Monday, June 27, 2011

Botany Bay

Yesterday our good Russian friends invited us for a picnic at the beach at Botany Bay, Broadstairs. So nice to have friends with a van. ;) London experienced a "heat wave" this weekend, (like 85-90 farenheit, I know funny), so we all wanted to take advantage of it before it is literally gone tomorrow! Yes, weather changes that drastically here.

Marisa was in beach heaven. That girl could not contain herself in the car.
And it was nice for all of us to be in our element again.

It was a really low tide that day so we got to swamp around and climb rocks when we normally wouldn't have been able to.

Tim really loves the natural beauty of our earth. He was fascinated by the unusually bright white rocks everywhere. It was actually really pretty. Tim also loved the formation of the cliffs and the natural caves him and the girls got to explore.

One entrance led them to the top of this cliff. Yes, that is Vitali and Tim with our oldest daughters at the edge. Heartattack for mommy!

We are so glad to have met the Schmakov's. They have two daughters the exact same age as ours and we get along with them so well. Such a blessing to have such wonderful friends.
Plus, they have some crazy, yet funny, Russian stories. It is no joke, Russians really are the things you hear...haha. In fact, besides Vitali suggesting we take guns to Spain next time to shoot people who steal from us, he said we should just put a sticker on our bags that say, "I have Russian friends." And no one will want to mess with us then. haha Gotta love them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


It's now D-day...


here I go....


Our final day of our trip was filled with traveling. As I woke up early that morning I mentally braced myself for a long day. We weren't going to arrive to London until midnight that day and we had to be at certain places at certain times all day long. We needed the day to run as smoothly as possible.
Morning went fine loading the car, getting breakfast, and driving to Barcelona. Another 2 1/2 hour drive to Barcelona - no problem.
We arrived to the airport to drop off the car - no problem.
We found the right train to take us to the nearest metro stop by the bus station - no problem.
So far so good.

As we were walking from the metro stop to the bus station, I was so relieved to be at this point already. The bus was a 3 1/2 hour ride to Zaragoza which is where our cheap flight was flying out of. All we had to do now was chill on a bus and have a pleasant ride like we did coming to Barcelona.
The girls were doing great, trying hard to hang in there with us. I kept telling them to hang in there just a little bit longer because once we get on that bus we are done with this trip! Ironically, I vividly remember thinking as we walked into the bus station, "We made it. We survived Barcelona and we were never pickpocketed...."

The bus station was super busy this day and it was really hot. I remember thinking on the metro that out of all the days to have beach weather it is the day we are leaving Spain. I was so bummed and wished we were staying another day...

Tim had two of our big suitcases with a little carry-on suitcase strapped to one of the big ones and his back pack on his back. I had Natalie in the stroller and Marisa at my side. There were dozens of buses parked with people getting on them and some getting off them. We were trying to locate which bus was ours and what time we wanted to leave. You can choose the time you want to leave. We were going back and forth several times across the street from one side of the station to the other trying to locate the right bus. We wanted to get one that left ASAP. Because it was hot and we didn't want to keep dragging all the luggage and make Marisa walk back and forth we decided to just go off to the side and assess the situation.
Tim suggested we just park our bodies off to the side outside but it was really crowded and hot and I was nervous that the girls would just wonder off and get lost in the crowd or onto the street. Plus, I wanted to change them into cooler clothes because they were both now sweating.
We walked into the bus station and found an empty area in front of a little shop. Perfect. We unloaded our stuff by a bench that had another bench right behind it. Tim said for me to wait right there with our stuff while he went to figure out our bus. (We already had tickets we just needed assigned seats allocated to us and the time of the first available bus.) We thought because we had tickets it wouldn't take very long.
So while Tim was gone I changed Natalie's diaper right there in the stroller, changed the girls' clothes, and then sat down and let out a big sigh. I had the two big suitcases right next to me to my right, the stroller was right in front of me in front of my legs, and Tim's backpack right next to me on the bench to my left.
Perfect timing, I thought. We all had lunch already, it is Natalie's nap time and she can sleep on the bus, the girls have cooler clothes on, we are almost there.
I let the girls wander close by to get their wiggles out like all little ones do. They would walk up to the shop that was closed for siesta and look in, and then come sit by me, and then chase each other in this small little area, no biggie.

