Too many pictures for one collage for this week! Check out the Facebook album we posted of the first half of our trip!
We got to celebrate Wylder’s 2nd birthday while staying with Michelle in Miami. That was fun. He’s at a cute age where he can say little words and even play the harmonica that he received for his birthday. We enjoyed the time we spent with them, even though Michelle was busy in school much of the time.
We explored Miami a little bit and found a gluten-free, vegan bakery! What-do-you-know!? After living in GTMO for almost a year now, I forgot that you don’t have to make all your own food, even if it IS specialty food! The cupcakes weren’t that great, but it was a nice treat. We visited Wynwood Walls, before it started to rain on us, and then visited the Apple store a little outside of Miami.
Off to Barcelona it was for us! After a very uncomfortable 8 hours where I tried to sleep on the plane, some-what successfully, but uncomfortably, we made it to our AirBnB. Brian and I have been spoiled because the last two times that we’ve traveled internationally, it’s been with Apple for work projects, and then we’ve tacked on vacation after it. The nice hotels, food stipend, and business-class seats on the plane for me in the past made this trip feel much less glamorous, but it still was a lot of fun and we got to see some neat places!
First day in Barcelona we went on a bike tour. It was a good way to see a few areas of the city and find out what we’d like to come back to see. We rode through the park by the Zoo, got a picture with the Arc de Triomf, saw the Christopher Columbus monument, visited the Barcelona Basilica, and rode through many other areas. We then walked up La Rambla, found some Paella for dinner off off the main area, and walked through Mercado de la Boqueria, which is an open-air market selling fruit/vegetables, spices, fresh fish, dried ham and meats, and other sweets. It was such a neat area! I had fun walking through it then, and we walked through a few other times as well. The churches are beautiful, but are crammed in right next to the row of shops and houses. The first evening we walked through the Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi.
We started off our second day by visiting the outside of an old hospital, Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau. The detail of the architecture of buildings in Barcelona is incredible. Additionally, many are so old! We headed over for our tour to La Sagrada Família, and what a sight to see. It tells the story of Jesus and “the sacred family”. Throughout the building, you’ll find the initials JMJ, which stands for Jesus, Mary, Joseph. Throughout the building, there are many items of symbolism. This is one of Antoni Gaudí’s designs, and I love how detailed and thoughtful he was in all of the design. Even though it’s taken over 140 years to build, he had a plan that people now, even after his death, have been able to follow to bring it to completion, hopefully in the next 10 years or so. Brian and I climbed up to the tops of the towers, and that gave an amazing view! I’m glad we did that. Unfortunately, it is still under construction, so not everything is accessible or finished, but still, a really neat place to visit.
We found a gluten-free pizza and pasta place, and had lunch there, and then headed to Montjuïc area. We thought that the gondola-type ride up to the top was free/a part of the funicular pass, but it wasn’t so we decided to walk through the garden area up the hill toward the castle, since it was a nice day. It was a nice walk. We decided to not go into the castle, as we didn’t have much time before it closed, so we just admired the view. One of the best places to see the whole city. We watched the Barcelona Port working for awhile, as Brian and I both really enjoy logistics. Then we headed toward the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on our walk down to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. What an art museum! The outside building is gorgeous, and the art inside is a pretty amazing collection. I really enjoyed going through it, although we were quite tired from an already long and busy day.
We headed over to Poble Espanyol, which is this old city/fort area that supposedly had merchants doing their craft as they would have in the olden-days. However, we got there right as everything had closed, although the whole area was still open. False advertising! I was disappointed, because it was one of the activities I was looking forward to. We still enjoyed wandering around the old city, but not many of the shops were even open. We went back to watch the Montjuic Magic Fountain show at sunset, which is in front of the art museum, and although it was pretty, we weren’t that impressed, especially compared with the fountain/water shows we saw in Dubai two years ago (Brian went to watch them every night while I was working!). We had planned to go to the free Picasso Museum evening, but were pretty tired, and we don’t particularly care for Picasso or that style of art very much so we decided to skip and head to bed. Plus, we saw some of his work in a few of the other places we visited that day. Long days, especially when you’re not used to doing more than 2 things a day and aren’t feeling that great.
