Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Trip to España!

We had a great time in Spain, as we anticipated we would. We were excited most to leave Germany for warm weather and for a new language. It's not a new language to us, though, since we both know a good amount of vocabulary that helps us. Ray's been to Spain before when he visited Madrid where he was sent by the Air Force for work. It conveniently worked out that Samantha (his sister) was living abroad at the time and they were able to hang out and go to a Hillary Duff concert. They did go back stage, so I guess I can't make fun too much. :)

The first photos are from the most popular place to visit in all of Barcelona: The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. We visited it first because it wasn't located near other places we wanted to visit throughout the weekend. When we got in on Saturday afternoon after a delayed flight (though short flight time of 1hr. 50 min.), we went to the church and paid the ridiculous 11 € each to enter. Building first started in 1882, slowed during the Spanish Civil War, then resumed in the 1940's and is said to be incomplete until nearly 2030. As religion falls throughout the world, I sure hope they can find people to actually go to this church when it's done. Otherwise, it's a complete waste, sadly. They claim that our "donations" were to help continue and finish building the church which is unnecessarily gaudy. Ironically, the architect of the building and many other monuments in Barcelona has a last name of Gaudí.

This is what we saw just above the main doors of the church. In case you're interested, Jesus appears to be "to scale" if you can read between the lines. I'm not sure that was necessary.

Here's the ceiling of just one tiny area of the church.

Huge amounts of construction inside. The ceilings are incredibly tall.

I liked this. A cross among the rubble. Perhaps it's a sign that they haven't lost sight of the real reason for the cathedral. I hope. Though I'm not sure God cares about all this jazz.

Like I said, this guy is "gaudy" with his design. These are enormous pillars coming from the church. They are literally, fruits, to resemble the "fruits of the spirit."

There are many equations and variations of numbers involved in the structure, too. It reminded me of The Da Vinci Code a little bit because everything seemed to have a symbol or number structure.

Random tree structure on the outside of the church.

Various carvings done on the outside.

This what what the church looked like in 1898. There was no construction around it, and now there are buildings everywhere, a Starbucks on one corner, a Subway sandwich restaurant on the other...

Under the church they had a huge museum (thankfully, otherwise we would've really been annoyed about the price... but at least we got a history lesson out of the deal) and this room shows some of those structures they plaster to the outside.

A few photos from across the street.

We headed back to our hotel to grab our jackets. Though about 70 degrees during the day, it did drop down to the 50's at night. We only brought jackets and no gloves/scarves/rain jackets. As we were there, we took a photo of the scenery at dusk.

We hopped on a train to the center of town and saw this statue structure. It's the statue of Christopher Columbus. He came back to this place when he returned from his first voyage to America. The monument is meant to serve as a reminder of Columbus' visit where he reported back to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

Decorated shopping streets of Barcelona.

Our favorite thing about Barcelona were the small streets with beautiful structures. Even the tiniest of streets appeared to be popular among walking crowds. This balcony was attached to a church.

We entered the Barcelona Cathedral and they made sure to remind you not to dress promiscuous while entering a church. I certainly appreciated the sideways baseball cap.

Blurry, sorry. The area was PACKED with people, so it was likely being pushed that caused the camera to shake. The funny part was that as we were so close to a bunch of strangers, we heard tons of Western English.

Random band playing in the middle of the shopping district. (read: crowd central!)

Arena in Barcelona where bull fights used to be held. It was opened in 1900 and is now being converted into a shopping center. Ray has been to a bullfight, but I'm not interested. It sounds fun, until the whole animal torture thing happens. Bullfighting is popular in Spain, but the people of Barcelona prefer to be known as Catalan and don't really care for bullfighting.

Here is a museum in the Plaça d' Espanya region. It's a famous square in Barcelona that was built in 1929 for the International Exhibition. The sun was in all the wrong areas for this photo, but it's the best I could do.

