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Middle Aged Drama Queen's Eastern Med Review: Serenade, Pics, Surprises & Fun!

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We left off with us on our way to pick up the key to our apartment…and wondering if the apartment would measure up to what it was advertised as online…


Although the apartment itself is located about a block or two from Las Ramblas (it was actually right behind the famous La Boqueria, the market)…we had to travel to a different address in the city to pick up the key. Thankfully, Carlos got us there safely, and Hubby Michael and I hopped out to go check-in.


It wasn’t quite 3:00 pm yet…perhaps about 1:30 pm…but we were all so tired, I was praying that it would be ready. If it wasn’t, I was prepared to nap on a park bench under the beautiful blue skies of Barcelona at this point. As we were checking in, the girl behind the counter basically did one of those, “I have good news…and I have bad news” thingy.


Oh, great. I hate those thingies. Because no matter what, the paltering “good news” NEVER makes up for whatever bad news they’re getting ready to throw at you. Ever.


The good news? The apartment was ready.


The bad news? The apartment wasn’t quite ready.




“Well,” the girl continues…”It’s ready as far as being cleaned and all….But…we have a problem.”


“What problem?” I ask, suspiciously. I’m too exhausted for problems….


“Weeeeellllll….” She hesitantly goes on. “There’s a slight leak in one of the bathrooms…it’s probably no big deal.”


Well. This is curious. I’m interested to see if HER idea of “no big deal” and MY idea of “no big deal” are compatible. Or anywhere close.


“I’ve called a maintenance guy in to check it out…but you won’t be able to use that bathroom.”


Whew. No big deal…the apartment has another 1.5 bathrooms…we should be fine. Right?


We head over to the apartment, quickly unload all of our stuff from the van, bid Carlos a fond adieu, and lug all of our stuff up three flights of stairs to the first floor. (I’ll never understand why three flights up is considered the “first” floor in Europe, but that’s a whole nother subject for another day.) Yes, there was an elevator…but the elevator was lucky to hold one suitcase with one person, so it was quicker to just take the stairs. They must have used those anorexic models when configuring that elevator...it was TINY.


The apartment is…nice. It’s certainly not a 5-star resort, but for our needs, it’s sufficient. It’s clean. It’s spacious. And it has beds.


It actually has more than beds; it has a nice living room/salon:






With a basic kitchen (not like I’m planning on cooking, though – I AM on vacation, after all!):






A master bedroom:





And three smaller bedrooms – giving each kid their own space:





A full two-and-a-half bathrooms, and we are living in luxury. Although one bathroom is temporarily out of service…what with the leak and all.




Before collapsing in our respective beds, we realize that the apartment is…hot. As in stuffy…and…well…hot. We fiddle with the a/c, but can’t get it to kick on…and yes, we had remembered to insert our key into the thingy so that the power works (a European thing). A call to the apartment manager is in order. She cheerfully replies, “Oh…the maintenance man has turned the air off to the building while he figures out your leak.”


At this point, I’m too exhausted to care about a lack of air-conditioning…so off to our respective beds we go…the bed is comfortable, the street sounds are comforting, and I’m just about to nod off to dreamland, when suddenly, BANG! BANG! BANG!


Whah??!! I groggily snap wide awake, a bit disoriented, trying to figure out what that sound was. Oh…someone’s pounding on our apartment door. Looking over at Hubby, and seeing that he's dead to the world (of course he is), it is up to me to go see who’s there. And it’s the maintenance guy – of course it is – and he’s NOW ready to come into the apartment to fix the leak in our bathroom. Of course he is.


He speaks no English - my brain is too tired to speak Spanish so I let him in – motion to the bathroom in question – and amble back to bed. Oh, blessed bed…blessed sleep…here I come.


A little later, I’m just about there – to dreamland – when suddenly, BANG! BANG! BANG!


Whah??!! AGAIN???!!! Are you KIDDING me??!!


Hubby is still dead to the world, so sighing, I head back to the apartment door. This time, it’s the apartment cleaning lady – wondering if the bathroom has been fixed and is ready to be cleaned. We both go investigate, and there’s still ceiling tiles everywhere, a mop, bucket, and water on the floor. And no maintenance guy in sight. Huh.


We look at each other…shrug…and she promises to return when the bathroom is fixed. Not wanting another interruption, I assure that I can live with the bathroom as is.


I shuffle back to bed, collapse on the mattress, and close my eyes one more time, hoping for just a few zzzzz’s before our evening tapas tour. I’m just about to the point where visions of sugar plums are dancing in my head, when…wait for it…here it comes:




Are you freakin’ KIDDING me???!!!! Am I being punk’d??!!!


Stalking angrily to the door, I about rip it off the hinges, only to find the aforementioned missing maintenance man…he’s very sorry, but he had to leave earlier to get a necessary part. Sigh. Of course he did.


After ensconcing him in the bathroom, and crawling back to bed, I manage to nod off to dreamland. Finally.


Sigh. Sleep never felt so good.


I have approximately 45 minutes before we must get up and get ready for our Tapas tour…and I wonder…


Will I make it? Will I wake up in time? Will the leaky bathroom EVER get fixed? Will people EVER stop banging on our door? And will I EVER get some sleep????

