Easter Deviled Eggs

So I had some older eggs hanging out in my fridge and have taken a liking to making deviled eggs. Being that Easter was coming shortly, I decided to try making dyed deviled eggs. This was my adventure.

Start with the standard hard boiled eggs.
Start with the standard hard boiled eggs.

Hard boil eggs. I’ve been using large eggs and have found the following method to work quite well. Put the eggs into the pot with cool water. Turn the heat on High. When the water boils, turn off the stove, cover the eggs and let stand for 12 minutes.

Of course this time around, I got distracted and let the eggs boil for a couple minutes before getting the heat turned off. So I have a little bit of the green around the yolk :(.

Cracked the shell.
Cracked the shell.

I rolled the egg around on the counter, trying to get cracks all over the shell. Some turned out better than others.

Dyed the eggs with cracked shells.
Dyed the eggs with cracked shells.

I made egg dye using food coloring, water, and vinegar. The McCormick food coloring site gives nice directions on how to make this. 1 cup warm water, 1tsp vinegar, about 20 drops of food coloring.

I used the Neon food colorings for this, mostly because that’s what I have in my cupboard. I always tend to like bright colors if I’m going to the effort to use food dye. My purple mixture looked straight up black, but the eggs came out looking nice.

Left the eggs to dry.
Left the eggs to dry.

I tossed my eggs back in the carton to dry, as I didn’t care too much if I ended up with spots on the shells where they touched. Loving the colors that the eggs ended up.

The outcome.
The outcome.

Interestingly, the blue dyed eggs ended up with a lot of color…. the purple ones definitely didn’t. And my old eggs may have been a bit older than would be preferred as they didn’t end up very round. Good thing these were just for me anyways.

Yolks were all over the place in these eggs.
Yolks were all over the place in these eggs.

To top up the odd shaped eggs, my yolks were all over the place. You can see that small dark ring around the yolk I was talking about earlier. That’s from my distracted boiling and not knowing how long they boiled. Perhaps that’s the one time I should have been paying more attention.

I slice my eggs using a sharp knife, making sure to wipe the knife between each egg because there is always a bit of yolk stuck and I don’t want that all over the next egg I’m cutting.

Filling makings.
Filling makings.

Popped all the yolks out. I just give them a gentle push from the outside and they usually come out easily. If there’s a little still attached it doesn’t really matter because they get filled right up anyways.

For my filling with 9 eggs, I used about 1/4 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons dijon (I like the mustard flavor, lots of people would probably rather have less than this), about 1/4 salt and pepper. Give it all a good mix until it’s smooth. Super simple.

The best bag filing method.
The best bag filing method.

I use a pint glass with a sandwich zip top bag as my filling method. It’s super easy to fill the bag when you shove it in a cup and turn the top over the edge of the cup!

It works so well!
It works so well!
Clip the corner, no fancy bag needed.
Clip the corner, no fancy bag needed.

To get the piping bag thing going, just smooth the air out of the top of the bag and seal, then clip the corner. Presto, piping bag!

The final eggs.
The final eggs.

Not claiming I have the best piping skills ever, but that goes well with my odd looking eggs.

I probably won’t go to the trouble to dye eggs to make deviled eggs again, unless I come up with some better dying method as these don’t even show up that well. But it was a fun experiment!

I make resolutions, do you?

Lots of people debate the usefulness of resolutions. I personally used to avoid them like the plague, but recently I’ve taken a liking to them. I definitely include fun resolutions along with the ones that are more along the lines of personal improvement. What resolutions do you make? Are you good at keeping them?

Last year my resolutions were written on paper and hung in my cube at work, where I saw them every day. They included the following:

  1. A1C below 7.8 (crushed it!)
  2. Read 52 books (not quite, and I didn’t keep great track on my trip)
  3. Take one international trip for fun (yeah… I think I got this one)
  4. Get 2000 miles via my fitbit tracking (1788, not too far off and a huge improvement from the 1200 the year before)
  5. Empty the liter box at least 2x a week (yes, I’m a horrible cat mom on this one, and I can’t say yay or nay to it because I was gone too long for it to count)

Now for this year’s resolutions. I guess maybe these are more like goals than resolutions, because they’re more specific, and I have a plan on how to conquer each one. Which also means they’re more likely to happen.

  1. Keep A1C below 7.8 (may have slipped up over the holidays, but I’m prepared to be back on track shortly)
  2. Read 52 books (I thought about lowering the number, but I know I can do this)
  3. Watch 52 movies I’ve never seen before (turns out I like never watch movies and so I can never comment on them)
  4. Run 1 race per month (fast, slow, serious, fun, short, long; it doesn’t matter)
  5. 2000 miles via my Fitbit (should be easier with all these races to prep for)
  6. Exercise 4 days a week (sadly, curling doesn’t count for this, need to be sweaty for it to count)
  7. Empty liter box 2x per week (I have no excuses here)
  8. And finally, the one I’ve debated sharing: Improve my dental hygiene (I will just not go into details)

I was trying to give you ways to connect with me to see how these are going over the year, but I can’t figure out how to find the info to do that from either goodreads or mapmyrun! Oh well, I’ll just have to keep you updated on here.

Now to wait another 11 months to see how I do on all of these!

