Friday, June 10, 2011

fairy dust

Time: 10:21pm (That’s it?!?! I am sooooo tired)

Location: on the couch

Weather: nice and sunny today, but not too hot

This is going to be a short one, just to make my conscience feel good. If you’re looking for a good read, scroll down and read my last entry for Barcelona.
7 june

I honestly can not believe that it is Friday already and that tomorrow we are going back to the mountain! I am so excited! The weather is supposed to be nicer, fingers are crossed!

So, just a couple things I have to comment on:
The local horse that hangs out by the playground
all the time and suffocates me when I run by

I spent Wednesday with Iness since her gymnastics training was cancelled and Marwann was gone at a birthday party of laser tag. I don’t get to spend as much time with Iness as I do with Marwann, so it was really nice.

We spent a good amount of time working through her English activity book and playing another English matching game. I was impressed by how much she knows!
People here are seriously into roses.
Sometimes I feel like Im in Wonderland...

Marwann and I usually do the baking around here, and I have been waiting to bake some cookies, you have no idea! So this was the perfect opportunity for Iness and me to bond over some cookies.

I have a recipe that I like to stick to, but of course we’re missing an ingredient: cornstarch. So I scratch that recipe and use the one on the chocolate chips’ package. It was oddly simple. Needless to say it was not a good recipe. Not only did the cookies turn out super flat, they also burnt! Which is partially my fault, but we went on the minimum heat for the minimum time! Charred to bits!
Cookie Dough really is magical.
8 june

On the plus side, Iness had an awesome time baking her first ever batch of cookies and had her first ever spoonful cookie dough! It was so magical!

Thursday night Sophie taught me how to make couscous. Who knew that such a delicious dish is so simple! The key is to having a good blend of spices. Sophie showed me a trick to get your couscous really fine, so now I am a couscous master!! Mmmmmm…
The Loonie one of you sent me...
Originally intended for my 1st cop of Tims upon
my return, went to a much better cause.
9 june

Also yesterday, Iness lost a tooth. When I commented on how the Tooth Fairy will be visiting, nobody had the slightest clue as to what I was talking about. They know all about the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause, what’s the deal with the Tooth Fairy? Turns out the Tooth Fairy here is actually a mouse. Fancy that; a mouse crawling under your pillow and depositing you some coins. Not quite as lovely as a Fairy now is it?

In the morning Iness found that the Tooth Fairy had quite the flight during the night…


Del Banco - Dia cuatro

Del banco - Dia cuatro - Barcelona

Domingo 27 febrero 2011

street photo

Today we discovered some new parts of Barcelona. We realized that we had spent the majority of our time on the eastern side of La Rambla, so today we went in the opposite direction: West.

Barca Balconies

Following our street all the way to its end, we discovered the Parc Monjuïc. I’m not exactly sure what the story behind this park is, but Montjuïc is a reoccurring name around here. I think it may have something to do with the park being on a huge hill.

Roof top paradise

Sara and I wandered our way up through the park, zig zagging along and stopping every so (very) often for a photo op.

Paradise #2

We walked and walked, and walked, consulted the maps along the way that really were of no assistance and even asked an elderly woman for directions (even though she knew no English) all the while en route to the MNAC. EVENTUALLY, we got there.

I spy the Sagrada Familia,
and a bird.

The MNAC is the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Pretty self explanatory. The museum is found in the Palau Nacional, which really does not look much like a palace.

Montjuic Parc

There were a number of collections, and we only (semi-unknowingly) skipped one; the Romanesque.

On the swing

We started off with the Renaissance and Baroque art, dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The Renaissance and Baroque collection featured a large taste of the Catalan civil society. Moving back in time, we then looked at the Gothic art. Although the Renaissance and Baroque art was more to my taste, I found the Gothic art to be more interesting. Mainly because of all the different styles they had in the collection: mural paintings, panel paintings, stone and wood sculptures, as well as metal work. Apart from Catalonia, there were pieces from Aragon and Valencia. Between these two collections, some artists you may recognize are El Greco, Diego Velaquez, Rubens, Pere Serra and James Huget. When I first came across the panel paintings, I found them to be quite interesting because well, the piece was painted straight onto the wood. At first I thought that the paint had just leaked through the canvas and onto backing, but after a closer inspection, I realized that there was no canvas to begin with. I had never seen that before.

Sat on stone steps and to my surprise...
they fell in!

