11 days in Europe

Okay, I need to just get this written before I forget everything.

For a good recap of Spain, read Erica’s post here.

Friday morning

Arrived in Barcelona, after a flight with no sleep. I tried. I really tried. At least I got to catch up on some movies.

Had my first jamon sandwich, then met Erica at the airport (her flight arrived not long after mine) and we headed into town to drop off our luggage at a locker, and then we just wandered around until our Airbnb was available.

Many, many photos from that day are in this post.

Walked through the Gothic Quarter, made our way through a path of what felt like miles of blankets covered in fake Michael Kors handbags, “Nike” sneakers, and sunglasses. Finally got to the beach! Put toes in Mediterranean!

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A visit to the Sagrada Família

Erica and I went to the Sagrada Família on Saturday the 18th, after we’d given our talk. (More details on all that later.) I had tried to go when I was in Barcelona last time, cough cough, but didn’t get to.

Anyway, I’m not usually one for visiting old buildings or churches, but this was truly exceptional. So unique and breathtaking and many other adjectives. Construction began on this church designed by Gaudí in 1882 and it’s not done yet.

Erica and I also booked tickets to the tower, which was fun and hair-raising. (You take an elevator up but a tightly wound spiral staircase down, and it’s kind of terrifying.)

Without further ado…

Details outside

The interior

Views from the tower:

Terrifying staircase:

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People right as they walk in, stop, dumbfounded, then take pics.

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They say it’s going to be finished (finally) in ten years. We’ll see.

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Barcelona, day 1

Not going to write a ton about my first day in Barcelona, but it was lovely. Didn’t sleep on the plane, so the first half of the day after meeting up with my coworker Erica were a bit of a haze. But the weather was gorgeous and we got a lot of walking in.

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Mmmm. Pastries.
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My food upon arriving at the airport – jamon on baguette. Heaven.
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Dog at the airport
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Gothic Quarter
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Gothic Quarter
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Erica!
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More Gothic Quarter
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Toes in the sand!
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The Mediterranean Sea
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Rose on the Mediterranean.
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Blue sky
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Dinner the first night.

I meant to post this earlier, but the wifi at our Barcelona Airbnb was terrible.

Barcelona: Going home

Now, usually, going home from a trip doesn’t merit an entire blog post, but I foresee in the future using this as a way to one-up anyone who thinks they had a bad flight. (Oh, you think YOUR travel was bad? Check THIS out., that kind of thing.)

The day started out promisingly. A few of us got a taxi to the airport, no problem there. We got in line to check in for our flight when there was hardly anyone ahead of us. (Within moments, the line was massive.) These all bode well for a nice trip home, eh?

Then Simon said, “did you know we’re stopping in Bangor, Maine?” and that kind of feels like the beginning of the end.

No, I’m just being dramatic. I had a super long layover in Newark anyway, and what turned out to be a refueling stop in Maine (wtf?) wasn’t going to affect me except to make me spend less time in Newark. I mean, who wants to spend a lot of time at the Newark airport? Not me!*

So after a trip through duty-free and a quick breakfast with Beckett, we got on our flight. I had an empty seat next to me, so about half an hour into the flight, Beckett moved over so we got to sit together. Yay!

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Our flight was pretty long – 10.5 hours altogether, including our short jaunt in Bangor, which was really snowy and apparently like -45 degrees or something absurd. So I guess making a snow angel wasn’t in the cards. (But we did get 5000 miles or $100 flight voucher for our troubles, so that was nice.)

Anyway, I wanted to interject and give quick reviews of the four movies I watched on the plane.

  • Edge of Tomorrow – very entertaining.
  • Tammy – Beckett and I watched this together (we synchronized our personal video display screens) and it was funny enough.
  • I, Origins – I probably wouldn’t have chosen this if the woman in front of me didn’t have it on her screen. My eyes kept drifting to it, so I felt compelled to watch it. Aside from one icky scene, it was actually pretty good. Not as pretentious as I’d feared. Also, the lead’s last name is Pitt, but I don’t think he’s related to Brad, but he’s sure cultivating the look.
  • Blended – again, watched this one with Beckett. Pretty terrible, but I love Drew Barrymore, and we were nearing the end of a very long flight, so standards were low.

Beckett’s purple hair got us a couple of bottles each of free wine on the flight, which was pretty awesome, and the flight attendant even walked by once and slipped me some chocolates and cookies. I mean, great flight, right?!?

So far, so good. I was tired (we established from the flight there that I cannot sleep on planes no matter what) but hey, getting closer to home and my bed.

Four of us (Sandy, the Snows, and I) grabbed dinner at Newark after getting through customs and we were all feeling the exhaustion. After eating, we made our way to our gates and sat, zombie-like, as we waited for our flight to be called.

