July 10, 2019: Returning Home from Europe

Wednesday. GT2 Day Thirty Two. New York, New York, USA.

This morning we started in Barcelona, Spain. Our time in Europe is over. I got up at seven thirty, showered and got ready for the day. Then sat at the kitchen table, my “desk”, and worked for several hours. One upside to the teens not having much energy is that I’ve gotten in a few long walks and a lot of time to work without them missing out on anything. I had a lot more time to get to things than I had expected to get, not having realized how much more energy I would have.

Dominica got up closer to nine. She showered and then go busy packing. We had to pack up the camera and the external hard drive by a quarter after ten. So that is that, no more filming of our trip except for the snippets that I grab with the phone. I had been warning the girls that we needed to do the final travel interviews by yesterday, but like going out, it kept getting pushed off and now the time is up. We are all packed to go and they were never done. We can’t do them later, unless we pull it off at the airport, because we go right from the apartment, to lunch, to the bus, to the airport, to the flight, to renting a truck (it was all that we could get), to Utica where they are getting straight into a car and driving to Texas the moment that we arrive. So there isn’t even a moment in the US to do it before they are gone. And they are going to Texas while we are staying in New York. And by the time that we are in Texas again, it is nearly time for them to start college. So the amount of time that will pass before we see them again is really huge, and seeing them both together will be super hard. I had told them that I really wanted to get them done by yesterday early on so that we could get them uploaded for everyone back home.

The girls were awake pretty early. Maybe from all of the noise of us moving around. Emily was probably up at nine. But neither got out of bed for a long time. They did nearly all of their packing yesterday, so are ready to go in that regard, I believe. Dominica and my packing was almost all done by ten thirty. My phone is charged up to one hundred percent. My watch is running low, nothing to be done about that. It will likely die on the plane. But not a big deal, it has done its job for this trip and will definitely be still working when we get onto the flight. I don’t really need to know the time after that. I have “Mansfield Park” downloaded to my phone to listen to on the flight.

Emily got out of bed at ten fifteen. Madeline at ten thirty.

Our checkout time is eleven. So we have seven hours between our apartment check out and our flight time. That is a lot of time to kill. It is an international flight in Europe, so we absolutely need to be at the airport three hours before our flight, which is at six twenty five. So that reduces our time to kill down to four hours. We have to get to the airport, which requires a metro trip to Placa de Catalunya, and then a bus ride on the Aerobus to the airport of at least twenty minutes. So that is at least forty five minutes of total travel, reducing our time to kill pre-airport down to just over three hours.

So the plan is to leave the apartment loaded down with all of our luggage on our backs, this time I am carrying a double weight load as I am getting the overloaded pack that is going into the checked luggage, and go back to Brunch & Cake by the Sea to eat, and then somehow kill a bit more time than you normally do at breakfast, and head to the airport. That’s it. Trip is over. It’s all logistics from here on in.

July 9, 2019: Sagrada Familia

Tuesday. GT2 Day Thirty One. Barcelona, Spain.

I got up at eight this morning. Showered, went through my mail and messages, caught up on MangoLassi, did some system updates, etc. Dominica got up at nine, and showered. At nine forty we woke up Emily because the sun was shining and it was a good chance to get to the beach for the last time of the trip and get some pictures before the rain hits the afternoon, which is the expectation. But we did not expect rain the last two days, so who really knows.

By ten, Emily was about ready to head to the beach to do our last photo shoot and last beach day of the entire trip! We were out the door, just the two of us, leaving Dominica to relax and Madeline to sleep, and walked north to a different beach than we had been to before.

Overall we did about three thousand steps, just over an hour out doing the shoot, and almost four hundred pictures taken. We were back by a quarter after eleven. Dominica and Madeline were both still in bed. Dominica had already showered, though, and was just reading on her phone. Madeline was, I believe, still sleeping.

The plan for today is going on a walking tour of Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, including the Sagrada Familia. Then it is time to pack, we fly home tomorrow. But first, we need some food. We all skipped breakfast this morning, and all any of us had for dinner was French fries.

I’m very happy that I have managed to keep up with all of the media posting, and the blog posting while we have been traveling. I was worried that I would be too tired, or not have time, or that the Internet would never allow it to happen. And for much of the trip we really wondered what the Internet situation might be. It is really nice that we ended with such a good connection and can be all caught up before we leave.

While waiting for the girls to get ready to go out to lunch I managed to get all of the pictures from this morning’s photo shoot uploaded to Flickr. And I got my phone emptied, again. I have gotten down quite the media management routine this past month. I also got caught up on emails, MangoLassi posts, network equipment updates, server updates, DuoLingo practice, etc. I had a lot of time to kill, it turns out.

