The Joy of Tidying and Painting

I like to organize. I know, I’m weird. I’m told that quite often by my family. I’m ok with it. I’m methodical in my organizing, and I need to have closure on a project or an area I’m organizing. No loose ends, if I can help it.

So, when my mom told me about the Marie Kondo book, I was excited! A method, a system for organizing your whole house!! Let me at it! I have been lost in the organizing vortex since quickly reading her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in early September and am still in the process of “getting my home in order”.

We have loaded up Gregg’s explorer 5 times and taken the items to the local Gospel Mission. And I currently have another load waiting in the garage to be donated! I have filled up many garbage bags of items that I’ve held onto for the wrong reasons and said goodbye, thank you for your service, and finally discarded them. We’ve sold items on Craigslist and Ebay that have been sitting neglected in the storage room or garage, allowing them to go and serve their purpose! Liberating! I love it!  My goal is to go through every item and area in my home and have it sorted, downsized and organized, keeping only those items that bring us joy or we actually use and need.

While in the middle of this organizing binge, I decided that the entryway/stairway needed to be painted and wainscoting added to the stairway wall.  I had been thinking and planning this change for about a year now, thinking I would wait until we could afford to pull the carpet up and replace with hardwood and white risers, but I decided I couldn’t stand the sloppy paint job by the previous owner any longer.  Carpet replacement could be done later.  I enjoy making these changes to our home, and love how paint and sometimes simple changes can transform a space.  As I usually do, I dive into a project excited and with a lot of energy and enthusiasm!

As you can see, Gregg was just as excited to spend the long weekend of the Thanksgiving holiday tackling this job with me!  (I tend to agree with his sentiment about halfway through a project, wondering what the heck I was thinking about taking on this job ourselves??  But I never admit my doubts to him!)

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We added the white wainscoting with minimal cost, since we used the wall as the center instead of adding wood.  I love the paint color, which is Sherwin Williams Khaki Shade, part of their Urban Organic family of paint colors.  I forgot to take pictures before we added the wainscoting, but here are a few of before and after the painting was completed.

Eventually the carpet will be pulled up, looking forward to that happy day, and I will get to add the hardwood and white risers.  (Learning a lesson on patience and only buying when we have cash in hand to pay for the house upgrade!) I am very happy with how the wainscoting breaks up the large expanse of wall by the stairway.  Now I need to add photos and artwork, and I’ve already started  the planning process on what I plan to add.  Gregg is an amazing photographer, so I will choose some of our favorite images from the listings of his work on our freshly launched Etsy shop!  Updike Studios!   Take a gander….

 

 

Paris

I’ve dubbed my husband my personal travel agent.  When we travel, he researches and studies the area, with multiple trips to the library for travel books, guides and dvds on the area.  We watch movies that were filmed in the city we are traveling to, if available.  We watched The Bicycle Thief and The Talented Mr. Ripley before going to Rome. Before Barcelona we watched Biutiful and before leaving for Paris in September, we watched the Oscar nominated Amelie, which was thoroughly entertaining and I highly recommend.

There was so much to love about Paris, it is difficult to pick just one experience as a highlight.

We visited the Arc de Triomphe and the comedy of watching all these vehicles entering the chaos of the 6 lane, I guess it is 6 lanes since it isn’t marked, each vehicle jockeying for position, was memorable and extremely entertaining.

DSC_1101_arc_de_triomphe

The same could be said for viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The sprawling palace/museum had much to offer and so much space, but the smirking lady was the main attraction.  Gregg and I scooted into the back of the crowd, who were jostling and working their way slowly to the rope that kept anyone from getting too close.  We quickly learned that waiting politely for our turn was not going to cut it, and were advised by several English tourists that it takes aggressive action, so we put on our hockey faces and made it to the front, so we could get a selfie with the lovely lady.

