Sunday, April 27, 2014

Carcassonne, France

When we are taking a road trip in Europe there are so many wonderful distractions, we could make side trips all day long.  We are usually able to restrain ourselves, but when it came to Carcassonne we made time for a little visit.  We timed our trip on the way home so we could eat lunch in the car and then make a stop to look around here.  
The city did not disappoint, driving up to this restored medieval city it is so intriguing.  

We started walking around the city and had to decide which activity we were going to do. 

Going up on the old wall was a great choice. 

The history of Carcassonne is very interesting.  The city itself was scheduled to be demolished, thankfully Viollet-le-duc, a French architect, stepped in and restored this treasure.  

This little man was happy to be out of his car seat.

Wisteria, my favorite flower, and Addison my favorite little girl.

The cathedral at Carcassonne.

My new favorite picture!

After our little tour here we got back in the car for 3 more hours to Limoges, France.  There we ate dinner and spent the night.  Then just 3 more hours and we were finally HOME!

Sant Cugat del Valles

When we started to look at Barcelona as a place to visit the first thing we had to decide was where to stay.  We wanted to take a longer trip so we knew we would like to have a little more space.  We found a great 4 bedroom house with a pool that was about 15 minutes from the city.  The house and view were amazing, but we also loved the little city itself.  The main square had an old Monastery, a few restaurants and some great shopping.  We have found we do better, especially with the kids, in smaller communities.  Barcelona was great, but it got very busy and very crowded.  Sant Cugat was more calm, slower paced, and had more of a local feel.  
Sant Cugat is where some of my new favorite places are, Mercantic and Somewhere Cafe.  It was a great jumping off point to visit the sites outside of Barcelona like Tarragona and Monserrat.  Here are a few pictures of the "Old church" as Jon and Garrett like to say.

Markets and Roses

Our last day in Barcelona I had a list of a few thrift/antique stores that I wanted to visit.  We made our way through back streets, and one that we weren't sure was a street, to find no parking and one of the stores not open.  We did see this great balcony.

Eventually we decided to just go to the main market, Encants Market.  We parked in a parking garage near by and headed in.  I had read mixed reviews about this market, some said only to expect 'Made in China' junk, others said there were treasures to be found.  I went in with a hopeful attitude and I was rewarded.

There were vendors all over the floor and on the sides that wrapped around and up the building.  Some of the vendors did have junk, but some of them had amazing treasures, and they were ready to make some deals.  

My Spanish is still good enough to haggle over some prices and I had collected enough by lunch time for Jon to make a trip to the car.  

After lunch Jon took the kiddos to a near by park and I got a few more minutes to shop.  

When I found Jon and the kids they were having a really good time.

My sweet little flamenco dancer.

Our weary little traveler.

We got back in the car and drove over to Las Ramblas to enjoy the Sant Jordi/Saint George Day festivities.  We made a stop into La Boqueria, a fun food market.  We had a snack of yummy fresh fruit and a smoothie.  We had fun checking out all of the fresh fish, different eggs, and interesting cuts of meat.

Jon bought Addie her rose to celebrate the day Saint George slayed the dragon and saved the princess.

We finished our walk through the city with one more pass by the cathedral.

There were street dancers that Addie loved watching.

I had a hard time getting Garrett to look at the camera, but once he did I got a great little smile.  

From here we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for a yummy dinner.  It was hard to believe that our time in Spain was over already.  We went home that night and started the process of collecting all of our things and packing up the car.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Monserrat, A Monastery on a Mountain

The Monday after Easter is it's own holiday in Europe.  I had done some research and found out that pretty much everything was closed that day, except the monastery at Monserrat.  The weather forecast called for rain so that took all parks and outside adventures out of the running.  The monastery was about an hour's drive from our house so we loaded up the car.
There are two parking options, you can park at the bottom of the hill and take the train up or you can park at the top of the hill.  You still have some walking to do once you park, but really not bad at all.

This was the view of the cathedral that met us when we first got there.

We read this little poem to the kids before we went in.  It is always a challenge to take rowdy boys into these very peaceful churches, but we keep trying.
"Welcome to Montserrat
you who have come
to visit Saint Mary in Her
mountain Sanctuary

She offers you
Her Son, Jesus,
as a light and guide
in your life

We hope that this house
that welcomes you
will be a home to everyone.
Help to make this so by your
Peace be with you

Inside the courtyard this was the view.  Through these main doors you can enter into the main sanctuary.  The door to the right is how you can go to visit the statue of Saint Mary.

This beautiful painting was inside the sanctuary.

This statue was made in the 12th century.  

This is the view the statue has of the main sanctuary.

Back outside it was still pretty foggy.

You could see the clouds lifting as we stood out there.

Addie was having so much fun.

The view from the other side of the church.

We ate a yummy lunch in the Cafeteria, it was a little pricey, but the food was good.  The gift shops had quite a collection of souvenirs.  I asked one of the ladies working there about items that were made it Spain and there was a small selection of things not imported from China.
There was also a small market outside with people selling local honey, cheese and other treats.  
The kids were entertained with this new game with Daddy while I did my shopping.

We got a small glimpse of the valley below when the fog started to clear.  

It is amazing to think that this monastery has been here since 1025.  People have been making pilgrimages here since then.  We saw one man on the road walking up the road. 
Another great experience during a great trip.

Happy Easter 2014

The Easter Bunny found us at our house in Spain.  Malachi was excited to play with his new toy.

Addie is sporting her new shades and her umbrella.

This shirt makes us all laugh. 

Yes, my kids are eating cheese puffs first thing in the morning, it is a holiday.

Even Daddy had a treat.

This little cat was a huge hit with our kids, he was so friendly.

Then the kids headed outside to find the eggs the Easter Bunny hid for them.  Ben is so serious.

Garrett is a little more expressive.

Addie is super excited!

She found an egg up high that she couldn't reach.

She tried so hard.

She is our little problem solver, but in the end I helped her get it.

More fun faces from Garrett.

Later that day we headed into the city to go to the International Church of Barcelona.  We all had a great time worshiping with a new community of believers.  

We were going to go to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch, but there was a 1 hour wait, so instead we had our Easter dinner at KFC.  It was delicious and we didn't have to wait for it.