Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time is a funny thing.

Yesterday, Lauren and Taylor turned 7. When they were born, I was working in Jacksonville at Blue cross. I didn't get to see them until Christmas, and I had never seen babies so tiny. They were both probably in the 4, maybe 5 pound range.

I like to tell this story, but my co-workers in Jacksonville wanted to see pictures of the twins. I had one with Michele, Suzanne, and Caroline all in the picture with Lauren and Taylor. One asked which of my sisters was the mother. Ironically, I think that was probably another Lauren Elizabeth who asked that question. Another, Robbin Thomas, didn't let me answer, she said, "Oh that's easy. She's the one who looks tired." (I wish I had a digital version of that photo to attach.) All that would have been December of 2003 and the first week of January 2004.

When I moved back to Louisville in 2007, the twins would have just turned 3. In that time, I would have left Blue Cross to take a job at another company, been laid off from that job, and found a job in Louisville so that I could move back home. Also, when I moved back home, Regan was 5, and Blake was 7, the same age the twins are now. Furthermore, Karina, Ethan, and Abby had yet to be born.

Oh well, I guess that's enough musing on time for now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Transcript of a saved message on my phone

Michele) Say it's Taylor.
Taylor) Uncle Eric, it's Taylor
Taylor) It's TAY-lor!
Michele) Is he there?
Michele) Are you talking to him?
Mom) Are you talking to Uncle Eric?
Michele) Hello
Michele) Hello
Michele) You might have gotten his answering machine.

I love this! I have to make sure I don't delete it accidentally.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Regan the Storyteller

Once upon a time, there were pigs who said: “Oink, oink.” They had names. The first little pig was called Taylor, the second one was called Lauren, and the third one was Regan. One day their mother sent them out to build their own houses. The first pig, Taylor, made her house out of straw. The second pig, Lauren, made her house out of sticks. The third pig, Regan, made her house out of bricks.

One morning the big bad wolf came to town. He was looking for pigs to eat, and he came to the first little pig’s house. He said, “Little pig, little pig, won’t you let me come in?”

And the pig said, “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.”

Then the wolf said, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I will blow your house in.” Then Taylor’s house blew down because it was made of straw. She ran to the second pig’s house.

The big bad wolf came and said, “Little pigs, little pigs, won’t you let me come in?”

Then Lauren and Taylor said, “Not by the hair of our chinny chin chins.”

Then the big bad wolf said, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.”

Lauren’s house was made out of sticks, so the big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew the house in. Lauren and Taylor ran to the third pig’s house.

Regan told Lauren and Taylor to come in when they got there.

Then the big bad wolf showed up. He said, “Little pigs, little pigs, won’t you let me come in?”

“Not by the hair of our chinny chin chins.” The three pigs said.

The big bad wolf said, “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.”

He huffed and he puffed but he couldn’t blow the house made of bricks in. He had to come up with another plan to get in. He climbed up on the roof and tried to go down the chimney, but the pigs heard a noise.

The big bad wolf did not know that they put a big pot under the chimney, there was water in the pot, and a fire was burning under the pot. When the big bad wolf got in the house he landed in the pot. Then he flew out of the pot, and his tail was burnt.

The big bad wolf had to go to the Dr. Wolf. Then another wolf was making a robot wolf, and it said, “Little pigs, little pigs, tomorrow lets go to the apple tree to pick some apples.” It was just what the new wolf wanted his robot wolf to say.

The new wolf told the little pigs let’s go at eight AM to the apple tree. The pigs got up early, and they went to the apple tree and picked some apples. Then they went back home. A while later the new wolf showed up at Regan’s brick house to get the pigs to pick apples with him.

The pigs said, “We already picked some apples.”

Then the new wolf said, “What! How could you do that so fast?”

The robot wolf tried to punch down the brick wall, but it was too strong and the robot wolf fell apart. The robot wolf looked at the wall before he fell apart and said, “How did a pig make such a strong wall?” Then he fell completely apart.

The new wolf was upset that his robot fell apart.

The End

I found this on one of my USB drives while I was trying to free up space on it. It ends kind of abruptly, but I love the inclusion of the robot in what started out as a traditional Three Little Pigs Story.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WoW vs Other Computer RPGs

This is the second time this has happened to me. I'm currently playing Dragon Age Origins, and it's making me want to start playing World of Warcraft again. The sad thing is, it's not the multi-player aspect that makes me want to jump back in, it's the loot. The other time this happened was with Dungeon Siege. That one did make me jump back into the WoW world.

Ironically, it's the non-linear nature of Dragon Age that makes me frustrated with the loot you find. There are 7 tiers of material in the game. For the first 2/3 of the game, finding a weapon made out of the 6th tier material would be a big deal. Shops don't carry them, so for the most part you have to get them as quest items. That's fine. The problem is, late in the game, hired goons are running around armed with gobs of them. It's absurd. Another problem is that a tier 1 item with a +2 bonus to armor well might be more protective than stuff made out of the top end materials, yet I don't find the good stuff with the same sort of bonuses. It just feels wrong to have your max level character wearing unfinished light leather gloves because they provide better protection than massive dragon bone gauntlets.

Which gets me to another issue, the strength based requirement to wear different quality levels of armor is very annoying. WoW has a game mechanic that lets you wear anything you get as a reward for a quest. Sure, you might need to enlist some aid to finish a difficult quest, but once you're done you can automatically use your reward. What kind of game design is it to give a quest item that the player won't be able to wear until they level up 4 times? I also dislike the design decision to make the very best items in the game expensive shop items instead of quest rewards. I don't even want to talk about the economics of this game.

A large part of the fun of computer RPGs is decking your character out in increasingly better gear. Each item might only make a tiny difference, but those tiny differences add up by the time you've replaced every single item your character is using. It's a design mistake not to allow the player several opportunities to upgrade gear over the course of a game.

The long lifespan of a MMORPG is going to give the programmers far more time and resources to polish the mechanics of their game than the developers of a stand alone game will ever have. However they need to at least make them smooth enough so that when someone decides to play one, it doesn't drive them away from single player games back into the multi player ones.

Now from my post, you might think I didn't enjoy Dragon Age. That's actually far from the case. I love the game. I'm nearly done with my second play through. The story is awesome, but some of the mechanics and design decisions have made me want to play WoW again.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Visual C++ and Googletest

This post will probably only be of interest to Chip, but I'm writing it anyway.

