Sénanque Abbey monastery. Although almost all internet posts call it incorrectly as “Semanque”.

I did read Lavender is very seasonal, but most posts assured me late July, early August we should still find it in full bloom. I was super excited by the prospect of running through a sea of lavender. I had carefully shopped for yellow/mustard outfits for all of the family to have my personal “insta” moment.

We drove thru long, narrow roads on curvy mountain tops with steep drops on one side and barely one car could squeeze by lanes with several moments of sheer dread when we spotted cars heading toward our narrow path from the opposite direction!

After a long, 4-hour drive thru the countryside of Provence we reached the Sénèque monastery. I saw no sign of my lavender dilly-dilly enroute. Online posts said the mountain side would be dotted with lavender and sunflowers. But apparently not this last week of July! I kept thinking lavenders at the monastery were going to be aplenty but on arrival, I realized they too had taken a vow silence!! The lavender plants were there, but the buds looked rather dryish.

Sun was blazing hot, and I was SO ... disappointed. We walked to the gift shop which was filled with every imaginable lavender and asked them why the lavenders had taken a vow of silence and they laughed and said that kind of brilliant blooms lasts exactly 2 weeks in a year and typically it was in the early part of July.

We were famished so we bought:

Lavender cookies in an interesting shape. To me they looked like purple lips. But the girls thought they looked like naughty lady bits! I warned them that they would more than likely taste like kibbles but since we were hungry, we bought them. They did taste like dog biscuits.

Nougats lined with lavender seeds. Smelled heavenly but had a sharp bitter aftertaste.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

We went outside and did our family pictures with the Abbey for a backdrop. Not shabby by any stretch, but not Downtown Abbey!!!

This Abby did have a distinct charm about it, set against the backdrop of the French countryside.

We went upstairs to the Abbey bookstore and decided having come all this way we needed to do a tour. All the tours were going to be in French! My French is limited to looking up Gasoline, funnel etc on Google! What was I going to do on a walking tour in French?

Luckily, for us they had an interactive iPad self-guided tour. This is MUST DO, if you are in Provence. We walked thru the Chapels were the monks prayed, dorms they lived in, cafeteria where they ate, and visited the courtyards where they hung out in complete silence.

As you waved the Interactive iPad over the room you got pop up snippets on the backstory and you could also see current monks in residence which was too cool and neat. We wandered around in absolute amazement at the austere surroundings, silently wondering what prompts people to seek a life which involved a vow of silence? Laurie and I thought we wouldn’t last two seconds in these places given our propensity for non-stop chatter!

It is not that the monastic life does not have any politics either. Here too, who gets to be Friar (head monk) involves politics. If they all assumed a vow of silence, we wondered how they campaigned? We tried to figure out how they’d sit around the table and do sinkie eyes with raised eyebrows pointing at the monk next to them to “gossipily” indicate he’s gone loco!

Monks were primarily served vegetarian food. If they were sick, they were served fish to help strengthen them. First born joked, “So if a monk complained of chest pain, they’d say have a bit of thyme, you’ll be alright?”

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. It was eye opening.

On our way to the outdoor grounds and walk around we went thru the gift shop. I bought lavender satchels and soaps. I plan on doing a cheese grate on the soap and making my own fragrant potpourri for my draws.

The outside was frightfully hot, but we huffed and puffed our way around to get a view of the facade from different angles. While walking around we stumbled on the 500-year-old chapel which is under renovation because the walls have started caving in. We also chanced upon the current living quarters which we chatterboxes weren’t allowed to enter. Rightfully so!

Even tho the no-show lavender fields were a disappointment; in retrospect the Abbey visit was spectacular.

We hopped into the car for the 5-hour drive back to Barcelona. We stopped by a little French food court and had nice lunch of farm fresh salad, jamon and cheese sandwiches, topped by lovely creme brulee and raspberry tartlets.

Drive back to Barcelona

We arrived into Barcelona close to midnight and decided to do dinner at a tapas bar before we checked into our hotel. Parking in Barcelona is a nightmare and very tight spots. Since it was past midnight, we managed to park in front of pulled down shop shutters two streets down and walked to the tapas bar which was still hopping!

Tapas is the way to go in Spain. Tiny, delectable morsels of food and never fails to deliver.

We ate:

patata bravas
steak bocadittos

and we loved all of it barring the Paella.

Despite several warnings, my first born wanted Paella. I am a seafood lover and during my last trip in Spain I repeatedly ordered paella and was repeatedly disappointed causing me to WRONGLY conclude Spanish food in general was awful. I have since become a Tapas lover!

The paella was done afresh and brought to our table with a 30-minute cooking time but crunchy gruelly rice and mussel with shells, giant prawns with their heads on and perky scallops did not do anything for the children either! I told her, “I told you so”! Every subsequent restaurant we went to I jokingly asked her if she wanted paella!

The table next us was celebrating Abuela’s 72nd birthday and family had a good smattering of inter-racial couples and their darling children. Abuela was in fine spirits at midnight and the waiters joined in on the Feliz cumpleano and I clapped my hands celebrating their precious moment.

