18 June 2013

RECAP:: Barcelona, Spain

  • FLIGHT -- RYANAIR :: This was our first time flying with RyanAir and we had a great experience. Absolutely no issues. For such a cheap flight we will definitely be using Ryan Air again!
  • TRANSPORTATION :: We actually flew into the Girona Bavara Airport, an hour away from Barcelona. Although we landed outside the city it was an easy connection via the 'Barcelona Bus'.  The bus station is located at the end of the taxi stand at the Girona Airport. We were dropped off at Estacion del Nord, the main bus station in Barcelona. Right across the street from the bus station was the Arc de Triomf metro station. A 3-day pass for the metro system only cost us 24 Euro total.
  • HOTEL: TRAVELODGE BARCELONA POBLENO :: For this trip we decided to try the Travelodge hotel chain. Much like RyanAir they are known for being a budget hotel. Just the basics. Our room was clean. Moderate size. No housekeeping which isn't an issue for a short stay. Great location.  Located just two blocks from the L4 'Llancuna' metro stop. The 'Barceloneta' Beach metro stop was just a few stops away. Also, located in a great neighborhood. Good restaurants. Just a few blocks away was a grocery store where we bought waters & snacks.

Park Guell

Park Guell is located on the El Carmel hill. We found the closest metro stop to the park, but obviously it was at the BOTTOM of the hill. We didn't have exact directions to the park and honestly just started walking in the general direction of the other tourists in front of us. They took an immediate left at the first block and so we followed. There we faced with some of the steepest steps I've ever seen. Those steps successfully led us to Park Guell, but we soon found out it was not the most efficient way. When we finally reached the gate to the park we looked over to our right and saw an escalator that would have taken us up the entire way. If we had just walked one more block further than we did we would have seen signs for the escalator and had a much easier time. We had a good laugh about it and eventually admitted that wandering on our own path definitely made for a memorable experience. 

Incredible views of the city. 
In the background you can faintly see La Sagrada Familia.

Barceloneta Beach

Spanish Civil War Tour & La Sagrada Familia

Saturday marked our first full day in Barcelona. At 10 am we met up for a Spanish Civil War tour. 
It was ranked #4 for activities on Trip Advisor and had some fantastic reviews... 

"What a way to revisit the Barcelona of the civil war period. Nick's knowledge and his sense of the drama of the time are brilliantly imparted in this entertaining and very moving tour of significant sites near the Rambla, and Gothic Quarter relating to the period. His use of quotations (often from memory) and photos and even sound recordings greatly enhances the journey back in time, and his knowledge on the subject is encyclopaedic. If you want to do more than scratch the surface of tourist spots in Barcelona, this tour is for you" 
jgsSydney_Australia from Trip Advisor

Nick truly was a fantastic tour guide. It didn't really even feel like a typical tour- much more informal, and much more interesting! I loved the way he would use modern technology to bring back to life the events during that time. My favorite was the recording of the revolutionary song he played while walking along the Las Ramblas. 

Here's Nick using his iPad to show pictures of the church before, during, and after the war. 

Some of my favorite pictures of Barcelona were taken during this tour!

The tour concluded at a bar where everyone stops for drinks, a little air conditioning, and a mini Q&A session. After the tour was officially over we stopped by a tapas bar and had a quick lunch. We then made our way over to the La Sagrada Familia. We didn't do the tour inside simply because there wasn't enough time in the day. 

04 June 2013

Canal Cruise, City Bus Tour, & Singel Canal Market

DAY THREE: On our last full day in Amsterdam we used our remaining tickets from the Holland Pass to take a Blue Boat Canal Cruise and Amsterdam City Bus Tour. The Canal Cruise was fantastic. The canals are what Amsterdam's all about and it provided a really neat view! I was battling with the reflection from the glass windows on the boat and it was far too cold to open the windows. So unfortunately there are only a few pictures. (I know there's a way to deal with it on manual setting on my Canon, but I haven't figured that out yet.) The City Bus Tour was just eh. RC enjoyed the history aspects from the audio tour while we drove around, but I wasn't too impressed. It was neat to see the business districts of Amsterdam, but they made a random stop at a diamond factory. We didn't know about this pit stop until we were on the bus. It was neat to see how diamonds were cut and polished, but I could have done with out this detour. 

After we finished the City Bus Tour we still had a good bit of the day left. I really wanted to see some tulips since we apparently missed the spring season at Keukenhof Gardens. So we headed over to the Singel Canal which is famous for its floating flower market. I was expecting to see fully bloomed tulips galore. It seemed that tulip bulbs and wooden or wax tulips were really the only thing for sale or displayed at these shops.  I was a little disappointed until we reached the last couple shops at the end of the canal. Finally fresh REAL tulips. I think you'll be able to tell which were real in the pictures below.

Our last stop was the iconic I AMSTERDAM sign out front the Rjiksmuseum. 
(If you don't know what I'm talking about here's a great picture- LINK.) 
We'd tried to get pictures a couple times throughout the weekend- even at different times of the day..
 But it was always pretty crowded. Here I am on the E! :) ... with 50 other people.