There was a car expo going on down the street and a bunch of old fancy VW bugs happened to be driving by in this photo. The Venetian Towers line the street and look really neat. That bull fight arena that is no longer used can be seen in the right hand corner. If I turned 180 degrees around, you'd see that museum just above.

Ray in front of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. I'm working on my photography. :)

This reminded me of my ELL (English Language Learner) students. Clearly, using broken but well-developed English, kids/teens are communicating. Here is what it says:
A. I don't know if I could go because my parents are little angry with me
B. by the way, name, we have decided that the cat stays with you Do you agrree? (impressive)
C. It has a good idea, then you will think about us when you look at the cat
D. You should introduce His to us. He seems so nice.
E. What a pitty. We'll talk with your parents to persuede them to let you come.

Olympic Tower in the Olympic Stadium -- used to broadcast the 1992 games.

Olympic pool. I couldn't manage a better photo because of glare, but the lanes are actually being used the wrong way-- if you see the bottom of the pool, the lanes are clearly marked going the opposite way. I think for "normal folks" (many who were actually using the pool), it's too long the olympic way.

While we were there, the Copa Davis (Davis Cup) was taking place.

Another photo of the 1992 Olympic Park.

Someone wrote on a bunch of the rocks... in case we forgot where we were, I think. Anyhow, it deserved a photo. I like it! It looks pretty tropical.

One of the tracks (probably a practice track) used for the Olympics in '92.

One of the many cityscape photos. Since it's mountainous, we had so many opportunities to take these. They just kept getting better, too!

View of the Barcelona port. You're looking at the Mediterranean Sea!

Castell de Montjuïc -- contructed in the 17th-18th centuries overlooking the port. It's one of the best places to get panoramic photos of the city/sea. It was long used as a prison and had some pretty high profile executions there. We thought it was pretty neat to visit and it was completely free. Since it was a Sunday, families were out everywhere and so many kids were up there jumping on the old military pieces. Though, getting there was a challenge. We approached it from the backside near the Olympic park... and we had no idea how high we'd be hiking. It was a decent hike for a warm day!

We may look happy, but I was pretty frustrated. Ray doesn't really like bothering people to take our photos... so we always end up with no pictures of the two of us! But... he gave in and I was allowed to ask random strangers to take our photo. All was well again in the world. :)

Here's a daytime photo of the Columbus statue.

Random lobster structure in the fun port area.

Ray being artistic. To me, I just see my backside. Heading to the Mediterranean for credit!

Credit! Mediterranean Sea, check!

Ray getting credit.

This one is entirely for Samantha. We stopped in at the major department store in Spain, El Corte Inglés, and saw this: Apples to Apples! We bought the English version for her when she moved as a housewarming gift. Since she's fluent and teaches high school Spanish, we should've gotten her his one! Except... none of her guests would understand enough to play. Haha!

I saw somewhere online that the architect (also of that church Sagrada Family) Antoni Gaudí is to Barcelona what Frank Lloyd Wright is to Chicago. You can't go anywhere without seeing his works. This is another building designed by the artist. We didn't really like his style, but you can't help but be bombarded with it as you visit. So, we took photos. Here's the Casa Batlló, a "house" originally designed for a middle-class family. From the look of the long line outside, it's probably a museum now.

Another building, same architect. This one is the Casa Milà. It was built in the early 1900's for a wealthy couple. They were in trouble with the project for breaking building codes and fined by the city. In the 1980's, it was in bad shape, but has since been restored. Yet another building that looks strange. Visitors can tour it. There were a ton of people outside waiting to go in. My feet were about to fall off and I had no interest to enter at this point. So much walking that day!

