Day Eighty One… Camp Nou, the Arc, Pizza…. and LOST

Last day in Barca!

Day Eighty One (octogesimo primeiro dia)

Monday (Segunda-feira)

We had basically checked everything off our Barcelona-Bucket-List by day 7 (aside from putting my toes in the Mediterranean). We decided to go back to Camp Nou and pay for the “Experience” of going through the museum, touring the VIP club seats, locker rooms, field, press seats, and boardrooms. Aside from La Sagrada Familia, it was the only attraction we paid to visit. It was worth it—we had a blast and took some more pictures. We took a picture of our seats from the other night. From the field.

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We headed back to the hotel after, stopping for lunch at a traditional Spanish cafe (traditional in the sense that it had plates of the day that were not pictured outside in laminated pages). John had beefsteak with egg and I had chicken “skewers” (read: drumsticks) with croquettes (another typical tapas). We took the Metro back to our hotel to rest up for our afternoon stroll: we were going back to the pier mall (to exchange John’s too-skinny jeans at H&M) and then to the Arc d’Triomf.

 IMG_1371We got to see Big Chris during the day.

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We took the Metro to the pier because we were exhausted from our vacation! We are very much looking forward to sleeping in Povoacao with Romeo in our apartment. All this sightseeing is tiresome. While the morning at Camp Nou was cloudy, we were fortunate enough to get a super sunny afternoon. We got to see Christopher Columbus during the daylight and the Mediterranean at the pier. We indulged at Starbucks and poked around the mall. We eventually got back on the Metro and headed to the Arc.

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I keep bragging about how good a job we’re doing getting around, how city-suave we are, and our trip to the Arc was our first (and only) sightseeing fail. We only had a little trouble deciding which way to go above-ground upon exiting the Metro and quickly found the Arc. I mistakenly thought that if we walked down through Parc Citudella we would just magically “arrive” at the Port de Olimpic. Ohhhhh, how wrong I was.

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We did walk through the park until the end (after passing hippies on tight ropes, puppies playing fetch with their owners, and hipsters juggling a soccer ball) where the Zoo is. We walked (the wrong way) around the zoo. We walked and walked and walked along an industrial street to the right of the zoo. “I don’t think we’re going to see the water this way…” I said. Finally I pulled out the map and saw where we were. And where the port was. Eff that! We both said. We had walked too far. We hopped in the nearest Metro and headed home. We stopped at the Bar Granja again so I could grab another (hell, yes!) doner kebab to hold me over until dinner. Even without the sangria sillies it was still delicious.

We lazed around in the room for a few hours and collected our belongings—we were going to have a very early morning. Our flight was going to leave Barcelona at 6:40am (4:40am Azorean time and 12:40am EST… just for comparison!) so we set an alarm for 3:45am (1:45am: Azores).

After over an hour of researching Chinese restaurants and coming up empty handed, we agreed to have pizza again. I added it to my I-can’t-wait-to-BLANK-when-I-get-home list:

I can’t wait to have LEE CHEN’s when I get home

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This list also includes:

I can’t wait to RUN WITH MY FRIENDS when I get home. Starting with the Nike Women’s Half in DC. Followed by: Amy. Nicole. Nikki. And the RunHens in general.

I can’t wait to have SAMBA sushi

I can’t wait to have BOOK CLUB

I can’t wait to hold the BABIES we left behind. Some of whom won’t be babies anymore. B&Z,jpgThis was a good day at the FH.. See my Starbies in the background? Yeah, no child (or adult) had knocked it over yet. Good.Day. Also, neither Zaella nor Brooklyn are crying. Success.

There are two La Bella Napolis in Barcelona—one near our first hotel, and the second was three blocks from our current hotel tucked in a side street. We walked down a little after 8:00pm in our sweaties. After talking to the concierge for a few minutes about the best way to get to the airport (we decided to cab it) we walked the three blocks. We arrived at about 8:20pm to three Italian-looking men sitting on the stoop of La Bella Napoli. One of them mumbled “ocho y medio” which I understand, using my Portuguese deduction skills, as eight and a half. We still had ten minutes. We walked back to the main street to hit a supermercat for drinks. I got a water with gas and a lemon soda and John got an orange soda. After the cashier rung us up (which took twice as long as it should have because other cashiers kept handing her chocolate treats, biscuits, and cookies that she added to a plastic bag hanging from her work station—whether it was for her or not, I do not know) she left our three drinks just chillin’ in the bagging area. After I shot John a look of confusion, I asked her for a bag, “That will be two cents”, she said. I’m sure I didn’t hide my look of bewilderment well. After giving her a five cent piece I had to wait for her to stop, talk, and shove some more goodies in her baggie before she finally handed me three cents change and a plastic bag. Well, that was weird.

We walked back to La Bella Napoli and ordered a pizza with ham, salami, black olives, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and half the mozzarella. And a piece of chocolate torte. Literally five minutes later we had our pizza and were walking back to the hotel.

The funny thing about this pizza (and our pizza the other night) is that they don’t cut it for you. It didn’t seem that strange the other night because most patrons had ordered individual pizzas that they ate with a fork and knife. But taking an entire pizza back to a utensil-less hotel room was a different story. We entered the hotel and immediately dipped left into the (currently closed) restaurant. We snagged two sets of silverware wrapped in napkins off of the set tables, but there were no plates. We went to the front desk and the concierge gave us two. We ate pizza and cake in bed on our last night in Barcelona. I think we fell asleep around 1:00am.

