Category Archives: travel

8 days in Europe on 80 euros

imageMaybe I’ve gotten a little too blasé about traveling. What was once approached with actual penned lists, which were meticulously cross checked, has become a much more casual affair. I select a few favorite items of clothing and then flesh out my travel wardrobe while trying to remain committed to a color scheme. Navy blue has been my go to palette one last couple of trips. I toss in toiletries and any necessary electronic gadgets or chargers and go. Simple.

Getting out of town for my most trip was complicated by home and business responsibilities. There were some banking tasks that would need to be accomplished in my absence so I went through my wallet to leave ATM cards for those taking care of business while I vacationed. It seems I should have paid more attention to what I was doing…

We arrived in Barcelona Saturday morning after what had been a long day of work and travel. I approached an ATM in the airport and fumbled for my bank card to make a withdrawal…and it wasn’t there. I checked again, looking in compartments and pockets where I knew it wasn’t going to be and tried not to panic. Hmmm. Somehow I had left all of my ATM cards at home.  How was I going to solve this problem?

I had 80 euros in my wallet from last year’s trip to France and both a Visa and an American Express card. On a European vacation many years ago my ATM card wouldn’t work at most of the bank machines I encountered and I resorted to taking cash advances on my credit card. I’d just do that again. I’d get dinged for some bank fees, but whatever.  Simple.

Except, it was the weekend and there weren’t any banks open. Not a big deal, we’d just wait it out until Monday, right? My credit cards should cover us, I thought, as we grabbed a cab to get us to our accommodations. No problem. I was so confident that come Monday we’d be able to access cash via a cash advance which I could pay off immediately electronically, that I went ahead and spent 40 euros cash on the cab when the driver balked at my Visa card. It’s all good, except…

Monday came along and none of the banks I went into (there were 4 attempts on my part) would perform a cash advance transaction. My only option was to use an ATM, but I had never bothered to set up a pin, which once again left me high and dry. Now, though, I had even less cash. We were down to my last 20 after an indulgent cab ride home on Saturday night. Yes, we had spent 60 of our 80 euros on cab rides.

What did we do? We basically charged everything, which was fine because I had expressly obtained my Visa card because it came without fees for international transactions. As a matter of fact, I was earning cash back on my purchases. Not having cash definitely was a crimp in my style, but by no means was it the end of the world. We figured it out and ultimately a lack of cash didn’t translate at all to a lack of fun. Lesson learned. It won’t happen again.

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Filed under Europe, Spain, travel, Uncategorized

Sketches of Spain

imageHave you ever listened to this album by Miles Davis? It’s one of my favorites and sets the mood for so many things – a romantic dinner, a quiet conversation, time alone with your special someone. Add it to your playlist and thank me later, ok?

Now that you’ve got that going, let me share some of my impressions of Spain, or more accurately, Barcelona.

  • The dogs here are rarely on leashes, although their owners always seem to have one slung over their shoulders. The dogs are very well behaved and never run into the street or approach strangers even when a stranger is missing their own dog and more than willing to give a pat.
  • Fashion observations: women wear tights and stockings far more than at home.  They also rock tight, little leather jackets, while people of all ages have those super light down jackets in a rainbow of colors. Happily, I haven’t seen a single pair of Uggs.
  • Far too many people smoke cigarettes, just like in Paris.  The only other unpleasant aroma has been a vague sewer smell that wafts around in a mild, yet noticeable way.
  • Speaking of smells, it’s weird – the Mediterranean doesn’t have that briny smell that announces its presence like the Atlantic.  There’s no “sea air” that I could discern.
  • Children seem to be very well loved here.  Parents are affectionate and attentive without resorting to that helicopter approach which is so prevalent in the U.S.
  • Everyone has either a scooter, a bike or a soccer ball.
  • Scarves are oversize and wound repeatedly around the necks of both men and women.
  • Running seems to be a pretty big activity here and I got lucky with a boardwalk of sorts and parks super close to our apartment. I ran every day.
  • Chefs use a generous amount of salt and pastry is far more delicate than I imagined.
  • I’d like to come back here again.

 

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Filed under Europe, Food, musings, Observations, running, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Eating up Barcelona

image.jpegIt’s been amazing how quickly I’ve adjusted to Barcelona’s late night schedule. I can only explain it as a magical alignment of being an early person and having the advantage of a six hour time difference. Whatever the reason, it’s working for me and I haven’t struggled at all with this temporary life of sleeping until 10:00 a.m. and beginning dinner at 11:00 p.m.

We’ve been doing our best to try new things and eat as much traditional food as possible. For Griffin this translates to jamon, while I’m more inclined to sample as much seafood as I can get in my mouth. Here are few particularly tasty items we’ve enjoyed – and one we determined was not for us.

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Filed under Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

The wisdom of Antonio Banderas

imageAfter spending my first day in Barcelona, I can say I understand exactly what Antonio’s talking about. This place just stimulates the desire for languid pleasure and beautiful people and food are everywhere.

