Every year, we take a trip to Europe to see the family and this year we had several destinations. On arrival in Barcelona, Mac took off for the Spanish Pyrenees by train. His brother was hiking the Pyrenees from one coast to another and each Hartshorn brother had planned to hike with him at different points along the trek. Meanwhile, the girls and I had our own plans, which kicked off with a few days in Barcelona. Our hotel loaned us scooters, which was a fantastic way to travel around the city. We explored the narrow streets and bought bread, cheese and meats from the famous La Boqueria market and enjoyed a picnic in one of the many squares by a beautiful fountain. We saw much of the Gaudi architecture, including La Familia Sagrada (construction started in 1882 and is still in progress) and Guell Park. What an amazingly creative man Gaudi was and way ahead of his time!
The next part of our trip was to travel by train through the Pyrenees. We took several trains, including the Little Yellow Train– an electric train which was opened in 1906 with France’s highest station at 5226 feet above sea level. We chose an open air carriage which made the trip even more exciting and arrived at an 11th Century walled village called Villlefranche. One of the highlights form this part of the trip for the girls was the self service milk stations. There was a vending machine to purchase a capped bottle and a milk dispenser. We filled up the bottle and drank it right there — apparently they are located all over Spain! Following a day of exploring, we traveled to meet Mac in Perpignan and took the TGV to Paris. The trip took five hours and reached speeds of 200 mph, which Mac thought was very cool.
After a day exploring Paris, we took our final train to my mum’s home in Normandy. We were happy to stop and relax in this beautiful area of France. Mum’s place overlooks sand dunes and oyster beds; we spent so much time eating delicious seafood and flying kites on the huge expanse of sand. We took a day trip to Mont St-Michel — it was absolutely beautiful and had been on my bucket list for years. The local resturant was extremely entertaining…the owner proudly states that it is the worst restaurant in France. We disagree, but it definitely would not have passed any inspections in the USA! They cook sausages on an open fire and the service was non-existent. The cooks were barefoot teenagers and he offered our daughter a job when she reaches 15 years old! We had to get our own glasses and utensils and pick a bottle of wine from his collection. The mussels arrived in huge pots accompanied by dishes of french fries. But SO delicious– we were there a couple of nights for the food and the entertainment factor.
We left the girls with the grandparents for a week and headed home to glamorous New Jersey and plans for beach time.