Wednesday, June 29, 2022

All four present

I started the day with all my monkeys in a row at breakfast. 

A sunny moment in a day filled with other less fun duties. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

We're Back!

Relaxed, grateful, dusty, tired, frizzy, checked out, appreciative, super-tan, and worldly. Feeling all those things on this first night back from our week in Spain. 

It was exactly half the family (Nu, Big A, me) on the trip, while At stayed home with Scout and Huck. We (OBVIOUSLY!) invited At too, but he was kind of busy with organizing. We joked that At is afraid of being seen as the Bougie (not Boogey) Man. 

Feels so good to have Scout and Huckie curled on my feet, Big A on the other sofa, and the human kids in their beds upstairs...

Tomorrow I will work on Nu's educational, health, and therapy care, drop At back to his apartment, get ready for Big A to start his new job in WI come July, and catch up with ALL the work stuff I put aside for a week. 

But... right now feels... so good. 

(I'll update the past week from my travel journal as #LaterPosts when I get a chance.)

Monday, June 27, 2022


Seville. A leisurely, fancy breakfast with Nu to start the day. We marveled at the hotel's Covid precautions--each guest was given a pair of tongs, and everything from fruit to granola was parceled out in tiny jars to avoid contamination. Then we walked over to the Royal Alcazar and the cathedral after another stop for cafe con leche and a croissant for Big A.

Alcazar was beautiful. Much of the stone and tile ornamentation that had been removed from the Alhambra is in place here and the overall effect is lush and sumptuous. The scale is also quite a bit smaller that the Alhambra, as it seemed to be mostly residential rather than a fort. Again I'd have loved to wander around and get lost in the surprises and wonders at every turn. But Nu and Big A too seemed quite checked out, so we headed for the gift shop and then I headed off for some solo shopping after I parked them on the public benches in the city square.

I was done by noon and proud that I'd found a table for three at La Carmen where I thought we'd decided to have lunch--but it turned out that Big A had wanted to go to Casa Carmen. D'oh. And because I'm terrible with maps, a very grumpy Nu and Big A came to collect me. I was sorry to leave the nice place where the owner had kindly plied me with water and an on-the-house appetizer... especially when it turned out that the other place wouldn't open for a while. But we ended up at a nice restaurant and ordered a set of all-Spanish hits: olivas, croquettas, gazpacho, and paella. A small glass of wine for the grownups (and a small sip for Nu) to toast the end of our Spanish vacation.

I think we managed the week wonderfully, navigated all the small inconveniences and crises of travel skillfully, enjoyed each other's company and insights, and learned so much. I was happy and proud of us and told everyone so.

Next a very sleepy train ride back to Madrid, and quick walk in Retiro Park to wind down; then leftovers from lunch, ice cream, and thence to bed. 

Our flight back to the U.S. is at noon tomorrow.


Sunday, June 26, 2022


I kind of planned this whole trip around the wonderful world of the Al Andalus and the possibilities of convivencia and the historical evidence of people of different faiths and cultures living in peace and harmony. The Alhambra was everything I dreamed it would be--an explosion of bright, intricate design from floor to ceiling. The ceilings were especially detailed--vast as skies and symmetric and repetitive with motifs--I'd love to have something like that to gaze on--on sleepless nights. 

The Muslim palaces were simple on the outside, getting more luxe and ornate the deeper one went into the private areas; the Christian palaces were imposing on the outside and plain on the inside. Our guide was prone to saying things like "not all Muslims are terrorists" in an arch and noble tone, but was otherwise quite knowledgeable. 

Everything was such a delight: the softly burbling fountains, the formal meditative gardens, the private fruited courtyards... all with the maddening fragrance of jasmine, lilacs, and oleanders everywhere. I would have loved to wander around for a few more hours, but we had to catch our train to Seville. So after walking down the steep path to the city center for a handful of souvenirs, we headed back for our hotel and thence to the train station taking the slow train to Seville.


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Barcelona 2

We woke up early so we could get to the station early for our train ride to Granada: Six+ hours at 300+ kms/hour. Olive trees nearly all the way through. And I realized that this part of Spain is fairly arid--barely any rivers or lakes. A short walk from the station to our hotel, and then a lovely "linner" at the bar around the corner. Although last night's dinner was superlative, the very simple salad with tinned tuna and greens was a standout of the trip. 

