Best Things to do in Barcelona!

In 2009 I lived in Barcelona for a summery 6 weeks and fell head over heels in love with everything about this artsy, vibrant, loud & colorful city. In 2016 I finally went back and got to share the experience with my husband. It was so surreal to be back there, and made me fall in love all over again. I wanted to share some of my favorite things to do in the wonderful city of Barcelona!

First of all, the BEST and most important advice I can give you for how to see Barcelona is to walk and wander!! Barca is a very walkable city, especially through the older parts of town and the Gothic Quarters. There are so many hidden architectural details, shops, squares and even cathedrals, you never know what you will find. If you can, stay in the Gothic Quarters – it’s a great starting point for so many adventures. Check AirBnB for apartments!

TO SEE: 

PARK GUELL 
Park Guell is one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. Barcelona is filled with them, but this gorgeous park was my favorite. With architectural detail, mosaics all over the place and fantastic views of the whole city (find the top of the hill with the stone cross!), it’s super artsy and has plenty to explore. P.S. You can walk all around the actual park for free, but to get into the mosaic area, you need tickets, and you need to buy those in advance.

CATHEDRAL of BARCELONA
You can take an elevator to the top for an awesome view. Try to go around noon – you will get swept up in all the church bells around the whole city ringing at once.

ART MUSEUMS
Picasso Museum
Joan Miro Foundation
Poble Espanyol – a museum of Spanish architecture
Museum of National art of Cataluyna – even if you don’t go inside this one, at least go see the building, it’s stunning.

LA BOQUERIA 
La Boqueria is a crowded, busy, smelly, yet wonderful and authentic open-air food market.You can buy 10 apples and a whole baguette for like 2 euro. So cheap! It’s a good place to grab a quick lunch or a days worth of snacks. The market is off of the famous street La Ramblas, which is very overwhelming and kind of like the Times Square of Barca. Aka, too touristy, so you don’t have to stay long. Just hit La Boqueria and you’re good!

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
Another amazing Gaudi creation! Each side of the cathedral looks different. One side is very modern and geometric, while the other is kind of… well all I can say is that it almost looks like a drip sand castle. It sounds weird, but it really is beautiful! Walk around the outside and be amazed by the incredibleness. If you go across the street to the park, Placa del Gaudi, you can get a full view of the ‘sand castle’ side. You can also take a tour of the inside of the cathedral, but it’s a little pricey to get in, so stick to the outside for a great, and free, way to experience it.

FC Barcelona game at Camp Nou
If you are in town at the right time and can catch a game, do it! One of my faaaaavorite memories from my first time in Barcelona. Exhilarating and electric and so much fun!

Before we continue, let me take a minute to remind you that walking and wandering around is the best way to experience this city. There are so many hidden gems that aren’t in a tourist guide or blog post. From the tiny shops to even the insane displays of street art. Walk, walk, walk!

PLACES TO DRAW, RELAX &/or PLAY:
The boardwalk along the beach. Head towards the neighborhood called La Barceloneta and you’ll find it. Barcelona has a vibrant beach culture – outdoor gyms, volleyball courts, of course swimming, and tons of good restaurants along the water. There’s a LOT to do in that area!
Park De Ciutadella is a great place to relax & people watch It has a wonderful fountain, lots of street performers, and few cool sculptures hanging around.

OTHER THINGS:
Artsy people, bring your sketchbook! There’s SO much to sketch and observe and memorize. My sketchbook pages are always my favorite souvenirs from wherever I travel, and that idea all started in Barcelona. Sitting, looking & sketching helps me take a minute to actually remember a view with my brain and not my just camera.

Drink cafe con leche (it’s basically a latte, but it sounds more authentic that way 🙂 ). And eat a chocolate croissant. Preferably together. Also eat paella, tapas, croquetas, basil gelato.

I actually have a few things that are still on my Barca to-do list. Castell Monjuic is one of them, as well as taking a tour of all the various Olympic sites from the 1992 Olympics. Someday! Hopefully soon! 🙂

Talk to me! What are you hoping to see in Barcelona? If you’ve already been, what were your favorite highlights?

10 Tips for Traveling in Ireland (that no one ever told you!)

My family and I went to Ireland! We were there during the last week of April, and as expected, temperatures were still pretty cold. I think the highest temp we saw was mid-50s, but the wind made it feel much colder than that. My favorite sights were Giant’s Causeway, Slieve League, Dunluce Castle (all on the Northern Coast) and the Kilmainham Jail in Dublin. Read below for some tips I learned along the way!

