gratitud(e)-a-thon day 2052: if not now, when? Turning 60 in Spain


A missed connection, due to Boston weather, but greeted by this, plus champagne and rose petals on my bed. Happy birthday to me!
Barcelona is electric and eclectic and on the beach, to boot.

So, I did it, I turned 60. This is the thing about birthdays, no matter how you feel about them, they’re coming for you. You never get to say, “Hey, I”m busy, can we do this another time?” And while I was dreading it, with a deep feeling of panic, it walked in, sat down and there we were.


But, where we were was Barcelona, Spain. In a beautiful boutique hotel with a bed covered in rose petals and a bottle of bubbly in a bucket with a rich chocolate mini cake that read “Happy 60th Birthday.” Let me just say right here, this could take the sting out of turning 107. So, yeah, my advice, if you’re dreading a birthday, is to get the heck out of dodge, put yourself in another place and ride it out. The “after” is almost always tolerable, it’s just the before that bites you in the ass.

It seemed like this store was set up to take pictures of. Kind of perfect.


One thing that was really super cool is that I got to do and see something that I had always wanted to do and see. We drove the five and a half hours from Barcelona to Bilbao, where the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum is located. Since the first time I saw this whack-a-doodle building in a magazine, 20 years ago, I have imagined seeing it in person. It captured my attention in an almost obsessive way. It always felt far away and like I probably would never get there, but once I knew we were going to Barcelona, I was sure I would make this side trip happen. And it did not disappoint, in the least. And the inside is just as great as the outside, not only in its architecture but in its works–beautifully edited and I would have to say, actually perfect. It’s overwhelming to turn a dream into a reality. I know this sounds like a Disney commercial (cue up It’s a Small World, if you want), but I don’t know how else to put it–I had always wanted to see that museum and I got to, after 20 years. That’s damn good shit.

I made it!



Hotel Maria Christina in San Sebastian. This was a very special place. And there were churros for breakfast!

We saw so many beautiful places. Spain is so much older than the US, that no matter what you’re looking at, it’s hundreds of years older than the most historical monuments you can find in the U.S. This means even the ordinary is a treat to look at.  I loved the Joan Miro Museum, located high on a hill and overlooking the city of Barcelona. I’m not terribly into abstract painting, but his work has always captured my heart. The Picasso Museum is special, not just for the work, but also for the old, restored building it resides in. Gaudi is everywhere, including the sidewalks of Barcelona, which are flowers. You can only imagine how much I loved this! The Real Alcazar, a royal palace in Seville is breathtaking. This place is surreal. In scale and architecture, its beauty is a 2,554,987 on a scale of 1 to 10. Go to the Dali museum if you don’t want to do LSD, but want to feel like you have. And of course, we saw numerous churches, extravagant and lovely, rivers, the sea, the steps on which some character in Game of Thrones died, a seaside town dressed in nothing but blue and white (oh, my beating heart).

It was a magical trip and I thank Linda Plazonja for giving me so many tips. If you haven’t been to her site, click her name and you’ll be there. And if you think her website is beautiful (it’s one of my fave sites ever) you need to go on a trip with her. She is the absolute Travel Queen, with a thorough knowledge of a place and a gift for seeking out the extraordinary. You can also have her plan your trip. (CAN’T RECOMMEND THIS EMPHATICALLY, ENOUGH–YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY!)Also, I have to shout out the Mercer Hotel in Barcelona (which Linda pointed me to, of course), which acted like our home away from home, which we kept leaving and coming back to. Exceptional and thoughtful service in a sleek and modern boutique hotel that’s built into a 4,000 years old wall).


My travel companion in Spain and life, Peter. A keeper!

So, gratiud (this is Spanish for gratitude, in case you thought I left off the “e.”), so much gratitud for a mind-expanding, dream of a 16 days. I am 60. And I am just fine.

gratitude-a-thon day 400: let the summer begin: the boy is coming home

After a semester in Barcelona, and a semester pledging a frat (did any real academic work get done, I guess we’ll see when the grades come out), at USC, my guy is coming home tonight! And I am so seriously thrilled to see him that I’m practically ready to throw a townwide parade. Can’t you just see the banner held by the local girl scouts: “Your mom made us hold this dumb banner, so Welcome Home, Jake, whoever you are.”

Barcelona, first semester.