Then this is where it happens...
Natalie is following right behind Marisa while Marisa runs to the bench behind the bench I am sitting on and she sits down herself. She sits there for just a couple of seconds when I notice a man quickly sit behind me.

I look back over my left shoulder thinking it was really odd for this man to sit down so quickly and literally right next to Marisa. But then again, that is city life and you sit where you can find a seat. But I remained alert and kept a close eye on my girls.

I remember Marisa looking up at him and I remember seeing the back of his white shirt. I couldn't see this man's face at the time.
I then look up toward my left side and I see another man with a backpack over his shoulder looking down at his hand that was touching a high table which was right next to the bench. He was probably 8-10 feet away from me. I keep looking at him and then he suddenly says something kinda under his breath. I didn't make out what he said or to he was saying it, at that split second I didn't think too much of it, but after the incident he was actually talking to the man sitting behind me.

In that instant my suitcase to the right of me tips over. I look to my right to see what happened, how it fell. I straighten my bag a bit to see that the man behind me kind of touched it and I say to the man behind me, "That's my stuff." He quickly kinda mumbles something, I think he said, "Oh ok," and I go to turn back to my left to grab Tim's bag and pull it a little closer to me. But before I could he then kinda gets up and in English says, "Watch your stuff." I turn to my right again and I quickly say without really looking at him, "Ok, I know," and go to turn back to my left yet again when he now stands straight up, touches the top of my suitcase, looks me in the eye, and says slowly and firmly, "Remember, watch your stuff." I rudely reply, "I know!" and stand up to bring my suitcases closer. I'm halfway turned back to my left when I see Tim running past me with a panic yet determined face.
Panic strikes me suddenly because my senses just registered what happened but my mind didn't want to accept it. I quickly turn left to complete my turn and quickly assess the bench and my belongings around me.

Tim's back pack is gone.

"OH my GOSH," I say at loud. My hands go on my head and I say again, "OH MY GOSH, he took the bag! I can't believe this is happening." My hands then go over my eyes and I begin to panic and plea, "Oh, Heavenly Father please! This is not happening..."

Mind you, from the second the man sits down to when Tim's goes running past me happened in a total of 30 seconds. So while this whole distraction from the men is going on I'm thinking of a million things that are happening to me at the moment yet nothing at all at the same time. Time was slow, yet so fast. Weird how your body reacts to danger.

My body is now shaking and I'm panicking. I take one step forward to follow Tim because I knew I could help him catch the guys. I mean, it just happened! But I quickly stop because for obvious reasons: #1 my girls are just standing there, I can't leave them unattended, #2 the rest of my belongings cannot be unattended, #3 I have no idea who else around me is working with those men.

To stand there and feel totally helpless is an awful feeling. I was hoping that Tim ran fast enough to catch the guy, I was silentely praying that it would all be solved in a few seconds, and I was trying to find someone to help me, but who??

I look to my right to see a bunch of American looking young adult men and I naturally wanted to ask them to help me, but do I trust them? I went ahead with my gut feeling and said, "Please, help me! A man just stole my bag! My husband went after him! Can you help me?"

They quickly reacted and looked genuinely concerned. At that point I only hoped they were genuine.

They run off to the centre of the bus station outside where I had pointed them to to see how they can help. I then glance further to my right and see a policeman. Oh good, I thought! I motion to him and suddenly I am speaking Spanish I didn't even know I knew. If you were to ask me to say what I said in Spanish again I couldn't.

As I'm rambling the policeman slowly approaches, taking his time, and asks how long ago did it happen. Just now!

He then walks slowly off to help. Ugh.

Tim then runs back...


Are you kidding me?
I'm still shocked, shaking, and the look of defeat in Tim's eyes made me cry. I felt horrible. I felt like it was all my fault. Why didn't I grab that bag?? Why wasn't I holding on to that bag??
Tim just gave me a big hug and we held each other while I was saying sorry over and over again.
The young adults soon come back, empty handed too...