We drove to Novotel hotel, found parking in their garage and turned in for the night. Hotel was comfortable but ho hum and nothing to write home about. Next morning, we woke up and hit the road again for the long 8-hour drive to Granada.

The Andaluchia Leg

9-hour drive to Granada

The drive through Spanish countryside was delightful and did not disappoint. Be prepared here again to pay about 50 to 70 Euros in tolls.

The road was lined throughout with Oleander bushes in full bloom. Bright bunches of red, pink and white flanked the long A7 to Granada.

For lunch we stopped at a Spanish AutoGrille wayside restaurant. This was like a mini food court with plenty of choices and cropped up in all rest areas. I had whole fish, lightly grilled in olive oil and one small side order of potato wedges. There were inviting looking grilled jalapeño peppers sides available. A bunch of fellow international tourists tried the same tactic I did asking if we could pay extra for just a second side order of grilled jalapeno, but the counter lady said a firm no. Methinks she is a side-order nazi!! Girls ordered pasta which they felt was lack-lustre. Sheldon ordered sausage and made his permissible one side order of Jalapeños and we shared. I also ordered a very delightful yoghurt/flan dessert. This place was strangely flocking with flies, so we had to keep waving the pesky critters away as we ate. The yoghurt/flan dessert was super yummy. Family tried it and agreed it was delicioso. Funny how none of us could quite pinpoint the flavor. One camp thought it was pumpkin spice, another thought it was eggnog flavored, I thought it was mystery fruit-flavored!

I enjoyed my grilled fish, even though it kept looking me in the eye!

We hopped into the car and drove to Granada. We made a few wrong turns at the roundabouts but finally found our hotel Real Macia del Alhambra. The hotel had comfortable wide parking spaces in an underground garage!

Hotel Real Macia del Alahambra – a brilliant gem of a hotel

Real stands for Royal and this hotel was very royal indeed. We got allotted the junior suite! I had paid just $86 per night and landed myself a real deal here. The children had a room to themselves; we had a master suite and nicely appointed bathrooms, fluffy white bathrobes, nice decor and our very own sun veranda with seating. The view of the city out the veranda was gorgeous. The city is very hilly, and the lights twinkled like myriad yellow diamonds in the dark. A central open space had a replica of ground to ceiling mural of the Alahambra. Reception told us we could avail ourselves of a welcome drink in the bar/fine dining restaurant on the second floor. This was cheapest rates we paid amongst all hotels on the vacation and by a long stretch most beautiful and made for a grand stay.

We checked out the Arabian Hamam bath and Spa on the ground floor with staff dressed in harem pants!!! There were absolutely decadent massages including one with molten chocolate. Pity we did not have time to do a Spa treatment! I would HIGHLY recommend this hotel which is 5-minute drive from La Alahambra - major bang for the buck.

After we freshened up, we headed to the fancy bar for our welcome drink. A nice bartender offered us plenty of choices from Rose, White Zinfandel, Martini. The idea of sweet Sangria appealed to all of us and Cassie chose a coke. Laurie and I did a few sips and decided it hit us hard and we’d much rather take it and leave it in the mini fridge in our room for later. Lauren later decided she will skip all Sangria for the week and her Dad had hers.

We decided to go into town and find a nice place to eat.

El Pies Negra Culture of Granada

Granada is very happening with El Pies Negra hombre or the gentlemen with black feet. The charm of the city has attracted many a well to do hipster who arrives into the city, falls in love with the culture, either opens up a foodie place or works in one and they wander around with bare, dirty feet , dirty from fine black dust and their man buns hence the name.

Parking in the city center was a nightmare but we managed to park outside a shuttered store – besides, who was going to ticket us at midnight? Like Cinderella before dawn we intended to drive away lest it turn into a pumpkin.

There were many, many interesting restaurants on this row and from all over the world. Indo-Pak, Moroccan, Greek et al. We tried Indo-Pak but they only had chicken dishes and since Sheldon does not eat chicken we decided to walk some more. We then stumbled on this gem of a restaurant called Babel. A truly eclectic restaurant. Babel of cuisine if you will! Run and served by what one could classify as the El Pies Negra hombres sporting cool tattoos and man buns.

The food tasted exquisite and the plating was truly the work of an artist. The service was particularly attentive with the entire staff made up of very cool millennials. The Cafe seem to cater to the young and hip crowd as well. It was close to 1 AM and it was buzzing.

We had:

• Hummus and pita with carrot sticks
• Falafel
• Aubergine cutlets
• Salmon Bocaditto
• Minced meat burrito

Halfway thru the meal, the millennial announced we get 2 free tapas with our drinks. We’d ordered just bottled water, so we thought that was mighty generous to offer us free tapas, we chose mini minced meat taco and more hummus and pita.

The crowd was an eclectic mix of races, everyone chatted excitedly with everyone else, joked & laughed with one another and shared a meal with one another. Just an hour before that I was heartsick from the news that white supremacist nut job had shot and killed more than 2 dozen immigrants in El Paso and another mindless killing of innocent people at Dayton, Ohio. So, I casually told my girls if only people travelled the world and visited places like Granada and saw how people lived and shared their love of food and laughter, we’d have less slaying. The words inadvertently slipped out of mouth and the girls very liberal themselves quickly pointed out that was a leftist, elitist thing to say - yep, agreed not everyone has the luxury to travel. However, if one could make an attempt to understand other cultures and food, one would realize there is much joy in sharing than killing!

