Euro Trip 2012: What I Loved, Disliked and the Highlights

I have been back from Europe since Saturday. I have been battling jet lag ever since, which I don’t really mind since I have been enjoying the early mornings. All the running I planned on doing hasn’t really happened because of the constant rain and cold weather (I’m a baby, I hate rainy runs). Anywho, thought I would wrap up the travel blog by writing about what I loved about Spain/Paris, the highlights, and what I didn’t really enjoy.

LOVE

  • The overall attitude of Spaniards: calm, cool and collected. No one is ever in a hurry and stress doesn’t even seem to exist, even though the country is dealing with increasingly scary unemployment rates. Don’t go to a restaurant wanting to have a quick meal, it won’t happen.
  • The pastries and ice cream: how I didn’t see more fat people (that weren’t tourists) still boggles my mind. Bakeries and ice cream shops are on EVERY street. Bread (white baguettes) is eaten with every single meal and dessert is considered an essential part of lunch and dinner. Even Starbucks offers beautiful pieces of cake and pie and whatever other sugar creation.

Starbucks in Paris

  • The transportation system: The Metro and buses are fabulous. Never had a problem going anywhere and it seemed the bigger the city got, the better it was. Taxis are definitely not needed. Even Paris offered a special bus (with direct service!) that went to the airport, equipped with suitcase shelves. Tickets were 10E compared tot he 70E a taxi would cost.
  • The people: Every server, seller or whatever we dealt with was wonderful (except for one mean guy in Paris) and always very helpful. The idea that Parisians are snobs? I can’t agree with that, we had such great service while in Paris and every single person we met was great.
  • Grocery shopping: I adored grocery shopping, so fun to see the different things that exist there that we don’t have in Canada. Plus its so nice how people go to the bakery for bread, fruit/veggie market for produce and butcher for meat. Once again, never in a hurry.

DISLIKE

  • Cost of peeing: yep, you don’t get to pee for free. Public washroom “officials” will make you pay .50E and even some restaurants that you have paid to eat at will charge you to use the washrooms. ANNOYING! I actually hated this with a passion. What’s a girl with a small bladder who drinks gallons of water/day supposed to do?
  • Showers: TINY. Holy moly, no wonder no one is fat. They actually wouldn’t fit in the showers. They are so small it is a challenge to just wash your hair or turn around.
  • Food: As much as I adored the food, it was often a challenge to find restaurants that offered vegetarian or healthy options. Often the only meatless dish is a plain salad with only lettuce and tomatoes, not really a fun option. Cheese pizza was often my only choice (very yummy but defs not healthy). It did become easier in Paris.
  • Food poisoning: not fun. I thought bringing pepto tablets was good enough. Well those will do nothing when food poisoning decides to visit. Apparently I’m the only one in the world to not know about a prescription you can get from your doctor before a trip that saves your stomach in times of distress.

Best pizza of the trip. Arugula is my bestie.

Highlights

  • VERSAILLES: beautiful, grandiose, breathtaking. I adored visiting the palace and the gardens. A must!

Palace of Versailles

  • Barcelona runs: Going for morning runs in Barcelona will be a favorite memory for a long time. So beautiful and exhilarating.
  • Cheap food: I mean, you could get a glass of wine at a really nice restaurant for only 1.80E.
  • Nighttime: Anything that is beautiful during the day is even better at night. Barcelona’s magic fountain, Paris’ Eiffel Tower and Seine cruise, Seville’s cathedral.

Eiffel Tower

Back to Calgary tomorrow. University grad in a few days. “Real life job” starts in 2 weeks.

SB xox

The Islands and a Cruise Down the River

Bonjour!

Paris was finally nice to us and gave us a nice day yesterday. It wasn’t sunny or warm but I was so happy not to be wearing my rain jacket. We set out for the islands yesterday so we could see Notre Dame de Paris and the other attractions close by. The islands are really cute and fun to navigate. Lots of cafés, restaurants and street sellers (which actually had really cool and pretty stuff for amazing prices). Notre Dame de Paris was truly beautiful and FREE! From there we navigated the streets in search of lunch and after experiencing a few heart attacks when looking at the prices on certain menus (the “Palais de Justice” was nearby, lawyers and judges=money) we found this quaint, completely authentic Italian restaurant with really good prices. We both started with the minestrone soup (which was big enough to be a full meal) and then I had a margarita pizza and dad the lasagna. Pizza was sooo great (only ate half since I was stuffed from the soup) and I really loved the restaurant, everyone is seated close by and max 20-25 people can be in there at once.

