Thursday, March 31, 2011
This city has so many sites that are unique, one that stood out was La Pedrera which is a building that has an weird look. It has that earthquake-look as if everything was off shape and off leveled, but you can appreciate the difficulty to achieve that and keep the modern look of the building, we took several pictures of this building!
Then we follow the road to the Sagrada Familia building, which is the number one attraction here in Barcelona. And the joke in town is when this building is going to be finished, cause it is still being built! Since 1882, it was still being unfinished, as we went along the guided tour there was a miniature replica of what is the finished building with the little label that its supposed to be finished around or close to 2026! It is weird, adored by many, hated by many, the guide told us it is a polarizing building unto itself. Many of us commented about the earthy quality to the building, plus it caught on us that the ceiling hasn’t been finished and you can raise your eyes to the heavens and see the beautiful spring sky that surrounded Barcelona!
As the day progressed, we went back to Pauline’s home, where her entire family was waiting and cooking the pork. Also we found our friend Martin who was watching on his cell a Real Madrid game, we can see this two eyeing each other for tomorrow. And let me tell you, that game had ups and downs and a surprised ending to be sure!
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Once we reached the address to Pauline’s home, she was waiting for us with her usual beaming smile. She is a fun and funky little dynamo who is a party animal! We all loved her to death. She needed to do some last minute grocery shopping, so we tag along with her. One thing you should know is that it is not like going to the supermarket, everything here is fresh and totally has that homemade feel. We went to a slaughterhouse where we pick our pieces of meat and spicy chorizo, who happens to be like a german hotdog but inside has paprika and other spices and bits of havanero pepper which adds the spicyness! Then we went to a flea-market looking place where we got the condiments, lettuces, tomatoes, parsley, spinach, and avocados. Everything was super fresh. We passed thru this area where they have the cheeses, and you can see the rolls of cheddar, pecorino and parmesan cheese, the scent is mouth watering, you can start thinking about the food. Then we got some awesome fruits and juicy and so sweet that once in a while we stop to taste some more. And finally we got the Toblerones, which are bars of milk chocolate with almonds, and the super addictive Turrones, which are bars of honey with almond and comes from Alicante which is a province in Spain that does this exquisite delicatessen.
We all went back to her home where she had everything ready to put it into the Puerco al Caldero (Flamed Pork), which is very typical from Pauline’s family. You take the entire pork (head and all) put all the raw condiments and other spices and wrapped it all inside a homemade oven that is called caldero and then in very slow cooking you let it go until is ready to eat!
After that, Pauline and the gang all went for a little sightseeing in Barca as the natives call Barcelona.
First stop, since Alejandra is a major photography nuts, we went to the Picasso Museum. One thing you’ll notice is that the house doesn’t have the look of Picasso (which tends to be without form and box-y type) instead have the feel to a colonial stone house. Another thing that totally make me appreciate this more is the fact that they organized his art in chronological order, in this way you can see how crazy-genius he became thru the ages.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
We follow the road to a community near Madrid called San Lorenzo de El Escorial, where a famous Basilica or Monastery resides. It is the place where many of the kings and queens of Spain have been buried. Also houses priceless works of arts and important documents that aren’t found anywhere in the world. It is a marvelous place to be and to admire. The architecture and the hugeness of the place will certainly make you shoot picture after picture cause it is that beautiful.
The night was beginning and we stop to refresh a little and went out at night to one of the many Tapas or bars around the area. Many of them are a combination of Tapas and flamenco, which is a very unique dance. The festive atmosphere and the tapateo’ as they called the tapping of the shoes in the dance is something memorable. The girl who was doing the dance routine did it with sucha panache and very seductive that there were moments where you could hear the pin drop. At the end, she received a well awarded round of applause and we all scream “Bravo!”.
This first night in Madrid was awesome, cant wait to tell you what happen when we visited Paulina, poor Martin was out cause he was working, however, for the game, certainly was something for the posterity!
Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Once we arrive, we were greeted by one of the members of the Anangu tribe, he was extremely friendly and we were surprise to learn a lot about his culture. The Anangu tribe are the owners of this portion of the land where this incredible landscape resides. We were tire, cause the drive is hard and incredibly long cause the roads are crazily made. It was a good thing to bring the GPS cause otherwise we would have been lost!
The next morning we set our goal to see the sound and sights of this incredible land. It is totally different from the city, but it holds its own beauty. We discover that the name comes from two rock formations. The Uluru where the monolith stands is the most recognizable of all formations here in Australia. It is impressive how this thing came to be. Around its edges are carvings and incredible pictures that are a testament of the rich history of the aboriginal tribes here in Australia. Our guide told us to call him Roger, cause he said that our tongues will cracked if we tried to say his aboriginal name. we laughed and told him to try us. Trust me, the girls’ eyes bulged and the guys and I were open mouth. We said in unison “soooo, Roger would be!” and we all laugh! Roger was amazing and shows us the different stories and folk tales of this long forgotten time.