El Pies Negra hipster crowd of Granada made me feel good!

Churches Galore

Next morning, we woke up latish and took a cab into the heart of the city which was only 10 minutes away. Rick Steve had warned us both in Granada and Seville some portions of the city are closed off to private vehicles. One gets fined big time if caught parking in these zones, inadvertently as it may be. So, we asked the concierge for guidance and she said best to leave the car parked at the hotel and take cabs and hoof it inside the city between churches/monuments as they were within proximity of one another.

Agenda for the day was:

Grand Cathedral of Granada
Royal Chapel – aka mausoleum of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
Cathedral of San Juan De Dios
Walk up top to Mirador plaza for sunset view of Alahambra

By the end of the day, must say in our usual Colaco family style we managed to hit all the spots on our list.

Breakfast most important meal of the day!

Although, I am not sure we can call walking up at 11 AM and eating at noon breakfast? I had been dying to try Churros and hot chocolate. Is as decadent as it sounds! Fluffy, light beignets-like texture just melted in your mouth. I am so spoiled now, home-churros ain’t gonna cut it anymore!

Salmon bocadillos, delightful mango mousse, chocolate lave cake washed down with hot Granada coffee made up for the remaining meal.

Granada Cathedral

Grand Cathedral of Granada is located plum in the middle of the city surrounded by gorgeous Gothic architecture. The church itself is more renaissance architecture or so I was told, although period-challenged me can’t tell the difference.

As with any other church, you can spend hours admiring the beauty. Again, audio guides, people – makes all the difference!

The central altar had two VERY important emphasis that are the major tenets of our faith: (1) Charity (2) Salvation through Christ. In Christ’s own words, “faith without charity is like a white-washed sepulcher”. I do come from a long line of folks who have lived until their dying breath by those tenets and have spent their modest resources helping the poor. My parents also of modest means have continued that long tradition and I am in awe of everything they’ve done to educate poor children in India. I will continue to uphold that tradition because faith without charity is indeed “virudhaa”. I promised myself, that as I start the next chapter of my life, I will up the ante!

Notable features:

The naves flanking the altar was done mostly in marble, and gold gilding except Adam and Eve in drab browns signaling the downfall of mankind which I thought was a very interesting visual.
Mother Mary done in gilded gold surrounded by children clinging to her signaling that we are called to be charitable in thought and deed.
Beautiful wood and guild work in all the chapels. For the first time I realized that the side enclaves flanking the central aisles are called “chapels”.
Magnificent pipe organ, several hundred years old graced both sides of the central aisle, hidden behind delicately gorgeous and ornate stucco work.
Much of the work in the church including the Adam/Eve was done by the gifted architect, sculptor and painter Alonso Cano, famous and cherished son of Granada.
Quite a bit of emphasis on Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain (considered Catholic King and Queen) who returned Spain to its Christian roots. Something about Isabel/Ferdinand made me decidedly uncomfortable. There was a certain cold, ruthlessness about them and felt very un-Christ-like …

High Tea and Gypped by Gypsies

Once out of the Granada Cathedral we started ambling along for a bit admiring the quaint walkways and town square.

Several very interesting sidewalk spice markets caught my attention. The aroma of the various spice and tea was very enticing. I decided to buy two types of tea blends : (a) Oolong (b) Granada blend – infused with pomegranate, jasmine, little purple edible flowers. The name of the tea shop was Saffron!!! The owner tried to push boxes of saffron on me for $150, but I politely declined.

Although I was warned multiple times in Rick Steve’s documentary by how aggressive roadside gypsy women can be, I was not prepared for it. One lady grabbed Sheldon by the arm and dusted his forehead, chest and arms with what seemed like a spice branch chanting something in Spanish. Then she grabbed me and did the same and recited some poetry and did the same with the children. The children translated it to “bambino your heart comes from your Mom and your head and intellect come from your Dad” which the girls found very sexist! I gave her 2 Euros, but she hung on to my arm dug her nails in until I gave her 5 more! For a bit, I was terrified. I felt like I got itchy where the spice branch dusted off against my forehead and arms. In case it was nettle I purrelled myself.

So cautionary tale: if gypsy women approach you, keep walking do NOT stop.

Mausoleum for the Mortals – Granada’s Royal Chapel

We continued and ambled along the quaint, cobbled pathways towards the royal chapel. The royal chapel is more like a mausoleum for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel and one of the intentions was to have the area become mausoleum for all subsequent royalty until King Philip came along and decided that mere mortals should be not be celebrated in death plum in the middle of the city and decreed that El Escorial will become the final resting place for earthly remains of the Spanish royalty.

I had visited El Escorial and Toledo when the girls were toddlers and I must say El Escorial ain’t shabby as a final resting place. Was gorgeous, scenic and peaceful!

