6.29.2008

What's the word for this?

After dinner with my folks this evening, my mom brought me in to the family room to watch The Today Show wedding that had taken place earlier in the week. It was quite a lovely wedding. At the reception, the bride's cousin, Melinda Doolittle from American Idol, sang the song for the couple's first dance. My mom pointed out that the couple had taken dance lessons & prepared their first dance.

I told my mom that I'd like to be at a wedding like that, where the couple had taken lessons and came out and surprised everyone with their moves. Then I asked if my mom had seen the YouTube video with the couple dancing to Baby Got Back. We laughed and talked about how funny that was:



Fast forward several hours. I'm home watching TLC, and see a commercial for a new show with choreographers Tabitha and (oh-so-cute) Napoleon called Rock the Reception, where they teach the wedding party a routine to do at the couple's reception!

Were we not JUST talking about this?!

I caught the last 10 minutes of the show, and the dances at two weddings--both were great and looked like so much fun. I think tonight was a sneak preview & the regular show will air on Tuesdays--not sure what time. What a fun idea! And how lucky we ladies are to see Napoleon on this show and SYTYCD from time to time!

6.27.2008

A new couple is formed on SYTYCD

The SYTYCD judges have spoken and Chelsea and Chris are gone. Both have been in the bottom three the last two weeks, so it makes sense. I'm not that surprised about Chris, but I'm a little surprised they kept Comfort over Chelsea.

