Cathedral

Adventure Time: Barcelona, Spain

sagrada familia

The third and final stop of our Semana Santa vacation was Barcelona. We were only in Barcelona for a day, but since we’ve actually been to Barcelona once before in February with my mom we had already seen all the big sights Barcelona has to offer (Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi Architecture). So we devoted our day to seeing the part of the city we hadn’t seen before.

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We found a fantastic AirBNB right in the center of the gothic part of Barcelona, so it was super easy for us to spend the whole day exploring. Logan and I started our day with a rooftop breakfast at our airbnb (he made us tiramisu). With our bellies full of dessert for breakfast (what’s better than that), we set out for Parc de Ciutadella.

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One of my favorite places in Madrid is Retiro Park because it’s big and beautiful and has a little pond with rowboats in the center but, goddammit, Barcelona’s park wins this one. Parc de Ciutadella has a giant fountain plastered with gold, a man-made pond with little rowboats you can rent, and palm trees!

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On our way out of the park we saw the Arco de Triunfo, we’ve seen a lot of arches (seems like every major city has one), but Barcelona’s looks a bit different because it’s made of red brickwork which I had never seen before. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to wandering the streets of Barcelona, and wander we did.

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We made our way to the beach, where people were delightfully playing in the sand while only wearing bikinis (it was a whopping 68 degrees outside). We had some tasty coffee at a hipster cafe, then we made our way to the market. This market, La Boqueria, is the coolest market I’ve ever been to. It’s littered with fresh fruit stands, treats, and Spanish meats and cheeses. But, hands down, the best product at this market is the freshly made juice blends that they sell for a bargain of 1 euro. Logan had a strawberry banana, and I tried the blackberry coconut. LIFE CHANGING I tell you.

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By this time we had walked about 156 miles and were ready to catch our train back home to Madrid. Throughout our entire spring break we had ZERO mishaps. While I can’t wait for our next mini vacation, for now we are ready to chill at home for a few weeks until our next adventure!

P.S. I forgot to post this and we are leaving for London on Friday…

Adventure Time: Manchester, England

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What? Manchester? Everyone knows London is THE city to go to England.  Before you judge our English destination, you should know two things.  One, we still plan on making a weekend trip to London, so don’t be worried we’re missing out. Two, Manchester is actually a fun, cheap alternative to London.

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Originally, instead of spending the whole weekend in Manchester, Shannon and I planned on taking the train from Manchester and spending Saturday in London.  However, we kind of missed our window to get the cheaper train tickets and decided it would be better to spend an entire weekend in London instead…especially after we sort of fell in love with England.

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Now down to the trip.  We stayed at a nice Airbnb really close to Manchester University.  It was a pretty central location and made it really easy for us to walk everywhere we wanted to go.  It also meant lots of drunk college students at night, but its quaint because they talk funny.

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We got in really late on Friday night, so Saturday was really our first day in the city.  We started off by getting the traditional English breakfast at a little place called Bowlers.  It consists of bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato, mushrooms, beans, toast, and coffee/tea.  I admit the beans are a little weird, but I ate it all.  I wanted to taste English culture, and evidently that means eating beans on buttered toast for breakfast. After our healthy meal, we decided to walk around the center of town for a while.  We went to see a few sites like the cathedral and a little victorian era cluster of buildings, and later stumbled onto the shopping area.  Manchester has a really good shopping district and a huge mall in the center of town.  We spent a while wandering around the Americany mall and even went into Aldi to find some real peanut butter.

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We were still pretty full from breakfast so we decided to forego lunch and grab an English pint from a cool little bar in the center.  Naturally, I chose a Sam Adams because…America. After spending some time in our room relaxing from all the walking, we found a collegy place to get dinner.  I felt like we were the only ones eating because I’m pretty sure 7:30ish is a little late for dinner for them.

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After that, we went to a few more places to get a couple more pints.  We had to take advantage of the good beer because Spain has like 4 types of the same crappy stuff.  I have to say though, a pint seemed like a lot of liquid after spending so much time drinking cañas (200 mL glass) in Spain.  The bartender seemed baffled by the fact that I wanted a half pint and by the fact that I asked for it with an American accent.  I get the feeling they don’t get a lot of tourists there.

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On Sunday we went back down to the center to do some shopping.  We found the Manchester Primark, and I’m pretty sure it was Shannon’s shopping heaven. To be fair, the store is really impressive.  It’s like the size of a WalMart, but only for clothes. We also went and grabbed a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake, treat yo self – am I right?

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We worked up an appetite walking around the never ending land of Primark and decided to get some lunch.  We found a cool English pub with lunch deals and decided to get fish and chips and a beef pie.  They were both really good!  I’m not sure I’m among those who hate English food.

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After that we went to John Ryland’s Library to see some cool old stuff.  Basically it’s a really old library that looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie with old books and really great architecture. By the time we left the library, it was getting late, and we had to catch our flight back home.

Adventure Time: Segovia

aqueducts

*Click to enlarge photos

Shannon and I have officially passed the one month mark here in Spain. That is just enough time to start to get the hang of things around here.  We have our work schedules down, we’ve figured out how to order food in a restaurant, and we know where to go when we need to buy something.  With the basics of Spanish life covered, we decided it was time to start exploring.  For our first trip, we decided to start small: Segovia, Spain.  Its only about an hour bus ride from Madrid, so we thought it would be a good first traveling experience (you know, less opportunities to get lost).

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Segovia is a smaller Spanish city with lots of history.  It has been around since Roman times, and at one time was the home of Isabel of Castile (do a wikipedia search).  The biggest attractions in the city are the Aqueduct, the Alcazar, and the Cathedral. The city center is very walkable, so Shannon and I were able to visit all three sities.  When I say walkable I still mean like 2 Kilometers between sites…I guess thats really dependent of your definition of walkable.

The Aqueduct was very impressive.  No one knows exactly how old it is, but about 1,500 years is the rough estimate they give. The whole structure was built without mortar and is held in place by precisely cut stone.  It was really cool to see and touch something that was constructed way back when.

Next stop was the Cathedral.  We didn’t actually go in (because it cost money), but we walked around almost the entire thing. I’m no architect, but I’m pretty sure this church is an engineering marvel and a work of art, especially when you consider its age.

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Last stop was the Alcazar.  While I’m not exactly sure what Alcazar means, I can tell you the structure is basically a castle. (Maybe Alcazar means castle? I don’t know, the dictionary is so far.) This was by far my favorite part.  It looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, with a draw bridge and tower included.  Shannon and I decided it would be fun to take a risk and climb the tower despite the tourism warning that it includes 152 steps and “is only for the healthy.” To get to the top, you have to go up several sets of staircases that are made of hand-cut stone and very narrow.  The main staircase is cylindrical and you half expect to find a princess who has been locked away at the top.  When you finally reach the top, there is an amazing, 360 degree view of the city and countryside (last picture).

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Overall, it was a great trip, and an awesome way to kick off a year of exploring!

Logan