Notable features:

This a like a mini church done in intricate woodwork and gilding, you would not even think of it as a mausoleum.
Raised tombstone and a gorgeous pedestal done in fine white marble. The pedestal relief had sculpture of all the St. Johns (the Evangelist, the Baptist, Of God).
Tombstone itself had a full body and face replica of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel done in white marble. The repose was delicate and beautiful and methinks the marble sculpture is more like your snapchat filtered version of what they looked like in real life!!
Beneath the raised pedestal was a small room accessible by stairs and we could go down there and view all of the actual small wood coffins that carried the mortal remains. Though it was rather macabre.
It is believed one of the sculptors saw the rigor mortised body of one of the Kings/Queens and decreed he got “woke” to the fact that we all are mortal and decided any sculpture he does would only be done to celebrate the divine, immortal God.
Artist Alonso had a beautiful painting of Mother Mary with a 12-year child-like face showcasing her innocence and obedience to God.

Garish Goldie Goldie Cathedral – Basilica San Juan De Dios!

What can I say about this Church other than it floors you! Barely a square inch of its interior lacks embellishment, most of it in gleaming gold and silver. Yes, it floors you is right – your soul feels weighted by all that glitz and glitter that is does not soar the way some other cathedrals made you feel.

With that said you still are enthralled by all that glittery architecture and I spent 20 minutes in the front pew taking it all in and then went and sat in the last pew taking it all in. As I was caught up in my own musings, I did not realize the family had wondered into the secret stairway to ascend directly into the altar section for a truly up close and personal look at the sacristy. This is not a Dan Brown novel I am writing that it would read “they stumbled into the dark passageway and climbed the hidden stairway where centuries old dark secret was revealed …”, but more like, “ this section is generously open to the public but you need to be escorted by the Church curator to ascend the stairway and she will shut the secret doorway behind you.

The curator being the nice woman that she was noticed I was sitting in the pew in the last row lost in my own musings and came over to tell me in Spanish the Familia were up taking a closer look at the sacristy. Sure enough, I peered hard from my vantage point and spotted them among all that ornate gold in their drab, sweat soaked clothes but looking super excited and waving to me! The curator unlocked the doorway and took me up the stairs for my up close encounter with the glitterati. It was ornate, beautiful but lacked soul with all that gaudy work. Obviously, the architect simply had not heard the term “when less is more”, this was more like “when more is still seen as less”. San Juan De Dios stands for St John of God, methinks this place could have been christened as “St John of the gold God”.

I for some reason was decidedly uncomfortable amidst all that glitter. According to the old testament, Solomon was commissioned to build a temple and the picture painted is that of overtly done gold, silver, jasper, cedar wood monstrosity which imho would have made God uncomfortable. This was as if someone got Solomon’s memo and decidedly went after it with gusto. Later, when I spoke to my Mom about it, she had an interesting take on it. She said the glory of God can be blinding and makes one look away? Perhaps, we are but fragile and sinful mortals and this was man’s vain attempt to showcase having to look away from God’s blinding Glory?

One of the paintings had an open curly brace and closed curly brace signifying the beginning and ending of life!

Whatever the reality may be this will go down as one of those churches that was quite unlike anything I’ve seen before.

In search of Mughli!

Having just grabbed that very light brunch we were starving and very tired. I am rather proud of myself that for the first time I was very content eating Spanish food and did not try to sell the family on eating Indian once every few days, which I typically did on other vacations. I analyzed why I have a hankering for Indian food on vacations : one runs oneself ragged with the crazy agenda to see everything there is in the new city and when one gets tired one feels most satisfied and nourished when one eats sumptuously the food one is most accustomed to! Hence to have that sense of equanimity I’ve hankered after Indian food at least once every few days, but surprisingly NOT on this trip. I was content, snug as bug in a rug eating tapas. It is hubby and my younger child that asked to eat Indian!

So, we yelped our way in sweltering heat to a restaurant called Mughli. However, Apple Maps took us in circles. We were tired, parched and hot. Girls and I went into a tiny convenience store run by a Chinese man got some Fanta and water. He had a giant fan in his store and we stood for a bit to cool ourselves off. Hubby came and told us he had located the restaurant; however it was closed for siesta and was going to open in 45 minutes.

We were disappointed and hungry, so we walked around some more and found a very trendy tapas bar, which had A/C and decided to do a small pre-course meal and while away 45 minutes in the blessed coolness. I had terrific tuna, green tomato bocadillo, the children had salmon bocadillos. The tapas were surprisingly dirt cheap as well.

Even though we did feel relatively stuffed, having invested close to an hour trying to locate Mughli we wanted our Indian dinner fix! We went to Mugli only to be told the Chef did NOT show up after his siesta and they weren’t sure he will even show up!!! However, the helpful guy saw our disappointed faces and suggested we try Mugli2 a sister restaurant and gave us the address. We GPS’ed it for walking directions but after 20 minutes of walking on a hot humid day we could NOT locate it and decided maybe we’ll just take a cab and go back to Real Macio for a nice nap. As luck would have it, my first-born got a flyer from a guy peddling a new restaurant that had just opened in a tucked away side street and lo and behold Mugli2!!!

We had delicious lamb phal (super spicy), mild butter chicken, gulab jamoon for dessert and felt super content.