Happiness. I discovered this great takeout restaurant while in Amsterdam and quickly found that they also had locations in Barcelona. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to return. And we did... twice! We won't be back unless we visit some of the countries they are in: Netherlands (been there), UK, Lithuania, Poland, NY University, Serbia, Mexico, Portugal. Since none of those are on our upcoming list, I had to get it while I could! I have such a great husband that he will eat whatever just so I'm happy. <3

They love their meat sticks here in Barcelona. They're everywhere! Note... we bought a couple things and were just 30 minutes away from leaving our souvenirs on the train! Yeah, sad!

Here's the soccer arena that was located about 3 blocks from our hotel. Not exciting to see a boring structure, but since soccer (football) is so popular in Europe, we had to at least see the building where the magic happens. We will be going to a game somewhere in Germany for Ray's birthday!

We headed to the Gaudí Park located high in the hills of Barcelona. Man was it an uphill battle getting there! They had random escalators outside periodically, though, so it wasn't so bad. Here is another great place for cityscapes. There must have been 1,000 people there on a MONDAY afternoon!

On the left you can see the Sagrada Family Cathedral (and how high it towers above all surrounding buildings) and the Mediterranean Sea in the background.

On the hill (right) you can see the castle we visited and the port in the top left corner.

That faint looking building rounded on the left side near the center of the photo is the W Hotel. It is located far out at the end of the port area in the Mediterranean.

We discovered, but didn't visit, that located near the park we were in, there is an amusement park. It costs 25 € to enter and the rides are pretty juvenile. I read reviews that it isn't worth the money, but that you can purchase tickets for rides outside of the park gates. They also have a church in the center!

The Torre de Collserola -- the highest point in Barcelona (located in the same hill area as the amusement park above). It was built in 1991 for the 1992 Olympics. The 10th floor is open to the public, but we didn't visit it. We're not really even sure how you get there!

At the Gaudí Park. I was standing at a high lookout point that had a few cross symbols on top. There were tons of people at this point taking photos because it was so high on the mountain.

Here's the Sagrada Family Cathedral from that lookout peak. I like the 3 sailboats you can see in the Mediterranean on the left. It gives you a scope of the enormity of that Cathedral, yet again. It's enormous!

My husband and his new hairdo. Okay, it's not new... it's just not cut. The Germans think it looks fine and he needs to keep it. To be like a local, he has. Except... half of the reason is because he doesn't enjoy getting haircuts here. They take a long time and he's not a fan of the uncomfortable head massages the ladies like to give. So until he gives in, he has a nice head of hair! :)

Cross structure at the top of the lookout peak.

Another view... it was so nice and sunny that we couldn't help but take SO many! The center is yet again that Cathedral we could never escape. As a devout Catholic, that was the architect's hope... it would be the largest towering building in all of Barcelona.

Here's a lower view of the peak we were standing atop in the above photos.

Here are two buildings at the entrance of the park. We entered the back way, so this became our exit. They're very much in his similar funky style.

I copied this from Wikipedia about these famous benches: The unique shape of the serpentine bench enables the people sitting on it to converse privately, although the square is large. The bench is tiled and in order to dry up quickly after it rains, and to stop people from sitting in the wet part of the bench, small bumps were installed by Gaudí.

The benches were suspended and this was what you saw when you walked through the pavillion underneath. I think mosaic is just gorgeous. Because of the rich colors and so many mosaics we saw on this journey, our Spain ornament addition to our collection is of a butterfly in a mosaic-looking fashion. It isn't real mosaic, as we couldn't find any that we're painted rather than really done properly.

Possibly the most famous of all the structures by the architect... the lizard. It was also the most photographed thing in that park! It was impossible to get a shot (remember, this is about 2 p.m. on a Monday) without people all over the structure.

By far the best shot... this is all the artistic creation of Ray. He had the eye for this one. As we were leaving the park, we noticed the obvious: mosaics that said "park"-- in case you weren't sure.

Old Roman wall from the 4th century. Fourth century! Man... it amazes me just "stumbling" upon this stuff.

Check this cactus out!

