Barcelona, Spain – Europe 2010 (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series Europe 2010 (Spain and Mediterranean Cruise)

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.

After our four day organized tour dropped us off back in Madrid in the late evening, we spent one night at a hotel in Madrid, close to the train station, since we’d be traveling to Barcelona by train the next morning.

The Renfe train was fast, easy, relatively inexpensive, and much more relaxing than flying. Once we arrived in Barcelona, we checked into our hotel, and met up with my sister, her husband, and their (then) four-year-old son who had flown into Barcelona from the U.S. the previous night.

Sagrada Familia

Our first stop in was Sagrada Familia, a famous Antoni Gaudi building in Barcelona.

I recommend reading about the Sagrada Familia, because its history is lengthy and too complicated to cover in a blog post. But basically it is a cathedral that has been under construction since 1883. (No, that’s not a typo. The late 1800s.) And it’s not scheduled to be completed until 2026, so inside it was almost like a big construction zone. Entrance fees to Sagrada Familia help fund its completion!

Outside Sagrada Familia Outside Sagrada Familia Outside Sagrada Familia Details on Sagrada Familia cathedral

We had actually bought my nephew an inexpensive little digital camera because he always loved taking photos, and he always dismissed those toy digital cameras. We bought it before we left for Spain and decided we’d give it to him in Barcelona! He was thoroughly enjoying the camera!

nephew taking photos

We had to stand in a line that moved pretty quickly to get inside (again, one of the benefits of traveling in Spain in late September / early October … very few crowds!

The details inside were incredible.

Inside Sagrada Familia Inside Sagrada Familia Inside Sagrada Familia Inside Sagrada Familia

And, there were very clear indicators that this structure is still very much a construction site:

Construction Inside Sagrada Familia

Afterwards, we stood in a different line to take an elevator to the top of one of the spires. If I recall correctly, there are four or five different elevators you can take that have different views of Barcelona. We stood in line, and then as we got closer to the elevator, I saw a sign saying that the elevators were one-way only. That you have to take a narrow spiral staircase back down to the bottom.

Well, me and spiral staircases do not get along. I decided against going up to the top, and instead just Ken, my nephew, and my sister went up while I waited at the bottom!

Here are some photos that Ken took at the top!

View of Barcelona from Sagrada Familia Spires at top of Sagrada Familia Views from top of Sagrada Familia Views from top of Sagrada Familia Views from top of Sagrada Familia Views from top of Sagrada Familia

And seeing just how narrow that spiral staircase was and that there were no handrails, I made the right decision not to go up. I would’ve ended up with a broken neck on the way down!

Narrow staircases at Sagrada Familia


Our next stop was Montjuic. Montjuic is a mountain top in Barcelona that gives sweeping views of the city. First you take a funicular to the upper part of the city, then cable cars to Montjuic.

Sign for funicular to Montjuic Funicular to Montjuic in Barcelona

All five of us fit in the cable car just fine.

Cable car to Montjuic

And the views from the cable car were spectacular:

Views from cable car to Montjuic Views from cable car to Montjuic

The views from the top really were spectacular:

View from top of Montjuic View from top of Montjuic View from top of Montjuic View from top of Montjuic View from top of Montjuic

My nephew had a great time running around and checking out all the old cannons that were on display:

Cannons on Montjuic

It was a fantastic place to walk around and take in the sites.

Top of Montjuic in Barcelona Top of Montjuic in Barcelona Top of Montjuic in Barcelona Top of Montjuic in Barcelona

But be careful and don’t fall off the edge of the mountain!

Don’t fall?

We spent a good chunk of our afternoon on Montjuic, and then headed back down the cable car, down the funicular, and back to our hotel before heading out to dinner later that night. It was an early night for us. Ken and I had been up since about 6AM to catch the train from Madrid, and my sister and her family were still jetlagged from the flight the night before.

Oh, but I should point out that Ken had broken his sunglasses (a screw had fallen out), and he managed to find an eyeglass store that very kindly fixed his glasses for free!

Walking around Barcelona

The next morning day was our cruise departure day! We had some time to kill in the morning before we could board the cruise ship, so we walked around the city for a while.

Barcelona is gorgeous!

Barcelona city views Barcelona city views Barcelona city views Barcelona city views Barcelona city views Barcelona city views Barcelona city views Barcelona city views

Picasso Museum

We visited the Pablo Picasso Museum after walking around the city for a while.

Picasso Museum

Photos weren’t allowed of any of the indoor spaces or artwork, so unfortunately I don’t have many photos to share of the Picasso Museum except for an outdoor walkway and a fun glass floor in their lobby!

Inside Picasso Museum Inside Picasso Museum

Before heading back to the hotel to get packed up, we stopped by a cafe to get some hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was more like hot pudding, because it was SO thick and rich and amazing.