Finally, I was on my plane and on my way home! Just a 3.5 hour flight! No biggie! Maybe I’d even doze a little bit!

So we fly, and fly, and fly. When we’re about an hour and a half from home sweet home, the pilot comes over the PA system.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, blah blah blah, we’re turning around and going back to Newark.”

I don’t honestly remember what his reasoning was. Weather, visibility, something like that.

{Turns out it was a landing system outage at the airport? Plus fog?}

Why we had to go alllll the way back to Newark is still a mystery to me. But we did. And by the time we got back, it was almost midnight. The airport was deserted. They had already rebooked us on 6am flights the next morning so sleep wasn’t going to really happen anyway.

Nevertheless, I asked for a hotel room so I wouldn’t have to snuggle on the floor of the airport, trying to get some rest with CNN blaring.

By the time I got to the lovely Ramada Plaza – Newark Airport, it was 2am, and I had to be on the shuttle back to the airport at 4:30. But man that two hours of sleep felt good.

Fortunately, the flight home was pretty uneventful. I dozed, slack-jawed and drooling for a few minutes at a time in my middle seat, so hey, I’ve finally figured out how to sleep on airplanes! My suitcase made it home, nothing was broken, and it only took a minute to get a taxi home, where I promptly took a four hour nap.

And thus ends my tale of woe. Written out, it doesn’t sound as bad as it was. I need to work on my story.

 

 

*that’s foreshadowing, my friend.

Barcelona, the last day

All too soon it was Saturday, our last full day in Barcelona. But as I mentioned before, we stayed up very late the night before (BECAUSE IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY) playing Cards Against Humanity and turning our teeth purple with wine.

There was so much I still wanted to see, but I also knew I needed sleep, so when Beckett woke me up at almost noon, I can’t say I was too upset. And being the take-charge gal she is, she ordered me out of bed so we could go see the city!

Before too long, we’d made our way to Han, the apartment everyone congregated at, and picked up Sandy, and the three of us spent the day exploring the city.

First up, Park Guell. We grabbed a cappuccino from a cafe and hopped on the Metro to the station that looked closest to the park. Once we got there, we were a bit ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ so we grabbed a taxi, which took us up….and up….and up. Really glad we decided not to walk at this point.

Once at the park, we just wandered around and took in the views. Stunning.

SOMEONE (okay, it was me) got us lost in our park wanderings and we ended up outside of it, but we were all hungry (not having eaten anything yet) so we went with it and ended up in a very hilly neighborhood.

We tried to find somewhere to eat, but ended up getting a taxi to the Gothic Quarter instead. We were starving by then, so we went into the first restaurant we saw and basically ordered everything on the menu. So yum.

So. much. food.
So. much. food.

We spied a very cultural museum across the way, so decided to check it out.

After that, we wandered the narrow streets and passageways of the Barri Gòtic and did a bit of shopping. I was so glad we got to explore this area.

And then Sandy mentioned he hadn’t seen the Mediterranean yet, so we hopped on the Metro and went to the sea!

The rest of the evening was spent losing Beckett’s phone in a taxi, finding my traditional city Starbucks mug souvenir, and having a last dinner with our team. And packing.

And that is the end of the fun part of my trip to Barcelona. Getting home will be another (not terribly exciting but must be recorded for posterity) post…

 

Barcelona on my birthday

Okay, so I left off at Wednesday night’s wine explosion…

Thursday was another work day. The main point of this meetup was to set a road map for our team for the next six months. The team I’m on (Hermes) focuses on live chat support for WordPress.com users and support for all users of the WordPress mobile app. Our team (Hermes) was formed in August, and has grown by several members since then, so it was also a bonding experience.

Simon led a bunch of activities that helped us narrow down our goals. At first, I was skeptical – how was writing on post it notes with sharpies (as fun as that is) going to help us form concrete goals? But you know what, it did. Pretty cool.

Don’t we look so profound and thoughtful and stuff? Yeah. We are.

That evening, we split into smaller groups (there were 15 of us all together, not including a few spouses that joined us) for dinner. Yet again, we had a delicious meal. Shocking!

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The giant apartment we met in had a chapel.
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And a a really old foosball table.

Friday was…my 40th birthday! I already posted about the amazing 5.47 mile (but who’s counting?) run I went on with Beckett.

We spent most of the day finishing up the road map, had a lovely lunch, and then later, Beckett and I snuck off so we could go see Las Ramblas and get some pre-dinner tapas.

We took a team photo before going to eat that night. Everyone on the team was there except our newest member, Mahangu. We got him into the photo, though.