  • First step was to download my software packages. I got visual C++ 2010 from Then I got the version 1.5 zip of Googletest from
  • Visual C++ installed without a hitch, although there is a mandatory reboot required by the install. Googletest doesn't even require an install, you just unzip the package and stick it somewhere.
  • Looking for a pattern to follow, I found This is a short video, and being a video is both it's greatest strength and weakness. If you use it, you'll probably be rewinding a lot and cursing the inability to cut and paste. However, watching someone clicking on the interface is very useful. This really covers everything you need to get up and running, but you have to play close attention. I cost myself some time searching for files that were pointed out in the video by not rewinding far enough.
  • The fist step is to compile the vcpp version of Googletest. The google example was probably built as a vcpp 2008 project because my version told me I needed to convert the project. At first the conversion failed because the project was read-only. I figured that I had the original zip, so it wouldn't hurt to make these files read/write. After I did this the project built without any issues.
  • There are two "gotchas" I missed the first time through. The first is the runtime library. Multi-threaded debug and multi-threaded debug dll are not the same thing. There is a warning about linker errors if you get these wrong, but the warning in the video isn't really stern enough. The other is that the 2 libraries built when you compile Googletest ~\msvc\gtest\Debug where ~ is wherever you unzipped Googletest. This is the part where I didn't rewind far enough and had to hunt for these files.
  • I started a new console project. You need to add the two libraries, gtest_maind and gtestd to Configuration Properties | Linker | Input.
  • Next, under Configuration Properties | c/c++ | General, add the ~\googletest\include to Addition Include Directories.
  • Time for the second issue I ran into, I didn't set Configuration Properties | c/c++ | Code Generation to Multi-threaded Debug (/MTd). The default is Multi-threaded Debug DLL (/MDd) which is very similar looking, but not quite the same.
  • I've seen a few ways to include the tests. The one that seems the most intuitive to me is to set up a header file which declares a test class and has the constructor, destructor, SetUp, and TearDown methods. This creates a class which can be used as a test suite. The easiest way to get started is to paste in some boiler plate code from
  • The actual tests go into a cpp file with the same name as the header. Here is a simple test set up by the TEST_F Macro: TEST_F (SimpleTest,DemoTest1) { ASSERT_EQ(1,1); }
  • Two lines of code go into the main function to cause the tests to run:
  • ::testing::InitGoogleTest(&argc, argv);
  • return RUN_ALL_TESTS();
  • One thing I like about this is that you just tell it to run all tests, you don't have to list each test suite you created. For my simple, just get it running, project, this doesn't matter, but for a large project, automatic inclusion seems like a very nice feature.
  • My first try was a complete loss because of the run time library mistake I made. My second try, I realized my mistake and I got to see the test results pop up at the end of my run.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Books I've Decided I Need to Read

After going through several lists of top 100 books, I decided that there are some things I need to read that I haven't. In no particular order.

  • Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand When I told someone at work about my lists, he had only two. This was one of them. I do remember from high school that the person who read this when we each picked a different book from a list enjoyed it.
  • Illusions - Richard Bach This was the other book that the guy from work would have put on his list. Atlas Shrugged would have probably ended up on my list without his recommendation; this would not have. (In fact, I wouldn't have even known about it.)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee My English class never read this, but the people in the classes that did liked it. On the theory that high school students don't like anything I need to read this.
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller This book has spawned an English phrase and I think I'd like it for the irony contained within it.
  • The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger See the comments for To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut I thought I had read a Vonnegut short story or two, but when I checked on the Internet, the story I was thinking of was by a different author.
  • The Godfather - Mario Puzo My dad doesn't read many books, but my mom said he stayed up all night reading this one.
  • The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett I keep coming across the phrase "hard boiled" when I look for reasons to read this.
  • Kidnapped - Robert Lewis Stephenson I bought this thinking it would be good to read a classic. I need to make myself read it and decide if I was correct.
  • The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer I got this one from a pile that was otherwise headed to Half Price Books. This has some of the appeal of The Odyssey (although not nearly as old) in that people are still reading it many centuries after it was written.
  • Le Morte de Arthur - Sir Thomas Malory I've read several versions of Arthurian legends, but I'm fairly certain that I haven't read this collection.
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain This is mainly on the list because I feel the need to include a uniquely American writer.
In addition to books I have never read, I decided I need to re-read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and A Wrinkle in Time while composing my book lists.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Books (I Think) Everyone Should Read Part II

Last time I published the books that didn't fit onto my should read list for one reason or another. This list is the 10 books I would say everyone should read.

  • Frankenstein - Mary Shelley This book is embedded in our culture mainly through movies. You could argue that Dracula is as well, but I think this book has more universal appeal with the theme of there are some things man was just not meant to know.
  • Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift Gulliver's first journey to the land of the Lilliput gave us a word, Lilliputian. If giving us a word and providing iconic images of a man tied down by thousands of strings isn't enough, the satire in all four is still valid today. We've still got countries going to war over things just as foolish as which end of the egg to open. Also, it was someone who was not at all familiar with this book that got me thinking about a must read list.
  • The Oddessy of Homer The fact that people are still reading this after over 2000 years speaks for itself. I think this is the more readable of the first part of the story, the Illiad. You couldn't go wrong reading any of the major classic epics, but I think this one is a must read.
  • A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle How can you not put a book on the list which starts with: "It was a dark and stormy night." Many books have stories about a secret struggle between good and evil, The Dark Is Rising comes to mind, but I think that this is a particularly well written one. It was also the first book I ever read that used a four dimensional construct known as a tesseract . Traveling through one is the namesake wrinkle.
  • A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin Long before J. K. Rowling had ever gone into the coffee shop to write about Harry Potter, Le Guin wrote this book to answer the question: Where do wizards come from. When I was in second grade, this book was featured in a Reading Rainbow type show. Several of the boys in the class with me had been excited by the excerpt of the book which featured the Wizard's battle with a family of hatching dragons. We worked out a plan to get a copy of the book and the order in which we would read it. As far as I know, I'm the only one who ever got a hold of the book and read it. Rereading the book as an adult, I realized I that I had absorbed much of the philosophy of the book without even realizing it.
  • Dune - Frank Herbert I've lost track of the number of times I've read this book. There are so many ideas contained in it. Politics, religion, planning, revenge, loyalty, hero worship, human thought vs. thinking machines, ecology. Forget the David Lynch movie, this is one of the finest books ever written.
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams Usually I don't want too much humor in my novels, but this is an exception. In what other book can you learn the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?
  • Brave New World - Aldous Huxley In some ways, I feel like we're living in the dystopian world predicted by this novel. It's amazing that it was written in the 1930's, it feels like a book that could have been written today.
  • Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkein I know this is a trilogy, but that's because the publisher wouldn't put it out as a single volume. There is probably a big section at your favorite bookstore that wouldn't exist if Tolkein hadn't written this tale of middle earth. While it is a work of fiction, the world of Middle Earth is so well thought out, it reads like a history of another world. While inventing languages for the people of world to speak isn't a prerequisite for great literature, it does add something to this story.
  • Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll This is another story with imagery embedded into the culture. The rabbit in a waist coat, the Cheshire cat, and little bits of food and drink with the labels eat me and drink me should be familiar to everyone.
One thing that struck me after I had assembled this list is how many of the must reads I've picked are often put in the young readers section of a bookstore.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Books (I Think) Everyone Should Read Part I

