Next, we took a hop on/hop off double-decker bus tour of the city... which the kids tolerated for a few minutes, then Raf took them back to the hotel in a taxi and I stayed on for another 20 minutes. Later as the afternoon cooled a little, we all rode on the "blue" route to see some famous Gaudi sites, kind of a Modernista drive-by. I would have liked to have spent much more time at each of Gaudi's buildings - La Pedrera is a fantasy city block of whipped-cream-capped towers and Casa Batllo was like a Dr. Seuss illustration come to life. Nothing prepared me for the scale of Sagrada Familia, the church that Gaudi designed but knew he wouldn't live to see finished. It is an ongoing construction and each dollar donated will help finish it -- though even Gaudi imagined that it would take generations to complete. The upstairs of the double-decker bus ride was worthwhile because it enabled us to crane our necks high enough to see the colorful ceramic tiles on the turrets and study Gaudi's mastery of the three dimensions.
But it was clear that we couldn't ride the bus for very long after the church - the kids were getting restless. We taxi-ed back to Placa de Catalunya and shopped at H&M, where the girls bought "souvenirs" (that I might actually find back in Woodland Hill, but whatever, right?). Serena and Marlowe bought matching outfits (a phenomenon we've seen on several non-twin siblings throughout Europe this summer). We were feeling confident, so we even went so far as to talk the kids into a cute but pricey & touristy cafe on a 2nd floor terrace, where the service was too slow and the menu items too weird for the kids... and we eventually just stood up and left. Serena talked us into trying a place down the street that said "pizzeria"... all of us hemmed and hawed, but they had a free table so we went for it.
And it was the best meal the kids have eaten in over a week! Emme ate two platefuls of spaghetti bolognese and two platefuls of paella; Serena barely looked up from her plate of spaghetti long enough to drink a cup of water; and Marlowe was using her fingers to shove buttery pasta into her mouth. It was like they hadn't eaten for ages and the mood definitely shifted.
So the phrase must be changed: if the kids are happy, everybody's happy!