Packing went on until a quarter after one. Dominica and I had given up trying to find out what food people wanted and were just waiting for them to be ready to get some lunch. We were a bit hungry, but can wait.

We went out looking for food. Eventually settling on Brunch and Cake, where we ate yesterday. The food was amazing again. Dominica got some kind of egg burger with salmon. I got the eggs benedict with salmon. And the girls got some sort of pancake thing to share, and they still couldn’t quite finish it all. Some of the best food that we have had in Europe.

It got super hot and muggy while we were at lunch, so we returned to the apartment to take a little time for it to cool off before we were going to set out on a walk to see the city. I was busy working and waiting for people to decide to be ready. I have unlimited amounts of work that needs my attention, having been away for so long, so I am not idle.

The little break went pretty long. At six I prompted the girls that we need to do whatever we are going to do before it is too late. With the need for dinner, there really isn’t time to go see anything. It is not a close walk to most things, so we have to take the metro or a bus and that takes time. So by the time that we start going to see something, it is already time to figure out dinner. And then it is night and everyone is tired. So the only option was to only go to the Sagrada Familia and see, most likely, nothing else. But that is the biggest thing in Barcelona and skipping it would be a bit ridiculous.

Our big walking day turned into a short metro ride day. It was nearly six thirty when we left the apartment. We just took the metro right to the Sagrada Familia, but it is so expensive to go in and requires that you wear too warm of clothes and things that not all of us have, so we didn’t even really consider going inside, even though it would be really cool. We did pictures out front, then walked the park there. I found the playground where Liesl and I played in 2012. Then we walked around the basilica for a bit. And that was our stuff for the day.

Now to find a Pandora store and some souvenir shopping. The Pandora store turned out to be really easy, there was one right by us. They were open until eight, and they had what Emily wanted. So we popped in and took care of that. Then we hit a few more of the cookie cutter souvenir shops to find some last minute items that the girls wanted to get. They are finally done, they thing, with souvenir shopping at this point.

We checked out some places for dinner. But the place that Emily wanted, Madeline didn’t want to look at the menu (this is random, from what we can tell, but happens often.) So we couldn’t eat there. Then Dominica looked up a Pintxo place that looked well rated, cheap, and on our way. But the girls aren’t okay with open face sandwiches, two slices of bread is a rule. So that ruled that out. There is nothing at fast food for Dominica and I to eat, although we encourages the girls to just eat at one of the McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, or Five Guys that face the Sagrda Familia, but that didn’t seem to interest them. The only thing that we could settle on was going back to the Huelva sandwich chain that we did the other day.

That place was packed, again. Even though the food was more expensive tonight, because it is Tuesday. This time the girls just got three sandwiches each, instead of five and a half, but still got fries. Dominica and I each got four sandwiches, and no fries. I got some drink on draft that we couldn’t figure out the name of because they called it different things in different places. But it is something like a Latino cider with a hint of summer. It was tasty, whatever it was. Dinner was twenty five Euros again, even though it was smaller this time. There were no tables available, so we had to sit along side the wall. Overall, I’m not really all that into this place. The idea is great and they do an okay job, but the sandwiches are only really interesting once, and as my selection options are limited, that really takes it down. I’ve now tried more than I am really interested in. I like the salmon with honey mustard quite a bit. And the cheese with pesto. Beyond those two, everything was fine, but most of the items are not things I would look to eat again. If looking for a cheap option on a Sunday or Wednesday, this chain is decent. But for any regularity, I think it fails.

The plan had been to do sangria out tonight as it is the last night and for the last few nights Emily has been saying “we will go out tomorrow night”, but just finishing up dinner Emily was already too tired to go out. Madeline wanted to, but not without Emily. Dominica is tired and ready for bed. So that is that, I took them back to the apartment and everyone but me got into bed. Madeline debated going out to get sangria still, but could not talk Emily into it, so they stayed in. I charged up my phone and then went out myself.

The seen around Barceloneta is not one conducive to going out alone. Bars like we have in the US, where it is easy to go alone, aren’t common in this touristy part of the city. There are all out night clubs, and restaurants. That’s really it. So I just went walking, I didn’t stop anywhere. I did maybe three hours of walking along the beach to the north, up to Olympic Port and explored all of the clubs and restaurants and stuff up there. It is amazing how lively Barcelona is on a Tuesday night. The clubs had huge lines and thousands of people in them. Even at midnight the restaurants were packed and still had people standing out on the street inviting people in to sit down to start their dinners!

