Surviving Semana Blanca (or how to get thru February Vacation and live to tell the tale)

This week was February vacation for Aidan. At home I would have some options for him. A camp at the Y, friends in the neighborhood, etc etc. Here right now, I have pretty much nothing but we are going to make the best of what we’ve got this week. We are going to go to the aquarium one day and the zoo another. That leaves 3 days of what to do.  Thankfully the weather was just gorgeous this week – pretty much every day hit 60 with at least partial sun. 

It’s Monday and they started off the day before 6AM which is early even for them these days. They normally are up around 6:30. I have to say, not a great start.  However, the day turned out fine and while we didn’t really go anywhere other than the DeliStore (where we can buy American food products – yay!) and the bakery, it ended on a good note.
Alefiya came to watch the kids for 2 hours and during that time she also helped me call the doctor’s office for the kids again.  Thank god she did because she spoke to several different people, all in rapid fire Spanish and she got the kids appointments for May.  So while my goal was accomplished, I’m disappointed that I had to outsource the job – a task that should be simple but just is not.  Josh said I should feel good that I got it done but I say the fact that I needed help to make a simple doctor’s appointment is frustrating.  But I understand his view too and need to learn to cut myself some slack – the job got done and that’s all that matters.  Just a day in the life I suppose…
Tuesday we had a fantastic day. Off to the zoo! And my goal, a zoo membership. For 70€ a year we can become members. Why is this a good deal? Because I went once with Liam which cost me 26€, once as a family for over 35€ and once more today. So with just three visits it will pay for itself. I managed to make it happen too which was a huge accomplishment on my part. And the bonus is I can use the pass at other places (weird that we each get our own pass and need to add photos to them after the fact) for discounts. I don’t know where those places are but good to know!
Left: Checking out the crocodiles – yes gators with an “s” – there is one on top of the other…
Right:  Liam is very close to the crocodile… a little too close…
 
Liam is looking at the turtle swimming on the surface.  Then watching the dolphins – they are awesome!
Liam climbing the “mountain” at the zoo.  And then Aidan on the zip line at the playground at the zoo.  He could ride this thing all day if I let him!
After a fantastic day at the zoo we went over to Ciutudella Parc for a little schmooze along the paths. The kids played on a really cool tree and then on the life size mammoth (Liam was a little scared of the mammoth even though Aidan kept reassuring him it wasn’t real) before we headed to another playground there.
Climbing the crazy looking tree.
Aidan is doing “fins” and Liam runs away from the huge mammoth!
Climbing up the fountain at Ciutadella Parc.  It was a lot of steps!  The picture of the left is actually Liam dropping his bag of potato sticks into a big, fresh pile of bird poop.  He was not thrilled when I took the bag away and threw it out.  The pic on the right is the view from the stairs.  Identical stairs are on the other side as you can kind of see.
There are very old fountains like this all around the city.  I see most people filling water bottles at them or rinsing things out in them, dogs drinking from them.  Lots of uses.  Don’t love my kids drinking right from the tap as they always touch their mouths to them – yuck!

 

I was very surprised at how the local kids played at this little playground. It was a strange little playground with one swing, a slide, a bunch of picnic tables and a monument in the middle. The kids were primarily all playing on the monument. Jumping off, pushing each other off, etc. They were incredibly rough actually and I was a little fearful for Aidan who wanted to climb with the rest. What it reminded me of, and this may not be a bad thing –  the way we used to play as kids in the 70s/80s – without supervision and making our own rules. No one to tell us how to play or how rough to play. We used our imagination and did what we wanted to do. This is a good and bad thing because this is a good sized cement statue and if you are pushed from the top, you are landing on cement and potentially cracking your head open.

I do believe we can be a bit overprotective in the US, but this was almost a bit underprotective – the parents could have cared less. But I watched Aidan (and Liam who was in the queue for the slide) like a hawk. But he’s a smart kid and he realized himself when they were getting too rough and joined us at the slide. One of the kids seemed to realize we spoke English and came over to chat with us using his one word “hello”. I introduced Aidan and Liam to him and asked his age (all in Spanish – good to know I can chat with a 6 year old at least!). Aidan just had no interest though and then shortly thereafter we headed for home.

The day was a fantastic one, til the trek home. The kids were overtired. Liam fell asleep in the stroller. And Aidan had a small breakdown. He told me he wanted to go “home home” to Attleboro. He started to cry and said how much he missed his friends from home. I told him I miss my friends too. Thankfully the meltdown was fairly short but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have an impact on me. It does. The rest of the day we went thru without issue. Loved that!!

