I have been waiting for this my WHOLE LIFE!

So…… the 301km from Carcassonne to Barcelona was about a 6 hour drive for us. We are not sure why, but the A9 was a PARKING LOT for a good chunk of the drive.  It may have been because of the wildfire that was happening near Girona, but we didn’t know for sure.  The traffic, after a couple of hours of stop and go, eventually opened up and we were finally moving along at a faster speed than 10km /hr, and using the gas pedal more often than the brake. THANK GOODNESS!

The drive into Spain was beautiful.  The countryside is so pretty. Rolling hills, golden fields, green vineyards, and olive groves. I loved absolutely loved watching all pass by. I did however think there was going to be a grand display letting me know I was leaving France and entering Spain but it was just 2 cement pillars and a sign that said Espana. I at this point, was pretty used to reading, and somewhat understanding the French signage, so with the spanish signs I was pretty much starting back at ground zero!

Finding our hotel was super easy, with thanks to the TomTom.  By the time we got to the hotel we were all pretty bagged from the hot slow drive to town, and we quickly realized that our plans of an early arrival and a scout around before dinner were over. Brodie emerged from the car scratching, super splotchy, and bright red. Our little man with the super sensitive fair skin, broke out in a crazy heat rash – we think from the mornings 3 hour swim in Carcassonne.

We were staying at the Hilton Diagonal Mar.  It is in a business district with Mikes office literally half a block away, (and we could look over every time we were in the pool), a major shopping mall across the street, the street tram was one block away and the metro was two blocks away.  It was super convenient for all of us.

We checked into our room, which would be our home for the next 7 days and was happily surprised that we had 2 room suite once again. Since it was later than we expected, we decided to quickly get organized with our luggage, and organizing the rooms, before heading out for a quick dinner across the street where there were a couple of restaurants attached to the mall, Go figure….. there were trampolines and train rides for the kids in the outdoor space leading into the mall.

We got to the restaurant at 8:30 and it was empty….. very few tables were full, and this made me a little nervous until Mike reminded me that people in Spain really didn’t eat dinner till about 9:30 onwards.  By the time we left the restaurant there was a line up of people with kiddies the same age as ours waiting for a table.

We woke up Sunday morning to a VERY BUSY hotel.  The amount of people at the breakfast buffet was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was pretty unreal with how BUSY it was.  It certainly wasn’t a nice relaxing, leisurely morning pace…. I am unsure how the Chefs were even keeping up with putting out the food…. it honestly was going that fast.

We had our family day planned.  We were going to take the tram down to the main beach area, and do a walk about, and get a lay of the land.  We walked around the Marina Port Vell, en route to La Ramblas. We passed so many AMAZING patio restaurants.  It was too bad that with the kiddies, being the age they are, just were not interested in the food that was being served there.

On our walk we happened upon an AMAZING gelato/chocolate/macaroon store, called VIKIO. Barcelona seems to be a town that is all about design.  I mean seriously incredible design, and this gelato shop was not the exception.  I was totally drawn into the store just because of the design.  Turns out their gelato totally rocked as well…. YES…. score!

Mike,Brodie, and Syd all opted for chocolate and I defaulted to my absolute favourite Stracciatella. Kind of a vanilla base, with chocolate bits in it….. SO SO YUMMY!  The portion sizes were absolutely CRAZY!  When Brodie got his gelato handed to him, he promptly proclaimed, with eyes as wide as saucers “I have been waiting for this my WHOLE LIFE”.  That was said with so much enthusiasm and excitement you almost would have believed, that he had indeed, been waiting all of 5 years and 5 months for that exact portion of chocolate gelato. That statement alone was worth what we paid for the gelato.  The little man makes me smile!

It was getting a bit later in the day… you know that time of day that Syd usually has her meltdown…… we this particular day was no exception.  We don’t know what set her off, but it lasted for a good 15-20 minutes of us trying to get a screaming child off the street and into some sort of shade since it was so hot and humid.  We finally got her in the stroller and we decide we would head into the air-conditioned goodness of the L’aquarium  Barcelona.  I always knew it was crazy expensive to go to the Vancouver Aquarium, but it seems like the cost is crazy expensive in every city we have been in.  I’m not exactly sure at the cost but I think it was around 80 Euro for the 4 of us…. which is CRAZY!  Brodie had a great time looking at all the fish, and loving all the sharks, but Syd didn’t really perk up till near the end of our time in the aquarium.  I think she was most impressed with the computer animated fish projected on the floor that would “swim” away if you stepped to close to them.

