Well, we have been off to España and had a wonderful time despite a glitch or two. We left on Thursday morning, eating our last baguettes for lunch and crossing the border in the early afternoon. Immediately we could see the differences with everything looking a little more wild and hookers pacing between the trucks at the gas station. (We had also seen prostitutes in Italy -- "Mommy, why are there girls standing at intervals along this otherwise deserted road in the middle of the day?" "Well..." I will leave the rest of that conversation unsaid). Poor, poor France with her unruly neighbors. We borrowed a GPS from Jean Do since he had a portable one for all of Europe. We found it very helpful and didn't need to buy any maps. We drove into Figueres and found the magnificent Dali museum. I haven't been an avid Dali fan in the past. Yes, I had the lip and nose perfume as a teenager, but I hadn't really caught the vision and wasn't sure I believed the guide book's claim that this museum was a must-see. Well, if you are ever in the area it has a strong recommendation from us. The kids even enjoyed it. We then drove through Girona, on to Barcelona, found the apartment we had reserved, and then drove our car to where the receptionist told us there was free parking. In the morning we set off to the city centre and saw the cathedral where they even let you walk on the roof, rambled down Las Ramblas and saw all sorts of street performers and a wonderful open air market, ate Spanish tortillas for lunch, and then caught the Picasso museum in the early afternoon. We then took the metro out to the Parc Guell until it got dark then stumbled the very long walk back home since we couldn't figure out a better way. The next morning was Lucy's birthday! We decided to go get our car and see some things that were a little farther out. It was about a 10 minute walk and after a while the kids were asking where the car was and Matthew joked that maybe it had been stolen. We got to the street where we had parked. Matthew was ahead of me chatting away with Lucy, but as I scanned the street I couldn't see our car. We kept walking until we were standing at the exact spot where we had left it and it really was completely and absolutely not there!
Oh, Phin needs me. Talk to you later.
Just kidding. I will tell you more. Well, obviously we felt sick. How many times have I had this fear, but never really thought that it would happen? We looked around helplessly for a few moments then stumbled into a hotel to ask for some help. The maitre d' said that if it had been towed there would be an orange sticker on the curb telling us where to pick it up. There wasn't one. He then told us where the nearest police station was. We all trekked over there, whilst envisioning our car being stripped and sent off to northern Africa, and entered what I am sure we had all been dying to see, but had been too embarrassed to admit: the inside of a Spanish police station! Matthew was talking to the officer for a long time and the kids started to sit on the floor, but were promptly reprimanded. The woman was very nice and made a few phone calls. Waiting, waiting, waiting. An answer at last and possibly the best one there could be. It turns out that our car had been broken into, but the police had come along and caught them in the act. (We were told later that there were 5 people, but they had only grabbed three of them). Since our window was broken, they had towed the car to a safe parking lot and we just had to go down to the place, assess the damage and what was stolen, return to the police station to make a report, and then go back to the parking garage with the report to retrieve our car. Easy! We made the journey of one long walk to the tram, one long transfer to the metro, one even longer walk to the parking garage, of course only walking as fast as our slowest child, saw that a little window on the passenger side was broken with glass everywhere, and the only thing stolen was Jean Do's GPS! We felt terrible about that! We decided to not return to the police station right away, since we wanted to leave the car where it was overnight anyway, and proceed with our day. We grabbed some lunch and finally started sightseeing around 3:00 p.m. We headed to the Parc Montjuic and took the cable car to the top of the hill for some cloudy views of the city. We then made our way through all of the beautiful gardens to catch the Magic Fountain show at dusk. All in all, the day turned out very nice and we still love Barcelona, but not her thieves! The next morning Matthew and I left early to revisit the police station. We walked in and Matthew said that we had gone to the car to look at the damage and had now returned to make our report. The officer at the desk said, "The police wouldn't do that. They wouldn't tow your car." And didn't believe us! We had to be cross-questioned by him and then someone else before finally making our report about 30 minutes later. Irritating. Then we went back to the garage, went through all of that rigamarole, and were finally in possession of our car again. We returned to the apartment, loaded all of our stuff and children, gawked at the Sagrada Familia for as long as we could then headed out of town. Our exit from Barcelona proved to be less eventful than our stay and we had a peaceful drive to Montserrat (once we had stuffed the window with a blanket), a monastery about 50 km. out of town. We did have to stop and buy a map, however. It was absolutely gorgeous and we oohed and aahed our way through the lovely countryside.
We stayed the night just over the French border (civilization, whew!) and visited some French sites on our way home yesterday.
I will post pictures when I get them off my camera.