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Barcelona Through a Tattered Lens

We began our “Spring Adventure” with a three day stay in Barcelona, Spain. We’d never been there before, and really knew very little about the area other than it had been recommended by several different people we’d met on other trips. Invariably when talking about favorite cities, Barcelona would be mentioned.

We went through Costco for our airfare and hotel, which turned out to be a GREAT idea. The only hotel they had available at the time we booked was the “W” and it turned to be so cool. It sat right on the Mediterranean Sea. Although it was a bit of an optical illusion, it LOOKED like if you could open the windows, you could jump right in. What a fabulous way to start an adventure!

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Everything about this place was fabulous (well, except for the lighting – we never did get it figured out!) The people were incredibly friendly – every single contact with an employee was top notch. I know I’m just a regular old person, but I’ve got to tell you, I LIKE being treated like I’m special!

Even the dishes were cool!

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We are so ruled by our stomachs! Being vegetarians, we have to compromise on meals away from home, at times. And when we’re in a foreign language country, menus can be challenging. So when you find a vegetarian restaurant, life is good! The hotel recommended the three Teresa Carles restaurants, and we tried all three! Not the BEST we’ve ever had, but very good, and it was SO nice to be able to try anything on the menu! Vegetarian restaurant in BARCELONA! We were amazed.

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Barcelona is such a charming city – very much like London in its mix of old and new. It is located on the northeast coast of Spain in an area called Catalonia, and shares a border with France. The people there have wanted their independence from Spain for many years, feeling much more kinship to the rest of Europe. They even outlawed bull fighting. And man do they love their “football” (soccer!) Of course, having the best team in the world helps, I guess!

One of my more odd loves is “lighting fixtures.” Have you noticed that about me? It appeared to me that in each neighborhood of the city, they had a different type of fixture lining the streets…

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Just LOVED the old architecture…

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And I got my first introduction to the art and architecture of Antoni Gaudi. I have to wonder sometimes what rock I live under. How did I not know about this guy?

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Seriously. That is the wall of a house. More about him and his work another day.

So, a few more photos taken around town…

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And we discovered “Cava,” a sparkling rose, at a small, artisan winery. And yes, we had some shipped home. Can’t wait to share it with the kids!

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Stay tuned for two more days of Barcelona – one at Monserrat Monastery and one at Guell Park.

I’m Still Alive!

…Although to check in on the blog, you’d have to wonder!

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, or haven’t “done” anything, but more like just not taking the time to sit down and document it. Life getting in the way of the blog, so to speak. THAT makes me laugh!

So, I guess this post is presented to “get you caught up” on the craziness that is my life! If nothing else, it’ll help you appreciate yours!

We arrived home from the Chile/Antarctica trip just in time to get the Christmas decorations up. My daughter and DIL put the tree up for me and got the lights on it. They would have decorated it themselves, but it HAS to be done a certain way, and I wasn’t about to make them responsible for that (or let them be?) Heeheehee! I actually got it all completed by Christmas Eve, in time for our every year celebration at our house.

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I’d promised Mr. Tattered that I would get my pitiful garden ripped out and prepare for starting over after the holidays, and before I knew it, the new year was here. I watched the kids during the week, and worked on the garden on the weekends.

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I had every intention of getting back in the swing of blogging, but there kept being issue after issue – nothing creative going on, having problems with my photo editing program, busy, busy, busy.

Plus, I needed to get the Christmas decor down and put away, and that is a task I dread. It seemed like the decorations multiplied every time I turned the lights out. I finally got it all down, but truth be told, there are still some boxes in the bedroom that need to go up in the rafters!

Somewhere in there was a trip to Las Vegas to do the paperwork for our “global entry” cards – useful in getting back into the country after being overseas.

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And, no. We did NOT stay at Trump Towers, but it was the first thing I saw from our hotel room.

Then there was a birthday cake to make for Lexi’s birthday,

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a little day trip to Daffodil Hill,

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and getting my cards ready for National Letter Writing Month. I couldn’t fully participate this year because I wasn’t going to be home to receive mail so I could answer it, but the admins let me have the addresses for all the 40+ “madness” players so I could at least mail them each a card!