So, I'm going to pause and interrupt here to explain Tim's side of the story to this point...

Tim walked down the escalators and turned the corner to look up and see this man (the 2nd man who was standing by the table) swoop down real fast and put a black bag over his shoulder and walk away. His first reaction, "That's funny he would pick up his own bag like that..."
Then within a second he scans the benches and thinks, "That's my bag!"
Tim goes sprinting down the hallway to catch up to the thief that just stole his bag. As he runs out of the station there is a 3rd man, (yes, 3rd man), waiting for him and in perfect English (odd...) says, "He went that way," and points left. Tim without even thinking starts running left, but after 5 steps realises that he should have known better than to believe that man. He instantly knew that man totally lied to him and that he is working with the thieves. Tim spins around and the 3rd man just shrugs his shoulders. Tim just glared at him, but didn't have time to deal with him because he wanted to catch that guy.
Tim then turns to where the man ran off and there was nobody around. The station just emptied out into an empty staircase that went into the plaza.

Luckily, (or so Tim thought), there was a police station literally right next door to the bus station, he ran through the front doors and said, "My bag was just stolen!"
The police man at the desk said, "Well, my companion isn't here yet, can you come back in an hour and a half?"
"Are you kidding me?" Tim thought.

He quickly left to find me where I was freaking out and in shock.

So from there we all walked next door and talked with the police. I'm pacing around back and forth, back and forth, in front of the police desk explaining what happened and Tim as well. I was so frustrated that police men and women were just lounging around doing nothing. And there were quite a bit! Siesta?
I was screaming out in English, "Why aren't they doing anything!? He is right outside!"

Everyone was taking their sweet time doing, what, I have no idea and showing very little interest in the matter.
"Do you know what they look like? Can you spot them out?" they asked me.
"YES! Now let's go! They are just right outside!"

My frustrations were useless. To them, the thieves were gone. But to me, I knew they couldn't have gone so far...yet. I felt like there was still time.
The anger in me just kept rising and my heart was beating faster than before. I couldn't sit still. I could only keep pacing.
Growing more and more frustrated at the lack of the response from the police, (I mean, can't you radio phone all the cops around the station and plaza to watch out for these men that I can describe in perfect detail with a black bag??), I walked outside because I couldn't contain it anymore. I just put my hands on my head and yelled out in complete anger, "Bastards!"

Yes. That is the first thing that came to my head. The only thing I was feeling.
How dare they steal from me like that?? I was alone with my girls and you targeted me like that? How dare you look me straight into the eye and say, "Watch your stuff," when you are knowingly going to rob me! How dare you!! And I said the "B" word several times after that too.

I then just start to cry. I'm so mad. But I have to contain myself. My girls...

I go back inside to see Tim making phone calls, talking with police, etc. Natalie is calm and sitting in her stroller saying, "Mommy, sad," and Marisa is just laying back against the wall real quiet. One police officer who spoke English kinda well began to calm me down and express his apologies. All the while I am tearfully telling him, "How could they?"

He said to me, "You were an easy target. They want to steal from someone they can easily fight off. You were alone and with two young children. You were the perfect target. The thieves just want your electronics to sell in the black market. They will most likely throw away your passports and any other items in the bag. Sometimes people will find passports and bring them into the police station. But only sometimes."

I look down to see Marisa just standing there kinda spacey. She hasn't said a single thing yet and I knew something was wrong. I bent down to her level and asked what was wrong....and this part kills me and gets me every time...

She runs into my arms and immediately starts sobbing loudly. And I mean sobbing. I then start to cry, but I'm trying so hard to hold it back for her. I ask her, "What is wrong sweetheart? Please tell me."

In between sobs she replies, "I don't want them to throw away Jessie in the trash! Why did they take our bag?"

I then remember that her Jessie doll (from Toy Story 3) was in that back pack. Her absolute favourite doll she got for her 4th birthday right before we moved to London.

