Monday, March 28, 2016

Pascua

We made it home just in time to participate in some of the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations.  There were parades every night that whole week and we could often hear trumpets playing long after midnight.  On Good Friday we walked two blocks to the center of our little town to watch the parade that night.

They were selling churros on the street with melted chocolate for dipping -- so so yummy!  Gah!
 I do have some video of the parade if you ever want to see, but actually the audio is the essential thing.  There were dozens of bands from each little church in the area playing this haunting, slow trumpet music.  Actually, there were several playing bagpipes as well!  I've never heard music quite like it.  Then each parish had people dressed in robes and hoods, solemnly following the bands.  They were swinging incense, holding scepters, carrying crosses, and a lot of them were barefoot.  I admired their piety, but we couldn't help thinking it was all terribly creepy.  It is impossible to separate those hoods from the horror and violence that happens in our own country.


 Each church had their own colors and their own special statue that they bring out for Easter.



Earlier we had seen this at a gift shop in Cartagena -- the only sign in English -- it says, "For Holy Week, not KKK"
On Easter Sunday we were so so tempted to stay in San Pedro because they were having another parade and releasing hundreds of white doves.  Doves!!!!  Doesn't that sound neat?  But we were good and went to our own church.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

planes, trains, and automobiles

So now to finish our harrowing tale... We stopped at a lovely boulangerie on our way to the train station:
Seriously, the croissants were amazing!  And we also grabbed some chicken salad and pastries for our long journey (spoiler alert: they were also tres magnifique!)  There was a huge crowd at the train station and a bit of a wait, but eventually we were settled in for the day.  And what a day!  The French countryside is unlike any other place in the world.  We spent the entire afternoon pointing out craggy peaks, fairy tale-like villages, lonely farmhouses, majestic castles, picturesque bridges, and winding streams.  We were ready right then and there to buy some land, attend the local church, and make some new friends, haha!  And then Spain!  Girona is gorgeous!  We hadn't really looked at living there because they speak Catalan and it isn't quite as warm, but it sure is pretty.  Then to the Barcelona airport.  It took a while to get our rental car and then Matthew didn't have his drivers license so they told us that he couldn't drive... oh, about one million times!  Even as we were walking way, the man yelled out, "Oh!  One more thing!  Only Mary should be driving that car!"  We didn't have a GPS, but I thought we could just follow the signs south.  Hahahahahha, oh my.  So naive.  Yes, we found a road south, but it wasn't the main one by any stretch of the imagination and we crawled through a mountain pass on a windy two lane road.  After a few hours we found the freeway, traversed the gustiest peaks -- there were warning signs every few feet so it must always be like that.  Eventually I pulled over because our little car was having such a hard time and we could barely walk across the parking lot.  We ate some tortilla espanol for late dinner and finally pulled onto our sleepy street around 3:00 AM on Thursday morning...  Only three days and I don't even want to say how much money later.  It was so nice to peek in on the sleeping children and I was never so happy as that night (morning) to climb into our hard and lumpy bed.  Around 7:00 AM Archie crept in, "Mom, is that really you???"  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

We found ourselves, quite accidentally, in Paris

We don't know why:
the bloody French
are on strike again;
or why some flights
can use that
precious air space
while others cannot;
or how long it will take
(and how much it will cost)
to reach our children
on the sunny southern shores.
We do know:
that they are happy
and that a tiny
sliver of sunlight
can work its
way through the
tight cluster of
gray buildings
in Paris,
peek through a slit
in the curtains,
and gently remind us
that everything
will be fine.

So, we were in Paris... which would be a dream, except that we had no idea how we were going to get home!  We got out of bed, packed our now well used items (we'd only packed for a four day trip and were now on day five) and headed back to the train station to see about returning to our kids.  Long, long line and then are told that there are no available seats to ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE country of Spain that day, but, for a small fortune, we could book some tickets for the next day -- we'd  also have to decide quickly. The man working was charming and so contrite as he shrugged his shoulders french-ily.  I couldn't help but be a little pleased to be in France, but, what in the world?  So we decided to find some wifi and breakfast and see what our options were.  A very mediocre omelet and no wifi later, we found a Starbucks and tried again.  In our 20 minute wifi time limit we discovered that renting a car in France and leaving it in Spain would incur a $1000 transfer fee, there were no flights from Paris to Murcia, and then, since booking the train for the next day seemed to be the best option, finding a little bit more spacious hotel room near the Gare de Lyons would make our forced Parisian visit more tolerable. Time's up!  Booked train tickets to Barcelona for the next day, but how to get from Barcelona to our family?  My stomach still hurt as we checked into our hotel and from there were able to book a rental car from Barcelona with only a $60 fee for leaving it in a different location.  Whew!  Matthew looked me in the eye and said, "Darling (just kidding, I don't think he's ever called me darling), now that we have everything scheduled and we have a plan, you need to stop fretting over what has happened and enjoy our day."  Great advice!  So we visited the City Museum of Modern Art -- a museum in Paris that I'd not ever visited!  And we loved it!