Our afternoon ended with a walk on the famous La Ramblas.  It was super busy and full of energy.  There were people “statues” that Brodie got a huge kick out of, and many treats tempting the kiddies, but the one thing that finally got them was sleep.  Both kiddies crashed in the double stroller, while Mike and I walked along, ending up in the Placa Reial for an afternoon glass of wine.  We eventually made our way to the metro and back to our hotel in the Diagonal Mar.

It was a seriously fun day. Exploring and getting the lay of the land was essential for the following days adventures with the kiddies, as Mike was back at work after a 2 week vacation.

So far Barcelona was a hit with Brodie…. who had been waiting his “WHOLE LIFE” to have gelato in that exact spot in Barcelona….. So glad we could make that happen for you little man!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

The parking lot on A9

Hello Spain… goodbye France

The EU and flag

I feel welcome!

Driving along the highway

Hello Spain!

Rest stop in Spain

Our TomTom app

Hello Hilton Diagonal Mar

Hotel entrance – the kids LOVED this door!

Looking at the mall across the street from the hotel

Girona fires

comfy kids

Our street tram

Poor little man with his heat rash!

Tram route

W Hotel in background

Fish by Frank Gehry

It was HOT!

A popular mode of transportation around town

L’Estel Ferit (The Wounded Shooting Star) by Rebecca Horn

L’Estel Ferit (The Wounded Shooting Star) by Rebecca Horn

Gelato/chocolate/macaroon store

Yummy Macaroons

Beautiful chocolate truffles

” I have been waiting for this my whole life”

The little lady and her ginormous portion of gelato

Human statue

Human Statue – Brodie thought this one was pretty cool.

The famed La Rambla

Sleep, sleep, glorious sleep.

Wine stop

Barcelona Metro

Metro Station

Our neighbourhood station

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So…… I can’t sleep!

OK…. so I can’t sleep!

So upto now I have been pretty methodical in my approach to getting ready for our trip.  You know……getting things in order, not really thinking too much about the days or number of hours till we leave, and how long we will be gone for (…..yikes 50 days) ect, ect, ect. I was doing pretty well until tonight.  Tonight that is, until while getting ready for bed, and brushing our teeth, Mike turns to me and says with a great big grin “38 hours…. no…. it’s less than 32 hours till we leave!”  “Make sure you get some good sleep…. its gonna be a crazy long day with the kids….. 5 hours to Montreal.  3 hour layover. 5 hours to Paris. 5 hour drive to Heidelberg”.

Ok I knew all of this but…….

Wait …. WHAT…. OMG…. REALLY!

Yes its gonna be one crazy travel day for the Bain family!

With that said, I think I was doing pretty well, since I had today planned for my packing day for Brodie and I.  The suitcases were brought out of storage almost a week ago, and they were ready to be filled.

I placed all that I thought Brodie would need for about a weeks worth of clothing (all types of weather conditions were thought of) on his bed, and did the exact same thing for my clothing.  Now on a friends advice, I left it there so I could come back to and see if it could be pared down…… Hahahaha …. not a chance could it be pared down (but thanks for the advice Ray)!  I actually added things! Uuuuggghhhh!

As of tonight, I would say that Brodie and I are at about 90% packed and ready to go.  Mike says not to worry…. and that “this is the most prepared we have EVER been for a trip!”.  So that brings me to not being able to sleep…. my mind is racing on things I may be forgetting, and things I wanted to get done before we left and now have a slim (now read NO) chance of getting done!

I’m not sure how, this trip, that we have been talking seriously about since September, is now less that 32 hours away!  I actually wish we were already on the plane because I then could stop thinking about everything I “need” for this trip!

Come on Friday 9:00am……. I just need to get on that plane….. If not just so I can finally relax, sleep, and forget about everything I “need” for this trip!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Ha…. not all this is coming with us… we just needed options!

All set and ready to go… on this end anyway!

Great Friends, Great Food, and One Über Amazing Night

So I have the most amazing girlfriends on the planet!