I just held her so tightly and it is only then where I shut my eyes so tightly and desperately invisioning, forcing my mind to mentally take me back to California. Back to my comforts, back to my home, back to my familiarity, back to safety...
I then begin to get angry again.
I now have to explain to my innocent child with these big watery brown eyes looking at me why someone would take our bag and why someone would throw away her favourite doll.
I can't tell you how much that killed me.
How do I explain that there are horrible people in this world who do not care about others? How do I tell her that someone was evil enough to take her doll?

I just told her at the moment I didn't know why they had taken our bag but that we would get her a new doll right away. Marisa remained sad the rest of the night but would only cry whenever she would say again and again, "I don't want them to throw away Jessie." after talking with the U.S. consulate on the phone and local police we had to head to the police headquarters to file a report. The U.S. consulate emergency services were currently closed so we were going to have to wait until morning to apply for temporary passports. The lady on the phone said to come early because the wait could take at least 3 hours. Ugh, again.

Police escorted us to the station which was nice, but the whole ride though I kept looking through the windows wishfully thinking I could spot them. And the further we drove and the more time passed, the more my heart settled in the fact that they were long gone now.

At the police headquarters we filed a report and then had to look through 4 thick binders of mugshots. And these were only pictures of those who fit my description of the thieves: male, 25-35 years old, and European looking. Nevermind the Arabs, the South Americans, the younger and the older thieves. Plus, these were the thieves that work in this area in Barcelona only. Can you believe that?
This part was useless to me. They are not going to be in here, duh! But whatever.
Also the police by the bus station and the police at the headquarters kept asking over and over again,
"Are you sure they weren't Arabs?"
"No. They were Spanish. Totally European."
"Are you sure they weren't South Americans?"
"No their skin was light not dark."

"Are you sure?..."

They kept asking me over and over again!...
I just wanted to yell out....


I guess the Spanish blame Arabs for their crimes like Americans blame Mexicans. They had a hard time admitting it was one of their own kind who stole from us.

Marisa fell asleep in the stroller at this point and Natalie was wired and being totally naughty. (It was past her naptime...) The police thankfully allowed us to use their internet to find a hotel for the night.
We walked out, now past dinner time at this point, and grabbed a taxi to the hotel. I remember walking out to the plaza to get a taxi thinking that if anyone tried to mess with me right now I was going to sock them hard. I was tired and angry and not in the mood for someone else to steal from me.

Natalie had her worst melt down ever in the taxi on her way to the hotel. I couldn't even be mad at her at all because she had every right to hit me in the face, which she did, and scream at me. She hadn't had a nap all day, she was very hungry, (how were we supposed to get food at the police station?), and she was absolutely done with traveling and being dragged everywhere. I just let her scream and kick it out and couldn't care less what the driver thought. I would punch him in the face too if he told me to keep her calm.

The hotel Tim found ended up being an amazing two bedroom hotel. I highly recommend it if you want to visit Barcelona! :)
The staff were so nice to us and sympathtic toward us and went over and beyond to accomodate all our needs.

Natalie continued to be deliriously upset and scream and push and hit and throw tantrum after tantrum. Tim and I couldn't believe her behaviour. It was seriously unreal. Then Marisa would get sad from time to time and cry about Jessie. And all the while Tim and I were mentally exhausted. I felt faint from not eating anything for half a day and my body was still shaky after what had happened earlier in the day.

I just couldn't stop thinking about it. I would play the incident over and over again in my head. I would play the what-ifs, should-haves, and if-onlys, in my head over and over again too.
I would picture their faces, my frantic attempt to get things under control as it was happening to me...just everything.

I was quiet the rest of the night and although my body was hungry I felt so sick to my stomach. I couldn't eat. Tim kept trying to get me to eat but I just felt like I would just throw it back up.

After getting the girls to bed, (thankfully they crashed), Tim and I just lay in bed staring at the ceiling, holding hands, totally quiet. Both still completely shocked.

