Monday, October 7, 2013

europe pt. 3: barcelona

(see parts 1 and 2 of these europe posts here and here.)

oh, barcelona. 
i am so, so glad that we decided to end the trip there. both tucker & i agreed it was our favorite city that we visited on the trip, and it was the best of all worlds. it felt like a beach-city, a huge urban, sprawling city or a small neighborhood rolled in to one. as i mentioned in the first europe post, we went through vrbo and rented an apartment that we absolutely loved. the neighborhood we were in, barceloneta, is an easy 5 minute walk to the beach, and has tons of great bars, restaurants and bakeries surrounding it. it's also a short 15 minute walk to las ramblas...we got very used to that walk, as that was where both of my brothers rented their apartments. it was such a walkable city, which we really loved - with the exception of our trek to the airport on the last day, we barely had to use our subway passes.
we spent a total of 4 nights in barcelona, and because they were the last few days of our two week trip, our legs were finally starting to give out on us and let us know that walking 15 miles per day is not normal. we didn't really rest until the last day we were there, though, which allowed us to see everything we wanted to see. the sagrada familia was, of course, incredible. even though we got there early, we did have to wait in line for about an hour and a half but it was worth it. i'd say my favorite "sight" in barcelona was park guell - an enormous, hilly park where gaudi's house has been turned in to a museum and is surrounded by a ton of his other creative works. tucker & i packed a picnic and spent several hours there, and i'd highly recommend it to anybody. 
i also had some of my most favorite meals & drinks in barcelona (i really love cava. like, really love it.) and we just cannot wait to eventually go back. 

(the building that our apartment was in is from the 1800's and had original brick walls!)

until next time, europe!!!

(ps. i checked off a goal on the 30before30 list! new and updated: right here)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

europe pt. 2 (and checking off #15!)

(see europe pt. 1 with pictures from london + paris: here)

today i get to cross off goal #15 from my 30before30 list: to visit spain!

i have been wanting to go to spain for so long, and it was every bit as great as i expected. 
after spending a week between london and paris, we flew to madrid and made our way to the cute apartment we rented for the next 3 nights. since we were used to using the subways to get everywhere in london, we decided that would be our main source of transportation in spain, too. we were lucky that our apartment was very close to two subway stations, so it was easy for us to get anywhere in the city. but the very best part about us getting to madrid was that it meant my brothers and their awesome ladies would be meeting us there to finish off the last week of our trip. 
my brother leo and his wife melanie who we visited in seattle a few months ago arrived in madrid a few nights before we did. and my brother mario and his girlfriend betty spent a few days in sevilla and in toledo before meeting up with us. i can't tell you how excited that we all were able to spend this time together in spain. when you live across the country from one brother, and in a different country than the other brother, any time spent together is pretty precious, agreed?

we barely needed to use the metro in madrid because of the fact that everything seemed so walkable.  we arrived pretty late on our first day, so we went to a late dinner with everybody and had a few glasses of tinto de verano (red wine + lemon flavored carbonated water) which became kind of our trip-drink. our second day there was the big walking day for us - while leo and melanie headed to barcelona a few days before us, tucker and i met up with mario and betty to walk the city. although touristy, one of our favorite things in madrid was the mercado de san miguel - an indoor market with tons of booths filled with different tapas, wines, beers and treats so you can sample so much different food. another big highlight for me was seeing bosch's garden of earthly delights at the prado museum, i've wanted to see it for so long!
 and even though we were exhausted after 8 hours of sights, we went to the tiny cafetin la quimera for an incredible flamenco show. a friend of mine who lived in madrid for two years recommended this place, and although she mentioned that it wasn't like the touristy flamenco shows, i didn't think it would be this authentic. there were only about 15 of us inside the tiny bar and i could not have asked for a more amazing show! 