On the upper floor, Sara and I looked at the modern art. This was apparently the most significant collection of Catalan art. I can see why. From the 19th century to the 1940s (or so), the artists in Catalonia really made their mark with all the stylistic changes: Neoclassicism, avant-garde movements, Modernisme and Noucentisme. Some of the artists were: Fortuny, Gaudi and Casars. There were also a couple pieces by Picasso, but not many. I believe I liked this collection the most, perhaps due to the larger number of landscape paintings.

sqwatting on trees
Climbin trees.. gracefully

Sara and I each got an ice cream treat to help us cope with the gorgeous weather, and went down the many, many steps (as you can see) from the Palace to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. Now, I am not sure why the fountain is “magic”, but here you can make a wish and it will undoubtedly come true. I highly doubt that they throw pennies in, so I can almost guarantee a lower satisfaction rate than that of the Market Mall’s Mini Golf. In the evening/night time, there are water and light shows at the fountain. I really wanted to see one, but it just didn’t happen. That’s how things worked out.

HUGE organ in the MNAC

After out rest, we took the OUTDOOR ESCALATORS to get back up and beyond the palace. While wandering back through the park, we came across the Teleferic again, and give in for the ride.

The Fountain from the Palau Nacional

It was pretty cool; just like a cable car. We went all the way to the top of Montjuïc and got to see all across Barcelona. I spotted the beaches and the Sagrada Familia (it is really tall!!) and I think I also Parc Guell, but I’m not sure.

Looking (almost) ALL the way across Barcelona

At the end of the Tele ferric, we were at the Castell, which I believe was the old fortress of Barcelona to protect against pirates (we could see well out to the port). The Castell houses the Military Museum, but we did not go in. Instead we opted to walk/melt our way back to the hostel and have another cool down inside.

The original plan was for us to go to the Museu Picasso on Saturday, but well, like I said that was the Original Plan. On Sunday it was free, and we did not have much else to do (in mind at the time), so we went for it.

Sara & I infront of the fountain

The Magic Fountain of Montjuic

The line up was absolutely ridiculous. The line up was so long that I had time to run out for a coffee run to the place that one of our guides, Tom, guaranteed us we could get the Best Cappuccino in Barcelona, yet I came back with two coffees.

You have no idea how hard it is to take a panoramic while gaining altitude

haha oops!

Unfortunately, the museum has a strict no photo rule (and I saw what they did to the guy who got caught) so I took no photos of the interior. They had cameras (multiple) in every room as well a curator (I think that is what they are called) to watch and make you feel uncomfortable.

Sun is shining on the Sagrada Familia today..

Upstairs, on the first floor, 16 rooms make up the museum. Not being an overly large museum, the main concentration is on Picasso’s earlier life when he spent most of his time in Barcelona. Apart from Barcelona, his featured locations were Malaga, La Coruna, Paris and Madrid. Of course his Blue Period and Rose Period were shown as well.

Corner of the Castell

Getting into his later life, Picasso started working with ceramics and photography. This should not have surprised me, seeing as artistic people usually branch out between mediums, but it did.

Another thing that surprised me was how the “typical Picasso style”, you know; a nose up here, an ear down there and maybe a mouth a bit too far to the left, did not really start until later in his life. Meaning that he did not always paint like that. If you think that you really are not much of a fan of Picasso, try some of his early work, it is quite eye pleasing in my opinion and drastically different from the latter.

View of some of the port (that we never actually visited..) from the Castell

Also, there never seemed to be anything wrong with him; no sickness of any sort, mental or physical, no dependencies. You would think that something happened to him to make him paint in such a way as he did later in life, but I guess it is all just being creative.

My suspicions that the Castell once
protected Barcelona from pirates
is confirmed.

All through the museum Picasso’s biography progresses and I read it ALL. At first with some interest, but seeing as nothing really bad or “interesting” seemed to happen to him ever, I read it mostly out of the guilt I’d have if I did not. Like Most artists, he moved around a lot and dealt with many people; making teams, business partners and companions. Artists always seem to have a very interesting social life. BUT. There were two things that I missed while reading (and left HUGE GAPING holes in my knowledge):

Entrance to the Castell/
Military Museum

1) What happened to his wife/wives? I am more than certain that some where along the line Her name changed, and then she just dropped (dead?) out of the picture.

Just one of those meals where you get
your sardines all over

2) When did he die? There were works from 1890, and I NEVER read about Picasso’s death. There is no way that he is still alive.