Mona Lisa Selfie

Gregg saved the Eiffel Tower for our last night in the City of Lights, and it was a wonderful finale. It was a Friday night, and the Metro was lively with street musicians working the car for a few Euros here and there, a group of teenage girls, giggling, laughing, boisterously talking over each other, and sometimes breaking into song together.  The streets near the Tower had many restaurants and cafes filled with tourists and locals enjoying a meal, a beer, or glass a wine.  It was a brisk, yet pleasant evening when we walked up the steps from the Metro Trocadero stop, and street vendors were out in force, displaying their wares every few feet, miniature eiffel towers that turned from yellow to blue, to pink, small flashlights that displayed a disco light affect, to name few.

Gregg chose the Trocadero stop so we could see the tower from a distance and take in the twinkling light show at the top of the hour.  We entered the open plaza that opened up to the Tower just as the light show ended, so we strolled the Paris neighborhood and stopped at a local pizzeria/cafe to have dinner and a drink, as we waited for the next light show, which did not disappoint.

Eiffel Tower

As we walked toward the Seine River and closer to the Tower, the area was alive with the chatter of the many people gathered to watch the spectacle, we walked past a group of ball room dancers, waltzing in the shadow of the tour.  We descended down a flight of steps passing a large bridal party as they were posing for the photographer.  We stopped on the bridge just short of the Tower to take a quick selfie and to enjoy this vantage point of the Tower.

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Toward the beginning of our week in Paris, Gregg and I enjoyed an evening stroll through the Jewish quarters.  My mind wandered to the cruelty and heartbreak that occurred in the very street I was walking.  I thought about the people that lived and worked on this street during the Nazi occupation and the fear they must have felt, and my mind jumped to the refugee crisis that the European countries are currently dealing with, and I wondered if we as a society have truly moved beyond the hate that spawned the Holocaust?  As we continued wandering these streets we came upon the Holocaust Museum or the Memorial de la Shoah located in the Marais district.  We walked past a wall filled with names, which I assumed would be the names of French Jews who were taken from their homes and sent to concentration camps, but the plaques on the outside wall, called the Wall of Righteous, is a memorial to French non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, who helped their Jewish neighbors in some capacity  at a great threat to themselves. The names covered the wall on the city block where the museum is located.  It was thousands of names…

I’m grateful we serendipitously walked by this museum and this wall.  It gives me hope in humanity, that even though there can be hate, evil, destruction, as we were reminded of with the recent attacks in Paris, there are many people who will risk themselves, their comfort, even their own lives, to help a fellow human being.  That is the common thread between us regardless of gender, culture, religion, nationality, we are all human, created out of love, to be loved.

 

Why do I write?

Why do I write?

And why do I write a blog?

I feel most comfortable expressing myself through written word rather than through verbal expression.

I write to voice my inner thoughts, my ideas, without being the center of attention.

I write to connect with other people. I want to commune with others without it feeling contrived or sappy.

I write to express my authentic self in a deliberate, planned fashion.

I write because I want to know the creative struggles of others and be honest about mine.

I write about my experiences of the day to day of living, of mothering, of being a wife, daughter, sister, friend, of how the housework gets done, the dinners get made, the dishes get cleaned, the yard work gets done, yet how I strive to find the beautiful, the creative, the sacred in all of it or at least some of it, and I want to connect with others and see how their life gets expressed, to learn about their struggles and triumphs.

Sometimes my reasons are jumbled, unclear, and I hope to bring clarity with the deliberate action of writing.

 

Doors

I’m drawn to photographing doors that I find to be interesting when I’m on vacation. Not original, really. A lot of people photograph doors. They can be interesting for many different reasons. From an architectural and/or decorative standpoint, but also for symbolic reasons.

