I’m still here *waves hello*

Hello everyone.

I must apologise for the lack of blog posts recently.

I got married in September 2016 and then promptly went to Copenhagen two days later (A blog is coming, don’t worry). Between then and now, we have had some work done on our house (that was stressful to say the least) but now all that is done I can finally concentrate on my blog and also post some recipes I have waiting for you all.

So, this is a tiny, little blog to say that I’m still here, I’ve not travelled off into the sunset and gone forever, although that does sound very nice indeed, and the first blog of my Copenhagen trip will be coming in the next few days.

So, until then, happy travelling and happy eating!

 

Day Two: A Park and A House Dragon

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After a busy but manageable day one, day two was going to be a long one. Today’s itinerary was Park Güell and Casa Batlló, but as Park Güell was out of the way and the nearest metro stop had an uphill walk, we had to find out the best way to get there. We had already booked our tickets online for Casa Batlló but not for Park Güell which was an error on our part.

Park Güell is in the La Salut neighbourhood of the Gràcia district and comprises of three houses, one of which Gaudi lived in from 1906 to 1926, a rooftop plaza called the Nature Square, around 20 hectares of parkland and more mosaic tiles than you can shake a stick at. Originally it was going to be a garden city with 60 houses, The Nature Square that has the iconic serpentine bench running around it and the Hypostyle Room (intended as a marketplace) which is under the Square. On paper it sounds stunning, but to us, didn’t live up to the hype.

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After speaking to someone on the reception desk at out hotel, we took the number 24 bus up to Park Güell, which took about 40 minutes. The bus takes you to one of the entrances at the top of the hill. When we got there we walked up to the ticket desk to be told that they are timed entry only and the next available one wasn’t until the afternoon! The part you pay for is the Monumental Zone, which has all the mosaic tiles, the main entrance and the Nature Square, but the Free Access Area is just that, free! As there wasn’t anything nearby we wanted to see we decided to go and have a look around the Free Access Area and climb up to the top to get some good views of the city. Word of warning! There are a lot of street sellers selling what I would call tat, or what some people would call cheap souvenirs. Things like fridge magnets and trinkets for between €1 and €5. It is up to you if you want to buy one but they all looked like cheap imports.

IMG_0638We came back another day with tickets in hand and went into Gaudi’s house, saw the serpent mosaic at the fountain, which was okay, but all in all I was a little disappointed and so was my fiancé. I think I had a romantic memory of Park Güell from when I came previously and this visit didn’t live up to it. I was impressed with the Free Access Area more than I was the Monumental Area but at €8.00 (€7.00 online) entry, I wasn’t too miffed about going.

 

More details can be found via the following links:

How to get there:
http://www.parkguell.cat/en/how-to-get-here/

Buy tickets:
http://www.parkguell.cat/en/buy-tickets/

 

For the afternoon, we had tickets for Casa Batlló. The good thing about the tickets we chose was they had no timed entry, so we could go at any time up to the last entry, which was 8pm, and they are open 365 days of the year! They do have other types of tickets available, so for €22.50 you need to select what day you want to visit or for €29.50 you could have the ticket we had.

All ticket options can be found here: https://www.casabatllo.es/en/online-tickets/

12122854_10208028362253294_2013279394332951128_nCasa Batlló (The Dragon Building) is located on Passeig de Gràcia and was built by Antoni Gaudi for the Batlló family in 1907 and was apparently designed to show St George defeating the dragon. When you see the rooftop and the mosaic façade, you will understand why! The roof is in the shape of the dragon’s back and the tiles are shaped to look like scales, whilst the colours used are to represent the blood of the victims. The cross on the façade is the sword that defeated the dragon when the princess was being saved by the knight. Blimey!

 

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Inside there are little to no straight lines and there are arches everywhere you look. It really is a sight for sore eyes. With windows that are opened and closed by counterweights, skylights designed to look like tortoise shells, masks for balcony railings and organic looking painted walls, it truly is a feast for the eyes.  There is a book you can sign to say that you have been to Casa Batlló, which we did and put some funny comments in. You can even get a photo on one of the balconies, which we did and in true travelstodge style, we pulled a funny face and it’s now framed for all to see at travelstodge HQ! This was an additional €12 but you can have your photo taken and then decide not to have it, so don’t worry if you don’t like what you see, you’re not obliged to make a purchase.