Mirador On a magic Carpet ride – whole new Albaizin world and wonderfully framed by Sierra Nevada Mountains

Having had 2 dinners, there was no way we could go back to the hotel for a nap, That would have been plain decadent! So, we decided to do what seemed like 1,000 steps up to get to the top of Albaizin district, to the Mirador Plaza. I did not have any water with me, so huffing and puffin my way to the top without my trusty, talisman – “bottle of water” made me get anxious, specially since it was particularly hot and humid. Enroute first born and I stumbled upon a henna tattoo artist and decided we’d get a tattoo.

She did a custom selection of a poke ball (one of those anime, pokemon things) and I a pair of soaring birds symbolic of my feeling that despite getting buffeted by several ill-winds, I soared like birds by the amazing grace of God. My tattoo did not do justice to the way I felt inside and the immense sense of gratitude I had, because my tattoo birds looked rather anemic! The artist barely spoke any English and we thought he said he uses natural henna and no chemicals. First born and I experienced a bit of burning and felt a sense of panic. But we did not want to wash it off lest we leave a bigger smooshie mess or so we told ourselves. The burn went away in within about 10 minutes, but we managed to get it on to our clothes and had managed to blur and “undistinct” our outlines! Despite the drama, we both enjoyed the experience and sported the tattoo for a few days after which it faded away!

We also managed to find a small shop which sold water and I felt immensely better when I carried the bottle with me the remaining way to the top of the Mirador plaza. Once up top the small terrace was filled with holiday revelers, a nice, folksy music band and dancers and very fun. We stood nears the walls and watched the sunset bathing the Alahambra in a beautiful golden orange glow in the distance. This is definitely a must do. If you are well fed, and armed with a bottle of water you can very, very easily do this.

On the way down we decided to wait in line for a taxi and take it straight back to the hotel. We could have walked down the cobbled pave-way but decided to catch a cab. Catching a cab always reminds us of the Amazing race TV show. This time we noticed people who rode the cab to the top were reluctant to relinquish their cabs, instead were trying to convince them to wait with meters running to take them back down, and the cabbies did not seem to want to do that. While we got saddled with a cabbie and a family frantically arguing in sign language with each other over the running meter! The cab line behind us kept growing. The Family behind us in line managed to get the next rare cab that came by. They were very gracious and did not want to appear like they stole our cab and they waited to see if the squabbling Familia managed to reach a consensus and we got our ride before they left. We thought it was particularly endearing and thoughtful of them to make sure we got a cab before they took off. And all that due to the fact we were ahead of them in line. Who says kindness, empathy, sense of fairness does not exist.? It exists, albeit in pockets!

No Barber in Seville?

Drive to Seville and being latish?

We woke up a tad bit leisurely the next morning and drove to Seville. Seville is a 2.5 drive from Granada. Very pleasant drive with the Auto Pistas lined with gorgeous Oleander bushes in full bloom. You see a sea of pink, red and white!

We arrived at Seville in good time, but quickly realized, like Granada no private vehicles could park inside the main parts of the city. Unless I was Cinderella and had a Godmother, who could transform the car to a horse drawn carriage, I was out of luck. You see only horse drawn carriages were allowed near Alcazar palace. So, my Prince Charming had to drive around and figure out where to park. Soon, about 20 to 30 minutes away we found an underground public garage, we parked and high tailed it out of there.

You had me at Game of Thrones!

Aclazar (pronounced Alcathar) palace is gorgeous and must see in Sevilla. Good marriage of Moorish, baroque and renaissance architecture. As I read this description, the question mia familia raised was, “if we are doing Alahambra, why should we do Alcazar as well?”. Then I threw my trump card in – no, not the DJT card!!! I explained to the Familia most of Games of thrones was shot at the Alcazar and then everyone was in.

We caught a cab to be dropped off at Alcazar palace as we had a set time and ticket for the Upper palace tour. We arrived with 5 minutes to spare and noticed a very long winding line in the heat for entry tickets. From what I hear this never was the case earlier before the popular HBO show hit the airwaves, thank you Games of Thrones!!!

Was so glad we had pre-bought our tickets. As they let us in the lady said, “Upper palace tour is closed”. I showed her my watch and said there was 5 minutes to spare for the time imprinted on the ticket, she vociferously shook her head and said an emphatic no. Turns out on my ticket in Spanish in medium sized print it read : “for the Upper palace tour arrive 15 minutes early”


We went to collect our audio tapes, where the audio lady suggested we try our luck with the ticketeer at the Upper palace. The dude at the upper palace doorway was emphatic and pointed to our ticket which had the medium print in Spanish about arriving 15 minutes early. Na Habla Espanol did not sit well with him!

The upper palace still continues to be the official residence of Spanish royalty, so no high tea for me with Spanish Queenie! We decided lower palace it was and walked downstairs to start our self-guided tour from the gorgeous central court. After doing 2 rooms we were parched and hungry and went to the Café in the Palace Gardens. Spanish food does not disappoint. Had lovely bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches), delectable deserts and Evian water (no other water was available)!

