OLA

After a rainy five-day trip in Paris, we flew to the largest city of Catalonia where we mostly danced around, drank Sangria, walked in the streets of Las Ramblas, and felt the summer breeze. Barcelona, I guess it is safe to say I have fallen in love with you.

Maybe it was the weather that greeted us the moment we stepped out of the airport that did it. Or the tourists from everywhere really. Maybe we got too soaked in the Parisian rain that being someplace warm felt like a breath of fresh air. Maybe it reminded us of home though not quite.

Whatever did it, it sure did the job well. I was charmed and I would not hesitate to go back if I could.

If you are like me who does not mind being all touristy (cos um hello, I was one) in a too-touristy city, below are five things I enjoyed the most about our recent trip to Barcelona that I would not mind suggesting (to anyone who comes across this blog by accident really lol).

1 One of the first things we did after a power nap was to visit Barcelona Cathedral. There was a queue and we were one of the last ones that were allowed to get inside. It was Holy Week when we had this trip so naturally, my mom (being my mom) reminded me countless times to pray and fast – the sort of things we normally used to do back home together during this time of the year. Honestly though, even without prompting, I would still have visited this cathedral (and all the other chapels, basilica, and cathedrals we went to both in Paris and Barcelona) to pray.

I was not surprised to see that the cathedral’s architecture is mainly Gothic – after all, it is located in the city’s Gothic district. After taking in the intricacy of its interior and offering our prayers, we proceeded to the rooftop.

People who know me well would know how much of a sucker I am for rooftops views. If you are like me, please go ahead and do not hesitate to step in on the lift that takes you to the view that overlooks the bell towers, the spires, and the breathtaking city that is Barcelona.

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Again, we were one of the last ones allowed to go up the rooftop and also called to go down (lol) because they were almost closing.

2 I am about to state the obvious but: one’s food experience has a lot to say about one’s overall experience in a place. This is just me saying but a trip can never be complete without going on a gastronomic adventure.

I remember for a few weeks leading to this holiday, we were on treadmills and yoga mats at the gym most nights (lol) – the reason behind this now is as clear to me as the summer skies: I needed some more space to get everything in my tummy.

For someone who has a hefty appetite, transitioning from morning croissants and bowls of hearty French onion soup to massive servings of paella and assorted tapas was not a feat at all. I do not think I am in a position to compare French and Spanish flavors so let me just put it in layman’s terms: you better not miss on all the good ol’ churros & hot chocolate dip, quezo & chorizo, paellas & tapas the esquinitas of Barcelona has to offer. Por favor.

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3 Of course, I could have just easily put food and drinks together in one number in this list but no. My daily affair with sangria while in Spain began as love at first sip and I would recommend you to do the same. Basically, this drink is a mix of red wine and chopped fruits.

After a worst Bacardi encounter last summer and a few post Captain Morgan blackout episodes since the second half of last year, I swore to myself to (try to) mellow down on the alcohol. Sangria might just be the answer I have been searching for.

Our first glass was one we bought while on queue to be served at a tapas bar. The next one was next day’s dinner drink of choice to go with the paella. The third was sangria in plastic cups by the beach. And after we got home from the trip, we have been trying to recreate the recipe in various ways. Hopefully, we get it right in time for summer.

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4 Not only does Barcelona offer a feast for the tummy but one for the eyes as well. Basically, when in this beautiful city, it is a must to immerse in the greatness that is Gaudi’s. 

It is impossible to leave Barcelona without being struck with awe at Gaudi’s works which are widespread. Antoni Gaudi (or as my friend jokingly likes to call ‘Gandi’ lol) was a Spanish architect known to be the artist that brought famous tourist spots such as Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Placa Real to the way it is wonderfully designed today.

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Personally, I was most amazed with his brilliant use of mosaic – e.g seating area at Park Guell and the stained glass windows of Sagrada Familia. If anything, we ended the trip with me having newfound respect for this guy. #GandangGaudi all the way!

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5 One of the other things I enjoyed doing the most was exploring the streets of Barcelona. In particular, I had fun walking the long stretch of La Rambla which was buzzing with different activities establishments – definitely very touristy but worth it.

On our last full day, we had a late seafood and tapas lunch inside the famous market located within the heart of La Rambla which came to be know as La Boqueria. It was lined with food stalls offering everything you would wish to put on your plate – hamon & queso, fruit juices, fresh seafood (and even a small Dunkin Donut shop just right outside lol).