Then we head to the other side which is the Kata Tjuta is the name that in aborigine means “many heads” and we all can see why they named that rock formation that way cause its around 36 round or box-y peaks all standing side by side to each other in a round way. Roger said that it dated 500-millions years back, and that from many times before it was used by the tribesman as a kinda initiation to the younglings as a sort of passage to adulthood. Once reaching to that point, you can see many differences with both areas, specially the flora.
Both places holds considerable amount of power to the people in this area. Either Religious or Tradition, these two places spells a mystical force-field around the Anangu-s. the ancestors of this tribe with its unique history and traditions melts with the new offspring with the new and technology. We were really impressed and certainly another sight of Australia that we’ll be in our memories!
We then travel back to Sydney where we stayed there for another night to then take the flight back home. It was an amazing and incredible trip. Full of surprises and mystery and seeing a different Australia than say the usual “crocodile hunter” or “Outback Restaurant” sights, if you know what I mean. We had fun and it came in handy that we rented out a SUV cause we stopped at our leisure and took incredible pictures and created new memories. Another plus is that the gang and I had wonderful fun and a total blast!
Friday, March 25, 2011
I enjoyed cold Mexican beer for only 1 dollar whenever I wanted. I tried out this Mexican brand that had a rich almondy flavor with a smooth after taste and was a dark lager. I loved this beer and had a few too many. It's great to be able to buy a huge bottle of tequila for a mere 6 dollars. I did and brought it back as a souvenier. I look forward to tasting it one day as well. The people in Mexico thrive off the tourists and make their money by agitating you and trying to get you to buy all their products. You will be suprised how little the people there have, yet they are happy just to be working. Many shops there sold very cheap apparel and gifts that you would love. While hanging out on deck on the ship there were a lot of grenades that were straight beast mode, so you had to watch out up there. Of course, i got my tan and gym on, while on board and did my thing. Anyone looking to go to Mexico should take Spinderella's advice and sip some margaritas and kiss on the senoritas.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
After that night with the humongous unfinish-able burger, we all went back to the hotel in Cairns and drop like bags of potatoes in our beds.
The next morning we had scheduled a fantastic day of beach and natural sightseeing. And what better place to see than the incredible Great Barrier Reef. It is the biggest natural sight that you can see from space, that’s how big it is!
We rented it a nice catamaran, and as we sail thru the port to the open ocean, we saw the sheer beauty of the Reef. At intervals the captain went slow and pointed it the different color tones that were seen from the coral formations, he also remarked that “it was a must” to snorkel or those who had the experience to dive.
Finally we got into the port of Fizroy Island, which is a 339-hectares of unspoiled luscious landscape. It is protected in the rainforest national park system, and is consider part of the great barrier reef. From there, the only manmade thing in this land are private beach cabins. You can stroll in the pristine waters of its shore. The water has this type of turquoise-blue color, much different than say the color in the Caribbean islands. We grab our own scuba-diving gear, and started to go deep. They have different sites that you can visit, which adds to the excitement. They have the usual sunken boats, that dates from the captain cook years, and some others that were sunken to make another “room” to the species of reef colonies.
Once you go under the water, it is an entirely different show. If words can describe the beauty that is the coral reef inside the water! Colors that are not in any computerized palette, brightness all around, you can feel that life is everywhere! The girls spotted “nemo” (a clown fish, but I guess since the movie everyone called it that way), the guys and I saw a few stingrays. It was without saying that we were fascinated with this amazing natural environment. You can understand why the captain was trying to stimulate everyone to dive or snorkel cause it is a completely different sight once you are underwater!
After the dive, we rested in the beach and there were some spots where you can just relax and feel the breeze of the wind. Alejandra and I stroll around the shore talking and laughing and sharing our own takes from this experience. She was telling me the different pictures she took. She couldn’t wait to reveal the pictures, she had some ideas like a mosaic of all the coral reef pictures. That lady never ceases to impress me, I tell you!
The guys in the catamaran had all the things ready for lunch. We got into the table, with the rest of the people that were with us, and were seated to this banquet. Plates with some nice fresh fruit salad and green salads, I asked for a Caesar Salad. There were also Surf and Turf plates fill with steak, ribeyes and also shrimp on a Barbie and scallops and oysters, mussels and other varieties of seafood. It was succulent, and the special Australian spice touch was all it needed. Our captain was a flamboyant guy, chubby, but with sucha “party guy” cheerful personality that we were having super fun. And you cannot stop laughing cause his accent was like the crocodile hunter and hugh jackman!