I have never felt so violated and so targeted as I did today. How long were they watching me for? How dare they target me because I am alone and with two young children. How can they be so past feeling? So past feeling that the man who sat behind me can look at Marisa in the eyes and think, "I'm about to rob your mom. I don't care if you have a place to sleep tonight or money for food." How can they be past so feeling that as they look through Tim's bag feel nothing when passing two dollies and a little girl's cardigan and pink sunglasses?  I have spent days and long hours and drives getting our passports ready in LA. The girls had their "first" passport pictures taken looking all cute. They had their first two out of country stamps on their passports. Marisa loved having her passport stamped as we entered Spain! And all those videos on my iphone of my girls giggling on the beach in Spain. How can you look through my phone and not feel anything?? And how can you look me into the eye and act like you are watching out for me, but be so deceitful?

How dare you.

I have never been the focus of so much evil so this incident really affected me. My heart just doesn't work that way. My mind and heart can't wrap themselves around the concept of thievery and deceit. Maybe that is why I felt so sick.
They knew I would protect my girls before my belongings. In fact, this was my first thought once the man sat down behind me. Watch my girls.
I can still vividly feel the second the man suddenly sat behind me. A feeling of alertness so tangible.
They can have our iphones, they can have Tim's work laptop, I just want our passports back so we can go home. I want Marisa's Jessie doll back so she can sleep at night with her, I want Natalie's georgie doll so she can sleep at night too. I want all of Tim's maps back because he has been collecting them for years. The very things they don't care about, I care about the most.
And having to explain during dinner to Marisa why we weren't going home that day and why someone would be so evil to take Daddy's bag. Little kids don't understand that. They are so innocent. I can tell Marisa was trying to wrap her mind around the concept of "doing bad things to others." She inherently can't.

Tim and I never blamed each other at all during that day. We could have easily said, "If you were 3 seconds earlier you would have caught him." "If you held onto the bag this wouldn't have happened." "If you hadn't left me with all the luggage and carried your bag with you this wouldn't have happened." "If, if, if...."

No way. We just held each other close so thankful that we are all safe and unharmed. It could have been worse. Someone could have gotten hurt. Tim just kept reminding me that everything can be replaced and to just think of it as "they have only caused us a huge inconvenience".

It took us forever to fall asleep that night. And even when I did I could still picture in my dreams the face of the man who looked at me and said, "Watch your stuff."


I read online before going to Barcelona different popular scams thieves use to pickpocket you or steal from you. I remember thinking, "Man, I'm scared to go." But just like the website also said, it shouldn't stop you from traveling and having a good experience abroad. I just have to be prepared.

Thieves work in groups. Big groups. we only know of 3 in our group but there could have easily been more. This is another reason why we never blamed each other for the what-ifs to prevent the robbery. What if Tim had caught up with the guy. How many men where waiting to fight him? And many men carry knives to cut off bags right from people's shoulders! What if these men had a knife? It could have been much worse.

I won't tell you what I read online. You can read it yourself here, but while we were at the American Consulate getting new passports there were several other Americans doing the same thing because their stuff was stolen too.
We ended up chatting with all of them and swapping war stories with one another. Here are their stories in a nutshell I think you might find interesting....

One young man: He was at the Metro and walked up to the ticket booth to buy a ticket. He put his bag next to him on the floor and not even 5 seconds pass when he realises he shouldn't do that. He bent down to get his back and it was gone. Looked around him and couldn't see anyone suspicious or who could have taken it. Money, wallet, everything gone.

One young girl: She has traveled to 22 different countries, speaks spanish fluently and is no dummy to keeping your guard up while traveling. She was walking down the street with her backpack on and a fanny pack type bag around her waist. One man comes up and spills what looks like "bird poop" all over her. Another man comes to "help" her wipe it off with napkins. She refuses help telling them "no", "go away", repeatedly and tries to shoo them off. Once they leave she looks down and her fanny pack type bag is gone. They had managed to unbuckle it around her waist without her feeling it. (This is actually a very common scam.) Money, wallet, everything gone.

Two young college girls: Just arrived to Barcelona. Hadn't been more than 10 minutes in the city. One girl had a backpack on her back and another one in front of her. Second girl had one on her back as well and needed to make a phone call at the telephone booth. So the first girl took her friend's backpack that she had in front of her and placed it between her legs so as to no one can steal it. A man then comes up waving money in his hand and says, "Change, change, do you have change?!" Both girls knew to ignore him and kept saying, "No." Man then walks away and both girls look at each other and laughingly say, "I bet that man wanted our bag." They then both look down and the bag between her legs was gone. Didn't even feel it. Money, wallet, everything gone.