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The more time that went by, the harder it was to get back into the blog. Then came spring, and with it our BIG vacation, which took us out of town for over 6 weeks – a few days in Barcelona, 3 weeks cruising the Mediterranean, and 3 weeks in the UK.  And now it’s nearly June!

Well, it’s now or never – I either get my act together, or I quit blogging. At this moment I don’t know which will win.

We’ve been home for a few days, and we’ve emptied the suitcases into piles on the living room floor, putting away a few things each day. I’m back to watching the kids, and it’s slow going with getting things shaped up. I had big plans for accomplishing a LOT over the three day weekend, but we’ve watched t.v. caught upon mail, gone grocery shopping, and to a family birthday party instead. One day left. I REALLY need to make a dent.

I have lots of material for blogs – I took a ton of photos, and plan to do an abbreviated overview of the trip. I sort of thought I’d be able to get it started while we were gone, but unlike most cruises where we’ve had sea days, this one was wall to wall outings every single day of the cruise, then 3 weeks running around every day in the UK. The blog just took a back seat. Poor thing. I think I nearly killed Mr. Tattered. He is REALLY glad to get home and be able to rest.

So.

Here we are.

Are you up for hanging out with me while I get back into the swing of things?

 

 

Antarctica Through A Tattered Lens

I could probably do another 5 or 6 posts on Antarctica, but I’m afraid it’s like showing home movies – you can only take so many of them. Heeheehee! So I decided to wrap up the trip with a series of photos that are either unusual, or particular favorites – you, know, the things I see from behind my “tattered lens.”

Enjoy!

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Whales feeding…not bubble net, but still cool

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A Skua eating a stolen penguin egg…it’s a rough world out there

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Our ship could go places not many can…lots of this in the water in some places

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Chin strap penguins – duh…

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We didn’t see many sunsets. This was an amazing one.

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A humpback and orcas in the same frame – our guides said it was unusual.

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Great shot of the brood pouch. A moment later he used his beak to poof it closed.

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Yep, we just kept going through this…

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Way cool!

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Adelie Penguin

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And the sun sets on an amazing trip to the bottom of the world.

My Poor Garden – the rehabilitation begins…

As Spring begins to peek it’s head out, it’s time to get the garden shaped up.

It’s been years since it’s been the beautiful oasis I first created.

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When I set it up, I had few distractions, and plenty of time to tend it. My vision was that it would look like an abandoned space where nature, in all it’s glory, took over – beautiful flowers and lots of little treasures to discover. My inspiration was the gardens we had seen in the UK -over-grown and lush.

What I had NOT considered was that the drip irrigation we needed to use to keep it lush, (as opposed to the wetter conditions in the UK) needed to be maintained, and that over-grown element made it terribly difficult for my maintenance guy (aka Mr. Tattered) to get in and make repairs. Somewhere in my little pea brain I thought you put drip in, and that was it. Done.

So, it became a bone of contention between us that maintenance wasn’t happening, and when it did get done, there were often harsh words. At one time, he went in and hacked down a bunch of my plants so he could get to the drip, and from that day on, my interest in the garden was virtually gone.

For a couple of years now, it has been left to its own devices, and it hasn’t been a pretty picture.It gets sadder and sadder each season.

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Once we yanked out the front yard grass and replaced it with drought resistant plants, I knew the garden area was doomed, and began making plans for a starker look. But it’s hard to do stuff you don’t want to do, so I dragged my heels. Finally Mr. Tattered suggested we have someone come in and do the demolition and start over, and I jumped on it. I just didn’t have it in me to spend hours and hours laboring over something I didn’t really want to see happen.

So, we got an estimate, and made the appointment to have the work done. I went out and marked the few bushes I wanted them to leave, and dragged all the garden decor out and into a pile to be gone through, and either rehabilitated or tossed at a later date.

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Note to self: When you care about how something looks, don’t leave your spouse in charge.

I came home to discover that yes, technically the plants I wanted left there, were still there. But they had been severely cut back. My wild, natural looking bushes were all hacked up and trimmed like they were hedges – flat and ugly, not an ounce of charm remaining. I was so mad I could hardly see straight. It took a couple of hours before I was able to convince myself that they were like a bad haircut – they’ll grow back.