The sunset was another sight not to be missed, the sheer oranges, purple, splashes of blues and touches of reds and yellows was an impossible to resist spectacle. The couples just totally lost it and started to kiss. Alejandra looked at me and blushed, and I had to kiss the damsel. That was a wonderful end to an incredible day!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
So we were very excited with our first actual day in Sydney and couldn’t wait to see what more this amazing continent island has in store for us!Next in our list was a trip to Cairns which is in the northern part of Australia in the Queensland province. Here we went to take the cable car that will lift us above the most impressive vistas we could find, the Australian Rainforest. What impressed us the most was that is in the World Heritage protected area; and you can see the careful care that they have on this immense area. At first it will seem that is very little but once you get thru the main gates, you discover that this is a huge portion of land that has been kept off the hands of developers. You glide over the one small section of the rainforest, as you go thru the different stations you can see different foliage and in some occasions the animals that are going from tree-top top tree-top. Alejandra, as you all know is an excellent photographer, caught in the action a macaw type of bird with some incredible bright coloring plumage flying to the nest, what a lucky lady she was! In one of the terminals, there’s a wooded walkway that is suspended thru pillars and goes around the trunks. You can see that they thought in all possible ways not to disturb the environment. It took us about 5-hrs and still couldn’t have spend more cause you have so many more areas that you can observe and sightseeing in this awesome place. Like the pamphlet said it is indeed the world’s most beautiful rainforest experience!
Probably you’ll be asking about the burger. We had a ‘roo-licious burger, which was made of Kangaroo meat. It was to die for, you can lick your fingers, very tasty and totally we were in love with the juicy feel to it. Is it big? In one word, HUGE! So big that we couldn’t finish, Mike is the hog in our group, we all thought in one moment that he’ll finish the thing, but he couldn’t either. There was one of the servers who kinda remarked that he came short to being the third guy who has been accounted to actually finish the burger. Mike said that the next time he gets here, he’ll finish the burger!
We left to the hotel and rest there…tomorrow is going to be amazingly exciting! I’ll tell you more…
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
We like to travel a lot, me my wife and often my two sons. We tend to go on cruises whenever the opportunity arises and whenever we get free time off from work we go on speedily put together vacations. We are kind of an odd family mostly because we don’t own a single car. We live about two blocks from my office and about a block three miles from the airport, where you can find about every kind of car rental company in the U.S. In fact in the past we had our sons bike there at one point and pick the car up for us. Interestingly enough we save monumentally when it comes to money by not owning a car, it is probably what allows us to travel so much.
So when we decided to head up to Illinois to meet with some family in Aurora we quickly rented a Ford Escape from Hertz and made plans to take whole family up north. Just about every time we rent a car we make sure to use Rental Car Momma, they always have the best rates and we can always have our rental car ready for us before we even get to the rental car place. But anyway, back to the trip to Aurora.
We didn't need a place to stay because my brother has a guest house we were able to stay in. But our main concern was exactly what we were going to do when we were there, I mean Aurora, Illinois really isn’t all that popular a place when it comes to entertainment, but my brother assured us he knew about several places that would keep us entertained. So our first trip was to the beautiful Phillips Park Zoo. Just about everyone likes a good zoo, the only problem is most of them are either tiny or not kept in very good condition. Well I can assure you that this is not the case, the Phillips Park Zoo was large and had a ton of exotic animals. The fact that my eighteen year old son was enjoying it speaks for itself.We spent the next day exploring the Blackberry Farm’s Pioneer Village a large museum that has all these cool exhibits that pertain to the town’s history. While my wife and I accompanied by my brother and his wife explored the museum the kids went off and followed the paths. Apparently these paths lead through nearly fifty five acres of forest, filled with several hundred species of animals, even though my kids said they only saw several deer. My brother says those trails are really worth walking, and if you are willing to travel the whole fifty five acres you will see a ton of animals, depending on the time of the year.
We finished off our vacation by visiting Walter Payton’s Roundhouse Complex. It has a really unique and interesting design but best of all it has this really fantastic restaurant. I’m so glad my brother knew the town so well otherwise we wouldn’t have known about any of the things there, it was a fun vacation, I would definitely head back in the future, my brother assures me there is more to see.
Monday, March 21, 2011
So the gang decided to make our annual trip. this time around, we been saving quite a bit more than we used to and we are heading to Australia.
We took the American Airlines flight that will get us from Orlando to Dallas/Ft. Worth doing a layover there for 40 min and then going to Los Angeles where we’ll stop there for about 2hrs to then head in a direct flight to Sydney Australia!
Just so you can understand how big the flight to get there was, we got out in Orlando around 4:55pm Saturday and got there Sunday at 6:30am. We then got off into the desk of Budget Rent-a-Car where we got a similar car as the X-Terra, which is called there the X-Trail AWD with a GPS and it cost us about $651.80 which is totally not bad, judging that we were in another country. Plus, it was very easy and convenient, and to add a wonderful discount!