After chatting with our fellow Americans we were able to vent, talk, and kinda laugh. We all felt at home and felt like we weren't alone. We all felt stupid for having been robbed. After all, it wasn't like no one knew what Barcelona was like. It's just that you can't even let your guard down once or even a little. These men are professionals. Once they target you, it's over.

Tim and I felt like after we talked with all these people we were actually lucky. We had access to money. We had food with us. These people were on the telephone trying desperately to get money wired to them, didn't have a place to sleep the night before, no money for food, and had to walk two hours to get to the consulate because they had no access to money. Tim and I passed our bag filled with food around the room because we just felt so awful for them.

I know this is a long story, but in the end, we got temporary passports and where able to book a flight that evening back to London. We are currently in the process of filling our expenses out for our travel insurance and it looks like we will be more than just fine with the return. Hopefully...

Like I said it took me several days to finally get over it all. I literally had to get on my knees and pray to have the anger removed from my heart.
Now it is easier to think about and talk about. It is like telling a story from a scene of a movie and I no longer really think about it or have ill feelings of any kind.

As for the thieves, a couple days after Spain I received a friend request on Facebook of the name of Xanders Dominquez. Odd? The profile pic looks like Spanish graffiti and I don't have access to his information. I obviously didn't accept the request.
And my mom told me that a few days after the robbery she had looked at her phone bill and it was a whopping $400. The thief managed to rack up hundreds of dollars on my iphone. Luckily, I had called my mom the day we got robbed and the moment we arrived to the hotel to tell her to cancel the phone line or do whatever necessary in case the thieves try to use it. She did so immediately. But in between the time they robbed us to cancelling the phone line they racked up all that money. Amazing, huh? My parents got their money back because they did report the phone was stolen that same day.

In the end, we are so glad everything can be replaced. I learned stuff is just stuff. I can't take my stuff to heaven, but I can take my family. I did what was right by protecting my girls first. Sure it would be nice to have the girls passports with their first stamps, and videos of them on the beach. But in the end,
It is just stuff.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

my kitchen buddy

Ever since Marisa was really little, (like 4 months in the bumbo little ), I have always had her in the kitchen with me. And to this day her favourite thing to do with me is to cook.
Today she got to use a real knife for the first time to dice up a green pepper. She was so elated. And she did an amazing job actually. She's a natural.

She also made two pizza pies all by herself! (She had help making the dough, of course.)

We decided to get a little creative in the kitchen today. Dinner was yummy, Marisa!

Friday, June 17, 2011

{Flashback}: Day 5/Day 6/Day 7

Morning comes again all too soon. This was the day where we started our driving adventures for the rest of our trip.
Tim loves to drive. He loves to travel. And now that we are in Europe, all those combined equals trouble for me. :)

If I had to pick my most favourite place during our entire holiday I would pick Girona, Spain.

Tim left first thing in the morning to pick up our rental car at the airport so we can leave first thing in the morning, but we didn't see him until 12:30 in the afternoon. Luckily, the agent let us stay in the apartment until past check-out time. We even got to stay while the cleaning lady came and went!
In proper European style the rental car place tried placing the blame on Tim on why they didn't have our car ready even though Tim had booked it to be ready by 9 am that morning. Annoying.
It was a bummer that we lost our whole morning, because I wish we had spent more time in Girona. But what can you do?
Tim was at first really nervous to drive in Europe but he figured since they drive on the right side it couldn't be all that bad. And actually it wasn't to his surprise. In fact, he never got lost!
Girona is only an hour away from Barcelona. We bought these portable TVs for the car for the girls before even flying out to Barcelona and it is probably one of the best purchases Tim and I have ever made. We never heard a single peep from the girls unless they were wanting food. Tim and I just got to sit back, enjoy conversations with no interruptions, and enjoy the Spanish scenery. Oh yeah, and I also slept a little in the car. ;)

Our hotel was nice and it was right next door to a great mall. I was tired of being kinda cold and the girls being cold, (we weren't lucky to have hot sunny weather in Barcelona) so I needed to go to a store to buy little sweaters for the girls. Darn... ;)

Have you heard of Zara? Amazing store. We had one put into our mall in OC recently and I loved it. The children's clothes are to die for cute. But let me tell you something, shopping at Zara in Spain is my new drug of choice. Zara is WAY better in Spain. After all, it does originate from there.
They even have Zara Home, Zara Accessories, and Zara Kids Home. Aaaamazing!
Unfortunately/fortunately, I didn't shop there for long because we wanted to go into the city.