  • Most, if not all, restaurants in small Irish towns stop serving food at 9pm on Monday and Tuesdays (though they may still serve drinks.) If you are on a ‘travel day’ and won’t arrive to your destination until the evening, just know that you may not get a real dinner. But Apache Pizza’s are open late… I might speak from experience. 😉
  • Related: Pubs typically stop serving any food at either 4 or 5pm and only serve drinks. Also Related: Try to eat dinner between 4 and 7! Most restaurants have an ‘early bird’ special, so dinner will be cheaper.
  • We did ALL of our trip via public transportation. It was a little limiting at times, due to our schedule revolving around the public transportation schedule. BUT if you aren’t really keen on driving on the opposite side, or would rather someone else drive you around, then it’s worth it. Just gotta be flexible.
  • We quickly learned that everything in Ireland is all word of mouth – so just ask! About anything! Especially in the countryside. It seemed like everyone knew everyone, even if they weren’t in the same town, and they are more than happy to give you suggestions and tips.
  • PRO TIP: Paddy Byrne‘s boat tours of Slieve League cliffs is a must-do. It was the BEST experience of our whole trip.
  • Utilize the people who work at the tourist centers – they know things and they know people. We basically planned the second half of our trip with the help of Jane, in the Derry tourist center. You might not want to look like a tourist, but really, just ask for their help.
  • We got this pro-tip right from a bartender himself: Ask the hotel bartenders for recommendations! They know lots of cabbies and local info, probably more than the hotel receptionist. Plus, bartenders will lead you to the cheapest option. (seriously, our bartender promised us that!)
  • Pack small spray bottle of a refreshing essential oil/water mix that you can spray over your suitcase to keep things fresh. I brought lavender and it worked great. (This is a good tip for traveling anywhere, tbh)
  • Dublin tip: Stay in the Trinity College area. Everything that we found worth doing was in that area, but unfortunately our AirBnb was not. Lucky for us, the bus system is pretty simple to figure out, but it would have been nice to be able to walk out our doorstep and be in the action, instead of taking a 25 minute bus ride.
  • The weather in mid-late April is NUTSO. It could be sunny one moment and sleeting the next. I’m not kidding! One constant, though, was wind! All. the. wind. Especially along the Northern coast. Bring a rain jacket/wind breaker combo and layer with a sweater underneath, and you should be all set.

Are you going to Ireland soon? Refer back to this list when you start to plan! And comment below with any questions you might have!

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A Day In Boston

A few weeks ago our friends from college, Kate and Devon, visited us in Boston! Nate and I happily played tour guides for them, but also, I ended up sort of feeling like a tourist as well! Having lived here for 5 years, you’d think I would have already been to most of the touristy spots in town, but there is always more to see!

First we toured the Old State House and learned more about it’s history. It’s the tiniest, most character-filled building right smack in the middle of modern Boston. You can’t miss it, with it’s gold dome and small stature. It’s an oxymoron because it’s so small, but it just sticks out! Right now it’s main function is that it’s a museum, but back in the early days of Boston it was everything. It was the town hall and the meetinghouse, it was government offices, it even had a stint of being a merchant marketplace. I had no idea! I’m telling you, every time I learn something new and cool about vintage Boston, I fall a little more in love with the city. The Old State House tour was no exception.

Then we walked over to the North End to see Paul Revere’s House. Unfortunately we didn’t plan our time right and it was closed, so we set off for the Old North Church instead. It’s pretty much a classic New England church, but if you think about this crazy history of it, it kind of blows your mind. Of course we enjoyed our share of pizza and cannoli. Had to. It’s the North End rules. 😉 Maybe it seems like the North End is one of the most obvious places to visit when you come to Boston, but I stand by it being the best little area to explore in town. I’m a wanderer + a watcher. The North End is small, but there are so many hidden gems that you wouldn’t see if you just hit the ‘tourist spots’ (but also hit those spots, you’ll definitely have time). I feel a similar way about Beacon Hill. Luckily the two areas are a walkable distance from each other, so if you wear your favorite comfy shoes, you’re going to be in for one cute and explore-y day. FOR EXAMPLE:

A Day of Walking around downtown Boston:
Breakfast
There are endless coffee + pastry options, but I’ll throw out Flat Black & George Howell as my top two faves.
Old State House Tour
— Time: 1.5 hours for the tour plus reading and looking around on your own
— Cost: $10
Walk to the Boston Public Market (10 min walk from OSH)
— Large market of local food vendors, grab a snack, be happy
Walk to the North End (6 min walk from BPM)
— Stop and enjoy all the public art and statues along the way
Old North Church
— Time: 30 minutes, or however long you want to stay
— Cost: free
Wander the North End some more
— Time: until you feel like you’ve seen it all
Lunch
— Rina’s for pizza by the slice or
— Limoncello’s for a sit down, nice Italian meal
Non-negotiable dessert at Modern Pastry
— Time: Depends on the line, but average I’d say probably 15 minutes (busier on weekends)
— Cost: Depends on what you get, but one cannoli is like $3.50 and beyond worth it
Walk to Long Wharf (10 min walk from NE) 
— Endless minutes of gazing at the ocean and/or people + airplane watching
Continue along the Harbor Walk (30 min walk)
— If you’re ambitious, you can make it all the way to Harpoon Brewery on the Seaport to have all sorrrts of fun
— If you’re not ambitious, at least you’re getting some pretty views
OR
Walk to Beacon Hill (20 min walk from LW)
— Wander the tiny streets extensively
— Acorn Street. It’s cliche, but SO CUTE
OR