We spent these first two days in Barcelona and then drove up to Lyon, France to visit our friends Lisa & Garrett who are living there. On our way we stopped through the 9 Locks of Béziers, the Arena de Nimes, and Pont du Gard, which were all wonderful stops. We rented a car, and since only I know how to drive a manual car, I drove the whole way. A little nerve-wrecking at first, since I hadn’t driven in traffic, a manual car, or very quickly in quite a long time, since living in GTMO, but we had no issues and got the car and everyone back in one piece without any scratches!
Hearing the story about the 9 locks and how it helped the boats get through the canal in Béziers was pretty interesting. It was a good break, a few hours outside of Barcelona. We stopped for our second break at the Arena de Nimes, which is from 300 BC, I think, and is still in quite amazing shape! It’s really crazy to see something that old. This continued to be a pattern as we made our way up and into Lyon. We found a Gluten-free gelato shop in Nimes as as wandered through the tiny streets there (a little hard to drive there with all the small one-way streets!), and then headed on our way through the beautiful countryside to Pont du Gard. I loved driving through the countryside. It was nice to be out of the city, and I realized I definitely am more of a country scenery person. Pont du Gard was one of my favorite sites. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, and it is an aqueduct. It was originally built halfway through the 1st century AD. It is a 50 km long aqueduct that supplied the city of Nîmes, formerly known as Nemausus, with water. Built as a three-level aqueduct standing 50 m high, it allowed water to flow across the Gardon river. The grounds around the aqueduct were beautiful, with the river running under it. People said that you could spend a few hours here, and in the summer you can swim in the river under the aqueduct. I would definitely go back. There were great hiking trails, and there was a secret tunnel passage way that I found that was pretty neat. Just amazing that the whole thing was there! When I visited Rome 10 years ago, all of the ruins that we saw were mostly “ruins”. There wasn’t much besides a pile of rubble left. I really was amazed by seeing these Roman artifacts that were still very well standing. It made Brian and I think “what are we building these days, or with our lives, that will last 2000 years for future generations to see?”.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Lisa & Garrett and the kids. So great to meet the new baby, and see our little friends! Garrett was our tour-guide who took us out for a full day of seeing Lyon. We went first to the Ancient Ruins of Fourvière/Lugdunum (what Lyon was called by Rome) Theater, which was an outdoor amphitheater and small city area. There were columns that were written in Latin and were thousands of years old. Right up the street was the Basilica Fourvière, with a fantastic view of the city! It was freezing that day, so we didn’t want to be outside much, but it was pretty. We enjoyed a nice long lunch. Tried to figure out gluten-free in France, where they aren’t very privy to customizing food just for you, but the restaurant was helpful, since Lisa had been there before and they seemed to like her! Good to have the locals there with you. After lunch, we headed to a silk museum where they wove cloth. It was all in French, so Garrett translated for us, and it was neat to see the loom machines. We took a quick visit to Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) and walked through the small cobblestone streets, popping our head into a church here and there. Found some more GF gelato (it was the same company that we found in Nimes!), and then headed back to their home for a late dinner and more time with them. Went to church in the morning, which was all in French, but we knew a few of the songs (although we knew the English words), and then headed back down south. Sad to leave and have such a short trip together, but at least glad we got to see them and spend some time together!
We had a beautiful drive down toward Grenoble, and then from there to Provence. It’s exactly what you would imagine little mountain towns with goats sitting on the hill would look like. One of my favorite parts of the drive. It started to snow as we were going through that area, but thankfully not very much. We did drive to the town of Provence, but nothing was really there. A few shops, and a McDonalds (which was pretty nice — they have GF fries outside of the US, so we got some and a shake. Mmm! Such a treat). The town was a little disappointing, as I was expecting lots of vineyards or something else, but then as we drove around that area down to Luberon, that’s where it was really pretty and had nice country homes up in the hills. We drove through a really steep area of Luberon on the way down to Marseille, and got to watch the sun go down, as we were on super windy roads, but we made it down before it was too dark! We got to Marseille really late, checked into our AirBnB and headed to get some food, which was very good, but the area was not very nice. We weren’t in Marseille for very long, as we left right in the morning, but we weren’t too impressed with it. Maybe we missed the nice areas of it, but it seemed pretty run down.
The first week of vacation was pretty amazing, although very tiring, especially when not feeling great. Definitely didn’t like the cold, but we made it through to see some great sites!