The past couple of weeks have been a blur of World Cup soccer watching. It has been very fun to be able to watch as many games as we want this year, since we can schedule our other activities around the games and because Brazil is in a compatible time zone. Obviously we were rooting for our U.S team and were sad to see them go. Being here in Costa Rica and experiencing the excitement of seeing Costa Rica make it so far in the tournament has been a treat. While we had been enthusiastic about their chances from the beginning, many Costa Ricans we know were highly skeptical and really not believing their team could escape the first round. What fun it has been to be able to watch their crazy enthusiasm and the bloom of hope leading into this “last eight” round against The Netherlands. I’m still learning just how much fútbol means to most Central and South Americans and the Europeans. It’s not just a game. It’s something more.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen comedian John Oliver’s take on the beautiful game, the controversy over this year’s World Cup, and its governing organization FIFA – it’s a must see.
When not watching fútbol, Andy has been working on his class that he will be teaching at Universidad Veritas. The course begins July 23. I have seen a lot of the material. It will be a great information visualization introduction course. He has collected, with help from many colleagues and friends, a vast array of both excellent and terrible examples. I’m always amazed to watch Andy work on a project. He doesn’t do things halfway. It will be a course to remember.
Meanwhile, the kids and I are planning our family trip to Europe. It will end up being shorter than I originally thought because of Andy’s class, getting the dogs back to the U.S. and the kids’ request to be back with their U.S. friends for Halloween.
Our Europe trip will focus in Spain and Italy. The goals are to get a bit of architectural history that lines up with Aidan’s crusades project and to get a bit of art history for Nev. And really, just giving the kids a taste of seeing really old stuff, riding trains, and experiencing some great food in its native environment.
We will primarily be castle hunting in Spain. Aidan and I have been scouring all of the “best castle” lists we can find on the internet. There are many. Now we just have to piece together a logical route to hit the most castles that we can. There are few castles that are way away from other things that we may have to forgo.
We fly into Barcelona. Here I have booked my first ever Airbnb lodging. Fingers crossed that is what I expect. While not many castles here, we will go out to Montserrat for a day trip. We will also take the opportunity to see as much Gaudí works as possible and we are considering a day trip to the Dali museum. Nev’s only comment so far on Dalí is that he had a really cool mustache. I was hoping for a response that was ever slightly more intellectual. We may try to catch an FC Barcelona match if there is one while we are there as well. Their schedule past August is not posted yet.
I found a couple of interesting websites that are proving to be useful. Trip4Real is Spain only. I assume that they will branch out to other countries once they can. It appears that anyone can register and create an offering (tour or activity). If you find an activity you like, you register, book, and pay (PayPal) on the site. I assume the site takes a commission. Neither Andy nor I are very keen on organized tours with groups of strangers. However, we will likely do at least a local tapas tour in Barcelona. I’ve found the site to both useful for tours to book as well as information on good castles, etc. that we can visit on our own. Another site that is pretty interesting is a simple trip planning site called Route Perfect. It helps you pick out an itinerary across a few cities based on a few criteria. It additionally allows you to book lodging through them. I’m not using it for our final itinerary, but it was a useful beginning tool. It doesn’t seem to be able to cross country borders, which is a bit annoying.
The other site I found that I think we will find to be the most valuable is Rome 2 Rio. This is a site that aggregates available transportations options – buses, trains, planes, car – from city to city. It seems to work all over. I tested it on a couple of U.S. trips and Costa Rica trips and it seems to pull up proper info.
We will go through France briefly on our way over to Italy. Haven’t planned the cities yet for certain. I know in Italy we will go to Florence, Orvieto, and Rome. Beyond that, the kids and I have a lot of planning left to do. If you have any must see things in France, Italy, or Spain do let us know.