I write to you from the windy green land of your ancestors--aye, from Scotland. We arrived early Saturday afternoon and we can already tell it's going to be a wonderful fall. Since I last wrote you though we've had quite the week.
Our timing in Paris turned out to be impeccable. Monday as we departed for the airport it began to rain. it wasn't raining at our destination, though, in sunny Barcelona. Our flight was comfortable and we caught a bus and the metro to our apartment, practically across the street from the Sagrada Familia cathedral.
Unfortunately, though our hosts were nice and the room was well-kept, it was hot... We're talking I haven't sweat this much since my first transfer in Brazil, where our white brick house on the top of a hill turned into a kiln every evening, baking the four little missionaries inside. Same thing. A combo of no ventilation and no air conditioning resulted in two toasty tourists. What's more AnneMarie unfortunately caught a cold has been fighting it ever since. Thinking of having a more restful day, I moved our Vespa reservation to Thursday and we decided to go to Montserrat, a monastery/church/village built on the side of a sheer rock face.
It was an hour train ride there and then we took a ride 75 degrees up the side of the mountains in a cable car...built in 1930. Seriously though. Very exciting. Famished, we enjoyed a meal from the monastery's delicious cafeteria, fresh pasta, sausage, beans yummmm. Then we took another similar ride even farther up the mountain before hiking to the very tippity top by ourselves. Along the way we had stunning views of the surrounding countryside and passed two 15th century hermitages, one built into an incredible cliff face. We were mostly on our own climbing to the top of the peak (a bit too adventuresome for some perhaps) but we were joined part way up by a nice German man who really wanted to talk with us! A tour of the monastery and its history along with some slushies to cool us down finished our day off and we took the train back to Barcelona, passing some ancient roman ruins along the way. Oh, and then we had a very delicious paella at night, the classic Spanish seafood and rice dish:)
Wednesday we visited the incredible local markets, sampling LOTS of fresh juice, fresh seafood, and sweets. They had huge assortments of fish, nuts, chocolate, fruits, veggies, etc. I've never seen anything like it. AnneMarie went big with fried mini octopus and large fried anchovies, head and all. (I'm telling you, the amazing race is ours!)
We visited the ornate Barcelona cathedral inside the old roman walls of the old city and then headed to the beach!
We swam in the Mediterranean! And then bolted after people started uncovering themselves. We found out later that that wasn't even the nude beach! What the heck! We walked by the port village from the 1992 Olympics, and had AMAZING Venezuelan food for dinner. Food so good we went back Thursday night as well, even getting to know the owner a bit.
We also toured the Sagrada Familia cathedral whose exterior had become almost commonplace to us by the time we got to go inside. The inside was not commonplace however. It was radiantly colorful and very very large. By the time we got there we'd already been to quite a few churches but this was quite possible the most impressive. White walls were quite literally painted when the sun threw the colors of the stained glass on it their surface.
Thursday was the big day. The day I rode a Vespa for the first time. In a foreign country. We rented it originally for a day but shortened that to just six hours since Ammie was a bit worn out. Sorry to disappoint in the drama department but everything went smoothly and we enjoyed our time on the scooter immensely. We took it a beautiful park called Labyrnt d'Horta, or garden of the labyrinth. And it was a labyrinth. It took us awhile to get out and while we didn't hit all the dead ends we found our fair share. After surviving the maze we headed up Mt. Tibidabo, overlooking Barcelona. The mountain is crowned with the amusing combination of a minor basilica and an amusement park. We handled the combination by solemnly taking in the views whilst munching on churros covered in chocolate then headed home along the winding roads.
Friday we left Barcelona and headed back to Paris, tired and happy. Our Airbnb hosts in Paris prepared an exquisite meal French meal for us called Raclette. It is a special type of cheese melted during the meal and eaten with different meats and vegetables. In our case we had several types of cured hams and also duck which we cooked during the meal. Yuummmmmm. Lit by candlelight, eaten in the garden, it was a perfect romantic ending to this portion of our adventure.
Arriving in Scotland, we have been so graciously received by our hosts Jurgita and Jaro. Jaro is from the Czech Republic, though he's lived here in the U.K. for about 8 years now and Jurgita is from Lithuania and she's lived here for awhile now as well. We are warm and cozy in their brand new three bedroom townhouse with our own bathroom and bedroom. We're enjoying the cooler weather since its been quite some time since we broke out our winter clothing and were able to pile blankets on our bed. Next week I'll have a better report on Scotland as I haven't been able to really get out much yet. All I can say is that it's beautiful, very green, generally cloudy and windy and were very excited to dive into the Scottish culture.
With all these travels, one thought continually impressed on me is how to share the gospel with all these wonderful people we meet along the way. I've tried using gospel words and of course just setting a good example. We had a small discussion with our French hosts after we shared that we didn't drink wine (a French favorite), tea, or coffee. I expect we'll have the same discussion here in Scotland before long, just looking at the pantry. We hope to invite them to church with us as well. Anyway, know that these thoughts are foremost in our minds as we explore the world. With all the fun that traveling can be, it is impressive (in the sense of impressionable) to get a sense of the scope of humanity and it conveys a clear impression that we are all children of a Heavenly Father. It's usually at that moment that I wish I could convey to them exactly who they are. You can:)
All Our Love,
Tanner and AnneMarie