Alcazar Palace

Highlights of Alcazar Palace visit:

King Carlos V (Charles) married his cousin Isabel in this palace. He fell in love with her and wanted to marry no one else. In our part of the world that would be very incestie!!
As a token of his love he replaced the Moorish woodwork ceiling in their bedroom with gorgeous renaissance style tray ceiling in beautiful rich mahogany. Every room had gorgeous ceiling done in intricate woodwork.
Isabel’s father was uncomfortable celebrating the wedding with a lot of fanfare as his other daughter had died. The couple had to spend their wedding night on their knees in prayer in the palace’s chapel and got to see the new tray ceiling much, much later – wink, wink!
Several mini courtyards done completely in marble, with lion head fountains and lace like lattice work – took your breath away!
The tile work in the Hall of Ambassadors where the King gave audience to other world leaders was spectacular looking. Interesting square room with a hexagon and dome for a ceiling giving it an ethereal feeling like the dome ceiling was free floating.
The ornate tile work looked very lace like and creamish. Later, I learned in their heyday they were colored and over the centuries lost their color and are more creamish now. I like the antique cream color better. Was subtle and beautiful, anything else must’ve been too gaudy!
There were several secret passageways where the King could be snuck out if trouble came a-knocking.
The girls went at full throttle on their own while their Dad and I paused in every room taking pictures and followed at leisurely pace admiring the humongous palace.
There was a hall of Tapestries! I love tapestries and I was very tempted to roll one and take it home!
Then there were the gardens resplendent with fountains, koi ponds, arbors, spice gardens and exotic trees.
The garden had an upper storey balcony walk around with Mughal windows where you could pause and gaze like a queen at all the loveliness that made up this enchanting palace.

Girls and I texted each other that the meeting place would be room #3 and when we got there they decided they wanted to go and do the queenie walkabout on upper storey balcony overlooking the gardens because it was what we considered one of the major “highlights”!

Loving Lebanese Food!

After the tour of the palace we decided we will walk around the main square and lovely cobbled streets. All of these towns, for that matter Barcelona as well has this distinctly charming cobbled pave ways and “kissing streets”. Aptly called so, because the alleys are so narrow with houses and shops lined up on each side that you stood in the doorway of one you will be within kissing distance of your neighbor!

All that Moorish architecture put us in the mood for Lebanese food!? So, we yelped our way to a restaurant called Café Beirut. We walked for what felt like an eternity running into several charming but distinct dead ends on the cobbled path and just when we thought we’d have to give up we arrive at Café Beirut. Charming little Café. Dinner consisted of:

Lebanese Pilaf topped with lamb meat shaving
Dolmados (grape leaves stuffed with minced meat, pine nuts, Greek food with a Lebanese flair)
Hummus and pita
Tomato / goat cheese toast

All the food appeared at our table beautifully plated on slate. The waiter had removed all the eating plates so couple of the family served themselves on paper napkins. This bothered me, but I felt like I might impose if I asked for the quarter plates to be brought back to the table. It is one of those moments in time, where one is bothered but foolishly one decides one won’t ask and then one berates oneself for being a wus! A lot of people I am sure can’t relate to this, so this is for my fellow “nonassertive” folks who cringe at having to be even be a tad bit assertive and then needlessly belly-ache over it! Ask for it, no one is going to spit on your food just because you asked that quarter plates not be taken away!

Subsequently every restaurant I went to I got a bit protective over the quarter plates!!!

Saw Kunefe on the menu and wanted to eat it but felt like I was bursting at the seams. So much so the Saudi pilaf went untouched and we had to get a doggie bag.

Gelato anyone?

After the heavy meal we decided we’ll walk back to the car. I had taken pictures of the parking garage’s name, the street it was on etc, so we could Apple map our way back to it. Sometime Apple maps does not work well and takes you to dead end, all those moments Google maps came to the rescue!

A brisk walk got us all thirsty and by the time we got closer to the garage we were parched. We spotted a delightful gelato shop and stopped for fresh exotic fruit smoothie, divine gelatos and café machiaato. Allegedly gelato is made from milk and not heavy cream like ice-cream, so I double scooped myself some delcioso pistachio gelato.

Once inside the hot underground garage, we realized the parking ticket could not be paid on the -3 floor with a credit card and pushing the buzzer to speak to a Spanish attendant was not helping at all. Girls and I sat in the car with the A/C on while hubby went all the way to floor -1 and managed to find a machine that would take his card. By the time he hoofed it back up to -3 he had run out 4 minutes and the garage was so tight we had to carefully back out. By the time we got to the gate, the clock on the ticket had expired! Remember, once you pay your parking ticket you have only 5 minutes to get out of the garage. Cars were piling up behind us, one more time pushed the buzzer (we were lucky there was a parking attendant in that garage otherwise we would’ve been screwed), who came to where we were took our CC back to his office and ran the 50 cents charge for spilling over into the 6th minute!

Tsk, tsk – poor design. Every garage should have the ability to swipe your credit card on your way out but both in Spain and France several have parking meters somewhere on your floors and you MUST remember to pay your ticket before you head out. The exits are very narrow, one way and NO ROOM to maneuver if you get stuck at the gate getting out – REMEMBER THAT!!!

Alhambro, Alhambro

To self-guide or not to self-guide?

