Thursday, September 15, 2016

Recommendations: Barcelona, Munich

Both cities are easy to get around on public transportation or walking and just walking around is well worth it. Some highlights:


  • Cathedral and walk around the old quarter- Gothic district and Born
  • We stayed in the Born and LOVED it. You can't turn your head and not see a great tapas place! I recommend checking out AirBNB and considering an apartment to feel like a local
  • Gaudi- I'm not a fan, but it's worth seeing the outside of Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. We toured La Sagrada Familia and that's worth seeing. I did hear Parc Guell is nice too though we couldn't get tickets at a good time.
  • Montserrat
  • Barceloneta beach
  • La Rambla (main road)
  • the tapas are to die for here and a great way to make a meal- just go to a place or two and order a couple with wine or sangria!
  • Flamenco- we went to Palau Dalmases and enjoyed it
  • You can't find a bad restaurant in the Born area. Marie and I went to 5 or 6 and all were great. I went to two the last night and they were both wonderful. Tapeo is the only name I remember but all were good. If they are busy, jump on in!
  • Marienplatz including the Glockenspiel, St Peter's church (and climb it!)
  • Viktualienmarkt (market)
  • City gates like Sendlinger Tor
  • Asam Church
  • There is a lot of history so walking tours are great (Sandeman's free tour was very good!)
  • I stayed in Gartnerplatz which is perfect- not quite as noisy and crowded as Marienplatz but a lot of great restaurants and bars and only 10 minutes away
  • Trips:
    • Garmisch-Patenkirchen is a great place for an overnight. See the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. It's beautiful!!
    • Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. I was told Linderhof Castle is even prettier, but is not what Disney modeled their famous castle after!
    • Salzburg- truly beautiful small city with a lovely old district including a fortress high on a hill with a great view of the city, an old Market and some gorgeous churches. It's pricy but worth seeing. Tomasso's is a great little pastry place.
Bavaria is truly beautiful and worth exploring some of the small towns!

Europe 2016: Barcelona- last day

Today was absolutely beautiful out and a perfect day to walk the beach, Barceloneta. It has been a bit warm and very muggy, so today was really perfect. We decided to go to a new cafe for breakfast then headed out to the boardwalk. The water was very pretty though the sand was a tan color and fairly rocky so not very tempting to walk in. We enjoyed the walk along the water though, and it was so nice and relaxing.

After a couple of hours, we headed back and looked for a lunch place. We decided to get off the water thinking it would be less touristy and more affordable. We got a seafood paella that was not very tasty, not cooked well and sadly very overpriced. The cava wine was good though! We meandered a bit through the old town neighborhoods before heading back for Marie to grab her bag then head to the train station.

I'm so grateful for her friendship, and that we can see each other every few years and have such a wonderful adventure. I met her around 18 years ago in the US, and think she is such an amazing person. I'm so grateful to her husband for welcoming me into their home, then holding down the fort so we could have this trip. Their kids are beautiful and so much fun so I'm sad the trip is ending, but so thrilled for having been on it. Even a repeat of Stockholm and Sweden was well worth it to see them, and we did some new fun things as well. Gratitude.

I always have a bit of sadness at the end of a long trip like this. I'm glad to go home to my life and to see my pets, but sad to leave as I really love it here. I have enjoyed exploring and feel I saw everything I wanted to in Barcelona. This place is beautiful and has stolen my heart. Alas, I need to get back to healthy eating! I am actually craving a big salad, a sure sign the time is nearing an end. :)

Out to wander a bit and find a nice little tapas place to enjoy a last bite before getting to bed early for my long trip back tomorrow. Hasta luego, Barcelona!

Update: After Marie left I wandered a bit then went for food. I went to one place craving veggies (after all the cured ham and cheese!) and got a veggie plate and some mussels, which were good. I then found a place around the corner from the apartment that we walked by and kept talking about going in, and hadn't. I ate dinner on the top of a wine cask and it was so good! I quickly struck up a conversation with Anne and Richard from Perth, Australia. They recommended the tomatoes (heirloom-- yum!) and spicy patatas bravas both of which were amazing! I had a wonderful glass of Ribera del Duero (red wine) and talked with them for two hours. They are truly wonderful and I really enjoyed learning about their travel adventures! They retired early and travel a lot and were so much fun! I was feeling a little sad after Marie left and it sure perked me up!

You never know who you will meet, what you will see and how you will feel. It's so amazing to travel the world and to experience differences all around us. I saw many women in birkas on this trip, a new experience for me. I met a wonderful family from Saudi Arabia, two Germans, Australians, and other folks from around the world and realize how wonderful this planet is, and how incredibly beautiful it is when we are just open to other people and cultures and experience instead of judge. I am so very grateful for this trip and for my ability to come! I have to get up 'early' to go to the airport (earlier than I have been up in two weeks though not early for me.. so wish me luck!)

xo, Sam

 The cups read: food, weed, drinks and ferrari so I had to contribute. Care to guess where?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Europe 2016: Barcelona and Montserrat

Montserrat. When I decided to travel to Barcelona, it was a sure thing I'd make a day trip to Montserrat, and it was worth every moment. We took the subway to a train out of the city, and traveled through some not very attractive areas. Then all of a sudden the landscape changed. the mountains were spires of stone emerging from low clouds with lush green all around. Beautiful.