So I got in seventeen thousands steps today. And walked about eight miles. I can feel all of the exercise of this past month as I walk. I am feeling much better than I was a month ago. The good food quality helps, as well.

I got back and went to bed. This is it, the big European trip is over.

July 8, 2019: Park Guell and Gothic Quarter

Monday. GT2 Day Thirty. Barcelona, Spain.

Dominica and I were awake with the alarm at six o’clock this morning. Very little sleep for me, four hours total with only forty five minutes of deep sleep. I had tried out the new anti-snoring device that goes inside of my nose last night, but it was a total fail. Not only was it less comfortable, but it restricted my airflow so much that I stopped breathing immediately upon starting to drift off. I think that it is actually worse than having no device at all. So I lost a bit of time sleeping last night because I tried that and had to revert back to the nasal strips.

We were fully ready to walk out the door, dressed, ablutioned, packed, by six thirty when we woke up the girls. Today we are going to Park Guell and are attempting to get there via public transportation, and then to get into the park for free so that we can avoid forty Euros in entry fees just to walk around the park.

We were out the door at five to seven. Walking fast hoping to catch the V17 bus to Park Guell. Dominica has some app that said that the bus was slightly delayed, so we were looking good. We already paid for the bus passes, so we only need to hop onto the bus.

We made our bus, no problem. Busses in Spain are so easy to deal with. Cheap, clean, air conditioned, comfortable, easy to navigate. Even better than the metro, which is really easy, too.

We made the mistake of getting off of the bus two stops too early, so we had to hike uphill rather a bit to get to Park Guell instead of getting off right at it. But we only lost five or maybe ten minutes tops, so we were okay. Just hot and tired.

We hiked into the park and got the monuments area, which is the area that is restricted during the day. When Dominica and I were last here in 2012 this area was fully free and you could just enter. Now it is ten Euros during daytime hours, and is limited to just four hundred people at a time. So much harder to go to see.

We really only needed probably twenty minutes, thirty tops, to do everything that we wanted to do. Pictures, a walk through the park, and we were done. Back to the bus and a ride back to Barceloneta. Emily wanted McDonald’s, but we could not find one that was really close, and then we discovered that all of the American fast food in the area were closed for breakfast anyway – American style breakfast is not popular at all in Spain. Breakfast of any sort is not a big thing.

Dominica found a place called Brunch and Cakes, and how could we resist that. So we went there. Dominica got coffee while Emily, Madeline, and I got fruit smoothies. They were all so good. Emily and Madeline got some chocolate, banana cookie pancake thing for breakfast. Dominica got the Brekkie Board, which was a selection of different breakfast items. I got the full veggie which had vegetarian chorizo, guacamole, and all kinds of things. Probably our most expensive meal of the trip, but really good and an important change of pace and a lot of good nutrients.

While we were finishing our brunch, a storm hit and we were caught in the rain. So we waited it out at the restaurant and when there was a break we made a run for the apartment. The plan had been to go to the beach now, but the storm included a lot of lightning, so we are not doing that right away. The girls all laid down for naps. So I did some recording, uploaded videos, took a shower, worked on the blog, etc.

The napping went on for several hours. I guess everyone was really, really tired. The trip has really burned everyone out. But this is the home stretch. Just today and tomorrow to go. We can do this!

Emily got up and decided that she was hungry a little after two thirty. We had eaten this morning at nine thirty, so that was five hours and made sense. A tough time to find food in Spain, though. The girls wanted Burger King, and there was one right next door to where we had had breakfast (although apparently I was the only one that had noticed this and all three of them tried to tell me that I was crazy and had imagined the whole thing… to the point of even walking me back to the breakfast place and saying “see, here is where we had breakfast”, and they were all shocked when I looked to the left and pointed out the Burger King not forty feet away.)

It turns out that Burger King in Spain does have electronic ordering, but does not sell fish. So there was literally nothing for Dominica and I to eat there (they don’t even sell their veggie burgers that were so awful that we would not have eaten them anyway.) The girls ate at Burger King, while Dominica and I went next door to Kapadokya and got durum falafel for lunch. Which was pretty decent and not too expensive.

After lunch Dominica was not feeling great, but had not gotten onions, so we brought her back to the apartment and dropped her off. She had not gotten a good nap in earlier. Emily and Madeline wanted to go souvenir shopping. So that is what we did. The three of us set out and went for a long walk down to the beach hoping that we would find stuff there, but we did not. Then we walked way back south and into the Gothic Quarter and went all through there. All in all, we did almost five hours of shopping! And we walked, a lot. I had thought that today was going to be a very light walking day, but by the time that we were done I had about 13,500 steps in. Not a huge walking day, but more than I had expected.