Next morning, we woke up with our hearts a tad bit heavy as it was the last day of our vacK. It felt too short and did not want to go back to reality. Tapas-ing our way thru the Moorish plains was really fantastico, we were NOT ready to go back!

However, we had saved the best for last. We were going to do Alahambra and Nasrid palace before heading out. We packed up our suitcases and our concierge advised that plenty of parking was available at Alahambra and there was no reason for us to park at the hotel. Hotel Real Macio De Alahambra, I HIGHLY recommend this hotel – really nice and just 10 minute drive from Alahambra and all the city attractions.

We got to Alambra within 10 minutes and found a nice shady parking spot. The lot closest to the entrance was full, but lot 4 (furthest away) did have spots and we did not mind at all.

We had pre-bought tickets so no chance of being disappointed. This is a top vacK spot and on everybody’s must-do list so do be sure to book it months in ADVANCE. Specially Nasrid Palace entry tickets, they sell out very quickly. Buy it from the official government sites else instead of paying 15 to 20 Euros per ticket you will end up paying 100 Euros per person or more!

As we stood in line to get audio guides, a tour guide said she could show us around for 100 Euros. We considered it but decided given the HUGE size of this complex we were much better off doing this on our own with the audio guides. I think it was the right decision because we lingered where we felt drawn and rushed where we weren’t drawn!

While in line I heard one tourist tell his brood, “Alahmbra stands for Red City in Arabic”.

General Life

Alahambra is a HUGE complex with 7 palaces with Nasrid being the grandest of them all. Our first stop was Heneral Lefay (General Life) which is one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve set my eyes on. The weather was sweltering and oppressively hot, but in Heneral Lefay it was cool and lovely – go figure. Profusion of hand sculptured bushes and profusion of flower beds of roses, asters, geraniums. Something about it was extremely inviting and spoke to the soul.

Apparently the Nasrid family owned the entire place and Carlos V decided to section off regions and give away some areas to his Generals. There was a lawsuit for 100 years but the Nasrids lost and were able toretain only 1/3 rd of the property.

From the Gardens which was comprised of several flat terraces one had a spectacular view of the city of Granada and Albayzin quarters down below.

The garden had a huge canopy walkway of Oleanders, their heady fragrance filled the air, and this was done in tribute to Queen Isabel of Spain. Isabel seems to be a common name among Spanish royalty, sort of like Elizabeth of England. This queen Isabel is credited with being the one that put Spain on the map with her sponsoring several expeditions and spear heading empire expansion!

That reminded us that 24 hours thence we’d be back to the Americas and we needed to check in. We managed to get the children seated together and us seated together but for some reason the boarding card for our first born would not get issued! We decided we’d have to have that sorted out at the airport later.

Alahambra is so vast that it has several access points from different points in the city, so do remember to keep your tickets handy cause you get check-pointed at every palace entrance.

We spent several hours walking around General Life because it was enthralling.

We got hungry and decided to eat at the only restaurant on the property. Very fru-fru place with very good food. It had liveried waiters, a proper sit down place with nice ambience.

We enjoyed a great meal of:

Spanish bread and lentil soup
Stuffed ravioli
Sweetened egg plant fried
Patata bravas
Multi-bean hearty soup

Was tempted to have our last glass of Sangria but we knew we had a long 5-hour drive into Valencia and decided not to.

Carols V Palace

Fortified by the nice lunch we walked over to the Carlos V palace. Very impressive and massive central courtyard. It was like standing in the center of the roman colosseum with the arches and building completely intact. Interesting point about Moorish influence is the arches are invariably supported by a cluster of 2 to 3 Doric columns. We walked over to the second floor where there was a lovely museum with gorgeous painting from famous artists of that time.

Some of the paintings did make one feel uncomfortable. One which showed the former Muslim occupants of the palace being escorted out of their palace with all their belongings.

Being a humongous complex, the 2nd floor houses many museums, and the girls texted us and it appeared like they had gone to another museum and indicated they will meet us outside Nasrid palace. We weren’t sure whether Nasrid palace had fine print detail like must be there before 15 minutes that we had failed to read yet again, so we hightailed it with 30 minutes to spare to our entrance timing.

Nasrid Palace

There was long winding queue in the blazing Granada sun. This was indeed the “ticket holder’s” line. Thankfully, there were drinking water fountains and few concrete benches here and there to help, I simply doused myself in cold water to combat the heat.

Nasrid palace is another exemplary example of Moorish architecture with touches of Baroque and renaissance once the city changed hands to the Spaniards. There were several courtyards done in beautiful marble with lion head fountains. Like Alcazar of Seville, delicate arches supported by clusters of 2 to 3 Doric columns were peppered through out the palace. The ceilings were done in beautiful wood.

Just like Alcazar, the intricate lace work in marble and tiles simply took one’s breadth away. In fact, the look and feel were so similar I now simply cannot recollect which was which …

Not to be the lesser babka in any way, Nasrid Palace had its own gardens as well. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Drive to Valencia

It was about 6.30 PM when we decided it was time to say good-bye to Granada and drive 5 hours into Valencia. Be mindful, the tolls are expensive, but the drive is pleasant.

