Barcelona

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Oh Barcelona, so vibrant, high energy, and eclectic.  From hilltop views to lazy beach afternoons, crazy architecture to the ancient old city, beautiful parks and the best street lamps.  Barcelona has a lot to explore. I could easily get lost and overwhelmed in the busyness of Barcelona. One stroll down La Rambla and I wanted to hole up in a quiet corner for an hour to recover.  Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic but it did take a while to adjust to a bigger city and find the bits of Barcelona that really “jived” with us.

When I think back on Barcelona now the things that keep sticking out most were the kindness of some of the people we interacted with.  Most notably was our host Doris.  She is the sweetest lady and she and her family warmly welcomed us into their home for the week.  I ended up getting sick while we were in Barcelona and Doris was kind enough to give me some medicine, offer to get me water, and just check in with me when she saw me each day.  She even invited Josiah and I to have dinner with her and her son Alejandro our last night in Barcelona.  While the language barrier made conversation a little more tricky, we (mostly) understood what each other were saying after hand gestures and trying a few different ways to describe things.  I felt so cared for and loved by their generosity.

Barcelona is home to the famous Antoni Gaudi and his quirky architecture.  We really didn’t know much about Gaudi before coming to Barcelona so we took a Gaudi walking tour to get the low down on him and some of his most famous works.  We also spent a day relaxing on the beach and watching a myriad of interesting people.  We explored Parc Güell and Montjuïc, finding beautiful views at both.  Josiah got his first man bag, and we ate brunch like nobody’s business.  I’m sure there are a ton of things we didn’t see but here are some of the things we did.

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Cathedral of Barcelona.

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Small, quiet courtyard outside of the Barcelona History Museum, which features Roman street and building remains.  We toured through the museum one day and really enjoyed it.

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Views from Montjuïc.  The parks up there are beautiful – we could’ve wandered for hours!

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When we walked up on these slides Josiah almost immediately started climbing up to the top so he could slide down.

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National Art Museum of Catalan.  The views up here are great too and the plaza and fountains leading up to it are rather impressive.

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Placa de Catalunya.

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Casa Batlló, the second of Gaudi’s work that we saw on the tour we took. Fun fact: people still live in the apartments on the third and fourth floors and only pay around 300-400 euro because of the rent control laws that were put in place when the house was built.

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Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera.

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Sagrada Familia!

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The next few photos are all in Parc Güell and are more work from Gaudi.

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Barceloneta Beach – so much good people watching here!  It was really crowded and there were lots of people trying to sell stuff from hair braids to cocktails to bags.  The guy selling fresh coconut was the best/worst because he just yelled jibberish as he aimlessly weaved through all the sunbathers.

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I loved the streets lamps in Barcelona!

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There it is, the man bag in all its glory.  Look for a photo montage of the bag at the end of our trip.

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Old city streets.

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I liked that pop of pink poking in between these two buildings.

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The dome on this building was magical – the colors in person were vibrant blue, green, and yellow.

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The fountain at Ciutadella Park.

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More lamps because I was obsessed…

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Arc de Triomf.

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Walkway leading up to the Arc de Triomf.

Praia da Marinha

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“Beauty is transcendent. It is our most immediate experience of the eternal. Think of what it’s like to behold a gorgeous sunset or the ocean at dawn. Remember the ending of a great story. We yearn to linger, to experience it all our days. Sometimes the beauty is so deep it pierces us with longing. For what? For life as it was meant to be. Beauty reminds us of an Eden we have never known, but somehow our hearts were created for.”
Stasi Eldredge

You know when you look forward to something for a long time, dreaming about what it will be like, looking at photos, and hoping that it’s as magical as you’ve drawn it up to be in your head?  That was Praia da Marihna.  I was so excited about this day and even now I get teary eyed thinking about it because my expectations were exceeded and the sheer bliss of being there still makes heart jump.

The whole day was adventure and discovery and challenge.  It started by picking up our rental car.  Josiah was pretty nervous because he hadn’t driven a manual in years and now he would be driving one in foreign countries and unknown streets.  But, we made it out of Sevilla with only one blunder – luckily that one happened in the parking lot of the rental car company. Josiah drove like a boss through Spain and Portugal, and as we were approaching our destination we realized that you’re supposed to pre-pay to drive on the toll roads in Portugal.  So, we may be getting charged a hefty fee for not doing our research. (whoops!)