New Year, I swear I’m still alive

I’m a month into the new year, and realized that it’s been probably six months since I’ve posted anything on here. This makes me sad because I really do enjoy putting up a bit of what’s been going on!

There was just a little too long where I didn’t feel like I had anything interesting going on in my life. I’ve pretty much been rotating between work, working out, curling, and being a bum, with a few fun adventures with friend thrown in. Too many small little things to cover, but I’ll get the big ones covered.

Let’s start with curling. That’s always a pretty big thing for me, right? Well this season we worked our butts off and traveled a TON. Sadly, we seemed to have this curse where we couldn’t win more than one game per event. The crazy thing was the teams that we were beating! Some of the top teams out there, many of whom went on to crush the rest of their games to qualify in the same event we beat them at. Oh well. The end result is that we missed the Continental Cup Qualifying, and have opted out of playing in US National Championship. With no hope of qualifying for the Women’s World Curling Championship, we decided to save our time and money and apply it towards next season.

This year I also got to play in the US Mixed Doubles National Championships in Denver. This is an event where, this year, you sign up with your teammate and you go to Nationals. Nationals does not have a set number of teams. There’s a good chance that the qualifying format will change after this year, as there were over 30 teams playing for the one spot. There was a bit of a team boom due to the inclusion of the Mixed Doubles discipline in the upcoming 2018 Olympics. My teammate and I made it all the way through the A side of the event, only to lose all three qualifying games. Therefore, we’re out. The upside of making it through the A side was all of the cool things we got to see in Denver. I’ll add some pictures once I get them fixed of the struggles that come with having taken them on my phone.

In other news, I’ve been really enjoying my workouts lately. I’m pretty much down to kickboxing and running. Only now I’m signing up for more and more races, and they are getting longer and longer… therefore I’m trying to stick to my training schedule I designed. So far I’ve been getting 2 or 3 runs a week. On top of that I’ve been getting 2 or 3 classes in at ilovekickboxing.com. My one run a month has been going well, I’ll get them all added to a side panel here so you can all keep track with me!

As for kickboxing, I’m happy to say my push-ups are getting better and better and my punches are getting stronger and stronger. There is a contest I’ve entered, which is called the 45 day body transformation contest. It was going great for a little while, but recently I’ve had a horrible run of low blood sugars, which require eating some of those not-so-great-for-you fast acting carbs. Delicious though. Lucky Charms have been my go-to recently. YUM! Weight loss or not, I’m proud of some of the new habits I’m gaining.

And last but not least, work. I’ve been working at Dick’s Sporting Goods through the USOC Contenders program. It has been great, especially through our crazy travel and competition schedule this fall. They have been great understanding that I was going to be unavailable a lot of the busy shopping weekends. And man was it a crazy thing to be back working retail over a holiday season! The biggest struggle by far is that I already owned a lot of nice work out clothes… but I never seem to actually have enough if my continual purchasing of more says anything.

In the collection of other things I’ve been doing to stay busy, I took a trip out to Milwaukee to visit friends, stopped out to watch some of the Junior National Curling Championship, played in a couple fun spiels, and have been playing around with my new camera (Christmas present!). In the up and coming short term, I’ve got a trip to Florida to visit my dad (and see some sunshine) and some more races and fun curling events.

A really quick summary of life at home

Generally, I’ve been trying to enjoy all the awesome things we have right at home that I often forget about in my love and desire to see new places. So that means plenty of time in the parks enjoying the end of summer and time with friends.

Chilling with some ducks at the park on the Mississippi River.
Chilling with some ducks at the park on the Mississippi River.
A pretty sunset I caught on my way to kickboxing one night. Perhaps it's because I read the schedule wrong and was really early... but totally worth it!
A pretty sunset I caught on my way to kickboxing one night. Perhaps it’s because I read the schedule wrong and was really early… but totally worth it!
Another day at the park by the river. Cool paddle wheel boat.
Another day at the park by the river. Cool paddle wheel boat.
A nice batch of chili to toss in the freezer for meals during the hectic curling season. New recipe with quinoa and it was great!
A nice batch of chili to toss in the freezer for meals during the hectic curling season. New recipe with quinoa and it was great!
Medtronic 5k with Katie, pre-race picture.
Medtronic 5k with Katie, pre-race picture.
All ready to go at the start line! Gorgeous day for a race.
All ready to go at the start line! Gorgeous day for a race.
We got our medals and some nice sunshine!
We got our medals and some nice sunshine!
Post race picture with the Medtronic Lion.
Post race picture with the Medtronic Lion.
My sign for all the runners of the Marathon.
My sign for all the runners of the Marathon.
A trip to Fontenac State Park. I was hoping for some fall leaves, but it was a bit early for that still.
A trip to Fontenac State Park. I was hoping for some fall leaves, but it was a bit early for that still.
What a view. Gotta love the Mississippi River Bluffs.
What a view. Gotta love the Mississippi River Bluffs.
Perpetual snuggles from this guy are totally appreciated.
Perpetual snuggles from this guy are totally appreciated.

Now that curling season is in full swing, I’m spending plenty of time on the ice and traveling. I love that Mitten insists on many snuggles every time I get back from a long weekend.

Days 57 to 60: All of Madrid

I know, I know, this is taking me forever to get this updated. It continues to amaze me how long it takes to write and get the pictures up and looking nice. More to come soon!