Day Eighty… Parc Guell & the best Doner Kebab

Day Eighty (octogesimo dia)

Sunday (Domingo)

One thing about being in Spain (and acknowledging my lack of Spanish) is I feel more confident in my Portuguese. I have often been struck with the thought “I don’t know how to say that in Spanish…but I know how to say it in Portuguese!”. Luckily, everyone here speaks English, or enough English that we can. Except for our waitress at the Magic Wall.

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We got up around 10:00am, got ready, and headed out to Parc Guell at the top of the city (after hitting the cafe next door, of course). We took the Metro about 6 stops from Mercat de St. Antoni and then walked another kilometer to the public park. It is up San-Francisco-like-hills which are fully equipped with escalators (again). This time, we used them. In this park, in addition to breathtaking above-the-city views, there were several Indians selling trinkets—magnets, bracelets, earrings, keychains. One of them asked where I hailed from while I was admiring his faux-Turquoise bracelets. I told him the States and he replied “Oh, I thought you were from Italy”. I know he was just trying to con me, but I was flattered nonetheless.

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We walked in and up as far as we possibly could, taking selfies along the way.

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We didn’t pay to get into the Natura Parc, nor did we pay to get into Antoni Gaudi’s house, but we took pictures from the outside of both.

 IMG_1318The outside of the Natura Parc.

IMG_1320Antoni Gaudi’s house.IMG_1326

We saw a pitch, where some amateur teams were playing.

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We could see La Sagrada Familia, the Agbar tower, and the Mediterranean.

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We walked as high up as we could, past where the real trail ended and where hiking trails began.

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On the way down, I took some more pictures of the old structures.

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After we walked around for a few hours we made our way back to the hotel. On the way out, we saw this street band doing their thing. There was a blind man who was ready to party.

We walked back to the Metro and talked about snacking. Most of the (lower-end) restaurants in Barcelona cater to American tourists by placing pictures of their meals on poster boards outside.

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I saw a few with gyros on our street and told John that I needed one. We got off the Metro one stop early so we could walk and look for one of these joints. We found out right outside our hotel (Bar Granja) and sat down to eat. We ordered a pitcher of Sangria for ten euros. John ordered a burger and I ordered my doner kebab off the Sharwarma menu. After we drank I got what I like to call Sangria Silly. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that the gyro was the best thing I’d ever eaten in my life. John said the completa burger con beicon rivaled a Pic-Nic burger. We paid 18 euro and walked across the street to our hotel.

Because we planned to walk back to Las Ramblas (and Cheers!) for the FC Barcelona game, we rested up and showered. We walked back to Las Ramblas, this time in the daylight. We found Cheers easily and it was totally empty.

I got a pint of San Miguel and at halftime (after many more, British-English speaking futbol lovers showed up) we ordered a tapas I had seen everywhere and wanted to try: John went to the bar and ordered in Spanish: “Patatas bravas, por favor?”, the bartender replied, “You want the spicy potatoes?” Yes, sir, we do.

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They are like tater tots covered in a mildly-spicy ketchup-mayo-like mixture (at least at Cheers they are). They were delicious. Soon after FC Barcelona won 5-2 (Pedro had a hat-trick in under.eight.minutes.) the bartender asked us if it was “time to get drunk?”, having just woken up from my silly sangria haze, we replied in the negative. He brought us two shots anyways, on the house.

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This is the second time we’ve been given free booze. After enjoying them and paying our bill, we went out to stroll Las Ramblas before dinner. Dinner tonight was paella at Cullera de Boix also off Las Ramblas, but I’ll get to that.

We strolled around looking at shops and peaking up and down alleyways. We found a large, outdoor market with men who were about to perform. Awwwww, breakdancers! Light of my life. John and I showed up as the were just getting ready to start, so we were in the “front row”. We watched the introductions, mostly guys from Barcelona and one guy, Johhny, from Puerto Rico. They asked us to scream and started playing MJ. The crowd was clapping along with the music when suddenly they stopped. Just like the Africans selling knock-off Chanel, they looked in one corner nervously. Once they were certain it was police officers they picked up their boombox and skirted off in the other direction. WHAT?! You can’t DANCE in PUBLIC here?! I was so aggravated. I can understand asking people for money, but they weren’t at that part yet. They were at the PERFORMING ARTS part. THAT’S illegal?! John said he knew I was upset because I “got loud”. I couldn’t flipping believe it—outrageous, Barcelona!!!

 

Yeahhhhhh, and that’s basically all that happened.

We walked onto our dinner destination. Again, because we eat like old people, we were the only ones in the restaurant. This time, we ordered the Sea and Mountain Paella which had chicken, pork ribs, squid, and crawfish. I will review all restaurants on TripAdvisor and Yelp (because they were incredibly helpful to us on this trip), but I was disappointed. John liked it, and the pork ribs were delicious. It took about 40 minutes (pretty typical for paella) and while we were waiting our waiter brought us two glasses of champagne (well, cava) on the house. Which was lovely.

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I thought the paella itself was super oily. Our paella at Bosque Palermo (to.die.for) was greasy, but it was more buttery-deliciousness. This one was oily-greasy. I didn’t get any chicken. We still finished it. And like I said, John was totally satisfied.

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I had high expectations after our first one, and after my doner kebab at lunch, really nothing could compete. I was worried the champagne would show up on our bill, but it did not.

Afterwards, even though I was super-full, I got a nutella crepe from a street-treat-cart. It was a little undercooked, and not nearly as good as the one we got outside of La Sagrada Familia (this one was like a chain, the other one was a soloist, clearly living out his dream expressed in the form of the perfect crepe). I ate more than half of it before I threw it away—I was so full.