Cars, traffic, and toll road fees were quickly forgotten when we walked to the over-look and saw the views.  Once we picked our jaws up off the floor, and took a ridiculous amount of picture, we skipped down to the beach.  Well, we didn’t actually skip, but there was a definite pep in our step.

We stayed at Praia da Marihna for a few hours sunbathing, people watching, and swimming in that turquoise blue water. We chatted with a couple from Atlanta, and tried not to laugh like children at all the topless women.  It was like we both turned into Simon Burch when we saw them coming, “BOOOBS.” (Here’s a clip for reference if you haven’t seen the movie).

We finally pulled ourselves off the beach because I wanted to do the little hike to the other beaches nearby.  The trail wound along the cliffs giving our eyes beautiful views every which way we looked.  Our end point was Praia da Benagil, the beach at the little village of the same name and home to the famous Benagil Caves.  We took a cave tour here and we got to see a lot of the caves around the area as well as the Benagil Cave.  With hearts full, our time in Portugal came to an end and we had to head back to Sevilla (nooooo!).

It was a day that was as perfect as it could be.  I just kept laughing throughout the day because I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was and that I was there to experience it in person.  I’d gladly take 100 toll road fines to have another day Praia da Marinha

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Sevilla Cathedral and Royal Alcazar

I don’t have too much to say about the the Sevilla Cathedral and the Royal Alcazar besides that they were pretty amazing.  The grandeur of both is kind of hard to capture (at least for me with my iphone) and the intricate details are incredible.

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Sevilla Cathedral

The cathedral is the 3rd largest church in the world so when we walked out of the tiny entrance tunnel into the nave we immediately felt dwarfed by it’s 14o foot ceilings.  La Giralda, the bell tower was free to go up in, and Josiah’s a sucker for a good view, so we climbed to top after making our way through the cathedral.  The Giralda was formerly a minaret (and the cathedral was a mosque) when the muslims ruled with city and was turned into a bell tower when the Christians took over.

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La Giralda – it’s a steep climb to to the top but well worth the views!

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One of the entrances.

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View from above – you can see the Royal Alcazar and the towers of Plaza de Espana in the distanc

Royal Alcazar

This was actually one of my favorite things that we did in Sevilla.  We decided to go on a tour through the Alcazar since we’re noobs and didn’t know anything about it.  The tour was great, our guide gave us the lowdown on the history of the Alcazar and the current Spanish royal family drama.  He would also say “or whatever” every time after he finished telling a bit of the royal drama.

The palace is beautiful and the details are incredible.  It was originally built by moorish muslims kings and is now the oldest royal palace in Europe that is still used by the royal family.  Not only is the palace beautiful, but the gardens are incredible.  Our guide said something to the effect of, “this palace was not for protection, you could easily over take it, but it is for enjoying beauty.”

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Sevilla

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I’m glad we had as much time as we did in Sevilla because I probably would have written it off as a place I’d never come back to if we hadn’t.  We stayed a little bit outside of the old city and it took a couple of days to orient ourselves and find the charm and character that we came to love about Sevilla.

London seemed easy as far as navigating our way through the city and knowing the popular sites to hit each day.  But for Sevilla, I knew two things about the city – there was Flamenco and a beautiful palace.  Other than that I didn’t know much, and once we arrived it made me apprehensive.  Sevilla was like slowly walking into a cold pool; after a little bit of time I finally started to warm up.  We did a walking tour the first full day we were there which gave us a decent background on Sevilla, and the days to follow we were able to dive a little deeper (see what I did there?) into the city.

There’s a lot to love about Spain but a few things really stuck out about Sevilla.  1). The pace is slow and easy.  Even when the streets and cafes were filled with people it didn’t feel overwhelming.  At meals we could take our time, we were aloud to linger.  2). The colors were old and vibrant at the same time. Buildings were mustard yellow, deep red, and faded salmon, while blossoming Jacaranda trees provided bursts of neon purple along the streets.  3). They have the cutest kids.  Seriously, I saw more cute kids in Sevilla in one week than I’ve seen in years in the U.S.  I told Josiah we should get a donor from Sevilla when we decide to have babies- he wasn’t amused.

