Google

It’s no secret that if I weren’t already married, I would like to marry Google. I love Google. The angriest I’ve ever been with my work is when they prohibited me from using Chrome because “Google is too innovative.” (Internet Explorer updates at the rate of a glacier and is easier to manage.) I was super excited today to get to tour the Google campus with Jim, Kelly, and Brenna’s friend, Sarah.

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We had lunch in one of their 25 cafes. Coffee and tea in another. Then we visited a juice bar. A smoothie bar. Numerous snack bars. And a dessert bar. Google believes you should never be more than a few steps away from food. See? What’s not to love? The food is legendary, from healthy to otherwise: New York Deli sandwiches, paella, burritos, long salad bars, sushi, free range egg drop soup, pho, reduced gluten rice wafers, big jars of cookies, and more.

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All kinds of drinks, and huge water dispensers with flavored waters, like lemon basil, pineapple, or kumquat.

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They had all kinds of loose tea and water dispensers with different temperatures of water. (Black tea steeps better at a different temp than green tea.) There were at least ten different kinds of milk to put in it. And if you bring your own mug, they will wash it for you. They deliver cookies to your desk at 2 pm every day. And at 1 pm on Fridays.

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I was fascinated by the way Google manipulates makes it easy for their employees to stay at work forever. Employees not only eat meals and snacks there, but can get their haircut, do their laundry, attend exercise or cooking classes (improve your knife work, anyone?), play beach volleyball, miniature golf and tennis, swim in a stationary pool, practice batting, work in a community garden, and get their eyebrows waxed. It felt like a University campus to me…a little city with scattered buildings where almost everyone is young. The Googleplex is so big that workers ask their colleagues for directions. Jim said it felt like visiting a company that decorated for Halloween, but this is their normal fair.

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We saw self-driving cars, and all kinds of fun things like a dinosaur skeleton covered with flamingos. Because, why not?

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It was an incredibly fun afternoon. Thank you SO MUCH, Sarah. 

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Day Eighteen: Barcelona to LAX

When we found flights all those many months ago we were just happy to get to go. We didn’t care about the routes and the times. We had other thoughts when we realized we had to get up at 3:30 am today, and find a cab in the dark to get to the airport and take THREE flights home. When Kelly lived here before, was really hard to find a taxi after midnight. But times have changed, and within thirty seconds we had a taxi. (Usually it’s not the things you worry about that get you; it’s the OTHER. Things that blindside you out of nowhere.) The driver grew up in Barcelona, but “I haven’t been able to sleep in my city for many years because of the economy. People use taxis less, so there are an estimated three thousand more taxis than the city needs.” Jim gave him a tip, and the driver gave it back. “I’m just happy to have the work,” he said. Wow.

Jim had read a tiny article about the new TSA requirements flying into the US that you have to be able to power on your devices, or they have to be in your checked luggage. This means that if your iPad runs out of battery, you have to check it or charge it then. I couldn’t believe they would be able to enforce this without a lot more public notice, but when we arrived at the airport it was clear. If you were about to run out of battery, or your battery was dead, you had to put the device in your checked luggage or charge it. This wasn’t a problem for us, but I see this as yet one more thing that will slow down security lines. I predict long lines at charging stations and more theft of electronics in checked luggage. The worst thing about international travel is standing in the long lines. That, and living so far from an airport.

It took us three hours to get home from the airport on a crowded shuttle service we won’t use again. Roadrunner, I wouldn’t have minded drop offs in Ventura, but Simi Valley is NOT on the way. Fellow traveler who didn’t have the gate code to the gated community where you were staying, I felt bad for you, but also annoyed. Also, Toronto Airport, did you really think six women’s bathroom stalls would be enough for 67 gates? Six.

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Day Seventeen: Barcelona

We spent our last day of the trip wandering aimlessly around the city looking at cool buildings, watching kids play in parks, eating great food, and exploring narrow passageways. It was ideal.