With blue skies above our heads and cobblestones below our feet we wandered around quite a bit yesterday. When it came time to eat, we approached the task of finding a restaurant with an attitude of nonchalance. It all looked pretty good and we were willing to try something new. For Griffin, it was a plate of meat for a late breakfast. He shared a bite of the brightly colored and flavored sausage, but gobbled the rest, saying that the tiny ribs were his favorite but everything on the plate was delicious and cooked perfectly.image

For dinner, which we began eating at 11 p.m., we wandered into a neighborhood spot that contained only 6 tables, although it appeared that the large table filled with either regulars or family, may have been a couple of small tables pushed together. Not being able to read Spanish wasn’t really a problem because we wanted traditional fare – jamon and paella.image

The ham was phenomenal and buried any other ham I’ve ever had. It was sliced beautifully thin with the perfect meat to fat ratio. It was tender, yet firm and had an overwhelming rich flavor of butter. Fantastic. The paella was exactly what I’ve always imagined paella to be – presented in a beautiful low pan and served to us at the table, it was an eye pleasing medley of shrimp, langoustine, mussels, slivers of squid with rice and small bites of red pepper. The fish was mind blowingly fresh and the shells on the shrimp were incredibly tender as we picked them up with our hands to suck every single morsel of deliciousness out.image

Good food was had and the wine I sampled – an intense rose in the afternoon and a simple white of unknown origin with dinner, was pretty damn good, too. From what I observed as we walked around, it seems that romance and sensuality is very much present with young and old couples showing affection and passion freely. Good sex seemed a distinct possibility. As for me, there was good sleep in the form of an hour long nap and a longer overnight rest. Antonio Banderas, and Spanish people in general, are on to something. Viva Espana!

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Filed under Eating, Europe, Food, Observations, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

When you work more hours than you sleep

As my vacation approaches, I find myself getting most excited by the thought of having hours and hours to fill (or not) any way I please. These last few weeks have been joyfully hectic with fun events, long runs and mini escapes, all very carefully penciled into my already impressively full calendar. I’m ready to get away.

Prior to jetting out, there’s a neighborhood association social, wine academy, a party over at the new Biergarten, a date with my someone special and, of course, some packing, that need to happen. I’m confident it’s all going to come to pass, but I do wish it was a bit more spread out. I’d like to savor each of those things instead of survive them, you know? Reality, though, is a bitch and I’m doing my best to keep up, ok?

I don’t think a single day goes by without someone saying to me “I don’t know how you do it. School Monday – Friday, the restaurant 5 nights a week, the three children, miles of running, the house to maintain, the blog, the…” Well, you know what? Sometimes I don’t know how I do it either.

Here’s what I do know, though – if I spent any real time counting the hours in a week that I work versus the hours in a week that I sleep, I’d probably be really tired. If I didn’t love what I’m doing, none of it would be possible. The support I receive from my loved ones and employees is the thread that helps me to keep things together. And all that running? That’s what keeps me strong and sane. Honestly, other than my previous request for two additional hours a day, there’s nothing I’d want to change.  Living life, to me,  is better than sleeping through it.

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver

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Filed under aging, Albany, Events, family, Lark Street, musings, Observations, running, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Next week when I’m in Barcelona…

  • I will take a funicular ride to these trails and take a run – hopefully twice!
  • There will be wine with lunch…followed by late afternoon naps.
  • I will spend hours outdoors walking around to see as many of Gaudi’s buildings as possible.
  • Should there be rain, I will check out the Picasso museum.
  • I will take in my first professional soccer match with my soccer playing son.
  • The beach will be our front yard.
  • I will take pictures -lots of pictures!
  • Jamon will be a major part of my diet.
  • I will soak in the experience of being in a city and country which are new to me.
  • My appreciation of all the good things in my life will radiate.

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Filed under Boys, Eating, Europe, family, Food, running, Spain, Spring, travel, Uncategorized

How do you say Barcelona?

Although I was charmed by the myth that Barcelona is pronounced with a th sound rather than a soft c as an accommodation for a long since dead member of the Spanish royal family, I’m going to probably pronounce it with a c sound.  At least until I’ve had a few glasses of Rioja, that is.  After that, bets are off.

My long awaited trip with middle son is finally approaching so it’s time to start gathering ideas about what to do and see and taste in Barcelona. It’s our first visit to Spain and I think we’re both getting pretty excited. To be perfectly honest, I’m anticipating the time away from all of my work responsibilities almost as much as I am the time I’ll be spending on the beach sipping Albarino.  Despite the lack of snow, it’s been a long winter, folks.

Yesterday I advised my son that it was time to begin considering activities for our trip, what sort of things might you like to do?, I asked.  His answer: hangout and eat.  Actually, it might have been “eat and hangout.” Well, sounds like this is going to be just the sort of vacation I’m looking for!

Now, obviously we’re going to check out some of the sights like the nearly completed Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia and the Picasso Museum.  We’ve also got tickets for a soccer match which should be a blast. Beyond that, though?  We’ve got nothing.  I came across a cool website recently called Vayable which looks like it might be just the ticket for G and me if we feel like we want to add a little structure to a day or an evening.  A gourmet tapas tour or a bicycle ride to some wineries would be an enjoyable to experience a new city and its cuisine.

Tell me – What would you do if you had a few days in Barcelona?  Keep in mind that I don’t like being indoors, unless it is pissing rain, and I like staying active so some physical activity needs to be part of the itinerary.  Ok – go!

 

 

 

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Filed under Boys, drinking, Eating, Europe, Events, family, Food, Spain, Spring, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine