Beautiful Barcelona; a blend of story and facts (FB author hop contest! #3)

Welcome to Day #3 of Jane Kirkpatrick's Facebook Author Hop Contest!  Is today your first day here? Welcome, you can still participate in the contest, just visit the "current contest & giveaways" tab at the top of this page.  So glad you are here.  Thanks for participating!

Today I am taking you with me to Barcelona!  Up close and personal as I visited some sites and celebrated the USA with my friends.  Come take a walk with me through the streets of Barcelona, maybe you will even smell some of the wonderful chocolate as we pass by!

Beautiful Barcelona! Las Ramblas is the walking avenue and when we stayed in Barcelona, we were just a long alley away from this vibrant, festive walk way full of street vendors, mimes, musicians and couples walking hand in hand. I imagine there were pickpockets there too but for my husband and me and our two friends, Sandy and Donna whom we traveled with, the colors and smells and sounds made it a walk to remember.

Our hotel was right off St. John's square. We stayed there a week and discovered the treasures right around us. Besides being close to Las Ramblas, we were within a few feet of a terrific chocolate shop, a bakery with meringues the color of the rainbow. A candle shop and an ice cream shop teased riders on the subway who stepped up into the plaza just a block from our door. We discovered back alleys that took us to old churches where I put a scarf over my head and entered, lighting a candle as a prayer for people I loved. Then through another narrow alley (that often had little shops behind old ornate doors) we found the entrance to an underground Roman museum. That was a highlight, it truly was! It piqued my historical gene and made me want to reread Francine Rivers Mark of the Lion series about ancient Rome. The Romans were even in Spain! I think I'd known that but forgotten until we saw the wine vats, the clay lanterns and other artifacts uncovered beneath the city.

A few blocks away was the beautiful Mediterranean sea. Barcelona is a world class harbor and a great many cruise ships depart from that harbor to visit places like France, Italy and Malta before returning their human cargo to the wharf in Barcelona. It's also a world class beach with white sand and bathing beauties of many nationalities soaking in that hot, dry sunshine.*

Or course one of the great tourist attractions in Barcelona is Antonia Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi designed and began building this grand cathedral honoring the Holy Family in 1882. It still has between "30 and 80" years before it's finished, the timing depending upon money raised to do the work. Each of its twelve towers represents one of the twelve disciples...and every stone is unique.

Gaudi designed this amazing cathedra structure and created a miniature upside down to affirm to skeptics that the design would hold. It's one of the most memorable pictures we took there...and the model is placed on a mirror so one can see the image as it's supposed to be with little tiny bags of sand demonstrating this singular design begun more than 100 years ago.

The bus and rail service is excellent in Barcelona and even novices like us could find our way around the city. Incidentally, underground, where the rail lines are, there are shops and shops! It's like a city beneath the city but not as ancient as that Roman one.

We were in Barcelona for the Police and Fire Games, begun in 1985 in San Jose California. Now the events, held every two years, are scheduled around the world with more than 15,000 active or retired police and firemen competing. This year's event was held in New York City; in 2013 it'll be in Ireland. Just like the Olympics, there's an opening ceremony with fly-overs and fireworks and music and the entry of the thousands of competitors. (With my nephew just becoming a St. Paul policeman, maybe one day we'll get to see him compete!)

When we were there, it was the first competition after the attack on 9/11. The host country always comes in last...and they walked in WITH the United States as a sign of solidarity. It was very moving for all of us and an unforgettable night.

Barcelona the city and the Games each play a part in Barcelona Calling. Miranda, in my book within a book, is a preschool teacher who has joined her sister, a competitor, at the last minute in coming to Spain for the games. She attends the opening night event and realizes there she is falling in love with a Barcelona policeman. Their courtship includes visiting the underground Roman City, visiting churches (and catching a guard asleep atop one of the church roofs where tourists are allowed to view the city). She and her policeman travel with his sister and two children during August, the month when most of Europe goes on vacation. They visit Lisbon, Portugal and the National Carriage museum where she discovers something about Jaime she didn't want to know. Will she accept his invitation of marriage or flee back home? Will she take a risk for love or be true to what she feels she must have in a relationship that she doesn't think Jaime will be able to deliver?

And how does that romance affect Annie Shaw, the writer in this book? As much as the book is about Barcelona, it's more about a writer's finding her way. Bookstore owner Deon Stonehouse in Sunriver, Oregon, is a voracious reader of fiction and she tells it like it is so I held my breath hoping she'd be willing to carry this book in her store. She read Barcelona Calling and loved it. She also knows some of the insider issues an author deals with. "Annie is on the fourth book of a four book contract and sales of the last two have not been brisk," Deon notes in her latest newsletter to readers. "To make matters worse, her advocate in the publishing firm, her editor, is gone and she is interacting with a new editor. Annie is afraid she will be dropped, a very unsettling fate for an author." To help her over this hump, Annie's friends brainstorm ways to get Annie's career back on track. They develop several schemes all in the effort to get Oprah to notice Annie's work. Deon writes: "Like all Jane Kirkpatrick books, Annie's story has her facing challenges and learning. But this story is very funny too! Jane has written a modern story suffused with humor and warmth."

Deon's words have made my day as we launch this new venture of risk-taking moving a writer along on journey to find what fame and friendship are really all about. I truly hope you'll enjoy it.

For today's contest entry: Do you have a quick story about falling in love when you travelled? Maybe a summer romance? If not, what about your favorite trip overseas, or yet-to-be-taken trip overseas?

Don't enter into the contest a comment must be made on each post! At the end of the contest you will have made 5 comments. Looking forward to hearing all you have to say!

Thanks for participating in this contest! (if you want to comment as anonymous, please leave your name and first initial of your last name in your comment so you can be tracked each day)

Don't forget to Tweet if you can!

Every month send out a newsletter called Story Sparks.  Visit here for the archive to read a few and see if you are interested in signing up.