Next week Thayne and Comfort will be paired up. That should be interesting....

~~~~~~~~~~~

In other news, last night my mom and I went to a fundraiser for a family that's going to be featured on the season premiere of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in September. There's a single mom raising her four children, plus ten nieces and nephews that she adopted when her sister passed away. Fourteen kids, from, I think, 5-18. Wow. She bought a foreclosed home in Poolesville, MD, not too far from Gaithersburg. But, she couldn't afford to make the necessary renovations & repairs on the house, so the whole family has been living in a hotel. A teacher at the school where some of the kids go nominated the family a few years ago, and has been pushing to get them a new home. (See Gaithersburg Gazette story for more info.)

The fundraiser was a gospel concert held at a local church. A representative from the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority said they had less than a week to pull the event together. They were notified by ABC that they should hold an event, but that they couldn't tell anyone what it was, or what it was for, until the home demolition began on Monday. They called various gospel groups from around the area and asked if they could show up at this church on Thursday. And despite not know why they were showing up, at least 15 groups, maybe 20, that showed up for the good cause. There was a running slide show of pictures of the kids and of the work being done on the home. The kids are beautiful and seem like a very tight knit group. They are now at Disney World while their house is being worked on. Anyway, a collection was taken, and by the time my mom & I left, they had raised over $18,000, and were still counting. The money will go into an escrow account to help pay for taxes & other expenses for the family. That was pretty impressive for a few hours' time.

The husband & son of a friend of my mom's are working on the house. They're building furniture for one of the bedrooms and are very excited about it. All of the volunteers on the project are professionals. This surprised me--I always thought the volunteers on the show were people from the community there to help out, experienced or not. It makes sense though since they are building a home in one week. The crews are working around the clock. I can't wait to see the episode in September.

6.25.2008

SYTYCD

Great show tonight. Eight couples performed--here's how I would rank them:

8. Chelsea & Thayne - Quick Step - You Can't Hurry Love by Phil Collins: I just didn't care for this routine. Part of it is that I don't really care for the quick step overall, but I also think Chelsea & Thayne just didn't do it well. It seemed to go on forever. The ending pose was nice... Nigel said they didn't show their personalities. He also told them to get their solos ready.

7. Comfort & Chris - Jazz - Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson. (Uh-oh - Hearing this song might give me nightmares tonight. The first time I saw Marilyn Manson, it was 3am, on MTV in the Sweet Dreams video--it was frightening. I almost wanted to turn the lights on.) Anyway, I didn't care for C & C's performance tonight. I feel like Mia when I say this, but their performance should've been gritty, dirty and raw, but it wasn't. As Nigel put it, they didn't show enough power...it should've been more "animalistic." Exactly.

6. Kourtni & Matt - Contemporary - Wrestlers (Sticky, Dirty Pop Mix) by Hot Chip: The choreography featured two comic book characters flirting & chasing each other. There were a bunch of stops & starts that gave the feeling of comic strip frames--it was pretty cool. But, if that hadn't explained that to me beforehand, I'm not sure I would've gotten it. It was different and quirky for sure. I thought Kourtni & Matt danced it really well.

5. Courtney & Gev - Rhumba - Wishing On a Star by Rose Royce: Kourtney came out wearing about a third of a dress--wow! This routine included a part where Gev had to grab Kourtney's butt--he was blushing all the way through practice, but it they did it for real, it was quite sexy.

4. Jessica & Will - Disco - Heaven Must Have Sent You by Bonnie Pointer. First of all, let me say that Will is a class act. His partner, Jessica, talked about what a gentleman he is--holding stores, standing to greet you, etc. I was impressed with how he praised her performance last week despite the judges sort of panning it. He really stood up for her & talked about how proud he was of her. I love him. Now, the dance--FANTASTIC! Will looked like he was having so much fun. This disco routine was SO much better than the one Courtney & Gev's during week 1.

3. Kherington & Twitch - Hip Hop - Don't Touch Me (Throw Da Water On 'Em) by Busta Rhymes : This is Twitch's forte (as he said), and he was wonderful. Kherington was out of her element, but she pulled it off really well. Napoleon, one of the choreographers said he didn't want Twitch to come down a level to match Kherington's level...he wanted her to come up two levels to match Twitch. I think she managed to do that just fine. It was great! Great reviews from the judges. Nigel started his critique with: "Let me start with the positives" and talked about how brilliant the choreography was, how brilliant the dancing was, how entertaining it was. Then he said, "Now for the negatives.......[long silence]....can't think of any!" That Nigel is such a jokester.

2. Chelsie & Mark - Hip Hop - Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis: the dance was the story of a workaholic trying to leave for work and his lady not wanting him to go. It was FANTASTIC. I really like these two as a couple--especially when they get the "stories" to act out. They're very good with characters. I rewound and watched it again before I listened to the judges (who loved it).

1. Katee & Joshua - Samba - Baila, Baila by Angela Via: LOVED IT! Their chemistry really shined through. VERY sexy. I loved the opening: Joshua's swagger as he walked to meet Katee, then her kicking her leg up over his shoulder. Woo! HOT! They also got rave reviews from the judges. After commenting on Katee's sexy dress--which looked like half was missing on one side, Nigel also made sure we checked out Joshua's nice, ahem, arse... Ooo la la! I watched this twice too.

That's it. We'll see who the bottom three couples are on Thursday, and find out who's going home. I think Thayne & Chelsea are in trouble.

How cute is this?!!



These puppies are SO friggin' cute!! I love this video. Thanks to my friend Laura for sending it to me.

6.21.2008

Holy crap!

My mom sent this to me. It's unbelievable! I'll have to agree with my mom that I'd be a nervous wreck watching this in person. I gasped a couple times just watching the video!



(Note: It's a little more than 4 minutes long.)

6.19.2008

So You Think You Can Dance!