When we got back to the hotel, the “full” feeling didn’t go away. As I do sometimes when I overeat (on occasion!!) I moan and whine and hope it will pass. I was so nauseous. I ended up in the bathroom for a while, getting rid of some of the squid-filled paella before passing out. Whether it was the nutella crepe and greasy paella, or the six hours of sangria-beer-shots-and-cava, I’m not sure. But I told John that the next day, even if I tell him I really, really, really want a crepe, not to let me get one.

Day Seventy Nine… Fartons and Sushi

Day Seventy Nine (septuagesimo nono dia)

Saturday (Sabado)

Maybe it was the beers, or the time change, but we didn’t wake up until noon. Lucky for us, this hotel had a “Do Not Disturb” sign we could hang outside our door. A small detail, I know, but our last hotel lacked this. Two of the three days we were there, housekeepers came in while we (tried to) sleep only to hear us cry “Hello! NO! Thank you!”.

This time La Sagrada Familia was on our agenda. We didn’t hit the lobby of the hotel until about 1:00pm and it took about thirty minutes for the concierge to help me buy tickets so we wouldn’t have to wait in line. We chose 2:30pm for our entrance time; we just wanted to stop and get some grub on the way. We walked past a lot of great looking restaurants the day before, on the way to Montjuic. We walked the same way and eventually stopped in a cute little diner. It was a one-man-show. One guy was cooking, waiting and bussing tables, as well as ringing people up. I had sausage and eggs with french fries, and John had beefsteak and fries that came with a salad that had crabsitck and baby shrimp on it. At this point, it was probably about 2:20pm. We still had to walk to the Metro and take it the five stops to Sagrada Familia. I wasn’t too worried about the time.

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We arrived at the correct entrance at 2:48pm. “You’re late” the ticketmaster said to my presented-ticket. It flashed red and beeped an unwelcoming sound for the first scanner she tried. She tried another which seemed to allow our late arrival. In addition to the Basilica, I had paid extra to tour one of the towers. Big mistake.

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The church itself is just stunning, while also completely overwhelming. While we were in the museum located in the basement (near Gaudi’s tomb) we watched a movie that informed us only just over 60% of the structure is complete. Coincidentally, that night on National Geographic in our hotel room, there was a segment on La Sagrada Familia which explained they were shooting to have it complete by 2026, 100 years since Gaudi’s untimely death (he was runover by a tram!).

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We took an elevator up 50 meters, then walked up another 10 (just like the elevator operator instructed us to). We walked over a bridge and then began to descend. There were three balconies we could “rest” at along the way down. It was somewhere after the bridge that I remembered my absolute and completely all-consuming fear of heights. I started to sweat. I managed to snag a few pictures while simultaneously trying to suction-cup myself to the wall behind us.

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At one of the “rest” points when John was enjoying the view (as I was hugging the wall saying “yep. Just take a picture! JUST TAKE A PICTURE AND SHOW ME AFTER”) a sweet little Chinese girl looked at me and said “Oh, are you scared?” YES. THAT IS THE WORD. John traveled up another staircase… “THE MAN SAID TO GO DOWN AFTER THE BRIDGE. I WANT TO GO DOWN NOW”. He felt badly that I was missing out on some of the views—I didn’t feel like I was missing out, I felt like I was barely escaping death! So, at the next balcony he said, “It’s OK, I’ll hold your hand. What are you scared of?” And that’s when the tears came. Big, streaming, rivers down my face. Even if I had braved the balcony, I wouldn’t have been able to see anything anyway. Somehow, we finally made it down the spiral staircases. Pfew.

IMG_1229Thank you for sparing my life, Jesus.

After we went through the basement museum we headed out. There is a park across the street loaded with vendors. We saw a man blowing giant bubbles:

IMG_1245I was seriously appreciating his West Coast Chopper sweatshirt.

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Nativity scene creatures pooping:

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And bought a nutella crepe (crack):

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We made our way back to our hotel and went into a store called Futbol Mania that we had seen on the way to La Sagrada Familia earlier. I had been worried about being late for our 2:30pm reservation, so I told John we’d come back later. After we spent an inexplicable amount of time in this store, we left with three pairs of shorts and four pairs of socks (one for me, even). John found the Mira Mar socks with a better top band so they wouldn’t fall during game. We stopped at the cafe next to our hotel for cappuccinos and a(nother) snack. This cafe sells Fartons, 5 for one euro.

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John had a fashion show with his new socks and cleats back at the hotel while I looked for a place to have dinner.

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Sushi-Yah was the choice for the evening filling both our requirements for sushi and for location (just off Las Ramblas). We walked from our hotel to the end of Av. Paral-lel and saw the statue of Christopher Columbus.

IMG_1280Since 2013 was the year of Selfies, we recognized and honored it with the Vacation of Selfies.

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Since we were at the Port de Barcelona, we decided to walk down and see the water.

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There was a long boardwalk and eventually a mall (complete with Starbucks and Dunkin’ Coffee, of course). IMG_1286

IMG_1285We wandered through and bought a few things at H&M before heading back to Las Ramblas.

Las Ramblas is a crazy busy street with a quadruple-wide sidewalk down the middle. On both sides there are tiny little alleyways, markets, shops, and restaurants.

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We found Sushi-Yah down one of these tiny little alleyways.

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It was packed, but there was one half-empty table. We sat down at the other end of it, sharing the space with three Spanish people just finishing up.

We had tuna, salmon, and squid rolls, a shrimp tempura with spicy sauce (crack), a tuna/salmon/AVOCADO roll (no ripe avocados in Povoacao!), edamame, miso soup, and udon noodles. It was all incredible.