leo + melanie, mario + betty

we crammed so much sight-seeing in on our second day in madrid (cathedrals, museums, markets, plazas, palaces, etc) that we decided we'd use our last day there to take a 30 minute train ride to toledo and see a completely different side of spain - madrid was so busy and city-ish and toledo was a beautiful little maze town filled with alleyways and streets that were far too little for cars. that turned out to be one of the best decisions we made in the whole two week trip; we absolutely loved our day in toledo - lots of uphill hikes, several beer stops sitting at teeny tiny tables outside & trying to find our way on the world's least decipherable map.

from there, it was on to my favorite leg of the trip: barcelona.
but in order to avoid even more of a picture overload, i'll post on that tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

europe pt. 1

after two weeks away from home galavanting around europe, we are back in austin. 
we had an absolutely amazing time (despite getting a sinus infection [tucker] and strep throat [me] while on the trip), and are so thankful we got to spend two weeks abroad. let me tell you though, getting sick (and i mean, sick) while on a trip in another country is no walk in the park! we didn't let it affect our trip - we still walked at least 12 miles a day while each of us was sick and saw all the things we wanted to see, but man it was tiring. we were lucky to be able to see a doctor there and get us both antibiotics so that the entire trip wouldn't be one filled with tissues and lozenges. 

we decided pretty early on in the planning stages of this trip that we would rent apartments in most of the cities we were visiting. we knew we wanted to cook a little bit at home when we could to a) save some money, and b) try to stick to some form of paleo since we had been doing that for about 9 weeks by the time the trip rolled around. and, the apartments ended up being a really good choice for us. we loved all 3 of the apartments we stayed in (paris was the only city in which we stayed in a hotel instead) - i would highly recommend doing this if you're planning a trip abroad! not only do you feel more like a local, but you are able to get tips from the landlords and usually have a bit more room to spread out. we went through vrbo and had a great experience.
anyway, enough apartment talk.

the first week of the trip was spent split between london + paris, and we lucked out with some incredible weather. especially because we were expecting dreary, grey london skies the entire time and instead we got 70 degree days and blue skies. there was one day that we got rained on for about a 3 hour period, but luckily we planned ahead and brought raincoats and umbrellas with us and found a cafe for some hot coffee and people watching while it died out, so we felt very british. 
we also got to know the subway + bus system really well in london and pretty much became experts at getting around the entire sprawling city. in fact, the only city that we used a taxi in was paris - otherwise, we walked or used subways and buses to get everywhere for two weeks, which was so much fun. my legs may or may not fall off after walking over 170 miles over 14 days, and that's just the way i like it.
overall, this first leg was a great kick start to the trip. we absolutely loved the architecture in london and getting to know such a huge city in a few days. and eating your weight in pastries and coffee can never be wrong, so paris was great in my book too.

i'll post spain pictures later this week. in the meantime, some snapshots from london + paris:

 the first meal we had in london was recommended by the landlords at the apartment - an adorable pizza joint called pizza east. fantastic pizza and a really great ambiance.

we ventured out to the natural history museum, which i've wanted to go to for so long. 

right before we left for paris, we were able to meet up with our friend josh that we actually met in the bahamas for my birthday trip last year! he caught on the very creative nickname of bahamas josh. it was so nice to see a friend all the way across the world from our home! we met up with him at a bar that we really loved, the defectors weld

compared to the other cities we stayed in, we had a very short time in paris, so we tried to fit everything in as quickly as possible. i think this may have been a 14 mile day, if i remember correctly, and it was definitely worth it. i had some suggestions sent to us from a few friends that visited paris, so we had some amazing pastry places to try out and again got incredible weather, as you can tell by the blue skies.
we loved how the seats in every single one of the cafes were faced out, so that you could easily people watch. and you could sip on one single cup of coffee for two hours and the servers wouldn't even look at you twice - they get a bad reputation for having bad service in paris, but we loved that they just left you alone until you asked them for the check. there's something nice about never being rushed out of a place, no?