Wednesday was supposed to be my morning with just Aidan and then lunch with all 4 of us at Josh’s office. But I forgot that our heat was being fixed! We now have heat in our room and the kids room – sweet!! And it only took 2 months to get fixed (still need the ceiling repaired though from them drilling holes in it to fix the heat).  Aidan decided that he didn’t really want to go do anything like ride his bike or anything like that so he just came with me to the Mercat and then to the grocery store. At least we got some bonding time in and just got to hang out.

We did end up making it to lunch with Josh – though all we ended up having time for since he was late and had to be back by 3 was McDonalds. Though not my particular favorite, I will say I thoroughly enjoyed it mainly for it’s American-ism. I almost even asked for a 2nd cheeseburger, but it is McDonalds and I will suffer the consequences for it later as it is.  Picture on the left is of the boys waiting for Josh at the VP office.

Thursday our plan was to visit the Barcelona Aquarium which we haven’t been to before. Cristy joined us for the morning as we made our way down to Barceloneta / Port Vell for our journey under the sea. It’s a beautiful aquarium – parts of it I liked better than New England Aquarium and parts of it not as much. I definitely think that NEAQ has a better selection of species but the Barcelona one had a better layout and had the cool tunnel you go thru so that the sharks and fish are all swimming around you. That was definitely a cool feature.

Aidan at Port Vell when we arrive.  The boys in the shark at the entrance .
Checking out some fish and a cool ray against the glass.
This is the cool tunnel area where you can see the sea animals all around you!
Liam during a meltdown.  Aidan and Cristy waiting for Liam to stop freaking out.
The boys checking out the sub and the kids play area.

Cristy also got to experience my life with children. She’s met the kids before but hadn’t seen them in a few weeks and when she’s seen them for some reason they’ve been really well behaved. Well, welcome to my life. They were terrors today. Listening ears? What listening ears? When I would reprimand them, they would smile at me which just angers me all the more.

Overall I would say I kept my cool but they are now without tv or the wii for the next two days. However, I do think they enjoyed the aquarium regardless of their impending punishment. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the frustration today was from me being tired too! I noticed that when I took them to get lunch today I couldn’t even muster the strength to attempt Spanish which made me feel badly (though it was McDonalds again so that was a short lived feeling) that I didn’t even try. But I think I’m just emotionally and physically exhausted from constantly processing everything in Spanish that I just couldn’t do one more thing. I think they are overtired from the last few days of busyness as well – even Aidan took a nap and he never naps anymore. As a matter of fact, as I orginally started to write this it was 6PM on Thurs and he was still sleeping!! He actually ended up out for the day/night – we woke him to pee and he slept thru til 5:30 the next morning. Naps for all!!

Friday was a no good, very bad, horrible day – at least the daytime portion… And I think it’s because I just fed off the negativity from the end of Thursday. It could be also that the kids started the day at 5:30AM. That certainly didn’t help. And my shower was interrupted by Aidan – “Mommy, you know that chocolate stuff you like on your ice cream but I don’t really like?” “You mean Nutella?” “Yeah, Nutella… well Liam climbed on the counter and is eating it”. Seriously?? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I go downstairs and yes, Liam has gotten into the Nutella – his face is covered in chocolate as are his hands because he was scooping out the Nutella with his hands of course. 8AM and he’s already on a chocolate high. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the day has in store for me!

Yeah, it only got progressively worse but I do think it’s because I was already in the mood and the kids feed off of that – I can’t say I blame them but they did still drive me crazy all day.   I had a total breakdown on the phone with my mom, crying about how I want to come home.  Mom, you’ll be happy to know that I had a great night Friday night and a wonderful day Sat and while I’m still struggling to adjust everyday, I’m feeling significantly better now.  Thanks for listening to me though…

On the bright side, I found a second babysitter. Ananya is only 14 but seems years older. She happens to be from not only the US but from Massachusetts too which is great – a nice connection to home while here. The kids were very needy during her visit to meet them and yet she still wants to babysit them, so I love her already. She’s coming over on Sunday to watch them for a few hours. Hopefully after she leaves she will still want to watch them again!

And I have to say Friday night helped to improve my last day and a half as well.  Friday night Josh and I went to a wine tasting at my friend Kara’s bar here in Barcelona.  I’ve mentioned Kara before in the blog – she’s from RI but has lived here for 10 years with her husband and her son (who’s the same exact age as Liam).  They own this great little bar, O-Bar, not that far from here so Josh and I hopped on the metro Friday night and headed over.  We got to listen to the person running the wine tasting explain all of the wines to us in Spanish.  My head hurt within minutes.

