Part I - Cinque Terre (06-09)
We ended our Italian travels in Cinque Terre, a string of 5 villages along the beautiful rocky northern coast. Though usually packed with tourists, it was still off-season so it was nice and quiet. While in Sienna there were still resident's cars that were making noise and polluting the air, here, 4 of the villages (the nicest, too) were completely without automobiles, only connected by a train and foot trails and there you could sense the overwhelming quality of life not too long ago. It was clean and silent, just hearing the train every once in a while. We were impressed with the amazing vineyards and gardens along the steep mountainside terraces, the way the houses blend with each other, and how we were still able to see an old lady sorting potatoes next door to a touristy hotel. The visit was enhanced with vegan foccacia, and a good off-season deal for a room with a view. It rained the last day, so we only did the walk between the last 2 villages (the hardest according to the book), but it was a great experience, seeing the gardens from close, getting lost for a while, and observing some really great property, too bad the owners weren't wwoof hosts...
Out of the 5 villages, we chose the only one who had a hostel, Manarola and
while we were waiting for it to open Momo entertained 3 local ladies. It turned
out that the rooms were single-sex, and so the manager referred us to a
bed-breakfast just across the way. There, the cross-eyed manager and architect
gave the vegan couple waiting in line next to us a good deal for 3 nights in a
room with just a bunk-bed. Out our door we had a view of the sea. After seeing
the rest of the villages (which are quite similar except the one with cars -
Monterosso), we decided that Manarola was our favorite.
Some pictures from Vernazza, including one where Monterosso can be seen in the distance.
We then hiked from Monterosso back to Vernazza.
Part II - Ferry from Genova to Barcelona(09-10)
Arriving in Genova, we tried a few of the lodging options in our book. While waiting for OfeK to find a place to stay in a semi-residential area, off in a corner, Erika was watching Momo crawl along the sidewalk when a police car pulled up and two policemen approached her. They asked 'where are you from?' and 'what are you doing?' and then they got down to the real point of why they stopped: "You should not put baby on ground here." "Oh it's okay," Erika says. "No it's not," they replied with serious faces. Eventually OfeK returned with no luck on finding a place and beat the hell out of them with his big muscles. We wandered a little more and decided that this is just another city designed for cars, not people and went to the port to see if there were any boats to Spain. There was one leaving that night so we made the instant decision to leave and while Erika waited at the ferry terminal OfeK ran and took a few buses across the city to the natural food store to buy some supplies for the 19-hour-long ride. We found ourselves on a quite fancy ferry to Barcelona which even had a children's room full of plastic kid furniture, and Momo played for a while with 16 month old Mara.
Part III - Barcelona (10-02)
We pulled into port and went straight off to hunt for a room. It was
Saturday, and we had some difficulty finding a vacant hotel. Finally we
just went to a no-name pension that was closest to us, on the fifth floor (no
elevator), and got a decent room (with recycled newspaper in our trash basket,
pictured below. This is a good idea for guesthouse owners that would eliminate
the need for bags for trash baskets and while shopping) and relaxed for the rest
of the night. The next day we were out on the town. We went up Mont Juic by
funicular and cable car took in the view of Barcelona and the sea below and
soaked up the sun we had missed for so long. Momo got a chance to play with her
Dad's spring-smelling sandals.
After 3 days of walking up and down five flights of stairs it was time to move on to another accommodation. We found a cheaper 'hostal,' on only the third floor, above a small shopping mall. The lady of the house always greeted us in a high-pitch shrill voice, "Hola, Moma, hola!" which we still like to mimic once in a while. Below us, in the mall, there were many stores for babies, and every time we went in and out, Momo would see the toy stores and start to jump up and down with joy, and force us to stop and look through the windows. But it is the whole display window, or toy store she likes, since she gets tired of individual toys after a few minutes.
Over the next 3 weeks we did a very slow and thorough tour of Barcelona. It
was such a wonderful city full of pedestrian-only areas. While in Italy
(except Avalon of course) we felt like we are the only homeless (=simple)
looking people (beware of fascists! they are everywhere), here there were many
young people who didn't invest much time and money in their choice of apparel.