Souvenir shopping was arduous, but we got it done. And if we had not done it we would not have ended up in the Gother Quarter and the girls would not have seen that important part of Barcelona.

We stopped at a grocery for some last minute supplies before going up to get Dominica. I was the only one that felt like going out, so we stayed in. The original plan was that Emily wanted to go out, like “real going out” tonight to like a club or something, so the plan was relax or nap until it was time to do that. But by the time it was late enough to consider going out, Emily was too tired. We had talked about doing beach shots this evening, but it is overcast and she is tired. The hope is that there will be sun in the morning, so we are going to attempt to get up and do that right away tomorrow.

Around eleven the three girls decided that they were hungry and all wanted pizza. Madeline decided that she would come with me, so the two of us went out to go to Kitchen to get pizza like we had on our first night. Except they ended up being closed. That didn’t work. We went to Las Fritas and just got boardwalk take away French fries for everyone. Madeline got ketchup. Emily got mayo. Dominica and I got a jumbo fry to share with melted cheddar and emmental cheeses.

That was our night. By midnight everyone was in bed, but had been laying in bed (except for me at my desk) since around eight. Mostly a lazy day, but with a lot of walking for the three of us.

Hard to believe that tomorrow is our very final full day in Europe! This trip has been planned for so long, and seemed like such a huge thing, and now it is not just underway, but already over! How can this be? This makes me feel old.

The kids, back in Frankfort, did a “How to Train Your Dragon” movie marathon tonight. I talked to Liesl a little today. Normally I talk to Luciana more because she is always on Snapchat, but we’ve heard that she has lost all of her devices because she was being ornery so she has not been online.

July 7, 2019: Walking Barcelona

Sunday. GT2 Day Twenty Nine. Barcelona, Spain.

Today is our sleeping in day. I did not wake up until nine thirty! But my watch says that I did not go to bed until after one. But I got good sleep, about eight hours of it with more than two of deep sleep. So I should be good for the day. Dominica says that I snored, but only for a few minutes before changing position and not snoring any longer.

I got up and showered this morning. The shower, which Dominica had warned me about, is crazy in that it is only super hot or super cold. Like scalding hot, for sure. Overall the shower is nice, it would be pretty great, if only the temperature was bearable. But it can’t hold any temp and so you have to do all kinds of crazy things to manage it to keep yourself safe.

We got a late start today. No one was pushing to get out the door very quickly. It was around one when we finally went out. First order of business, get some lunch as we had skipped breakfast. We just hit the tapas place on the corner, close and easy. They were open and essentially empty so that was really easy. The girls just went for normal “American style” chicken fingers with honey mustard dipping sauce. I had seen that this place had had that last night so knew that we were safe going there. Dominica and I split three tapas. We got calamari, papas bravas, and aubergines (eggplant) fried with honey. It wasn’t Granada level tapas, but it was very good. Boy have we missed Spanish food (and Spain in general.) I grabbed a glass of red wine, too. Gotta start it all off right.

Just being in Spain immediately feels like home, like nowhere else does. I love Romania almost as much as Spain, but it doesn’t feel so incredibly “home” in the same way. Romania is very comfortable, but there is just something about Spain. No other place “gets me” in the same way.

We hit a pharmacy to get more nasal strips after lunch, but the local one is out of them. I only have enough for two days yet, which isn’t an emergency, but it would be nice to have it dealt with before we head back to the US.

We got out onto the real street and walked to the Barcelonetta train station, the same one that Dominica and I used to use back in 2012, and took that to the Placa de Catalunya so that we could start the free online walking tour that we had found. We started at the plaza and the fountain there, took a few pictures, and then headed onto Las Ramblas, the famous Barcelona pedestrian way that crosses the city. We walked that for hours, shopping as we went. The entire way is full of shops.

We also stopped into El Corte Ingles, the giant Spanish department store chain. This was one of the really big ones, nine floors. The girls were amazed, this was their first actual department store, ever. They are from the outlet generation and are really only used to outlet stores (one brand) and not department stores that sell everything. But this is a classic department store a la Harod’s, or the Hudson Bay Company, or Macy’s in NYC. We shopped there for quite a while. The girls tried some things on, and Madeline finally bought the belt that she had been looking for for the entire trip. And she got it for about four Euros, a far cry from the seventeen dollars that the belt she was going to settle on at Target would be.