Last Sunday, with less than 3 weeks till we depart on our European adventure, the girls organized a German/French/Spanish themed “pot-luck” bon voyage Bain Family party.

Mrs. T hosted us all at her beautiful West Vancouver home – complete with outdoor pool and über amazing view of the pacific ocean, and UBC.

The day stared out cloudy, windy, and cold, and hopes of a pool party were fading. As the party approached, the weather shifted with the sun bursting through. This had most people jumping in the pool for some splish, splashing fun…. Well everyone except for little Syd, who just wanted to go “back in Trina’s house”. She is definitely a character…. trust me!

It was super fun having my best girlfriends get in on the “themed food” for our dinner. There was so much food…..so yummy, so delicious! There were all types of German sausages and mustards. A platter of German, French, and Spanish cheeses, along side some amazing deli cuts. Pork and Veal Schnitzel. Croissant sandwiches were made…. German potato salad, an orange, red onion and shaved fennel salad, a chicken gumbo, and a side of marinated roasted peppers. This was all served all along side (….. ha….. I now know how to pronounce it) Seafood Paella. French, German, and Spanish wines were served along with some very authentic, ice cold German beer. “Sweet” breads – not the other kind of “Sweetbreads”, rounded out the evening.

To say it was the most amazing night spent with my friends and their families would be an understatement! It was so touching and amazing to see everyone as excited by our trip as we are! A special thanks to Corrine for organizing such a great night!

Can’t wait to share the ins and outs of our adventure when we return.

August beach party anyone?

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

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So the ll’s are Silent

English is the only language that I know.

Its not that I wouldn’t love to know another language, its just, with 2 kids, and about a bazillion other things I should be learning for my career, there really isn’t a whole lot of time to spend trying to learn another language just for “fun”.

When we were first threw out the idea of an extended trip to Europe, one of my first thoughts was to sign up for either French or Spanish lessons – both of which would come in handy for the trip. The idea of learning, and being able to speak another language while we were away was something I thought would be super fun (…..terrifying) and beneficial for all of us.

Well the months passed, and I just never got around to sourcing a language class.  I even have a friend that just got her “official translator” designation (www.anythingandnothing.com). She speaks French, English, Spanish – AND she teaches lessons.  Now the thought of having someone I KNOW try and teach me another language – well that was a scary thought in itself. You know…… not being able to hide behind some guy named Johnny, in a classroom, and getting grilled on how to say something in another language…. well that was obviously way too much to think about, let alone do!

So here I sit, 3 weeks away from our trip and only being able to speak English.  I can read a bit of the written French language and muddle my way through, and have some common phrases down in French and Spanish, but my biggest fear (totally unfounded forsure) with a foreign language……. is saying the word incorrectly……

Last week we made Paella to continue on our culinary journey.  While shopping for ingredients I would say Paella phonetically when people asked what I was making……  It wasn’t till a couple of days later, after enjoying the amazingly delicious seafood rice, while talking to a good friend of mine that she made the correction for me.

“You say Pae-yay-yah…. the ll’s are silent….. similar to Tort-i-yah”

Yup….. I feel silly….. probably even turned a shade or two of red!

Mike and I had no mojor language barriers 12 years ago travelling through France….. so hopefully there won’t be any this go around now that we have 2 kids in tow, and are hitting up Spain!

So the ll’s are silent…….good to know.

Damn I find languages frustrating….. I wonder if there is an app on my phone for this!  😉

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

local BC seafood…. so sweet …. so yummy!

My precious!

Paella rice – grown in Spain, specifically for this dish

Rice MEP

Cooking on the BBQ grill for even heat – worked like a charm!

Another de-lish and inexpensive Spanish red

A Big Ol’ Bowl of Magic and a Half Marathon

This past week saw the kiddies get hit hard by a virus. To say it has not been the best week in our house would be an understatement, but I think we have made our way through the worst of it….. well for the kiddies anyway!

I was unsure what to cook for our travels this week.  With everyone either sick or on the verge of being sick, cooking a themed dinner was not high on my list of priorities. It never seems to fail that when you are really looking forward to (not to mention training really hard for) something, a virus or illness always seems to creep into the picture!  It happened to Mike earlier this year when he was to run the “First-Half” Half Marathon, but became so ill he was unable to move.  I don’t think he got out of bed for 3 days!!  So this was my weekend, and it was an important one.  I was to be running in one of my favourite races, the Vancouver Half Marathon……. I was not about to get sick!

