Traveling Europe ~ One City at a Time ~ Barcelona

Welcome to part two of our European tour! After leaving Paris we traveled to Barcelona, Spain by high speed train. It took us about 6 1/2 hours to travel the 500+ miles. We enjoyed first class accommodations and wonderful views of the countryside as we rode along the tracks.

Our purpose for visiting Spain was my Yoga Trapeze training at the Yogabody Studios in Barcelona. We arrived Monday evening at our flat in the Gracia region of the city; a wonderful neighborhood filled with tradition. There was a lovely little square nearby, and a bakery, on the corner, with delicious empanadas.

Our flat:

I was not able to see as much of Barcelona as Dave was since I was in training most of the time we were there. We did a LOT of walking though. Each morning I left the flat a bit before 7:00 am to get to the studio before class began at 7:30 am. Dave usually walked with me, then he’d walk back to Gracia. Then he’d walk back to the studio to meet me for our break, and this went on 3 times each day. The training schedule was 2 hours of training, 2 hour break, 2 hours of training, 2 hour break, 2 hours of training, 1 1/2 hour break, 1 1/2 hour lecture. Whew. . .we finished about 8:00 each night.

There are 3 Yogabody studios in Barcelona, but nearly all of our training was at Yogabody 3:

During the walk to the studios in the morning one of the landmarks was this cathedral:

It was lovely lit in reds. There is a square just in front of it with a fountain, though you can’t see that in this shot.

We did have one day of touring the city together, which we spent at La Sagrada Familia. Designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, the project began in 1883 and he labored on it for 43 years. When he died in 1926 the church was about 20% complete. The work was stopped during the Spanish Civil War and began again in the 1950s.

La Sagrada Familia

Today, the work continues, funded exclusively by private donation and entry fees. It is anticipated that the church will be finished in 2026, for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. The detail is amazing both inside and out.

We climbed one of the towers for this amazing view of the city:

Recently watching an episode of Blindspot, which was filmed in Barcelona, I noticed several familiar places, including La Sagrada Familia.

Visiting in early December allowed us to enjoy the festive lights on display at night.

One local landmark that I didn’t find particularly appealing, but couldn’t really go unnoticed was La Torre Agbar-

For those interested in learning more about this structure, click this link.

As the week went on we began to appreciate the opportunities to walk around the city enjoying the sights.

Again, we will need to return because there is still so much we didn’t get to visit, including the Picasso museum, the Gaudi homes, the Cathedral of Barcelona, the many quaint neighborhoods, and of course, the Mediterranean.

In our time there we saw little sign of the Catalan Independence Movement, except for the occasional flag draped over a balcony.

After our 6 nights in Barcelona we began the trek to Monte Carlo, Monaco. This train adventure proved to be long and exhausting, but so worth the journey.

Adeu per ara!

Traveling Europe – One City at a Time – Paris

Many of you may know that Dave and I traveled to Europe recently. The idea for this trip began when I registered for a Yoga Trapeze training in Barcelona. Eventually, we realized that going to Europe for a few days and being busy with the training the entire time made no sense, so we expanded the trip to two weeks and elected to visit several other places. Ultimately we elected to start our trip in Paris and end it in Rome. I’ve decided to share our trip with you one city at a time. Let’s begin at the beginning – Paris.

We flew Delta into Charles de Gaulle airport. As a night flight we left Boston at 7:00 PM and arrived Paris at 8:30 AM. Paris is 6 hours ahead of our Eastern Standard Time, so the flight was actually only 7.5 hours, non-stop. At 8:30 in the morning the last thing we wanted to do was stand in a long line, but that’s exactly what we had to do at customs. It took us over two hours to get through since they only had two customs officers working and the line must have had over 200 people in it. Once we managed to get through that ordeal we began to find our bearings, which meant finding the train that would take us to the neighborhood where our airbnb rental was. We had great directions from our host and made it to Montreuil where we had a flat for the next two days. It was raining and windy when we arrived, but we managed to find our place which was small, but very comfortable, and in a sweet little neighborhood. It took us about 3 hours to get to our flat from the time our plane landed.

Montreuil is the equivalent of a suburb and had a farmer’s market in the center of town. On Saturday one of the streets was lined with vendors selling local products and demonstrating local crafts. We bought some local cheese and fresh breads for our dinner.
On our second day we took the metro into Paris and began our adventure at Notre Dame Cathedral.

