Monday, July 27, 2009

Barcelona in pictures

Looking back at my previous post, I'm realizing more and more that I need to find the best way to keep all the information I want to share simple and to the point. It's difficult because there's so much to tell, but I seriously commend anyone that actually read through everything I wrote on Barcelona, because that was way too wordy and not very organized.
So I think this post will be better and much more exciting to "read"!
Here are the promised pictures of Barcelona:

Tiled ceilings in part of Parc Guell.

The crazy stone architecture at Parc Guell. Half the place looks like this, the other half is done up in that tiled style I show in the first picture.

On the rooftop of "La Pedrera"- The house designed by Gaudi.

View of the bustling port of Barcelona from atop the Old Village Montjuic.

Inside the market- Look at all the beautiful fruit!! I probably ate my weight in fresh figs on this trip. Why don't they grow like that here??

The lifesize mammoth replica in Parque Cuidadela with my brother and the kids underneath so you can get a sense of scale.

Entrance to the park. I'm not sure about when or why this was built but arches are always pretty :)

Next time I'll talk about all the little French Riviera towns we passed through. And if you'd like, you can leave comments telling me what you most like hearing about so I can make my posts more concise.

Hope you enjoyed the photo tour!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ultra late vacation posts begin!

I know it's been a while, hasn't it? I've been home for almost a month now! Life has been treating me well enough, though the job hunt/ future planning is still at a stand still. It seems I go around in circles, get ideas but either I don't follow through or the plan falls through....I'm not too sure yet what I should do about this. The good news is that for now the family translation business has picked up some. This week I took over the secretary's job since she was on vacation. That meant a lot of phone answering, emailing, billing, etc. I also had several short legal translations, and I'm pretty sure I saw that I have some market research groups coming up. So I can slowly but surely start pulling myself out of debt and eventually start making money so I can take off somewhere. Right now I'll pretty much take any job short term whether I like it or not if it will make me some money to travel with.

So now on to the purpose of this blog- TRAVEL
I'm going to work my way through my three week trip and give you an overview of where I went and what I did, and if I write it right (hehe) it will hopefully inspire you to travel yourselves and help you along the way.

Here in Houston, we're lucky enough to have a direct flight to Barcelona. You leave in the evening and arrive early the next morning. That's great news for people like my brother who has the ability to pass out anywhere, and means a long night of bad movie watching for people like me. I don't mind though, I packed some good books and lots of meals/ snacks and it also turns out my mom ordered me the vegan meal so I had extras. Note to Continental users: vegan always = Indian. I'm not fond of spicy at all, particularly not on an airplane, but for the first time ever it included a vegan choco chip cookie! Score!
The first day, we were of course exhausted but that is no excuse when you're in Barcelona. So much to do and so little time! We had rented an apartment since we were so many people. I would really recommend doing this if you have a decent amount of people (3+) and are staying for close to a week. It's a lot cheaper than a hotel, saves you a ton of money on meals out, and is just more comfortable all around. Ours was really spacious and really nice. We went out and found lunch and then made our way to some touristy sites.
One thing we didn't see but that was near where we stayed was the Museum of Chocolate. Yes, I can't believe we didn't make it there either! But I read it in a guide somewhere and was really intrigued, so next time I'm in Barcelona, that will be a must.
The first thing we did was take the cable car up to Montjuic. Take this from the metro station rather than the main entrance on the Port and you'll save money and not waste time waiting in line. Montjuic is the old Spanish Village. It has a few craft/ tourist shops and a museum, which was closed, but the views of the Port are wonderful. The walk down has several sights- gardens, museums, fountains. We walked through the botanical gardens and found these giant slides that the kids (and me and my dad) had to go down several times. I do still love good playgrounds and this place has a lot of fun places to let your inner child out.
We then went to see the old Olympic Stadium from ...1992? It's now used as a fancy fitness club and has some nice lap pools and you can still see the broadcasting tower.
We walked by the 'Plaza Espanyola'. It seems to be kind of like a theme park but more historical, and a good way to spend the day if you have more time. We were tired and had the younger kids with us so we decided to pass that up.
At this point we still had a long walk back to the apartment but we eventually made it, walking back through the central area. We rested for a while, meaning everyone ended up napping for about 2 hours while I sat around, read and used the computer. I finally managed to get everyone up for dinner, we went out again, and that was it for the day. I slept really really well.

The next few days I failed to keep an accurate account in my written journal, but I did take note of other important things to see in Barcelona.
First up: All the Gaudi architecture is amazing. The most famous is "La Sagrada Familia". It's a giant temple that has been under construction since 1882 and still has anywhere between 30 and 80 more years to go before it's finished. We didn't go inside this year, but I had been with my mom in 2006. The inside has really incredible towers and windows but much of it is still covered up by all the construction. The outside kind of hidden too, but what you can see of the detailing is crazy. Really, all of his architecture is so interesting. He used a lot of intricate and weird designs and shapes and all of it is very unconventional. Other things to see by Gaudi are 2 houses he designed- "La Pedrera" and "Batilliou". We toured La Pedrera, but not Batillou, although I personally think it looked a lot more interesting. Whoever is in charge of all the tourist attractions thinks so too because it's also more than twice as much to get in. If I had had more time I would have gone, but I was babysitting our family friend's little ones this time so my museum and site time was limited to their attention spans. The other main site to see by Gaudi is Parc Guell. It was once someone's home but is now a large park with a lot of beautiful gardens, more cool architecture and houses. These are all hard to describe, but I'll make my next post a picture post.
My favorite things to do when traveling are to simply walk around and experience the city as the locals do. I love the shops, the food, people watching, and enjoying a lifestyle that's so unfamiliar to this native Houston/suburbanite. The best place to do this in Barcelona is Las Ramblas. This is the main street with tons of shops and restaurants and the huge outdoor market. The market has to be one of the greatest I've seen in Europe. So much fresh fruit and vegetables, and juices. The Spanish are meat lovers so they have several meat stands with cuts of Iberian ham, chorizo, or entire pigs ( I avoid these, poor piggies!). And even I must admit, the cheese stands smell quite enticing. More good people watching and shopping can be found around this area too on Passaeg de Gracie and other streets that all meet in the main square.
The kids really loved Parque Cuidadela. It's a really nice park adjacent to the zoo. There's fountains, a small lake with paddleboating, ping pong tables, widespread grassy areas for picnicking and soccer(futbol) and a lifesize replica of a mammoth.
We went to the beach on the last day just to see it. I had never been but it's actually a beautiful beach, full of restaurants, hotels, and water sports. With more time, you can definitely turn Barcelona into a beach trip too. From there we explored the old town streets to get back to Las Ramblas. These are filled with cute little shops and cafe's, just try not to get lost (or let my dad have the map) like we did! This is also where you'll find the Picasso museum. I had seen this back in 2006, and if you appreciate art even the slightest bit, or even if you don't, you have to go see it. The other well known art museum is the Miro Museum. I'm not as big a fan of his artwork, but I still think you should see as much as possible while you're there.
The Catalan language is a lot more prevalent than what I remember from my 2006 trip. It is used equally as much as Spanish, if not more, though everyone speaks both. For me, it was easy enough to understand, or I could at least get a general idea. I think if you speak both Spanish and French it might be even easier.

I was going to go into tapas style eating and also elaborate on the wonders of El Corte Ingles, but I'm actually hungry myself and this is already a monster post so I'll let you all rest your eyes and provide some pictures next time! (maybe including the cherry poppyseed muffins I'm about to devour :D )

Til next time.