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Everything came out within minutes of ordering it, and soon our seat-mates were replaced by four Spanish women enjoying a girls’ night out. We walked up Las Ramblas after dinner to see more. We found a “Cheers” that had chalkboards outside saying which games they were showing the following day and we decided to return.

When I read reviews about Las Ramblas I saw a lot of comments about the pick-pocketing (so far, so good!) and also about the Africans selling pocketbooks and ripping people off. Not long after we left Sushi-Yah, we saw a group of Africans selling handbags near the Liceu Metro station. They had their goods laid out on white sheets with rope attached to each corner. When a lookout would see a cop, they would pull on the rope, securing their stash inside the newly created white pouch, and then they would book it down the steps and into the Metro station. John and I watched for a moment until someone saw a cruiser coming and they cleared out. We moved on.

We got Kinder Bueno flavored gelato from a street vendor and walked home.

Day Seventy Seven: NIKE & Newbury Street…AND Day Seventy Eight: Olimpic Stadium and the Castell de Montjuic

Day Seventy Seven (septuagesimo setimo dia)

Thursday (quinta-feira)

We thought having slept so much the night before we would wake up at a reasonable hour, but alas, we woke up at noon. After groggily getting ready we stopped in at el Fornet, the “chocolate cafe” again for cappuccinos and breakfast.

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I got a cream filled croissant and John had a frosted and nut covered “pretzel”. We headed off towards Passeig de Gracia (the Newbury Street of Barcelona) to shop. Not to shop just anywhere, but specifically NIKE Barcelona.

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We strolled for a while without stopping at any shops; we were on a mission. It was about at 25 minute walk. The only things we did stop for were a few of Antoni Gaudi’s architectural wonders that, in addition to NIKE, are on Passieg de Gracia.

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The weather was much like Povoacao tends to be: cloudy and sprinkling. Of course, at that time in Povoacao the sun was shining and the air was warm. We stumbled upon Nike in the early afternoon. The store was pretty small with an even smaller selection of women’s apparel. Also, everything was more expensive. A pair of shoes I almost bought on Nike.com clearance for $75 were 120 (more than $150!). I didn’t buy anything.

IMG_1064Notice how everything is in English? Yeah, we had no trouble communicating in this tourist-driven city.

John found the cleats of his dreams: the new CTR360s. Merry Christmas, sweet baby Bavota.

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We went across the street to Zara and I indulged. We also got some gifts for our friends in Povoacao.

IMG_1075 IMG_1069 IMG_1073Barcelona is GORGEOUS.

We stopped in a few more high-end stores and then headed back to the hotel. We stopped for lunch at a Pans & Company which is like Panera-meets-McDonalds (It’s delicious). We went back to our hotel to rest up and clean up for dinner. I did a hallway workout of jumping rope, burpees, black bands and planks. #30burpees30day Day 30 (FINALLY!): 30 burpees with double push-ups.

On the menu for the evening was the city’s best ($$) paella. I did some Yelp/TripAdvisor research on the best place to get some—and I found one whose reviews touted 3 bottles of wine and the “best seafood paella” the writers had ever had. We dined early tonight in hopes of getting to bed early. We were switching hotels on Friday and check-out was at noon, so we couldn’t sleep quite as late.

There was only one other couple in the restaurant (Bosque Palmero on Carrer de Valencia if you ever get the chance to go to Barcelona… Go here!) and the bartender/waitor didn’t speak any English. We got a bottle of the house red, an order of asparagus with mayonnaise (yes), and the seafood paella. The red wine came in an un-labelled bottle, and it was cold—and delicious. The asparagus was the fat, white kind and I didn’t use any of the glop of Hellman’s sitting oddly on the plate. It was also served with lettuce, tomato, and some corn. I put some oil & vineger on it—incredible. And oddly, also cold.

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About thirty minutes after we ordered the seafood paella came out. It was everything the reviews said and more.

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We practically licked the cast iron. After our bartender/waiter cleared the table the real waitstaff started showing up and setting tables (now 8:30pm and a typical dinner time). A waitress came over (who didn’t speak any English either) and asked us to move—a large party was coming in. We watched another waitress fill a pitcher for Sangria out of a spigot on the wall (like those that spout spring water in Povoacao) that produced the house red wine. When I pointed to it, our waitress rattled on in Spanish about it, but we caught the word “Magic”. It was a magic wall.

IMG_1089If I had had my big purse with me, I would’ve stuffed this bottle in it.

We moved and then ordered cappuccinos and two desserts (because why not?); a Catalan version of crème brulee, and an ice cream ball covered in that Tiramisu powder. After we licked those plates clean, she came back and asked if we wanted a “snap”, while miming something that looked like taking a shot. We said no, thank you. She seemed to ask whether we liked the desserts, which we assured her we did. She went to a clear liquor fridge and asked “Honey or strong?”, “Honey?” I replied. Sure enough, she poured of two shots of crema catalana as thanks for switching tables.

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I.Love.Barcelona.

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Day Seventy Eight (septuagesimo oitavo dia)

Friday (Sexta-feira)

Miraculously, John woke up around 10:00am (I had set an alarm for 10:30am, just in case) and we got our stuff ready to switch hotels.

Originally, I had only booked the first hotel for only three nights because we were entertaining the idea of going to Madrid for a few days. When we decided not to do that, I found a four star hotel that I could get for four nights and pay for with my miles. So, Friday we moved. We went around the corner to our favorite little cafe that we’ve found, el Fornet, and then checked out of The Sunotel Aston Hotel. We decided to huff it the 13 blocks to our next hotel located on Aveniguda Paral·lel. It is on one of the busiest streets in the city, and a whole star nicer than the Aston. We were prepared to just leave our bags as we were three hours early for check-in, but they had a room ready for us. We got settled in and then headed out to walk through Parc Monjuic, another route on my walking map that would take us to the Montjuic Castell, the Olimpic Stadium, and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (which we saw from the top of the Arenas de Barcelona the other day, and looks like a palace). We walked up and up and up (is this Povoacao?!), slowly seeing more and more of the city.