I enjoy the personality of a home the front door can sometimes display, but I also think about how a door can represent an opportunity, an experience, a new beginning.  Lately, I’ve been praying a lot about my purpose and having the wisdom to recognize when God presents an opportunity, a door, that He wants me to open, to peek inside, to perhaps even to walk into.  Maybe it is because I’m at a transition point in my life.  My youngest is starting high school in the fall, and my oldest has just purchased his first home!  While the two in between are in that awkward in between stage of almost adult, but just not quite there yet, so I’m thinking about my future as well, and where do I want to put my energies, my time, my ideas.  Oftentimes, even though I enjoy painting, writing, designing, I don’t pursue an idea or put forth the effort, I talk myself out of it.  My self talk can be negative, that idea is dumb or how unoriginal, not talented enough.  Recently, on Elizabeth Gilbert’s facebook page, she had an excerpt from her soon to be released book (which I will definitely read), that resonated with me.  I also heard her TED talk on this subject of the creative process:

“Every day as artists, we must forgive ourselves.

We must forgive ourselves for the work not being as good as we want it to be.

We must forgive ourselves for missing yet another deadline.

We must forgive ourselves the times that we don’t show up in the studio at all — sometimes for months on end — because we have lost the energy or inspiration for it.

We must forgive ourselves for doing the same thing over and over again, when we really long to be original and sparkling.

We must forgive ourselves when we embark on a project and it completely and utterly bombs.

We must forgive ourselves for being jealous of other artists who seem to be better at EVERYTHING than we are.

Without constant self-forgiveness, you will never be able to keep on creating.

For me, I can only summon a sense of self-forgiveness when I remind myself that I am just a beginner.

We are all just beginners.

And the only thing a beginner can do, in order to improve, is to keep going.”

So I choose to forgive myself and keep trying to find that door, and I pray to have the wisdom to recognize that door as an opportunity given to me by God, and then have the perseverance and courage to knock, maybe try turning the doorknob, and perhaps even opening it and walking through.

Summer Vacations

Summer vacation usually meant a trip up north for my family. I loved being up north as a child. I recall a time when I could barely contain the anticipation to leave for the A-frame cabin my grandparents owned at Canada Creek Ranch, that I practically packed up the family car by myself. I was probably around 8 or 9 years old, and my dad was working afternoons at the Ford Motor plant, which meant he would get home around midnight or later. I so badly wanted to leave that night, that I packed up the car myself, at least that is my memory. The reality was I probably packed up only a fraction of the items needed to make the trip for a family of 5.

I waited up for my dad that night, hoping to persuade him that the only thing he had to do was drive, since I had already done the heavy lifting, but my mom was already asleep on the sofa, and my little sister and brother were snoozing comfortably in their beds, so the decision was made to wait until the morning to make the 5 hour drive up I75 and M33. I reluctantly went to bed, making myself sleep until it was time to leave in the morning.

My family didn’t leave the state of Michigan often on our family trips. Almost all of the time off my dad would get during shut down in the summer or during holidays, was spent going to the cabin. My childhood memories of our trips are filled with feelings of contentment, adventure, laughter, and love. Walking into the cool clear water of the lake; watching all the silver minnow reflect and scatter in different directions as my sister and I tried unsuccessfully to catch them.

Climbing the big waterslide, in the deep end of the lake, nervously for the first time. Being coaxed by my dad that he would catch me, that I would be ok, and finally letting go; splashing into the water to feel exhilaration and then relief, when my dad did grab and pull me up above the surface. And eventually, not needing him there anymore, feeling the strength and confidence to do the big slide on my own.

Going to the library, located in the Ranch’s clubhouse, and letting time slip away unnoticed, while searching the titles for the book or books that reached out to me and said, “Read me.” Spending hours laying in one of the beds in the upstairs loft or on the couch in the family room as I slipped away into the adventures on the pages, at an age when I wasn’t acutely aware of the passage of time.

Making the walk down the sandy hill, with my sister- my trusty companion in every adventure- with fishing poles and tackle box in hand to “Tibbets Landing.” Stopping to catch the baby frogs that were hopping and crawling their way to lake; delighting in our discovery of them. Than another time, we discovered a nest of frog eggs and tadpoles and ran up and down the steep sand hill to grab jars and supplies to catch these fascinating creatures.

