Last Day In Barcelona – Travel Blog #3

Today we arrange a half day tour of Barcelona with Jordi, a friendly local who speaks at least ten languages. Having him use only English seems like a waste of his many talents but we’re still lucky to get him. Although going around Barcelona with a guide speaking Japanese to an American tour group would be strangely interesting to me. Onward with the tour… 

First we walk the historic streets of old Barcelona where history literally surrounds you.

The old streets form rigid square blocks, no doubt a Roman design dating back from the days of when Barcelona was the Roman city of Barcino. In fact, the city is excavating under these old streets to preserve the Roman settlement that lays under it. One museum gives you access to these Roman ruins deep beneath the city. Sorry, they don”t allow you to take pictures. One building they found was a place that dyed fabric. One flat stone was turned bright blue from all the thousands of fabrics that were dyed at the facility. One piece of Roman history that was above ground was this…

The apartments here were built around the ruins of this Roman temple. For years the owners of the building took care of the ruins before the city of Barcelona stepped in to protect them.  People still live in the apartments surrounding this amazing piece of history. 

Next we visit the square where Christopher Columbus returned from the New World, very anxious to tell his backers, the King and Queen of Spain, that he hit the mother lode for Spain. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella went down these steps to greet Columbus. This was the first step in Spain becoming a world power for hundreds of years. Jordi tells us some experts now think Columbus was actually Spanish not Italian. If Jordi ever conducts a tour with some Italian Americans from Jersey…I would skip this little piece of trivia.

By the way, the Roman ruins that we saw being excavated, are located a few feet below this historic square.  History literally on top of history. Cool.

The breathtaking Barcelona Cathedral, the major Catholic church of the city, is our next stop.  And what a stop it is. The ceilings have a golden brown color with intricate markings all over them.  The glass windows at the top do not dominate but compliment the large dome. Inside the church, each Catholic Saint has their own gated area decorated in striking gold that pops your eyes.  In the center of the cathedral are two rows of wooden chairs with tall backs facing opposite another pair of rows. Jordi says this area was used in a recent conference of world leaders. 

We take a bus to the top of a hill overlooking the city of Barcelona. There we see the stadium used in the 1992 Summer Olympics which put the city of Barcelona on the world map. If you remember, it was the Olympics that had the guy who shot a flaming arrow upward to light the olympic torch.  Which we found out, was actually the top of an upside down whale.

Jordi then takes us to the most interesting looking church ever, La Sagrada Familia.  The designer was named Antoni Gaudi and his name gave birth to the term gaudy looking.  The building was unfinished but Gaudi’s descendants are completing the rest of the church with private funds.  They hope to be done by the next decade.

After the tour, we decide to sit outdoors and have a nice last meal. We find a an outdoor restaurant where I order chicken paetta. I’m starting to love Spanish paetta and can not get enough of this stuff.  Delicious sautéed rice with chicken, vegetables with delicious saffron, a wonderful combination inside a giant skillet that’s delivered right to your table. Tonight, we enjoy dinner with an order of sweet and tangy Sangria as the street comes alive again with people.

We board the ship tomorrow, leaving this wonderful and friendly city behind us.  A part of me doesn’t want to leave. Yet I suspect that Barcelona is a mistress that always leaves her visitors wanting more just so they will never forget her.

If you would like to see all the pictures from Barcelona..GO HERE.

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Next time: A quick blog about the sea then we arrive in Italia!

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The Hotel De Jardi – Travel Blog #2

This was the entrance to the hotel?

The nice glass door with the name Hotel De Jardi had automatically slid open to reveal…stairs twisting to the left. I didn’t see a big lobby with cushy chairs and sofas, or a free-standing display of brochures for all the tourists, or even a big desk with a smiling, helpful desk clerk.  Just stairs.

So my Dad and I lugged our bags up the narrow staircase to the first floor where there was a display of brochures, chairs, and a big desk with a smiling desk clerk who spoke Spanish. 

Okay good.  This was what I was expecting from a hotel.  Glad that some things were universal in hotel land.  The young lady behind the desk was from Portugal and she was very friendly as she gave us the key to our room.  A real key with the room number on it! She then told us to leave the key with the clerk on duty when we decide to leave our room to explore.  This was an old school hotel and I loved that.  The set up reminded me of that John Cleese show “Fawlty Towers” where the guests would come to the desk in order to get their room keys after a day in town. I hoped the owner of our hotel was much nicer than Mister Basil Fawlty.  Trust me, you don’t want to stay at a real Fawlty Towers.