We used the metro and got off at Passeig de Gràcia, however, details on how to get there can be found here: https://www.casabatllo.es/en/visit/how-to-get-there/

So there you are, a park and a dragon…  day three will be up very soon, but in the meantime, if you have been to any of the places I’ve mentioned or are planning to, let me know what you thought or if you are planning to visit them soon.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Day One of Barcelona, Chocolate and Picasso

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My fiancé is an artist so he said he wanted to go to the Picasso Museum. This was somewhere I had been to previously years ago so I wasn’t that bothered about going again, but as he had never been to Barcelona before, I said of course we will go. Having looked around the area for something else to do in the afternoon, I came across the Museu de la Xocolate (The Chocolate Museum). This was music to my fiancé’s ears as he has a rather healthy obsession for all things chocolate. Once we had a look at their website and saw the chocolate sculptures they had on display, we were both in agreement that this was on the itinerary list.

Museu Picasso de Barcelona (The Picasso Museum) is located on Carrer de Montcada, 15-23 in the El Born / La Ribera district. It’s housed in five 13th-15th century town houses, with original courtyards and staircases and it’s a beautiful sight to see. Photographs wouldn’t do it justice, you really need to see it for yourself. The entrance is, we found, harder to find than first thought. We walked around the whole building before we found the entrance. We thought the street it was on would be like a road, when in fact it was more like a side street. It’s very narrow compared to the streets we were used to.12096431_10208028287931436_7520862877185822196_n

The tickets are all timed entry, so if you can, plan your trip and buy your ticket before you leave as the Picasso Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona, and you may end up disappointed if you leave it until the day you go to pay for your ticket. We had out tickets booked for 9:15am and when we got there is wasn’t busy or crowded so… a Travelstodge tip… get there early! When we left, queues were starting to form so we were glad we could get around everywhere and see everything without falling over people.

The last admission in to the museum is 30 minutes before closing time, so if you do decide to go without a ticket, please bare that in mind. The first Sunday of every month they have free admission between 3pm – 7pm otherwise admission for adults is €11.00 for the general collection and €14 to include the temporary exhibits as well. No photographs are allowed in the exhibitions but you can in the courtyards, and if you have a backpack or large items of luggage, you will need to leave them in the cloakroom. You can find all the ticket prices, opening times and book tickets here: http://www.bcn.cat/museupicasso/en/museum/times.html

And you can find out how to get there here: http://www.bcn.cat/museupicasso/en/museum/getting-here.html

IMAG1269.jpgSo, once we left the Picasso Museum and stopped off for something to eat after having a walk around the streets of El Born, we went over to Museu de la Xocolata (The Chocolate Museum). Located on Carrer Comerç, 36 this little gem only costs €5 to enter and the bonus is… your ticket is also a chocolate bar! It is however, dark chocolate which I really don’t like, but my fiancé loves it so he was a happy chappy!

Dragon of ChocolateIt’s only a small museum and cheap at €5 to enter, but the models they have made out of chocolate were stunning. It’s amazing what can be done, and also how high they can make these chocolate statues. I say statues, as some were nearly as big as one! Chocolate can also be brought without having to enter the museum. They also do chocolate with no added sugar, which tastes just like normal chocolate, but with less calories and perfect for diabetics.

You can find all the details on where it is and opening times etc. here: http://www.museuxocolata.cat/?lang=en

 

We spent the rest of the day and night walking around the city, absorbing the culture and sights this beautiful place had to offer.

Day two will be up shortly but in the meantime, I’m working on a list of sights and attractions that you can get to from various metro stops around Barcelona.

Transportation around Barcelona.

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Getting around Barcelona couldn’t be easier.  You have a choice of the Metro (like the London Underground), buses, trams and on foot, all of which are quick, easy and cheap.  Depending on where you are going and how long you are there for, you can obtain travel-cards that help you get about in this magnificent City.