The buoy and the buoy mimic. I think the human one is way cuter. I'm a little partial. :)

And here's the week in writing:

Donnerstag 03.12.2009 (day 80)
It’s crazy we’ve been living here for 80 days (well, minus the few days we spent in Maryland)! I went with Ray to work this morning because we had 9 a.m. German lessons. Sabine doesn’t have class on Thursdays, so she likes to have class early to clear the rest of her day. I don’t mind a full day at work once a week, either. She was about 30 minutes late today, so our lesson lasted 30 minutes longer. When it was done, I was starving! Luckily, I packed leftovers from last night and thoroughly enjoyed my Mexican meal. I’ve also been craving a veggie burger lately… perhaps from Islands with friend onion strings and cheddar cheese on top. That’s certainly on the list for February! I worked on the blog and Ray was busy with work all day, too. We left in our borrowed vehicle for home around 5 p.m. and boycotted a workout today. We’ll get back to things tomorrow. We were feeling pretty lazy. It might be the rainy weather getting to us! It’s almost cold enough to see snow. We also checked the weather report and found out that it was 36 degrees in Downer’s Grove (Illinois) with a wind chill of 24 degrees! Yikes! Two of my facebook friends who live in Illinois (one in the north, one south) both commented on snow. There’s no escaping the cold for us two! Off to relax for the evening with my incredible husband! Ten days until his 28th birthday!

Freitag 04.12.2009 (day 81)

I woke up before Ray this morning. That’s pretty rare. I came downstairs and flipped on the TV and saw that they have Sesamstrasse. Yes, Sesame Street (translated) in German! Though it’s a children’s show, I still couldn’t articulate what they were saying well because those monster characters mumble and speak in child voices. After Ray left, I did 30 minutes of cardio in the living room and started packing for Barcelona! It’s going to be exciting being in a country with Spanish! Granted, the Spanish I learned was not Spain Spanish, but I am still excited I will understand some of it. I’m even more excited that the weather shows being in the 60’s all weekend. That may not seem great to those in California, but for us here in Germany who have been enduring nearly freezing weather to the mid 40’s for a month now, we’re thrilled. I’ve heard that Barcelona is beautiful and I just can’t wait to see it with my eyes. Ray came home for lunch and as we usually do just before a weekend trip, we ate leftovers of all sorts I found in the fridge. I just hate being wasteful. We had our German lesson and headed home to pack and prepare for our trip in the wee hours of the morning. Ray did a workout while I fixed dinner and we headed off to bed.

Samstag 05.12.2009 (day 82)