::Paris selfie -- cliche, but at least I'm not trying to touch the top!
 ::I love, love, love, this painting!  And can't remember who the artist is -- the placard is even in the photo!  But I can't read it.  I've done some internet digging with no results, so if anyone has any answers for me, speak up!

 ::Chagall!
 ::Making me feel less bothered by my croissant consumption
 ::Proof of Matthew's presence
 ::I always like the momma art
 ::It was a gorgeous afternoon, with the sun picking up the accents of blue
 ::La tour eiffel avec des fleurs de cerisier
 ::a street near our hotel
We ended the day by going to a creperie for dinner -- crepes with mushroom, cheese, sausage and then a chocolate banana one for dessert -- ooh, la, la!  Which I didn't get a picture of, weird.


Friday, March 25, 2016

The #$%^ French

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare, but as we walked toward the check in point we looked up at the departures screen and saw that our flight was cancelled!!!  Oh my.  So we found our way to the help desk which had a very very long line.  The air traffic controllers in France had gone on strike -- so unlike them, non?  Oh, and timed perfectly for the first day of Holy Week.  Well played, frogs.  Only a few flights were allowed through their air space and the low budget airlines were the first to get axed.  Ryan Air had sent all of their workers home and left one poor girl there to deal with the aftermath.  We took our place at the rear of the queue and when we finally made it to the front, were told that we could fly home on the next flight with available seats -- in 10 days!!!  "Our six children are in Spain without us!  Is that the only option?  Can you book us on another airline?  Or at least check to see if there are any other flights since we don't have wifi?  Or check on trains?  A meal voucher?  Anything???"  Nada nada nada.  We wandered around the airport for a while, randomly standing in line to talk to other airlines, but, of course, they didn't have any available seats.  Then we waited in line to take a shuttle down to where all of the rental car companies were.  When we inquired as to whether we could rent a car in England and drive it to Spain, we were charmingly mocked and laughed right out of the building.  Back up to the airport to wander around aimlessly, get something to eat since we hadn't eaten lunch and it was quite late in the afternoon by now.  Used the loo a few times, lugging around our luggage and the giant bag of goodies and the adorable vintage apron I had picked up in Covent Garden... wait a minute!  Where is my bag of goodies????  Somewhere in our wanderings I had lost my shopping bag!  Wah, wah, wah!  And that is when I started to cry.  We literally had no idea at all what we should do and I lost my one souvenir to boot.  (And my period had started, haha!  Not that you wanted to know, but it just added to my frustration and gives the whole story that extra oomph, don't you agree?)  Matthew looked at me helplessly for a bit.  After a good cry I started to rush around to look for my bag, checked lost and found, glared suspiciously at everyone who was carrying a plastic bag, and finally made my way back to the Ryan Air desk for one last desperate attempt at help from them.  As we stood there, the absolutely most quintessentially British couple came up behind us.  I asked if they had been on the flight to Murcia and the man replied calmly, "Yes.  And on the way to the airport, we were in a car accident, but we just left our car there and paid 150 pounds for a taxi to get us here in time for the flight."  Oh.  That is really really sad.  And probably their one holiday for the year.  I felt bad enough for their plight that I could escape ours for a bit.  We finally resigned ourselves to our fate, paid the $50, or whatever it was, to get back to St. Pancras station in London.  We still didn't know quite what to do.  Should we try to get out to one of the other airports and see if we could get a flight on a larger airline?  But even if we bought a ticket, there was no telling whether the strike would effect more flights.  Or should we try to get on a train?  We decided to go that route.  Another incredibly long line, but met at the end by the most helpful person we had encountered that day.  She was able to book us two of the very few remaining seats on a train to Paris that was leaving in about 20 minutes and you could tell she deeply, deeply regretted that she was unable to get us all the way to Spain.  We ran into the little Marks & Spencer to grab a king prawn and avocado sandwich and some fancy juices (ooh, la, la), oh and chocolate, of course!  Another line and rushing through security to catch said train and we were off!  Sort of.  At least getting somewhere!  It was quite sad to be hurtling through what I know was lovely English countryside in the still winter darkness and then to traverse the chunnel without even realizing.  Before we knew it, the lighted signs that we could see were all in French and soon we were pulling into the historic Gare du Nord.  It was around 11:00 PM and we felt a bit dazed.  I had had enough of a signal on the train to book us what we were to soon discover was the tiniest room in Paris -- accessed by the even incomprehensibly tinier lift.  But we were somewhere, as I mentioned earlier, and the kids assured us they were fine.  Long, long, story, oui?  Oh, but there is more!  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

London!