SYTYCD is back in full swing! I missed posting about it last week, and almost missed this week too, because I don't have any notes with me, and my aging mind will not remember everything. However, I do want to point out some standouts in the competition this year:

Twitch is my favorite--he's an amazing hip-hopper/breaker/pop-locker etc., but here he is taking on these challenges outside of his genre and slaying them. Plus, he seems to have the best personality of anyone on the show. I'm so glad he came back this year. (Last year, the judges had to choose between him and Hok, and Hok won.) Last night, he & his partner, Kherington, performed an emotional Viennese Waltz that the choreographer, Jean Marc Généreux, created for his daughter who is disabled. The whole thing made Mary cry--she's so enthralled with the skill Twitch is showing each week. She and Niles believe he'll be in the final four.

My next favorite is Will. He's a beautiful dancer and can leap six feet off the ground. He's a protegee of Debbie Allen's and I think he's doing her proud. He stepped out of his genre this week and did hip-hop--flawlessly. I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. I don't even remember who his partner is.






And then there's Joshua. He a popper/hip-hopper who's also stepping outside of his genre and doing splendidly. He's a lot of fun to watch.






As for the girls...there aren't any that really stand out for me, but I do like Katee, Khrerington, Chelsea T., and Comfort. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do the rest of the season.




Also, my mom told me that Chris is a hometown boy. He was born in Gaithersburg, MD, and lived in Poolesville until he was 15. He trained with the sister of one of my neighbors when I was growing up. My neighbor also taught dance in a studio in her basement. Every Saturday morning, you'd see little ballerinas being dropped off and picked up by their parents.


Gaithersburg is really on the map lately...Made on MTV recently did an episode with a girl from my old high school. She was a basketball-playing tomboy who got made into a beauty queen. It was a huge transformation. She came in as first runner up in the school's first ever Miss Gaithersburg Pageant. I thought that was funny because when I was in school, we had the first-ever Mister Gaithersburg Pageant. It was fun to watch the show and see my old school and places in town that I could recognize. A friend of my sister's was the emcee at the pageant. We think it was her, anyway. The show was fun to see.

6.11.2008

Barcelona Days 3 - 5

OK, let's get back to the story (finally):

Day 3 was Saturday and we got up early to go to Parc Güell, which was another creation of Spanish architect Antonin Gaudí. This place was very cool. I had forgotten, though, about Debbie's previous experience going to this park--she wrote of a steep hill, and of senior citizens passing her by since she was sick. I'd forgotten all about that. So, we get off at the Metro stop, and follow the signs to the park. After about 15 minutes of following signs, we decided to stop for breakfast at a cute little pastry place. After breakfast and freshly squeezed orange juice and cafe con leche, we started following the signs again. And then we got to The Hill. Debbie wrote in her blog that it was like walking in San Francisco, but I didn't really grasp her meaning until we were headed up.

This is the street we walked up:

Street to Parc Güell
Street to Park Güell


But its incline was really like this:

A typical San Franciscan street
San Francisco


Yikes. That was a rough walk. I already had blisters on my feet from the day before, and this didn't help. But, the final result when we got to the park was well worth it. The park was BEAUTIFUL. It was built between 1900 and 1914, and was orignally designed as a gated residential community. Only two homes were built before Gaudí died, one of which was his home. The placed looked like Candy Land.

Parc Güell Home
Home at Parc Güell

Gaudí's House at Parc Güell
Gaudí's house at Parc Güell

Dragon @ Parc Güell
Dragon at Parc Güell

Walkway at Parc Güell
Walkway at Parc Güell


Once we left the park and got back downhill, we were starving. We went to the Barri Gòtic area for lunch. A place called Les Quatre Gats (the Four Cats) had been recommended to us. After walking around the maze of tiny streets, we finally found it. However the menu was a bit intimidating to us, and the maitre'd didn't seem that interested in helping us out. I have since learned that the restaurant was an old haunt of Picasso's and other Bohemian types, so I wish we'd given it a try, but c'est la vie. Or, I should say, así es la vida. We left Les Quatre Gats and wound ourselves back through the maze and ended up at a cute Mexican restaurant.

After lunch, we split up--T & I went to the Picasso museum, while Deb went....somewhere. I can't remember where. (This is what I get for not writing this all down right away.) Anyway, Deb had already been to the Picasso museum and perhaps she had some errands to run. The museum was interesting, but a bit of a mess. There was no real flow or obvious progression, so you'd leave a room and then wonder--okay, now what? T and I really enjoyed Picasso's exploration of Diego Velasquez's Las Meninas. Picasso did several interpretations of the painting, and it was interesting to see a classical piece re-interpreted in cubism. (If you scroll down to the bottom of the link to Las Meninas on Wikipedia, you'll see one of Picasso's interpretations.) Picasso spent a lot of time on the little girl in the painting--she started to haunt our thoughts!

About 90 minutes later, we met Deb and headed for churros y chocolate. Mmmmm..... I made some a few months ago for one of Deb's going-away parties, and I'm happy to report that mine weren't too far off. Churros y Chocolate was the name of my first Spanish text book, so I used to hear the phrase a LOT.

Churros y chocolate
Churros y chocolate


We headed home for siesta, and then got up at 9:30pm for dinner. Since we'd already had McDonald's and Mexican food, I told the girls that maybe it'd be a good idea to find a good Catalonian menu, since that's the region we were in. We found El Senyor Parellada, which would've been one of our choices on the night that everything was shutting down early in El Born. It was very charming and the food was excellent. The girls had paella, and I had sausage with white beans. The food was really, really tasty. And, the waiter liked me because he saw that I was left-handed. Go lefties!

Salad and Tortilla at Senyor Parellada
Salad at Senyor Parellada


I have a picture of the paella, but forgot to upload it to Flickr.com. I'll do that later. I also have a picture of the sausage and white beans, but it looks, to put it frankly...kind of obscene! I just can't do it! It sure tasted good though.)

We went home to bed and prepared to once again get up bright and early on Sunday.