I think the pictures speak for themselves. Inside, the cathedral reminded me very much of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. We were there on Sunday morning so did have the opportunity to see part of a service.

Next we ventured to the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. (

View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe to Des Avenue Champs Elyssees

We strolled down the most famous of Paris streets and enjoyed a lovely late lunch there.

We then continued all the way to the end of the street toward the Louvre. It was too late in the day to go into the museum, so now we have an excuse to go back.

Finally, we headed to Le Tour Eiffel, which we wanted to see at night.

It was quite impressive, though I have to say I enjoyed the views of the tower much more from a distance. Up close it loses some of iconic appeal. We did not venture to the top because 1. it was getting late, 2. there was a long line,(Le Tour Eiffel is the most visited paid monument in the world) and 3. it was too cold to stand outside in that long line. (Yet another reason to return to Paris.)

Upon our return to Montreuil we had a late, by our standards, dinner at a local restaurant. The next day we took the high-speed train from Paris to Barcelona. It was very enjoyable and I took the following pictures from the train.

Stay tuned for Barcelona next week, to be followed by Monte Carlo and Rome!

The Long Trail Adventures

My sister is the real hiker having hiked many miles over the years and ventured off alone many times for days at a time. I am a minimalist day time hiker. . .occasionally. But when she asked me to do some hiking with her this summer I thought it was a great opportunity to try something new and spend time together.

Originally Marie’s request was for me to consider hiking the 100 Wild Miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine over 10 days. I considered this and began putting on some miles in my own neighborhood. I have miles of biking trails to explore right from home so began walking just for the sake of getting some miles under my belt. All was good for the first few weeks and then my left knee revolted in a BIG way. Suddenly it had decided that any weight bearing would be off limits, so I stopped my training walks, gathered the ice packs and went on the recuperation trail instead of the hiking trail.

After about three weeks and an unpleasant visit to the physician’s assistant I began walking again, but this time went very slowly. I got myself a good pair of hiking shoes, put on the pack and headed out again, eventually working back up to a few miles and a heftier pack. All was good, though my ankles, which must have had a conversation with my knee at some point, decided they were unhappy with my new plan. I ignored them and kept going. Marie suggested I use hiking poles, which would take some of the pressure off my legs. I did and it helped. Trust the experts.

Finally we decided to take on overnight practice hike to see if I was ready. Marie planned a Long Trail hike over Mt. Belvedere, Tillotson Peak, and Haystack Mt. We hiked from Eden Crossing to the Tillotson Camp where we spent the night.The next day we went over Tillotson Peak and Haystack to Hazen’s Notch for a total of about 10 miles. My first thought when done was ‘there is no way I could do that for ten days in a row.’ I found the hike challenging, particularly the second day descending Haystack. It was incredibly steep and I kept reminding myself how lucky we were that it wasn’t raining. It would have been treacherous in the rain. The camping part was great. The weather was perfect – 70 degrees, not many bugs, and Marie had a tent that was comfortable. This was the first time I had officially camped out in about 25 years.

Though I had decided I clearly wasn’t ready for a 100 mile adventure, we did go on another overnight trip a couple of weeks later. This time Marie chose Jay Peak and Doll Peak – a few miles north of our first hike. I had climbed Jay Peak on a day hike a few years ago, so I was feeling more confident about this one. The climb from Vt route 242 to the top of Jay was much easier than the Belvedere hike. We continued hiking to the Laura Woodward camp and spent the night there. This day at that elevation was incredibly windy and bit on the chilly side. We attempted to start a camp fire, but it was a challenge to keep it going with damp wood and so much wind. We settled into our tent about 7:30 pm – before dark, but had a great nights sleep and headed out early to climb Doll Peak and finish at Vt. route 105.

Again, the Jay Peak hike was about 10 miles in its entirety, but was a much easier 10 miles, though I was still sure I was not ready for that mileage in a single day, and certainly not over 10 days. And of course, by this time it was mid August and I was about to return to the school year routine, which would seriously reduce my availability for two day hikes.

These experiences have been wonderful because it gave my sister and I hours together to be sisters. We talked at length about our past, our families, our interests, and our dreams. Until now we have not taken the opportunity to be together in this way and I hope that we will have many more opportunities next spring and summer and on into my retirement years – which I hope are not too far away. Marie has many ideas for two or three day hikes and I look forward to planning those with her.