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Hello fellow Kansas Cityite! I LOVED your comment about sassy Kansas City women! I've never read one of your reviews, but I must admit after just reading the beginning of this one makes me want to read your other ones. GREAT start and can't wait to read more. Thanks for sharing

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Love your style and your review. We are sailing the Med in September and are anxiously waiting to hear about the rest of your adventure.


You have us hook, line and sinker. Thanks for sharing.

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Again, thanks, everyone! More is coming, I promise...I appreciate your patience as I try to put each installment together...along with the photos...ugh. Lots of work...but so fun to relive our adventures. :)

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In our last installment, we left off with the maintenance man in our leaky bathroom, while the five of us crashed and burned in our hot apartment. Well…this vacation has certainly started off on a wonderful note…it can only get better from here, right?!




After what seemed like only a mere nano-second, but was more like 45 minutes, it was time to get up, get dressed, and head out for our Tapas Tour.



This was something I had really, really looked forward to….far from being food snobs, Hubby Mike and I like to consider ourselves food connoisseurs. If it looks like food, acts like food, and/or smells like food – we’re in. We love to sample new dishes, explore new flavors, and try new cuisine. The kids? Not so much. If it doesn’t look like pizza, act like pizza, and/or smell like pizza – they’re out. I was hoping this trip would broaden their culinary horizons….a mother can dream, right?



After doing some research on the Internet, I came across the perfect experience for us: The Barcelona Taste. A 2-3 hour culinary adventure, with four stops at different tapas bars that are OFF the beaten tourist path, with stories & trivia galore….it’s currently ranked #9 out of 160 tours of Barcelona on TripAdvisor, with extremely positive reviews. I’m in.



Barcelona Taste is run by two ex-pats, Joe and Jo. They can only take up to 8 people each night, so an early reservation is mandatory…so I reserved early. They were very quick to confirm, and emailed the meeting place for our tour to begin – at the Hotel Suizo in Barcelona. Before we left on the trip, I had carefully written out detailed walking instructions that would take us directly from our apartment, straight to the Hotel Suizo…however…as anyone who knows me knows…I am somewhat directionally challenged. And Hubby Mike? He’s worse than I am. He can get lost coming home from work each night…and he’s worked for the same company since 1973. Sad…but true. This could be interesting.



We all bravely set forth to meet up with our tour, and began walking…we crossed Las Ramblas, and ventured down a side street…enjoying the shops and people along the way. It wasn’t too far down the street when suddenly, I stopped in my tracks.



Behind me, four members of my family crashed into me, like cars derailing on a railroad track…but I didn’t care.


No. I didn't care. A 50-car train derailment could have occurred at that very moment right beside me, and I wouldn't have cared...because at that moment, I could hear heavenly choirs of angels all singing “The Hallelujah Chorus” in beautiful harmony, as my mind took in the beautiful and wondrous sight ahead of me.



We had inadvertently stumbled across the Holy Shrine of All Things Wonderful, La Cure Gourmande.




If you go to Barcelona...you MUST find this.



The mecca for cookie and biscuit lovers worldwide. I had read about this delightful treasure right here on Cruise Critic, and had only dreamed of finding it…and here we were. At the front doors. And they were wide open. And an angel, cleverly disguised as an employee, was beckoning us inside to try a sample or two.


Well. Don’t mind if we do.


So we did.


And oh…it was wonderful. The sights. The smells. The tastes. Next thing I knew, we had picked up a tin, and my two youngest children were working together – AS A TEAM – in selecting different cookies to fill it.




Miracles really DO happen here....



I ignored Hubby Mike as he intoned, “You’ll ruin your appetite.” Spoil sport. Doesn’t he realize where we ARE??!!! {shaking head in disgust}



All too soon, it was time to pay for all of our chocolatey and cookie goodness, and we were back on our way to the Hotel Suizo.




Yay! We found it! With only 3 wrong turns and 3 stops to ask for directions!




We were to meet up with our tour guide at 7:00 pm…and knowing that we had a slight possibility (okay – who am I kidding? We had a HUGE possibility) of getting lost, I had built in some extra time to arrive. Even with our detour into Cookie Heaven, and a few wrong turns here and there, we arrived in plenty of time…early enough that we could explore a bit more of Barcelona.




I swear, I don't know that kid...




We happened upon some of the original Roman walls that can be found in the Barri Gotic, Barcelona’s Old Town.



Being that Brainy Brad is all about Roman walls...(it's a history thing), he was very excited about this discovery...almost as excited as I was about the cookie discovery....



Near these walls, we found this great equestrian statue of the original Count of Barcelona.



This excited Mickey - she's a 12-year old girl. And it's a horse. Figure it out.



Eventually, we needed to get back to the Hotel Suizo to meet up with Jo...but before we arrived, we had a few more little delights to discover...and I would have posted it HERE but because I can only put six images per post, you'll have to continue on to the next one...!

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I usually read the detailed reviews like this in "silence" unless I have a specific question. But I must say, I'm enjoying the heck out of this. We'll be on the Serenade Aug 21 for the Western Med cruise...but spending some time in Barcelona beforehand. I look forward to reading more, and laughing more. Thanks for taking the extra time to make this an AMUSING read, as well as interesting and informative.