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It was cloudy when we began our ascent, but as we climbed higher, the sky became clearer. Along the way, John spotted a ropes course. We couldn’t go on without partaking. Make sure your volume is up if you decide to watch these.

After about two hours of hiking, we came upon the castell. Which is totally free and completely open to the public.

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We continued walking (finally downhill!) and found the Olimpic Stadium which housed the 1992 Olympic Games. We thought it was closed to the public, so we took some pictures from outside the gates.

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Then we found the public entrance. I’m the first one to make fun of selfies, but in front of the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona? #hatersgonnahate

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We walked all around the Olympic stadium and saw the baseball field, the equestrian stables, and the museum (not free and we didn’t even try to go in). We made our way toward the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Again, we were way more interested with the waterfalls, stairs, and other potential pictures. There are escalators that take you up to the art museum, as well as other high points in the park, which seems extremely American. We took the stairs. From this view, you can see the Arenas de Barcelona where we were the other day, oval structure towards the upper right corner.

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When we walked down the step of the art museum, toward the Arenas de Barcelona and we came into Placa Espanya. We made our way back to our hotel. We stopped at the cafe next to our hotel and had cappuccinos and shared a pineapple cake.

John wanted to have pizza for dinner, so I did some more Yelp/TripAdvisor research and found a nice little hole-in-the-wall 1.5km from our new hotel; La Bella Napoli. It didn’t open for dinner until 8:30pm and lots of reviewers wrote that there would be a wait. We got there at about 8:32pm and were the only people in the joint. The first thing you see is a wood fire pizza oven. Soon after we sat, our waiter brought over English menus. We ordered Peronis, bruchetta, and an eggplant and bacon pizza with mozzarella on only one half. The bruschetta arrived on the table in under 3 minutes, the pizza was out before we had finished our app. Everything was delicious. We had a few more beers (did I mention they had a TV playing Spanish league soccer? John was in heaven) before leaving our signatures on the wall.

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We passed over Gran Via on the way to the restaurant, a large street filled with street vendors, and had vowed to go back and look for what I call “street treats”. We walked a few blocks down the busy street that was slowly shutting down before our eyes. I saw a few treats that I didn’t partake in.

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I got my kicks from a chocolate-covered and creme filled churro. We kept walking and then stopped in our hotel bar for a few more beers. John had a little fun with the security camera whose footage constantly plays in the bar.

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Day Seventy Six.. navigating Barcelona

Day Seventy Six (septuagesimo sexto dia)

Wednesday (Quarto-feira)

We slept in until around 10:00am Azorean time… which was noon in Barcelona. We were totally exhausted from our travels and lack of sleep the night before our trip. We got ready and headed out for the afternoon. We stopped at a cafe on the corner next to our hotel (el Fornet, which turned out to be a chain) for cappuccinos and pastries. Well, I had a chocolate croissant and John had a prosciutto baguette.

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I had snagged a self-walking map in our hotel lobby featuring three different routes to walk and see sights. We headed off for route three. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining. We walked toward the route, taking detours when we saw a pretty sight or street. We saw an enormous white-tented market (mercat) and decided to walk through. It was like Eataly but a hundred different vendors all vying for customers. There were fresh vegetables and fruits, cheeses and meats, and raw fish, and butcher stand upon butcher stand. We walked the length of it inside, and then walked back to the beginning on the outside where there were more vendors selling mostly clothing. There were also a few vendors selling books and other trinkets. We stopped at one and bought gloves. I saw a girl wearing a pair of knitted gloves at the Barcelona game the night before that had fingers in one color and the hand another color, with buttons and flowers. This vendor had a black pair with grey fingers and maple colored buttons.

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I snagged them and the vendor suggested that in Barcelona I keep my bag in front of me with my hand on it, which I had heard before. I hoped I wouldn’t get mugged. Just like back in Povoacao, we stuck out as foreigners.

We kept walking through the wide streets of Barcelona. While being in a big, gridded, city reminded us of New York, the amount of people (fewer) and the amount of space (more) made it clearly European. The city is beautiful and fairly easy to navigate (if you have any sense of direction, which I don’t—Thanks, mom). The only thing I find completely inefficient are the octagon-shaped intersections which force you to walk down, across, and back to your path rather than walking in a straight line.

IMG_1224This is the real Mercat De St. Antoni, but it was closed due to construction.

We saw another tented mercat near St. Antoni plaza and walked through—this one looks like how Canal Street used to look before the cops got better at their jobs. There are several vendors and half of them of were covered with white vinyl curtains that pulled down quickly. There were towel vendors and slipper vendors, and people selling sweaters and shoes. We meandered through. We stopped on aveniguda de parallel at a tapas restaurant. We ordered prawns, mussels, and pork kebab. Our waiter brought out bread (which he charged us for) and olives. If a waiter brings anything small (like bread and butter, or olives) to your table that you didn’t order, would you be surprised if they charged you? Now, the pan was only one euro, but I was still pissed that it was on our bill. Apparently this is common practice in Europe. The food was decent and reasonably priced (except for John’s soda, which just like the cafe in the Ponta Delgada airport felt it totally reasonable to charge 2.25 for 12oz.). We walked on.