Notre Dame de Paris

One of the things I had set out to do before even beginning the trip was trying ice cream at Berthillon’s (located on Ile St.Louis) since everyone says it delicious and all travel books tell you to go since they only use natural ingredients. Well, you can just imagine my excitement yesterday when I knew the time had come…..complete fail, place is only open wed-sun. Major sadness. At least we found a café close by that sold the ice-cream (it was fantastic..had dark chocolate and coconut).

After spending the afternoon walking around we went for dinner at around 8 to some Belgian place which was tasty (grilled salmon was my choice) and then set off for the Eiffel Tower once more since we got rained out on our first try. I love the thing. Every hour the lights flash and its quite a sight. We then decided to take a cruise along the Seine River (tons of companies offer cruises like this, we chose one where you could sit on top so we could see clearly). Very cool activity and prices were decent, I think it was 11.50 per person.

We visited the Montmartre area today and enjoyed the gorgeous weather. Had a wonderful peach crepe for lunch. We of course went to see the iconic Moulin Rouge brasserie and then walked home instead of hopping on the metro since it was so nice and my legs were feeling up for some exercise. I have truly been enjoying Europe and its delicacies but I can tell my body is demanding its regular routing of exercise and healthy foods (I’ve even sent my mom a list of foods I MUST have when I return on Saturday, ie. greek yogurt, berries, smoothie recipes).

Versailles is on the menu tomorrow (I am quite excited for this adventure).

Bonne Journée!

SB xox

 

La pluie a Paris

Went to admire the Eiffel Tower last night. Left at around 8 and chose to walk since its only 15-20mins away and right along the river. Our goal was too see it illuminated when the sun went down. Took forever for the sun to set, and when it finally did….RAIN! I had brought an umbrella in preparation (I always look at the weather forecast) and told dad to bring his rain jacket (which he did not). We did get to admire the tower but decided to return another night for further viewing when it began pouring. I giggled the entire way home watching dad get drenched in the rain.

Concorde and L’Arche de Triomphe

On our walk to the Eiffel Tower

Woke up to more rain which meant a visit to Les Galleries Lafayette (7 floor department store with mostly designer clothing and a few more affordable brands for people like moi). Quite a cool place actually, and colored dome ceiling is beautiful. Retail therapy was a success, bought a couple things for myself and some gifts for the maman and sister (that’s right, shower me with love when I return ladies!). Had lunch at their self-serve restaurant area which I thoroughly enjoyed since healthy options were available (I had a veggie soup and couscous salad). We later went for coffee and tea further down the road and I couldn’t resist ordering a nutella crepe, since I had been wanting a crepe for 3 days.

Once we finished shopping we went to the ‘detax’ area where you give your receipts, show your passport and they give you a form so you can send it in to get the money you spent on taxes back, youppi!

Ventured off the Champs D’Élysées for supper and ended up at a Japanese place. Had some delightful sushi and miso soup and even got dad to try a piece of my salmon maki (he had ordered beef and dumplings). He didn’t love the nori but didn’t say ti was terrible which is a good first try! Walked to the Arche de Triomphe afterwards to see it illuminated (beautiful) then decided to call it a night. We had bought “macarons” today while we were out shopping and I tried a chocolate praline one tonight, soooooo good. Good thing I was sick last week, needed to make room for all the sugar Paris is “making” me eat.

We are visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral and the surrounding attractions tomorrow on the islands (conveniently where the famous Berthillon ice cream store is located).

SB xox

Photos from Barcelona and an update from Paris

At the Sports Museum!

MACBA Museum

Pretty much right outside our apartment!

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s “La Pedrera”

Found this gem of a statue while wandering the streets

Hope you enjoy the photos!

