We went to a wax museum today. It was right there on Las Ramblas and we said what the fuck, let’s go in.

I’d never been to a wax museum before. It was downright creepy while being cool in a freaky as hell kind of way. I kept thinking some of the wax people were living statues because they looked so real and I would stare them down then get freaked out when I would swear I saw them blink.

So all the politicians and aristocrats and writers and explorers were interesting and kind of neat to see.

Then there was this.

I stared at this display slack jawed for a full minute before I uttered the words “What in the wide, wide world of Tatooine is this shit?”

Han looks like he aged about 20 years.
Luke looks like he had a sex operation and aged about 20 years.
Leia looks like she’s been rode hard and put away - 20 years ago.
And Chewie? He looks like someone had a 20 year old wax replica of the Cowardly Lion and nowhere to put it.

Let’s not even get into the fact that E.T. was just hanging out in the middle of this scene.

Worst wax museum sculptures ever or worst wax museum sculptures EVER? 

[on edit: I think Han might be an old Thomas Jefferson statue and Leia is Joan Crawford and Luke is a blonde Dorothy Hamill]

Meal time here is whenever you are hungry. There’s no busy time, no mad rush at the local eateries. Seven in the morning is just as crowded as seven at night and at both times you’ll find people drinking beer and eating tapas. 

There’s this place across the street from the hotel. I forget the name. We just call it “our place.” We ate many an olive there last year it and it was the first place we hit up this visit. 

We take a seat outside at 7:30 in the morning, order two beers and an American sort of breakfast. 

A few dudes with skateboards take the table next to us. They are older guys, probably skaters from back in the day when skateboarding was a crime. 

The one dude starts talking to us because Barcelonians on a whole are super friendly.

“Good morning!’

We say good morning back and he immediately starts chatting with us. We get to the "Where are you from?” portion of the conversation.

“New York,” Todd says, because we always say New York instead of Long Island. 

“Oh! I lived there for a while!” Dude is excited now. “I lived on Long Island as an exchange student.”

I laugh. I tell him that’s where we are from. He asks about the town where he lived, how they made out in the hurricane. Not so great, I tell him. 

He talks in halting English about his time in America. He lived in Tennessee for a bit after Long Island, went back to his home in the Canary Islands then came to Barcelona to stay.

“I fell in love with this city,” he tells us. 

“Yea, me too.”

The dude and Todd exchange tattoo compliments and the dude writes down an address where we can get tattoos if we want while we’re here.

Then he offers us cocaine. He’s the third person to make such an offer since we’ve been here.

We politely turn him down, he shakes our hands and he skates off with his friend. 

Barcelona. Hell of a place.

Later in the afternoon we go back to our place. We need something to hold us over until dinner at nine. It’s three in the afternoon. We order olives, potatoes with hot sauce, another kind of potatoes and something called Moorish meat. No idea what kind of meat it is and I don’t want to know. It was good. That’s all we need to know. 

A couple sits next to us. They order whiskey.

That’s how they order it. “Bring us some whiskey.”  It’s the same way we order beer. There is no “What’s on tap?” You say “I’ll have a beer” and they say “Small, medium or large?”

We eat our olives, potatoes and Moorish meat stuff until we’re full. That’s the magic of tapas. Everything is a small serving. Small plates. Yet when you’re done you feel as full as if you’ve had a huge meal.

Could be all those medium sized beers, too.

The couple next to us is arguing. I pick up a few words here and there. Something about a girl and cocaine.

Hell of a place, Barcelona.

Sugar, the gift of the sixth anniversary.

We are packing up to go home. We’ll leave the hotel at 7am tomorrow morning and say goodbye to Barcelona, probably for good. We’re thinking Holland next year.

This was a good week. Even though we arrived exhausted, barely slept and we were both sick for most of the trip, we managed to celebrate our anniversary in ways both large and small.

Tonight we ate our last meal here at an outdoor restaurant. We reminisced about our years together and talked about what wonderful things the future holds for us. At the end of our meal, our waiter brought out two glasses of champagne and I wondered if he could tell from our demeanor that we were celebrating something.

I hope so.

Here’s to six years, to sugar in all its forms, to the years ahead and the years behind. 

And here’s to vacations, and to going home.

barcelona, 5am

It’s 5am in  Barcelona and I’m sitting on a street corner drinking beer we just bought from a 16 year old kid. 

The streets are crowded with people and it’s a little reminiscent of Times Square at 11pm, without the gaudy lights. It’s a weird scene for an American to observe; everyone openly drinking, selling drugs, dropping beer cans and drink cups on the street.

On the far corner about 100 people sit on the cement where a sidewalk cafe will open in about an hour. Next to them, a group of young men, maybe 50, break out into futbol chants and the people on the other side of the street respond with their own chant. The group sitting down opts for what I think is the Spanish National Anthem. 

It’s a strange world here. One where 5am is a social event, an outdoor drinking party for all ages where police stand by and watch.