~~~~~~~~~~
On Day 4 we took a bus trip to two little towns north of Barcelona: Girona and Figueres. Girona was a cute little town about one hour north of Barcelona with little streets, Roman walls, and was very charming. Our stop here was one of my favorite things about our trip. There was a large Jewish population in Girona until 1492 when all Jews were kicked out of the country. This is according to Wikipedia: "The 12th century saw a flourishing of the Jewish community of Girona, with one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. The Rabbi of Girona, Moshe ben Nahman Gerondi (better known as Nahmanides or the Ramban) was appointed Great Rabbi of Catalonia. The history of the Jewish community of Girona ended in 1492, when the Catholic Kings expelled all the Jews from Spain. Today, the Jewish ghetto or Call is one of the best preserved in Europe and is a major tourist attraction." It was something to see--unfortunately, our guided tour ended just before we got to the Call because of a huge rainstorm. So, we walked through the area, but didn't really have an explanation for what was what.

There was a flower festival in Girona, so many of the buildings and grounds were decorated with floral arrangements--that was nice, but I almost wished the buildings were bare so I could better imagine what they looked like back in the day. This was especially true in a Turkish bath building that we came across.

Girona, Spain
Girona

Artistic Display in Girona
More Girona

Girona Walls
Roman walls in Girona


T gets a kick out of this story: a couple on our tour brought their tiny dog with them -- a yorkie, perhaps? They alternated between carrying him in a bag, and walking him on a leash. When he was on the leash, he looked so frightened that someone was going to step on him. I knew it was a male dog because I saw him relieve himself several times on the sides of the buildings. Nice. Anyway, we were standing in a group listening to the tour guide and something made me look down. That little dog was squatting just over my shoe!! Squatting! Not lifting his leg...do you get my point?!?!?! I jumped back, and T saw me and started cracking up. If that little bugger had done anything on my shoe, I would've kicked him across the courtyard! (I'm an animal lover, but come on!)

We had lunch at a cute little Italian place, and then got back on the bus and headed another 45 minutes north to Figueres, the home of Salvador Dalí. He converted an old movie theater into a museum of his life work, as well as his masoleum. I think Dalí was crazy, yet everything in the museum was fascinating. As Debbie mentions, he had an obsession with eggs & bread, so the outside of the museum is covered with them. I gotta say though, if I hadn't read this fact about bread I would've thought the little decorations on the walls were...well, large turds. It was hard to be sure, and with Dalí, it wouldn't have surprised me at all!