I'm going to start of with books that didn't make the list. I was going to create a top 10 list, and promptly put 20 items on it. I'm not even going to start on books that I think are excellent, but lack some feature of universal appeal.

So, in short, while you should read these, I've got another list of books that I think are more deserving of being read.

  • Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card If two alien races meet but cannot communicate, is one fated to exterminate the other? To what limits can you go to defend your entire species? This would probably be the first novel to move up to the main list if I expanded to 11, but I think this lacks just a touch of universal appeal.
  • Aesop's Fables - Not on the list because it's not a novel, but everyone should be able to come up several fables off the top of their head. "Grasp at the shadow and loose the substance", "Try to please everyone and you'll end up pleasing no one", "sour grapes", "slow and steady wins the race"
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales - See above, everyone should be able to come up with several Fairy Tales off the top of their head too.
  • 1001 Nights - Again, not a novel and not as familiar to Western culture as the first two, but still full of stories people are familiar with.
  • Neuromancer - William Gibson A novel about crime, drug abuse, artificial intelligence, and great wealth. Apart from that, it essentially launched an entire sub-genre of fiction, cyberpunk. It's amazing to think that this book was written before the 90's internet boom.
  • Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson If Neuromancer is a book about the age of computers, this is a book about the age of nanotechnology. In this novel, diamond is literally cheaper than glass. Carbon atoms are lined up in the proper pattern by a fabricator to make diamond, but glass requires someone heating up sand in a fire. This novel raises questions of society, culture, education, and what it means to be a parent.
  • Little House on the Prairie - There is so much science fiction on my list, I thought for a long time on something to balance it. I think this is a good choice. Everyone probably knows the title of the book from the Michael Landon TV Show, and it's an interesting slice of life from 140 years ago.
  • Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein First, forget everything and anything you might know about the Paul Verhoeven movie. In some ways, this is not on the main list because it is more political manifesto than space opera, and in other ways because the solution to organizing a society can't be as easy as Heinlein makes it out to be. However, reading this book will make you think.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K. Dick First of all, this is the book that inspired the movie Bladerunner. Second, it's the only book on my list that thinks about the question of how our relationship (after we've nuked the vast majority of them to extinction) with animals separates humans from androids, unless of course, the android hunting Deckard, who is very fond of his electric sheep, is an android himself.
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan - This non fiction, but you'll never look at a chicken nugget or think about a feed lot or a corn farm the same as you did before reading this book.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Moody Blues Concert

I went to see this at the outdoor stadium at the riverboat casino in Southern Indiana. It was a little bit warm and bright at the start of the night, but the sun set shortly after we arrived and the night was really comfortable.

It looked like some people in the audience were trying to relive Woodstock, but I had fun. It was the 4th time I had seen them play live. Here's a review of the concert I found online.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chess, Africa & a Wedding

I played in the KY Open chess tournament last weekend. I ate some good food downtown, Bearno's by the bridge, Z's Fusion, and Cunningham's. Laura's husband Dallas was working at Z's when I stopped in. That was the best meal of the weekend. I got a chicken stir-fry, but the vegetables tasted like they had been grilled first. The fish sandwich at Cunningham's for lunch Sunday was quite tasty as well.

The chess on the other hand was not good. The two games I won I should have lost, but held on and fought back. I lost the best game I played, then in the final round, I accidentally picked up my d pawn instead of my c pawn on the 2nd move of the game. It didn't cost me the game, but I wasn't playing the variation I wanted to play. In the end, I won 2 games out of 5 and beat the people ranked lower than me and lost to the ones ranked higher.

My cousin David went to Senegal and my friend Chip is headed to Kenya. Chip is probably about halfway through the 29 hour trip to Kenya. They're going to be on opposite sides of the continent, but it's unusual to have two people I know in Africa at the same time.

Finally, my cousin Kim got married last night. St. Brigid really isn't far from my old house on Oak St. The reception was at the Olmstead. The reception was very nice and I got to see a lot of family that I hadn't seen in a while. Also, I got to see Jessica's daughter Tess for the first time. As Emily's husband Brian said, if Max could get through the reception without busting his head open and if I could avoid a stomach flu the next day, it would be a successful reception. After Laura's (Kim's older sister) reception I picked up a stomach flu that had torn through the Clarks during the week leading up to Laura's wedding. That was one of the worst 12 hours of my life.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lisbon Day 3

We went back to the hotel after breakfast, but we didn't get as lucky with the TV as we had the day before. We got a Simply Red top 10 video countdown, only in Europe. Then we got the same geezers behaving badly show. We ended up watching the news and saw how some robber had prayed with the woman he was robbing before he turned himself in. We stayed in the hotel because we were going to need to check out and didn't have any really concrete plans for the day. We left our luggage at the hotel, but they really didn't have a luggage room. We were a little nervous about leaving it just sitting under the stairwell by the check-in desk, but we couldn't very well lug it all over town. We stopped by the Internet cafe after checking out, then headed into Lisbon for our last day here.