Our room was on the third floor and the elevator was located on top of a flight of stairs.  Yes, on top of stairs.  So we dragged our luggage up the stairs and…where was the elevator?

Next to me was a glass door that looked like it was part of a tiny shower, certainly not an elevator.  Guess what…it was the elevator.  Like everything inside this hotel, it was narrow and small.  The tiny thing could only hold one person with one piece of luggage.  That was it.  Two children could fit, but they still couldn’t bring any luggage.  Okay, I decided to be our test pilot.

I put my bag in first, then me.  Tight fit.  Then I couldn’t figure out why the door wasn’t automatically closing after I hit the button.  Soon I figured out that I had to shut the door myself before the sucker would work. Should have figured this was an old school European elevator.

The third floor was really a narrow corridor with three rooms. I opened the room and it was…small. Two small beds, nightstand, television, one chair, and a bathroom.  That was it. Nothing lavish here.  But a part of me LOVED IT.  Why do you want the standard American hotel room?  This had charm to the max.  And when I opened up the window and looked at this view…

So what if it was a small room. Who wanted to live life in a hotel room anyway?  

The next morning we went downstairs to the eating area for a breakfast served by the hotel. We found a table and a nice older Spanish lady gave us each a place setting with a napkin and silverware.  Coffee? She asked us.  Everyone said yes.  The woman brought us each a cappuccino with milk.

Let me just say that this coffee changed my life. It was the best coffee I had ever tasted in my life.  It was strong, but when you asked for it with milk, the blend was the perfect balance of sweet and strong.  It tasted amazing, like my mouth couldn’t stop salivating between sips.  Next came the food, a nice toasted baguette with a large croissant coated in a sugary like glaze.  Jams, butter, and fresh cheese were available for the baguette.  I went with the cheese and glad I did.  The croissant was so sticky and delicious. Oh, and how could we not order a second cup of cappuccino.  Seriously folks…it was THAT GOOD.

After a day of fantastic sightseeing, (which I’ll cover in another entry) it was time to relax at the hotel.  We went again to our breakfast sitting area and sat on one of the two small balconies which overlooked the main plaza.  The balconies were a perfect place to people watch.

 

Next cool thing was finding out about the automatic beverage machine located inside the hotel.  It looked like an ordinary soda machine.  But this machine had Coke, Coke light, (the European version of Diet Coke) and cans of cold Cervaza!  (Beer in Spanish)  No kidding.  Beer in the soda machine.

I so love Spain.

So that night we sat out on the balcony and watched the world below us swim with activity.  While I was still marveling at the fact that we haven’t even started our cruise yet.

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Next up: A world wind tour of Barcelona.

Mediterranean Travel Blog

Last week my father and I took a mediterranean cruise.  We stayed in Barcelona, Spain.  Departed aboard the massive ship Voyager-of-the-Seas and landed in a few Italian ports to explore the cities of Sorrento, Rome, and Florence.  We then landed on the French Riviera and traveled to Monte Carlo, Nice, and Toulon.

The trip was incredible and I wanted to share some of it with you all so I will be writing a series of travel blogs from my trip notes that will start hopefully by next week.  So stay tuned!

Computers Are A Waste Of Time

 

Technology’s promise to the world was — make our lives easier.  To save us time so we can do the things that we want to do.  Play with our kids.  Go to a ball game.  Read.  Computers were supposed to give us the tools necessary to work faster, so we may indulge in the luxury of time. 

Well — we all know that’s crap.

Now my rant for the day.  All I wanted was to download a digital audio book to my I-Pod.  My local library has an online system where one can download free software and use it to transfer an audio book to your computer or other listening device.  Doesn’t sound too difficult right?

I received my answer three hours later.

The library download software was the easy part.  Took me five minutes to install it.  Took longer to download the actual book, but still a reasonable amount of time.   Then I loaded my trusty I-Tunes software as I hooked up my I-Pod to the computer… 

I noticed my I-Tunes software needed to be ‘upgrated’ to the next version to run the audio book.  The download was 92 megs!  My first attempt failed to install after thirty minutes of waiting. 

Tried again.  Thirty minutes pasted.  Another failure. 

Restared the computer.  This time thirty minutes yielded the result I wanted.  Now to transfer the book…

The book download software tells me I must change the I-Tunes input setting before continuing.  I click the help button that tells me how to do all this.  I get the sucker switched.  Now I can download the book into my I-Pod.

No.  Not enough room.  Seriously?  Not enough room?  It’s an audio book not Halo 3.  So I dump my favorite  songs off my I-Pod just so I could fit this sucker in. 