Dalí Museum covered in bread and eggs
Salvador Dalí Theatre-Museum


Soft Self Portrait with Bacon
Soft Self Portrait with Bacon - is there a better title than this?!

The Image Disappears--Dalí
The Image Disappears


After the museum we had some yummy gelato and then we walked around town. It was strange--we saw more people of color in this tiny town that we did in all of urban Barcelona. It was incredibly clean, and it almost felt like we were walking on a movie set.

Figueres
Figueres


We were exhausted and slept all the way back on the bus to Barcelona. It dropped us off at the center square - Plaça Catalunya - so we did some more exploring of Las Ramblas. We stopped at a Starbucks for a little while--more for the potty than for the beverages, and then we picked up some pizza to bring back to the hotel with us. The cutest cab driver ever took us home--he had the sweetest face and an amazing smile--he could be a model. Why didn't I take his picture? It just didn't occur to me until it was too late. He didn't understand English, but we directed him well. He even discounted our 5€ ride by one euro because the route his GPS gave him took us in a circle. We thought that was so sweet We came home, ate our pizza, and fell into bed. It was only about 10:30pm.

~~~~~~~~~
Whew, I'm on a roll--may as well continue with Day 5! This was Deb's first day back to school. T & I got up early to hit La Boqueria - which is a large public market off of Las Ramblas. This place was amazing...you could buy fresh fruits & veggies, meats, fish, candy, nuts, fresh-sqeezed juice, flowers....it goes on and on. We ate breakfast at Pinotxco's. A cute landmark right inside the entrance. There's no menu--you just look to see what they've got cooking that day and ask for it. I had the tortilla (potato omelet) and cafe con leche.

Pinotxo Bar at La Boqueria
Pinotxo Bar at La Boqueria

Chocolate at La Boqueria
Chocolate at La Boqueria

Cherries at La Boqueria
Cherries at La Boqueria

La Boqueria
Entrance to La Boqueria


Next we took a walking tour of Barri Gòtic, the old quarter of Barcelona. It was an excellent tour, and we wish we'd done it earlier in the trip because it gave us a new perspective on what we'd seen so far. The area dates back to medieval times, and Roman walls from the 4th century still remain. The tiny streets were charming & beautiful. All the pictures of little streets that I took on this trip look the same--it's hard to tell them apart.

Ancient Roman architecture and aqueduct
Barri Gòtic

Roman architecture in Barri Gotic
Barri Gòtic

Street in Barri Gotic
Barri Gòtic


T and I then had two hours to kill until we connected with Deb, so we had a snack and did some shopping. The plan was to meet at Casa Batlló, another Gaudí landmark. We got coffee and sat in front of the house to wait for Deb. When she arrived, she asked how we liked Casa Batlló. We were like, uh..haven't seen it yet--we were waiting for you. She pointed out that she'd already been and thought we were going to tour there until she arrived. Oops. (Wikipedia has a nice write up about it.) We ended up skipping Batlló and heading down a block or two to La Pedrera--yet another Gaudí landmark--it was an apartment building that he designed and built between 1906-1910. Very cool. Especially the roof.

Casa Batlló- Gaudí
Casa Batlló

La Pedrera
La Pedrera

Figure on roof of La Pedrera
La Pedrera Rooftop

La Pedrera from window
La Pedrera Rooftop


We finished up there and did some more shopping and then headed home for a little while to prepare for our last night. We went to Deb's flat to move her in, and then we went to the beach, We got there just as the moon was rising--it was beautiful. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good picture to capture it. (Again, I need to take a class on night photography.) Deb and I put our feet into the FREEZING Mediterranean, and then we walked along the "boardwalk" -- it was more of a concrete walk, lined with restaurants. We wound up at Agua and had a great Mediterranean meal for our last night. After dinner, we finished our walk along the boardwalk and passed a bunch of nightclubs. It was midnight and things were just getting started. We didn't go in anywhere--we're old and were tired--our feet hurt and we needed to pack.