We got up way too early this morning. Let’s just say for people who don’t usually see the light of day until at least 8 a.m., we were out of the house in the 6 o’clock hour. Yikes! Our little street had blocked the majority of the parking last night because they are having their mini-Christmas market this weekend. They turn our street into a walking-only street, but we won’t be there to see it… because we left for Barcelona this morning! Our drive (in the dark) to the Koln airport was fine. We arrived with plenty of time and grabbed some waters and a croissant at the airport grocery store and waited for our flight… that was delayed, sadly. But, alas, we arrived in Barcelona to 15 degrees Celcius and were delighted at the change of weather! We flight right in over the Mediterranean Sea (um, cool!) and it made me feel like I was back at home in California. Palm trees, blue skies, and warm temperatures definitely excited me. We figured out the train system quite easily and made our way to the hotel. It’s huge—kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and hallway. It’s not the nicest, but we did book this one with little time to spare, so we got what we paid for! We headed out, sans jackets (yes, we were being ambitious, and did regret it later) to check out the Sagrada Family Cathedral and paid a whopping 11 Euro each to enter a cathedral that isn’t even finished—and won’t be done until 2030! It’s really tall, overly decorated, and super detailed. The architect was a devout Catholic and designed intricate pieces (like pillars with huge colorful fruit baskets on top to symbolize the “fruits of the spirit” in addition to many other extravagant things. The building first started in the late 1800’s, stopped for a long period of time due to the Spanish Civil War, and then the building resumed in the late 1900’s. We stopped off at Subway to grab a quick bite (literally… we shared a 6 inch to hold us over) and then walked around a bunch of shops in the area before stopping back at our hotel for coats and a map. We also noticed that our hotel is located near the “football” stadium—meaning soccer! Barcelona had a game tonight. We’re still hoping to experience a soccer game before we leave Europe. We don’t care who, but we want to see a professional game. It’s such a popular sport all over the world and not as much in the U.S. because of all the other sports we cover. It’s fun to see people passionate over something. Sports manages to take care of that. After our hotel, we hopped on the subway to the Mediterranean Sea and walked through shops and around street vendors. Have I mentioned how crazy it is to be in a Spanish speaking country? We feel comfortable here because we’re used to hearing the language (while not the same variation, but many similarities) living in the U.S. It’s fun still understanding the basics—though we thought we forgot since our Deutsch is clouding our memories! After walking around the water area, we headed towards the shopping district and walked up and down many adorable streets with Christmas lights everywhere and LOTS of people out. The culture here is so different. People are almost no where to be found during the day, but at night, they’re everywhere—so much you can’t even move. We walked through the Barcelona Cathedral along with hundreds of other folks and made our way around some of the coolest stores. This is definitely a place for nightlife and socializing. We began to get hungry and settled on this Italian restaurant in the center of town. We found a table and noticed lots of other tables around us. We should’ve taken that as a sign… we waited 20 minutes to have our order taken (2 pizzas, bottle of water) and another HOUR to get our meals! We sat down at about 8 p.m. and left at 9:45! I’m not sure I’ve ever has that slow of service, ever. And, since waitstaff don’t work for tips here, it does nothing to them that you stay or go. They’re paid hourly and as a matter of fact, likely prefer you leave so there is less work for them to do. The only fun part, was that we had a good view of the street below. There was a bronze street performer we watched sit, smoke a cigarette, drink a soda, then put his bronze get-up on. He placed his money pot in front and stood on his box. It took no time at all for people to start throwing money in the pot and he took his fake cowboy gun out and danced for about 10 seconds before turning into a statue again. He was really good at marketing himself. Everyone wanted to be the person who caused the guy to dance. And, they also had an opportunity to get their picture taken with a street performer. Before he started, we didn’t think he had a chance. Before too long, we watched at least 15 people in a matter of 10 minutes throw money in the pot. Also, as we walked back to the train station, Ray was approached by a guy asking him if he “likes hash.” Yeah… no thanks buddy. I was pretty bummed about the poor dinner service, but overall, we had a great day exploring this fantastic city. More to learn tomorrow. I love weekends!

Sonntag 06.12.2009 (day 83)