Last Thursday evening, Matthew and I were able to go to London!  Alone!  We haven't ever been away from our kids for that long.  And I can't recall going somewhere overnight without a baby since before Ibby was born.  So it was exciting!  We were a little stressed before leaving -- making sure that there was enough food in the house, that everyone would be fine, printing out boarding passes... That last one took four actual trips to the library!  Nothing is simple, haha!  We decided to take the little trip because we found plane tickets for $68 round trip from our little local airport that is just 10 minutes away.  It seemed like we should definitely take advantage of the opportunity.  Our flight was at 9:00 PM so we left the house after dinner and drove to San Javier.  But we couldn't find a place to park our car!  We drove all around for a bit and finally found a place on the street that looked okay.  Then we ran as fast as we could to find a taxi to take us to the airport.  Started to get stressed about being on time, but deep breaths, we were fine.  Fly, land at the airport, getting through customs took longer than we expected, try to find the bus to the train station, walk back and forth a few times, it is freezing in London!!!!  Finally get to the train station and the worker tells us we're too late for any subways and we have only one train left to take us into town.  We wait 45 minutes for that one, arrive in the city centre, take a taxi 15 minutes to our hotel -- which costs almost as much as our plane tickets!  Get dropped off at the wrong hotel, walk to the correct one, and finally get settled in the wee hours of the morning.  

The view from my hotel room -- I adore Boden!  I think there was some synchronicity at play here.
 We decided to take the train our to Hampton Court since we had gotten a bit of a late start anyway
 There was a little play going on inside so we enjoyed that for a bit

 These were starched napkins!
 In one of the sections, they had all of these outfits made of paper with descriptions of different people written on them.  
 We were missing the boys a lot as we looked out at the gardens  -- they would've loved to have explored there!  Phin has told me that he doesn't necessarily need to live in a palace, but he would like a big garden/park with mazes, etc.  I'll see what I can do about that!


 On our list of things to do was to enjoy high tea so we found a little place near Hampton Court.
 One price included tea and milk; four kinds of sandwiches; scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, and raspberry jam; and for "dessert" creme brulee, brownies, and lemon panna cotta.
 Every single bite was delectable and we enjoyed the location by the river.
 Our hotel served a hot English breakfast every morning so we made sure to take advantage of that.  We only needed to eat one other meal every day since breakfast was so filling.
 The second day we went to Westminster Abbey, which was lovely.  We made sure to get a picture of Big Ben (or technically, the tower which houses Big Ben, the bell) for Phin since it is apparently his favorite thing ever -- who knew?



 We found a statue of our favorite home boy right there in Westminster
 I love all of the different pubs!


 We took a little bus tour around town and then went to Tower of London.  We were happy to come upon another little theatrical in the square there.

 We then took a boat down the Thames and were able to go to the Tate Modern until it closed at 8 pm.  Our last order of business was to hunt down some curry, so we hopped on a regular double decker bus and got off when we saw something that fit the bill.  It did not disappoint!
 The third day we decided to go out to Windsor to see the castle there.  In the morning on the news, the weather forecaster said, "It will be dry, but disappointingly cloudy."  Hahahaha!  It made me laugh so much.  Yes, it was very cloudy, but is anyone really surprised?


 It was so fun to see the signs of Spring everywhere and the sun finally did appear right before sunset.
 We stopped at a little pub to eat a traditional roast dinner (for me) and fish and chips (for Matthew).  We were obviously too hungry to remember to take a picture before we ate, but I did want to remember these quaint little plates.  So cute!
 Matthew wanted to see more of the countryside so we decided to take the train further out of town until the sun went down.  We went out of the station in the village of Twyford and took a turn around the block.  I adored the lines on this house.
 We came upon a  little church that was holding a Palm Sunday service right then so we decided to run in, but then found upon entering that it was really a concert and would cost about $10 per person, so we changed our minds.  We were also the only people under the age of 70, but I don't know if that means we wouldn't have enjoyed it.
 Our last morning there was spent enjoying the streets of London.  We went to Covent Garden and even bought a lovely vintage apron at the flea market there.
 Took some last shots of the city and then made our way unsuspectingly to the airport...
Stay tuned for the next chapter.
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