This and the abundance of English speaking panhandlers made us feel quite
comfortable here. The metro system was spectacular, so clean and quiet, stations
everywhere, very clear smart signs telling you when to get off, a live timer
that tells you when the next train is, butt-seats to lean on while standing and
we never had to wait for more than 4 minutes. First on our walking tour we did
the Modernism Route and saw all of Gaudi's buildings. They gave us great
inspiration for our future plans. And of course, each day, we had to set aside a
couple hours that had to be spent in a grassy park in order for Momo to get her
crawling and cigarette-butt-eating time.
Of course one of our favorite joys of traveling is checking out the
restaurant options. Because we had no kitchen we ate out everyday and it turned
out actually cheaper to eat organically out than buy organic produce. Our
favorite restaurant was BioCenter, an organic vegetarian restaurant where we
could get an entree and all-you-can-eat salad bar for less than $5. And on top
of that, they had a baby chair that fit right onto our table! Our strategy was
to eat there at 4pm and then we would be full until bedtime. Our other favorite
was Juicy Jones. Though it was not organic, it was all vegan and very inventive
and tasty. We were definitely one of their frequent customers and they let OfeK
borrow their dishes (waste-free take-away) when Momo would fall asleep before
We also found a few good natural food stores where we could load up on
produce and a few goodies. There was also a huge market where we could get
cheap avocados, mangoes, and bananas. Here we are picnic-ing on our own handmade
sushi, springrolls and hummus. As usual. Momo spots other kids from afar
and immediately crawls to them to improve her communication and social skills.
On the way to Parc Guell, another of Gaudi's work, we came across a candy
store called "Momo." As you can see from the picture, it is also named
after Michael Ende's book.
One day we visited a modern art museum. The exhibit was very 'modern' (ie. I
never 'get it') made almost entirely from recycled materials and slide
projectors with lesbian/feminist messages. Momo practiced her stair climbing and
avant-garde listening skills.
We also went to a museum of musical instruments. Each floor had a different
family of instruments, some very old and unique. OfeK really wanted to try out
all the different shaped keyboard instruments, but this was one of those
look-don't-touch museums, so OfeK snuck his fingers when Erika wasn't looking.
We found a playground inside the big city park designed for young children,
though OfeK may have enjoyed it more than Momo pushing her super-fast on the 4
wheeler entertaining all the mothers with scared look on their faces.
One day we hiked through the hills behind Barcelona were we had a picnic and
came upon this 'interesting' looking church with an amusement park right below,
with a view of all of Barcelona. On the way, we saw a sign that said 'Jewish
Detectives', we thought they might be some high-tech Nazi exposers so we
followed the trail to a big castle. OfeK buzzed the bell, and after a short
conversation it turned out that they simply like the name and the Star of David
as a logo, nothing else..
During our final week OfeK's family came to visit us. (Unfortunately, we left
all of the picture-taking responsibility to OfeK's father, so we only took four
pictures the whole time.) It was great being all together again, and Momo had an
especially good time with Agam (OfeK's 8-yo brother ) who makes her laugh and
laugh. During the visit we did all the tourist traps we wouldn't do otherwise:
got a view of the city in a hot air balloon, walked all around seeing the
sights, and ended the week with a visit to a big theme park (lunapark). One
night during this week we (just the two of us) went out to the movies to see
"Chocolat," and we experienced our first night without our daughter,
while Anva babysat. When the movie was finished the both of jumped out of our
seats and raced home while both talking about how much we missed her and arguing
over the fastest route to get back.
And finally, to end our stay, we went to the EcoSalud convention, all about health products, complete with everyone smoking while checking out all the latest vitamin products. We did find many organic products and even enjoyed a couple organic veggie burgers. One of the stands, was dried fruit cakes offered from one of the Twelve TribesCommunities. The Jesus-looking guy was very excited to meet us (Especially Jesus-looking Jerusalem-born OfeK) and invited us to stay with them after treating us to free cake. We might see him soon. Momo really likes music (playing out usually from OfeK's limited collection of mp3 files on his laptop), and she starts to literally dance whenever she hears any. While we entered the expo for free (waiting for a while for a 'professional' to give us two of her free invitations) we got her a nice CD of world children music, you can see her listening to it in the picture.
The heroic adventures of Momo, Erika and OfeK on the island of Ibiza.
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