Coming back to the cabin, after a day at the beach, for the delicious dinner or lunch prepared by my grandma, always with a dessert of some sort-maybe cake or zucchini bread or jello with cool whip. Never once worrying if my needs were going to be met, just the trust and confidence in knowing they would be.

Driving out onto the Ranch at dusk, with my grandpa or my dad at the wheel, as we talked quietly; arriving at the various Rye fields, with binoculars in hand, waiting, hoping to see an Elk or a herd of Elk searching for their evening dinner.

Spending our evenings playing cards, Rummy or Spit or the Marble game with one another. Laughing, joking, smiling, teasing, and loving one another, simply, in the everyday easy interaction of being a family together.

As a young mom, without much money, I took my little ones to the cabin, where they enjoyed some of the same simple pleasures I did as I was growing up. Spending time with their grandparents and great grandparents, with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.

My grandparents are gone now. The cabin is listed for sale, and I’ve gone back to the cabin only once for a long weekend in the past 7 or 8 years. Family vacations now consist of airplanes, new destinations each time, and giving my children the opportunity to see places that I didn’t get to go, which I’m very grateful for.

But I’m also grateful for the memories I have as a child, for the slowness of that time. When an afternoon picking cherries or strawberries up north with my grandma and cousins was a time of fun and adventure. And the taste of the delicious strawberry shortcake or cherry pie that grandma would promptly make when we returned. And when I think on those simple, satisfying summer days, I know sometimes in this journey on earth, it’s about enjoying the people you are spending your time with, more than the where of the destination.

 

 

Last trip to the cabin  in September 2012

Last trip to the cabin in September 2012

Cabin 2012

Cabin 2012

Third Summer Solstice

We have slipped into our third summer in the Buttercup house, and as we wrapped up Spring and  moved into summer, I have enjoyed watching the gardens morph starting with tulips, daffodils, and irises and transition into the summer season with with daises, buttercups, lilies, and cone flowers.  I feel a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy.  We have worked hard on loving this house and yard back into a healthy state. And although I still have visions of expanding flower beds, of planting trees and shrubs, dancing in my head,  I am happy with where we are today, especially compared to when we moved in.

We bought the house on a short sale, and it sat empty for at least a year, maybe longer, so on move in day on July 9th, 2012, I knew this it was going to take a lot of sweat and sore muscles, and there were many days when I wasn’t quite sure I was up for the challenge! But here we are, and looking back, I’m surprised at the difference.

Front yard Spring 2012

Front yard Spring 2012

Front yard June 2015

Front yard June 2015

 

Front yard June 2015

Front yard June 2015

View of front porch with Spiraea bush in bloom

View of front porch with Spiraea bush

We didn’t think to take many photos in 2012, but we have a few, since Gregg was taking photos for me while he house hunted in Michigan and I was still living in Utah.  The grass still looks green in the picture he took above in 2012, but when we moved into the house in July, it was brown, since Michigan was experiencing one of the driest and hottest summers in recent years.  But today in 2015, we have nurtured the grass in the front yard back to an almost weed free existence and have cleaned up and added to the front yard landscaping.  Most of the changes took rolling up my sleeves, donning gardening gloves, and a lot of work!

The front porch continues to evolve as I add and subtract various elements each season.  The first summer, I painted the front porch and back deck, which you can read about here. This year I added the lanterns, moved the rustic bench that sat in front of the window to the back deck, and added more flower pots planted with petunias & impatiens.

Front porch looking North in 2012

Front porch looking North in 2012

Front porch looking North 2015

Front porch looking North 2015

Lanterns

Lanterns

I love the contemporary look and the linear quality of the lanterns.