Some of the gas stations (Repsol) do NOT have CC payment at the pump, so do remember to have your vehicles gassed up before 10 PM, lest you get stuck on the highway late hours and the manned counters are closed. So, before we left Granada we pulled into a Repsol and gassed up.

We called the hotel to inquire about parking and they did tell us the attached parking was rather small and we may have to find parking on the road. On arrival into Valencia we noticed the hotel was located on a very busy road, but we found parking across from it right on the main road.

No Valencia Oranges, but finale Tapas’ing in style!

We decided to do dinner before we checked in, so left the luggage in the parked car and started walking around. Girls are sushi-junkies, we tried to yelp our way to a sushi place but after walking for about 15 minutes we couldn’t find it. We saw a nice Tapas Merkat bar open and walked for a “last tapas supper” and turned out to be great decision.

Dinner consisted of :

Tomatino toast
Mushroom done with creamy eggs
Bed of patata scallops with delicate bull’s eye eggs (we were saddened by the bullfight rings we saw in Sevilla, but also realized it is hypocritical of us since we are meat eaters)
Sausage tapas

As tempted as we were to do one last glass of Sangria topped with Valencia oranges, we refrained knowing we only had a few hours of sleep before we needed to pack up and drive out from Valencia to Barcelona to make our flight.

We walked back to the car, grabbed our suitcases and crossed the road and almost got sideswiped by a crazy Valencia driver! The attendant at our counter assured us parking on the road was OK if it was after 11 PM and if we moved out by 7AM. We intended to wake up at 5 AM and high tail it to Barcelona.

This boutique hotel was interesting, was a very tiny loft style room. Felt like a doll house, the girls had narrow bunk beds, and in the loft space we had a double bed. Met the need to crash for the night. I told the girls not to unpack anything as we only had a few hours of sleep before we were to wake up.

We asked Siri for a wakeup call on all our phones just to play it safe and told the front desk attendant as well. Turns out the hotel clock on hubby side of the bed kept flashing lights on to the ceiling once every 15 seconds making it almost impossible to sleep. He should’ve covered it with a towel, but he said he was too tired to walk down the narrow flight of stairs from the loft to the bathroom to grab a towel.

South of the Matter Conclusion - Wee hour Barcelona drive and back to heneral leaf-ay

Siri kept her promise and so did the front desk woman. We woke up feeling groggy but quickly brushed our teeth and trooped out, suitcases in tow. At 5.30 AM in the morning we did see traffic. We crossed the road and almost got side swiped by a cabbie who then had the audacity to stop to ask if we needed a ride to the airport! Couple of close calls there!

Valencia to Barcelona is about a 2.5 to 3-hour drive and is easy enough. Easy enough if you aren’t feeling groggy! With all the drives, hubby was feeling rather tired …

He was the only insured driver with an IDP, so neither I nor my first born could provide any relief. I kept incessant non-stop chatter up, including slapping him silly (at his request) to make sure he wasn’t dozing off.

Saw sunrise over Valencia – made for a lovely sight. As we reached close to Barcelona we pulled into a gas station with an attached restaurant and had lovely breakfast: pound cake, chocolate filled croissants and pots of coffee.

We returned the car to Avis and they inspected to ensure you have not added any scratches – it is a miracle given some of the spaces were so tight that even 16 point turns wouldn’t cut it!

At the airport they had us put the suitcases into the size-check and almost insisted we check it in! We had carried our bags with us on our way in and tried to tell them we hadn’t bought anything other than a few souvenir shot glasses from each city (to add to my collection of shot glasses from around the world) and a few pebbles I had picked up on the Nice beach (which was nice – hehe). In fact, I had even opened out one small expandable duffle bag (we call it the Nelson bag, as it is a swag gift from our BIL) to hold our wet beach clothes and other laundry from our main suitcases! We had to go thru this song and dance sequence because for some reason the system would not let us check in our first born online. The rest of us had our boarding cards.

Quite a few people in the line ahead of us were getting an offer of $800 per person if they were willing to give up their seat on the overbooked flight. We were debating whether we should take it given that we could use that toward tickets for our next vacK. It was a moot point because the families ahead of us all grabbed the offer and we weren’t even asked!

First born got pulled over for an additional security check, and so did a bunch of other teenage kids. Wonder what that was all about? They confiscated her Burt’s Bees face cream as it was in a tube that was 4.7 Oz instead of 4 Oz. She is rather fond of her Burt’s Bees, so she wasn’t thrilled about losing it, but par for the course.

I continued writing my travelogue on the long flight home. They served us excellent food on the long flight back including a lattice work stuff spinach pastry which we all loved.

We had a 5 hour lay over in Philly and all of us were feeling exhausted to the bone. I was feeling a bit nauseous and light headed as we cleared customs.

The children and their Dad enjoyed a Philly cheese steak and some sushi, and I tried to catch some sleep.

By the time we reached Palm Beach it was 1 AM and we still had a 3-hour drive home. Hubby was officially wiped out and I was still groggy. We tried to pull into a rest area for some shut eye but it was pitch black and there were warning signs everywhere there was no security. I drove like a bat out of hell and got us back to our heneral lefay (General Life)!!!

Refreshed, I am excited and look forward to entering the next chapter of my life with gusto!


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