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We don’t typically get sucked in by street vendors, but the restaurant where we ate lunch had a young man in front who was so good at his job. He promised us a fabulous table with a great view and amazing food, and he delivered. And he entertained us for the next hour as we watched him schmooze other tourists. This was our view.

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And our dessert.

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Day Sixteen Part 2: Barcelona

The Sagrada Familia basilica is Antonio Gaudi’s magnum opus. There is nothing remotely like it in all the world. Building started on it 132 years ago, and it is still only 70% complete. What is sad to me is that it is an enormous space, meant to be a place for believers to worship. A place that would draw people closer to God. I hope that it still does. However, Spain, like most European countries has seen the number of believers plummet. Does Barcelona need a church building this size? The great churches have turned into museums, albeit with a small number of worshipers. I know nothing about the parish of this church, but I hope that it becomes/is a vibrant church and that it doesn’t go straight to being a tourist attraction before the building is even finished. It’s a beautiful space. You can’t help but be astonished when you walk in. Gaudi was a faithful follower of Jesus and truly divinely inspired. I hope the church he designed becomes a place where people ask “How do I grow closer to God?” more frequently than “How long is the line?”

So much has been done in the last few years. The inside is like walking into a beautiful forest filled with color and light. It’s full of symbols and yet stripped to the essentials. It is amazing. When I saw it in 1978 it looked like this. (No roof, walls and towers barely started.)

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Now it looks like this:

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Here’s the Nativity story. Can you see Mary and Joseph and the horse’s head at Mary’s left?

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And the three wise men.

20140709-083027-30627973.jpgHere’s Peter distressed that he denied Christ, and the rooster from the story.

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Day Sixteen: Barcelona

This is the market where Kelly shopped when she lived here. We had fun stocking our little apartment with good food. I love this kind of market.

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When we visited Kelly in Spain nine years ago, she introduced us to the Paul’s bakery strawberry tart, and I feel it is the pinnacle of deliciousness. The benchmark of all other desserts. It’s a really flaky flavorful crust, (pastry with a touch of graham), a vanilla cream pudding layer, and then the strawberries in a really light glaze. It is the standard to which I always compare any pastry to. We’ve had this same brand of tart in France, in Lebanon, in Germany, and other countries, and eating it was one of the main things I wanted to do here. It was not disappointing.

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Day Fifteen: Stockholm, Berlin, Barcelona

When we picked up our luggage in Barcelona, they were labelled with big red tags saying “tight connection.” This is ironic because instead of less than an hour in Berlin, we spent many hours there because of a thunderstorm in Barcelona that closed the airport. We left the house in Stockholm at 6 am and weren’t at our new home until 7:30 pm. Stockholm doesn’t even look that far from Spain on the globe!!! Bored to tears, but warm, dry, safe, fed, clothed…

Barcelona is one of our favorite cities, and arriving here was like coming home. Kelly and I both lived a year in Spain, and the apartment we are staying in is a couple blocks from when she used to live. To hear the Castilian Spanish is like music for me. We understand people! We know how the transportation works! We know where he market is! We don’t have to walk around with a map. There’s that Gaudi house we love!

20140708-182716-66436365.jpgThe city has amazing things to do and see, but we feel no pressure because we’ve been here multiple times and seen them. They are worth seeing again, but it feels different than the other places on this trip where didn’t want to miss anything important.

Throughout the day we’d get texts and pictures of our new granddaughter. It’s been hard not to be there, but I think it’s possible she’s the cutest baby ever born and her parents are amazing.

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Day Fifteen: Stockholm to Barcelona

Brenna and Matt have been waiting eagerly for our first grandchild to be born. Yesterday when we were at the palace Brenna texted that she had been admitted to the hospital. We exchanged texts and pictures through the night, and this morning Lydia Kathleen was born. Molly was there for the birth, and Brenna’s friend also flew up from Southern California. Everything went smoothly and apparently she’s darling. In other news, Molly thinks birth is crazy.

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