Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back to Life, Back to Reality

I spent part of the day yesterday trying to figure out if I could head home early.  I'm scheduled to leave DC next Tuesday.  I love Jason's company and this town; but I don't have anything to keep me productive and I am reluctant to do anything that costs money.  I am consumed with the thought of (and the dread of) the state my home is in right now.  It's dry, but there is a ton of repair work that needs to be done.  Despite my best efforts and a more-than-heroic amount of help from my mom while I was abroad, the work just isn't happening.  I think the repair company is taking advantage of my absence to put off doing the work I've already approved, using the Waldo Canyon fires as further excuses for their delays.

As much as I'd like to be home, though, it's not going to happen; the price of changing my ticket is just too high.  And so I'm spending a lot of my time on the phone with the insurance companies, the HOA, and the repair guys trying to get the job going.  It would be nice if the major work was done by the time I got home.  I have doubts.

I need new carpeting, kitchen flooring, and, thanks to their ripping out the lower parts of my walls to dry the interiors, new drywall and paint.  The HOA's insurance policy won't cover anything other than the drywall, and it has also come to light that I had been sold the wrong type of insurance for my secondary policy, so there's a really good chance that none of those repairs will be covered.  So while Jason talks about hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro next summer, I'm giving up any big travel plans to pay for new carpeting and paint out of pocket.  Shakes fist at washing machine pipes.  (Not that I'd want to hike a mountain with him.  Far too much nature for my tastes.)

In an effort to be productive, I went to Home Depot today and came home with an armful of carpet samples and paint chips.  I also came home grumpy.  It feels like a lot of major decision-making is required in areas where I feel little confidence in my abilities or knowledge.  Secondarily, I am feeling very aware of being alone in these decisions (despite the excellent support of my family).  Finally, there's a part of me that just wants to go home.  I haven't been home, properly home, since that one night there I snagged after the New York trip at the end of May; but even next Tuesday that won't be possible.  My home is a mess of ripped up carpeting, exposed studs, boxed up belongings, and misplaced furniture.  It isn't a home right now, and it won't be until I get through a lot of obstacles that have to take time.

And school starts up again in less than two weeks.

I should be excited about this.  I get to redo my place.  I get new carpeting, which I really did need.  The old carpeting, put in by the previous owners, was the cheapest possible and didn't even have a pad in some places.  Some of the samples I brought home are so plush I keep running my fingers over them.  And rubbing them against my cheek.  And I may have hugged a larger carpet sample at the store today so I could close my eyes just for a moment and pretend I was lying on the floor at home.

This will be a good thing in the end.  I just have to get it to begin.


Sunday, July 29, 2012


We made it, but did our luggage? Let's find out!

PS We were a bit liberal with the carry-on rules, but our ceramics and rugs made it this far!

Goodbye Amsterdam!

Our time was brief and hardly memorable.

Hello Amsterdam!

We've arrive for a 3.5 hour layover - long enough for a stamp in the passport and a bite to eat. Next stop, DC!

Goodbye Barcelona!

I will miss you, with your restaurants and beaches and flamenco dances with giant shawls of envious 18-inch fringe.

P.S. Don't worry, Jason's on the flight. He's in the row in front of me in a matching red shirt, one of the unexpected disadvantages of not sharing a room. :)

Dinner at Citrus

We had tickets for a concert that began at 9:30, so we went in hunt of dinner at 7:30. Oh, Spanish time! You are so different than my culture!

Several of the restaurants we passed were not open yet, but we found one a block from our hotel that was open and that sounded good.

It was good; in fact, my appetizer was one of the best things I ate on this trip. Pictures below!

Bread with Tomato and Olive Oil

Foie and green apple mille with goat cheese and Pedro Jimenez reduction (which taste like soy sauce)
Grilled tuna with tomatoes and avocado
Dark chocolate with passion fruit foam and peach sauce

Flamenco at the Palau Musica Catalana

It was 17 euros to tour this modernists concert hall and 30 euros for a ticket to the show Saturday night, so we opted to take in a concert for our last night of the trip.

We suspected it would be touristy, but figured it couldn't possibly be worse than the concert we went to our first night in Greece. But I had forgotten that the issue with touristy shows is not the show itself, but the tourists.

To be fair, some of the issue was poor staging. The flamenco floor was as fa downstage as possible while the chairs for the singers and guitarists were set up center stage. This meant that half the stage was going unused and, due to the very low rake of the audience, no one could see the dancers very well. Whenever a dancer came out, all of the rows in frog of us would lean forward and crane their neck to see, completely blocking my view. If I adopted a similar pose I could see the occasional twirling hand in the air or a glimpse of a dancer between heads, but I could only rarely see their feet, the part of the show I most wanted to watch.

There were many other behaviors driving me nuts - kids talking or thumping their seats throughout the performance, adults checking their cell phones oblivious to the amount of light that puts out, people taking photos with unsuccessful surreptition (and in. a few cases, with flash!), and general behaviors that a well-trained audience knows better than to do.