We walked back to the main square, and there was some sort of soccer festival going on there. The main portion of the square was packed, and there were team and national tents and booths set up. One of the British teams was doing some sort of chant, and it looked like the police broke up a minor scuffle elsewhere in the plaza. We walked to see some of the public monuments, which took us through the heard of the modern business district. After we ate lunch, we found an English language bookstore. It wasn't what I had expected, but perhaps it should have been. It really catered to the students reading English language books for classes. I found two books that I bought. One was a dictionary of mythology and the other was the start of a Robbin Hobb series I hadn't picked up yet.

From there, we took a shortcut to the botanical garden and the Lisbon Basilica. After getting thoroughly lost on our first outing, taking a shortcut from the bookstore to our next destination was something of a triumph. I know a basilica is the highest designation for a Catholic church, but after some of the churches we saw this trip, this seemed modest by comparison.

We used one of our last two metro rides to get back to Intendente station. Michele had trouble with getting her ticket to be recognized as valid. We went to information, and they showed it had the two rides we thought it should have. One of the metro workers had to fiddle with her card to get it to scan. I had put my card in the back cover of one of my books, so I was able to enter and exit the metro just by setting my book atop the scanner. I almost looked like a native navigating the metro. Another metro worker had to fiddle with Michele's card again, but this time I saw how they bent the card to get it recognized.

The station turned out to have one last surprise for us. There were, we though, two ways to exit the metro, and it seemed to me like we usually picked the one further from the hotel no mater what we tried. It turned out that there was yet a third exit that we hadn't even noticed before on our trips to and from the hotel. I picked up a Lisbon shot glass and a little writing pad and pen so I could write down some notes on the trip during the flight home.

We snacked at the cafe to rest after a long day of walking around town. It had taken half an hour to take the metro back to Intendente from where we had ended up in the city. We got sweets and soup for our final meal in Portugal. We had plenty of time to kill at the bus station, but we had gotten tired of sitting in the cafe. By getting there early, we had an unusual experience at the bus station. A guy said something in Portuguese to us, and when I said English he ended up asking for money in English, which turned out to be quite good. He said he was homeless and wanted to get a sandwich. I pulled out a single 50 cent piece first, and I didn't think that was really enough money to be helpful. I reached in again and came out with a 2 euro piece. That was more than I had planned on giving him, but at that point I thought it would be rude to put it back in my pocket. He was genuinely surprised and said, "Wow! Thank you." I'd have just bought a half liter of coke with it from an airport vending machine, so it probably did him more good than me.

The overnight bus ride back to Madrid was a strange one. When we crossed the border, Spanish police boarded the bus and checked every one's documents. They pulled three people off the bus, but one got back on. Michele thought she understood enough Spanish to gather that two of the people were from Africa, but had no documents. When one of the police told one of them that he couldn't go to Madrid, he responded that he would go to Barcelona instead. The police laughed and said something like, "Madrid, Barcelona, it doesn't matter. You can't stay in Spain at all."

Then at the first stop for a meal, two girls who looked like they were Japanese tried to get back on the bus shortly after we stopped and the bus driver got really mad at them. I was a little bit afraid that the bus driver would leave people behind from the stop. They sat with us for a little while and we talked a bit in English. We couldn't figure out what they had done to make the bus driver so mad. Despite the strange events of this bus ride, we were back in Madrid that morning. Michele and I split up on the Metro. I headed to the airport and she headed back to the hotel at the Plaza Mayor.

It was a really good trip, but there are three things I would have done differently.
  • I would have paid more attention to the little warning light on the camera for blurry pictures. Seeing some of the blurry pictures next to ones that came out crystal clear made me sad.
  • I would have waited to get more cash until we were in Villanueva. We had plenty of cash for the trip and I'd still have my backpack if I'd have done that.
  • I'd have flown out of Lisbon. Flying into Barcelona would have made it difficult to meet up with Caroline, but the amount of time we spent on buses would make me plan a second trip to Europe differently.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lisbon Day 2


Michele and I had stayed inside the big cities except for when we were in Villanueva with Caroline, so we decided to take a day trip on this day. Our choices were Mafra and Sintra. We chose Mafra because the bus to Mafra was just outside the metro station. We weren't sure where we would need to catch the bus to Sintra. We finally found one of the green busses we were looking for. We asked a driver if we were at the stop, but we were actually in the area where busses parked when not in use. He gave us directions to the actual stop in English. His English wasn't great, but it was understandable and enough to get us where we needed to go. This illustrates another way Lisboa was more accessible to Americans than just the food. English is more often understood and spoken here than in Spain.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Mafra on the bus. One thing I saw along the way that I'm curious about was the three bladed wind turbines. I wonder how much power those put out when they're spinning at 20 RPM. I looked around online a bit, but couldn't come up with anything conclusive.

Mafra is the site of a hunting palace for King Juan the something. (I looked it up online and it's Juan V.) I don't have access to my vacation photos since I'm typing this up at Panera, so I'll just link to its wiki page.

We went through the church incorporated into the palace before lunch. It was modeled off St. Peter's in Rome. It wasn't as big as the old gothic cathederal or the Sagrada Familia, but it was still very impressive. I'd say it was on par with the gothic cathederal despite the size difference. The Sagrada Familia is so unique, that it's hard to compare anything else to it, and it's still under construction. There were six different organs, and forty plus statues, any of which could have been on displayh as the centerpiece of the art museum we had seen the day before.

We were hungry, so we got lunch before we saw the paid portion of the tour. We picked a little caffe and got the local burger offering. It's a little unusual in that it doesn't come with a bun, but is instead topped with a sunny side up egg. Despite being odd, it's actually a tasty combination. I got a 375 of wine with my meal, so I was feeling pretty mellow by the end of lunch. The caffe worker's (owner's) daughter played behind the counter while we ate. She would hide if Michele or I smiled or waved at her, but by the end of the meal I caught her watching us from behind the counter. She was very cute and looked to be about four.

We toured the palace, which was the complete opposite of the castle we had seen the day before. Somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 man years of effort went into the construction of this palace. The effort was financed by gold returned to Portugal from Brazil. My notes say that the pictures provide a better picture of royal comfort than I can describe, so I guess I will need to attach a few to this blog post when I get home.