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I usually read the detailed reviews like this in "silence" unless I have a specific question. But I must say, I'm enjoying the heck out of this. We'll be on the Serenade Aug 21 for the Western Med cruise...but spending some time in Barcelona beforehand. I look forward to reading more, and laughing more. Thanks for taking the extra time to make this an AMUSING read, as well as interesting and informative.


Aww, thanks! I hope you find the cookie store! Here's a hint...if you're walking down Las Ramblas...towards the port...turn left on the street right by the KFC. Go down a block or two...it will be on the right.


Have a chocolate biscuit and think of me. :D

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When we last left our fearsome travelers, they were in exploring the streets of Barcelona while killing time before their Tapas Tour…




The kids were fascinated by the community bike-sharing system that Barcelona has, called “bicing”. Members (and you must purchase a yearly membership) can rent one of these bikes, and return it anywhere within the city. However – tourists can’t use this…nope. They ONLY issue memberships to people with a Catalonian address.



"But WE have a Catalonian address...! We have an apartment!"



We make our way back to the Suizo Hotel, which is situated right in front of the Metro Station, and Hubby Mike gathers everyone up for a family photo. He manages to capture Mickey in the middle of a huge yawn.



And I thought that I was the tired one….



Hubby Mike still has control of the camera at this point; I had lost camera privileges earlier when he saw my feeble attempts at photography from that afternoon. {shrugs} However, while reviewing the photos that HE took later, I had to shake my head in disgust:








WHAT is with the PIGEONS??!! Is this a male thing? To take photos of pigeons??! I don’t get it. I really don’t get it….sigh.




While Hubby Mike is off dealing with birds, Mickey and I find a delightful little bakery to peruse…wait. Is that a girl thing? To check out all things sweet and delightful??!!




Cookies and sweets beat pigeons any day...



We really must have been hungry at this point…but as delicious as these little treats looked, they couldn’t do justice to the heaven we were holding in our bag, courtesy of La Cure Gourmande…so we just window-shopped. Much easier on the waistline that way.



7:00 was fast approaching, and sure enough… a very bouncy and vivacious young-lady came bounding up and introduced herself as Jo, our Tour Guide from The Barcelona Taste. Think “Tigger” from Winne-the-Pooh, and you have Jo. Jo is from Idaho, and relocated to Barcelona years ago…a former theater student, she was entertaining, energetic, and very quickly had my entire family under her spell.



The kids all had an immediate crush on her, and Hubby Mike soon succumbed, as well. And who could blame them? She was a true delight, and had us quickly walking to our first stop, Le Seu, a formategeria (cheese shop), established back in 2000 on the site of one of Barcelona’s first butter-making factories.





Inside was Katherine, the shop’s founder and proprieter, who took us on a little tour of her cooler and then handed us small plates of several different cheeses. Yum. I love cheese. This was going to be awesome!





As I’m perusing Katherine’s little shop, I’m handed a small glass of wine to go with my cheese. Even MORE awesome! I glance over at Mickey, who is cupping her own small glass of…grape juice? ...in her hand…obviously trying to hide it from me.


“What is that?” I ask her, indicating the small glass.


“Um…I don’t know,” she innocently answers. A little too innocently.


I quickly take the glass, give it the sniff test, and deduce that it is, indeed, wine. And she is only 12.


“That’s WINE!” I exclaim. “And you’re only TWELVE!”


Katherine and Jo look at each other, shrug, as if to say, “But it’s Europe.”


“But she’s TWELVE!” I repeat, looking over at Dear Hubby for support. However, there’s no support coming there, as he is completely smitten now with Jo, as well as Katherine….yeesh.


“She can take a sip,” he said. “She’ll be fine.”


I grudgingly concede defeat, being outnumbered and all, and Mickey cautiously takes her first sip of wine. And immediately makes the most disgusted face EVER and hands the glass back to me.


“Yuck!” she says. And that is the end of her wine-drinking days in Europe. Or so I think.


Anyway – back to the cheese. Delightful. Creamy. Tasty. Delicious. And the wine was a perfect compliment. Too soon, it is time to say goodbye to Katherine and head to our second stop on our Tapas Tour.


Where will it be? And what culinary delights will we find there?

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Definitely subscribing - this is so cute and funny! We did a 12 day Med cruise in 2010 - slightly different itinerary. I too was amazed when we did not go through customs in Barcelona. I can feel your jet lag pain. I'm jealous of the tapas. We never managed to do that.

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Well...enough for tonight...I'll have to continue tomorrow...


Thanks, everyone, for tagging along! :)


More stories to come. And more pictures. :rolleyes:


Anxiously awaiting for more... Really enjoying your review!

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Mickey and I on the plane...



Your daughter has a slight Helen Hunt look going there. She probably doesn't know who that is ;) Looking forward to Eastern Med Cruise pics!


Oh, in your son's defense, those pigeons do have some interesting markings and colors, not like the gray bland pigeons usually seen in our cities.

Edited by BillOh
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