Saturday, May 29, 2010

Our family hike


The girls have been begging to hike the Y for about 1 1/2 years now. We had perfect weather for it today so we decided to go for it. We brought along our neighbor Janessa too.
Here we are on our way up the mountain. Everyone is full of energy and excited to see the "Y".








We stopped a lot of times for Sierra and Grant. Sierra, because she just isn't an athlete and Grant, because he had to throw all the rocks he saw along the trail. Grant and Sierra both had to be carried up at times so Jess and I got a super work out.
Here we are, finally at the top. Everyone is happy except Reanne who wanted to walk down the Y. Jess told her she had to scoot on her bum because he was nervous she would fall. She did not appreciate that.
By the time we had our juice boxes and walked back down the mountain, everyone was pretty tired. Jess had to carry Grant all the way down because he fell asleep. Don't worry, they all perked up again when they got their slurpees on the way home.








Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Last Day - Barcelona

Since we were leaving out of the Barcelona airport, we drove down the day before to see the city. It was definitely the biggest place we visited and we were a bit overwhelmed with how much there was to see. We were also pretty tired and a tiny toured out so I don't think we got the full experience here. If we ever take a cruise on the Med. we will have to try to see some more of this huge place.
We did take a sky tram up this hill to the old fort of the city. The views were incredible and you could see everything. The picture of the city (above) was from the tram but you could also see the harbor and the Mediterranean. The fort was free which is probably why we went there. I don't know if we were running low on funds or just tired of giving people our money, but it sure was nice to walk in somewhere and not have to give them your arm and leg to see the place.
Although it was enormous, Barcelona was still beautiful. I loved seeing the different styles of architecture and they had more monuments in the city than Lisbon (which had monuments on pretty much every corner). We took a bus tour of the city when we realized there was no way to walk from place to place like we had previously done in the other cities. The bus tour took about 2 hours. Not because it went that many places, but because we were in rush hour traffic pretty much all day. Warning: Don't ever try to drive around in this place if you visit. It's totally worth it to take the bus.

I had no idea of how artsy Barcelona is. It was home to many famous architects and artists. We had been to one art museum on our trip and probably every cathedral we came across. So instead of seeing Gaudi's temple (which I kind of wanted to see anyway because it is so different) we saw the Picasso museum. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to see even if I don't prefer his style. This is a picture of us and Jess's mom, who joined us a week into the trip, outside the museum.
At the end of the trip we were all exhausted and ready to come home. I REALLY missed the kids. Now that I am home again I can't get enough of them and I am a lot more patient with them again. Hopefully the feeling will last a while. :) Traveling is wonderful. I hope that we can do it again one day.




Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day trip to France

Jess and I had to go into France just to say we did. It was a long car ride to the places we went to, but it was well worth it. First we stopped in Niaux to see the caves that have the Paleolithic cave art, the ones you see in history books. It was really cool.
Of course you couldn't take pictures inside and I don't know if I would have been able to anyway it was so dark. We each had a big flashlight and it was still was so dark that you couldn't see things too clearly. The guide had a mega light that he would shine on things when he wanted to tell us about them, which was all in French so I didn't understand a thing. I bought a book afterwards so I could get the information from the tour. I guess they have no way to prove they are actually cave drawings but they were recorded by people in the 1700's. There were signitures all over the place of people who had explored the caves, some from the 1600's. It definitely made the Timp caves seem tiny. These caves were massive.
Coming down the French side of the mountain we actually saw some wildlife. We saw a herd of mountain goats and some kind of deer.
Next we drove to Carcassone. It was a beautiful drive off the mountain. This was another tourist city we found out, but we drove through a ton of small French country villages which if we had time I would have loved to stop at. Carcassone was another city with tons of history, a French castle and tons of little shops. It was fun to walk around and look at everything. We tried some French cookies (they love shortbread here) and their hard crust sandwiches. That is one thing I am excited to return to in the states....soft bread. The hard stuff tears up my mouth.



Some pictures from our drive. Jess was worn out from driving a stick shift up and down a mountain but I couldn't get enough of the sights. So pretty.



Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Andorra

Sunday we left Spain and drove into Andorra, a tiny country in between Spain and France. The drive was beautiful. Since we have been here we have just taken it easy and relaxed. We haven't set the alarm once and we went to the grocery store so we could cook in our apartment. We went on a few nature walks which is where the picture below was taken. The mountains are draining everywhere from the winter snow and the run off comes out of the funniest places sometimes. I guess it killed this tree from running right under it's roots.


When you drive up and down the main road you see all these wonderful tiny cities nestled in the mountain. It was pretty cold the first couple days we were here since we are so far up in altitude but it warmed up yesterday. So since it warmed up we had to go shopping! :) When do I get to go shopping without kids? It was great.
I loved all the wild flowers up here. I haven't seen a lot of wild life, but the wild flowers are so pretty. They even have this wild kind of daffodil that grows in the fields that only gets about an inch off the ground. You can't tell it's a daffodil until you get really close.

I think we found out the secret to get internet now, so I hopefully can post more regularly.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 6 - Zaragoza

This is our last city in Spain before we drive on to Andora. Jess messed up on our reservation at the hostel here and so we had to book at a place that had room for us. It happened to be a five star hotel. It was 50 euros more but it sure beats having to share a bathroom with 15 other people. Actually, we have only had one other hostel that had shared bathrooms so it has been not bad at all, but I am really loving this hotel.

Both Jess and I both felt our brains go a little numb today with everything we have taken in in the last week. We walked around not sure what to see that would make this place stand out to us. We ended up seeing a basilica (which I guess is more important than a cathedral?) where we couldn't take pictures on the inside. It was still a working church. It was kind of nice to see people in there praying instead of taking pictures, even if they were praying to St. John and Mary.
We also saw a palace which was very cool. This was a palace for the Moors at first and then taken over in the 1400's. This seems to be the pattern in Spain. It then was built to look like a fortress another hundred years later by a king who was having troubles with his people. It was beautifully restored inside but I can't post pictures of everything.

This wasn't open when we went by, but I had to get a picture of it. Who can come to Spain and not get a picture of a bullfighting ring? The only thing we didn't get to see which I wish we could have was some flamanco dancing. Oh well, another trip....someday.



Well, I hope I have internet at our place in Andora. I have to write this all down before it leaves my mind or gets jumbled even more than it is.


Day 5- Toledo

Oh my goodness. I can't tell you enough about Toledo. It was the coolest experience I have ever had just driving into that amazing city. It was like stepping back in time a thousand years. When you drive up you see a castle and most of the city is inside the walls. It wasn't like other cities where you have the historic center and then the rest of the city looks a bit more modern. The whole city has been declared a national monument. This is what you see from our hotel.

We saw the most tourists here....they were everywhere. It seemed like the whole world wanted to see this amazing place, and we were in the slow season. Both Jess and I got to experience being pick-pocketed and donated even more money than we planned to the local economy.
We saw so many things here and walked so many miles. Every day our feet are so sore from walking and we each have blisters...but it's worth it. We went in this old building where they imprisoned knights (after it was decided they weren't needed any more.) Here is Knight Jess sneaking a picture in one of the dungeons.

We started listening to Don Quijote in the car since we have a lot of time between cities. I never knew much about it except that it was a classic. It is actually a very funny book about a very fictional character. In the book he travels through Toledo and they definitely capitalize on it. There are figurenes of Don Quijote and his squire Sancho everywhere in the city. We didn't buy any but I got a picture of where he traveled.


Love this city...even if we were pick-pocketed.

Day 4- Cordoba

We have internet again so I can post a few pictures and give you the highlights of the last few days. Oh, there is so much that we've seen that it is already getting all mushed in my mind.

Here is the city of Cordoba which we stopped at after Sevilla. It was totally worth the stop. It had a bit of everything...Moorish ruins, a castle, a cathedral, churches galore.

Here is a picture of the Jewish quarter of the city. People still live there although I don't know if they are all still Jewish. Probably not. We stopped to eat lunch there because we are usually starving by lunch from driving or walking or both and not eating very much at breakfast. Jess got this pork steak that was so amazingly good. (He let me try a bite.) I guess their is a type of pig you can pretty much eat rare here. I am not usually a pork person but this I still dream about.
The highlight of the city is the cathedral/mosque. I say both because it was cathedral, then a mosque when the Moors took it over, and then turned back into a cathedral when it was taken back. The combination of architecture and design was so amazing and one of a kind. This is some of the catholic part of the building.

