Thursday, July 11, 2013

Spain Trip in a nutshell

Spain trip June 2013

**I kept a few notes as we went, on the iPad, then updated a little more when I got home.  I wanted to keep a list of details for me, so I would remember the trip. If this is too many details for you, I apologize. I'll put up pictures in another post. **

Abby, other teacher, lost her passport.  For a while we weren't sure what was going to happen, and it looked like I might be taking the kids to Spain by myself. I had a few freak-out moments over that 12-hour period, but pulled myself together when the kids/parents were around.
Flew from MCI to JFK- wing problems. Mechanic put duct tape to hold screws together; when we got to JFK, duct tape was gone. Abby stayed in NYC to beg for a new passport. Ate yummy NY pizza in airport.
JFK to Barcelona; plane delayed. Seat next to me was empty, so I curled up and slept on flight. Had dinner (roasted chicken pasta) and breakfast. 7 hour flight wasn't bad at all. 
Met up with group--total we numbered 37--and went to hotel
Ate lunch at Pans, a sandwich store chain- had a yummy ham and cheese baguette 
City walk through Barcelona- pretty but exhausted. We were dragging by end. 
Rode subway
Ate dinner at waterfront, site of 1992 Olympic Park- traditional paella with chicken and pork, sangria, flan for dessert
Walked around waterfront, put toes in Mediterranean Sea for first time
Rode subway home 
Crashed in tiny hotel room--9 pm in Barcelona felt like 3 am at home.

Fried hair straightener and my European converter
Breakfast at hotel: jamon (ham I came to love)  cheese, croissant. 
Bus tour of Park Guell--beautiful views of Barcelona, park designed by Gaudi, Sacrada Familia, Montjuic. Sacrada Familia was the most beautiful thing I've seen. They project it will be finished in 30 years--If so, I'm going back to see it. 
Lunch on own, Hard Rock Cafe. Asked if we wanted menu in English or Spanish
Afternoon on own, some took taxi to Barcelona soccer stadium, some went shopping, my group wandered around and explored
Took Gondola/ cable air from waterfront to Montjuic; beautiful views over Mediterranean Sea and Barcelona
Found our way back on our own- felt pretty cool to be exploring in a city we knew nothing about 
Meeting back by Hard Rock Cafe- went to bathroom and there was a man in there. Confused gentlemen who had no idea he'd gone in the wrong restroom. 
Dinner that night was tuna pasta salad and a beef stew with potatoes, fruit for dessert. Tuna is not a favorite of mine usually, but it was so fresh and good. 
Back to hotel 

Left at 8 on a charter bus
10 minutes in, one of my girl gets sick and had to use my beach towel to wipe it up
2 stops and a longer stop in Zaragoza for cathedral tour; one kid was 25 minutes late bc he got confused on the time; I thought the tour guide was going to have a heart attack
Lunch was a Nutella crepe in Zaragoza
Arrived in Madrid at 6 pm, Abby joined us with a new passport. So happy to see her!
Rode subway to city center of Madrid 
Dinner was meatballs and pomme fries 
Walked around square of Madrid, street performers like ones I've seen in San Francisco 
Kids went to park and played 
Metro system in both Barcelona and Madrid was very easy to use (even for someone who knows NO Spanish) and a great way to travel 

Toledo in morning with only part of the group; was nice to be with the smaller group. 
Favorite place so far- old city with Roman ruins; wish we could have stayed here longer 
Back to Madrid for lunch, jamon and queso boccadillo, eaten at a street cafe 
Bus tour of Madrid 
Royal palace tour- beautiful building. Savana kept running her hand along railings and furniture so she "could touch something a king had touched" 
Rest time at Christopher Columbus monument
Tapas dinner- a traditional Spanish dinner of 6-7 small plates of appetizers. They'd bring one, we'd eat them, then move on to the next. Fun!
Navigated subway on our own back to hotel 