So, as for Girona.
I was a complete idiot and forgot to grab my camera while heading out the door. So I have no pictures of this lovely city.
Trust me I kicked myself for a whole two days for not having my camera.
Girona was my absolute favourite.

It is this small city with amazing cute little shops. The scenerary no matter where you stand is breathtaking. Narrow roads everywhere you turn with beautiful, nice buildings alongside. Cafes scattered throughout the town. Cobblestone roads that lead up to an old catherdral and an old picture perfect garden. For whatever reason, siesta probably, we were kinda one of the only ones exploring around the streets so we had access to everything!
We climbed up these high steep set of stairs in front of a catherdral and at the top was an amazing view of the late afternoon sky over Girona. So peaceful, perfect ambiance, only the sound of our giggling little girls and our gasps of the view could be heard.
One of my favorite picture memory in my head is when we walked down these small stepped, stone staircase that curved to the left and dropped us off right in the middle of a very narrow street.
During out wonderings, we found this cute book shop full of travel stuff. Tim was in heaven. They had this one children's book with famous cities around the world on each page. Marisa was able to recognize famous monuments and the city on each page. Statue of Liberty-New York City, Big Ben-London, Sagrada Familia-Barcelona, Eiffel Tower-Paris. I had a huge smile on face when I heard her say all this. THIS is why we left all our comforts and moved abroad.

We found this cute little bridge walking home that was hidden between two rows of soft yet brightly colorful buildings on our way out. The girls stared down at the few ducks slowly paddling by beneath them while Tim and I shared a perfect kiss, at this perfect spot. That moment was just perfect.

I tried the next morning to recapture what we experienced that night but it was totally useless. I couldn't capture it through my lens at all. So I just stopped trying and hopped back into the car to head to our next destination.

Tim just kept reminding me that we are just going to have to keep all those moments in our heads and in our hearts.


Another 2 1/2 hours later the next morning and we were in Carcassonne, France. This was my least favourite part about our trip. I actually would have been completely happy with taking a picture of Carcassonne from afar and kept driving on. Tim liked Carcassonne, of course.
I don't know if...
-getting lost within the city for 4 hours,
-the horrible useless road signs,
-my lack of understanding French,
-paying a restaurants worth of money for gas station food,
-not enough freeway exits,
-animal poop all along the sidewalks (haven't you heard of doggie bags and a trash bin people??),
-being tired,
-having to have a British couple interpret French for us late at night while these two French ladies helped us figure out how to get into our hotel room because the reception area to check-in was closed,
-or the not so nice 2 bedroom hotel we stayed at that night there

...that led me to not like it, I don't know, I just didn't really like it. Don't get me wrong, the view of the Cite de Carcassonne as we were entering the city was no less than spectacular. But like I said, I could have taken a picture of that breathtaking panoramic view during the day and at night and moved on.

Cite de Carcassonne is a city within these castle walls. That is pretty cool, I guess.
We walked along the walls of the castle, learned more about its history, and ate gelato, yet, again. Let me tell ya, that never gets old.


Again, 2 1/2 hours in the car the next morning and we arrived to Andorra. We were so glad to be back in place where they speak Spanish.
Andorra is a mountainous place with amazing shopping. It totally reminded us both of Park City, Utah. I'm sure this is the place to be in the winter. It is a clean country with nice cabins and ski resorts everywhere.