On the other hand, they loved the show. They applauded wildly throughout, attempted to clap along, and gave an enthusiastic standing ovation at the end. I do love watching people enjoy a show, and the decor of the house was fun, so even if we couldn't see the show itself, it was not a wasted time.

Sagrada Familia

To be honest, I didn't know much about this church other than it being designed by Gaudi and it topping everyone's itineraries for Barcelona. As we got closer to visiting, I read up a little about it, but I was in no way prepared for seeing it in person. The cathedral is astonishing, perhaps my favorite site from this trip. The size, the colors from the stained glass, the familiar cathedral feelings with such new looks and open ambiance- this tops my list of cathedrals now, and I would definitely come back to Barcelona just to see it finished, if I'm still alive by then.

Dinner at Hisop

I've never had any hesitations with spending money on show tickets. Where others might balk at the idea of spending 50, 70, 100 dollars for a few hours of entertainment, I always felt it was worthwhile, even when the shows I'm watching do not live up to my hopes. It's the price of theater, and theater is my hobby.

In the last year or so that financial philosophy has grown to include meals. The cause of the adaptation is hardly a mystery, but rather the combined effects of a friendship with Jason, a Thanksgiving celebration in Paris, and the discovery of what a difference a Michelin star makes.

Between Paris, New York, and this trip we've eaten very well this year and we added our seventh Michelin restaurant to our list Friday night. I have spent several hundred dollars on seven meals, a feat of luxury I never expected and that still amazes me in my more prudent moments (such as whenever I think about the repairs still to come in my poor flooded home).

Yes, they are expensive as meals go, but they are also just as memorable and pleasurable as seeing a fine piece of theater or paying the entrance fees to a few museums. As we've eaten this week we've reminisced about previous meals, sighing over the memories of the favors, the presentation, the ambiance, the service.

"Luxuries once tasted" indeed. This is a habit I have no desire to break.

Hisop is a tiny (8 tables) restaurant with minimalist design and a highly attentive waitstaff. We enjoyed the tasting menu (again, I'm a huge fan of these now. When we went to dinner last night and I actually had to make my own choices about what to eat and I only got three items instead of a wee bit of many, I missed that style!), which I am going to defer to Jason's detailed blog post about it since I am posting by phone at the airport, making pictures tricky. The food was splendid (two kinds of olive oil served with biographies for us to compare!) even the items I normally wouldn't touch (sardines, for example) I ate without worry because I knew they would be excellently prepared.

Ah, Michelin. It's a good thing you don't have a red book for Denver.

Our Hotel

Mom offered to put us up in Barcelona using some of her and Dad's Marriott points. In an even more remarkably generous move, she booked us two rooms at the Marriott with a better location rather than the one with twin beds farther from the action.

And what a location! A block from the Block of Discord and in the midst of an upscale shopping area (such overwhelming retail options after the souks of Morocco!), it was perfect!

I was a little sad to not be sharing a room. It's really convenient for planning and I do love the conversations that happen in the dark as we're drifting to sleep.

That sadness lasted all of the three seconds it took for me to see the room I got all to myself. And even more so to see the bathroom I got all to myself. I took a bath AND a shower after the beach, then walked around my room a la Eulalia, enjoying the time I had to put on makeup and jewelry and iron my clothes before meeting in the lobby to go out to dinner. It was luxurious, and I felt closer to pretty than scungy for the first time in days.

The hotel was impeccable. Thank you once again, Mom and Dad!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lunch day 2

Jason turned to me suddenly as we were seeing the sights of Barcelona Friday. "You seem to have shut down," he said. "What do we need to do?"

It was true. I was dragging, and it wasn't hard for me to figure out what I needed. "I need to hydrate and I need a bathroom," I declared.

"Okay," he said. "Then you're in charge. Do what you need."

We were near the cathedral where St. Eulalia's entombed. She was martyred at the age of 13. Apparently she was stripped naked as part of her torture, but "a miraculous snowfall" preserved her modesty. While I bet she would have liked a warmer veiling, I was a bit envious of Eulalia as the sweat dripped down my neck. It was hot. Not Marrakesh hot, but Barcelona was also more humid than the other places we've been on this trip, and I was parched.

My being in charge lasted about five minutes before Jason seized the reigns back from my lagging, indecisive self and marched us into a cafe. A trip to one of the smallest bathrooms I've ever seen, a bottle of water, a can of Fanta Limon, and a salami sandwich, and I was ready to hit the town running again. Well, not so much running as leisurely strolling, but still.


A proper way to spend our final day. More blog entries to come, but they may come stateside. For now we're off to a Flamenco concert at the Palau Musica Catalana.

Friday, July 27, 2012


We were ambling down the Ramblas when suddenly Jason dashed away to the right like a moth to a light.

Or, more accurately, like a former Belgian missionary to a gaufre shop.

Walking Around Barcelona

If you can't do a city in a day, you're not trying hard enough, right?

Today we walked and walked and walked. Tomorrow we beach!