We opted for the five day Hola BCN! Card which, for €32, gave us unlimited travel for the five days we were there on the buses, Metro, tram, local train FGC (Zone 1) and the regional train called Rodalies (Zone 1) which also means you can use it on the train to and from the airport.  The Rodalies train takes you from the airport to the City Centre and the stop Passeig de Gracia, perfect for onward travel to your hostel/hotel via the Metro.  Please don’t do what I did on the way back to the airport… I exited out of the train station at Passeig de Gracia to get a bottle of water while I was waiting for the train to the airport, and found that my Hola BCN! Card wouldn’t let me back in again!  I managed to convince the guy at the ticket desk that I made a huge mistake and he let me through. Apparently that train station is outside the allowed zone the card could be used in.

The confusion however, is with the Montjuïc funicular as online it says you can use it there, but on the back of the card it says you can’t, so if you are wanting to use aerial cable-way then please check before you travel.

All details, and to purchase your Hola BCN! Card before you travel (you get 10% off online too), can be found here: http://www.tmb.cat/en/barcelona-travel-card

Once you have obtained your card you then just slot it into the ticket machine and you’re through.  Ticket machines operate in the same way on the Metro, in the train station or on the bus.  It’s like the London underground, you put your ticket in one end and it pops out the other.  The buses are a little different.  There is a white machine behind where the driver sits that you have to put your ticket in to, it makes a noise and pops it back out again.  If you hear a noise like an alarm, it means there’s a problem with your ticket.  It could be that the ticket was put in the wrong way round or there might be a problem with the ticket.  As we never used the trams while we were there I can’t comment on how to use them there but you can find more information on where the machines are located here: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/tram-guide-barcelona.html

480-aerobus-2To get to and from the airport, you can either use the train or the official shuttle bus called Aerobus.  This bus goes between terminal one and two of the airport and takes you to the centre of Barcelona in around 35 minutes.  There are various stops along the way and prices start from €5.90 one way.  More details can be found here:  http://www.aerobusbcn.com/

So, there you are.  A brief blog on the transport of Barcelona.  There are different types of tickets available for your stay, it all depends on how long you are staying and where you want to go.  Below is a list of websites that might come in handy for your time here, so at least you will be prepared with your travel plans before you leave for your trip.

 

A multi-person travel card valid for 10 intermodal journeys from 1 to 6 zones.

http://www.tmb.cat/en/sistema-tarifari-integrat/-/ticket/T10

The Barcelona Card for travel and free admission to some tourist attractions.

http://bcnshop.barcelonaturisme.com/shopv3/en/product/1/barcelona-card.html

Lists of all the Leisure Transport Tickets available, for example, Tourist Bus etc…

http://www.tmb.cat/en/bitllets-turistics

Guide for the underground metro and further links to maps and timetables.

http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/barcelona-metro.html

 

My blog, and what it’s all about

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A friend of mine said to me “I couldn’t do what you do, booking separate flights, accommodation and travel… I just go to a travel agent and let them do it, as I wouldn’t know where to start!”  This got me thinking, what if there are other people out there who think exactly the same thing?

So with that in mind, I’m writing this blog as a kind of step-by-step guide to tell you how our holidays were booked and how we did things so hopefully it helps anyone who has never travelled before understand the process of booking holidays, and also give a little insight into pitfalls that can happen along the way. I want to take the fear out of travelling for the first time traveller and also to prove that if I can do it, then anyone can!

I know there will be things that we could have done better or things that will make people scratch their heads and think “why?” but we are learning with every trip we take, so if you can suggest better ways of doing things or booking places etc, then please let me know and interact with everyone reading…. You never know what we will learn!

My blog is also about another passion in my life… food. I love food, who doesn’t? I want to share my food experiences with you all and also recipes I discover or create.  I only really started being adventurous with food when I moved in with my fiancé.  I can even remember the first thing I cooked for him, a chicken stir-fry.  Ever since then my culinary skills have improved, along with my confidence to just think “you know what, I’ll give it a whirl”.  Granted, not all things go to plan as in the case of my slow cooker Spanish Chicken dish which ended up looking more like yellow rice pudding than something you would get served anywhere in the Mediterranean.  In fact, it just fell out in one go, kind of like a jelly falling out its mould but minus the wobble.

So, I hope you enjoy my ramblings and find my blogs useful, informative, interesting and fun.  Please feel free to share, like, comment and join in as much as you want, it would be great to hear from you.