Went to the Louvre this morning expecting to have to wait an insane amount of time since it was rainy and a Sunday but barely waited at all. Trying to see the Mona Lisa is bananas, I got so sick of people cutting in front of me and shoving me that I finally snapped at one lady and told her to wait in line like the rest of us! The art was impressive but I am so not a connoisseur that I’m sure I did not appreciate it as much as I should have. The gardens thats lead to the Louvre from Les Champs D’Élysées Avenue are beyond beautiful. Pristine walkway and beautiful buildings and gardens. Going to stroll down to the Eiffel Tower once dad wakes up from his nap (what an oldie) to see it all lit up. Had way too much ice cream at the Haagen Daz restaurant so the walk to the tower is definitely required\needed. Apartment is Paris is perfectly situated (right off Ave. Montaigne, ie. Designer street, and 2mins away from the Champs D’Élysées). Walking around these streets everyday has made me feel like a total slob, everyone is decked out in designer gear, heels or so well put together.

À bientôt!

SB xox

BARCELONA

I know I haven’t updated  the blog for a while. The internet in our Barcelona apartment sucked…as in 15 minutes to write\send an email so updating the blog was impossible!

LOVED BARCELONA. Our apartment was in the Poble Nou neighborhood and 3 minutes away from the beach. I was super excited to finally get a little bit of exercise in that I laced up my shoes int he first few hours of our arrival and went for a jog right by the sea. Most likely best run of my life. It must be the place to run in the city because tons of other people were getting their daily exercise in. Loved it so much I went three more times during the week.

Although I really enjoyed the cities we had visited before, I was quite happy to arrive in a big bustling major city. We were out for almost 12 hours on our second day in Barcelona, visiting Montjuic. This is where the Olympic Stadium is located, as well as the Olympic Sports Museum (which I totally adored). Only crappy thing was food was hard to find and anyone who knows me understands that food needs to be found quickly when my body decides it needs it (if you don’t know what happens when I go too long without food then consider yourself lucky). After visiting all the sights in Montjuic we made our way down to the MACBA Museum which is just gorgeous (from the outside, never ended up going back to look at the art) and sits atop a hill which provides a splendid view of the Plaza de Espana and the Magic Fountain. If you go to the fountain at night when it gets dark, the city puts on a show (lights up, music, water show) which I really enjoyed.

Other highlights of Barcelona? Well firstly, I had a beautiful bedroom all to myself AND my own bathroom!!! The Sagrada Familia was quite crazy, so big and so detailed but kind of a bummer that it has yet to be finished (and won’t be until 2040). The Guell Park was also really cool and provided some free entertainment in the form of illegal vendors. Let me explain. It is not unusual to see people selling sunglasses, magnets and other touristy things at the “must see” places. In this park however we noticed that the vendors would all of a sudden grab their stuff, start to yell and run as fast as they could for the woods. I was so intrigued by this that I began to investigate while we walked around and figured out that the vendors are considered illegal so can get busted and fined by the police and city. In order to avoid this, they set up “watchers” at all entrances and main areas to warn the sellers if police are around (all done by cellphone). I thought the whole process was kind of funny, seeing them run as if they were being chased by mad dogs was actually hilarious.

We kind of decided to explore one area of the city per day and oftentimes just let ourselves get lost in that area and discover it without a map. Personally, I prefer this method (unless you’re trying to see something specific) since it is way less complicated and you end up on the streets that are less visited yet have the cutest cafés, restaurants and sights.

Another absolute fave was La Bouqueria, a world famous produce and meat market. HOLY MOLY THE FRUIT AND VEGGIES!!!!! I was in absolute paradise and just kept imagining how I would come here every week if I lived in Barcelona and what I would buy and from who. I mean you could get 2 fruit juices (pure fruit just placed in a juicer, not added crap) for 2 euros and they were insanely good. Produce is so ridiculously cheap and was so fresh and beautiful, I already miss it.

Although I truly loved Barcelona, I also had a few crappy days. Woke up at 3am thursday morning with intense nausea which would not leave until more than 24hours later and left me drained and so sad. I think it may have been food poisoning which made me ever more sad since the last food I ate consisted of delicious veggie tapas. Anywho, I hadn’t ever experienced food poisoning and I don’t wish it upon anyone, especially while traveling. Had to stay inside the whole day and am still feeling exhausted from it.

We are now in Paris, took the overnight train from Barcelona (12 hours…sooo long. I was so tired from being sick though that I slept for most of the way). Our apartment is a few steps away from Les Champs Elysées and even closer to the big name designer boutiques (Chanel and co.) which made me feel like pure garbage when I arrived in sweats and a hoodie from the night train haha.