The game room had an immense pocket billiard table, it had to have been at least a 6x12 foot table, but it could have been 7x14, 8x16 or maybe even larger. Apparantly, side pockets had not been added to the table yet, so everything would need to be shot into the corners. That would make any game played on that table difficult beyond belief.

Another oddity was the trophy room. I have never seen so many antlers in one place. The legs and backs of every chair were made of antlers. The legs of every table were made of antlers. All the wall decorations consisted of antlers.

My favorite part of the castle was the library. The had 40,000 books, which is a vast store of knowledge in the 18th century. The monks who did the book binding kept bats in the library to hold down the population of book eating insects. There was even what looked to be an early copy of Newton's Principia Mathmatica on display.

When we took the bus back to Lisboa, I'm not sure what the posted time was for our stop, but it seemed like we waited at least half an hour more than we should have. This had been a good day for a side trip. It had been drizzling most of the day, but we spent most of the time we would have otherwise been getting rained on indoors or on the bus.

After we got back to town, we found the bus station to get tickets for the bus ride back to Madrid. We had to follow the red line all the way to the last stop to get to the bus station. It was confusing to find the right ticket stand to buy tickets. We ended up having to ask someone where was obviously not the one we needed to buy tickets from where to go. We used most of our remaining Euros for the tickets and the rest for dinner. The woman who sold us the tickets spoke very litte English, but she was able to tell us where to wait for the bus. The bus didn't leave until 9:45, so we were a little worried about how to spend our last day in Lisbon since we were going to have to check out of the hotel in the morning.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lisbon Day 1


When we got up for breakfast, it was raining. My stolen umbrella would have been useful. We got complementary breakfast for staying at the hotel. That consisted of a hot drink, I always got tea and Michele coffee, either a ham or a cheese sandwich, and a little yellow muffin which was more like a cupcake without icing. Very tasty!

The little teapots they used were tricky. You had to lift the lid up to pour without making a mess. The lid was still hot on my second attempt to pour, and that didn't go very well either. Even when I finally had the hang of it, I still dribbled a little tea when I poured.

On the way back to the hotel, it was pouring. My umbrella would have come in really handy now. I got completely soaked going half a block back to the hotel. It was more the water coming down off the roof than anything. I was afraid I was going to have to pitch the t-shirt it was so wet. However, I was able to ring it out enough to get it to dry by hanging it in the window. While we were waiting for the weather to clear, we watched a top 10 countdown of Aerosmith videos and a show called Geezers Gone Wild which showed celebrities over 50 doing strange things.

Once it stopped raining, we headed to the Baxia district and worked our way down to the waterfront. The Baxia district is the old center of town, and it's where we had eaten the night before.

The streets in the Baxia district kind of merge with the plazas and walkways because you're always walking on Marble. After a few surprises the day before where cars were driving in places we didn't expect them, we learned to follow the crowd.

We were going to try to find an archeological museum, but we ended up finding an art museum instead. Other than a few priceless statues, the rest of the musuem was underwhelming. I guess seeing a few priceless statues was worth four euros though.

Our main goal for the day was to see the castle in the Alfama district. This is the old Arabic part of town; it is also the portion of the city which survived an earthquake a few jundred years back. The guide book warns that you will get lost even with a good map. Our map wasn't that good, but more on that later.

Finding the castle wasn't too bad because it was located on top of a hill. Even when you would take a staircase up to an unlabeled road, you could just keep heading uphill. About one third of the way up, we stopped at a church. According to my notes, I need to look at the photos to see what kind of church this was. We saw so many churches, this one really didn't stand out in my memory. However, as you can see from the images above, it's still a rather nice example of a medieval church.

About another one third of the way up, we stopped to eat. The special of the day got me a huge slab of salmon, boiled potatoes, bread, wine, and grapes for desert. Michele got 2 pork chops, fries, bread, wine, and creme brulee for desert. This was the best meal I had in the entire vacation, and it was just 20 euros for the two of us to eat. I liked the restaurant so much, I got a photo of its name. Now that we were well fed, we headed up the rest of the hill to get to the castle.

The castle was amazing; the walls kept getting higher as you moved into the central keep. There were so many ways defenders could shoot or drop things down onto the heads of attackers who managed to clear the previous wall. There would have been nothing romantic about living in this castle. It was all function and no comfort unless you count a stone chair as comfortable. The views of the city were absolutely amazing, especially from the towers.

We should have tried to come up with our exit strategy for leaving the castle while we still had a bird's eye view of the Alfama district. Just heading downhill isn't a working strategy, and we quickly got turned around on the nameless streets and stairways which hadn't been a big problem when heading uphill.

We kept looking for a way to get back to the Baxia district, and according to the map we should have been able to get their multiple ways. It seemed like our best bet was to head due West, instead of heading South the way we had come to the castle. However, we obviously were not in a tourist area any longer. There were mothers with young children about, so it seemed like a safe residential area we were in. However, once we saw four men doing something that involved exchanging money, Michele ducked into a shop to ask for directions. I would describe it as an area where you could find trouble, but trouble wouldn't come looking for you. However, I wouldn't want to trust that statement to hold true after dark. Fortunately, it was still mid afternoon.

We pointed to the Baxia district on the map and said metro. The shop keeper and his wife started giving us directions, but we couldn't understand a word of them. The Michele pointed to our stop on the metro and said "Intendente." (The name of our metro stop.) Immediately, the shopkeepers said, "Oh, Intendente!" The motioned for us to follow them to the front of their store. When we reached the doorway, the motioned for us to keep following the road we were on as far as we could. We followed that little street until we saw an obviously larger one running parallel a block over.

That was Avenue Almirante, the same road our hotel was on. We exited the Alfama district three blocks south of our hotel. That night, after getting thoroughly lost, we wanted to stay close to the hotel for dinner, so we just ate at the same cafe where we got breakfast. We ended up eating there a lot. We got a cold flatbread pizza with several toppings and then some sweets. I also tried one of the Portuguese beers the guidebook mentioned, Superbok. I don't think the Germans would describe this beer as a bok; it seemed more like a pilsner to me. However, it was good.