Walk back towards Quincy Market (10 min walk from LW)
— Don’t break your ankles on the cobblestones, seriously though
— Head straight for dinner at Durgin Park, I am begging you

Walking times are approximate. I also stop a lot to take photos, so maybe you’ll go faster. Either way, you’re very welcome for this sort of helpful, but probably not really at all helpful, walking tour of Boston. I hope you enjoy it. Don’t get lost. Eat a cannoli.

Summer Weekend in DC

Nate and I spent a weekend in DC last month, during the incredible heat of summer. If there’s one thing I can say right off the bat, it’s that I love DC way more in the fall, which is when we visited last year. It’s just a littttttttle more enjoyable when you aren’t sweating the whole time. But summertime was the one time we had the chance to go this year, so we went! Nate and I both love DC and have been together twice before, so we didn’t have much more on our list of must-sees. The Jefferson Memorial and the Botanic gardens were the main spots we wanted to hit. Out of all the memorials (and there are a lot of memorials in DC!) Jefferson was definitely my favorite. It reminded me of ancient architecture you’d see in Rome, plus it sits right on the water and has a great view of the Washington Monument. We sat on the steps (in the shade) and took it all in for a while.

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The Botanic gardens were so gorgeous! I have only ever been in one, tiny, little botanic garden before, so this HUGE one was a showstopper for me. It smelled amazing, there were different levels within the larger area that we explored, and they had a whole section dedicated to Hawaii. I love Hawaii! Since it was so hot outside, being in the greenhouse was pretty brutal in the warmer climates, but pro tip, there’s a mister in the children’s section, so use that to cool off 🙂 After we finished at the Botanic gardens, I was pretty tired (and sunburnt), so we spent the rest of the day reading and watching TV in our hotel room. Sounds lame, but one thing I learned during this mini-vaca is that it’s OK to not always be going, seeing, visiting, and that it’s OK to just take a break and rest. Isn’t that what vaca is really all about anyways?

After a good night’s rest, we woke up and went to the zoo! I’m sure all of you have been to a zoo at some point, so can we agree that they all kind of look and feel the same? I don’t know, I feel like a zoo is a zoo. We saw the cute pandas, huge elephants, and sweet, tiny, little, weird mammals that I will never again see in my life. I forget all their names, ha! But the zoo was fun and now I don’t need to go to a zoo for another 5 years.

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We ate a lot of really good food this time around, the share-with-all-the-people type of food and so I’m gonna share! We stayed in a hotel near the Metro Center stop on the red line, so most of the places we ate at were within walking distance from there!

Astro Doughnuts – This was recommended to me by an Instagram friend! We enjoyed breakfast there two mornings in a row…oops! 😉 The blackberry crumble doughnut is still something I dream about to this day, and I would also suggest getting yourself a peach pie doughnut as well. For those of you with slightly adventurous taste buds, Nate really liked the maple bacon option!
&pizza – Ok, this place is sweeeeet. Think Subway, where you get to choose all your toppings, but this is really good, artisan pizza place! I chose spinach, chick peas, pesto and broccoli for my toppings and it was seriously such a yummy combo. They cook the pizza by sending it through a special conveyor belt oven, and the pizza is ready in less than 3 minutes, so basically this is a good place to go if you need some amazing food pronto.
Cuba Libre – Nate and I are not the bar type, but we had walked by this rum bar earlier in the day and thought it would be cool to check out. It was such a lively atmosphere; people were salsa dancing in between tables and it was just great. My favorite cocktail had something to do with coconut, obviously. (They also have food here, but we just tried the drinks).
Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse – Still on the red line, but get off at Union Station. It’s in the cutest (colorful!) neighborhood and has some great coffee. It’s spacious and has such a great vibe… like, you know THAT coffee shop vibe? This place has that. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more descriptive, you just have to visit.
Ted’s Bulletin – We met up with our DC friends again, and we went back to the same diner we ate at last year, officially making this a TRADITION! There is such a retro vibe in this diner, and I love it. The food is great and they didn’t mind that we stayed almost 3 hours so we could talk and catch up, as friends do. P.S. This is near the Eastern Market metro stop.

YAY DC WE LOVE YOU.