Amazing hot chocolate in Barcelona Hot chocolate in Spain Hot chocolate in Spain

On our way back to the hotel, I chuckled at this sign at a subway station:

Funny no peeing sign at subway station

And that was it! Although I would’ve loved to have spent more time in Barcelona, it was time to board our cruise ship, the Celebrity Constellation! We said farewell to Barcelona as our cruise ship pulled away.

Next up, a review of the Celebrity Constellation!

Cruise ship sailing from Barcelona

DIY DVD Shelf Project (Part 2)

A few weeks ago, I gave an overview of our DIY DVD shelves. I described different options we tried, how we almost gave up on the whole project, and then how we finally found the perfect material for the shelving … Select Pine Board from Home Depot.

Today we’re back and ready to provide the nitty gritty details.  (Again, apologies for the lighting in these photos.  We have virtually no natural light in our basement.  No windows, and the french doors are actually covered by a deck, which blocks even more light! Better lighting options, including some recessed lighting, are on our master home renovation list!)

After we took some measurements, we determined the number of Select Pine Boards we would need. Our wall was 147 inches wide and 90 inches tall. We’d have to make a few cuts, but luckily not too many.

Here was the big pile of Select Pine Boards before we got started!

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First, we did an entire test row. We installed a row of brackets (in our case, we were using corner braces which worked great, and were much cheaper compared to normal brackets.)

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We used our laser level to make sure all of the brackets were being screwed in nice and level.

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Then, we put shelves on top of the brackets (without screwing them yet). We did this so we could 1) Get a precise measurement of how much we would have to cut off the end of one piece of wood for each row, and 2) To make sure that the shelf was sturdy enough to hold up lots of DVDs!

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It worked great!

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Then it was time to install the rest of the brackets. Using an end bracket on one side, Ken worked his way vertically to ensure that each shelf was spaced properly to allow for a DVD case height. We used a piece of scrap wood that was cut to match the average height of a DVD/BluRay case.

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(We knew that, thanks to the height of our wall, we wouldn’t be able to get every space evenly, so our top row is a “tall” shelf, meaning that there is more space between the top shelf and ceiling than there is between the other shelves. But that was fine, and it would be great to house some of our taller DVD collections).

Then, thanks to the magic of photography, we had a wall full of brackets!

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To get the correct length of our shelves to fit the entire length of the wall, we used, for each row, one 8 foot Select Pine Board uncut, and then a 6 foot Select Pine Board, which we had to cut about 14 inches from for it it fit the wall properly.

So, we placed the 8 foot pine boards on the brackets.

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Then we measured and cut each piece of 6 foot pine board.

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We just used a miter saw to cut the wood. We clamped it down the make the cut easier, but we actually placed the clamp on a scrap piece of wood to avoid denting or damaging the pine board.

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Unfortunately the miter saw wasn’t quite long enough, and we had to do two separate cuts. (See below where the wood wasn’t completely cut). It still worked fine though, and we didn’t have to use or purchase any additional tools.

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Then we placed the cut pieces on the brackets and we had a full set of shelves! It was time to start screwing the wood to the brackets!

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Side note: We did end up buying a tool that we did not have. It was VERY difficult to use our normal drill to screw the brackets to the wood because the space between the rows of shelves was so tight. We purchased a right angle drill and that made the job INFINITELY easier! We have lamented on previous projects that a right angle drill would have made our work easier, so we definitely see future uses for this tool!

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As we progressed, we noticed a problem. Where the two pieces of wood met, they didn’t align after they were screwed to the brackets.

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After some quick brainstorming, we decided to try simple wood glue to attach the two pieces together, essentially creating one big long piece of wood instead of two separate pieces of wood.  We unscrewed all the screws!

Gluing about 12 feet of wood together was not easy logistically, especially considering our lack of dedicated workspace (like a garage) in our house. But, we ended up rigging together something that worked. We put out two folding tables, and placed the two pieces of wood on the table. The smaller pieces you see sitting on top are just there to weigh the wood down.

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Ken put a heavy bead of glue on each seam.

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And then we clamped the two pieces together.

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We let the glue dry overnight, and since we only had space to glue three shelves at a time, this added several days to the project! But, once we would take off the brackets, the two pieces of wood were firmly bonded!

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Once the glue dried, we took a hand sander and sanded off the excess glue.

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Then we put the shelves back on the brackets, and continued screwing them in. Ken would use the right angle drill to screw from the bottom, and I would place my hand on top of the shelf so that it wouldn’t move while he was screwing the pieces together.

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We used these 3/4″ screws to affix the brackets to the wood. (Ken is a huge fan of Robinson screws, also called Square screws, but you can use plain old Phillips screws too).

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Before long, all the shelves were attached to the brackets and we had nice clean seams where the two pieces of wood met!

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And there you have it! Our completed DIY DVD Wall Shelves!

