My heart is full. For eight days, my sister Lacy and I led a group of fearless women deep into their hearts and witnessed them light fires of magic, power and joy. It was awe-inspiring to watch.
After I recovered from the blissful shock of spending the afternoon at Loly and Jose's, it was time to roll our happy tummies out of their kitchen and subir (climb) the castle. So we headed out for the walk back downtown.
There is an elevator on the seaside of El Castillo de Santa Barbara that costs a couple euro and deposits you sweat-free at the top. But that route is for sissies, and we are no sissies. The long climb up the back for us!
Since being back in the States people have asked again and again about our wonderful sojourn in Spain. How was it? What did we see? What was our favorite part? Well, for me, hands down, Alicante was the absolute highlight of the trip.
I studied abroad in Alicante from January to June in 2002 as a bright-eyed 20-year-old college junior, and my time there carved out a spot in my heart paralleled by no other. In that sparkling gem of a city by the sea, I met some of my dearest friends, survived some of my wildest times and traveled some of my first steps towards finding my best self. I of course made many a missteps on my journey and cried fountains of tears (as my friends can attest to...you know who you are...thank you ALL), but none of that could ever darken the bright spot that is for me Alicante...my beach...my castle...my beloved city.
Well, as you can guess, we survived Slut Mountain, just barely. The hotel stay at ol' Carlos III included breakfast, but after our less-than-enjoyable chef boyardee dinner, we decided we would be just fine forgoing an additional meal at this lovely place. So Dana set her alarm on her phone to give us just enough time to get up, get packed, and get OUT of town.
Where, oh where do I start with Day 1 of the road trip? I swear you can't make up material this good.
You will never, ever know the sweet victory felt by Brian, Dana and me when we finally arrived to this happy little rental car. Brian and I had, ahem, made a few clothing purchases while in Spain (okay, maybe more-so me), and even after sending an entire box of stuff floating home over the Atlantic Ocean, we were still hard-pressed to cram everything into our suitcases.
When it was finally time to leave Barcelona on the morning of Thursday, March 31, there was really no humanly way we were going to drag our 8 tons of luggage the half-mile to the Aerobus, get it loaded all onto the bus, unloaded at the terminal and then reloaded onto the rental car courtesy bus. Common sense would tell you to rent a car in the city, drive it to the apartment, load up our stuff, and hit the road. But I do NOT drive in the city with all those crazy motos zipping about with my still-novice standard skills, so we always had to hike out of town to the airport to rent cars. Which was never a problem when we had a reasonable amount of weekend luggage.
Wednesday, March 30 was our last full day in Barcelona, and we marveled at how quickly three months had whizzed by. We had yet to take Dana to Parc Guell and we wanted to take one last indulgent peek ourselves, so we set out on the now-familiar trek to the Gracia neighborhood to show her one of our fave Gaudi wonders...
We have officially been back in the great U.S. of A. two whole weeks and are counting down 7 short days until we return to Europe for our final 11 day jaunt to Greece before we're officially "back". The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of family fun and lots of Texas road time. And in between visits and long stretches of Texas highway, I have absolutely adored flipping back through our photos and reliving the excitement.
We have now been back in the States for about 19 hours, and my heart is so full and my body so weary. We were scheduled to be in Europe another month, but with the very tragic and untimely death of Brian's cousin Colton, we made the decision to come home early and wrap our arms around the ones we love. As Brian said, Italy and Croatia will always be there; our family needs us now.
So here we are. I have already accidentally spoken in Spanish to about 5 confused English speakers. I have already reached for my plug converter twice when trying to use my computer. And I have just realized that we are cell phone-less, homeless, and jobless. No pasa nada.
After a total of nearly 20 hours of traveling Brian's older sister Dana finally made it to Espana!!! And might I say she looked amazing, with a pep in her step and ready to go, go, go.
After we took Dana to the piso and let her get cleaned up, we set out for lunch at a place we have been meaning to go for a while called Els Quatre Gats. Lo and behold they're open on a Sunday. We go inside, sit down, open the menu and.... meat, meat, meat, and more meat. So we get up, walk out and set out walking again!
I will forever treasure our time spent in the Basque Country. We saw such amazing sights from the windows of the little Ford Ka as we drove up the coast searching out one beautiful, secluded beach after another. Pure heaven. And my kind of vacation for sure.
We're back from a fun-filled weekend with family in Zurich, Switzerland, but before I post all the adorable pictures of Brian's cousin's 17-month-old son Tristan and our chilly adventures in and around Zurich, I want to finish our trip to the Basque Country.
Our hotel was situated halfway between Bilbao and San Sebastian, so on Sunday we set out to explore San Sebastian. I have heard over and over from friends what a magical city it is, and I have to admit that it did not disappoint. The parking Gods led us straight to a prime free spot on the street close to the old city, and we set off walking to find tapas row.
As you probably saw from the pictures, our stay at Hotel Arbe was nothing short of amazing. A modernly designed 11-room hotel situated on a beautiful cliff overlooking the Cantabrian Sea, perfect in every way. They even have an onsite spa equipped with sauna and massage services that they proudly tell you about upon check-in. With chronic back problems, I so needed a massage from my 6+ hours of driving, so we signed up for back-to-back appointments the following morning. After breakfast the next morning, we checked in with the woman at the front desk and asked where we should go for our massages. In Spanish she told us to go back up to our room, take off our clothes, wrap our large bath towels around us, and use the elevator to the -1 floor (that's how they do things here... Basement is -1, ground floor is 0 and second floor is 1) to the massage therapy room. Brian would wait in the relaxation area in the heated lounge chairs, and I would be first up for my massage.