Day 57

I started off my day with another free walking tour. I continue to be amazed at how useful these are. The tour started at Plaza Mayor, which happened to be right next door to my apartment. We even walked past my apartment on part of the tour. Perhaps the most entertaining part of this tour was when we (the tourists) stood in for the royal family and their different marriages. It was a hilarious way to understand what happened to the Hapsburg dynasty of Spanish rulers (they bred themselves out of existence! yay inbreeding, it really can kill).

After the tour, I tried to grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants that was recommended by my airbnb host. I successfully found the restaurants, but the two I’d decided to check out were both closed due to the August holiday. I just kept wandering and found another place which had a menu del dia. Sadly, I couldn’t eat any of that menu, but my super rusty Spanish did manage to order food I could eat!

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Next up was a trip to one of the major parks in Madrid. Parque del Retiro. It is located pretty much in the middle of Madrid and was a very easy metro ride. There is a decent sized “lake” in the park and there were a ton of row boats out. I say “lake” because it was clearly man made, and really not all that large. But for some place that doesn’t really have natural bodies of water near by, I could see how it would be exciting. The rest of the park has a lot of nice wooded areas with a lot of paths and benches. Actually a very relaxing place to hang out.

This is the "lake".
This is the “lake”.
A main path in the park.
A main path in the park.
A bit smaller path going through the trees.
A bit smaller path going through the trees.
This was a second pond. Lots and lots of turtles in there.
This was a second pond. Lots and lots of turtles in there.

The park is near the Prado, so I figured I could take a leisurely walk past there and back to the apartment to see how long it would take me. When I got to the Prado, I saw that after 6 you could get in for free! So I sat and waited a little bit. By the time I got up, I hadn’t realized there was a huge line forming for this free entrance. I took a look and decided it was not worth it and I would come back in the morning and pay.

One of the main train stations in Madrid, right near the park.
One of the main train stations in Madrid, right near the park.

When I got home, I was looking up to see what else I wanted to do during my time in Madrid, and when I should do it. During this research, I decided I should definitely go to Toledo, but I also found that there was a festival going on right where I was (there had been some things being set up when I was wandering around for lunch but it took some effort to figure out what for). The festival is the Virgen de la Paloma festival in the la latina neighborhood. Not surprisingly, it has a religious based history. Now it is a celebration of Madrid and Spanish culture.

Everything was very festively decorated and there were a lot of people out. I got to see some traditional dance displays and have a few glasses of sangria or vino tinto (which is chilled red wine with sprite/soda, cheaper than sangria and pretty much the same thing). There was some great people watching. It looks like the same deal as festivals at home, where it’s really just a reason to wander around with your friends eating and drinking.

festive decorations
festive decorations
Cute couple in traditional dress
Cute couple in traditional dress
Lots of meat!
Lots of meat!

Day 58

This day I took a day trip to Toledo (toe-lay-doe). Interestingly, Toledo should have been the capital of the Spanish monarchy. It fits the rule for a European city that there must be a Cathedral (a very nice one which I visited). However, Madrid didn’t have a Cathedral until the last 100 years! Madrid was originally a moorish town, at the very southern end or the moorish ruled area. Toledo was a classical catholic town. My tour told me something about how these ended up not being that way, but I can’t remember any more.

Toledo is a short train ride from Madrid. The station in Toledo is in the surrounding flat area, while the town is on top of the hill. I wasn’t positive about how this walk would go, but I decided it wasn’t that far and I had plenty of time.

A gate you walk through on the way into town.
A gate you walk through on the way into town.

I started off by heading to the Alcazar (which is an old fortress) now the majority of the building is a library. But the internet (which is never wrong) told me that there’s a cafe on the 5th floor and that it gives you a good view over the town. I agree with the internet on this one. This view really showed you that the town was “organized” before cars. There is absolutely no logic to the layout and you can’t even tell where the roads go from above.

View of the city
View of the city

Back down the tower, I took a walk around the outside just for fun. Then I headed over to the Cathedral, one of the biggest attractions of the town. Interestingly, they have a souvenir shop across the street from the entrance which is where you have to go first to get your ticket and audio guide. The audio guide was totally worth it. Mine stopped working after the first number, so I had to go back and get another one, which luckily was not a problem at all.

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I took a nice wander around town, looking for a good place for lunch. I ended up eating at a super cute place that was down a dead end road (which a lot of roads are). They had a great menu del dia, which I could eat all of it! I’m pretty sure I will never have a better lunch deal than these menu del dias. I got a glass of wine, two courses and a coffee for 11 euros. You can pick a desert instead of coffee if you want as well. It’s amazing.

Just a cool example of the type of building common in Toledo
Just a cool example of the type of building common in Toledo
The Jewish quarter was marked by different Jewish symbols in the road.
The Jewish quarter was marked by different Jewish symbols in the road.

Some more wandering around town after lunch, heading over to one of the other gates of the town. The gate still had the doors from shortly after it was erected! Pretty amazing. They are wood covered in thin pieces of iron. The gate now serves as a road entrance into the town. Amusingly, the road is two ways except for the small portion going through the gate.

Nice old city gate, barely changed from 1573!
Nice old city gate, barely changed from 1573!
The door!
The door!
City wall
City wall

A bit more wandering around, and then I headed back to the train station. On the way back, I had to stop and obey the sign on the side walk. Definitely amusing to me.