All over town, I’m seeing happy mom’s and dad’s talking about their newly minted college offspring. They, like me, are about to embark on “the first summer.” And what I mean here, is we’re about to see if Thomas Wolfe was right or wrong, when he said “You can’t go home again.” I mean, maybe it’s “You can’t go home again and drink at dinner.” These kids have spent a year partying and imbibing, not doing laundry, or taking out the garbage, curfew-less and totally independent, and now, this first summer,  they come back to their childhood rooms, and house rules. So, what should the house rules be? How do you go forward, instead of backward? How do you give them their freedom, without compromising your own sanity and sense of right, especially if you have a younger kid, watching with hawk eyes for exactly what the precedence will be?

frat bros. at usc. phi kappa psi.
if only “the beach” was a course you could get credit for.
He’s in a suit.
Life in Cali sucks.

I have some ideas. But it will really take a sit-down with Jake to flesh them out and come up, in a somewhat democratic way, with the “After the first year,” rules of the roost. I know he’ll have enough respect for us to follow whatever we say, but determining what that is, that’ll be the challenge.

Today, I’m not worrying about it, I’m making his favorite meatballs and I’m lettering the banner. I really hope the girl scouts aren’t busy.



gratitude-a-thon day 291: christmas shopping with jake 3, 642 miles away

Yesterday was one of those days, where once again I was amazed by technology.

I didn’t buy a whole lot of stuff in Spain, but I was sorry not to have bought some oil for Christmas gifts. So, I asked Jake to go to La Boqueria and get a specific oil at a specific place. I’ve only been asking him to do it for two weeks, but well, he’s 19. Anyway, yesterday he went and called me to find out where it was, and together, on the phone I directed him. He found the place, and then sent me a photo of the oil that I’d described, and boom, we were good. WE WERE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING TOGETHER. As Chris Farley said in his famous interview with Paul McCartney, “It was awesome.”

gratitude-a-thon day 283: the lights

First of all gratitude to good internet service, what I’m dealing with right now is not, and it makes me realize how fortunate I am at home, where internet service is abundant and ready to go the minute I wake up.

But when it comes to Christmas lights, Barcelona-ites have it going on in the biggest way possible. And I am all about the lights, so I am living the dream.

IMG_0260 IMG_0245 IMG_0285 IMG_0265 IMG_0283 IMG_0233 IMG_0232 IMG_0243 IMG_0284This isn’t even all of them! What a festive thing–to have lights on all the major streets and even on the side streets. Jake says he doesn’t know when they went up, but that they just came on two days before we arrived. I’m going to pretend they’re for us!

In other news, we are eating tapas, and staying up late, appreciating how walkable this city is and seeing lots of great stuff. We also met Jake’s fabulous family, who will cook for us tonight and take us to Tibidabo. Today we hit the PIcasso museum. Tomorrow, thanksgiving, we’re going to Gaudi’s masterpiece, Sagrada Familia and eating an American turkey dinner at the Meridien. I wanted to go Spanish, but the fam won’t hear of it. We’ll miss our usual Thanksgiving with Chris, Lou, Greg, Gabe & Paul, but hoping to have some skype stuffing with them. Adios.

gratitude-a-thon day 281: barcelona!

The flight was long. And the amount of space I had for my feet was as big as your computer (unless you have, like, the first computer ever made that filled a room). But we finally landed in Barcelona and Jake surprised us by meeting us at the airport (he’d said he’d meet us at the hotel). I screamed, sort of loudly.  And the embarrassing Lansbury’s hit Barcelona.

Exhausted, but also running on the adrenaline of seeing my kid for the first time in three months, we got to our hotel, which is great place and right off La Rambla, which I would translate into “Big Street of Shopping and Stuff,” and changed into warmer clothes to go see FC Barcelona play soccer.

Unbelievable assortment of fresh foods. This is my kind of place. I can’t wait to go back.

On the way, we hit La Boqueria for a quick look and our first, but I’m sure not our last, taste of Barcelona’s famous ham. Delish. And off to the metro, which is almost exactly like the T. A crowd of 70,000 watched the most excellent soccer I’ve ever seen. 4-zip, we win. And how about this–they don’t sell alcohol at the games–completely straight fans! Just a bunch of people high on their team. Pretty cool.

In the stands.

 Home to sleep. Like a rock. Up for dinner at 10, but not feeling well, I let the fam enjoy their first spanish meal, and I sleep more. I’m never good in a jet lag situation. I am so grateful to be here. Jake seems so much more adult than when he left. Day 1, Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

Just unbelievable soccer. Barcelona vs. Grenada.
And Barcelona scores (again)!
Miss Soccer in all her glory.
Al & Jake after the win.
Ally & Peter outside the stadium.