One thing I disliked about Sevilla was the amount of dog poop on the side walk, but I’m proud to say that I didn’t step in any a single time (at least that I know).  And with that, I’ll leave you with the pictures…

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Arco de la Macarena is one of only three entrances into the walled city.  We walked through or by this most days, and I just now looked up it’s significance on wikipedia.

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A view of the city from La Giralda, the bell tower in the Catherdal.

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Alameda de Hercules – We ate breakfast and/or dinner at spots along the alameda almost every day.

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We were so happy when we stumbled into this plaza as we made our way to the Cathedral one day.  Lots of activity, lots of color!

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I loved the color of this church.

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And the door on this one.  There were so many great doors in Sevilla it was ridiculous.

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Horse and carriages lined the streets in front of the Cathedral.

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We had just watched a small parade go by in the street when I looked over and saw this building.  We were always discovering new gems.

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Ketchup and mustard.

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I’m building a house like this when I get back to Portland.

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One tower of Plaza de Espana.

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And the whole thing.

A Little More from London

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Tomorrow will mark two weeks since we left Portland but it feels like six.  Thinking back on London seems kind of far away now.  We’ve seen and experienced so much each day that we’ve been gone that it’s almost hard to let it all sink in.  It’s a beautiful blessing (#blessed) to be over here and experiencing a world so different from our norm.  We’re currently in Barcelona, and I can’t wait to share about our travels so far in Spain. But first, a little more from London.

Our third day in London was filled to the brim.  Our mission was brunch at Farm Girl, which meant we got to walk by Buckingham palace, through Hyde Park and Kensington Park, and along the streets of Notting Hill as we made our way to Portabello road.  An hour and half later we reached the restaurant.  Our eyes were filled with beautiful scenery and now it was time for our bellies to be filled with delicious food. After eating and strolling down Portabello road we headed back in the direction of our flat arriving at Kensington Palace just in time to see a helicopter taking off from the palace.  We didn’t see any Royals but we’ll just pretend they were in there.

Our last day in London was a bit slower paced.  We got coffee on the way to the Imperial War Museum, which was fantastic. We only walked through the World War I exhibit but it was so well done and informative and we would’ve stayed longer if we weren’t dreaming of raclette in our bellies. After our hopes were dashed at Borough Market we grabbed some fish and chips and goods for a picnic that evening.  Our time in London ended with a relaxed picnic in Hyde Park, people watching galore (including a couple having a really intense make-out sesh, it was awkwaaard), and peaks of the sunset behind us as we walked home.  What an ending, right?

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Josiah in front of the epic gates at Buckingham palace. All the dudes were taking pictures in front of it.

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Hyde Park on a sunny day is a magical.

 

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Walking through Kensington Park toward the palace I was telling Jos that this is where William and Kate lived.

Josiah: how did they meet anyway? Was it like on Tinder?”

Me: No, no Josiah they didn’t meet on Tinder.

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Kensington Palace

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Rainbow buildings in Notting Hill.

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Strolling down Portobello Road.

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The entrance to Farm Girl – so dreamy.

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Inside was vibrant and fresh!

 

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Eggs on sourdough + the best bluebs.  Josiah got a giant chicken avocado sandwich with this salty pistachio dust on top.

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Cotton candy and baby blue.

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A place of solace in Kensington Gardens.

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We didn’t drink at the pub but I just liked the exterior.

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Cheers!

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Hyde Park again after our picnic.

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Walking through St. James Park with the sunset behind us.

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And one more of Parliment and Big Ben for good measure!

Borough Market

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We knew we wanted to seek out some street food while we were in London and that the markets around the city are a great spot for that.  Our guide from our walking tour suggested Borough Market so we hoofed it from Picadilly Circus to Southbank and on to the market. Our first trip there was on a Saturday so the place was packed with people and buzzing with activity.