Left Madrid on the high speed AVE train. Fastest and most efficient train system in the world, second to Japan.  Travels up to 180 mph. I started out riding backwards, and could tell right away that wasn't going to work. Switched seats with Abby so I could ride forward. Trip took 2.5 hours
Took bus to Cordoba- olive oil capital of Spain. Toured a mosque built in 785, turned in to a catholic cathedral. Finally saw the gypsies we'd heard much about- beggars who will steal your entire purse if you aren't careful.  Super crazy hot with sun beating down. 
Our small little group found a local little restaurant to eat lunch, and it was really cool. I tried swordfish (excellent) oxtail (not bad) squid (no thank you!) green olives (no thank you!) and ate a yummy potatoes, ham and egg dish. May have been my favorite meal of the trip. 
Headed to Sevilla. Stayed a little outside the city- town was home to the band that started the Macarena. Nicest hotel so far with a pool and a balcony. 
Relaxing evening at hotel- kids swam, ate dinner there, much needed downtime and rest

Quiet morning in Sevilla bc everything is closed on Sunday mornings
Bus tour of Sevilla
Went to a fountain used in Star Wars. Significance lost on me but several kids very excited. Took a lot of pictures.
Some went to a mass at the cathedral, rest of us took a relaxing boat ride 
Walking tour of Sevilla- cathedral where Christopher Columbus is buried. 
This was the point where our group decided we couldn't stand any more tours and went a little slap happy. 
Flamenco show tonight- packed tour buses of tourists in like sardines. Was neat to see the traditional flamenco dance that has been done in Spain for hundreds of years. Thy had told us before it would be difficult to understand them, so the student next to me and I made up stories about what we thought was happening. Very entertaining.
Back to hotel for dinner.
Both nights in Sevilla, Abby and I sat outside with sangria and enjoying the weather. Once the sun went down, weather was absolutely beautiful. 

Headed to Granada, another ancient city with Roman ruins. Toured the Alhambra, summer palace built for a honeymoon. After the slap happiness the day before, I elected to not follow the tour guide and took 5 students on our own tour and met up with them at the end. It was a good choice. Alhambra was beautiful! 
Headed to Costa del Sol
Stayed in Benalmadena, little relaxing beach town on the Mediterranean Sea. Biggest hotel we stayed in, with tons of student tour buses. Had a spring break feel. 
Had dinner at hotel buffet- Spanish pronounce it like Jimmy Buffet- then walked along the beach and the boardwalk. Went back to hotel where they were doing activities-we missed the disco and got there for the end of bingo, but watched more flamenco dancing. It was a fun atmosphere with locals mixed with tourists. J

Slept in for the first time the entire trip, until 9. Had breakfast and headed to beach. 
Topless beach- mostly locals or Europeans. Kids handled it well. 
Only lasted about an hour tops- winds kicked in big time and clouded up. After a week of perfect blue sky, the one day at the beach is cloudy. Kids wandered around on own, Abby and I settled at a little cafe on the boardwalk for lunch. Ended up sitting there for about 3 hours- no pressure from waiter to leave. Not sure I've ever felt that relaxed and non pressed for time. We didn't once look at the time.  Tourists walked by, and Abby taught me how to tell the difference between American, German, French, Swedish, Spanish, Italian. This beach area is a popular vacation spot for Europeans. 
Walked along boardwalk and found a place that was blockaded from the wind . We spread out our towels and took a nap.
Headed into Malaga on the city bus after dinner with our small group. Malaga is non-tourist city, and was the only time in our trip we weren't surrounded by tourists. Abby had brought stick-on mustaches and we walked around with them on. Fun looks from the locals. One of the students carried out an entire conversation in Spanish for a long time with local teens. 
Back to Benalmadena. Kids decided that since we had to get up super early so we'd stay up all night. I didn't make it- went to bed at 2:30 and alarm went off at 3:30.

Left for airport at 4:15. Flew to Paris- I was asleep before we took off, and woke up when we landed. Entire flight clapped when we landed. Could hear all kinds of languages spoken around us. 
About an hour or so layover in Paris. Encountered another confused man in the women's restroom. 
Flew to Minneapolis .  I was in the middle seat, and didn't get much rest. Watched Silver Linings Playbook, The Hobbit, and Pitch Perfect. Served us lunch and a snack. I've never flown internationally before, and was impressed with the quality and quantity of food served. It was pretty good and they kept you well fed and hydrated.
Customs in Minneapolis took a while. Lady didn't believe my passport picture was me and I had to show my drivers license and answer a bunch of questions to prove it was my passport
Flew to MCI and landed at 4. 
Happy to be home. 

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