By 6am the crowd of a thousand or so has dispersed. The cleaning crews will come in and spray the streets down with hoses, clean up the beer cans. The cafes get ready to open for the day, the kids go home and sleep off the beer.

This is a strange and wonderful city.

day’s end | large

A lot of walking today, a lot of seeing, a lot of coffee drinking. We revisited some places we saw last year, taking it easy while we still get over jet lag and almost two weeks worth of power outage induced insomnia.

It’s nice to feel familiar in a city that’s not yours.

It’s nice to be able to unwind in that city.

I’m relaxing, letting a lot of negative vibes go and trying not to bother my sister and daughter that much with emails about how things are going back home.

Trying to be present in my present, as I do. 

Watching the sunset by the Balearic Sea sure does help.

Tomorrow, the marketplace early in the morning, then a harbour boat tour in the afternoon. Lunch somewhere that is not tapas. Really, there is only so much tapas one can take. I need a meal.

Todd is already passed out. Me, I just ordered two cappuccinos because I have two deadlines to meet and I have not started writing yet. I’m gonna be here a while.

I’ve grown used to not sleeping, anyway. 

We ate in an Irish pub last night. Burgers and Guinness.

It can’t be tapas and seafood all the time. Well, it can, but last night I wanted something more home-ish.

I miss home. I don’t normally get homesick when I’m on vacation but we left on such weird terms. I hadn’t slept in my house for at least four nights before we left and for the week before that we slept in darkness and cold and it was so unlike home. My house is always warm and inviting and cozy. 

So I miss my powered-up home. I miss my couch and the early morning talks over the news and my coffee maker and my bed and watching the world out my living room window while the dog barks at everyone. I miss the noises my kids make when they’re up at 1am, I miss cooking, I miss my backyard.

It has very little to do with being here in this lovely city and everything to do with how things were when we left and the fact that I haven’t really been home in three weeks.

We’re about to head out to the Barcelona aquarium now, which will give me a few hours of forgetting I’m holding a the world’s most self centered pity party in my my head. 

Who goes on vacation and thinks about being home?

Me, apparently. 


 Barcelona, Day 5(?)

Yesterday started with heartfelt coffee and ended with sushi. In between was a lot of walking, walking, walking, seeing parts of the city off our usual path, following demonstrators and just gawking at amazing architecture. 

When it came time for dinner we once again whined about how quickly we tired of tapas and paella and, not wanting to venture out to where big demonstrations were taking place, we headed back to Port Vell and the shopping center filled with restaurants. We found a great Japanese place and spent a night in Spain dining on sushi, noodles and edamame while Pink Floyd and the Mamas and Papas played on a radio in the background. Then we just sat by the water and looked at the lights reflecting on the sea before we walked back to the hotel.

Two more nights here. I love vacation but I also get to the point in vacations where I want to be home again. I’m just about there. 

Today, we conquer a mountain.

Which will be a lot easier than conquering sleep, something I’ve not been able to do in about a month. 

I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with tapas.

I’m writing something about this (and other stuff) but you’ll have to wait til Wednesday to read it at The Full Moxie.

We ate this today in a place called Bar del Pi, an establishment in which the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia was founded in 1936.

History! Tapas!


unwound | flickr

This vacation was originally intended for us to do two things: see all the things we didn’t see the last time, and make up for the fact that when we were here last year we were both under a lot of stress and not at our best.

Then the whole Sandy thing happened and we got on a plane bound for Barcelona exhausted, emotionally drained and working on our last good nerves. And when we arrived here, we both had colds.

So suddenly this trip has become about two very different things: revisiting the close and familiar, and unwinding, letting go and relaxing.

Today we walked down to Port Vell again. We walked around a bit, enjoying what felt like a  late summer day. We had coffee at an outdoor cafe then decided to take a boat tour of the harbour. We paid for the tour and got on board the boat (really, a gondola type vehicle) for our half hour tour. We were the first ones on so we took a seat up top, sat in the warm sun  and talked while the green waters of the Mediterranean Sea slowly rocked the boat. 

We talked about how when we were first dating I used to have recurring dreams about us being together in Spain. Then we talked about dreams coming true. We talked about our past, our present and our future, all the while the rocking of the gondola and the warmth of the sun lulling us into a state of complete relaxation.

What seemed like half an hour later, the lady who sold us our tickets boarded the boat, came and sat next to us. “Looks like you’re the only passengers for the 12:15,” she said. “Can we convince you to come out for the 2:00 instead?”

We looked at each other, shrugged. “Sure, no big deal. We’re not going to make you take the boat out for just us.”

She was grateful enough that she refunded our money and gave us free passes for whenever we wanted to come back.

It didn’t matter. That half hour we had on the boat without it ever leaving the dock was just what we needed.

I know we’ll see a lot of things the rest of this week; parks and mountains, sculptures and castles and art and even a burlesque show. But it was those quiet minutes on a docked boat that I’ll remember the most.