The town up on the hill.
The town up on the hill.

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Day 59

I started the day off with a trip to the Prado. Sadly after this trip, I probably never need to go to another art museum. I was rather amused by the translated captions on the paintings at the Prado. I almost got myself in some serious trouble trying to retranslate the original Spanish using my phone and a translate app. No phones allowed. Oops.

After the Prado I was planning on going to the Casa del Campo, which is the second park in Madrid. It was originally the royal hunting grounds. However, upon studying the metro map, it would be quite an adventure to get out there due to the construction currently going on. So instead I headed back to the Parque del Retiro. A nice relaxing time with a book and some food and some wine.

Day 60

I took my standard approach to visiting popular places by heading to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) a bit before it opened and got in line. The Palacio is a rather new building as the previous one was burned down in a fire. There is some debate as to if it was an intentional act or not, as it burned on Christmas Eve when no one was at the building. It was interesting, but as it’s new, there wasn’t a lot of history to see in the building.

The most interesting bit I saw at the Palace was the armor display. It’s in a side wing of the building that was used as offices and such previously. Now it’s a huge two floor display of riding and personal armor. It is a super extensive collection and really cool to see. Some of it was parade armor, some of it was combat armor.

Palacio Real
Palacio Real
View over Casa del Campo
View over Casa del Campo

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Some down time, then I had a late night train to catch. Originally, when I had been looking at train options at home there had been both an over night train and a day train. I had been planning to take the day train as it’s a way to see other bits of the country I wasn’t going to be able to visit. By the time I got to my trip, that day train was no longer an option. Therefore, I needed to take the over night train. This was the first time that the train I wanted to take I couldn’t. I ended up having to take one train, then get off, wait an hour, and get on the Hotel Train. And I was only able to get the classic second class seat reservation. I had tried to book the train earlier in my trip, but I wasn’t able to due to a variety of reasons. Not the best sleep I’ve ever had, but not the worst either. And in the end, it got me where I was going when I needed to be there.

Days 53 to 56: More Barcelona and on to Madrid

Remember: I’m home now, just finishing up the details of my trip. I hope you enjoy!

Day 53

I got up “early” to head to the Picasso Museu which is in the Gothic area of Barcelona. I didn’t pre-purchase tickets, so figured opening time was a good time to show up, and they opened at 9am.

It was an odd museum. The building is a combination of a bunch of buildings all mushed into one, so the flow through the galleries was not stellar. With the lack of crowd though, it wasn’t a problem. There were a lot of things to see that I hadn’t realized Picasso had done anything in that medium. Can you say pottery? Weird. They had a lot of the Las Meninas interpretations on display, which I still don’t quite get the connection between the original and the Picasso version, but maybe some day I’ll have an epiphany.

Back to the hostel for a nap. Sometimes you just need a nap. My roommates were still sleeping from getting home late, so at least I fit right in.

I headed over towards Sagrada Familia for a late lunch, as I had a ticket for the afternoon. I waited a while for a table outside, and got to enjoy a nice glass of wine while doing so, so really not a problem to wait. I got paella for lunch! It was delicious and I’m so glad they were willing to make it for me. Usually its a two person minimum to get it, but as I was not at the lunch rush time, they made me one.

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Look at all that seafood goodness.

Off to Sagrada Familia. Mostly pictures here for you. Totally worth the trip, and if you can, go when it’s sunny, the light through the windows was my favorite part. The structure isn’t set to be complete for another couple tens of years, so no avoiding the construction.

You can't even see the details when you look at the whole thing.
You can’t even see the details when you look at the whole thing.
A bit closer up on one of the entrances.
A bit closer up on one of the entrances.
The tree like columns used to support the upper sections are cool and unlike other support structures. Gaudi pulled from nature a lot.
The tree like columns used to support the upper sections are cool and unlike other support structures. Gaudi pulled from nature a lot.
It's amazing that even the staircase can be so architecturally exciting.
It’s amazing that even the staircase can be so architecturally exciting.
One side the windows stream in the cool colors.
One side the windows stream in the cool colors.
And the other is all the warm colors.
And the other is all the warm colors.

After all the admiring, I headed back and did some laundry. Everything gets so sweaty so quickly, no matter what. My plan of being able to wear things more than once before needing to wash them hadn’t been working in Barcelona. Luckily with the bit more space from sending things home, I could add a couple more light weight pieces to my clothes collection, but even then, everything is gross so quickly.

Day 54

Today was spent at Mont Serat, which is a monastery in the Mont Serat mountains. So named because of the serrated look the mountains have.

To get there you take one of the regional Catalunya trains, and then have the option of taking the rack rail train, or the cable car. I opted for the cable car. You can get an entire package for your trip which would include all your tickets and other extras, but with my rail pass, I didn’t need some of the things, and buying the tickets separately proved to be quite simple.

The cable car would not be my suggestion to anyone who is even slightly afraid of heights.

If you look really really hard, you can see the yellow cable cars off in the distance.
If you look really really hard, you can see the yellow cable cars off in the distance.
This one the car is easier to see as it is closer. But you definitely can't see the end point.
This one the car is easier to see as it is closer. But you definitely can’t see the end point.
Just being artsy and annoying taking a picture out the window.
Just being artsy and annoying taking a picture out the window.
A picture looking back where we came from, the other end of the road with the roundabout.
A picture looking back where we came from, the other end of the road with the roundabout.
The view from the top looking back. You can't see the bottom.
The view from the top looking back. You can’t see the bottom.