As I was going through The Food of Spain cookbook, my initial thought was that a soup would be nice.  Something warm, super easy, yummy. Everyone would feel better!  There were a few different recipes for soup in the book, but the one I kept coming back to was Gazpacho.  It’s not a warm soup, but a cold soup, and its best served really, REALLY, COLD!  The thought of all the raw yummy veggies packed full of vitamins was enough to convince me that this is EXACTLY what our family needed!  I wanted to keep with the Tapas style menu and decided to also make Tortilla….. aka Potato Omelette.

Now I have a Gazpacho recipe that I love.  I have no idea where I got it from……  all I know is its on my computer, in my documents folder, and I LOVE it.  With that said, I am trying to stay pretty authentic in my dinners, so I decided to use a recipe in my cookbook.  The  recipe in the book definitely has fewer vegetables than my recipe, (maybe my recipe is the V-8 version), but the one in the book also has the addition of soaked and puree’d bread.  I was totally intrigued by this, and have since found that I REALLY like this little addition.  The bread gives the soup a real nice texture and richness.  The soup was a pretty delicious, but both the kiddies were uninterested (I think due to them both being sick).  Brodie, managed a few big spoonfuls, while little Syd could only bring herself to try just one bite.  I personally, had a second helping of the soup, and then managed to eat all the leftovers on Saturday.

Now…… I wish I could say yummy and good things about the Tortilla that I made.  The recipe even states “such a simple dish, so difficult to perfect…… The Tortilla is the dish by which to judge a tapas bar.”  Uuummmm ….. OK……so I LIKE things to be PERFECT! I really should have read that and decided to try a different recipe…. that was the red flag waving high in the air for all to see! Did I listen…. no… of course not!

Having made this dish, I honestly can’t wait to try this in an authentic Spanish Tapas Bar.   It is the one dish I thought was sooooooo BORING!  I didn’t like how it looked, and I didn’t like how it tasted. Maybe I didn’t add enough salt, maybe the potatoes were cut to thick…. maybe I just didn’t have a clue what I was doing….. I’m still at a bit of a loss on this one, but in no hurry to make it again! Mike however, seemed to REALLY enjoy it, (eating 2 whole pieces).  Brodie had a few bites….. and little Syd, well she had none!  You can bet that this topic it will pop up again on the blog during our travels through Spain!

I am happy to report that both the kiddies and Mike are on the road to recovery.  It is always tough when the kiddies are sick.  Very often, you wish it was you, and that they didn’t have to go through it…… however…… that was not my thought until Sunday at 10:30am. Race weekend was pretty important and I managed to stay healthy enough to have a pretty decent half marathon finishing in 2:14:54.  It was a beautiful new course, in one FABULOUS city! You really should do it if you haven’t… an amazing run…..you won’t be disappointed!

I have no doubt that my determination in not getting sick played a big part in keeping the virus at bay till after race day, however I also think the Gazpacho played an even bigger part with all the freshly pureed vitamins and minerals!  Well it looks like I now need to make another big batch of Gazpacho….. I am getting pretty hard hit with the same thing the kiddies and Mike had…. time for that big ol’ bowl to work her magic!

Enjoy your Daily Dose.

Xox

B.

Fresh Roma Tomatoes blanched and ready to be peeled.

Soup Garnish

A touch of EVOO and a little S&P to mix it all together

Hello Big Ol’ Bowl of Magic

Not my favourite dish…..

For me…. So yummy!

For MIke…..

One of the worlds most beautiful half marathon courses…. on your “bucket list” it should be!

2:14:54  So FUN!

The Little Red Tin of Awesomeness

Well here she is folks:  The Little Red Tin of Awesomeness!

(and I will come back to her importance in a bit!)

This past week, we started our culinary journey just over the border from France and into Spain. Since I  thoughoghly and 100% enjoyed cooking from The Food of France cookbook, I decided to pick up The Food of Spain cookbook.  If you are looking for an uncomplicated, tasty, and authentic meals, these are definitely the books you should check out….. they are pretty great!