Monday, April 12, 2010

From Spain to Lisbon


We had gone to an internet cafe, and it had looked like there would be plenty of space on the bus from Badajoz to Lisbon. The bus ride from Villanueva to Badajoz was uneventful. Unfortunately, that's when things started to go wrong. The people working the ticket counters were extremely unhelpful passing us back and forth between two different windows without telling us why. Not that I would have understood, but Michele might have. After going to the information desk to find out that we had been at the right desks, Michele wrote out the question of how do we get to Lisbon. Only then did the guy at the counter write back that the bus was full.

We called Caroline but couldn't get her. We tried calling Juan Carlos, who was at a different school, so he couldn't have her call us immediately. When Caroline did get the message to call us, she told us to try taking a bus to a different destination, and trying to get to Lisbon from there. There was one to Elvas Portugal, and a guidebook told us that there should be plenty of busses running to Lisbon from there. Badajoz and Elvas are both very close to the border, so you don't actually need tickets for the bus between them. You just give the driver a Euro or two for the fare.

We got a little nervous waiting for the bus, because the noon bus was about fifteen minutes late. While we were waiting, an American couple from Columbus Ohio asked what we were waiting for, and they wanted the same bus. We talked to them on the bus ride. They had been down in Morocco and had come back through Gibraltar. They said they had crossed five different languages in a day's time. French and Arabic in Morocco, English in Gibraltar, then Spanish and Portuguese.

When we arrived in Elvas, we had a little over an hour to wait because of a time zone change. It looked like there were interesting sights to see, but I just took what pictures I could from the bus station. The other Americans were more adventurous. They had and extra half hour to wait for their bus, so they took their backpacks and went sightseeing. They would have been happier with some lockers to stow their stuff in, but they were willing to lug it around for a closer look at the town. Michele and I were content to sit and read after the difficulties we had securing passage to Lisbon.

Driving through Portugal, I was struck by how much greener it was than Spain. The terrain was still rocky, but green. Actually driving into Lisbon is an impressive sight. It is almost like the city was built on the side of a bowl and at the bottom of the bowl you have the Atlantic Ocean.

We discovered that our guidebook was a bit out of date when we went to buy metro passes after getting off the bus. You only got 9 trips per pass instead of 10, and you couldn't share 1 pass for two people. It ended up working out, but we did a lot of walking our last day in Lisbon to conserve those final few trips.

It was only a half a block from the metro stop to our hotel, Residencia do Sul. It was the most modest of all the places we stayed. We had seen the street from Google street view, so we knew we were in the right place. In fact the picture below is from Google, which is really kind of Amazing when you think about it. This was the most modest of the three hotels we stayed in. The lift was a tiny little thing and you had to shut the door manually. We only used it to get our luggage into or out of the hotel. (That is, twice.) There was just enough space in the room to walk around the bed, and it was a 3/4 bath instead of a full bath. This room was also tiny. One hazard of this was that the pipes ran atop the tile, and you could burn yourself on the hot water pipe if you weren't careful.

The hotel was old, but it was also nice. It was also the least expensive of the places we said. Only 162 Euros for 3 nights. One modernization was that the hallway lights were on motion sensors. One oddity was that it used a real key instead of a keycard, and you left it at the desk when you went out into the city.

After unpacking, we took the metro down to the main square and looked around a bit. Once we picked a place to eat, I decided that Portuguese food was more accessible than Spanish food. I might be in the minority, but it seems like a pretty good guess that the average American would agree with me. The pictures on the menu all looked good to me. In Spain, my reaction was, more often that not, what in the world possessed anyone to cook that? I had read that cod was an important food in Portugal, so I had some fried cod. Granted, that's not very exotic, but it was tasty. Michele, got a saussage which tasted like it had some seafood in it when I tried a bite. The other difference I noticed was that the portions served here were larger than anything I received in Spain with the exception of the hotel meal in Barcelona. There were fewer fries than you would get in America, but the piece of cod was huge. Perhaps it was no accident that the average Spanish person I was was skinnier than the average Portuguese. After we were done eating, we took the metro back to the hotel and rested after a stressful day of travel.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My trip to Spain: Villanueva de la Serena


It’s hard to sleep on a bus. If we had known how little used this bus route was, we’d have known that there was no need to get our bus tickets ahead of time. If there were more than half a dozen passengers on the bus, the count was only 7. It was hard to sleep on that bus. It wasn’t very comfortable. It helped that I moved back a seat, but it still wasn’t very easy to stretch out. Some of the other passengers showed Michele how to work the reading light since she had given up on even attempting to sleep and started re-reading one of the twilight books for the nth time.

Caroline met us at the bus stop. I think we called and she gave us directions, but things are kind of fuzzy after more or less staying up all night. I don't think we tried to actually act on any directions she gave us. She took us to her friend Holly’s apartment. Holly is very British, or as the Spanish would say, muy Britanico. I slept in the guest room, and Holly told me not to mind her bits and bobs. I guess that’s British slang for odds and ends, or keepsakes. I think Michele slept on the couch. However, she might have stayed awake on the couch for all I know.

After we had rested, Caroline took us out to meet Juan Carlos and his wife. Jaun Carlos is into weightlifting and body building, which is rarer in Spain than America. It’s still not super common here, but he really stands out over there. His spoken English was so good that I got going too fast for him to understand. Michele could kind of communicate in Spanish, but I really couldn’t. His wife didn’t speak English, so there was a lot of translation going of as we talked. We got topas and drinks. In the big cities, the topas were kind of pricey for what you got. Here, they came free with every drink. We got some traditional jamon and tomato on bread at the first place, then we headed to a second place. I guess this is the same in any small town, but Juan Carlos and his wife were always running into people they knew.

We got a variant of Sangria at the next place which was a mixture of wine and lemonade with ice cubes in it. Given the fact that a major way to eat in the local bars was to order drinks, something like this makes a lot of sense if you’re going to be drinking all day. We got a lot of food there. We got Calamari, which Michele and Caroline surprised me by agreeing to try. They seemed to like it pretty well. That was even more surprising, because this was obviously cut up squid. It hadn’t been cut into strips that could have been just about anything after it was battered and fried. The next order was a potato omelet fresh from the pan. In the cities, we had only seen this offered cold. I guess once you were used to eating this meal, it would be fine cold. However, as a foreigner, starting out with the cold variety was not appetizing. Maybe I should try making something like that for myself sometime. The last thing we got was a pork stew garnished with French fries. I have to give the food I ate here credit for convincing me that Spanish cooks were not all insane.