The highest peak is 1236 meters high, called St Jerome. In the 9th century there was evidence that this site was of religious importance. In 1025 a small monestary was founded. The Monestary continued expanding including printing workshops and a library. In 1811 the monestary was destroyed, including the library. It was expanded through the years since and there are more than 3,000 books and a full publishing house.

Mountain, Monestary, sanctuary.

When we got there we decided to go up the funicular and the views were spectacular. We hiked up to a small structure of St Joan which sadly was closed so we decided it was a trick to get the tourists to hike more and buy water in the monestary. :) The views were incredible though and worth the climb. We then went back down, and after some funny selfie moments where a girl from Malaysia was taking a pic that got me in it (so I did the obligatory goofy face!) She laughed so hard she took another and then the entire car full of South Africans, a token America and a Swede all jumped into the selfies and we had a good laugh.

We wandered around the cathedral and basilica and the line to the Virgin of Montserrat, the 'black' virgin mary, was incredibly long so we decided to skip it and saw it at a distance in the cathedral. We took in the views of the place then decided to head back. What a lovely trip!!

The trip back was easy, consisting of two trains and two subway rides with a short walk. We took some time (I napped for an hour and Marie shopped) then decided to eat our way through Barcelona! We stopped in a tapas place we kept looking at and didn't go to previously called Tapeo. yum! there was an incredible veggie dish, and we had a flank steak with churrasco, and octopus, which was surprisingly tender! And a great white sangria. Then we walked a bit and went to another and got a cheese plate, ceviche and some wine and really enjoyed it. On the way we saw a middle eastern place with baklava and assorted sweets and bought a few things. We snacked on some once we returned to our apartment. It rained a bit when we were inside and it was nice and cool when we got out. Yay! A break from the humidity for now.

This area is so wonderful, and I so recommend the Born district (part of the Gothic district) for people to stay in. Our apartment is small but comfortable, clean and incredibly quiet for the location. We are a two minute walk to at least 15 restaurants, a grocery store, and everything you could need. It's lovely! And right next to a really beautiful church. Can't be beat.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Europe 2016: Barcelona

We woke up to the sound of church bells, which was beautiful but not so loud it was annoying. We ate breakfast near the apartment after a tour of Santa Maria del Mar and it was stunning! Very much worth seeing. We asked Chus, at our apartment, for guidance to getting to our destination, and she suggested the bus. Thanks to her it was easy to find it and we went north to see two of Gaudi's buildings: Casa Mila and Casa Batlo.

Neither of us are Gaudi fans so we decided to just look at the outside, and then took the subway to La Sagrada Familia, or Sacred Family. It was started in 1882 and is still under construction. We did pay to go inside here and the stained glass inside is exquisite. I'll admit that I really don't 'get' his architectural design, but it certainly is unique. We walked around for a bit and left.

We had planned to go to Parc Guell, which he also designed, but it was extremely hot and humid and we just weren't feeling it, as well as we couldn't get tickets online and would have had to wait a while in line, so we decided to head back down to the old city. We toured that Cathedral which was absolutely exquisite and well worth seeing. You could go to the top and the views were amazing!! Then we wandered around the old quarter and found the "Major" Synagogue of Barcelona. It's very small-- just two rooms. There was a short speech about the synagogue and the history in Barcelona.

This was the main of five in the old Jewish Quarter. They were not allowed to build larger than the smallest church in town, and this is 70 meters (the area currently occupied was the men's section, and the women's section was 20 meters and is now a bar.) There are now 1000 jewish families in the area, but in the 1400s all were gone-- either killed in the Inquisition, died of the plague or converted to christianity. The black plague killed around 50% of the total population in the 1400s, however, less than 50% of the jews were killed so in 1391 they burned the Jewish Quarter and forced them to convert. 70% did following riots in the area. As of 1487 or so, there were none left.

In 1987 some Jewish families moved back in and purchased back the property for the Synagogue. All of the items there were donated, including a torah from the 16th century.

We left and wandered around, getting completely lost. It was funny as we couldn't find La Rambla (a main road!!) last night for a while, and today we somehow found it far from where we thought we were! We walked a bit on it then wandered back through the winding streets.

We got a recommendation for a flamenco right around the corner from our place so we decided to go. We were unable to get tickets online but there were seats available when we got there. It was amazing! There was a woman with a very deep but beautiful voice, a guitarist, a guy doing percussion on what looked like a wooden box, a woman and a male dancer. It was so beautiful and we were glad we went.

We then went to a place around the corner where you select some tapas from trays at a fixed price, so we enjoyed a few then headed to the first place we went to for more garlic shrimp. yumm-o!! Such a fun night!

Tomorrow we are traveling a bit and planned to be early to bed but.. it's too much fun here!