Our 2 bedroom hotel room was amazing. I slept well that night.
There wasn't much to do other than shop and eat. Which is fine by me, of course. We mainly stopped at Andorra because we wanted to cross off one more country off our list.
When we first arrived to Andorra there were people everywhere. Crowded all over the sunny streets. We let Natalie take her nap at the hotel so when she woke up we would head out and see everything. When we did walk out after nap it was raining and the city was a total ghost town! Where did everyone go? All the stores were beginning to close soon and no restaurants were open. Siesta?
We had to wait until 8:00 for a local pizza restaurant to open up, Pizzeria Angelo. Luckily the girls made it until then. We were the only ones at the restaurant until about 9:30 as we were leaving. People were then slowly starting to trickle in for dinner. Even a family of four with same aged kids as ours arrived as we were leaving!
My sister should live in Spain. Her kind of schedule. ;)

And it's not like it was a crappy place at all. It was a cute restaurant that was way child friendly. They had really good pizza and the waiters spoiled my kids with Kinder chocolate eggs. Very popular sweet here.
Here is Natalie with her dessert we bought. I love how she just props her head on her hand and is eating her dish with a knife. Poor parenting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Our couch has finally arrived!

At last, it's debut! Ta-da!

I know...

Totally anti-climatic.

You would think after waiting for 2 long months our couch would be this beautiful brown leather, movie seating couch that reclines, massages your back, heats your bum, and has a tray table to hold your food.

Bummer. Sorry, folks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

{Flashback}: Day 4

Thursday was even busier. We really tried to squeeze in so much in the 3 days we had in the city. I wish we would have had even another day to visit Parc Guell, the Olympic Park, and actually go inside some of the art museums we saw only from the outside. But, oh well. Next time. (Sans kids, of course.)

Barcelona is a city proud of their modernista art history. The main character to know is Antoni Gaudi. So we saw his work from the outside at Casa Batllo and right next door we saw Casa Amatller, which is not one of his works, but a relevant building.

Around the opposite corner from those neat looking buildings is Casa Mila, better known as, La Pedrera.

Like I said, we wanted to see so much in Barcelona and we weren't sure how our kids were going to do in art museums. We sure would have loved to go inside these amazing buildings. But, what we really wanted to leave time for was the famous Sagrada Familia.
The queue to get inside wrapped around a good part of the building, which was not very fun in the pouring rain, but Marisa loved having her own umbrella and that kept her busy while Natalie fell asleep in the buggy. So it worked out!

I must say that we were a little disappointed what we saw in the inside of the building. The real amazing architecture is all on the outside. But it was still cool to be inside such a famous building.
After we visited the cathedral we ate lunch at the children's park across the street with this as our view.

Sagrada Familia is much more grandeous than my picture can portray.
After lunch we headed to Montjuic. We first took cable cars to the top to visit Castell de Montjuic.
The view of the entire city of Barcelona was so peaceful from the cable car and quite amazing. But the view got 10 times better from the top of Castell de Montjuic.

After that we walked to Palau Nacional...

...where you can get yet another amazing view of Barcelona, the Magic Fountain, the Venetian Towers, and Placa d'Espanya from the front doors.

At this point we had no idea what to do for dinner. As I mentioned before, dinner was always hard in Spain. Spanish food is not even good and dinner is always late at night. So after a couple of days of realising this we didn't feel bad just eating pasta and pizza during our whole holiday.
Because we had no idea what was around or what was even good we found a shopping center where there was this Mexican restaurant that seemed promising. It was such crappy Mexican dinner that it actually, no exaggeration, tasted and smelled like soy sauce. We even glanced over at the cook in the kitchen and he was Asian! haha I can't tell you how much we miss Mexican food! I never thought I would say that. Dreaming of Cafe Rio...
Funny story, as we were sitting there looking around the restaurant and the various "Mexican" items they sold we noticed a Bisquick mix and Aunt Jemima syrup among the items for customers to buy. We took a picture of that with our iphones to show you, but....

Lastly, among one of my favourite moments of this trip was watching the Magic Fountain show with my little family that night. It is this half hour show of a huge water fountain that dances to music and lights. The plaza was FILLED with people yet it was so fun to sit back and take in the ambiance on a peaceful Barcelona night...

Definitely a moment I want to bottle up and keep forever.


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