On Tuesday we went to Park Guell. It was supposedly only about a 30 minute walk from our hotel, but it took us well over an hour – partly because we kept stopping frequently, including a much needed haircut for Rob and buying some fruit to eat once we got there. Also, it was uphill the entire way, which slowed us down some. The Park was designed by the famous Antoni Gaudi around 1900. Much of the park is free, but there is a small section where you have to pay. We ended up just wandering around the free part, which was not that crowded, and very beautiful in its own right, with great views of the city, beautiful plants, and interesting architecture, like the columns resembling stalagtites. We found a nice place to eat our fruit (Spencer, the picky eater, had several apples!!). We eventually made it the top, where we were greeted with beautiful views and lovely guitar music.
One of the souvenirs we picked up were some bird whistles (the kind that you have to add water to). I have had one of these for many years, and actually used it in percussion ensemble. My old one is plastic. These ones are clay. We’ll see which one lasts longer.
Monday we visited the Sagrada Familia basilica. Construction started around 1880, and is scheduled to be completed in 2026. Clare visited it in 1999 and it was much different then; it didn’t even have a roof – only 2 walls and the crypt. We were all very impressed by the beauty of the church and how different it is from many other churches – the style of Antoni Gaudi is very unique. He incorporates lots of elements of nature. He didn’t like being in public, and in fact died by getting hit by a streetcar, and was presumed to be a beggar. They left him for several hours before bringing him to the hospital, and he died several days later.
Clare booked a tour for us ahead of time, which was really great. We learned quite a bit. When finished, it will have 18 towers, and the center tower will be the tallest in the world (sorry Ulm, only a few more years left with that title). Of course, one big difference is that the Ulm cathedral was not built with cranes. They are really putting it together quickly now.
We all agreed that Sagrada Familia is one of our favorite churches we have ever seen, maybe even our favorite.
Saturday we left for two weeks in Spain. It was the first time the kids (and maybe the adults) had boarded a plane from the ground before. We flew Ryan Air from the Charleoroi airport in Belgium to Barcelona. My co-worker Jesus was nice enough to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hotel. The first night we stayed in a tiny place in the Gothic quarter. We had a tasty dinner on the Plaza Real.
On Sunday, Jesus picked us up and took us to Monjuic, one of the hills on the outside of Barcelona. There is a castle there with great views of the city. Then we went back to his apartment for lunch and played with their kids. It was a great start to our adventure.
Spencer had a soccer game yesterday. The normal goalie couldn’t make it so he got to play goalie. I think he enjoyed it. He didn’t get much action, since his team was much better than the opponent. They won 8-2. Uncle Phil and I went to the game. It had rained overnight, but was just overcast during the game, which was nice. I did learn that at the end of each game they do a shootout, which doesn’t actually count towards the score, but is fun for the kids, so they each get to try to score a goal (and the goalie gets more practice). One thing that the coach mentioned (and some of the other parents) was that Spencer could throw the ball really far – farther than some kids can kick it. I guess all that American football paid off.
One of the adventures we had while Dave was visiting was to visit some abandoned tanks in the forest on the outskirts of Aachen. Apparently this forest area was previously used (and maybe still is sometimes) as a military training ground. We had a fun time exploring the tanks.
Today was the first day of school in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The kids were nervous, but excited. On the way to school I told the kids how proud I am of them for being brave in a new country, and Meg said that she really likes life here, because she learned to ride a bike and the ice cream is so great and cheap.
On Monday we got the news that the kids got accepted into the after school program, which should be great for everyone, even though the kids were initially not very excited. They will get help with their homework, and have more time to play with other kids and practice speaking German.
Tonight we went to see a local soccer game. The Aachen team used to be in the 2nd league, and briefly in the first. Now they are in the fourth. That means it is relatively affordable. The fans were impressively loud and relentless.
As I write this, I am about to board the plane to Germany. We plan to stay for 2-3 years. We spent the last 5 days packing up the house, working from sunrise to sunset most days. It was grueling, and at times, I didn’t think we would make it, but we did. We finished the house at 11:53 p.m. last night. This morning we slept in a bit, had waffles for breakfast, and finished packing up our suitcases. We even had a little time to relax. Spencer, Dave, and I went to Skate City for an hour or so while Meg, Clare, and Ellen packed a bit more and relaxed. Then we went out to Tequilenos for our last meal in Colorado for quite some time.
Thanks to all the people who have helped us prepare for this epic journey, especially Clare’s parents Dave and Ellen and Clare’s friends Sarah and Liz. I don’t know if we could have done it otherwise.
We each brought 1 big suitcase, 1 sportman’s trunk, a carry-on suitcase, and a backpack. We filled up a 10×10 shed at Dave and Ellen’s, and a 9×11 climate controlled storage unit. Talk about downsizing.
This is the first field day we have had since we have lived in Colorado which had nice weather on the scheduled day, and didn’t have to be rescheduled. It was a beautiful day. I was only able to come for a little bit because I was busy at work and Clare was hosting an event at Boulder startup week. The kids had a good time. I think one of the favorite new events this year was the oreo challenge, in which you try to get an oreo from your forehead into your mouth without using your hands.
Spencer has been playing alto saxophone for 19 weeks now. Yesterday he performed at an open Mic night at our church. He played ain’t misbehavin and fly me to the moon. He sounded great. Take a listen for yourself.