How much do I love Barcelona?

Getting to the end and finding that I am missing this key information frustrated me, but with all the people there (Free Entry on a Sunday, just imagine), there was no way I was going back in.


For supper, Sara and I got some take out. It was absolutely delicious. Tired from walking all day (really should have rented a bike for Montjuïc), we chilled out in our room and watched the Black Swan. It was an absolutely ridiculous movie, but you’ve all probably seen it by now, plus it’s exactly part of the Spanish experience here.

Line up for the Picasso Museum;
can't even see the entrance,
and people went on
coffee/take out runs

Our roomies came back just as it was ending and were quite obviously going to bed, so we went down to the commons area to hang out, maybe watch some comedy sketches, but came across Leeah and Erik, and some other people, who were playing cards. We got invited to join in so we did, and played for quite a while. Definitely a good way to end our last night in Barcelona.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

no beard.

Time: 8:29 am… What a peculiar time

Location: sitting on my couch... in my room

Weather: Good lookin’ mornin’, no signs o’ rain

Haut-Alps de Provence
2 june

Well I am back from the mountain and contrary to a joke; I did not come back with a grizzled beard. Ok, pause for a thought: synonyms of “grizzled” are: greyish, greying, salt-and-pepper and grey. Grizzly bears are brown, are they not? Something is not adding up in my mind…

So back to the mountain and the tale that comes with it.
Roxanne got loose

Marwann, Roxanne, Iness and I
Friday was l’Ascension, some kind of holiday here that I had never heard of. I even looked at my calendar which is full of all kinds of holidays from all over the world (even including Quebec) and it was not on there. Everyone was surprised that I had no clue about it, but hey, all I know is that May always feels like the longest month with its ONE long weekend, for Victoria Day. Anyway, teachers and students went to school on Wednesday so that they could get Thursday off, creating one of those legendary FOUR DAY WEEKENDS!! The ones where kids like Marwann tell me that “You know that we have more days off than we have to go to school this week?”
He fits in the cupboard..
Playing Rumikub

Thursday morning we’re all packed up and head out towards Pra-Loup, the rain starting nearly exactly as we closed the car door. Normally a two to two and half hour drive, it took us a solid three hours due to that unrelenting rain. A great sign for the weekend eh?
Double Trouble

En route, we keep crossing this weird winding canal. Finally I ask Sophie what the deal is with this canal. This canal, La Durance, brings water across Southern France. The water springs from a lake right at the base of the mountains (I can’t remember if it was man made or not) and has The Bluest water I have ever seen. Almost to the point where it is green. The South, normally being a hot and dry place has a slight problem with water, so La Durance brings water all across the region all the way down to Marseille.

Sophie's impeccable form

3 june

Another thing I got the facts on was all these tolls on the roads. Somehow, it has come to be that large companies can actually buy the roads here, thus creating tolls so they can reap in millions and millions and probably billions of Euros. The tolls in Southern France are the most expensive in France because of it being a touristy area. The private tolls are really costly, 13 euro to go from Aix to Cannes, but have roads that have higher speed limits and are in far better condition, but also come with much more traffic, especially on long weekends and holidays. It comes down to weighing the pros and cons of your situation, as well as how well you know all these windy little country roads, as well as if you’ve got nerves of steel to drive some of them.

1800 meters above sea level, and surrounded by mountains, we arrive in Pra-Loup. We were instantly welcomed by all the employees, who all know the family really well, as well as by Imed and his brother, Nizar. It was a happy little reunion.
Fam Jam at the bolwing alley

Luckily we made it just in time to grab the last of the day’s lunch at the hotel, and then we got ourselves installed in a room. The rain was still pouring down on us, so we couldn’t do any of the outside activities. Luckily we love Uno, Clue and some number game called Rumikub. We also had an insane cannon ball contest between the three of us (Marwann, Iness and I) in the pool, drenching the whole area from the roof to the windows.

Prairie kid in the mountains:
prepare for a lot of mountainous photos

clouds lookin like smoke

After dinner there was a music game in the commons/lounge area, so Marwann and I teamed up to see if we could win a prize. Sadly neither of us are overly knowledgeable when it comes to TV commercial music, TV series’ tunes, TV shows’ music, film music and Disney songs. I thought that I’d do ok at the Disney songs, but just like all the other songs they played, they were in French and I was absolutely clueless. Except for one, but I answered in English so it did not count… Haha

Friday it rained even more, and after the sixth came of Clue I decided we HAD to do something outside, even if it was raining. Thankfully Sophie came to the rescue with an idea to go down to Barcelonette, the town that is a couple hundred meters below.