Today was jam packed. We went to bed around 1 a.m., so we slept until 9 a.m. when the hot Barcelona sun woke us. We grabbed some granola bars (our way of saving money on a meal while traveling… pack granola bars for breakfast or visit a local grocery store to stock up when you get there. We always buy a liter of water for the room, too) and headed on our way. We headed first to the Olympic park from the 1992 games. We got off the train at Espanya, walked through these two enormous columns, passed a beautiful museum we didn’t visit, and checked out a few things in the area like the Torre de Calatrava (large white torch structure). We saw that there was the “Davis Cup” taking place and many people were crowding the streets to attend. We then walked to the Poble Espanyol de Barcelona (no, I’m not spelling these wrong… it’s how they’re spelled on our map!) but decided not to go inside because it seemed to be more for students than tourists. I pictured, though not on Sunday, many school buses pulling up to teach them about Spanish history. Then, we walked what seemed like the longest walk uphill ever to the Castell de Montjuïc which was awesome! One side of the old castle (though not too old) had a view of the city and all the beautiful structures and the other side had full views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Barcelona Port. It was free to walk around inside the grounds, but the rooms were closed—it is Sunday after all. There were tons of Spanish families everywhere. It was similar to seeing families hiking everywhere in Germany, but all the stores were open, and the weather was nice, too! I see why so many Germans like to vacation in Spain. I would, too! After, we headed down with intentions to spend the rest of the day walking along the Mediterranean. We actually were quite successful at this, except the massive amounts of walking this required. We considered renting bikes since they have bikes everywhere (, but it turns out that they can only be checked out if you have a card from city hall.. which means they aren’t for tourists, but locals. So, no bike renting for us. We touched the sea and found the Olympic housing area before nearly walking farther than our map even covered in the city! We took a train back to the city center and checks out two more architectural features created by the same architect who designed the Sagrada Family Cathedral—Gaudí. We didn’t enter either of those structures, either because we just didn’t care to see more of his modern art. We figured the architecture was enough. We’re also visiting a park famous for housing his sculptures tomorrow. While certainly unique, it isn’t much our taste. Then, we headed back into the city center to find ourselves an ornament at a huge, popular store called El Corte Inglés which is similar to a Macy’s, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and a grocery store all in one. They sell everything and are all over the place! The one in the center of town also has a restaurant on the top floor with fantastic views. We bought an ornament and a bag, and headed out. We found another store that sold custom Christmas cards and picked up a few for people at work. Dinner was at Wok to Walk because I am in love with that place! I may have to eat there again tomorrow since I probably won’t ever go back there again—locations are scarce around the world. I sure hope they open up in the U.S. (aside from the one location in NYC). At this point, we had cards, a bag, and an ornament. We were pretty excited to have fulfilled some needs and headed for some dessert; ice cream and brownies! Can it get any better? So exhausted, we hopped on the train and headed to our hotel. As soon as we exited the gate from the train, we noticed that our bag was missing. Yeah, we left our bag of items we just bought on the train! So, we paid two more entrance fees and waited for the train to arrive. We boarded one but it wasn’t our train. Then, we got off on the next exit and boarded another one—which was ours. Unfortunately, our bag was gone. So, we headed back to our hotel area and visited another El Corte Inglés but sadly, they didn’t carry the bag or our ornament. I did find replacement cards for even cheaper (and better quality, I think), however. We couldn’t go back to the store in the center of town because they were closing before we would make it. Tomorrow is a new day and we will head back and replace the items we accidentally left on the subway. I sure hope whoever took our stuff enjoys it. Oh, and our room key was in there too… but that was an easy and free fix. My feet feel as though they may fall off, but it was a good day after all. We saw lots of places, touched the sea, ate great food and desserts, and know exactly what we plan to buy tomorrow and where they’re all located. Goodnight.

Montag 07.12.2009 (day 84)

