I’ve always wanted to visit Europe. I’ve flown through Heathrow on my way to Kenya, but I never got to actually go out and sight see. This past summer, I got to go on a trip of a lifetime and go through some of the highlights of the Mediterranean over two weeks. I was looking back on pictures today, and I realized that I never really blogged about it.
I thought you guys might enjoy reading about some sunny, warm, and beautiful places while the weather gets colder and colder.
While planning our trip, we tossed around several different ideas. We could plan out an itinerary that took us across the continent by plane/trains, but truthfully, that made me a little nervous. Especially for my first trip, I kind of wanted to sit back and let someone do the planning for me, while also getting to see a lot of places.
We ended up deciding on a two week Mediterranean cruise. (I know cruise ships have gotten a bad rap lately, but when you think of how many thousands of cruises are done every year and then there are like three bad incidents? Those are pretty good odds. Plus, I grew up cruising with my family on a few different lines, and I felt okay about it.)
Our ship left out of Barcelona, Spain, and we flew in a day early to spend some time sightseeing before we had to board the ship.
My friend used her Marriott points to get us a gorgeous hotel, the Renaissance Fira. Our room felt so futuristic–everything was totally white! And the shower was just an open glass cube, which could have been potentially awkward, but it was fine.
We checked into our hotel, threw our bags down, and then went out to tour the city.
We had done some planning in regards to figuring out exactly what we wanted to see, but we really kind of just improvised. Our concierge recommended we try the hop-on/hop-off bus, which ended up being an amazing idea. But first, we had to get to the bus, which involved navigating the subway. I was pretty proud that we not only figured out how to buy tickets, but also how to find our stop. (Here in the US, we do a good job of making sure tourist information is available in many different languages, but the same does not hold true throughout Europe. We were constantly trying to pool our language skills to decipher signs and maps, and many times we did a few funny rounds of charades with the locals to get directions. Luckily, everyone was super nice!)
So, the nice thing about the hop-on/hop-off bus is that it basically takes you around the entire city–hitting all the major sites and letting you jump off to visit. The buses are on a regular schedule, so you don’t have to worry about getting stranded. There are a few different lines, so you can transfer to different buses depending on what you want to see. It was 18 Euro, which was about $25. The bus was also fun because you could sit on the top level and listen to a tour guide tell you about all the spots we were passing. It was a beautiful way to see the city.
The number one place everyone told us we had to visit was Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, which is a cathedral that began construction in 1882, and still isn’t done!
We waited in a pretty long line to buy tickets, but I think it was definitely worth the wait. (If we had planned better, we may have been able to buy tickets ahead of time.)
The inside was incredible–I feel like pictures can barely do it justice.
We paid a little extra to be able to climb one of the towers. Well, you actually ride an elevator up, and then have to climb all the way back down. The passages were SO tiny–I actually had to hold my purse in front of me so it wouldn’t scrape on the walls! Don’t do this if you’re claustrophobic!
We stopped for lunch, and I was so jet-lagged and exhausted by this point that my stomach couldn’t handle a lot of food. I stuck to what I know I loved–a fresh, beautiful caprese salad. It was one of the best I’ve ever had!
We mostly rode the bus everywhere–we only had a day, and that way, we could see everything. But, one place we definitely wanted to visit was another Gaudi site– Park Guell. Unforunately, the bus dropped us off at the very bottom of a hill, and we had to hike up for about half a mile. It was a hot, hot day, and we were all getting a little cranky and tired. (My jet lag was so bad that I was starting to feel a little out-of-it. Maybe for future reference, don’t plan to see an entire city in less than one day operating on less than like two hours of sleep.)
After we finished seeing the park, it was about 7 PM. What we didn’t realize is that the buses had stopped running, and we were stuck at the park all the way across the city from our hotel. Not wanting to pay the $$ for a cab ride, I used my map reading skills (thank you, Dad!) and we set off on a hike to the closet subway station…which was another mile away. Sigh. Then we crossed the entire city underground and finally got home.
Well, not before a quick photo-op.
Back at the hotel, we were starving. We decided to check out the hotel restaurant, but everything was at least 50 Euro. And going back out on the subway to track down dinner seemed overwhelming–at this point, we’d been awake for what felt like days and just wanted to eat and go to sleep.
So, we asked the concierge if there were any local restaurants that delivered. He got very excited, and asked us if we liked pizza. Uh. Duh! We said we loved pizza, and we were excited to try a local version.
Then, he placed an order, and twenty minutes later we had….Dominos.
And that’s how we ended up eating Domino’s pizza at a swanky pool top bar in the middle of Barcelona.