During our second spring/summer at Buttercup house, I started putting together the side porch, beginning with painting and adding the salvaged metal chairs.  It has become a space for reading, bible study, meditation and prayer, and although I still want to make a few changes, I am enjoying where it is at the moment.

 

Side porch in 2012

Side porch in 2012

 

Side Porch today in 2015

Side Porch today in 2015

Side Porch from Front Yard

Side Porch from Front Yard

The South Side of the house also has seen a transformation as I pulled overgrown Mint and many weeds and added a variety of plants that add color, texture, and height, which changes throughout the growing season.

South Side Flower Bed in 2012

South Side Flower Bed in 2012

South Side Garden 2015

South Side Garden 2015

Yarrow & Trellis with Clematis Vine

Yarrow & Trellis with Clematis Vine

Gardening and landscape design is challenging and allows for so much creativity.  I enjoy how all the elements and principles of design can can be utilized when considering which plants to use together while thinking about the needs of the individual plants.  Sometimes, what I try is a total failure, but I love how it is a constant changing canvas.  I marvel at the creativity of God and the variety in this physical world He made for us.  Even we as painters, architects, writers, sculptors try to create in a more permanent way the fleeting and amazing beauty of nature, its rhythm, structure, variety, vibrancy, and array of colors.

Looking forward to the summertime, where the living’s easy….

 

Hannah’s room: BoHo style

Hannah and I have been picking away at her room over the last couple of months….. It’s been nice having something the two of us can discuss, share ideas, and get excited about.  She has developed her own personal sense of style in the clothes she chooses and now this is beginning to spill over to the items she wants to surround herself with in her room.  For a long time, she didn’t care in the least, and I could barely find the floor and furniture under the mountains of discarded clothing.  The fact that she is interested in expressing herself in the style of her room is welcome and she claims she will even keep it picked up.  This may mean clothes at the bottom of the closet instead of the middle of room or stuffed into the dresser instead of thrown on top, but I will take it!

Hannah & Me

Here is her room, just after we had rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  (I completely forgot to take pictures before we started deconstructing her room.)

We have repainted the walls, repainted the ceiling, touched up the trim and baseboard paint, painted the iron bed the aqua color that was once on the walls, and touched up the pink paint on the small side table and added elephant knob (from World Market).

Hannah choose the small blue tea light lanterns, and I added the seashell chandelier, which my older daughter kept from my some of my grandmother’s things.  I added a lamp cord from Ikea.

Seashell Chandelier

I also took an old table I bought at an auction, and painted it a soft blue/green for her bedside table.

Some of the accessories that Hannah has hand picked for her room include, a buddha incense holder, and succulent plants that we recently potted.

Table accessories

She also picked up this wooden elephant at an estate sale.  The estate sale was from my grandpa’s brother’s home, Uncle Dick, so not only is it very hip and very Hannah, but it is from family.  We already had the pink ceramic elephant that my mom had picked up for Hannah at a thrift shop, and the jewelry box was a World Market find which I gave to Hannah for Christmas.

Table accessories

Hannah also picked out these sun and moon motif vertical mirrors while out antique shopping last summer and the hooked rug with the star, above the door, was made by my talented sister while the switch plate was hand-painted by yours truly.

Hannah also picked out the vibrant tapestry, which I found on Etsy.com.  Other items that we have on our to do list in order to complete her room are:

1.  New bedding-the plan is all white with a colorful throw at the foot of the bed.

2.  New shade for the window and some sort of curtain or valance.

3.  Colorful footstool or chair for the corner.

4.  Artwork/photos.

5.  New flooring (long term plan is to pull up the carpet and do hardwood, but short term solution in the interim is to purchase a rug, looking on Etsy for this).

The cute little dog can stay.

Hannah's room 2

 

 

Spring Firepit Project (or the Pure Michigan method of Christmas Tree disposal)

I’ve had this landscaping idea saved in an Ideabook on houzz.com for a few years now, and it was my intention to create a similar space in our back yard this spring.

