An Americana in Paris

 The kids had their cultural field trip and Nick was away on a business trip to Paris. So I did what any sane female would do....I went to join my husband in Paris. He spent most of his time working. And while he was busy I wandered the streets of Paris...

I enjoyed taking pictures in the Jardin de Touleries and walking by the Louvre Museum. I wandered over towards Notre Dame and did some people and gargoyle watching...

I enjoyed getting a closer look at the gargoyles through the lens I didn't have the nerve to go up the stairs inside though.

After walking around Notre Dame I headed back to the hotel for a break. Nick had a work dinner as well. I went to a restaurant in the guide that promised authentic French cooking. I was seated with a fabulous family from Norway. We had a great conversation about the Art in Paris. I was so glad I didn't stay in and order room service. The next morning, Nick was once again working and I spent the day at the Louvre.

I found the perfect tiara for me should anyone decide to make me Queen...

and followed the tourists around to all the most popular pieces of artwork...
The line in front of the Mona Lisa was long and thick. I waited and waited to take the picture below hoping to get a better sense of the photo since the distance and bullet proof glass make it seem rather remote. But...it didn't help. She is beautiful but always leaves me feeling a bit let down.

Winged Victory is one of my favorites.
It was the day we found out that Steve Jobs had died. I found it so touching that people were laying flowers outside the Apple store.

Nick was stuck in work so I took a walk to the Museo D'Orsay hoping to see the incredible collection of Impressionist Artwork. Unfortunately those floors were closed.. I was able to see the Dancer though, as she was sequestered in a room we were not allowed to enter but could see through an opening in the hallway. It's funny that a statue in France can transport me right back to my Nana's house in Steelton where she had a replica. She never fails to make me smile.
Paris at sunset

I finally met Nick in time for a sunset cruise on the River Seine....it was incredibly romantic and a fabulous way to spend our last night in Paris...together at last.

Spanish lessons...or how to cheer on your daughter in Spain...

 After three long years of wondering where the girls play sports here in Spain, we've finally found some clubs that host women's sports. Andrea found her soccer team, or futbal as they call it here last Spring and was asked to join as the second alternate goalie. We were just excited to have Ann playing again. Interestingly enough over the summer she started to get emails that half the team was leaving our club to go to another one and they invited Andrea to join them. We were concerned about this for several reasons but mostly because we wondered if there was even a team left to play for. It turned out that there was still enough for a team. We really liked this club because they let the girls try out and keep practicing when they didn't really have to at the end of last season. They treated us with respect and the team really made Andrea feel welcomed so we didn't want to abandon them for a club that we had never heard of before. So we stayed and learned at the first practice that Andrea went from being the second Alternate Portera (goalie) to the ONLY Portera.  We are so glad we made the decision to stay.

They've played 4 games. Andrea played in three. She missed this weekend to take the PSAT's. Her first game they won 6-0 with some great saves from Andrea. The second they lost 5-6 . That was a tough one because she was hurt on the second goal and limped through the rest of the game. Our third game they won 13-0 with almost no action on her side of goal. This past week without her they won 2-1.  Below are pictures of Andrea with her team.

taking the field...

half time hijinks, giving pointers to a friend in goal
popping a ball over the top-nice save

the lonely goalie
no really
goal kick

A fellow parent helped me find the club in Sant Cugat that played basketball for girls. It took  us a few weeks to track them down and show up for a practice/try out. But once she was on the court it was great to see that huge grin on Alexa's face again. She said she was so happy to just be playing again. The coaches agreed that she was good enough but wanted to give her a probationary period where they would teach her the plays at practice and then in December we'd see if she was on the team. After a month of going to practice and not playing at games, Alexa was nervous this week about the possibility that she wouldn't make the team in December. So we asked the coaches again last night and they said, of course she will be on the team. They are getting the paperwork together for her now and hopefully withing 2 or 3 weeks she'll be all set to get on the court to play. Meanwhile the team has blown away all three of their opponents. And she's met some local girls who are excited to speak English with her...and she is excited to practice her Spanish with them. She met Olga (below in the picture) who is from Italy and has lived in the US as well.

One of the great things about this is the opportunity to meet local families, people who aren't just here for a year or two but truly live here. Both teams have very supportive families cheering them on during the games. This helps me to learn my "cheer" Spanish...Va Europa!, Defensia y Rebote! (rebound). I am completely out of my comfort zone though. The parents of the team mates are not like the parents at school or other people I've tried to talk with who are used to people butchering their language. The parents do try to speak to me, but speak so very quickly and I often get strange looks when I respond...heaven only know what I am saying. However, they seem so very friendly and I hope that at the end of the season I'll look back on this and think how funny it all was as now I understand everything they say. And all I can say is how proud I am of my girls who are not any more comfortable with Spanish than I am but are putting themselves out there to learn and fit in and go local. How far we've come in three short years.

Happy Birthday Nick!

 Nick's birthday was at the end of September. I finally managed to get us tickets to a Barca game. All six of us sitting together in the stadium (which is harder than one would think!) So it was quite the coincidence when we showed up at DaGreco's (Nick's favorite restaurant) for his birthday celebration and they seated us in the Barca seat table. And smiles all around when Nick opened the envelope with his gift in it.
All in all a great celebration for a great Dad and Husband!



Correfoc is a Catalan word for running with fire...or fire run...or hey, watch out those things are HOT! I'm not sure what it all is supposed to be about but it is an amazing amount of crazy fun! It is usually part of the local town's festa mejor's, the neighborhood's big fiesta's that commemorate a Saint's feast day. This particular festival was for La Merce, which is to celebrate the Mercy of Mary when she spared the city from plagues and I believe locusts. The end of the festival is generally when the Correfoc's are held. There is a children friendly version held earlier in the evening for the kids, but we saw children out at the night time one as well. They must be hearty parents though because I surely couldn't have done it. A few blocks down on Via Laetana, right next to the Barcelona Cathedral the street was blocked off for the Gates of Hell, (pictures above).
My friend Julie had been here last year so she was the perfect guide to tell us what to do, where to stand and generally keep us safe. She even lent me a head cover since I forgot one. It's important to cover up so you don't get singed by the sparks as they pass by.
The Devil first comes out to the beat of drums to open up the gates
and then the Colls come down the street, with their monsters and demons. Colls are what the goups are called. Each Coll has monsters that are made of some type of plaster that have fireworks attached that get sprayed out into the crowd. And they each have their own set of drummers.

The upload of these pictures was wonky. This is after the gates opened and before the first group came out. Below is one of the banners of the Coll.

The devils and demons held their pitchforks with sparklers on it that would whirl around and get everyone. The brave would go up and dance close to the devil . If you got close enough you wouldn't get hit by the sparks.

The drummers....I loved them

I got tons more pictures, most of the good ones are up on facebook. Not sure what is up with the photo upload today. But, this is a good representation. We had a blast as Coll after Coll came down. It was great about a half hour into it when the crowd seemed to thin and we could really get a good look at what was happening. Nick jumped in and got up close and personal with the demons...and has the burns on his clothes to prove it. Note to self, they aren't kidding about the flame retardant clothing. Next year we're taking the kids to see it. It should be twice as much fun experiencing it all over with them.