Not long after that, we were in Placa Espanya. We saw a giant arena (Arena de Barcelona) and discussed what might go on there. It looked like a giant stadium, but it also looked like there were shops, or maybe restaurants at the bottom. Maybe those are open to the public, we said. We decided to go in. It was the biggest shopping mall we’d ever been to (five floors? Six?) complete with a movie theatre at the top. After stopping into several stores without buying anything, we went up to the top. The Hobbit was playing (which John has been dying to see). Maybe, we said, they play the movies in English with Spanish subtitles? John asked a woman working: No, she said, they are Spanish-speaking films. Because we’re in Spain. Ha. We walked around the roof, where you can see Fira de Barcelona and the Nacional Museum d’Art.

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We walked down to the bottom floor (or second to bottom-floor) which was below ground and housed the food-court. We got more cappuccinos and I got another chocolate croissant and John got a cheese baguette. We began to walk home. I saw Ofelia’s Hotel and thought of Ofelia from the FH. I texted her this picture and missed home.

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We left the mall going the wrong way and cut through a park to get back on track. There was a dog run with a small fence that Romeo would easily jump. While we were walking by, one of the dogs inside jumped over the fence, then just as quickly, jumped back in. And out again. Back in. His owner was unconcerned.

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We found a bunch of kids practicing futsol. We saw a bocce court. We found something my mom would loved: ping-pong tables set up for public use.

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Finally, we found the street we were looking for. We stopped at a supermercat on the way back to the hotel to get snacks: bananas, water, fitness bars, iced tea, cookies, Happy Hippos, chips, and crackers. When we got back to the hotel, I looked up a place to have dinner. We didn’t want to spend too much (and had heard—and now seen—that Barcelona is expensive) so I looked restaurants on TripAdvisor. I found a bar near La Sagrada Familia that was cheap and had a lot of good reviews from English speakers on vacation. After we showered and I did my burpees (#30burpees30days Day 29: 30 burpee SPLATS) we headed out toward the Metro. My parents emailed me this picture of their house today:

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When we went to Camp Nou the night before, I had seen Sagrada Familia‘s stop on our line. I thought it was in the same direction as the stadium (remember that lack-of sense of direction??), so after a tiny bit of confusion in the station we got in a train going toward Sagrada Familia, which was only three stops away (in the opposite direction of Camp Nou). However, when we exited the Metro we went the wrong way and it took about 20 minutes of walking (finally stopping in another McDonald’s to use WiFi) to find Chill Bar. It looked like an absolute dive, but we sat in a back corner bench on assorted pillows and watched a soccer game while listening to lots of (British) English speakers. John got a burger and I had a burrito (no queso) which were both delicious and cheap. They didn’t even serve Spanish beers so John had a Heineken and I had a Canadian beer. They had a picture on the wall, graffiti really, that matched a piece of street art John saw in Furnas the first time he went to Sao Miguel back in June (before we knew all about the crazy adventure that little trip would bring!). He had Instagrammed a picture of it, so even though I’d never seen it in Furnas, I recognized it right away. I pointed it out to John–it seemed like a good start to our vacation.

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We had no trouble finding our way home.

 

Day Seventy-Five… PDL –> Lisboa –> Barca!

Day Seventy Five (septuagesimo quinta dia) Tuesday (Terca-feira) We got up early to be ready for Ernesto to pick us up at 8:00am. Marco was supposed to take us, but then said he couldn’t. Pedro couldn’t take us until after 9:15am, so Ernresto offered to take us. He picked Ken up and then grabbed us. Because Ken packed like he was going on Apollo Twenty Five, it took us a little while to situate our luggage in Ernesto’s car. I had done my thirty burpees before I got in the shower. #30burpees30days Day 28: 30 burpee SPLATS. We saw the cows again on our morning drive. IMG_0979 IMG_0978 We got to the airport just before 9:00am, and the check-in for our flight hadn’t even opened. I pulled a bolos levedos that I’d been hoarding since Saturday’s trip to Furnas out of my purse and split it with Ken. After we went through security, we got raped by the ridiculous prices at the one airport cafe—2.25€ for a can of iced tea? We spent 15€ before we even left the island. Our flight was delayed about 45 minutes, which only made our layover there shorter.  Even though it’s only two hours to Lisbon they served a “light meal”—a sandwich, a fruit puree, and a drink. The tuna had cream cheese on it and I ate it anyways. It was delicious. When we landed in Lisbon, we checked for our next gate and saw that that flight was delayed too—only fifteen minutes. We headed to find what my little heart had been craving since we planned this trip. The Promised Land. IMG_0988 After we got our coffees and a snack, we went back to our gate. Delayed again. Our only concern was arriving on time for our first (and only) scheduled Barcelona activity: FC Barcelona vs. Cartegena at Camp Nou that night. At 10:00pm local time. We were originally set to land at 7:30pm and we ended up landing at 8:00pm. We got our checked bags and headed to find a cab. We didn’t go through customs so we didn’t get caught up. We also didn’t get stamps for our passports. An Indian man approached us along the way and asked where we were headed and we told him what hotel we were staying at. He said he would charge us 35€. I thought that sounded like a lot. We tried to get him down to 30€, but he wouldn’t budge. We left him to find a cab, which he warned us against—with the traffic at “rush hour” it would be much more, he heeded. It was 8:30pm, where in the world had rush-hour traffic? We hopped in a Prius in the taxi queue. It cost us 32.70€. He tried to bring us to the Hotel Astoria first (no, no, sir. The ASS-TON SU-NO-TELL). Thankfully, he turned off his meter shortly after he started his new route to our hotel. We arrived there before 9:00pm. After we figured out how to open our door and turn on the lights (harder than you might think), we dropped our stuff off (valuables in the safe!) and took the Metro to Camp Nou. We had been planning to take another cab, but the concierge urged us to take the Metro—it’s easy, he said. And it was. It was only about a four-minute walk to the station and Camp Nou was five stops away. We got to the stadium 15 minutes before the game started. It was lots of fun for me and John kept saying he felt like he was in a dream. IMG_0998 IMG_1017 IMG_1030 After Barcelona won 3-0 we headed off to take the Metro home again, only the station was closed. It was hard to tell whether it was just this stop or whether the Metro shut down at midnight. Lots of other people were trying to take it as well. After a few minutes of standing there, we decided to walk back to the hotel (only 3 kilometers away). We had no idea which direction to walk (even with my map). We walked into a McDonald’s on the corner and used their WiFi. I took a screen shot of the directions and  45 minutes later we were back at the hotel. Success.