We left this bar, and went to a bakery. Caroline got Holly to meet us at a bakery for desert. Like all the European cafés and bakeries we visited, the chocolate deserts are the bomb. I don’t remember exactly what it was that I ordered, but it was really good. Some of Caroline’s other friends met us at the café too. At this point there was too much Spanish from native speakers for me to keep up with anything that was said. We went to yet a 3rd bar. Here the topas we were served with our drinks were decidedly of the snack variety. Juan Carlos and his wife left us at at this bar. We stayed a little while longer after that.

When we left, we went back to Holly’s apartment. We had done our laundry before we left, and it was all out on a line to dry. That was an odd exercise of hoping it wouldn’t rain and rearranging things which dry faster and spreading out the things which dry slower. We watched the movie Twilight and ordered Telepizza (the largest pizza chain in the Spanish speaking world) for dinner. Caroline likes corn and tuna for her toppings, which sounds disgusting, but really wasn’t that bad. I got a ham and pineapple pizza which was pretty good. The other thing we had to munch on was ham flavored potato chips. I thought they were really tasty, it may be a good thing that I can’t get them here.

Back to the movie, it kind of made me groan in many parts. I had been avoiding Twilight because of the sparkly vampires, and boy, did that “special” effect in the movie really suck. However, I’m a sucker for vampire stories and the movie effectively served as and advertisement for the books. Also, the book I had been reading was stolen from the bus station, so borrowing Michele’s twilight books was really my only option. I had finished the book I had which had not been in the stolen backpack, China Miéville's Iron Council. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough for me to want to re-read it.

On Sunday, Michele and Caroline went to church. I had slept in too late, so I stayed in the apartment and watched a little Spanish TV. I saw something on bullfighting, which seemed to be more advertising for a few prominent bullfighters. I also saw Davydenko beat Nadal to win a tournament. Davydenko may have had a big win leading into this tournament, but I think that was really the start of the surge he’s had in the past few months.

We ate lunch at a Burger king. I have to say, the onion rings and fries they serve in Spain are better than what you can get here. We mostly took it easy this day. Caroline took us by to see her apartment, but her roommates were out. We also walked around the town to see the school where Caroline taught and walked to the town park. Holly cooked pasta in a cream sauce for us for dinner, and it was really good. This day may not have been all that exciting, but we needed a rest after Barcelona.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recent Movies

I'll work backwards.

The Hangover - I gave this to Michele and Robert for Christmas. I thought the first 10 minutes or so were kind of dumb, but then the movie hit its stride. It's not the funniest thing I've ever seen, but I did laugh a lot.

Avatar - Go see it in 3-D. You've seen the story before, but not done in this way.

Iron Man - Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as an irresponsible rich guy who has a change of heart after nearly being killed by one of his own weapons. It doesn't change his personality, just the decisions he makes.

The Wrestler - Awesome movie. There is wrestling in it, but by showing you how it's faked it really reveals the physical impact of putting on a show. The main character is easy to pull for despite the fact that he makes few good decisions and has a hard time following through on those.

Let the Right One In - Another awesome movie. If you can stand sub-titles, watch it with the Swedish language soundtrack. I actually switched the English off about 15 minutes in, and decided that the inflection and tone of the original actors is much better than whoever read the lines in English. A pre-teen boy, who is the target of bullies, makes an unlikely friend when a vampire girl who appears to be roughly his own age moves into his apartment complex.

Ghost World - I don't know what I think about this one. It's got Thora Birch, Scarlet Johanson, and Steve Buscemi. It's odd, but I'm not sure if it's good or bad. If any of this inspires you to watch the movie, let me know what you think.

Curse of the Golden Flower - I was expecting a martial arts epic. The movie is really a movie about political intrigue in the Chinese royal family with a smattering of martial arts thrown in at various times. I liked it, but I liked things like Hero or Kung Fu Hustle more.

Winter of Frozen Dreams - I didn't care for this one. It's a movie based on a true crime, and I think a 30 minute documentary would have been more interesting that the 90 minutes dramatization I watched.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My trip to Spain: Barcelona Part III


This was our last day in Barcelona. I got pictures of the art decorating the hotel before we ate breakfast at the buffet. We left our luggage with the hotel and headed out.

The block of discord was near the hotel, so we walked there. It was something that we had wanted to see yesterday, but we were too exhausted from the trip to Park Guell. The block of discord is a section of town where building designers basically had a duel to see who could come up with the strangest designs. You can see from the two images I uploaded that there are some wildly different designs.

From there, we headed to the Picasso Museum. This was actually somewhat near the Gothic Cathedral. This didn't contain really famous Picasso works like the Reina Sofia did. Instead, there were representative samples from throughout his entire life. His early works are very realistic, which is kind of odd when you think of a Picasso portrait having three noses. Later in his life, like in his fifties and sixties, he turned his attention to etching and pottery. I suppose he is an artistic genius an all, but it's odd to think of someone picking up a new hobby at the age some people start to retire and becoming world class at it. One thing about this museum that was interesting was that it was established out of items from Picasso's personal collection.

After we left the Picasso Museum, we went to the Museum of Chocolate. The chocolate sculptures are really amazing. I've included a sample chocolate sculpture.
There were sculptures of every conceivable subject imaginable. There were chocolate monuments, animals, and even a chocolate Homer Simpson. There were also articles and displays chronicling the history of chocolate. The gift shop was as much of a draw as the rest of the museum of chocolate. I picked up a 90% cocoa bar for Dad. I thought about getting one for myself, but it's probably good that I didn't. Michele picked up some chocolate for her kids and some for her kids. Also, the tickets to the museum were themselves chocolate bars. We ate at a stir fry place, again not very Spanish. The place had just opened up, and if I had bout a chocolate bar for myself I wouldn't have been able to eat. They wouldn't have been able to break my large Euro note.

We got through both museums much faster than we expected. We had picked up our bus tickets the day before. So we didn't have any reason to get to the bus station early. We took another trip to the end of Las Ramblas, and looked around the mall at the end of the street. When we walked back to the hotel, we tried to walk down the side of Las Ramblas that we hadn't before. We still had time to kill, so we went to Otto's for a few drinks. I had two Catalan beers, which were both good. I liked the dark beer better than the red I had. Michele had some local wine. We collected our luggage, and headed to the bus station.

