Aunt Janice & Uncle Dave Take on Catalunya

Karie on Jul 7th 2008 03:43 pm

Aunt Janice has been one of our biggest supporters almost ever since she found out we were moving to Spain.  At first she wasn’t too happy about it, but the more she learned about Spain, the more she wanted us to move so that they could visit.

My mom (who thinks “Barcelona” is Catalan for “stairs”), gave her big sister all sorts of warnings before their big trip… “Now Janice, it’s going to be a lot of walking and a lot of stairs… Are you practicing?  Did you pack the Ibuprofen?”  So Aunt Janice & Uncle Dave were well prepared for the trip.  It also helped that my parents, being our first visitors, were our guinea pigs.  After we ran them into the ground, we realized maybe we had tried to fit in too much, so we have since improved our tour guide skills.  I’m sure they are glad to have made that sacrifice for the well being of our future guests. Right mom & dad?

This was Aunt Janice & Uncle Dave’s first trip outside of North America, so I expected some things to be a huge adjustment for them.  What surprised me was which things were a culture shock, and which things were no problema.

I was so impressed with their open-mindedness and understanding of the Spanish culture.  They tried new foods, walked all over the place, braved the public transportation, saw all kinds of interesting characters that might by considered “inappropriate” in other parts of the world… and nothing really shook them.  Except…

Their first morning, Aunt Janice approached the receptionist in their hotel lobby and asked for 2 fresh towels, and 2 washcloths.  The receptionist only spoke a little English, so she had to repeat her request a couple of times.  Finally, the girl admitted, “I don’t know what you mean,” So Aunt Janice replies, “You know, washcloths”, while making a washing motion with her hands.  The girl, thinking she might be catching on now, replied, “Soap???”  After a few more minutes of discussion, Aunt Janice ended up walking away with 2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and a bottle of hand soap… but still no washcloths.

They found it humorous that the receptionist had never heard of such a thing, and almost couldn’t believe it when we later explained that they just don’t use washcloths here.  Dave was appalled.

No condiments on sandwiches?  Fine.
Everything closes in the middle of the day?  Fine.
63 steps to get to Scott & Karie’s flat?  Fine.
Pickpockets everywhere?  Fine.
No washcloths?!?!  You’ve got to be kidding me.

Dave spent the next couple of days in search of a washcloth, despite the fact that we told him he’d never find one.  He eventually purchased a hand towel and cut it down to size to get multiple washcloths out of one.

Ok.  All is well in the world again.

Throughout the week, we took them around to all our favorite sites, and even sent them out on their own for the afternoon while Scott & I had to work.  However, we also got to have a few new experiences together.  My two favorites:

My 30th Birthday
I was pleased to have my aunt & uncle present as I bid adieu to my 20’s, and entered the land where everything begins with 3.  One friend told me, “It’s all uphill from here… that is, until you hit 40 and roll over the other side of it.”  Others told me that “30 is the new 20.”  I like that idea, but I have a feeling my second go ‘round at that decade will probably go a little slower than the first.  Anyhow, it was a great birthday, and they showered me with gifts of all my favorite things: clothes, Cheez-Its, Jiff peanut butter (all treats from home), and dinner out at a Mexican restaurant.  What more could a California girl ask for?

Tarragona, Spain
We had wanted to visit this town for a while, but purposely waited until we had visitors, so we could all experience something new together.  Tarragona is  about 1½ hours south of Barcelona, on the Costa Dorada (golden coast).  It has impressive amounts of well-preserved Roman ruins, including a large amphitheatre dating back to the 2nd century, when this was the ancient city of Torraco.

Among the usual games & spectacles that occurred here, it is also where the first Christians in this area were martyred.  After it was abandoned, a basilica was built on the site of the amphitheatre, in memorial of the martyrs.  Now, after a bit of restoration & reconstruction, you can see bits of both the original amphitheatre, as well as the basilica in the center.  Another cool thing about this amphitheatre is its location, set just outside of the town walls, against the backdrop of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

We walked around the town for a bit, stopped for a lunch break, then continued on.  For 4 Euros you can do the Archaeological Walk, which covers the most preserved parts of the Roman walls that once surrounded the entire city.  The towers along this wall date back to the 2nd and 3rd century BC, making them the oldest preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy.  Very cool.

We had taken the train into town, but opted to take the bus back home, which is probably one of Aunt Janice’s most vivid memories of the entire trip.  I’m not sure why.  The lines that separate lanes of traffic are just a suggestion, right?  He with the biggest vehicle wins.  That’s rule #2 here, right behind “no washcloths.”

Anyhow, we had so much fun hanging out with my aunt & uncle for a week.  It was great to have them here… and they kept up with us every step of the way!  The bar for “how much a tourist over 50 can handle” has been raised.  Who’s next, huh?!  Any takers who think they can compete with the energy of Aunt Janice & Uncle Dave??

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