Wow, a Monday in another country! We usually leave Fridays and arrive back on Sundays when traveling, but since we left on a Saturday this time, we came back tonight. We woke up to the sun, again. The windows were wide open all night, part in due to the fact that our window faced the rising sun—hence the massive heat. We packed up and dropped our bags off at the reception desk before exploring the stadium just down the street from our hotel. We just wanted to see it since it was a site on our map. Since we were just a few blocks away, it was expected we make the effort. Yep, just a stadium is all it looked like. We hopped on a train downtown to visit El Corte Inglés once again to re-purchase our ornament and bag we sadly left on the train last night. It was no problem getting new items, though. When we finished, we jumped on another train to the Park of Gaudí. Where the train dropped us off, we had to walk uphill an intense grade and there were additional stairs and escalators to follow. Since the weather here remains pretty moderate, they have escalators outside in high tourist areas. There isn’t a covering or anything! We reached the top and continued to walk through the park to an area that had a high peak with a few crosses at the very top. There were people everywhere, even though it was Monday. You would never guess! They didn’t even seem like tourists—many of them seemed local just out for a stroll. I took some photos from the high peak of the amazing 360 degree view of the entire city of Barcelona, and we headed to another area of the park famous for the mosaic pieces by Gaudí. There’s one in particular that catches everyone’s eye—the lizard. It’s actually a fountain that is about 8-9 feet tall, but lying down. It was by far the most popular item to photograph in the area. This park is absolutely what people think of when Barcelona comes to mind. Aside from the works of Gaudí and his sculptures and artwork, there isn’t that much color in the city of Barcelona. But, what color there is… is beautiful. But frankly, it would be nicer if there were more than one famous person responsible for making the city shine. He seems to get all the credit. We left the park and headed back down the hill. We grabbed a croissant and donut at a local bakery (and the donut was excellent compared to German donuts) and hopped on another train towards downtown, our favorite. We got off and walked around a bit stumbling upon an old piece of the Roman wall built back in the 4th century (No big deal! Wow!) and had lunch at Wok to Walk again. Yes, my husband is amazing for fulfilling my cravings not once, but twice in two days! I told him to consider it like eating leftovers at home. I think he bought that excuse. Haha. After we stuffed ourselves, we walked down to the Mediterranean and walked around the mall right on the end of that pier. We were considering a haircut for Ray (because he badly needs one—though the Germans think it’s just the right length), but couldn’t find a place. We walked for a bit, then headed towards the main street of madness and picked me up a sandwich for dinner because we would be on a plane during meal time. Ray is more flexible (and not a veggie) so he was fine with eating on the plane. We headed back to our hotel to get the luggage and on a few more trains to connect us to the airport. The train system here is fantastic and my favorite in all of Europe, so far. It’s really organized and in all the right places you want to visit. And, it’s cheap! We took a total of 30 trips (15 each) by train during our stay and we paid 22.10 Euro. To supply transportation for two people for 3 days, that’s not too bad! Also, it had a direct connect to and from the airport, so we avoided any taxis or expensive shuttles (well, we always avoid those…). We waited in an airport that seemed to be built way too large for its necessary purposes. We attribute that to the Olympics… and sadly, they also haven’t installed any self-check machines. This means we had to wait in line to be helped by an attendant, who then refused to give me an exit row (though I always get them when flying this airline) because I am not fluent in German. Our flight was fine. We have yet to get our own row, despite being on a Monday evening flight with plenty of empty rows. Oh well… nothing to complain about, I guess. Ray sat in the middle. He sacrifices for me and I love him. Of course that’s just one of the many reasons he’s such a wonderful husband. We are always so thirsty after flights (no free drinks), so we headed to the grocery store, Rewe, in the Cologne airport. It’s our favorite airport for so many reasons—aside from the ridiculous parking prices. It has a Starbucks, Burger King (they sell a veg burger), and a grocery store that’s open from 5 a.m. to midnight everyday! Everyday! I had to say that twice since ALL grocery stores and all stores in general are closed on Sundays in Germany. And, all grocery stores, no matter the day close by 8 p.m. So, for this one grocery store to be open on Sundays AND open until midnight is like a dream. We picked up bagels and cream cheese (what?!? Totally hard to find), waters, bread, and other items so we didn’t have to visit the grocery store tomorrow. We got in pretty late and made our drive from Cologne to our home in Neuenrade. It was a great weekend and we saw a beautiful country. If I could choose one country we’ve visited so far to live in, I would choose Spain. However, my favorite to visit is still Bruges, Belgium. Another fantastic adventure.