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So. It’s done. And I lived through it. The garden area is now pretty much a blank canvas, but I need to paint on it in a style that isn’t mine.

One of the casualties of the moving stuff was that one of my big bird feeder bit the dust, so I got to buy a new one. I did that today and got it put together. So, there’s that.

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The birds were not happy with the change in their environment, but they have decided what is left is better than nothing and are slowly coming back.

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If they can get over it, I guess I can, too.

So, we’ve got a lot some travel coming up, followed by the heat of summer, so we’ll probably wait until early fall to replant. Hopefully in the next few months I can get some repair done on some of the decor, and come up with a solid plan for the new look.

Incredible Icebergs

All along the route we took toward the Antarctic Peninsula we saw amazing icebergs, but the best were seen from the zodiac on little side trips.

My happy place has for a long time, been on the ocean. I thought it was just in tropical climates, but come to find out, it’s wherever there’s an ocean! Even bundled up and having to freeze my hands by taking gloves off to get photos, I LOVE being on the ocean and documenting what I see…

As beautiful as these photos are, they don’t tell the whole story. The majesty of these ice sculptures is beyond my ability to put into words, so I’ll let them speak for themselves.

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Finishing up the zodiac tour with a little Tia Maria and hot chocolate was a great way to end the day – the ONLY way to make going back to the ship bearable. I could have stayed out for hours longer without being bored!

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Penguins, Penguins, and More Penguins

I’ve gotta confess. I’m pretty sure I took about a thousand pictures of penguins. It took me hours to whittle them down to the low hundreds, and it hasn’t been easy to decide which few to show you.

They are just so darn cute, and every one that waddled by had it’s own charm.

So I’m going to be disciplined and just show you a small number of them.

These penguins are the ones we saw the most of on this trip – the Gentoos.

The penguins can be dirty little critters. They can’t leave their nests (which are made of rocks) until their mate is there, or the predator birds will eat the eggs. So they have to poop in and/or near the nest. They get it all over themselves, then when they go out into the ocean to feed, get cleaned up.

Many of the nesting areas we went to could be smelled before we could actually see them! But we went towards the early part of the season, when it wasn’t too warm yet, so the smell wasn’t oppressive like it can be later in the season.

This is a great photo which shows the rock nest, the eggs, the poop around the nest, and on him/her, and the brood pouch (the area on the penguin right above the eggs where the feathers pull apart and allow skin contact with the eggs.)

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The penguins spend a lot of their time stealing rocks from other nests and taking them to their mate…

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Often the nests are far from the ocean, and the penguins make trails in the snow leading up and back.

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Enjoy their cuteness!

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Aren’t they just the cutest critters!?

And Finally, Antartica

I guess this could count as the most exotic of all our travels thus far. Very few people ever end up going to Antartica.

And there’s a good reason for that. It’s not easy to get there. Up until fairly recently, the trip had to start with a several day long venture across the Drake Pass, one of the most turbulent patches of sea on the planet.

Since Mr. Tattered gets sea sick in rough seas, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go.

But then he discovered a tour group that does a “fly-over” where you fly out of Punta Arenas, Chile to St. George Island, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula and board a ship there, by-passing the tough part. And it was “trip on!”

We left from Punta Arenas in full Antarctic garb – which we thought was kind of weird, but turned out there isn’t exactly a terminal where we could change. In fact, there isn’t really an airport. Or even a real runway.

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It was quite a hike in ice to get down to where we caught the zodiac to ferry out to our ship.

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Before we knew it, we were seeing ice bergs. It’s not like it was the first time we’d seen ice bergs, but somehow seeing them there was more powerful.

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But the most exciting part was seeing our first penguins. Man, did I take a mess of pictures of penguins… These are from a bit of a distance. I’ll show you close-ups in another post. Until you’re sick of them, I’m sure!

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This sign was posted on the bulletin board of the ship…

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I guess technically there was a sunrise and sunset, but it never got completely dark. We were grateful for blackout shades in our stateroom!

Next up, LOTS of penguins!

 

 

 

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