When the Menards sale flyer landed in our mailbox, and I found the fire ring kit that I had my eye on last year, on sale for only $87.00,  I excitedly shoved the flyer in front of Gregg and made the announcement, “We are going to Menards this weekend!”  He agreed, “whatever you want, sweetie,” but I’m not sure he even looked at it.  We didn’t discuss our up coming project again until the morning of the planned pick up, because that is how we roll! No sense in planning ahead too much!  Saturday, before Donovan’s hockey game, we discussed how we were going to approach the project.  Cell phones were hot from googling how-to articles, and after reading the instructions on how to lay a flagstone patio, I was already exhausted!

I wanted to create it in phases, starting with the firepit and adding the surrounding flagstone later, but Gregg pointed out that the entire area  would need to be leveled first, then crushed rock, which would need to be tamped down and then sand added and tamped down, and then the firepit and the flagstone could be installed!  Way more than I wanted to attempt, but Gregg seemed confident he could get it done.  So we went and bought the firepit kit, drove home, and went out to the yard with stakes, string and a measuring tape.

We had a septic field to avoid, and a sloping yard, and after much discussion, we both realized that digging a space big enough for the flagstone patio, was way beyond our capabilities and endurance.   I was ready to lay down and take a nap just thinking about the process!  So I simplified my plan:  install a fire pit and surround it with Adirondack chairs.  The project was successfully completed in a matter of a few hours.  My kind of do it yourself project!

Best part was finally being able to get rid of the Christmas Tree!  Because in Michigan, when Christmas and New year’s is over, you take your Tree outside, tree stand and all, and shove it under your back yard deck, letting the snow drift and (hopefully) cover it.  And in the spring, when you finally pull it out in order to clean up and prepare the flower beds, you remove the tree stand, and drag it to the firepit for the spectacular snap, crackle and pop of a quick but magnificent blaze!  Because as my sister says, “Nothing says spring like a burning Christmas tree!”

Happy Spring!

La Boqueria

Wandering through a farmer’s market is one my favorite past times, and when we travel, if time allows, we search them out and wander through, taking in the sounds, smells and visual textures.

And one of the most visited markets, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, on one of the busiest boulevards, La Rambla, did not disappoint.

Barcelona, Spain on a sunny March spring day.  The morning air is brisk as the sun starts to warm up to the mid 60’s.  We step out of our studio apartment out on the already bustling La Rambla and stroll a few blocks to enter under the decorative La Boqueria arch.  Merchants are busily setting out their wares, preparing their displays, some with the attentiveness of an artist or designer.

Our mission, since we had a small kitchen at our disposal in our hotel, Citadines aparthotel, was to purchase our dinner to prepare after a busy day of seeing as much of Barcelona as we could squeeze into our last day in this beautiful city.  Gregg and I don’t take “relaxing” vacations, so to speak, by the time we get back home, I’m usually exhausted.  Our vacations consist of a lot hiking, whether it is urban hiking or hiking trails.  This final day in Barcelona was no exception.

We finally decided on fresh lubina or sea bass, which we purchased from a woman who was dressed in white angora like sweater, wearing large blue rubber gloves up to her elbows, and a blood spattered apron.  It was a whole fish, and she offered to clean it, so she grabbed her knife, slit the fish belly, and gutted it quickly.  She immediately wiped her gloved hands on her apron,  and accepts our Euros with the blood covered gloves still on.

Upon exiting the crowded, loud market we had fresh asparagus, leeks, spanish olives and Spanish olive oil.  We also had a single lemon or as Gregg said he his best attempt at Spanish, leeemaaan, in our bag.

Gregg, being a creative and adventurous cook, made a delicious dinner, which we ate at the appropriate Barcelona time of 9 pm.

Barcelona via Rental Car, Trains & Metro

Learning to navigate in a foreign city is one of the more scary, exciting, exasperating, and comical experiences I’ve had.  It was true with Rome, Brussels, and now Barcelona.