When we travel to Spain in July 2012, we will be hitting both the west coast (staying in San Sebastian) as well as the east coast (staying in Barcelona) of Spain. This past week, for our dining adventure, I decided we would be having a couple of different “tapas” (small Spanish savoury dishes), a chicken dish, as well as a seafood dish.

The nights menu consisted of :

Tortillitas de Gambas con Salsa Romesco

Pollo en salsa de Ajo

aka:

Prawn Fritters with Romesco Sauce

Chicken in Garlic Sauce

Sooooooo……. the kids have NOT been exposed a lot of seafood in their short little lives (I know…..weird…..we live on the west coast of Canada).  So with this thought in mind, I thought it was best to “disguise” the shrimp (now this might be a bit of a “no-no” in the book I’m reading – French Kids Eat Everything {and Yours Can Too}), but I haven’t gotten that far in the book, so…….. I made “Tortillias De Gambas”.  I chopped up the shrimp and make a “prawn pancake”, (yes I even called it a “pancake” for Brodie sake) served with a romesco sauce for dipping.

Now cooking these dinners has been a bit of a challenge for me.  The “Chef” in me has really been holding back on my natural impulses for changing recipes.  It has all been for the sake of creating “authentic” national dishes that I have not acted on these impulses.  With that said, and the recipes I chose this past weekend, I really thought that the Prawn Fritters was the one dish, that, so far, could have used a bit of livening up (a hit of lemon zest, some cilantro….. ).  It totally would have brought the dish to life…… but then, maybe not so “Spanish”?!? RIGHT?!?)).

The Romesco sauce was nothing short of AMAZING! My first I thought was that I had made way too much sauce, but it turns out, it was just the right amount since we couldn’t get enough of the stuff, and ate it like it was going out of style!

The Chicken in  Garlic Sauce was  as close to “unbelievable” as you can imagine.  WOW, it was soooooo good!  My total favourite of the night,and maybe even since I stared writing this whole blog thingy.  The caption for the recipe even states…..

“……in a way that is so impressive the dish will soon enter your repertoire of everyday meals”.

To say I was a bit sceptical as I was preparing the dish was a bit of an understatement, but this dish took me by total surprise….  happily, 150% by surprise!  It was so AMAZING…. it really was not something I was expecting from reading the recipe when deciding to put it on our evening menu.  Really, the only reason I picked it, was because it was chicken, and the kids like chicken!

I am happy to say that Brodie LOVED it …. although at one point he stated “my lips are burning a bit”…… yes little man…… it will take some time to get used to the Smoked Sweet Paprika (aka the Little Red Tin of Awesomeness)!  Little Syd (being the tough nut she is…) was not such a fan. I think she is gonna be a hard one to convert (too all types of food) no matter what. Unless of course we are going to Japan…. then I know that girl would EAT!  But since we are not……..

Well that brings me back to “The Little Red Tin of Awesomeness”,

aka… Sweet Smoked Paprika!

I have used this little gem in my Turkey Chilli for a number of years (though, not much else aside from this), and it is the one addition that everyone asks about when they inquire about my chilli.

Now there are a couple of things I learned about whlle making this dinner

1. Sweet Smoked Paprika is in 2 of 3 recipes, so I need to have it on hand.

2. I now need to go and replenish my supply of Sweet Smoked Paprika before Friday and our next “inspired” meal, since it was all used up this past weekend, and you can almost bet its gonna be in at least one of the dishes I decide to make this coming weekend!

If you don’t already have this “Little Red Tin of Awesomeness”  in your pantry….. make your way to the grocery store to get some …… she is a delight to have in your cupboard. You will be happy to have it on hand and to add to just about any of your recipes, especially if you ever intend on cooking traditional Spanish meals!

Enjoy your Daily Dose.

Xox

B.

Hello Romesco….

Mmmmmm…  yummy goodness!

Fritters…. aka “Pancakes”!

Chop chop chop

I see you little red tin of awesomeness!

Tasty… but needs a bit of an “tweak” for my taste

This was beyond AMAZING!

Mmmmmmmm……. the finished product.

$10.00 red and it was so de-lish….

Mikes beer, crafted especially for food pairing… although he didn’t drink it from a champagne glass like directed! Oh Mike!

Looks like the little man is as excited as I am to get to Europe!  I LOVE the Eiffel Tower “space ship”!