It took a couple minutes to get from the bottom to the top. You have a pretty great view of the valley once you get up there.

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At this point, you are at the main monastery area. There are a few shops and a museum and a couple places to grab some bites to eat. If you go, I suggest packing food though. None of the places to get eats were very appealing and all were (not surprisingly) very expensive. From this level, you have the option to go a little bit back down the hill to see some more things or up to the top of the mountain to see more things. I went up.

The funicular track to go up.
The funicular track to go up.

You could chose to get a return ticket, or to walk down. Looking back, I would have chosen to walk down, but that is not what I did. (You could also walk up, if you’re in for some crazy exercise or something)

Up at the top there are some trails and they lead you to a couple different small churches, and some areas where the Monks apparently lived. The housing areas were in the sides of the rocks. I’m not sure if they were natural spaces or if they had been carved out, but either way, they were kind of terrifying so I didn’t make the entire trek to all of them. With better planning, and a buddy, I would definitely recommend hiking around the top for a couple hours! I spent quite a while up there and still wish I had gone farther on the hikes.

The trail, where you can see one of the buildings.
The trail, where you can see one of the buildings.
This is the rock the mountain is made of. It looks like man made concrete to me, but the whole mountain is this way with rocks embedded in the rock.
This is the rock the mountain is made of. It looks like man made concrete to me, but the whole mountain is this way with rocks embedded in the rock.
View out from the housing area.
View out from the housing area.
View back towards the housing area from the mountain top in the other picture.
View back towards the housing area from the mountain top in the other picture. Its in one of the lines on the rock that is farthest left of the tall bit.
There are houses on these steep cliffs. I wish I knew how people got to them.
There are houses on these steep cliffs (one near the middle, one towards the end of the mountain). I wish I knew how people got to them.

After my trip to the top, I headed back to visit the monastery. It is only open during a small range of hours as they do hold services there.

The forecourt before the church, within the monastery walls.
The forecourt before the church, within the monastery walls.
Inside the church.
Inside the church.

I wandered down another path I found after this, but in the end, it didn’t lead to much. There was a side trail to another small church, but I didn’t want to risk it with the time it was getting to be and miss my train back.

Overall this was a fun day and lots of things to see. Totally worth the trip, just be ready for lots of walking!

Day 55

My only plan for this day was to check out Park Guell, another Gaudi creation. The original goal of the park was to be turned into a high end residential area. The park has a great view over the city. However, very little was ever actually constructed. The park is a very nice bit of green space in the city. It was not the easiest to get to via public transport, but not too bad. It required more walking than most areas though. I was very thankful for the outdoor escalators that got you up to the entrance. It took four or five to get there.

View from the park
View from the park
I swear it looks like these rocks should be falling out.
I swear it looks like these rocks should be falling out.
One of the features in the free access area of the park.
One of the features in the free access area of the park.

To get into the part with the majority of the Gaudi structures, you have to get a ticket, and entrances are timed, only so many per half hour. So even though it was close to 10 when I got there, the next time slot was 12-12:30. Not too bad. I spent a good chunk of that time wandering around, the rest was spent chilling with a book.

The room of columns. This was intended to be a central meeting place/market area.
The room of columns. This was intended to be a central meeting place/market area.
A Gaudi feature is the last row of columns leaning in.
A Gaudi feature is the last row of columns leaning in.
View from farther out.
View from farther out.
Decoration on the bench on top of the room of columns.
Decoration on the bench on top of the room of columns.
The stairs and another little weird room.
The stairs and another little weird room.
One of the guard houses by the entrance.
One of the guard houses by the entrance.

I definitely didn’t think this was worth the money or the wait to see. All over Barcelona are things with a mosaic lizard on them. This was on the stair case leading to the room of columns, and wasn’t even worth my stopping to take a picture.

Overall, I would say hit up the park if you have extra time, but don’t bother paying to go into the small fee for entrance area. Or better yet, skip the park and go to the beach another time.

After this I spent some time wandering around and doing some shopping and getting a few things for my next train trip (mmm food).

Day 56

Off to Madrid. Another enjoyable train ride. However, in Spain, they actually scan your bags to make sure you’re not carrying a weapon. Not that I think they looked hard enough to catch anything, but they scanned it. And for the AVE trains (Spain’s fast trains) there was a weird queue to get down to the platform. They didn’t open it until a set time before the train, and everyone was in this crazy line, all worried and annoyed. Seemed very different from all my other train experiences.

In Madrid, I opted for an airbnb. This was because all the HI hostels were full, but I’m sure I could have found another hostel to stay at, just didn’t look before leaving. My apartment was very conveniently located, and I found it easily. What was not so easy, was that it was on the 5th floor, with a slightly terrifying staircase and I had lots of things.

The person I had been messaging with over airbnb wasn’t there to let me in, instead it was one of his cleaning people. The upside was that it was in fact nice and clean. The downside was that she only spoke Spanish, and mine was very rusty. Ended up getting it sorted out okay. But definitely not my favorite experience.

I decided to pick one thing that for my evening in Madrid. I chose to visit the Plaza de Toros as it wasn’t located near anything else I was planning to see. If you can’t tell by the name, this is where they do bull fights. It was cool to see and is a huge arena. The audio guide tour was appreciated.