Whether it’s a sibling, a friend, a spouse ~ I would encourage you to venture out on the trails. It’s a wonderful way to see the best of Vermont and just plain good for the soul.

Yoga Trapeze Training

Those of you who know me well, know that I am infatuated with my yoga trapeze. I purchased it last spring and spend a great deal of time upside down these days after work. It really makes my neck – which has a tendency toward stiffness – feel so much better. It’s been particularly beneficial in this year of a new job that keeps me at my desk and computer more than ever.

As a recently certified yoga instructor I have been dreaming of going to Barcelona to get the teacher training on the yoga trapeze, and . . .

This is the year! I am going to Barcelona in November to train with Yoga Body and become a certified yoga trapeze teacher! Yahoo!

Once completed, I hope to offer classes on the trapeze – trust me – you will LOVE it! Until I get my own studio built (which will have big beams for hanging the trapezes) I will be looking for a location that 1. can accommodate the trapezes, and 2. won’t cost me a fortune to lease, so I can offer reasonably priced classes!

It’s so exciting when you have something to look forward to!

Thanksgiving Reflections

When I was a kid we spent a lot of Thanksgiving mornings traveling for hours to get to my aunt and uncle’s house in Massachusetts.

I hated traveling on holidays then and I still don’t like it much. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I enjoy cooking and all the other preparations that go into the holiday meal. Maybe because it’s like a mini vacation from school and it’s nice to be able to take the time to relax at home doing my own thing. Or nothing at all. Maybe it’s because riding for four hours in a car with my four siblings was chaotic at best and downright painful at worst. And that’s just one way. We still had to drive home again. It was definitely uncomfortable.

I remember one year I woke up on Thanksgiving morning to discover it had snowed a good 8-10 inches and I was ecstatic because I was absolutely positive that meant we couldn’t possible drive to Massachusetts. I didn’t even care if I had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. That was still better than four hours in the car ONE WAY! You can’t imagine my disappointment when my parents said, “Of course we’re going to Massachusetts! It’s just a little snow.” You also can’t imagine the fit I threw because I DID NOT WANT TO GO! I don’t recall all the details of my tantrum, but I can guess it was seriously overly dramatic and seriously annoying to my mother. But I didn’t care because I DID NOT WANT TO GO!

Sometimes we stayed overnight in Massachusetts and that was even worse. BORING! It’s not like we were going to Boston or anything good like that. My aunt and uncle lived in a big old farm-house in the middle of nowhere. At least nowhere I wanted to be. I already lived nowhere (or so I thought), so why would I want to go nowhere else? Obviously my parents were totally unconcerned with my feelings on the subject, because no matter how much I protested we kept driving to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving.

Since those preteen and teenage days filled with angst over nothing, I’ve come to understand a different perspective on Holiday traveling.

I am sure that staying home with five children and attempting to cook a full Thanksgiving dinner on her own for five kids (who tended toward picky self-centeredness) was not a pleasant idea. Actually, that was probably a downright torturous idea that my mother would have had to have been insane to entertain. So she didn’t entertain that thought, but a much more pleasant one. Going to a 17th century farmhouse, in the country, surrounded by relatives, to dine on a gourmet meal served in a traditional and formal way. What a lovely time that must have been for my mother. Her children were, for the most part, entertained by their cousins and she got to spend time with her sister and brother-in-law – no pressure. Smart woman, my mother.

While I still don’t want to travel during the holidays, I can look back on those days at my aunt and uncle’s house with fondness. Their home was lovely and sprawling, like going back to another century, when life was simple, the cookin’ was good and the blessings abundant. There were special tables for the kids to sit at and for many years that really was a special place to sit. Who wanted to sit with the grown ups anyway? And we spent hours and hours playing games with our cousins; checkers and Chinese checkers, Monopoly, Go Fish, Slap Jack, War, King’s Corners. . .

Today I applaud my mother for doing what was right for her. I’m guessing she knew it was right for all of us because that time with family cannot be replaced. As an educator I see firsthand how little time some children have with their families. So today, and everyday, I am thankful for a mother who often listened to her heart instead of her children and made good choices for us.

We will be home today, just the two of us, cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner. We are glad to have friends and family join us if they wish. They all know this. But they will make their own choices, ones that are right for them. To every member of our precious family, near or far, biological or of the larger world, know that we are thankful to be a part of your lives and we send you our love today and always.

New Year's Turkey

Karen and Dave