Our European vacation was wonderful

We are back in Ontario after a great vacation. Earlier this month, we flew to Spain for a week in Sitges, about 22 miles southwest of Barcelona right on the beach. We were there a few years ago and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go back. As usual, we traveled with friends to help make the accommodations a bit more affordable. Before we left, we did get exciting news that Vale Viti would be coming to spend the week with us in Spain. I m sure you recall, Vale was our Italian exchange student that lived with us and attended Ontario High School, graduating in 2014.

We arrived on a Saturday morning and Vale joined us Sunday afternoon. We did get to spend time with just her before our friends arrived Monday. Our travel friends had never met Vale before, but for those of you who know Vale, she was a big hit and made our week perfect. We did take a couple of trips to Barcelona but got to spend a lot of time on the beach just relaxing. The last time we were in Spain it was late October and not heavy tourist season. This trip, though, there were a lot more tourists than we had planned, which caused long lines and made it difficult to see some of the things we wanted to see, such as Gaudi s Park Guell.

However we did make it to see Sagrada Familia. Construction on the basilica began in 1882, and Antoni Gaud took over the project in 1883. When he died in 1926, the project was only a quarter complete. When we were there in 2009, construction was about halfway done and, since then, an amazing amount of work has taken place. Completion is expected in the next 10 years.

Vale went back to Italy and we continued on to Paris for the second part of our vacation. We traveled by train, reaching speeds of 180 miles per hour, so it didn t take long to get there. In contrast to a villa on the beach, in Paris we stayed in a fifth-floor apartment in the heart of the city. Paris was a bit cooler and rainy, but we made sure we saw the sights. One of the first things we saw was Notre-Dame de Paris, French for Our Lady of Paris. It is also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame.

The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known churches in the world. We climbed more than 300 steps to the top of the tower, saw the big bells and looked out over the city. We also went to the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 as the entrance to the world s fair. The tower stands 1,063 feet high, much higher than Seattle s Space Needle at 605 feet high. I do have a little trouble with heights but given the opportunity, I had to go to the top. However, the glass floor on the first level was a bit much and I had a hard time standing on that and looking down.

I caught a bad cold on the way to Paris and was sick in bed the day the group went to the Louvre Museum. I missed the long lines and the Mona Lisa. On the last day in Paris we took a tour of the Palace of Versailles, which was about a 30-minute train ride from Paris. Louis XIV built Versailles. He moved there from Paris in 1682, and it was the center of political power until the royal family was forced out in 1789, after the beginning of the French Revolution.

We walked the gardens, saw most of the 50 fountains and enjoyed touring the inside, even seeing the Hall of Mirrors. It was a wonderful tour, and a great way to learn about this piece of France s history. It was a wonderful vacation, and we are back home and back to work. On a side note, out Sister City exchange student Haruna Nagasaka messaged us to say that she has a scholarship to Portland State, and will be visiting us while she is going to school. We are looking forward to that as well.

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