Cool artwork around the wall of the plaza area.
Cool artwork around the wall of the plaza area.
A nice terrace for time between fights. Generally used for meeting people and chatting while enjoying a beer.
A nice terrace for time between fights. Generally used for meeting people and chatting while enjoying a beer.
Huge ring!
Huge ring!
The box for the king and queen. The location of which is the best in the arena as it will be in the afternoon shade. Ticket prices vary by sun vs shade seating!
The box for the king and queen. The location of which is the best in the arena as it will be in the afternoon shade. Ticket prices vary by sun vs shade seating!
Sir Ian Fleming. I thought it odd to see him here, but it turns out that penicillin made something like 90% of bull fighting wounds non-fatal.
Sir Ian Fleming. I thought it odd to see him here, but it turns out that penicillin made something like 90% of bull fighting wounds non-fatal.

Some how I didn’t take any pictures of the entire ring from the outside. Too late now! I stopped to grab some food to cook on my way home and enjoyed having space to myself again for the evening.

State Fair… time to eat!

A day in mostly pictures.

Glad we bought tickets online!
Glad we bought tickets online!
Breakfast. Maple Bacon roll (for Katie), Blueberry Corn bread Muffin (for me), and a nitro cold press coffee (me also).
Breakfast. Maple Bacon roll (for Katie), Blueberry Corn bread Muffin (for me), and a nitro cold press coffee (me also).
Tatchos. The fair has finally caught on to this deliciousness.
Tatchos. The fair has finally caught on to this deliciousness.
The largest pig. Pretty massive.
The largest pig. Pretty massive.
Siracha Sliders. I just ignored the bun on this one.
Siracha Sliders. I just ignored the bun on this one.
Cheese curds for Katie.
Cheese curds for Katie.
Salted Caramel Puff Sundae. Not enough puffs.
Salted Caramel Puff Sundae. Not enough puffs.
Butter Queen Coffee Ice Cream. Yum.
Butter Queen Coffee Ice Cream. Yum.
Cider! (hopefully this shows up right-side up, I'm fighting with it)
Cider! 
Mr Goat was bored and trying to munch on the banner.
Mr Goat was bored and trying to munch on the banner.

On day two of my visit, I forgot to take a picture of my food… But it started with a gluten free beer batter brat. Very tasty.

Beer and Wine Samplers. Don't drink MN white wine. Too sweet.
Beer and Wine Samplers. Don’t drink MN white wine. Too sweet.
Had to take a trip down the giant slide with some of the newbies.
Had to take a trip down the giant slide with some of the newbies.

That was my days at the fair. Always a blast. I always come home too full.

 

Home life and right back to it

Okay, as most of you know, I’m back home now. I’ve been trying hard to get all of my trip day posts up, but it takes longer than I expect! So instead of waiting on all the home updates, I’ll mix those right in with my trip posts as I get those done.

I got home on a Sunday, and the next morning headed straight to the curling club for some practice. Sadly, I forgot that Monday is the ice maintenance day. So off to the gym instead. It was quite sad to work on a couple lifts and see how horribly weak I became over my trip. I had good intentions of working out a lot while I was gone, but was just so exhausted when I’d get home that I had no desire to do anything.

Tuesday I was able to get on the ice. It really is like riding a bike. I might end up sore, but it really just comes back so easily. I also decided that I needed some more interesting gym adventure. My friend Lindsay (and her husband Ben) has been kickboxing for a while, so much so that she’s an instructor now. And it always sounds like fun. So I caved and signed up for the intro package.

Turns out that I loved my first class, and signed up for some more. This I think is a good choice. Getting two vaccines in my arms (which were starting to be sore from the boxing) the next morning, was probably not a good choice. Sore, sore, sore arms!

Some more time on the curling ice, both for teaching and for playing and it was off to the weekend!

Days 50 to 52: Barcelona and Tours

Day 50

I hopped the train off to Barcelona. This whole train riding thing isn’t new anymore, but I still loved it. It’s so nice to hop on and it’s all calm and you can picnic and check out the sights out the windows.

I got to Barcelona and the first thing I noticed was that it was HOT. The AVE train station has all of the platforms underground, and they are very much not ventilated. The upside is the train station generally did a good job telling you how to get to the Metro. However trying to find the tourist info place on the way was much more difficult.

Found my hotel without too many problems. And most of the problems were how sweaty I was. If the train platforms were poorly ventilated, the metro had zero ventilation.

I then spent my afternoon and evening wandering around different bits of Barcelona, starting with Barcelonetta. It’s a super cute area, where interestingly all of the streets run in logical blocks. That’s because it was rather recently filled in land, so the streets were planned more than the oldest bits of most cities.

After wandering around and grabbing a bite to eat I headed over and up to the Olympic Park area. I spent a lot of time looking for the Olympic rings that were on my map…. Only to figure out that that was simply their way of saying all the things here are the old Olympic venues. Quite the adventure. To get up to the park, you can drive, walk, or, as I did, take the funicular. Barcelona has actually done quite well turning their old venues into currently used places. The pool was in the middle of being re-tiled, which you could see through the windows, and a couple of different arenas are used for different sports teams now.

