Our time in Barcelona was relaxing to say the least. Instead of trying to pack our days full of sight-seeing activities, we took a cue from the locals and just enjoyed being a part of the city. The fact that it felt close to 35 degrees everyday also helped to slow us down a bit.
Even though we took it slower, we still managed to see quite a bit of the city.
Gaudi, a celebrated architect native to Barcelona, occupied much of our time with his amazing creations. We visited Casa Batllo, a truely unique house that was remodeled by Gaudi for Joseph Batllo, a textile industrialist; Park Guell, a Doctor Suess like park just north of the city; and most amazingly of all Sagrada Famailia, an extraordinary basilica that makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the future, but the design of which was actually created back in the late 1800s. If you’re ever in Barcelona this is the one thing you should not miss out on - it will blow you away.
A very quick favorite was the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria - a fresh market with all the fruit (and fruit smoothies) you can imagine. The combination of extreme heat, prime location and great prices made this stop a daily (often several times daily) part of our routine. Our indulgences included exotic fruit salads, fresh coconut and smoothies of the kiwi, starwberry, dragon fruit, banana, pineapple, blackberry, orange and coconut variety - in several amazing combinations.
During our stay we also rented a couple bikes and rode along the beach for a few hours. This was a great way to get to and from the beach quickly and explore the fantastic boardwalk that Barcelona boasts.
Barcelona will be missed, but our time there was well spent, and we now have Rome to look forward to.
Due to the language barrier, and just different cultural norms altogether, there were a lot of things that we learned during our short stay in Paris. Here are a few that I thought would be interesting to share.
1. Water is not a cheap commodity. Buy it from a market or you’ll end up paying 5x as much (or more) in a restaurant.
2. The RER is not a synonym for Metro. They are completely different lines that vary in price. If you pay for a metro pass and use the RER line, you won’t be able to exit - which is slightly embarrassing.
3. If you are going to run to catch a bus, make sure you’re on the right side of the street when it comes. Also, don’t take the word of friendly Canadian strangers - they know as much as you do - which isn’t saying a whole lot. Always double check with a local - or better yet, the transit operator.
4. Taxis are expensive - try not to miss your bus!
5. If you have the option between take out and eating in, opt for take out. It’s often cheaper. Also, ask for prices if they aren’t displayed - otherwise you might pay 8€ for juice.
6. Look out for space invaders - there’s a 1000 of them around Paris and they’re fun to try and spot. If you have no idea what I’m talking about watch Exit Through The Gift Shop.
7. Watch out for seemingly nice young ladies that want to give you a gold ring they just happened to find right in front of you - this is a scam…I looked it up.
8. Bring hand sanitizer. You have to press a button to open the doors of the subway and the subway is a hot mess.
9. Watch where you step. Paris doesn’t have or enforce any laws around picking up your pooch’s business.
10. And finally, you can avoid major queues at the Eiffel Tower if you pay in cash…and are willing to take the stairs.
Paris is a beautiful city, not only at night when the city is lite up with the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomph, but also during the day when the sun is glistening through the stain glass of Notre Dame and reflecting off the Seine.
Every morning we would walk to a bakery down the street and eat a croissant while making our way to the train station - where else can you do that but on vacation in Paris. It was story book perfect.
The rather unfortunate part of the trip was our time spent on the subway. Paris was extremely humid and with their stations underground, crowded and poorly ventilated we were sticky messes by the end of the day.
If London was a city with lots of waking, Paris was a city with lots of stairs. In an effort to avoid a very long queue at the Eiffel Tower, we decided to take the stairs - great exercise, but our legs constantly reminded us of this decision for the rest of the trip.
The highlight: standing on top of the Eiffel Tower, overlooking the entire city. I’ll also add to this that our side trip to Normandy to see Juno Beach was fantastic. Being there, so close to a huge part of Canadian history and getting a small glimpse into what that day must have been like for those soldiers, was one of the most memorable parts of this trip so far. It’s amazing to think of the sacrifices that were made for our country and for the freedoms that we enjoy today - lest we forget.
All in all Paris was a remarkable city with so much to see and experience. I really enjoyed my time there and hopefully one day I’ll return with a much larger french vocabulary - Rosetta Stone might just pay off.
On to Barcelona.
Today was our last day in London. After arriving only a few short days ago, we have to say goodbye to this spectacular city. In all fairness though our consolation is that we are now headed to Paris, so don’t feel too bad for us!
Our days in London were filled with a lot of walking, but it was a great way to see the city.
We toured the London Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and Tate Modern, walked through the markets at Camden and Nottinghill and had many a photo opp at Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the London Bridge.
The highlight: Westminster Abbey. It was even more incredible on the inside - which is hard to believe. And seeing the tombs of Elizabeth 1, Sir Isaac Newton and the Unknown Soldier was very cool.
My only regret was not getting to see the guards in the tall, black fuzzy hats - next time I guess!
On a side note, our fist experience with Airbnb was fantastic. We were in a great victorian era house with character out the wazoo and our hosts couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating. If all of our experiences are even close to this, we’re in for a good few weeks.
Our flight to Paris is about to take off so that’s all for now…looking forward to some French bread and chocolate croissants…gonna have to do a lot of walking here too!
Travel is an opportunity to see and experience new places and cultures and to meet people who make these experiences genuine.
So in planning our trip to Europe, I decided to experiment with Airbnb, using it to book all of our accommodations.
If you aren’t familiar with Airbnb - you should really get out more - but it’s essentially a site that allows you to rent an extra room in your apartment (or an entire apartment if you’ve just got a spare one lying around) to anyone around the world.
Not only do you get a chance to experience life as a local and meet locals, but you get to stay in fantastic places that are much nicer (and cheaper) than your average hotel.
When in Rome…
The countdown is on. In less than a week I’ll be on a plane headed to London for the trip of a lifetime…sans riots hopefully!
- London - Paris
- Paris - Barcelona
- Barcelona - Rome
- Rome - Florence (and back)
- Rome - Berlin
- Berlin - Amsterdam
- Amsterdam - Dublin
- Dublin - London
With my handy (no pun intended) iPhone, I’ll be writing about our adventures along the way so stay tuned and enjoy.