When we went back to the hotel, it occurred to me how nice it was that at every hotel, they've had a third bed for Nu made up with neatly tucked-in sheets before we checked in. Today was the quiet and low-key center of our travel week: we'll go to bed early, knowing we can sleep in--if we want to.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Barcelona 1

Woke up in our futuristic space station-themed hotel room to a view of aeons-old surrounding hills. Big A watched a YouTube video to figure out why we were going around in an unproductive loop on the Eurail online pass--and he figured it out! Smooth sailing through all our other train reservations after this.

We had an early guided tour booked for La Sagrada Familia. Nu and I left early and walked around while we waited for the tour to start and Big A to show up after getting our train tickets. The tour started. Big A was in a taxi, but not there yet. When I asked the tour facilitator if we could wait a few minutes for Big A, I was told "He has lost his chance." I suspect we'll be quoting this for ages. 😂 I made up my mind to ask the tour guide a bunch of questions to delay our entry into the cathedral so Big A could join us. And then I screamed because someone ran up to me and whispered "Boo" in my ear. Big A!

La Sagrada Familia was more than I had even imagined. Even Nu was impressed. My sister remembered right away that I used to pore over a coffee-table book on Gaudi twenty years ago.... that's how long I've been waiting to see this. But nothing could prepare me for this ongoing, gaudy, excessive, earnest eruption of construction. And they have plans and reliefs all over the place, but the entire thing is a bonkers celebration of whimsy and religious fervor. 

It was a hot day, and we'd spent much of the morning outside, so after a tapas break we piled into a taxi back to the hotel for a siesta. While we were chatting with the driver he said that his favorite place in Barcelona was Park Guell, which was on our list for that afternoon--that made everyone in the taxi super happy. Post-siesta, however we found that tickets for the Park were sold out--so we peeked at what we could from the outside and headed to the beach. 

Beaches are my happy place, and the Mediterranean was particularly blue and mysterious. We left pink Big A in the shade of the promenade and Nu and I spent a long, long time walking on the pier and sitting in meditative silence by the waves. We had gotten news of the overturning of Roe and the possible domino effect on other personal protections at the start of the afternoon and that was weighing on me. Then began a string of texts from friends urging me to show up at the state capitol to protest.

It made me feel out-of-touch and selfish, but we had reservations for dinner, so we went. It was a small, earnest place that served us course after course of delicious, farm-fresh food for over three hours. And while we were wishing At had come too, he sent us a sweet picture of him at lunch with Grandma S who's visiting Lansing for a Banjo workshop


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Madrid ---> Barcelona

Breakfast buffet at the hotel, checked out of our room, checked our luggage at the front desk, and then off to the Prado. There was a line to endorse our online reservations, another to enter the museum, and another to be checked by security... but I'd do twenty more lines if I needed to for the Prado. 

There's no way to see and appreciate everything, so we made a list of essentials and started checking them off. We started off with Las Meninas (brilliant!), The Garden of Earthly Delights (fascinating and much smaller than I imagined), and a host of Rubens and Goyas. On the way, serendipity brought us sculpture gardens, Rafael, del Sartos, and so on.

Nu began to flag so we decided that Big A and Nu would head for the train station where they could rest and snack while I got another hour and a half to wander around. That was lovely of them and lovely for me. I found El Grecos, the Goya "Black Paintings," and then was blown away by this random find where I could see that A Portrait of a Girl with a Pigeon was the same model--only more grown up in Time Defeated by Hope and Beauty

Then I was wandering down the main hallway again and passed by the Las Meninas room again and spied the painting through two doorways--and it was absolutely breathtaking.The angles and light were so amplified, the dwarf's face the most defined of them all, the whole scene so chaotically domestic, and for a moment, it was like I was a part of that tableau--symmetrically contrapuntal to the courtier in the stairway who's also two doorways away. I just stood there for a while.

But I began to get some plaintive texts, so I headed to the train station to meet the fam--I didn't even stop by the gift shop. Got to the train station, drank the orange juice Big A had saved for me (they served the most amazing, freshly-squeezed juice everywhere!), went through security, got on our train, and traveled at 300kms/hour to Barcelona.

We ended the day with tapas in a lively city square filled with toddlers making friends, dogs ditto, fireworks (feast of St. John the Baptist), second-hand cannabis smoke, sangria, many plates of food, gelato from a nearby stand, and then off to bed.


Easy like Sunday...

A sweet, fulfilling, and unhurried day from UU in the morning to yoga in the evening. Weekend chores completed, some prep for the weekday st...