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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Italy & Spain

Chris and I tacked a week in Spain onto a March work trip to Rome. Chris' parents and younger sister Katie met us in Madrid for the Spain portion of the trip. We've flown with Fiona three times now (once to Indiana and twice to Massachusetts), but flying overseas with a time change was new territory for us in this post-baby landscape. We flew from MSP to Rome via Amsterdam and were able to obtain bulkhead seats with a wall bassinet for the night flight from MSP to Amsterdam. Fiona traveled very well, even though she hated the bassinet and instead slept a few hours in a vacant seat next to us (we lucked out with a half-full flight so we had all four seats across the bulkhead open to us). I bought a couple new toys for Fiona, but she relied heavily upon her recent obsession with pacifiers to self-soothe. We also stuffed a full-size pillow into one of our backpacks which allowed her to sleep easier in our arms or on the seat. Fiona stayed up really late our first night in Rome due to the time change, and Chris bore the brunt of hanging out with her since I had to be at work the next morning.
While I worked at a hospital in Rome for two days, Chris pushed Fiona in the stroller or carried her in a front-pack through the city streets and toured the Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel was closed for the pending papal conclave). After work on Thursday, we walked to the Parthenon and then Friday, we dashed over to the Colesseum. Chris and I visited Rome on our honeymoon almost nine years ago, and the food and people were just as wonderful as we remembered. When we would push Fiona in her stroller on the cobblestone or rough brick, she would exclaim, "aaahhhhhhh" repeatedly to hear her voice change on the bumpiness. The Italians LOVED Fiona. Men and women would stop and coo, calling her, "Montebella" and other endearments. Chris told me that when he walked around with Fiona while I was at work, beautiful women would exclaim over Fiona and ask where her mother was. Chris told me he would smile sadly and reply, "She's dead."

Sleeping on the flight

Jet lag

Fiona at the Vatican

Pantheon

Looking for a view


 
Colesseum

Saturday morning, we flew from Rome to Madrid where Chris' parents and sister Katie had already arrived a couple hours prior from Indiana. We stayed in a hotel close to the main city square, Puerta del Sol. First order of business was to get some jamon, manchego cheese and red wine. We walked around a bit then crashed early. Over the next couple days, we walked all over the city, did a little shopping and toured the Prado museum and Reina Sofia (modern art with Picasso's Guernica)

 
 
 
 

One day we took a 45 minute high speed train ride from Madrid to Toledo. We only had a couple hours in the city, but the narrow city streets tucked between high brick buildings were beautiful to wander along. We finally found a city view from a church.

 
 
 
 

We rented a van in Madrid and stopped in Valencia to break up the long drive to Barcelona. Both Chris and his dad had obtained international driver's licenses before we left. The roads led along the coast in some areas. I think the landscape reminded me most of the hilly ocean views in California with vineyards here and there planted in reddish soil. The weather was chilly, but we still stopped at the beach for Fiona to stick her toes in the sand and water for the first time.





We broke apart our afternoon in Valencia. It so happened that our hotel was the staging area for bullfighters participating in the arena that afternoon. Mike has a picture of a bullfighter holding Fiona, which I need to get off his camera. Chris decided to attend the bull fight while the rest of shopped. He came back from the fight very disturbed and said he couldn't believe a civilized country still allowed such a barbaric show because the poor bull is tortured and then suffers a violent, painful death. I don't want to write about it anymore because it makes me upset.

Tapas: Like father, like daughter
 
Street lights hung for a local celebration

I've posted about visiting Barcelona in the past (click here for more picture of architecture and of our trip three years ago). This trip we again stayed in the Gothic quarter, close to shopping and within walking distance of most of the sites. We visited Sagrada Familia again but didn't go inside or into the spires. We also walked past the Gaudi house again, strolled through Park Guell and viewed the city from a peak. I added a picture below of Chris carrying Fiona in her stroller. I am lucky to be married to such a strong man because Chris was able to lift the stroller with Fiona inside (she weighs over 18 pounds) and carry her up and down stairs at all of the stops on the trip. It would have made touring the cities so much for difficult if Chris wasn't able to carry the stroller because few elevators are available. Chris says he "practices" lifting weights at the gym for these situations. 






 
We had an incredible time on the trip and were so thankful for Mike, Rhonda and Katie's presence. Fiona certainly added a level of difficulty to traveling, but it was more than cancelled out by the joy she brings us. 

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