A Celebration

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Friday, July 9, 2010

First of all, apologies for the blog-hiatus … apparently family stuff is way more time consuming than travelling 80,000km around the World. Who'da thunk it? Anyways, without even further ado, let’s go back a couple of weeks…

To our relief, Spain managed to squeak past Paraguay in the quarter-finals and will play their first ever world cup semi-final on Wednesday evening, so we’re expecting an evening full of emotion, but as their opponents are the impressive German team we’re not sure whether those emotions will be "Ole" or “hasta luego”? Bearing in mind that Germany knocked out England in the round-of-16, Sarah will be enthusiastically rooting for the Spaniards!

With our flight to Barcelona booked for Tuesday morning, Monday was free for fun with the kids and so Grandma, Grampy and Sarah took them off to one of Somerset’s most famed attractions – Wookey Hole Caves. Legend has it that the caves were home to a witch who was accused of various mishaps in the local village and so Father Bernard was appointed by the Abbot of Glastonbury to exorcise the Witch of Wookey and he turned her to stone by sprinkling holy water on her. The kids weren’t overly impressed by the witch or the caves, but had great fun posing with King Kong, watching paper being made by hand and playing in the old-fashioned penny arcades.

Bright and early on Tuesday morning we said goodbye to the kids, leaving them for the first time in six months and Grampy drove us to Bristol airport for our flight to Barcelona. It was a smooth and pleasant flight with Easyjet, followed by a quick bus ride into the centre of Barcelona. And so “When in Spain”….. we found a little restaurant near the cathedral for a spot of lunch and a jug of Sangria….I think I’m going to like Barcelona! The hotel was just a few minutes up the street and therefore within walking distance of many of the city attractions.

As one of the prime reasons for our visit to Barcelona is to watch the semi-final, we headed out to find a good venue to watch the first semi-final between Uruguay and Holland. Our first stop was an Irish bar just off of “La Ramblas” with a good atmosphere, but a rather limited and expensive menu and as we hadn’t eaten we made a sharp exit at half-time and found an open air restaurant showing the game. The menu was better but the atmosphere was rather lacking; Research done - the Irish bar will be our target for the Spain game tomorrow.

Wednesday was spent wandering through the gothic quarter, up and down “La Ramblas” and perusing the Picasso museum; a pleasant lazy day doing the kinds of things that the kids generally don’t enjoy (although Alex is a huge fan of Picasso and we felt a little guilty visiting the Picasso museum without him). Expecting the pubs to be rather busy for the semi-final , we were in the Irish bar two hours before kick-off and it was already standing room only. Still, we grabbed ourselves a spot and settled in to watch what promised to be an entertaining game, if only for the fact that the pub was rapidly filling up with what seemed to be an even mix of Spanish and German fans.

The game was a very good one and we were quite happy to see the Spanish claim their first ever world cup final berth. Looking at them, the victory seemed to come as a bit of a shock even to the Spanish and so, curious to see what sort of celebrations might unfold, we followed the crowds out of the pub and up “La Ramblas”. Rather bizarrely, the crowd congregated at a somewhat mundane intersection outside a McDonalds and a KFC??? Joining the crowds, we reveled in the party atmosphere and sang a few “ole-ole-ole-ole”s with the locals before retreating to a safe distance once the occupants of the flats above started hurling buckets of water down onto the crowd ;-)

With one more full day at our mercy, we boarded a sightseeing bus and spent the day hopping on and off the bus at various stops and baking in the sunshine! Favourite stops were certainly Sagrada Familia and the Park Gruell. Sagrada Familia is the church designed by Gaudi whose construction began in the early 20th century and will not be complete for another 50 years! Two facades, each comprised of four 100m high towers makes for quite the spectacle even without the Gaudi style of architecture. Hopefully we can return sometime in the future to view its progress, which includes a third facade and even bigger towers in the centre! Park Gruell was also designed by Gaudi and was intended to be a housing development, although most of the homes were never built. Gaudi’s style was certainly unique and way ahead of his time; we thoroughly enjoyed his contribution to this wonderful city. The Nou Camp was also on the bus route, but having been to quite a few stadiums of late filled with soccer fans, the appeal of touring an empty one wasn’t great and the $25 price tag was enough to keep us on the bus.

Unfortunately we had booked our return flight with Ryanair and it was only on the day before our return that we discovered that the airport we were to fly out of, advertised as Girona(Barcelona), was not actually in Barcelona, but an hour and a half north of the city! Grrrrr…..this just adds to our existing loathing of Ryanair, unfortunately though they do seem to be the only operators of some of the routes we need to fly and we have two more flights with them before we return to Canada. Being so far from the airport, we had to check-out of the hotel at 6:15am to walk to the bus station in time to catch the bus to the airport. Ryanair had informed us that holding non-EEC passports we would have to go to the baggage drop to have our passports verified, necessitating an early arrival at the airport to allow time for this. On arrival at the airport, we discovered an independent desk for the passport verification and having no bags to check-in we found ourselves in the departure area two hours earlier than necessary. Our anger was further heightened when having lined up early to board the aircraft we were subsequently held to one side as boarding began to have our passports verified again! Once onboard the service was as shoddy as expected, but we arrived safely back in Bristol anxious to see the kids again – having been together 24/7 for six months it was really quite strange to be without them for three days….

Without the parents around the kids were probably spoiled rotten and had lots of fun with Grandma and Grampy. Their days were filled with a visit to Avon Valley adventure park, a day looking after and playing with their youngest cousin Isla and a trip to the Haynes Motor Museum, not to mention walking the dog, playing football, reading and Alex’s newly found gardening skills – we’ll be sure to put those to good use on our return to Canada ;-)
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