In all sites and forums they were giving the excellent advised to scratch the first day and dedicated to roaming around the city and get acclimated to the time zone over there. And that’s what we did, we felt like zombies because of the jet lag!
We all got used to driving in the “wrong” side of the road, of course for them is the “right” side! We went to bed around 7pm, all tire and spent.
The group (Mike, Anya, Rachel, Ms. Hotness Alejandra, and me) woke up very early in the morning and got ready to do the sightseeing around Sydney Australia. In our X-Trail, we drove toward the Sydney Harbor Bridge, one of the most amazing places to visit. We got on one of the main streets and pass it in our car, and then on the other side, we stop by the parking lot and got underway our tour. We made our reservations ahead of time, and got the bridge climb that was 3 ½ hours and goes from the outer arch of the bridge. To say that the views are spectacular is an understatement! The only bad thing about it is that its really incredibly hard to take pictures. Mike and I were trying to walk very close to one another to hold ourselves, cause the wind pretty much picks up from the moment you start to go up. But we finally got like four pictures on the top, one like panoramic and the other of the harbor. The other sets was of the other side with the city landscape on the background and then another with the Sydney Opera House, which we’ll shortly visit.
After getting off from the bridge, we took the car and drove toward the Opera House. The weather is beautiful during this month, it was like 75F and then dropping at night around 63F, blue-sky and seldom patches of clouds, it was simply perfect! The Opera House is that famous building that has the forms of sails. One thing is to see the thing on TV or in pictures, another completely different thing is to see it in person. we were all in awe, specially when they started to do the tour inside and see the incredible decoration. Personally we were saying that it looks like a palace inside. In our case, that we all lovers of plays and theater and philharmonic orchestras, we were like kids in a candy store!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Then, Alejandra took us to the Pearl, which is a famous brewery house here in San Antonio, it has a little bit of history and also through the ages it has changed to one of those places where people meet, as in “I meet you at the Pearl”. The guys knew our love for great cosine, specially Italian. So they took us to this amazing restaurant in called Il Sogno Osteria (sogno is Italian for dream), and definitely was a dream to die for cause their food was amazing!
The night was setting upon our day in San Antonio and what more can you ask but a traditional ride in the river. The River Walk is a must and more so at night! The length of the river is light up by little Mexican candles (from the far, looks like Chinese candles, so don’t tell that to a Texan or they will kill you!). what a romantic spot, and the couples were in tune with it. Simon and Jane shared one canoe, and Alejandra shared her with me, poor Mike had to ride alone. The look, the lush landscape, the winding pathway of the river makes this a must for a awesome evening. We all said that it reminded us of Xochimilco which is in Mexico!
This was just the starting day in our vacation in San Antonio, definitely cant wait for what else brings the following days. In between Taquerias and Churrascos, cant wait for its succulent food and great outdoors. Maybe perhaps we can find a Linda mexicanita for Mike! But I heard Alejandra saying that one of her aunts is gonna play matchmaker and Alejandra said “Que Dios nos ampare a todos!” (meaning “May God Help us all!”).
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Anyways, the gang got invited to San Antonio, Texas. We made our plans and discovered that they were going to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Alamo, so it was a big thing up there. We book our airline ticket. As usual, we found a great price on Dollar Car Rental at $258.29, which is about $51.66 per each one of us.
After the flight, her family was there waiting for Alejandra, and boy! What a surprise it was to see like 10 people there…everyone was giving kisses and hugs, well, what can we say latin families tend to be very in a kissing spree! Even the granma was there, we all were laughing cause Miss Hotness was Miss Blushing, which was a first for us. Finally, we got into her house here in San Antonio, and then it was the parade of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and the cousins…Mike, Jane, Simon and me were swamped with names and people that at the end we were confused who was who, which was pretty amusing.
The next day Alejandra and us got into our SUV and headed to the Alamo, which was a Spanish mission. People used this place as their home, setup the first hospital in Texas. Then after the Texas Revolution, Texians and Tejanos make it as their own home. One of the pieces of legend is that the army of Santa Anna came and the people at the Alamo stood there defending it for 13 days. Colonel Travis made a line and asked who was willing to stay and fight to cross the line, everyone except one crossed it. One name that stood was David Crockett who was a famed frontier-man, but there was also a renowned knife fighter named Jim Bowie, with that last name we all said that perhaps is David Bowie’s lost granpa’!
More River of Dreams to come.....
Our blog has a new address, http://blog.rentalcarmomma.com. You'll find that it looks more like the Rental Car Momma website and that you can leave a comment, if you so desire.
What hasn't changed are the insightfull stories of Snowbird and Rafi the Adventurer. You can still keep up with the travels of Snowbird and his quest to go to every national park in the US, and, of course, you'll know about Rafi and Miss Hotness Alejandra. So, keep reading and enjoy!