Bitter and Sweet (Glen)

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Barcelona on August 20, 2017.

IMG_6033When terrorism happens, it’s scary, heartbreaking, traumatic, confusing, and angering. Julie and I were not in Barcelona when a man drove a van down Las Ramblas; we were visiting London. Las Ramblas is the famous street that leads down to the Mediterranean Sea. It is always packed with people. Watching the news coverage about the event was very surreal. The area where the attack began was Plaza Catalunya. We walk through this plaza on a daily basis. It’s a central point in Barcelona, and a lovely place. People feed the pigeons there. Las Ramblas begins its journey down to the port from Plaza Catalunya.

IMG_6039Last night, we were in the airport in London. Our plane back to Barcelona was delayed for two hours. With each minute that passed, a bit of nervousness crept in. We wondered, What will it feel like to be in Barcelona so soon after the attack? After a short flight, the wheels touched down, and we were in a taxi back to our apartment. As we rode through the city, it sunk in…this has been our home for the past year.

This morning, I got up. The sun was shining, and I walked a few steps to the little market behind my building to buy milk and bread. Later, Julie and I walked to Las Ramblas. Understandably, people were more somber than typical for a Sunday afternoon.

Over the past few days, family, friends and work colleagues have reached out to us to make sure we were safe.  We felt your love and concern. Thank you so much.


Julie and I love this city. We have visited London many times, and I’m confident we’ll return. On this occasion, it was a safe harbor during the Barcelona attack. It’s strange that we could have so much fun in London, while people in Barcelona were experiencing such different emotions.  Perhaps, that’s the way life works…there is both bitter and sweet. Often, they are mixed together.

Here’s a snapshot of our time in London:

  • Viewing an exhibition about the versatility of plywood at the Victoria and Albert IMG_5961Museum. You have no idea how incredible this product is. It has been incorporated into planes, cars, mid modern chairs…you name it.
  • Seeing the musical, The Wind in the Willows, at the London Palladium theatre. A classic story that was charming, funny, and filled with catchy tunes with insightful lyrics.
  • Walking along the Thames from Pimlico to Westminster and hearing Big Ben chime…they are talking about silencing the bells for four years as restoration work is being undertaken. (See video below)IMG_5984
  • Eating Fish and Chips at the Anchor pub with a pint of Guinness. Yummy.
  • Visiting the National Portrait Gallery. It’s mind blowing to see the actual portraits of these great British women and men that I’ve seen only in textbooks.
  • Experiencing the Tate Modern. This museum pushed us to think about art in new ways. We viewed the very moving exhibition: Soul of a Nation (Art in the age of Black Power). Also, ask us about the gigantic installation made of human hair and car bumpers.
  • Enjoying an incredible dinner with the retired AnglicanIMG_8667 Bishop (Michael) and his wife (Cynthia) in their lovely home in Kensington. How did it happen? Cool story; too long to fill you in here. It requires a beverage and conversation.
  • Eating delicious Indian food: Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer.
  • Getting a cool hair cut at a hipster barbershop in Southwark. I felt a little weird not having a beard, but I got over it.
  • Browsing around, and buying a few books, from Hatchards – a venerable bookstore that has been around since 1797.
  • IMG_5989Attending evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral and then doing a job networking call, right outside, in small, hidden corner of the cathedral.
  • Being overwhelmed by Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony at The Royal Albert Hall. As we were sitting in our seats before the concert, an older British woman chatted with us. She began the conversation, “Aren’t we fortunate to be here?”  We replied, “Yes. Yes we are.”
  • Watching the news about Barcelona and shaking our heads in disbelief.

And so, this was our week.


  1. Barbara Troutman says

    Dear kids! When they broke in with the news of the attack I must admit my heart skipped a beat or two. Thanks Jules for your quick response to my text. Not being a Facebook person (sometimes I wish I was) I miss quite a bit of your travels. Was awfully glad you were not there. Its so sad what is happening to our world. No one is really safe anywhere any more. Please be careful and know that I am praying for a safe return home for you two. London looks fabulous!
    Love ya, Babs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vicki Starkey says

    Julie — “Though her words are simple and few, listen, listen, she’s calling to you — Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.” (though less well-known, definitely one of my favorite songs from Mary Poppins. And I just love the character of the “bird lady”, her tender-hearted care for even the “least of these”. You channel her well, my friend.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Julie Zehr says

      Sister Vicki! So sweet – thanks for sharing! I have loved watching people feed the pigeons here – especially little kiddos – and wanted to feed them as well. After returning from London, we went to Plaza de Catalunya. Directly behind me is where the attack took place. It seemed the perfect opportunity for a random act of kindness.
      Love you!


  3. James Calhoun says

    Thanks for the great post Julie and Glen! Brought back memories. Loved the last photo of the Tower. We miss you. Jim&Molly

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lezlee Knowles says

    You are in the right places at the right times, to embrace both the bitter and the sweet in gracious, meaningful ways. We love and miss you!


  5. Larry Loeppke says

    Glen, Thanks for your brief reflection about the tragedy that took place on such close and familiar ground to you…as well as your review of London (our favorite city in the world). As we look toward a second exploratory trip for residence that will include Portugal as well as the surrounding area of both Valencia and Barcelona, I still feel safer there than the U.S. at this point. Having lived for some years in Africa, Hong Kong, and elsewhere, I can say that the most difficult part of your journey (the return and adjustment back to the U.S.) has just begun. Larry L.


  6. Barbara Troutman says

    Well kiddos, I can’t wait to see your faces and hear your stories! Wow, hard to believe it has been a year…almost since we have seen you. Wishing you a safe return and see you soon.
    Aunt Babs

    Liked by 1 person

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