#71, #72, #73, #74 Christmas dinner with the ladies of ALKE

Day Seventy One (septuagesimo primeiro dia)

Friday (Sexta-feira)

Semana onze

Now that I have my GPS watch (THANK YOU, JACKALOPE), I can go back to doing timed miles. I still took Romeo for 1.9 and then booked it for 1.1 by myself. It wasn’t raining and I couldn’t help but be incredibly thankful for running in a tank top, by the ocean, in the middle of December. It is so worth all that running in the rain.

We met Ken at the gym where John told us we were in charge of the workout. While completely capable neither Ken nor I ever take charge of deciding the workout. We stuck with our 300-theme for Fridays and did:

  1. pull ups x50
  2. goblet squats x50
  3. staggered push-ups x50
  4. alternating v-ups x50
  5. hanging leg lifts x50
  6. thrust frogs x50

I finished with 30 burpee SPLATS, and thought about how I won’t miss this challenge. #30burpees30days Day 25: 30 burpee SPLATS.

After Pic-Nic we went home where I wrote a book about how to care for Romeo. We’ve never left him alone overnight and we’ve never left him with anyone other than a roommate or family. John told me I should’ve used bullet points, and I said “but these are bullet points”. It was three handwritten pages. Majid will be taking care of him, and Lina and Carla will walk him in the morning.

The Ernesto from Pic Nic made this beautiful galao for me.

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I had six ladies in class. I am going to miss them while we’re away, but we’re going to hold some classes between Christmas and New Years’ so everyone stays on track.

I went home and made meatball subs for dinner. We forgot to buy chicken this week when we went shopping, so I have been trying to be creative with the ground beef. I made them the same way as last time, except I chopped the onion more finely and I let them sit for a few minutes after I baked them so they wouldn’t fall apart in the sauce. John brought Ken home for dinner and we ate the rest of the hummus with some crudite I cut up. The Meatball subs were delish.

Lina had brought me and John back bolas de berlim from her trip to the city today. We shared them with Ken. #nomnom

Day Seventy-two (septuagesimo segundo dia)

Saturday (Sabado)

Long run Saturday. I didn’t take Romeo with me because Majid was coming over to learn about how to care for #sweetbabyromeo. I did 14 miles in the sun. Because I didn’t have Romeo I went straight for the lombas without doing my flat warm-up, which was a mistake. The hills feel a whole lot hillier when you’re not warmed up.

I got home in time to shower and run down to Antonio’s to buy an onion for dinner. We met Ken and Ernesto in the jardim (trans: garden, but specifically the one next to Pic-Nic) and we went to the Terra Nostra Hotel and Gardens in Furnas to go to the hot springs. We walked through the gardens before we got in the pool but I didn’t have my phone (who brings their phone to a pool??), so I got zero pictures for you. Next time.

We hung out in the pool for about an hour and then stopped to get bolos levedos and pastries on the way back. The same place that has the most delicious bolos also has this decadent caramel cake. John got a fried pumpkin dumpling-like pastry that was equally as delicious. We sped home so Ken and John could get to the field for the juniors’ game.

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Two weeks ago the juniors’ finally had their first win since John and Ken took over coaching. They won 4-3 but shoulda-coulda won by a bigger margin—they definitely out-played the other team, they just conceded a few silly goals. They were facing the same team again, so I at least was feeling confident for them. The junior Mira Mar team is full of really solid players, they just haven’t been playing as a team. They did in the last game, and they played even more so as one on Saturday night.

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Mira Mar had two beautiful goals in the first half, conceding none to hold Maritimo at 2-0. They scored four more gorgeous goals in the second half. At about the 91st minute, Maritimo finally got lucky and scored for a final of Mira Mar: 6 Maritimo: 1. Hallelujah.

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I was like a proud mama cheering for those boys–I was so proud and I knew John and Ken were, too. Ernesto and Kevin were there and they gave me a lift back down to the vila. Serenela brought her dog Wendy to the game. Betinho also brought the Mira Mar mascot, Mira, a stray dog that Serenela took in and Betinho adopted.

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We went to Pic-Nic to celebrate with burgers (but not beers… John is still “not drinking” after his episode at Cesar’s bar with his team). John forgot to ask for no queijo on mine, but Diogo knows. He called it the “Liza Minelli Burger”. He said he knows because he reads my blog. We went home and watched my favorite movie of all time. Love Actually.

IMG_0929Because love actually is all around us.

In all the excitement I FORGOT TO DO MY BURPEES. #30burpees30days Day 26: EPIC FAIL 0 BURPEES.

