Adios Barcelona, Bonjour Morocco

2 October 2014

Today the weather was playing nice and we had a full morning to explore the city. We started our adventure with a walk down to the Gothic Quarter. It was a fun maze of small alley’s and beautiful stone buildings.

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Wandering down the alleys and into a few large open squares we found our way to Santa Maria del Mar.

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The building was so imposing surrounded by the much smaller shops. Once inside you could tell that this church was built for royalty. While not as ornate as some of the churches we had seen in Italy, the stone work, chandlers and ceiling arches made my neck ache. If the church wants to make an extra buck, they should really place a few reclining lounge chairs around so you can take in all the detail.

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We continued our little afternoon expedition thru the area by exploring the Born neighborhood. We made our way thru a market just before the actual neighborhood and just followed the roads up, down and around. It instantly became my new favorite area in this city. And there was still some much that we could explore there, but our time was running out and we had to walk back home to grab lunch and collect our bags. It just goes to show that even with a third visit to a city there is still so much to find, see and experience. Maybe on our next visit to Barcelona I will feel more confident in saying that I have truly explored the city.

Our last meal was at the same place we had our first on this visit at tasqueta de blai where we enjoyed our last tapas and got our fill of pork before we head back to a Muslim country.

Feeling like a pack mule, we walked up to the street to the airport bus. As much as I love traveling, I would like to get rid of my heavy bag and/or it is time to start to get rid of some of my clothes. On the brightside it wasn’t humid. It was an uneventful ride to the airport, but little did I know that we were in for quite the adventure to Morocco.

As we sat on the plane waiting for all the passengers to board I sat in shock. We have been on a few flights in the last 10 months but this one takes the cake as the most bonkers. I should have realized in this moment that we were heading to a country I just might not understand at all. I have never seen so much carrying on luggage in my entire life. People were carrying so many large bags and the overhead bins were almost spilling over before the plane was half full. Plus the kid next to me was a nervous wreck, wiping his sweaty palms on is jacket over and over and checking is phone every 10 minutes or so. For the first time flying I was a little on edge myself and closely watching every action of the kid next to me.

Upon arrival we waited in the long lines to clear immigration, where they still do everything manually, before getting our bag and making our way to the train. As we stood in line, or really in more of a cluster, where I made sure I held my space, it was a quick reminder again that we have left Europe and it really time to pay attention to how the locals act and try to blend in as much as possible. We got our tickets just in time to make it on the train. Once at the city center we left the station at found our way to the tram. Just our luck with only paper bills the tram ticket machines only accepted coin. It was a quick oh crap moment until a very nice gentlemen noticed our predicament, as we looked around the machine with a paper bill in hand, and he offered to change our bill for coins and told us the cost of the first and second ticket. And a few minutes later after going thru some very nice looking neighborhoods and a few that had me making sure I knew where my things were located, we were at our hotel.

Not wanting to travel too far for dinner, we found a restaurant close by that also happened to be across the street from the French embassy. The service was great, the building was stunning (I am seriously going to have a problem not taking a picture of everything) and the food was tasty. It was a very different pace from what we had just seen in the airports, but I guess this is how the fancy people see the country.

Today’s Travel: The walk to the gothic quarter and the born neighborhood before walking back home and to pick up our bags and walk to Plaza Espanya to take the aeropuerto bus and catch Veuling flight # VY7340 to Casablanca

Accommodations: Park Suites Hotel & Spa. My mother always said if you have nothing nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all. Well, sorry mom, I have to say this hotel was pretty much a dump. The thing about this city though is every hotel is ridiculously expensive and they all have poor ratings unless of course you are spending a 300+ a night. When we walked into our room I instantly wanted to gag as it smelled like a two pack a day smoker had spent the last 5 years living in the room and every day the cleaning staff sprayed and horrible floral scent to try and mask it. It also reminded of a place that might have been nice looking 5 years ago when it was brand new but the shody craftsmanship was starting to show. But it was just one night and it was close to the mosque and in a relatively nice area of the city.

Barcelona is always a good idea

1 October 2014

We continued on with our short stop in Barcelona visiting some of our favorite places. Our day started out with a visit to Park Güell. This was our first time to the park since they instituted the new ticket policy and making it a much less crowded experience. That or it is not high season. The design and execution of the buildings and sculptures is still as beautiful as the first time I was there. It is one of those places that I will always visit when I am here.

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After our morning in the park we made our way down to the beach for some relaxation. But first we had to stuff our faces with paella. And we made sure we ate ourselves into a food coma. The portions were huge, but it was so tasty that we both had a hard time stopping.

Our bellies were beyond full so we took a short walk along the beach, before laying down our blankets for some sun bathing and napping.