We went and walked around Barcelonette, looked in some shops, and went bowling. Barcelonette has some kind of deal with Mexico and has a lot of Mexican shops and restaurants. It also has a really big jazz festival each July featuring Al Jarreau, if you know who he is, ‘coz I had no clue. The bowling was really fun, especially since it was ten pin and even with the lightest balls Iness and Marwann still ended up literally throwing them half way towards the pins.
View from a 4th level window in Pra-Loup
Barcelonette is on the right, above the pines
Wicked coloring

Even if the rain had let up a bit in Barcelonette, we were still in the clouds up in Pra-Loup as getting miserably drenched. Although the weather was not the best, I still loved seeing the mountains and just how huge they were. That sounds funny, but I really could have sat in front of a window for an hour or two and just watch the never ending parade of clouds pass up on by.

After dinner the Soirée Dansant did not last too long for the kids, but just long enough for me to learn the French version of the Macarena and realize that I know all the words to the YMCA. Some things are best left unknown.
Two bumps on the left are the
Gendarme's Hat,
and the pointy on the right has something
to do with sugar...

Finally on Saturday there was sunshine. Iness, Marwann and I started off the day with a couple games of petanque then geared up to do some mountain biking. Minutes after we left we were covered in mud, but it was ok. We explored the trails and found a deer crossing as well a number of huts along the way. We got to the end of the trail and took in the amazing view of the mountain valley. We started heading back but came across Sophie walking her bike that had broken somehow. We turned around yet again and continued on foot to go find the source of the sound of some cascading water. Time pressing us to make our 12’noon tennis time plus the fact that we never found the actual water, we headed back for real. Luckily for Sophie, it was downhill the majority of the way back so we weren’t too late. . I was absolutely covered in mud and grease when we got back. After days of rain, it was to be expected, but adding in needing to realign Marwann’s bike, fixing chains and kids that all of a sudden stop right in front of you, right in front of a puddle, yeah, I was dirty. Back at the hotel, Marwann and I played for our remaining 45 minutes on the courts then headed back up to wash up for lunch.
Somebody let me do their hair!!!
Marwann & I

After lunch the rain started up again, so we reclaimed one of our spots down in the lounge and played more Clue and more Uno and more Rumikub, and got all the homework done until it was time for supper. Then we watched TOTAL WIPEOUT back in the room until it was time to sleep.

Sunday we hung out around the hotel until after lunch when we left. It was still raining.
no rain, so we play petanque

Hit the trails!
Ok, I need to say something about the rain. Something weird is going on in France. Normally, as I said, the south is a rather hot and dry place, not too much rain and high risk of fires. Then there are the central and northern areas where they need the rain for the agriculture. Well guess where the huge draught is. On top of that, when it is the holidays, the French seem to swap places; meaning everyone form the South goes up to the north, and the people from the cold north come down to the sunny south. The weather in Paris was great, but those poor people who came down expecting a beach holiday. I don’t know how France is going to feed itself unless they all start living off of even more wine and olives from the south.
we found a hut

So. Intense.
On top of that vegetable crisis, I don’t know if you have heard, but each day there are more and more vegetables being recalled from the stores here!! First there were the Spanish tomatoes that were diseased, and then the cucumbers (also form Spain) that are killing people all the way up in Germany and now SOYA BEANS AND LETTUCE!! I think it’s time for us to all make the personal choice of becoming a meatatarian and boycott all wegetables. Fruits are ok though.
end of the trail

found another hut
heading back with Sophie
It rained all the way home, except for a 10km stretch or so (I missed it because I may have fallen asleep…) and was still raining Sunday night. When we returned home, none of the electricity was working and the house stunk of cheese. It was so rank. Thankfully nothing had actually gone bad, but we still threw out the cheese. It was so rank. Ugh.
Biker family

Also, we speculate that some lightning must have struck really near by and fried the Livebox (internet and telephone boxes here). So now we have no phone and no internet. Thankfully we still have the TV in case another vegetable becomes inedible.
too bad you cant see how dirty I am

9:15 am
Sophie & Iness,
wearing the dandelion chain
I made her

Yes she liked it