As Kara said to me, when you are just learning you pick up on one word but by the time you interpret that they are already on word 15 and you’ve missed the middle.  That was definitely the case.  And more often than not I’d say, “ok, did he say xyz?”  and she’d say, “no, he said abc”.  Ok, so my interpretation has further to go than I’d realized.  But that’s ok.  I think it’s because it wasn’t a necessity that I understand him unlike when I actually need to find a way to get somewhere or try to make a doctor’s appt – that kind of thing.  We met some very interesting people most of which did speak some English and it also gave us a chance to try to practice some Spanish.  It was a bit of an informal intercambio.  For those not in the know, an intercambio is basically a meeting of people who want to improve their language skills.  Kara’s bar actually does an English intercambio on Thursday nights which I’m planning to attend in the near future.  Yes Kara, I promise!

Feeling the negativity of the end of the week has now but put aside, we started the weekend on a high note with our wine tasting on Friday night.  On Saturday, we took the kids to CosmoCaixa which is the Science Museum here. It was a pretty cool place I have to say.  Though it looks bigger than it is, we still managed to entertain the children for several hours and still need to go back at some point and hit the planetarium which we didn’t do while there (kids were hitting a wall at that point).  The great thing is the signs were all in English too so we could actually describe intelligently what the kids were actually doing or looking at.  The only thing they didn’t label was anything about the creatures that were alive – yes alive in the science museum (it was almost like part aquarium) – so we didn’t know what types of fish were there or birds or turtles… not the end of the world but would have been nice to know.

Left:  Best buddies…for now.  Right:  Entrance to the science museum.  It was a combination of very new and very old buildings.
Left:  view of very cool mansion/castle/chalet type building on Tibidabo Mountain.  Right:  Upon entering the museum you trek down 5 stories of ramps to the bottom of the museum.  Hanging down the middle is a tree from the Amazon.
Left:  The boys watching the pendulum swing and knock down the metal bands based on the time of day.  On the right is Aidan checking out giant catfish in the aquarium part of the museum.
Left: weird creature not marked of course.  Right:  This is compressed salt – it was an entire wall of the museum.  I thought it was a type of granite but no, it’s salt!

The kids had a blast and we stopped for some tapas on the way home.  Made it back here around 3:30 and just chilled for the rest of the day.  I lost 2 hours of my life on Sat night watching Evolution with Josh – got under a 6 on IMDB… don’t bother wasting your time on this flick.  Josh, I still want my two hours back!!!

Left:  Walking back to the train station we came upon this amazingly beautiful house – check out all the frescos (must give Josh credit here – did not know they were frescos til Josh pointed it out to me).  On the right, Aidan took my picture citing that he wanted to get the background in the picture too.  Budding photographer perhaps?
Walked thru the Merkat in Gracia and came across goat brains – Aidan had to take a picture…

Today, Sunday, is the final day of Semana Blanca.  I can say that I (and the kids) survived this week on our own.  I am definitely going to need to be resourceful this summer on things to do and finding kids for Aidan and Liam to play with.  Thankfully Michelle is planning to come for hopefully the month of July so that will be a huge help for me!!!  Fingers crossed we can find a good flight!  Our new sitter, Ananya came over this afternoon for her first time to watch the boys.  Liam will be napping (hopefully) and so it will likely be just Aidan.

Josh and I started off by wandering the city during the daylight hours which we hadn’t done sin ninos.  In the end we made an impromteu call to Cristy and Shawn and met them for a “late” lunch…late for me since it was after 2 but normal in Spanish time.  It ended up being an awesome time with fantastic new friends – a great way to end a great weekend!  And something we will definitely do more often now that we have not just one but two sitters!  Things are looking up.  Oh and not to rub it in my friends, but it was 60 and sunny here today!

Love to you all!!

Julie

3 thoughts on “Surviving Semana Blanca (or how to get thru February Vacation and live to tell the tale)

  1. Love the goat brains… great pics of everything. Hang in there… the nice weather will be coming for all of us and you can start on your container gardens!

    Sue

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  2. I bet you are glad the week is over…I similarly am not looking forward to spring break since my break from school and Jemesu's are in different weeks….oh well. 70 here today – loving it. Hoping to plant some flowers. The museums look nice – our's here in Jacksonville is really outdated – and we don't even have an acquarium (does that make sense, being so close to the ocean?). Sounds like things are going well though. All our best! Maggi

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