Day Seventy Three (septuagesimo terceiro dia)

Sunday (Domingo)

Usually I take Sunday off from running, but I am not going to run when we’re in Barcelona (I am packing jump ropes and black bands), so I ran a 5k when I got up. John and I went down to Pic-Nic and then he got picked up for his game. This is the game we’ve been waiting for/dreading/dying to win. Mira Mar was playing their neighbor and rival from Furnas (the hotel with hot springs where we went the day before? We could see this stadium from there), Vale Formoso (pro: val-fur-MOOS). Ernesto and Kevin picked me up. The sun was shining for the third straight day in a row. I took this as a good omen. Poor, little, naïve thinking Liza!

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Vale Formoso players dive more than any other team Mira Mar has played and their captain is the number one offender. They went down screaming in an effort to get yellow cards and free kicks. It worked since that is the way that all teams here play and the way the refs call games. Vale Formoso was awarded a free kick maybe 15 minutes in and scored. Mira Mar was awarded a corner kick which John took. John told me later that he always aims for Ken’s face when taking a corner kick. It’s hard to tell from the stands who knocks in corner kicks. This time it was Ken. Mira Mar tied it up 1-1.

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Another five minutes passed and a Vale Formoso player ripped a shot on goal that hit the crossbar and bounced down and out, then another Vale Formoso player headed it over the net. The refs CALLED IT A GOAL. Vale Formoso didn’t even think they had scored! But the linesman and head ref conferred: goal. Mira Mar finished the first half down 2-1.

Other notable things that happened during the game:

Vale Formoso ALSO has a crazy fan lady. Two things our crazy fan lady has that theirs doesn’t?

  1. A fog horn and
  2. All her teeth.

Their crazy fan lady was not a fan of the number of American players. I tried to cheer in Portuguese as much as possible, and stayed away form any slang or swears. No need to repeat embarrassing incidents today.

Vale Formoro scored two more times in the second half. Mira Mar didn’t score at all. Mira Mar didn’t even have a shot on net in the second half. In fact, I think they only had one shot on the net the whole game. A free kick that Berto took (top scorer!) that went super wide.

During the second half, the captain of Vale Formoso kneed Mira Mar’s Marco which sent the crowd into an uproar. One Mira Mar fan tossed his cellphone onto the field in anger and was immediately removed from the complex by the policia.

IMG_0969Here, the man in the light blue hat is removed by the policia.

Marco was later taken out by a Vale Formoso player and landed in front of their goalie so hard that their goalie kneeled down to pick him up; he flopped like a dead fish. The one paramedic (or something half that official) sprinted across the field. Just like the game in Arrifes against Aguia, one of the Mira Mar officials stretched Marco’s back out and he continued to play.

Unfortunately, Mira Mar lost 4-1. We had more pasta and sauce for dinner and went to Pic-Nic to have cervejas. Even John had a few beers to commiserate.

I tweeted @spartanrace about my missed day of burpees. I did 60 to make up for my burpee failure the previous day. #30burpees30days Day 26 take 2: 60 burpee SPLATS.

Day Seventy Four (septuagesimo quatro dia)

Monday (Segunda-feira)

Our last day in Povoacao I wanted to run 6.0. I didn’t take Romeo with me (again) because I wanted to just bang it out. John was still sleeping-off Mira Mar’s tragic loss. When I got back John was just getting up and checking in with Ken about the gym. I went off to the ATM and the hardware store to make a key for Majid. After the ATM, I stopped in at the farmacia to see if they had any insoles. I love my Chinese store boots, but they don’t have any support.

For those of you who follow my #runnerproblems, in addition to runaway toenails (which are currently intact!), my plantar fascitis has sucked since we got here. I still foam roll daily for that myofascial release, but it’s been killing me. I can’t go walking around in my sweet Chinese store boots for 8 days. After some interesting sign language at the farmacia I found Dr. Scholl’s insoles. Cha-ching.

Off to Carla’s dad’s hardware store to make a key, and back to the apartment. John hadn’t heard from Ken but we found him at the gym. John and I did separate workouts today, but I did:

  • Fwd lunge (outside in the SUN) to DB bench
  • SB pike/push-up to goblet squats
  • Decline push ups to burpee SPLATS

#30burpees30days Day 27: 45 burpee SPLATS.

We headed to Pic-Nic for the last time and to shop at Fatima’s. We get home from Barcelona Christmas Eve, so we bought groceries (frozen and non-perishables) for when we get back. Ken came over and they made what we later named “The Povoacao”: papas secos, two eggs, two pieces of ham, two pieces of bacon, and (for them) two pieces of cheese. John made hashbrowns, too. We feasted. Lina and Carla came over to learn how to do Romeo’s collar, since they’re going to be checking in on him and walking him in the mornings.

I ran down to Casa Cheia and bought baby lotion and conditioner. I decided to make chocolate chip cookies for our ALKE Christmas dinner (which I can do since Judi sent us 4.5 lbs worth of tollhouse! Thank you very much). Because I only have one glass baking dish, so it took me two hours to make about 35 cookies, but they turned out well. I used the tollhouse recipe and the only thing I didn’t have was vanilla extract.

I headed over to teach my last class until after Christmas—there were eleven ladies. We did a TON of black bands. My gift to them: Feliz Natal!

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After class I headed home to shower quickly and change into non-gym clothes. Ernesto had invited John and Ken for dinner, too. While the ladies of ALKE and I housed pizza (and later homemade donuts) and guzzled wine, Ernesto, Emanuel, Ken, Kevin, and John ate Italian sandwiches behind us. John and I finally walked home around 11:00pm to finish our laundry and packing.

photo 1A small group of diehards!

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Since Romeo acts out when he knows we’re leaving, he decided to expel toxic gases from his butthole all night long—until we got up at 6:00am. Another night of little sleep for John&Liza.