I had broken my last big bill at Otto's, so I went to use the ATM at the bus station. We had to use it the day before to get our bus tickets as they didn't process credit cards. Michele had propped up her legs on our luggage and my backpack was sitting on the seat next to her. When I got back, the backpack was gone. We had cleared it out of valuables since we intended to take it with us onto the overnight bus. However it still had souvenirs, chocolate, and the books we were reading. Here's the list I had when I made notes.

  • Umbrella
  • 2 packs of cards
  • 4th Twilight book in English
  • The Road between the worlds
  • Post cards
  • Uneaten tickets to Chocolate Museum
  • Gaudi book for mom
  • Gaudi coloring books for kids
  • Gaudi refrigerator magnets
  • Sagratta Famila bookmark
  • toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
  • Spanish dictionary
There was a police station next to the bus stop, and we headed over there in hopes that the police might know of a dumping area where we might finds useless stuff. Unfortunately, they didn't have anyone there who spoke English. They had me fill out a police report, but I'm sure it went straight into a filing cabinet. I've never really had anything stolen from me, so the whole indecent was kind of shocking to me. If nothing else, sitting in the police station we were sure nothing else would be stolen.

While I was filling out the police report, someone came in to turn in a backpack she had found on the metro. The reason she turned it in was that there were music books an an envelope with 130 euros in it. I guess the money was to pay for music lessons. While the college age woman was filling out her paperwork, a frantic woman came to the police station with a child. Sure enough, it was her backpack and her missing money. So even though I had something stolen, that kind of renewed my faith in humanity.

When we got on the bus, the bus driver was puzzled that we had a one way ticket. He asked us something in Catalan, which neither of us could understand. Michele asked him to ask the question in Spanish, and she was able to answer that our sister was a teacher and we were going to Villanueva to visit her. The bus driver was so amused that two people would leave Barcelona for Villanueva without having a way back already planned out. There were only six or seven people on the whole bus, and I think we were the only two who rode the bus all the way to Villanueva. Overnight bus rides save time, but they are not a comfortable way to travel. Neither of us got much sleep on the bus, but it did get us safely to visit Caroline at her home away from home.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My trip to Spain: Barcelona Part II


We started this day, as we did every day in Barcelona, with the free breakfast buffet the hotel provided. Our plan for the day was to see the egg shaped sky scraper we had noticed from Mount Juic. A tall building really stands out in a city where most of the buildings are exactly the same height. We took the metro to the closest stop, and walked up to the building. We were hoping to see something that explained the history or the purpose of the building, but there were no signs. Michele askes someone in a kiosk at the foot of the building what it was in broken Spanish. I believe she had to resort to English for the words "this building." She was told that there were offices inside.

I did a web search, and the name of the tower is Torre Agbar. Here is a link with some construction information:
I apologize for the pictures which haven't been rotated. I haven't gone through to edit my digital photos yet, but I felt this day's update just wouldn't be complete without a few photos.

We left the Torre Agbar on foot to see the Sagrada Familia. When we visited the Gothic cathedral the previous day, we had both commented that we couldn't believe it was the three star and not the four star cathedral. Well, I believe it now. This has got to be the most visually impressive structure I've ever seen. Technically, the most impressive would have to be the Sears Tower in Chicago, but even its immense high doesn't give it the visual impact of the Sagrada Familia. I had seen the Sydney opera house on my only other major international vacation, and, as much as I like the Aussies, this is far more impressive. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the structure is that it is still under construction. It's untelling how impressive it will be when it is finished.

This is easily the most ornate building I've ever seen. On the outside are many different kinds of carvings on the wall. Inside you can see the workmen carrying out tasks in the center of the cathedral. Also on the inside are stations which explain the math of Gaudi's design for the Sagrada Famila. We took an elevator up to the top of one of the towers. There are several impressive views to be had from the elevated vantage, but the towers are, on a whole, a little bit scary. There are no hand rails or guard rails, and the passageways and stairwells are only wide enough for a single person at a time. There are a few niches and side paths that could be used if you needed to get around someone, but there isn't a whole lot of room to maneuver. Here's a shot of the spiral staircase to get back to ground level.

One thing that was kind of sad is that people had written graffiti on the tower and staircase walls. It makes me wonder at the sort of person who would deface something that is clearly a work of genius and millions upon millions of man hours of effort.

One interesting aspect of the construction of the Sagrada Familia is that it has all been funded by the donations of visitors. The city of Barcelona has already spent over one hundred years on the construction of this masterpiece. The idea of keeping so many generations working on this task is in and of itself amazing.

After we got back to the ground floor, we went through a little school building that was originally built so that the children of the workers could attend school while their parents worked. It's been turned into another mini-museum of displays about Gaudi and his designs.

When we left the Sagrada Familia, we ate at a nearby gelatto and sandwich shop. Michele wanted to see another of Gaudi's endeavors, Park Guell. (There is supposed to be an umlaut over the u.) The park was originally designed to be part of a gated community. This one failed, but if you dislike gated communities, you can blame Gaudi for designing one of the first. On the other hand if you like them, you can give Gaudi credit. We took the metro to the nearest station, and followed the signs to Park Guell. We went up steep roads and steeper stairways set into the roads. There were even a few escalators on the way, but they really didn't prevent much exhaustion.

When we reached the park, the view was amazing. Much like Mount Juic, you were looking down on the entire city, but from a different angle. However, the rocky and bare nature of the park didn't leave you much too look at in the park itself. I do have to admit I enjoyed the view, but this wasn't what I had expected. As tired as I was, Michele had done her uphill walking on a recently sprained ankle, and she was flat out exhausted. Ironically, the walk back downhill wasn't really much easier than the walk uphill. The path was so steep that it took almost as much energy to make it down the hill as it did to make it up the hill.

It was only later on the trip that a closer look at the guide book revealed our mistake. Immediately after getting off the metro we should have looked for a bus to take us to the front entrance of the park. We had, as the guidebook described it, made the exhausting hike to the side entrance.

That night for dinner, we got take out from Otto's to eat in our room. The hotel had provided a complementary bottle of cava. I'd describe it as a Spanish Champaign. I know we were in Spain, but the sausages and bratts from Otto's were good. I had planned on writing up our final day in Barcelona with this post, but it looks like I'm going to need a part III.