On our walk through the city, we took a few side detours to see a handful of Gaudi buildings like the Palau Guell, the theater, the Bishop’s Bridge (I don’t think that Gaudi made that one), etc. We found an outdoor antiques market by a cathedral and Emily went ring shopping and bought herself an antique ring.

While she was ring shopping it started to rain! Real rain, the first that we have seen since being in Europe. And really, the first since leaving Texas. It is so nice to feel rain.

The guy who sold her the ring told us how much we had to go see the “magic fountain” at the Placa de Espanya. We had heard this from a few people. Dominica checked the schedule and saw that it was going to run at nine thirty tonight, and then not again until Wednesday night, after we have returned to the United States. So if we are going to see it, it has to be tonight. So that is our plan.

It was time for dinner, Emily was pretty hungry by this point. The plan is to hit a restaurant that we had heard about from some YouTubers called 100 Montaditos, where they have one hundred different small sandwiches that you can choose from. There was one on our way near the metro station, so it would be really easy. Our hope is that that will be cheap and easy and make it very hard to hot have things that everyone will like.

We found the restaurant easily enough. It is important to point out that the YouTubers really sold this as a Barcelona specialty place, it is not. It is a franchise chain from Huelva, these are everywhere. They are common in many countries, but they are at least Spanish. But Barcelona is not Spanish. So it is culturally not even a Barcelona or Catalan place. So selling it as a Barcelona experience is a bit much. Kind of like getting Taco Bell in New York, it’s good food at cheap prices, but in no way reflective of local New York culture or cuisine. But nevertheless, it’s supposed to be great eats. We just wish that it had been presented for what it is: southern Spanish chain low cost quality food that’s well suited for travelers.

We found the place easily enough, it was packed. It turns out that Sundays and Wednesday it is the entire sandwich menu for just one Euro per sandwich! So cheap. It took some coordinating to make it all work. The girls and I secured a table, while Dominica waited through at least a ten minute line to ask for an English menu. She and I might have been able to make due with a Spanish menu, but with over one hundred menu items that would have been relatively difficult. For the girls, it was going to be super challenging. So that took some time. Then I had to wait in a far longer line, because they had gotten so busy, to place the order. At least fifteen minutes. Placing it required doing so in Spanish, not a place that spoke English, but you wouldn’t expect them to. Then it was thirty minutes to get our food made, because they were so busy. Had we spoken Spanish and come when they weren’t busy, I suspect five minutes from door to food, they make it fast, they were just so backed up, it was crazy. There wasn’t room to move in the place, and the line was almost to the door, and the outdoor seating was packed, too, even with the rain hitting on and off.

We got our twenty sandwiches, plus two orders of french fries, and drinks all around. Total bill, twenty five Euros! In reality, four sandwiches went uneated and really I should not have had my fifth one. We could have done without the fries, probably, too, or just all shared one. We could easily have gotten the total cost down below twenty Euros for quite a filling meal for everyone if we had been more ambitious and knew how big the sandwiches were.

The food was good, we really enjoyed it. Getting a variety of food for all of us was something that we have not been able to do for this entire trip. So that was a huge success.

Once we were finished eating, we had to get moving to make it to the magic fountain show as dinner took so much longer than we had anticipated. We were right by the metro, so that was easy. Just hopped on and off we went to Placa de Espanya.

We got to the Placa just in time. We were walking up the broad boulevard just as all of the fountains were turning on to alert people that the show was about to begin. We got up the escalator to the observation level. Dominica and I stood on the ground, Madeline and Emily got up on the embankment thing and kneeled there to see better. The show started about five minutes early and lasts for a little less than ten minutes, so we are really lucky that we were a little early. A lot of crowds out for this tonight, even in the drizzle.

It may be hard to believe that a fountain show can be that amazing, but trust me, the magic fountain is certainly amazing. First of all, the entire fountain seems like it must be a kilometer long! I used Google Maps and eye balled it against their legend and in reality it is about half a kilometer long. Still, wow. It starts as a waterfall at the national museum and goes into a long series of fountains with the magic fountain (that’s its real name in English) about one third of the way along. It was built in 1929 and has to be the inspiration for giant fountains all over the world, but I have never seen one that actually compares to it. It’s staggering in its size and beauty. Totally worth going to see.

There was a little boy, maybe three years old, watching it near us and he just kept going “oh my gosh, mommy look at that”, it was so adorable and exactly how I felt about the fountain, too.

Once the show was done, we grabbed the metro back to Barceloneta and walked back to the apartment. We stopped at a Supermarcat and grabbed a few essentials so that we would have something in the apartment with us. Most importantly, laundry detergent. Tomorrow is our only chance to do laundry before we return.