First day and night in Barcelona?  You must try traveling by car, train and metro within your first 12 hours in the city!

Gregg and I arrived in Barcelona at 2:15 pm local time after a red eye flight from Detroit to Paris and after a confusing trip through the enormous maze of the Charles de Gaulle customs and airport to hop on our final flight landing us in Barcelona.  Once in Barcelona, we found our car rental office to pick up a manual shift, I’ll say it again, MANUAL, as in stick shift, Ibiza. I could never navigate a manual transmission in a bustling unfamiliar, foreign city, but Gregg did just fine, despite my back seat driving. (Although, he did have one crazy sharp left turn in a heavy traffic area, that I held my breath through, but in all fairness, my iphone maps told him to!).
After making it to our Hotel, we cleaned ourselves up, and decided to head to the Block of Discord on an overcast, breezy, end of winter day in Barcelona. Our hotel is across the street from the Barcelona Sants, which is basically the Grand Central Station of Barcelona, so we headed over. This is our first time in Barcelona and we know zero Spanish, so why not?
With map in hand (we didn’t look like tourists at all) we knew the name of the street we needed to get to, so after a brief stop at an Information center, where we were told we needed to get to Platform 13/14, we headed toward the row of self service ticket machines. This machine was not kind to us, even though we continued to choose the English symbol, it seemed to switch to Spanish, and at one point, Gregg put in his debit card and the machine seemed to be telling us that we couldn’t have any tickets and was not giving us back our card!  We thought it was gone forever, but we continued guessing at the Spanish prompts until it spit it back to us. Having it back and being very relieved to have it back, we decided to try it again, why not?  We did successfully retrieve it once, so we knew it was possible, so after choosing English again and having the prompts turn to Spanish, we did figure out that “Secreto” meant that we needed to put in the PIN number.

With our Train Tickets in hand, we proceeded toward Platforms 13/14. Once on the platforms, and spending several minutes starring at each Platform’s monitor information, and then looking at each other in puzzlement, we could not figure out which platform we were suppose to use to catch the correct train. Neither one said the street we needed, Passeig de Gracia, so after checking our Rick Steve’s and Frommer’s travel guides and scratching our heads, Gregg began going down the line of people waiting on the bench on Platform 13, asking if anyone speaks English. Thankfully, about the forth person on the bench, a young man with long hair, knew enough English to convey to us that Platform 13 was where we needed to be and our stop was just the next one on the train route.
Upon emerging from the train station at the Gracia stop, we found no visible street signs, but after huddling together over a map, we found our way to the Block of Discord. Barcelona is a bustling, vibrant city, and we saw the beautiful and imaginative architecture of Antoni Gaudi lite up against the dark, cloudy Barcelona Sky. First with a stop outside of Casa Batllo, then to Casa Lleo Morera, and a few blocks further at Casa Mila.

Of course, we couldn’t go back the same way we got there, so after an adventurous Tapas dinner, we once again broke out our maps, this time for the Metro.  The Metro was a bit easier than the trains, since the various lines are color coded.  We found the nearest station for the Blue Line back to Barcelona Sants, and once again found ourselves at a self service machine that seemed to only show options in Spanish, but we managed to purchase our tickets, and we knew we were finished because a short woman just stepped in front of us to use the machine while we were discussing if we needed to press any other buttons to complete the transaction.  As we are purchasing our tickets, I’m enjoying the Spanish music that I assumed the Metro Station was providing as ambiance.  As we walked toward our platform, I realized it was a street performer, with his boom box playing the music while he was set up with his microphone, singing and dancing to the music.  I wished I had a Euro to throw in his collection plate, but we hadn’t stopped at a bank yet, so I just smiled to show my appreciation.

We found the correct platform after much laughing and map checking almost missing getting off at Barcelona Sants, since we both were lost in people watching and thoughts of our days journey.