Monday, January 6, 2014

Life Venn Diagram - Ruma And Berat Visit Barcelona

Diana and I always invite family and friends to come visit wherever we happen to be, including here in Barcelona, back in Germany, or even in Colombia. A few have taken us up on it (like here, here, here, here, and here) but it hasn't been enough and definitely not often enough.

A couple of months ago I was thrilled to find out that my friend from San Diego, Ruma, and her daughter Nicole would be taking a vacation within their vacation to Israel to stay with us for a few days. I got even more delighted when our roommate in Stuttgart, Berat, and his girlfriend Fen would also be coming...AT THE SAME TIME!!!

Me with Berat and Ruma outside the Born Cultural Center a couple of days after Christmas:

Berat came with us to Barcelona last year when Diana finished her PhD and Fen had also been to Barcelona back before she met Berat so we weren't as worried about showing them around. It was Ruma and Nicole's first visit so we wanted to give them the complete, if very abbreviated, tour of the city, which included all the standard tourist spots like Park Guell and Casa Battlo:

...and checking out the Barcelona's Christmas lights:

...and, yep, even a quick stop at the beach:

As is always case, the most important part of the tour was... FOOD! Of course we went to old favorites La Paradeta and El Glop but we also ended up by chance at one of our new favorites, a Moroccan coos-coos restaurant near the Raval that could convince me to wake up for morning prayer! Not really, but it's that good.

We happened to walking by on the way to another place when Diana spotted Natalia, a friend from the university, and her boyfriend Adil, who first took us to the restaurant. They were sitting down to eat dinner with Adil's uncle from France and invited us to join them.

Ruma and Berat have both been very positive influences and I owe them a great deal. It was surprisingly emotional at times to be around both of them together in one place. Definitely a (positive) collision of different parts of my life. Maybe a better illustration could be the Venn diagram of some of the different parts of my life: San Diego - Barcelona - Stuttgart.

What could be better, right? Well, maybe that AND a stop at the Cafe de L'Opera for some churros and chocolate:

I'm super happy to have had the chance to spend time with these guys even if it wasn't as much as I'd have liked. But, we'll see everyone again soon, I'm sure. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Fen, Berat, Nicole, Ruma, Cristina, Diana, and me in Barcelona!

A special thanks (again) to Gema for helping us out with the hosting logistics.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Philadelphia Zoo For Christmas

Beginning last year, I decided, rather than give my nieces and nephews some random gifts for Christmas (that they probably wouldn't remember a month later) I would try to do something together with them that might be more memorable. Last year we went horseback riding and this year I thought we could go to the Philadelphia Zoo for a guided tour. I got the idea because a few years ago, when I was living in California, I had a couple of chances to do some up-close animal encounters and they were pretty amazing...

I called the zoo and talked with their tour coordinator but found out that the type of tour I did at the San Diego Zoo was only available for a group of up to six. Our group was going to be 13 people so they recommended one of their docent-guided tours, which she assured me would be great. So, my dad, Diana, me, my brother and sister, and their 850 kids headed to the zoo on the (very cold) Saturday after Thanksgiving:

We met our very nice guide at the front gate as planned. She was excellent with the kids...

My brother and his kids during our visit:

The guided tour lasted about an hour and, although our guide was very nice and good with the kids, there was no animal interactions, other than the in kids' area, to be had.

One of the zoo's lions (with my sister and niece in the reflection):

What the tour lacked in up-close-animal experiences, it was made up by the fact that we got to spend a bunch of time together, which, in retrospect, is what it's about anyway. Enjoying family-together time:

Even though we had a great time together, I do wish the zoo would have had a larger-group option. My minor disappointment with the zoo offerings didn't put a damper on the'll just make me work harder to find a better option for next year! Our zoo-tour-taking, chicken-finger-filled, and slightly-cold family photo from our 2013 Philadelphia Zoo visit:

Thanks again for the great trip Philadelphia. See you all again soon (maybe in Barcelona???) and we miss you already!