And that was our day. From there, it was time for bed. The plan tomorrow is to be up super early, like at six, and go to Park Guell while it is still free to enter. That should save us forty Euros and get one of our big “must do” items off our list early in the day. Then we are planning to do lunch and return to the apartment to change. And from there, it is a beach day. Our apartment is walking distance from the beach and this is likely going to be our last beach trip before we return home.

July 6, 2019: Travel Day from Paris to Barcelona

Saturday. GT2 Day Twenty Eight. Barcelona, Spain.

I got a great night of sleep last night. Almost eight hours of total sleep, and two hours and forty five minutes of deep sleep. The no CPAP, nasal strip plan seems to be working out well. Dominica said that I snored some early in the night, but that I changed positions and it was fine after that.

I was up at seven thirty this morning. I feel great after my day of low calories and high exercise. My body really needed that. I laid in bed for a bit after making sure that Flickr and YouTube were still moving forward. About three hundred and fifty more Flickr pictures from Paris posted this morning, but for some reason did not get put into the trip album, so they are going to be hard for people to find. Flickr glitches, it could not quite complete the process, but at least the pictures uploaded.

Three YouTube videos posted during the night, as well. There is only one more, at the moment, that I want to upload and can’t. It is just too large to manage to get posted in the time left here. But only one is pretty good. We were unable to make any more talking videos during our time in Paris because we have a been in a silent “no talking” apartment.

I showered and got myself ready for the day. Dominica got up a little after eight and spent the morning packing. We have the apartment for most of the day, so we can pack up, go out and do things, and leave our luggage here until it is time to head to the train station, which is very nearby and on our local metro line, but we are going to take an Uber because of all of our stuff and not having active metro tickets any longer.

I got all of the pictures currently on my phone uploaded to Flickr this morning, too. That was another forty seven. And I managed to get to the backlog of ones that were missed, which is another one hundred. Who knows what the Internet situation in Spain is going to be like.

Madeline was up and dressed at a quarter after eleven. Then the girls started their packing. They seem to have wanted the morning to just rest. When asked what they wanted to do, it was just “I don’t know.” I would prefer to be out walking and seeing more of the city, but today is going to be warmer, and we do not have unlimited time.

Dominica and I feel that we need to call our Uber to leave for the station at two thirty to make sure that we have plenty of buffer time. Missing a connection just sucks so much. So our activity window is pretty tiny. We need to go eat lunch so that the girls can make the long train ride. Once we get on the train, it will be over seven hours till we have a reasonable way to eat again. Then we are going to the local super market to stock up on snacks and stuff for the train itself. That is easily an hour and a half to even two hours of activity right there.

I managed to even get my phone emptied onto the hard drive this morning so that it is fully ready to go. Only things that are going to be “left to keep going while we are out getting lunch” are charging my Jackery, and uploading the final batch of pictures to Flickr. So no Lumix today, it is packed. It will be phone only for pictures today. No separate backup for me, just the main one. We are heavily consolidated. I am very excited for future travel that there is a possibility that I do not need a CPAP bag to take with me. Carrying that is an immense pain. Yes, it is always a “free bag” on flights, but it is a useless bag that I have to manage every day. And it is really awkward to carry. And not really all that small or light. Getting to travel without that would be amazing.

I forgot to mention yesterday that since leaving Firenze we have not found an ATM (except for in Switzerland, but that would give us Francs instead of Euros which would not be useful) and we were running out of cash. We have to have cash for our check in in Barcelona, and it is pretty useful in general. So we should be all set now, enough cash, we hope, to carry us through until we are done in Europe. ATMs are super hard to find in Paris.

Madeline today discovered that she has been carrying rocks since Crete in her day bag. And she has a jar of Nutella in her backpack. She carries some heavy stuff.

The girls had their bags packed and were ready to leave the apartment at a little after noon. I had been ready to run out the door to take them to see more stuff since just after nine, just in case they had decided that they needed to do more things. But now we are relaxed and ready to just get food, get snacks, and head casually to the train station.

Lunch at Shiso Burger was awesome. Dominica got the salmon and said it was the best food of the entire trip. Madeline got a cheeseburger and also felt that it was her favourite food of the entire trip, I guess she likes Japanese. Emily got a burger as well and liked it. I got the tuna burger and it was quite good, but I’m not sure if I would call it the best food of the trip. The girls split a French fry. Dominica and I split an order of spiraled potatoes. After all of these years, this was our first time getting those.

Then we walked down to the grocery store and spent half an hour getting food supplies. All cookies, candies, and chips for the train. I would have liked to have gotten a sandwich to take for later, but it seemed unlikely that it would remain good for so long in the heat.

