What an amazing and exhausting first day back in Barcelona!! The day started out earlier than planned with a flight change – what was supposed to be a 10AM flight became a 7AM flight, meaning I was up around 4AM and the kids at 4:30. Poor Josh had to take us to the airport but after 5 months of driving him everywhere, I think one early morning is a-ok. Anyways, given the wee early hour, the kids were beyond amazing. You could tell how excited they were to get back “home”. In fact, on the car ride in, Liam clearly stated that “I’m going to my true home!”.
While at the airport I spontaneously bought Liam a watch. While this normally wouldn’t be all that interesting to add, I only add it because within 5 minutes of owning said watch, he could tell time. And beyond that, literally every 5 minutes he would say to me “do you want to know what time it is?” and he got it right 95% of the time. So the trip alone has already been worth it for Liam’s new time telling skills 😉 But I kid you not when I say he asked every 5 minutes of the ENTIRE day!
Interestingly and perhaps a sign??? is that when we were getting ready to take off, my ipad started to play “Holiday in Spain” by the Counting Crows, but not just any version, but the Dutch version with Bløf (the song is sung in both Dutch and English). As my ipad was set to random, I’m not sure how it happened when it happened but it was a bit surreal and emotional and I will admit to feeling a little teary during the take off. If you don’t know the song, check it out on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzQtEk9CzCA
When we finally landed, the kids practically raced off the place. We made it to our hotel quickly and it was really weird staying in a hotel rather than our own apartment in a city that was home for almost 5 years. But within 20 minutes of arrival we hit the ground running and it felt like we had never left. We managed to get to El Corte Ingles for some shopping, quickly followed by a stop at Starbucks for a caffeine recharge. Following that, I attempted to go to a store for myself but that was quickly shot down (a second attempt will be made tomorrow) but then they were perfectly happy to go to the Apple Store and then FNAC (Europe’s answer to Best Buy) and finally to lunch. Whew!
Lunch was at Ciudad Condal – one of our favorite tapas places. Yes, it’s touristy, but damn if they don’t have the tastiest tapas! And Aidan was dying for a jamon bocdillo from there. So who am I to say no? As expected, it was delish 🙂
After about an hour’s rest, if you can call it that with a small child climbing all over you, we left our hotel to make our way to school. A school where the foundation for our childrens’ futures were set. A place that is oozing with love and care that I don’t know that any other school will ever live up to it. The kids were noticeably nervous and excited at the same time. When we first visited the US after that first year away, the kids were so young that it never occurred to them to be worried about how others might react to seeing them after so long. But now at almost 8 and 11, those were exactly the kind of things on their minds.
When we first arrived, we were shocked by the changes as the school. We knew that they were going to be making physical changes to the campus but seeing them first hand was a bit strange. I remember the same feeling going back to Babson after time away and new buildings had been erected, parking lots moved, etc. All had been done without me there. So it was those same feelings we experienced when arriving at school – all these changes and we weren’t there when they happened. But the moment was fleeting and the excitement of seeing friends took precedent.
We didn’t go to school too early but we arrived before the kids would get out for the day in the hopes of getting to see people before the end of day chaos. Liam’s friends were actually out on the patio for recess when we arrived. His reunion was sweet though he looked to me quite overwhelmed, like he wasn’t sure who to talk to first and how to handle himself. But he immediately sought out his closest friends and joined in on the fun with them. And in the moment, and because i was distracted by catching up as well, I didn’t get nearly enough pictures.
Aidan’s class, unfortunately was on a field trip. So we had to wait for everyone to get back. But it was worth it. When arriving at school, you walk up a ramp. We saw his class coming up the ramp and Aidan waited at the top. Suddenly his friends saw him and they raced up the ramp and embraced him in this most amazing group hug, all screaming his name. It was beautiful and heart warming to see this kind of welcome. The reunions for both kids were very different and I attribute that to their ages and how they handle these kinds of situations and their communication abilities. As the school day was almost over, Aidan ran up to the class with his friends after they all were screaming down from their top floor window for him to come up.
We hung out the entire afternoon at school, with the kids playing with all different friends and catching up on life and I caught up with my friends as well. As always there is never enough time. By a little after 6 (mind you, school doesn’t get out til 4), it was time to start heading back to the hotel. We’d been up since 4:30AM and I could tell we were all starting to hit a wall. The kids claimed it was the best day ever and not for the first time, reminded me that they wanted to move back “home” immediately. Seeing the looks on their faces, happier than I have seen them in quite some time, there is nothing more that I would like to do than to give them that. But alas, it’s not an option for us in the immediate future and that is a hard pill to swallow. Even if we went back to Josh doing the super-commute again, that wouldn’t be an option for us for at least another 18 months given our lease situation and I don’t know that splitting our family again is the best solution either.
We left school with the intent to go back to the hotel, rest for a bit and go out to dinner for our 9PM reservations. Yeah, it didn’t happen that way. Not by a long shot. We were meeting my friend Jodi who is in town, coincidentally at the same time as us, and heading to one of my favorite restaurants, Recasens. However, given we’d been up since 4:30 AM and only had one hour of downtime, I could see that we were all fading fast. But in a city where the majority of restaurants don’t open until after 8, we were left with very few choices, among them, Hard Rock. I know, we gave up an amazing dinner for Hard Rock. And not only that, we had to wait an hour (we were told 30 mins) to get seated, the service was terrible and the food ok. But given Liam fell asleep at the table and we were still done and out of there by just after 9, it goes to show they never would have survived starting dinner at 9PM on a day that they’d been up so early. But it was also the perfect end to the day – falling asleep at the table says to me that he made the absolute best of his day until he just couldn’t do it any more.
It was a fabulous day of reunions, smiles and laughter. I think we all needed this and I only wish Josh could have been here with us to experience it all first hand. Regardless, knowing that we are only a 2 hour flight away makes things a little easier. It’s not like going home to Boston where we really can only go once, maybe twice per year because the flight time (8 hours) is so long and we have the jetlag to tangle with. Here, we can pop over for a long weekend (if only they had more long weekends in the Netherlands so we could do it more often) when the mood strikes. And maybe that’s something we need to plan more often in order for both kids to be able to really maintain their friendships here, something that has been much more of a challenge at home where they only see and speak to their friends once per year.
The whole day was amazing and wonderful in so many ways. I wish I could just bottle up the feelings and take them with us back to the Netherlands so that we can always remind ourselves of happy times when life gets a little rough. I can only hope that with time, the kids will have these same feelings about the Netherlands. After all, it has not always been this way here in Barcelona – it is time that makes the heart grow fonder, not necessarily absence.
Looking forward to what the rest of the week has to bring!!