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We added some fun stuff to the shelves like my old Atari (on the top shelf) and Ken’s old Game Cube (in the middle) and Super Nintendo (Top Shelf). There’s a few other things too, like the Atari Controller, a Game Boy, and our Apple TV box (that we don’t use anymore).

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In the future, we may consider staining the wood a darker color, or maybe even spray painting the brackets. But, by the time we finally arrived at a solution that worked after our first several failed attempts, we were in a hurry to get the shelves up on the wall! But all the hard work is done now, like the measuring. Removing items one row at a time to stain or spray paint wouldn’t be too much of a problem.

But for now, we love it as-is! Much better than the old store-bought shelves, don’t you think?

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How do you store your DVD collection?

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Friday Randomness 4-4-14

  • Last summer I started watching the TV series The West Wing. I just finished it up on Monday night! That was a really fantastic show, and I’m trying to figure out what to watch next.
  • On a related note, I’ve never watched any Star Trek TV shows. (Ken was pretty appalled to learn this a few months after we started dating!) But I kind of feel like maybe I should? There are so many pop culture references to Star Trek that always just go right over my head. I started watching Star Trek the Original Series on Amazon Prime the other night, but it just seemed SO CHEESY. Should I watch it?
  • My garden is popping up seedlings like crazy! I may have to transplant them larger containers indoors a few times before it’s warm enough to plant them outside!
  • This news has been making its way around the travel blogs like crazy. I am so, so excited by this development. I frequently fly from Washington, DC > Pittsburgh, and since US Airways pretty much has a monopoly on that route, flights can be very, very expensive ($400+ for just a 30 minute flight). I checked flights for some weekends I plan to travel to Pittsburgh this spring and summer, and Avios availability seems to be plentiful! So excited to have this redemption opportunity!
  • I took an Advanced Microsoft Excel workshop on Macros the other day at work. I work in Excel a lot, and I was interested in learning some of the powerful things you can do using macros and Visual Basic programming. After taking a course like that, I realize that I only use a minute fraction of Excel’s functionality. I want to learn even more about it!
  • I am in need of some new cookware. I registered for some when we got married a few years ago, but only got a few stainless steel pieces, which I unfortunately hate. Everything sticks to them and they seem impossible to get clean! All our other pieces are cheap-o starter pieces we’ve had since getting our first apartments. I’m thinking about going for more cast iron pieces, as well as some nonstick pieces. But why do nonstick pieces seem to be SO expensive these days though? $79 for a saucepan? Ummm, no. Any recommendations for good cookware brands?
  • Have you ever wondered why a ribbon curls after scraping scissors on it? Well, I never wondered until I actually heard someone ask the question!
  • I’m going to start planning a trip to Key West in the fall. Do you have any recommendations? I saw this National Park, Dry Tortugas, which is near Key West but accessible only by Ferry or Seaplane. I’m wondering if it’s worth the time and effort to get there?
  • I have exceptionally long hair. Like halfway down my butt long. Going to the salon for a haircut is a rare occurrence for me, and when I do go, it is very, very frustrating. I have yet to find a “long hair-friendly” stylist. They all want me to chop off my hair in some shoulder length trendy cut. I love doing elaborate braids and buns, so I like keeping my hair long. It had been nearly a year since my last professional cut (I do at-home trims myself), and I went to a new salon because the last place messed up my bangs. This stylist seemed outright disgusted that I wanted to keep my hair long. I almost got up and left. Might I add that my hair is very thick and healthy, so it’s not like I’m keeping a head full of damaged tresses. Ugh. The search for a long-hair friendly salon continues. Maybe I should just go to a Hair Cuttery or something?

What we ate this week

Tried and True Recipes.

  • Homemade Pizza using this dough recipe in my bread maker. But, instead of canned pizza sauce, I made homemade pizza sauce. It was just okay. Almost too tomato-ey? I think I would’ve liked it better with crushed tomatoes instead of the strong flavor of tomato paste.
  • Neat Sloppy Joe’s. Been making this recipe for several years now (minus the celery because Ken doesn’t like celery). A very easy, one pot, quick cooking meal!
  • Garlic Chicken Cheese Roll-Ups. Another recipe I’ve been making for years. So yummy and flavorful (which is not always something I can say about chicken!)

New Recipes

  • Fettuccine Alfredo. I have been tinkering with several Fettuccine Alfredo recipes for a few years now, and have never really found one that I like. The sauce is always much “browner” than I’m used to getting in restaurants, and never seems to be as creamy. Embarrassedly, I really like the Alfredo from Olive Garden. So I googled Olive Garden Alfredo recipe, and voila! Many options. We tried this one, and I definitely think it is the best Alfredo recipe I’ve tried thus far! I subbed real grated garlic for the garlic powder.

We also went out to eat one night in Baltimore for a family birthday, and had a very light dinner of Bread and Brie Cheese from Trader Joe’s another night.