31 May 2010

Spain, Day 6: Biarritz

We were so happy to have a sunny day in the Basque country!

We drove an hour back into France to Biarritz. I didn't know before this trip that part of the Basque region is in France.

And we played on the beach.

Clara resumed fearful whining for the first five minutes but then got over it and sat happily playing with sand (but not eating!, a happy change from last year).

Soren also got braver, letting me carry him into the surf at first, saying, "I'm so excited, Mom!" in a, yes, very excited voice,

and then daring to dip his toes himself.

Lily just loved it. She got soaked up to her hips from frolicking in the surf.

Matthew was watching the surfers so intently that at some point it dawned on me that he was half thinking about whether he could go rent gear and try it out right then.

But this was the extent of his athletic exertion of the day.

30 May 2010

Spain, Day 5: Bilbao

Another rainy day in the Basque country, and we drove an hour west to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim.

We wanted to see it even though we have our very own Frank Gehry metallic monster on the University of Minnesota campus.

I really like these monsters.

These audioguides were like a phone rather than a headset, so easier to share, which was good, because we shared a lot.

It feels silly that what dominates my appreciation of modern art is a visceral reaction: whether I like it or not. I wish I had taken a modern art history class in college.

As it is, this is the extent of my analysis: I liked Robert Rauschenberg's Gluts. But I didn't like the dusty bright-colored shapes by Anish Kapoor (top right thumbnail on that link).

Blargh! It irks me that I can't articulate why. (Also, does it matter whether I like it or not? I don't consider whether I like Notre Dame, or, say, The Coronation of Napoleon.)

Kapoor also had some pretty violent works you can see on that link. What are those exploding red splatters on the wall? Why, they represent the horror of war! Having fun, kids?

There was a room of funhouse sort of mirrors by him (bottom right thumbnail) which was a hoot for all of us. I'm not used to laughing in a museum.

We all enjoyed The Matter of Time -- in a huge room, large rust-colored steel parabolic shapes to walk through. Matthew recognized the artist, Richard Serra, from sculptures in St. Louis.

I have an idea: a museum that accepts only anonymous submissions. So we'd remove the possibility that name recognition might make something seem more arty. (Possible name for the museum! Arty.) If you like this idea, please send me a check, and I will start a foundation.

Back to photos. The highlight was the exterior.

Matthew took these that evening, near our place, which was outside of Deba, Spain:

26 May 2010

Spain, Day 4: San Sebastián

It was gray and chilly our first day in the Basque country, but in the afternoon the drizzling stopped and we were able to walk on the beach in San Sebastián.

It's the ocean, Clara! Hooray! You loved it last year.

Nope. Not having it. She maintained this face the entire time, emitting a shrill cry. The waves concerned her.

Lily loved it. She is brave and spunky with water.

Soren enjoyed playing in the sand but didn't go near the water.

Then we walked around the pier. I get nervous in these moments.

I tried to give a lesson on emergency water safety: "What would you do if . . ."

Somehow, everyone still seemed to have fun.

My tongue was utterly confused this week. I have been told once you learn a third language, your second language goes, and my Spanish seemed buried deep down, fighting against the French closer to the surface, which occasionally pops up through the English.

But complicating matters was the fact that both the areas of Spain we visited have main languages spoken before Spanish. In Barcelona, Catalan is spoken, which is close to Castilian (the Spanish we learn in school), but the Basque region has its own wild, unfamiliar language called Euskara. It looks like a merging of Greek and Aztec, with lots of the letters t, z, c, x. The little plates we had for lunch were not called tapas but "pinxtos." And we tried some wild ones, "pulpo" (the fun Spanish word for octopus) with toffee-something sauce, a very runny egg mixed with cheese topped with shoestring fried potatoes (Lily's favorite).

"This looks like a three-hour tour!" Soren said when he saw these little Minnow-esque boats, and thus our Gilligan conversation continued.

Matthew loves stopping to have a coffee in the afternoon when we are traveling. He's adapted very nicely to this European-ism. We stopped at this two-story, peach, ice cream parlor/bakery/ cafe.

Lily took this photo, "so we could remember where we went."

(You can see some Euskara on the bottom of that napkin.)

25 May 2010

Spain, day 3: Montserrat

We stopped to visit Montserrat, a monastery in the moutains, on our way from Barcelona to Basque country.

We took a cable car up to the monastery.

We got there just in time for the daily, ten-minute, boys' choir performance in the basilica.


I squeal like a child on these things. I sense Matthew suppresses the urge to inch away from me and try to look attached to another group.

20 May 2010

Spain, Day 2: Gaudílicious

I think I misused the phrase "ay yi yi" yesterday. I meant we were excited about going to Spain. "Ay yi yi" sounds like an exasperated cry. I should have used, "¡Ay! ¡Ay! ¡Ay!" or "¡Ole!" or "Hooray!"

Now, ¡Buenos días! Time to sightsee.

We rented an apartment right in the city. We were half a block from the metro stop (the one that Matthew used reluctantly and the rest of us enjoyed fully). When we looked down we saw a basketball court, and hundreds of other apartments -- lots of laundry hanging to dry.

This was our Modernisme explosion day: We saw three famous
Gaudí creations. We started at Sagrada Família.

Gaudí began working on this in 1883, and it is still not finished, and not expected to be for another twenty or so years.

We played at a park across the street for a while before heading to our next Gaudí site. Along the way we saw this cafe: "Nebraska: The good life."

Next we went to La Pedrera, also known as Casa Milà.

The highlight was the roof, which was just wild.

One apartment is set up as a display of how it might have looked when first occupied, about one hundred years ago.

The view up from the circular courtyard.

We had lunch at a cafe nearby, and ate my favorite food item of the week, pimientos de Padrón:

They were mild peppers lightly fried and sprinkled with not just salt but big salt flakes. Mmm. They were just so delicious.

The ham (lomo) and salami were also quite tasty.

This was not Lily's lunch. All five of us shared that dish. We had some manchego cheese too, and bread lightly smeared with olive oil and tomatoes -- almost just like a bit of tomato juice.

Our final Gaudí site was Park Güell. Someone was Gaudí-ed out.

All of us were pretty tired, actually -- not many photos from this place.

Then we had pineapple for dessert, thanks to Matthew's brainstorm. Oh, excuse me! Not a brainstorm: an idea. I love brainstorming. Matthew does not. Matthew prefers to wait, quietly, while I spew forth iffy idea followed by flat-out bad idea, et cet., until he is able to announce (if he in fact able to announce) the One Killer Idea that makes all others fall away.

Well, this was a good idea, especially to Clara.

Then we had a second dessert (hurried grocery shopping communication misfire), comprised of icey and cardboard-ish ice cream sandwiches, the product of someone's iffy brainstorm.

This is what Clara looks like when she counts.

What she looks like when she counts after she's had a bath but before we've combed her hair. "Twoooo, twooo, freeee, four!" she says, with significant upspeak and drawn-out syllables.