We got back to the apartment at one thirty. One hour to kill before we head to the train station. The last one hundred Flickr pictures that I had uploaded completed while we were out. So my upload job is done. I quickly uploaded the six pictures that I took over lunch as well. Time to shut down the laptop and get that and the hard drive packed up. The Jackery is still charging and will be the last thing to get packed before we leave.

By early afternoon it was pushing ninety degrees and very humid. Emily and Dominica struggled to sleep last night from the heat. It just never cooled down. And the little fan and single window in our apartment were just not able to keep up with the cooling demand, especially when the air outside was moderately warm all night. Now with the air hot and the sun coming in through the window, it’s very warm. Good time to be leaving, but it will be not very nice carrying out back packs down six flights of stairs and getting to the train station. Hopefully this train is air conditioned. It is the TGV, again, so we are likely in good shape.

We will be in Barcelona late tonight. Then seeing the city all day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and then on Wednesday afternoon we fly back to New Jersey. Only three real days of seeing the sites left to go.

I made a final apartment tour video and we checked out and headed down the six flights of stairs with our backpacks on our backs to go to find an Uber to take us to the train station, Gare de Lyon. The walk was short, but the day was getting warm, so already starting to sweat without even leaving the Latin Quarter.

We got out onto the main road and called the Uber. Took about fifteen minutes to arrive, traffic was moderately heavy. We were picked up in a big Renault, their version of the Nissan Maxima, so we fit easily. And off to the train station we went.

We arrived at Gare de Lyon with an hour to kill before our train was to depart. We have first class tickets so wanted to use the lounge, but that was in Hall 3 and we were in Hall 1 and the girls did not feel like walking any extra, and it is hard to watch the status screens from a different hall. Dominica desperately needed coffee, so we hit Pret a Manger and got some food and coffee for her. At this point, I am completely weened from caffeine again. So I have been avoiding coffee for the most part, I’ve only had maybe four cups this whole month. I got an avocado and pine nut wrap that was really incredible.

We were told that we would be told where our train would go ten minutes before it was scheduled to go. We were doing way better than that. We looked almost twenty minutes before and saw that we had been posted on the board and we were sitting right at the right platform, A. So to be extra safe, we attempted to board fifteen minutes before departure time (five is the norm, ten is often the max possible at a terminal.)

We walked down platform A, but the train there said the wrong train number on it. This is not good. We walked the entire length of the train and found that our train was going to be pushed by this other train and we have to board at the front of the second train. The trains were so long that it was nearly an eight minute walk just to get from the head of the platform to our car on the train. Because we are in first class, we are at the “front” of the train so have to walk the entire length of two trains. Rather a weird punishment for first class. (And it turns out that all of first class has to face backwards for the entire trip, which makes Dominica sick!)

Once we finally got to our car, the people in front of us tried to board and realized that the doors did not open. They were only boarding the train from the other side, but had no information anywhere to tell us that! We didn’t even know that the other side of the train had a platform, because we were on platform A and it was open and the train was labeled for us and everything. Not a single indication that we were not in the right place, none. But every indication that we were in the right place, from other people doing the same thing, to the main boards, to the platform boards, to the signs on the side of the train. Everything. We were 100% sure we were in the right place until the people in front of us panicked and ran.

Remember, this was an eight minute walk with heavy packs on our backs just to get far enough to find out that we were not able to board where we needed to!! That meant that not only did we have to back track eight minutes, but we had to circle around the train, get onto the other side, and do eight minutes along that side of the train, too! So about eighteen minutes to get there, and the train was supposed to leave in much less time than that! We were totally screwed.

We started running and ran the whole length of the train. Dominica almost immediately had an asthma attack because of the running. The girls got to the head of the platform first, with just a minute or two before the train was supposed to leave, but they wouldn’t let us on to that side of the platform without the tickets, which Dominica had in her bag. So they were stuck at the gate. There was a way to just walk between the two sides, but as we tried to just board some guy blocked us and made us go around further, further causing unnecessary delays from not properly labeling or instructing people where to go.

Finally Dominica got there, we showed the tickets, and they told us to run to the first door. We went as fast as we could and the conductor told us that we had to get on to the “wrong” train, the one that is pushing ours, because they were not going to wait for us to get to our own train, even though we had been in the process of boarding for a full fifteen minutes and were clearly in distress.

