Our last day in Barcelona greeted us drearily with grey skies and a light drizzle. We had gotten up early to pick up a rental car and get back to the apartment in time to check out by 11 a.m., and two hours seemed like enough time to accomplish this. But, between a half hour wait for the train, some confusion about how to get to the rental car agency, and an inadvertent detour (aka, getting lost ), we were an hour late getting back. Isaac had been very fussy at the car rental agency, but to our utter amazement, he was positively thrilled about getting in the car! That was a nice surprise. Anyway, when we got back to the apartment, we loaded the car and hit the road.
We had an atlas that we bought before leaving the States and it turned out to be a great thing to have for the rest of our trip. Google Maps actually provided very accurate directions, but the highways in Spain constantly change names and unfinished stretches sometimes force you onto frontage roads for a few kilometers, so it was nice to have a visual (we had no international data plan, so no Google Maps on our phones).
Isaac got a little fussy about an hour into the drive, so we handed him some pegatinas (stickers) and stumbled upon a new crutch for dealing with a cranky toddler in the car. A routine quickly developed where he’d point out a sticker, we’d hand it to him, he’d smack it down on the sticker canvas—a coloring book—as hard as he could, clap his hands, and say ‘Yay!’ This went on for awhile, but eventually he became mesmerized by the metallic colors on the stickers and fell asleep, a sticker in one hand and the coloring book in another. To this day stickers almost always pull him back from the brink if he is falling apart on the road.
We continued west as Isaac slept and the fairly dry landscape got even drier. Grey-green vegetation gave way to brick red dirt, sage-green brush, and small buttes and mesas scarred by gulches and dried rivulets. Olive and almond groves were also becoming more common, and every few kilometers we passed another ruined stone edifice atop a high hill that dominated its immediate surroundings.
It was still raining two and a half hours later when we dog-legged north and entered the foothills of the Pyrenees. Isaac awoke a little later, just as we began the relentless up and down ziggle-zaggle (Erika coined this phrase in Idaho in July) typical of mountain roads. He had a little snack and then we started singing songs, one of which was “This Old Man.” When we got to the verse about seven, Erika threw in a little twist: “this old man, he played 7, he played 7 all up in heaven!”
I looked over at her like she was crazy, and she was like, “what?”
“Erika, it’s ‘he played knick knack up in heaven, not, ‘he played seven all up in heaven.’”
We both erupted in laughter and I can only imagine what Isaac was thinking as we gradually got ourselves back under control! Now, Erika and I can’t sing it any other way and still break into uncontrollable fits of laughter when we do. Hopefully it won’t embarrass him too much when we sing it with him and his friends in a few years .
We finally made it to Biescas about an hour later in the middle of a torrential downpour. I got soaked as I unloaded the car while Erika and Isaac were in the lobby talking with Elena, who was renting us our next apartment. She turned out to be a wonderful woman and more accommodating than we could have ever hoped, as you’ll discover in one of the later entries. This week’s home was an incredibly quaint stone and timber house perched on a steep hill. It had two bedrooms, a full bath, a little kitchenette, and a balcony with a fantastic view down the valley to the south.
We were starving by the time all of our luggage was unloaded, so we drove around hoping to find some food. It was around 5, so the pickins were slim, but we found a bar that was able to serve up some toastadas and cafes solos. Whew! It wasn’t much, but it took the edge off. Afterwards, we headed back to the apartment and Isaac morphed into a wild man while we unpacked. He was tearing around the apartment squealing and laughing and yelling and otherwise being a crazy person. At one point he discovered how fun it was to scramble to the edge of the bed, climb over the rail of the adjoined pack and play, and fall down into it. This was pretty nerve-wracking for mom and dad, but he was literally beside himself with unfettered joy after the long car ride, so we facilitated it and did our best to keep him from falling too hard.
Another feature of this bout of mania was the debut of Isaac’s separation anxiety. At one point, while I was in the bathroom, he apparently walked out into the dining room, leaned over to peer around the cabinets and, while looking both ways, said, “Dada? Where Dada?!” His first sentence! This became a common theme for the rest of the trip.
Anyway, once we were all unpacked we went out for some pizza. It was getting towards 9 p.m. by this time and Isaac was evidently very hungry. He ate a TON of spaghetti and sausage while we drank Estrella Damm and ate pizza. At some point during dinner we taught him how to raise a glass to toast. He took to it quickly and still loves to do it today. Next time you see him, offer your glass and say “Cheers!”