Still not enough room.  Okay.  So I only download half the book.  Nope.  I try loading the three of ten parts.  Nope.  One part?  Yes I can do that.  The download program starts to activate my I-Pod and loads the book in.

Now an error message.  This device isn’t compatable.  What?  What the f*ck?  The book download software spells out every device that’s compatable.  My I-Pod shuffle was listed.  Swear to God.

To heck with this.  I gave up.  If I had just gone to the library and checked out the stupid book, I could have spent the next three hours actually reading the thing.

Yes.  Computers are a waste of time.

Conan O’Brien Stops In…Tulsa?

Yes.  That was my reaction when I first heard that late night talk show host and comedy genius Conan O’Brien was coming to my fair city to put on a show at the Brady theater.  Was Conan lost?  Did OKC ban him?  Did that bitter fight to survive the late night television war cost him his sanity?  Before I wasted too much time thinking about the whys…I promptly went online to buy a ticket.  I’m so glad I did.  Turns out Conan not only wanted to be here, but if his performance was any indication, he loved Tulsa.

The show opens with comedian/music performer Reggie Watts with his loop sampler.  This guy…increadible.  Using only his voice through a loop machine, Reggie builds a complex song that would make any DJ worth his turntables throw up his hands and try painting.   Closing out his set was the hilarious rap “F*ck Sh*t Stack”.  The best use of four letter words since George Carlin’s infamous FCC list.  Reggie’s bit is sure to become a future comedy classic in its own right.

Conan’s band makes their entrance as the main show begins.  Trombone player Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg leads the band in a rousing set that gets the crowd going.  One sad loss is Max Weinberg.  Don’t know the specifics but people tell me that Coco and Max have parted ways.  I hope it’s only temporary.

Next is Conan’s video diary of how he spent the last couple of months without a job.  Funny stuff.

Conan emerges and the crowd goes wild.  I was prepared to see his new growth of beard.  He mentions that some people don’t like it.  Conan asks if the crowd likes it and they respond with an enthusiastic yes.  Conan observes that Oklahoma is shaped like a hatchet and looks like it’s splitting the brains of Texas.  Best description of this state I’ve ever heard.  (Sorry Texans)

In a random fit of delicious madness, the crowd chants USA! USA! USA! in reaction to one comedy bit that has nothing to do whatsoever with said chant.  Conan remarks that it’s the oddest reaction he’s ever gotten.  Tulsa  now holds a tour first!

It becomes immediately apparent that Conan is really enjoying himself.  He’s not phoning this in.  Conan enjoys being on that stage and feeds off the audience’s excitement.  Thank goodness his right hand man Andy Richter is here too.  (I thought I heard his voice in the show’s introduction.)  Andy adds his own charm and wit.  Having him up there also gives Conan a boost.

We discover that Conan can play guitar.  In fact, there’s a lot of music in the show.  Conan even does a few musical numbers that are zany and hilarious.

Conan inflates the biggest, ugliest, and probably most lame bat prop ever made.   The inflatable bat really looks hideous.  And the crowd loves it.  THIS is Conan being Conan.  And this is what we’re all paying to see.

Since Conan doesn’t have a “guest” he decides to interview the audience using the massive stage monitor behind him as a prompt for the crowd’s response.  Cleverly, the audience is manipulated into asking Conan to kiss La Bamba.  Conan does one better, he licks him on the cheek, then remarked that he tasted like Funyons.

Conan takes a commercial break from the show.  Andy is our pitch man for Tulsa’s own Hank’s Hamburgers on East Admiral.  I so wanna go there for a Big Okie burger right now.

Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog makes a video appearance.  He tells the crowd that he pooped on Yale avenue.

Towards the end of the show, Conan brings out Tulsa’s own teenage music sensation…Hanson.

Now I must pause at this point to say…I’m not a fan.  Don’t care for their music.  I just don’t.  My opinion.  My blog.  So there.  However, on this night, two things made me respect Hanson.

One – Conan O’Brien invited them.

Two- they performed an old tune by Oklahoma native Hoyt Axton.  Okay.  I have to give them props for that.

This is just a taste of what went on in the show.  I must say that if you love Conan O’Brien’s wit, personality, and his aversion to doing anything normal, then you’ll love his road show.  I sure did.

Thanks Conan.  You made my weekend Coco Awesome!

If you’ve seen a show on the Legally Prohibited from being Funny on Television tour, please feel free to share.

Young Adult Author