The plaza area between the arenas and pool buildings
The plaza area between the arenas and pool buildings

After all my wanderings, I headed back to the hostel. This hostel had a big bar area, and I figured I should stop up there and see if there were people to meet. Turns out they also take a trip to a club every night, for which most people gather for drinks around 8-9 and you leave for the club a tiny bit before midnight. The hostel had sangria on a tap… and it was pretty tasty. But most importantly, it was beyond reasonably priced, especially compared to the drinks at the club (which they actually did warn us about, very nice of them).

This glass of sangria was 5 euros. See my point and shoot camera for size reference!
This glass of sangria was 5 euros. See my point and shoot camera for size reference!

 

 

Everyone was playing beer pong when I got up to the bar, and I couldn’t pass it up, so I decided to join and head out for the night. I hadn’t realized that beer pong is still a very American thing to play. One of the bar tenders was American and had been teaching everyone. Always fun.

Turns out I might be too old for this whole late night club thing. I’m certainly not capable of staying out until 6am.

Day 51

My first full day in Barcelona, and I bet everyone can guess the first thing on my to-do list. Walking tour!

The Barcelona walking tour centers around the gothic area. You get a lot of different history, some Spanish, a lot Catalunya, which in English is Catalonia. Which unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you’ve seen the region making plenty of political headlines. Hearing the history, some of the politics started making a lot more sense to me.

After my tour, I headed out to the beach! I had no interest in the Barcelonetta beach, as it’s generally packed. Not something that works to well. I hate being afraid that someone will swipe my stuff while I’m in the water. So I hopped on the train for about 40 minutes to a different beach north of Barcelona. I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with any of the beaches. Perhaps it’d be worth putting some more thought into if you’re planning on staying in a town out there.

I had picked up some food and wine for my beach adventure. This was where I learned another way to open a wine bottle… If you let the wine get warm enough, the cork will start coming out all on it’s own! That wasn’t my intention, but the sand was warm, and there was no shade. I tossed the bottle in the hostel fridge when I got back, and it turned out okay to drink the next day, but I certainly wouldn’t be trying to keep it for later.

Day 52

After my low key day the day before, this day was packed with lots of things to see. I started off by heading back to the gothic area to take a peak into the Santa Maria del Mar church. Just a very pretty old church. The church is in the gothic, and so in the process I ended up wandering around some more. It’s just a very cool area with lots of shops and restaurants.

After all the wandering, I headed up towards Casa Mila because I had bought my ticket online the day before. This is something they always recommend that you do, but it wouldn’t have actually mattered because there was no line.

Casa Mila is one of the many Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, and the first one that I visited. It’s an apartment building which is still used for that purpose, they’ve just opened up the roof top and attic as well as one apartment for touring.

Casa Mila - The view from across the street.
Casa Mila – The view from across the street.
Model of the building. It shows the architecture better than pictures of the actual building.
Model of the building. It shows the architecture better than pictures of the actual building.
The inside courtyard. Similar to outside, it's not square.
The inside courtyard. Similar to outside, it’s not square.
These columns were covered with broken wine bottles.
These columns were covered with broken wine bottles.
These are vents for chimneys and other such things that need venting. Way cooler looking than normal. Gaudi wanted to hide the "ugly" things that everyone has on their roof.
These are vents for chimneys and other such things that need venting. Way cooler looking than normal. Gaudi wanted to hide the “ugly” things that everyone has on their roof.
Some of the spines in the attic.
Some of the spines in the attic.
An architectural model of the attic rafters. This is what makes the roof so interesting too.
An architectural model of the attic rafters. This is what makes the roof so interesting too.
One of the very cool iron balcony railings
One of the very cool iron balcony railings
This used to be the drive way entrance. An early example of parking underground (the entrance is behind where I was standing)
This used to be the drive way entrance. An early example of parking underground (the entrance is behind where I was standing)

I definitely thought this house was cool to see. The apartment was a little unconventional, but it was also designed for a different time, when you had a servant and your kids were supposed to stay away from the adults.

After the house, I headed over to check out the old hospital de la santa creu. Sadly, by the time I got there, they were closing soon, and I would miss my tapas tour if I went and looked around. What I got from the signs is that the buildings were designed to be a self supporting area. Now it’s a museum, and there’s a new modern hospital right near by.

I went on the tapas tour offered by the New Sandeman’s group here. I was a little concerned about signing up for a food tour with the fact that I can’t really eat everything. Luckily, the started the tour by asking if anyone had any food allergies. And then they adjusted the food accordingly. Most of the food were gluten free to start with. The couple things that were substituted were totally delicious as well. The tour also came with drinks, and wine is still tasty.

After the tour, we got dropped off at a cute bar that had pool tables and just a fun atmosphere. It was a nice small place. While there and we were all chatting, we decided we should head over to the beach area (we were already near by) and go to a club. Please don’t as why I thought this was a good idea after my last adventure. We got there a bit before midnight, which allowed us to get in free, but they don’t even open the dance floor until midnight. Also, don’t try to get into the club wearing tennis shoes or sleeveless shirts (if you’re a guy). Pretty much, they have a legit dress code and they will enforce it.

Barcelona is smart, knowing they have a large club culture, and run the metro all night on Saturdays. So heading home from the club I just hopped right on the metro. Quite a busy day.