We lept onto the wrong train, just as the doors closed. So now, what do we do? At least we were on “a” train, but we did not know where it was going or what to do. We figured that since this train is pushing ours, we would have at least one stop where they would need to separate the trains, so our theory was to walk through this train to the very front, be ready to jump off at the first stop, run to the first car of the next train, and board and work our way through that train to get to our seats. There was no conductor to tell us what to do or what was going on. All we knew is that we were sitting in the entry way of a train that was pushing ours and no idea when it would stop, when they would split, where this one was going. Dominica was crying from her asthma attack and her heart was around 130. This whole thing is insane.

Once everyone had settled a bit, we started the hike through the train. Dominica was not doing great, so took my orange backpack and I took her heavy backpack and we walked the entire length of the train being bounced from side to side running into seats. A very tough walk for the four of us. Even I was getting motion sickness from that. And the train was really warm, I was literally drenched in sweat after all of that. There is no moving air and the air temperature is quite high, mid-twenties or higher. Even the girls were really sweating and could not cool down.

We finally got to the very front of the train and met a conductor who explained that yes, we were on the wrong train, that there were “no seats” available as it was full (this was not true), and they told us that the only real option for us was to sit or stand in the cafe car and wait until the next stop where we would need to do what we had thought, run from this train to the next and get on there. The next stop was two hours away!

So for two hours, because of Gare de Lyon’s screw ups, we were not in the first class seats that we paid for, but were instead stuck camped out in a cafe car that was not properly climate controlled and had no power to charge anything. It was awful. Even after two hours of trying not to move and fanning myself with Dominica’s hand fan, the moment I stopped I would start dripping with sweat again, it was that hot. Even Emily’s entire back was wet with sweat, that never happens. It was so hot and everyone was so worked up that we really didn’t eat while there, either. At least SNCF brought us four bottles of water to help out. But we are pretty unhappy, this is by far the worst train situation that we’ve ever had to deal with in all of our years of travel.

At two hours into the trip, in southern France, we worked our way back to the very front of our train, and sat in the well for fifteen minutes to make sure that we were completely ready. And when the train stopped we had three minutes to disembark, cross the length of our cars, two engines, and get past as many cars on the next train as we felt that were safe before it left and then jump on to our own train and, once on, slowly work our way forward the full length of that train to finally find our seats.

Finally, after all this time, we have air conditioning (it is still on the warm side, but just a little, this train is many degrees cooler than the other one, it was shocking how much different the temperatures were kept) and seats. Big first class seats that recline, and have their own dedicated power at each one. Now we can relax. And we could eat our food that we had brought with us.

Internet was very intermittent on the train. These trains all advertise that they offer wifi, which they do. And it is free. But it isn’t wifi that connects to the Internet, which is what everyone means by having wifi. Instead it is wifi that goes to a private network and is useless. So all that we have are our phones connected to the 4G service, and that goes out quite often when going in a train (due to speed, tunnels, remote areas, etc.)

It was a very long day. We are so burned out from that stress. It was about two and a half hours of really high stress and worry that we were not going to make it to Barcelona. Now we know that we are going to make it there, but it has already been a long day of worrying.

Four hours of boring train ride, but at least we got to see lots of Provence.

We arrived in Barcelona on time. The last part of our journey went well. Now we have to find our apartment, which is pretty far from Barcelona Sants, where we arrived. We looked at the metro, but eventually decided on just getting a taxi (there is no Uber here.) But that was easy and not all that expensive.

It was eleven thirty when we got to our apartment. The girls were really hungry, so Dominica and Madeline waited at the apartment for our host to arrive. Emily and I went looking for food. Thankfully it is Barcelona so places stay open very late. We got pizza right around the corner from the apartment, just a margharita for ten Euros, and walked back to the apartment with it.

This apartment is four floors up, quite a bit better than the six floors that we had to deal with in Paris, and the stairs are way better, but it is still a lot of climbing. We ate our pizza and pretty much went straight to bed. We gave the girls the bedroom as the only air conditioner is in the living room and Dominica needs it incredibly cold, and I need air movement but am okay with it being warm. The girls like it so much warmer than we do when sleeping and can’t sleep if it is cool at all (which is weird to me, because I sleep something like forty degrees above my idea temperature just fine.) I can sleep in anything from about thirty to eighty degrees, upper temperatures only if there is air movement. And I just assume that below thirty gets too cold, that’s the coldest that I have tried and it was awesome, so I assume that I could sleep in the twenties just fine, too.

It was a little after midnight when we all got into bed and off to sleep. The apartment is small, but seems pretty good. And the wifi is great, the best Internet service that we have had the entire trip! That is a huge relief.

Tomorrow we are in Barcelona, but that is literally the extent of the plans that I know. I have no idea what we are going to be doing or even when we are getting up.