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Dinner was amazing, as usual. My coworker Jason spent a lot of time finding a great restaurant that we could all go to together (with 19 of us, it wasn’t easy) but he found a great one in Restaurant Cafeteria 336. We started off with bubbly, and then they just brought out a million small plates, each one more delicious than the next. (My favorite was a concoction of potatoes, tuna, and poached eggs.) I ordered a steak for my main course, and then we had creme brulee for dessert (they call it Creme Catalan, but it’s the same thing.) And of course, the wine was flowing freely.

Afterwards, we went back to the apartment (codenamed Han because Harrison Ford had stayed there once, according to the AirBNB listing – I stayed in Lando, and the other place was Chewie) and played Cards Against Humanity while trying to drink all of the wine in Spain. Always fun!

So that marked the end of my birthday, which was fabulous. (Of course, I just mean my birthDAY, not the celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of my birth, which will continue for several weeks to come.)

Since we had stayed up very late Friday night, and Saturday was set aside as a day to explore, I slept until nearly noon. Maaan, that felt good. Since I took a ton of pictures on Saturday, I’ll save those for another post…

 

 

Barcelona, the first few days

I have a lot to recap about Barcelona, so I’m going to break it up a bit.

So of course I was supposed to arrive the afternoon of Monday the 5th, but as we all know, that didn’t happen. I finally arrived Tuesday afternoon, tired but excited.

See how excited I am?
See how excited I am?

Got to the apartment where everyone was congregating, said my hellos, etc, etc. Not one to waste a moment, fellow Automattician Beckett said, “who wants to go on a gondola ride?” It got dark pretty early there, and I knew if I sat for too long, I’d just fall asleep, so off we went.

The views when we got to the stop were stunning. But we had to take a lot of stairs to get to the top. I mean, a lot. You’d get to the top of a crazy long staircase, only to be confronted with about seventy jillion more steps. My advice – take the bus to the gondola station.

It was getting very close to closing time when we got to the top, so we didn’t get to go in that castle, but maybe next time.

After our gondola adventure, we met up with everyone else for dinner, which was, like pretty much everything we ate here, amazing.

Wednesday was a work day, but the afternoon was devoted to a tour of Sagrada Família. I missed the tour but got some photos of the outside.

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That evening, we went to dinner at a tapas restaurant where they just kept bringing out food. It was all so, so delicious, and very reasonably priced. At the end, they brought out a porró, which is a wine decanter that you use to pour wine directly into your mouth. Or…not.

Aaaand, I spent the rest of that evening doing laundry.

Barcelona, in food

So I have a bunch of posts to make about Barcelona but since I’m still pretty out of it from traveling (that’s a story for another post) I’m just going to post some food pics here.

The food was amazing. The ham! The seafood! The paella!

 

Birthday run

TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!!!! (Did I not tell everyone on Earth yet?!? Just making sure.)

I may have mentioned that I’m in Barcelona, so my coworker Deborah and I went on a run early this morning. I like to run on my birthday, it makes me feel virtuous. Like, a good way to start the next year of my life.

We left the apartment at 7:45, and we made it to the Mediterranean right as the sun was rising. (It rises really late here!) It was just stunning.

I’m in Zurich, y’all!

Well, I’ve made it to Europe!

Traveling a long way is kind of surreal, isn’t it? Seems weird that just this morning, I saw the boys off to school, and now I’m in Zurich. Granted, it’s been the longest day of my life (well, close to it) but I haven’t slept since then, so it counts.

So, I won’t bore you with a play by play of my travel thusfar, but just wanted to remember some things.

Once I got to Newark, I had a bunch of time to kill, so I mostly wandered around, trying to get 10,000 steps in while also looking for a charging station. I tell ya, if Newark had fewer payphones and more charging stations, we’d all be better off.

Fortunately, my plane took off without incident and the flight was mostly good. (Well, the landing was the scariest in ever because it was super foggy, the runway was white, and we were in the mountains, so I thought we were still way up in the air when BOOM we landed. It was kind of terrifying.)

I was seated in Economy Plus again (so much legroom!) and despite the fact that I had all of the possible accoutrements to make sleeping possible (fancy pillow, eye mask, headphones, white noise on phone, cozy socks, non-restrictive, comfy clothing, blanket, melatonin) I just couldn’t fall asleep.

So that’s the last time I’m going to try it. Every time I have ever flown to Europe I’ve tried to fall asleep on the flight over (or back) and I have never, ever been able to. Nothing works. So I’m going to stop trying.

Consequently, my eyeballs are very heavy and I am somewhat punchy from exhaustion (I also tried going to bed late Sunday night and waking up early Monday to wear myself out, and those laps of Newark’s terminals were also with that in mind) but at least it’ll be 2 in the afternoon when I get to Barcelona and I’ll be excited to see everyone so hopefully that will help keep me awake until bedtime.

Okay, just a few more pictures…