Day 48 and 49: Toulon and Nimes

Day 48

The trip from Nice to Nimes was a couple hours, so I figured I had time to stop somewhere on the way.  I chose Toulon because it’s a smaller town that’s home to the French Navy. I’m not exactly sure why I thought that was a must see, but it ended up being cool.

When I got off the train, my first goal was to find the lockers to leave my things for the day. Turns out, Toulon is a station that doesn’t actually have lockers… however, a bar half a block away does luggage storage. It may be the most sketchy place I’ve left my luggage, but they had a good system so I went with it. Most importantly, you had to be back by 6:30 to claim your things. Not a problem as I was intending to leave before then.

I headed down to the bay area, and over to the tourist information near by, as I had found that if you buy your boat tour ticket from the tourist office, it’s cheaper! Always good when it’s super easy.

The harbor
The harbor

The tour went around the bay, showing you the ships in port and a bit more about the coast line. However, the entire description was only in French, so I’m only slightly sure what we were looking at.

A few of the ships in harbor
A few of the ships in harbor

After the tour I spent some time wandering around town, and then ended up at the Navy Museum. I was very impressed with the museum overall. It explained how Toulon became to be such a prominent port as well as a bit of the history of ship evolution. I loved the explanation of how ships were built and repaired before the invention of the dry dock.

Showing how the mast is put into a boat.
Showing how the mast is put into a boat.
This is how they used to fix the hull of the ship, basically tipping the ship over.
This is how they used to fix the hull of the ship, basically tipping the ship over.

Perhaps my favorite display in the museum was the large picture of the harbor, which must have been taken from a helicopter.

IMG_3889

Near the museum they still have the building that was used to make ropes. It’s a super long building, no longer completely visible from the outside. Sadly, you can’t go in it, as I’m sure it’s been re-purposed by now.

After the museum, I headed back to the train station to catch a train to Nimes (ignore the s, it’s pronounced Neem). I was so happy to have not even half a kilometer to walk after I got off the train. I was staying in the Ibis Style chain, which totally fit the bill I was looking for: close, my own room, air conditioning. Pretty simple.

Day 49

I only had one day to fit all of the Nimes must sees in, so it was a busy day.

I started the morning off by checking out the Amphitheater. It’s from the Roman times and went through many different uses through out the years, including houses, as weird as that seems.

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After the Amphitheater I headed over to the square house, another roman thing in the city. This wasn’t so interesting, and is essentially all new now anyways. They show you a video which was a slightly hilarious roll play version of history. Not worth the stop in my opinion.

Continuing my trip through ancient things, I stopped at the Temple of Diana, which is at the base of a park. It was cool to see just because you can wander around. And because there was a hilariously translated sign which stated that you could “not escalade the walls”. Which obviously L’escalade would best translate as to climb, and just didn’t make the translation very well.

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The temple
The temple

Next up was the hike up hill to check out the tower. This used to be part of the walls of the city, but is now just a stand alone thing which they added a staircase in the middle so you can climb up to the top.

The tower
The tower

DSCN5939

I always feel better about being tired of walking up the hill and the steps when I finally get to the top and realize that this really is rather high above the rest of the city.

After this climb up, the climb down was quite nice. They have some nice little paths through the park. I headed back towards the center of the city to grab some lunch before heading off for the afternoon. And this is proof that the US even loses at food when it comes to salad. I think we just need to change what we consider a salad. IMG_3899

If you look hard, you can find the lettuce, under the awesome pile of meat and cheese. Ignore those breadsticks, I didn’t eat them, but they sure looked pretty. This wasn’t my first mostly meat salad either. I just don’t do well taking pictures of my food because I’m usually hungry and half way through before I remember.

After lunch I headed over to the bus rotary to grab a bus to the Pont du Gard. For such a draw, you’d think it would have been a bit simpler to figure out what bus I needed to take and where to get it and when it leaves, but in the end, I figured it out. After you get off the bus you walk for a while down the road, which had no signs. All this difficulty to figure out where you’re going would have made more sense until you get there and see the fact that there are buildings and well paved paths all over.

It was a very cool thing to see. The aquaduct spans the river, which had even by that time, clearly worn it’s way through the surrounding land. There are three levels of arches in order to make the top level with the surrounding hillside. This is what makes this section of the aquaduct so gorgeous and interesting. Even very near by it could have simply been a canal in the ground.

At the lowest level of arches, there was a secondary bridge built right next to the aquaduct which is what you use to walk from one side of the river to the other. They did an amazing job building it though because it’s actually pretty hard to tell that it’s way newer.

The first side you see, was all in shade.
The first side you see, was all in shade.
From the other side you get the gorgeous sunlit stones.
From the other side you get the gorgeous sunlit stones.
see look. I was there.
see look. I was there.

And perhaps the most unexpected part (except that I read it online before hand) is that this is the best place to swim for a long way around.

IMG_3903

It was like a giant beach party. But the water was very nice. The bottom was rocky, so I was once again wishing for those nice beach shoes I saw back in Nice. I think that I have very tough feet too, so it’s been crazy to be walking all wonky over the rocks.

After a swim I walked back to the bus stop. It was crazy hot, and I had soaked my shirt in the river before walking back, and it was totally dry by the time I got on the bus.

This was a fun filled busy day, and all I wanted to do was sit. And being that I had a room to myself, I intended to enjoy the calm alone time and relaxed in my hotel.