We were starving so we kind of just picked the first delicious thing we saw and got in line. This was a mistake (Big, HUGE) that we’ll spend the rest of our live regretting. I’m just kidding (sort of).  We chose the duck confit sandwich and salad that you can see below, but what we failed to realize was that there was a whole slew of other food stands that we missed because we didn’t wind our way through the market enough. At first, not a huge deal.  The duck confit was really good and we were satisfied.  Well, we were satisfied until we stumbled upon Kappacasein, the stand making raclette and cheese toasties. With wide eyes and jaws dropped we watched the process – the tops of halved cheese wheels are melted until bubbly and toasted then scraped onto a pile of potatoes and accompanied by baby gherkins.  Whaaat?  You guys, watch this video so you can see the magic.  I know, now you’re salivating just like we were.  I’m sorry/you’re welcome.

Unfortunately our bellies were full and we comforted ourselves with the promise of coming back to Borough Market to make our London food dreams come true but when we did Kappacasein was no where to be found (WHYYYY?).  We shed some tears and immediately started devising plans to stop in London again.

So that’s our food sob story and a lesson learned: always walk through the entire market before making important decisions like lunch.

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I mean, this was still pretty good..

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Jos checking out the cured meats

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I also regret not getting one of these.  I’ve never made so many food mistakes in one place in my life.

 

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My very first Pimms cup!

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Walking around aimlessly after discovering we wouldn’t be having raclette.

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Fish and chips from Fish! take out counter.

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We grabbed some burrata here for a picnic on our last day in London.  Best burrata I’ve ever had – super creamy and a floral sweetness that was perfect.

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Fruit and veggies for the picnic too.

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And some bread to round it out, because CARBS.

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We’re coming back for you, Borough Market.

 

 

Royal London

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Hello friends!  I am realizing now after going through pictures and putting this post together that I may need to start putting up posts more frequently.  I thought I would wait until we were finished with each city to do a post, but it seems like that may be too much for one post to bear. So, we’ll see.  I’m splitting London up because I do what I want and I’m also limited on brain space for this post.

Anyways, we really enjoyed London.  I’ll admit, the first time I was there I didn’t fall in love with the city.  My expectations for it were high and they did not get met.  This time, with my expectations lower I was surprised by how much I enjoyed London.  One thing we did plenty of was WALK.  We took one bus to our flat and the rest of the time we set out on foot.  And we loved it.  It really allowed us to see and experience the different neighborhoods much more than if we had take public transit.  Plus there was always something to look at so getting from point A to point B goes by relatively fast.

Our first full day in London started with a free walking tour through Royal London.  After the tour we walked to Borough Market for lunch (I’ll do a separate post on this) and headed on toward the London Tower and Tower Bridge.

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Our flat was about 5 minutes from Westminster Bridge so we got to enjoy this view everyday.

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We were being cheap, I mean budget conscious, so we didn’t go up in the London Eye but it was cool to look at.

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The famous phone booths.  So iconic.  So dirty.  According to our tour guide, swab test samples showed hundreds of types of urine and semen in the booth they tested.  Blech. Sooo just look, don’t touch.

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We stopped by Westminster Abbey on the tour, but also on the first afternoon that we got to London. That first afternoon we showed up just in time to get in line for the 5:00pm evensong service. If you go to a service at the Abbey (and St. Paul’s Cathedral, although we didn’t go to that) it’s free, otherwise you have to pay like 22 pounds for a ticket to get in.

The Abbey is beautiful.  I immediately started to tear up when I walked in, which is very unlike me. I’m not sure if it was just jetlag and being really tired or if it was really that beautiful – I’ll have to go back to see. 😉  This particular service is mostly singing, which was perfect because we got to hear the beautiful choir voices fill that big church.  It was a great experience!

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Changing of the guards.  Riding down to Buckingham Palace.

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And their off!

Soldiers

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The Irish guard, about to go off duty.

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Buckingham Palace from afar.

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The oldest wine shop in London.  It opened in 1698.  The floors have a pretty decent slope to them from displaying wine for so many years.

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This door was inside the smallest square in London.  If you look closely you can tell it wasn’t cut straight so it looks slanted.

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Trafalgar Square – we just passed through here.  They were setting up for a concert so most of the square was occupied.

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The Globe Theater, where Shakespeare displayed his finest works.  I didn’t see this the first time I was in London so I was surprised when we sort of happened upon it on our way to Borough Market.  I didn’t realize it was right on the South Bank!

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Panoramic of London Tower.

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Tower Bridge!  Not to be confused with London Bridge…

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And proof that we were there.  The rainy walk to and from the bridge felt like we were home in Portland! Well, sort of.