This is some of the Islamic part of the same building. This building was so big that it took an hour and a half to walk around it.


After we saw the historic parts of the city we hopped in the car again and drove 4 hours to Toledo. We slept very well that night!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 3 - Sevilla

Today we left Portugal and came into Spain. Spain is a bit easier to drive in because the people are safer and their streets are actually labeled. We made it to our first stop, some Roman ruins outside of the city, without problems. When we were planning our trip I was really excited to see a castle and Jess REALLY wanted to see Roman ruins. This stop did not disappoint. It was huge. There were ruins of the whole city and it was pretty intact. This is Jess cheering at the ampitheater.
This is our hotel in Sevilla. Getting here we did have problems. It was in the middle of the old part of town which is "complicated" according to the clerk at the hotel. I'd say! It took us 3 1/2 hours trying to find it. It's best to not go into detail about our car ride in those 3 1/2 hours. I thought we wouldn't have time to see Sevilla after that, but people and places stay open late here and so we were able to still see a few things.
Some buildings of the city. It is just amazingly gorgeous here. Everything is so old and has so much history.


This is inside a church. At first I thought it was the cathedral we were looking for because it was so ornate. Nope. Just a church.

We were able to go into an art museum. This was much like going to an art museum in the states, except the paintings are all 200 years older. Of course everything was religious. We saw many, many bleeding Jesus paintings and Holy Mothers nursing her child. This statue was made in the 1400's.




And now we are in our very fancy hotel evading sleep once again. But I had to post pictures before I got too far behind.



Logos

After we left Beja we traveled to the very south of Portugal to Lagos. I love how the architecture of each city is a little different. Our hostel here was close to this picture, right on the ocean front. It was a room in an apartment corner that this old woman owned. She and Jess got on famously and I had a hard time getting him to leave in the morning because they couldn't stop chatting.
Here I am eating the best prawns ever. I tried my very best to eat them just with my fork, but I really couldn't get those shells off without getting my hands all in it. Jess thought it was funny.

We walked around a bit in the "walking district" wich of course we got lost in (with our car). But the coolest thing we did was take a grotto tour. This is a little motor boat ride around the coast of Logos. You really see the beauty of the rocks from the ocean side. They had a name for every rock and cove we saw. They actually have a name for everything here, even overpass tunnels have a name.






Beja

Day two we drove south and stopped at an old town called Beja. It had an old country feel we thought and was small enough that we didn't even get lost. A big plus. I thought the buildings were beautiful. This blue one is covered with tiles. Tiles are HUGE in Portugal.

There is a castle here that you can walk around in. It was built in about 1300 on top of the remains of a Roman fortress. It had stairs that climbed to the top of one of the towers. We climbed them and it was the first time I felt nervous of heights. I'm not sure why...maybe because they were so skinny and they kept climbing up and up...maybe because I was walking around with only about 8 hours of sleep in the last 3 days.
This is the view from the castle. A picture really didn't do it justice. It was beautiful.







Europe Trip Day One - Lisbon

Sorry this has taken a couple days...but not every place we have stayed has internet access. I can't believe we are already on day three of our trip. I will only hit the highlights I think because all our wanderings and mostly getting lost will be a bit tedious.

We traveled for about 23 hours with flights and lay overs with only about 2-3 hours of sleep. We only had a few hours in Lisbon before we wanted to hit the sack so we didn't get a ton of pictures.
This is our fearless driver. Oh my do Lisbon's drive fast. They are like New Yorkers on steroids. I could not believe what they did on the roads. I am just glad we spent only a few hours trying to navigate that city.
This was probably taken while we were trying to find our hostel. The road we needed to take was blocked off for the big party that evening. The party was to celebrate the National championship football (soccor) game that Portugal had. I guess it didn't matter who won. They were going to have a party regardless.
And what a party it was!!! As soon as the game ended people started honking their car horns and running around the street singing. And they never stopped...until about 3:30 in the morning. Luckily our hostel was directly over the party. I was so tired that I actually fell asleep through the noise....until the fireworks at 12:00. I then didn't go to sleep until the thousands of people below our window either went home or went to another street to continue their post game festivities. So much for me ever liking soccor.