I am pretty sure we have something like this back home – only this one is more packed with tourists and certainly a must-visit. Plus, some stalls accept card payment. A word of advice though: it is still best to carry some spare coins and cash just in case you feel tempted to buy a second cup of their fruit juice.

Another word of advice: As La Rambla is known to be one of the tourist hot spots, it is best to be extra vigilant at all times. It is difficult not to have your eyes caught by the beautifully designed buildings, the lady waving at your from the window of Erotica Museum, the different merchandise sold in the middle of the boulevard, and even the eye candy tourists (hehe just had to mention that one) but just be careful.

In fact, we have to be careful anywhere we go really – in Barcelona or out.

 

 

 

Marrakech, Morocco x December 2017: Day One

It is 00:59 as I am typing this and my friends and I are on a midnight coach that is going to take us back home.

For some reason, I could not sleep. I did not get even just a power nap on the three-hour flight earlier from Marrakech Menara Airport to London Luton – which is why I have decided to just start on this travel entry. As promised to a few friends.

Five days ago, my friends and I escaped the harsh British weather (that is just getting meaner by the minute, by the way) and basked under the warmth of the Moroccan sun (man, I just feel so giddy saying that I’ve been to Morocco already!!!).

It was a trip that we had in mind for a couple of months to celebrate two of our birthdays. Also, it was a trip that, for a number of times, we were not too sure if it will push through – there were concerns about Visa requirements, passport expiry, and budget.

For the record, Philippine passport holders do not require Visa to enter Morocco. We had to contact our airline and their consulate to make sure of this.

As soon as that was sorted, we booked our tickets with Ryanair, our BnB, and our coach tickets for a four-hour trip from home to London Luton. As it was the first time for majority of us to be outside the United Kingdom (since we got here), we were also advised to get single travel insurances for the trip – which we did, at Sainsbury’s (£10-ish).

On the day of the trip, we hopped on an early morning coach to give us enough time to check in our luggage for our 1505 flight at London Luton. Thankfully, everything went smoothly – from the security check to boarding.

On the plane, my designated seat was right in the emergency exit lane while the rest of my friends were seated in the front rows. Maybe it was just my anxiety kicking in but, for the duration of the trip, it seemed like too much was going on. The plane engine was too loud and passengers kept on standing and swapping seats.

Four hours later, we arrived at Marrakech Menara Airport! Much to my relief, nothing happened during the flight as opposed to what I kept on imagining (teehee).

I have to say we were at awe at the design of the airport. On our last day, we were told by our hired driver/tour guide that part of this airport is “old”. Honestly, I cannot see what he was talking about as none of it looked old to me.

*Our BnB host arranged for us to be picked up by a local driver. As soon as we got on his van, we tried to find out if he we could hire him for transport for the next few days as we did not know how to go around and we did not want to be ripped off by taxi drivers.

We were brought to our Bnb… which again, much to my relief, did not disappoint. Since our first trip to Belfast, I had gotten used to be the one to take on the task of finding suitable accomodations for us. Trust me, I would rather find us homes than take charge of the budget or the itinerary.

Our Bnb was located inside a compound of some sorts. From the moment we got inside the bab (“gate”), we knew we would not have problems with our safety (+++) as they checked each of our passports and gave us cards which we presumed will be our IDs for the duration of our stay.

Our place was a three-storey house (with a rooftop terrace) with an open ceiling. It was well-kept just like how we saw it in the app and well-lit and very comfortable. There was a tiny problem with the heating system (so we had to make do with sharing one bathroom) and the Wifi was not as fast as how we were used to but the rest of the place made up for that.

Since it was already late when we arrived, we thought it best just to have a quick dinner by one of the cafes located inside the compound. There were stores there as well from where we got our supplies of canned goods, eggs, and water for the next days.

First order of business: pastries from Aldi (lol just kidding). Moroccan patisserie (10dh).

Tip (from an amateur, I might add): it is best to download the offline versions of Google Translate and Google Maps when visiting cities such as this one. The former will do you good especially when looking through the menus of restaurants/cafes. It did us well especially because most of the locals speak very limited (or no) English.

After dinner, we headed back to our Bnb as we had to be picked up by our driver (yep, the same driver who agreed to be our ‘tour guide’ as well) to see the rest of the city at 0900 the next day.

London x February 2017

Exactly three months after arriving in the United Kingdom, I had the chance to see the rest of the country that is not Wolverhampton or West Midlands or Birmingham.  To be finally somewhere else after several weeks of stress in all forms indeed felt like a breath of fresh air. And I couldn’t be more thankful to share that experience with close relatives and newfound friends.