Tuesday, July 13, 2010

el 13 de julio - Llafranc y Calella

Our friend Heather is here visiting so we took her on a little sight-seeing in the Costa Brava.  First stop, inland to La Bisbal to check out all the pottery shops.  Sadly, many of them have closed due to the economic crisis in the last two years.  Even so, we still managed to be overwhelmed by all the choices, locally made and from elsewhere in Spain.

From there, we drive to the coast, to a village called Llafranc (pictured above).  I had never been there before and was glad we went.  We ate lunch at 2pm at a seaside restaurant, enjoying local specialties such as patatas bravas, calamars a la planxa, croquetas...  (Sorry about the mix of Spanish and Catalan in my spellings!)  Tuna, tortellinis, goat cheese salad, a hamburger and several bottles of mineral water and rosado wine rounded out the meal.  The views were lovely, to say the least.
Austin wanted to show us another picturesque village around the next cove, so we hopped back in the car to drive to Calella (beach above and right, and town below).  There are white houses lining the coast with gorgeous blue-green water. 

The kids went down to splash around and scramble on the rocks while Heather and I did a little window shopping and then joined Austin for coffees at a cafe overlooking the beach.

Of course, the best vacation days end with ice cream, so we got some yummy ones as we headed back to the car and drove back to Estartit for dinner.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Octopus Chooses Spain

Spain the likely winner of tonight's game?

Vendredi le 2 juillet - à Dijon

It was a simple and easy drive from Crans-sur-Céligny, Suisse to Dijon, France.  Finding our way to our hotel might have been the hardest part.  If we could have gotten out and walked, it would have been easier!  We knew where it was, but we just couldn't get the one-way streets in the right direction in the centre ville.  We circled, and closed in our hotel.  The concierge said our room wouldn't be ready until 14h, so we parked, right in front of the hotel, on the street, and decided to walk to the "place" next to the Palais des Ducs for a light lunch.  While we were there, we conspired on how would would buy Austin his birthday gifts for the next day.

Though lunch wasn't cheap, we had great salads and the kids enjoyed a shared pasta bolognaise.  I had my first real Dijon "kir" of the trip and the kids enjoyed playing in the public fountains.

We were surprised when we finally checked into our hotel room.  We had reserved a room with a double bed, and in the photos on-line, it looked like the hotel would squeeze in two single beds for the kids.  Since we expected to spend a lot of time doing wedding-related activities as well as sight-seeing, we really didn't mind tight accommodations for the weekend!  But when we walked into the room, I was worried.  There was only one double bed.  I politely asked the woman in French about the additional beds we needed for the kids, and she said they were "en bas."  As "en bas" means downstairs, I was puzzled.  But sure enough, a staircase inside the bedroom led to a floor below - to what would have been the wine cellar of the building.  Maybe it sounds strange, but for us, it was perfect!  We had extra space, extra privacy, and it was very cool in the cellar (see right).  For the money, and location, we were really pleased in the end.

el 6 de julio - First full day in Estartit, Spain

Now that we have arrived in Spain, the lazy days have started.  I'm so busy doing nothing that it's hard to find time to sit down at the computer to blog.  The kids are having a great time in the pool here at the house; since it's been two years since we were here, we are seeing great improvements in their swimming abilities.

We went down to the main beach, where most of the tourists in town go.  It was a very windy day.  Likely the Mistral winds that blew us south from France into Spain on Monday hit our Costa Brava on Tuesday.  The kids splashed around in the Mediterranean, not caring about the sand blowing around on the beach.  After playing a little soccer in the sand, we headed back to the house for lunch. 

 After lunch on the terrasse at home, we had espressos and cortados by the "ski beach" and met the owner, who was very pleased to hear her regular client's son (Austin) speaking Spanish!  This is the Wheelocks favorite place for espressos, great prices, and friendly service.  Patrick enjoyed some chips (made with olive oil, which I guess makes it more Mediterranean) and Sophie enjoyed a decadent Magnum noir (white vanilla ice cream covered in dark chocolate.)  We took the fishing boat out to the Illes Medas.  Just around the corner, we admired the giant fish (pictured at left) installed since we were last year, creations by our friend and artist Marc Alos! 

Marc is also well-known for his little statues of people...  I will blog about this on another day, with pictures and quote from the artist himself.  In the meantime, if you are curious, you can check out:  www.caganer.com  Don't be too shocked by the pictures you see...

Being mid-week in early July, we were able to stop at a buoy close to the island, in shallow green, blue, azur water.  It was gorgeous.  Austin and his dad got in to the water, and snorkeled around a bit.  Patrick jumped in quickly, but it was a little chilly so he hopped back into the boat fairly quickly.  Sophie was maybe a little seasick and mostly just dozed while the boat bobbed around a bit.

A simple dinner at home finished off the day, so we could sit in front of the tv to cheer for opposing World Cup teams.  (We cheered for Gijs' team...)

Kids in bed sometime around 10:30 or 11:00pm.  Becoming used to the Catalan hours...