Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Eagles In Dublin

Being in the right place at the right time and trying to say yes to as many opportunities as possible has lead me to some exceptional experiences.

About a month ago on one of my trips to Dublin, someone I know there asked if I liked the Eagles. Normally, I'd think of the Philadelphia-variety of Eagles but, in this case, I knew that the music group the Eagles was playing a few nights at the nearby O2 arena.

Sure, I said, while thoughts of concerts flashed in my head. Sure enough, she had a ticket she wasn't going to use for that evening's show. And with that, off I went to check out the Eagles in concert in Ireland! Woohoo!

Now, I'm definitely not a huge fan of the Eagles. I don't even have any of their music saved on my phone. But, the chance to see them live - for FREE even - was too good to say no. Most of my exposure comes from my dad when he would listen to the radio or records on the weekend. Some of that music included bands like Boston and the Beatles, which, to this day, are familiar to me. So, on some level I knew of their music but probably couldn't name more than a few songs.

Well, damn. They've got some pretty amazing stuff. Crowd favorites like Hotel California, Take It Easy, and Life In The Fast Lane got big responses but I ended up pleasantly surprised by how many of their songs where I knew the words. The show lasted about three hours and was very entertaining as it was presented like a history of the band, which included videos, interviews, and story telling by different band members.

I've definitely got a new respect for Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and the rest of the Eagles. What a great surprise and fun way to spend an evening. How crazy is this thing called life?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pug Saves A Life - Or - What Did You Do On Your Last Vacation?

One of the nice things about living in Barcelona is that it's not super difficult to get family and friends to visit. Now some might see having visitors as a burden but not me (or Diana). We love and look forward to it. So I was very happy to hear that my long-time friend Pug would be coming to Spain for for a month's visit and would be spending about half that time in Barcelona.

I've known Pug since high school when we met through a mutal friend named Mike. We've been good friends ever since and were even roomates for a short while when she first moved out to California from Philadelphia. Pug's one of those people who continues to impress and amaze me. She's a vegetarian, supports animal-welfare organizations, runs her own business, and started and continues to lead a charitable organization that raises money for women with cancer. In other words, she's always looking to help others and, without a doubt, is a way-better person than me (not that that's difficult, but still).

Diana, Pug, and I up at Tibidabo:

For the first two weeks she was in town, we did a bunch of the normal touristy stuff, ate some meals together, and had a good time catching up. When Diana and I left for the U.A.E., Pug went traveling around southern Spain, incluing visiting the Alhambra, Cordoba, Sevilla, and a couple days in Gibraltar.

Pug's a big runner and while she was in the hills checking out the monkeys (yes, monkeys) at Gibraltar's Upper Rock Nature Preserve, she happened across a situation. Down below where she had stopped, a group of monkeys was ravaging an unattended baby stroller including ripping open and trying to eat everything. She became extra worried when one of the monkeys tried to eat the contents of a prescription bottle. (It makes me very happy that Pug got and shared this photo!)

 Never being one to shy away from trouble, she ran to an attendant and told him what's up. His face turned white and he immediately called for emergency services. Unbeknownst to our hero, a man had collapsed just out Pug's view...or so she says...and the women whose stroller was being attacked had just gone over to the man. The attendant was able to see the man and thanked her profusely for letting him know about the emergency. Turns out the guy had had a heart attack or something and Pug had basically provided the guy with the extra minutes that may have been key to his survival.

I didn't believe Pug's version of this story though. Knowing Pug like I know she really is...I know the truth...that she actually did see everything but is just being modest. It's just like her to hide behind some crazy monkey story. Anyway, to thank her for her civic service, I couldn't wait for her to get back so we could celebrate over churros and chocolate at Cafe De L'Opera:

It was good to see you Pug. Diana and I can't wait to have you visit again. And, while you're busy vacationing, maybe another life can be saved...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Abu Dhabi

Lena and Toni took us over to Abu Dhabi on our last full day in the U.A.E. so we could all check out the Emirates' seaside capital and its second largest city.

Our visit started at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is the largest mosque in the U.A.E. and one of the few open to non-Muslims. Toni and Lena had told us that we'd have to wear robes while on the mosque grounds due to modesty rules. I laughed when I saw this Mosque Manners sign that had as one of its examples of what not to wear...umm...the exact outfit I had on!!! Nice job, Dar.

No big deal. A short wait and we were rocking in style with mosque-provided gowns. Note the hood on the ladies' version. Everyone's favorite world-traveling duo in the Sheikh Zayed main courtyard:

The mosque was giant. They say during the tour that 7,000 people can fit in the main hall and over 40,000 can worship on the grounds at the same time. It was also impressively decorated. Not a lot of furniture mind you, but decorative details everywhere you look. Another thing they point out is the over 60,000 square-foot hand-made carpet.

In case you thought that the modesty rules only apply to dress, Toni and Lena got busted by mosque security for being too close while taking a selfie. The guard was cool about it though and asked them to delete the photo while he waited.

And, one last group selfie on the way out:

The mosque was very cool, of course, and we saw a lot of interesting stuff that day but, really, how could I go to Abu Dhabi and not visit the world-famous Formula1 track??? Toni was a sport about it and figured out how to get us over to the Yas Marina area, which is clear on the other side of town, so I could see it first hand. Woohoo! Thanks Toni!!!

Going to the U.A.E. was a great adventure and it was nice to be able to see and hang out with Toni and Lena again. Hopefully they'll realize their dream of opening up their own it-comes-packed-in-a-flat-box pet and pet-supply store here in Barcelona. Actually, I think that image came from a dream I had one night. Whatever, it'd be cool to have them around all the time.

One final random item from the trip. As I mentioned in the first U.A.E. story, we flew Emirates, which was worth the price of admission on its own. Each airplane seat back had an entertainment system that would have been unimaginable in your home just a bunch of years ago. Of course, one of the options was to be able to watch outside via one of the three cameras mounted around the plane. Cool, right?

At one point I noticed that we were flying over Iraq. IRAQ!!! I never in my life thought I'd be anywhere near Iraq and there I was. All because, again, saying yes to every opportunity possible. So, I'll leave you with this, a photo of Baghdad from 40,000 feet:

A superfabulogigantohuge hug to you, Lena and Toni!  Nos vemos pronto! And, by the way, where should we meet next time???