That evening we wandered around our neighborhood enjoying our last night in the city. We even treated ourselves to a fancy Mexican restaurant. The food was fantastic and I had to stop myself from drinking the hot sauce. I have a suspicious feeling that when we return to San Diego I will be on a Mexican food bender.

Today’s Travel: The subway to Park Güell and walking around the beach

Accommodations: Airbnb

Settling in, in Barcelona

30 September 2014

It was a rainy morning so we took care of the not so glamourous practicalities of Adam getting his haircut, we did some laundry and we did some research on Morocco and Portugal. Today was also the day that we bought a ticket back to the US. It was so weird to book the flight and have a real end date. I think it might take a while for me to accept that reality. Pretty boring stuff but it also meant that I was able to finish my book and just lounge around the house. With the whirlwind pace we have been traveling at over the last few months in Europe it is so nice to just sit on the couch and not do too much.

With the weather still questionable we headed out to find lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Nino Viejo. As it turns out they weren’t going to open for lunch service until next week. The restaurant had not been open that long so we had to find another lunch option. We kept our eyes open as we wandered back along various side streets but we didn’t see anything that caught our attention.

So after our walk we ended up across the street from our apartment at Quimet y Quimet. Based on my pinterest research this place seems to be very popular and it was dumb luck that we found a room across the street. And the tapas here were as good as claimed however it was also a big tourist draw so it was us and many other travelers enjoying a meal here.

We let another rain cloud pass before venturing back out for a walk down Las Ramblas to La Boqueria.

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It was near the end of the day so many of the stalls were closed up but we did find a few places to grab a few snacks including jamon.

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Truth be told, about day four or five when in Spain I begin to curse jamon and by the end of most trips here I tell myself I will never eat jamon again. So of course we laughed as we ate the yummy jamon. I guess with a three day trip here I wouldn’t be cursing this food.

That evening we grabbed pizza and watched futbol with our hosts and spent the evening chatting about our mutual love of travel.

Today’s Travel: Around Barcelona

Accommodations: Airbnb.

Next stop, Barcelona

September 29th 2014

While we thought a 10am flight would mean plenty of time to sleep in before heading out the door, we clearly were not thinking about the time on public transportation to get to the airport. As with most European cities the airports are located on the far outskirts of town and there is usually just one our two lines that head to the airports which translates to, multiple transfers. For us this meant taking a 6:40am train to make it to the airport at 8.

It was a quick flight and we were in Barcelona before lunch. We decided to take the train to the metro which was the longer but cheaper route to our Barcelona home. And when we arrived in the city our phone ran out of minutes as we tried to answer a call from our host. We easy found the place, but in our fog from the last few days (aka hangover) we didn’t realized the apartment number was in our email. It only took us about 15minutes of standing in front of the building and trying to think of what to do next with no cell service or wifi for us to realize we had all the info we needed. At that point I think our host thought we were probably silly Americans who could not read an address. We settled in quickly and began making plans for our short stay in the city. We booked ourselves an evening tour at the Sagrada Família. This would be my third visit and Adam’s second to the ever evolving and still under construction church. The church should be completed in 2026; just 144 years after construction began. And now it is a basilica as the Pope gave this once cathedral this title about a two months after our last visit here. As we walked in we found ourselves pointing out all the things that had changed and all the new details. For the first time it looked and felt like a church and not just a construction site. The architecture is like no other building, let alone church, making it one of our favorite places to visit. Even though the prices to enter continue to rise, it is well worth every penny. And with the evening entry, just before we were about to leave we realized we were just one a handful of people inside so we took that opportunity to just enjoy the silence and find new details in the building.

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It had been a long day so we decided to keep it local for dinner. Lucky for us we had picked a home that was just around the corner from a handful of tapas bars so we headed to la tasqueta de blai for a great selection of tasty tapas. And while I had sworn off alcohol just a few hours earlier, I couldn’t pass up a glass of cava.

Today’s Travel: The early morning train from Watcherhof to the airport where we hopped on Veuling Flight #VY1813 to Barcelona where we caught the train then transferred to the metro to Parallel before walking up the street

Accommodations: Airbnb.  This was a perfect spot for our short stay in Barcelona. To stay within our budget we went with the private room option on AirBnB which meant we had the downstairs extra bed and bathroom of a lovely couple. We could spend a sunny afternoon or late evening out on the terrace is a great way to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. Plus you are just a few steps away from some of the best tapas in the city, a short walk to the beach, the gothic quarter, and the metro line is at the corner for trips across the city. But it really is hosts like Alba and Gian who make Airbnb a great choice when traveling. From the moment we booked we had instant information on how to get to their home, a response to my questions within moments and upon arrival in the city it felt like we had local tour guides. They provided information on places to see outside of the ‘must-see,’ gave recommendations on places to eat and treated us like old friends as we traded travel stories. Next time we are in Barcelona we will be back!