~~~~~~~~~
Heading home.

On Tuesday morning, we headed back to La Boqueria for breakfast--this time with Deb in tow. We went back to the hotel, got our bags and said goodbye to Deb. Then T & I caught a cab back to the airport. The flight home was a mess. The leg from Barcleona to Madrid was delayed one hour, so when we got to Madrid, we had to run. We made it, but our luggage dind't--I knew it wouldn't. We got home Tuesday night, and our bags arrived Thursday night. Oh well--at least it happened on the way home, and not on our way to Barcelona! So, that's it. I've finally written it all down. Even though I didn't LOVE the city, I had a GREAT time with Deb & T and am so glad we went. I'm especially grateful that Debbie could be there with us.


Alright everyone, I'm finally done. Thanks for reading!

See the rest of the photo set.

6.03.2008

What'd you call me?!

Here's a great moment from the recent National Spelling Bee.



This kid went on to win the Bee. Good for him!

6.02.2008

Barcelona Days 1 and 2

As I mentioned a while ago, I took a trip to Barcelona, Spain last month. My sister, Debbie, left in March to study Spanish there, so I was excited to have the opportunity to visit her. Our friend T wanted to visit too, and we ended up going at the same time. We bought our tickets and a week later discovered a slight wrinkle in the plan...Debbie got sick and had to come home for a while. She recovered, and thankfully, was able to travel back at the same time T and I did. Overall, we had a good trip, and a great time. It's taken me a while to get in the mood to post this blog and get my pictures together. T and I got home on Tuesday, May 20, but our luggage didn't arrive until Thursday night. When I got home I was all gung ho to download my pictures and start writing my blog, but my camera dock was in my suitcase--I had the camera, but couldn't get to the pictures. I lost my oomph during the two-day delay. Now I'm ready to at least get started.

So, here's the beginning of the story of our Barcelona adventures!

Days 1 and 2
We arrived in Barcelona on May 15. The first leg of our trip, from Dulles Int'l Airport to Madrid was uncomfortable--the plane was hot (to me, anyway--T slept soundly, with a blanket). We also had a loud family sitting next to us, and a crying/whining two-year-old in front of us. The second leg of the trip, from Madrid to Barcelona was fine, but confusing. (Our reservations didn't even mention anything about a connection in Madrid!) One highlight: on the trip from Madrid to Barcelona, which was only about an hour, we received a Lion candy bar as a snack. It was the best candy bar I've ever had. I found out they sell them at World Market--I've checked a few times over the last few days, but they're sold out. I will definitely check back. That bar was like a chocolate-covered rice krispie treat. Mmmmm....

Anyway, back to the story. Deb was late to Barcelona-she missed her connection in Paris, but was able to make the next one which arrived about two hours after T and I did. We exchanged some money at the airport so we'd have cab fare. That was depressing...I handed over $40 and got back something like 24.62€. We made our way to the hotel, which was nice. It had renovated rooms with hardwood floors and a contemporary feel. We had one double bed, and one twin.

Hotel del Comte
Hotel del Comte

After unpacking and getting settled, we went exploring the 'hood and took a good walk to Plaça Catalunya and Las Ramblas. We got to see Deb's school, which wasn't far from the hotel.

Plaça Catalunya
Plaça Catalunya

Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas


At Plaça Catalunya, a center square in the middle of the city, We stopped at Cafe Zurich for beer and...croissants. (Ew...I think that combo was Deb's idea.) Deb introduced me to a drink called Clara, which was beer mixed with Fanta lemon (soda). Pretty good--it reminded me of a Hefeweisen. (I'm not much of a beer drinker, but that's one I've come to like.) After the beer, we stayed for cafe con leche. (And yes, we did realize the coffee would've been more appropriate for the croissants.)