Dienstag 08.12.2009 (day 85)

Ray hasn’t been feeling well, and I woke up feeling a little yucky myself. I usually check up on the world news, check emails, and workout. But, I didn’t feel like working out this morning… I fixed us lunch when Ray got home and he headed back to work. I didn’t go because I wanted to workout, finish the laundry, and clean the bathroom a bit. I always wasn’t dressed or showered by the time he got home, so I just didn’t go! I plan to work on the blog a bit tomorrow. We took so many photos in Spain and I need to sift through the many duplicates and choose my favorites before getting them organized and posted. That warm weather will undoubtedly be missed as it’s been rainy and dreary all day here. I waited a bit after lunch and did some cardio for 30 minutes in the afternoon, followed by cleaning and getting dinner in order before Ray got home from work. We have our Audi back after it was in the shop for a few days. It turns out the part is on order… so we have to get it taken in again! It’s visited the shop 3 times since we’ve been here for 3 months. There are no major issues, but it needed tires, and electrical checking to assure the car’s machine was up to par. We’ve borrowed two cars—another Audi (which was SO nice) and a BMW wagon as well. Both had more glam than ours, but I was happy we got ours back. Ray got more practice on other manual cars and that was nice, though. He’s now drive 3 different cars and soon he’ll drive another when we rent a van to take our parents around Germany at the end of the month. I made taco salad for dinner (well, it’s a variation) and vegged out for the rest of the evening. We’re also in the process of tackling our clogged drain in the shower. It’s not totally clogged, but since our house was built 300 years ago, it didn’t have plumbing. When they finally installed the plumbing, I imagine, it was a long time ago when plumbing wasn’t at the peak of technology. So, needless to say, it sucks at draining and sometimes leaves an inch of water at the bottom of the shower and drains about 30 seconds after stopping the shower water. Considering I found two bottles of Drano in the house, this is a reoccurring problem. Have no fear, I’m married. Ray is wonderful and now I can shower.

Mittwoch 09.12.2009 (day 86)

I think it’s obvious to expect that I slept while Ray got ready and left for work this morning. Oh, how incredibly spoiled I’ve become over the course of 3 months. I did another cardio workout and switched it up a bit with the routine. I don’t want to get too bored of it. I prepared another creative lunch (seriously, I hate wasting things) and we had: grilled cheese with Mozzarella (because Cheddar doesn’t exist—SADLY—in Germany), a small leftover portion of pesto/lemon pasta, and ½ PBJ. I added an extra touch to my PBJ this time: sunflower seeds. I like a little crunch and I love salty foods plus protein, so this was a fun little addition. I think this is my new favorite. We got to work and completed our German homework for our lesson this afternoon. The lesson was fine. We did more role-play and completed more assignments in our textbook. We stayed at work until around 6 and were the last ones there, per usual. People leave so early here and it’s hard to get used to… but since they’ve worked their day’s hours, they leave. It makes sense, it’s just something we aren’t used to seeing in the U.S. that is so different here in Germany. We headed to Altena for a visit to Toom—the big grocery store here in our area. It’s about 10 km from our place and features way more choices than the miniature stores we always visit. To put it into perspective, Toom is large enough to fit 4 of our “regular” grocery stores inside. It’s about the size of our regular grocery stores. We bought things we’ve been needing and things we’re starting to run out of since we’ve been here almost THREE months (laundry detergent, dish soap, TP, shampoo/cond. etc.). I bought a few baking items because it’s getting to be that time… and I am always amazed at certain item prices. You can buy a bag (about the size of packaged coconut in the baking aisle in the U.S.) of poppy seeds for about 1.5 Euro. They’re so expensive in the U.S. compared! You can only buy them in the spice aisle, and even then, they only come in a small spice bottle. The Germans like them so much that they come in bags, not spice bottles! I think I’ll buy one and bring it back to the U.S. if customs allows when we head back in March. I think it’ll pass—and if not… I guess I’ll have to give it up. It’s worth taking my chances! Lemon-poppyseed muffins are totally in my future. Once at home, we did the normal routine of dinner, relaxing, Internet catch-up, emails, CNN, and getting ready for the next day. Ray will be leaving really early tomorrow for Frankfurt with another guy at work. I am choosing to stay home this time since he’ll be home later that night anyhow. Plus, he has a work buddy driving with him and boxes are filling the rest of our car space.