We then did some more walking down Las Ramblas. La Rambla is like Barcelona's "Main Street." To me it was a cross between Times Square and Élysées. There are a bunch of tiny little streets off of La Rambla, and the whole area is called Las Ramblas. La Rambla is lined with trees and is full of shops, restaurants, street vendors, and street performers.

We ended up at Plaça Reial, another pretty square, and headed to a restaurant called La Crema Canela. By now, it's about 10pm. The weather was nice, so we sat outside. I ordered the potato & leek soup and beef tenderloin with arugula & parmesan cheese. That was good stuff. The three of us shared two desserts: "Chocolate spectacular"--a molten chocolate cake, and Toasted Almond Sponge Cake with Coconut, which was divine.

I could barely keep my eyes open at the table, so we headed home. We took the Metro back which was easy as pie. Our stop was a block away from the hotel, so that was nice. We spent some time planning our week, and then hit the sack.

On the 16th, we went to La Sagrada Familia - a massive cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí, a Spanish architect. Work on this thing began in 1882, and it continues today. I took a million pictures there--here are a couple:

La Sagrada Familia - Entrance
La Sagrada Familia - entrance

La Sagrada Familia - Back
La Sagrada Familia

After the church, we did some shopping near Plaça Catalunya--I had to buy a new flat iron because mine burned out in the hotel. We then had tapas and sangria at Las Ramblas. Yummm...

Tapas and Sangria
Tapas y sangria

We then went back to the hotel for a siesta (it was around 4pm). That evening we went to Montjuïc, which is a huge hill that overlooks the city. Much of the Barcelona Olympics took place here. We went to see the Dancing Water Fountains show.

From La Sagrada Familia - Montjuïc in the distance
View from La Sagrada Familia of Montjuïc

Dancing Fountains at Montjuïc
Dancing Water Fountains at Montjuïc

After the fountain show, we headed to Poble Espanyol, which is described as an outdoor museum that represents "the architecture, style, and culture of various locations from all around Spain were all preserved in a single place." We were really disappointed by it. Hardly anything was open, and it kind of reminded me of Epcot Center. (Poble Espanyol was built for a World's Fair, so I think that comparison is fair.)

By now, it was almost 11pm, and we were starving, so we headed to an area of town called El Born, which is filled with tiny little streets lined with restaurants and cafés and shops. But guess what? By the time we selected a place to eat, they were closing! I was so surprised--I thought Barcelonians stayed up all night. They don't eat dinner until 10pm--it struck me as so odd that the restaurants were then closing at midnight. We were starving, and laugh if you want, we ended up eating at McDonald's! (We ate at McDonald's in Paris too...) The place was packed. I ordered a QP with cheese, and it was SO much better than what you get here. For one thing, the beef patty was larger than the bun. For another, it tasted "fresh." Fresh-er, anyway. We finished eating and headed home, to prepare for our next day.

I hate to say it, but my first impressions of Barcelona up to this point weren't that great. I loved Las Ramblas, but until we got to El Born, I wasn't feeling any connection to the city. It's hard to explain, but the very first time I went to New York, Paris or San Francisco, I felt an immediate connection--like there's some energy that runs around. I look around these places and think, "wow...I'd love to live here." I really wanted to feel that in Barcelona, but I didn't....until we got to El Born--I loved that area. There were a lot of young people around and there was just a certain vibe that I like. It took almost two full days to find that though.

I used my limited Spanish pretty easily, so I felt pretty good about that. Interestingly enough, when I spoke to people in Spanish, most of them answered in English. Oh well, at least I tried!

Here are the rest of the pics from the first two days--most of them taken at La Sagrada Familia. I apologize for the poor quality of a lot of these. I need to take some more photography lessons! The cloudy skies didn't help. Anyway, enjoy.