Sorry for the long essay! Will try and update more often this week so you guys don’t have to read for so long. Sorry for the lack of pictures, internet isn’t all that great here either and it would take hours to load them up!

Bonsoir,

SB xox

Bienvenidos a Sevilla

Buenos Dias

After spending our last day in Malaga at the beach (11am swimming in the ocean=not so smart. Frigid waters!), we are now in Sevilla. I saw three Starbucks coffee shops yesterday which means the city much bigger. After our arrival we went for a quick lunch and ran some errands. I love going to the grocery store here and seeing what they have. For example, crustless bread and barely any cereal choices (I think it has to do with the fact that TONS of people eat out for breakfast and bread is considered necessary at every meal). In fact, most Spaniards have their toast with olive oil and salt, or with olive oil and a tomato spread.

Gave up trying to swim after I made it halfway in. Looked for seashells instead.

We walked for quite a while yesterday and visited some huge park that brought us to the Plaza de Espana: GORGEOUS!!!! This great big semi-circular building with a beautiful fountain in the middle and cute little painted bridges. It was one of those places that you can just look at for forever and still be amazed. After spending quite a bit of time there we continued walking towards the city centre. We found the gigantic cathedral (biggest one in Spain, I think) but left the exploring of that until today. Had a cute dinner at one of the restaurants downtown. On the menu: grilled salmon and salad, YUM!

Came home around 8 since we were so tired and I think I may be battling a little cold (hello sore throat). Our apartment in Seville is so cute, super colorful and spacious (yay a for having my own room!), and we have our own washing machine. It’s also downtown which makes exploring much easier. Temperature went up to 31 degrees yesterday and is expected to rise to 34 today. You can tell we aren’t by the ocean anymore, humidity is intense and no little breeze to cool you down. Apparently a lot of shops close in August here because it gets so hot ie. 45 degrees!

Gardens

Fountain of Plaza de Espana

Pretty bridge

Hope everyone is well!

SB

p.s. It is SO hard not to have pastries and gelato everyday..there are pastry shops and ice cream shops on every street!

When it rains, it pours!

Buenos Noches!

The past few days have been dedicated to exploring. Dad and I have been to Ronda and Cordoba. We went to Ronda, a small city in the mountains by bus (a little over 2hrs30 mins). It is so high up in the mountains that the roads were crazy windy, which provided us with amazing sceneries, but also intense motion sickness for moi. For some odd reason I have started to experience this little condition in the last few years and holy moly did I come close to being sick that day (I went straight to the pharmacy when we returned to Malaga to purchase some Gravol for the future excursions). Although Ronda became kind of boring after about 5 hours, the Puento Nuevo (“new bridge”) was AMAZING!!!! The farmlands and houses on top of the cliffs were also insane. It did rain for most of the day which was slightly annoying, but never got crazy.

We went to Cordoba the next day. A city much bigger than Ronda, Cordoba had lots to offer and I really enjoyed it. The architecture was beautiful and there was tons to see. Downside? Unexpected rain storm (weather network said less than 1mm). We were forced to buy an umbrella and got quite depressed after 1hr of intense rain…but the sun came out and it ended up being a beautiful day! Our favorite part was hands down the gardens at the Alcazar (some old fort). Had some amazing paella for lunch, and was almost forced into a hand reading session by a gypsy (gypsies are known to stroll around the main sights and ask for money). Also treated myself to “Ferrero Rocher” gelato…my idea of heaven. Dad did manage to leave his iPhone at a store and only figured it out 1hr before our train was scheduled to return to Malaga (the man is addicted to finding WiFi areas to “keep up with his friends.” We rushed back downtown and did manage to find it….I told him I never wanted to see the phone out ever again!!!!

Decided to stay in Malaga today since we were feeling pretty tired. On the menu: some more rain! We left while it was still nice out and made our way to the train\bus station to reserve our trips to Granada and Sevilla. Had lunch there and since there are tons of stores in the station I decided to treat myself to some retail therapy. We had lunch at some really fun Wok (Asian) place where you put all you want in your stir fry on a plate and bring it up to this guy that throws it in the wok, you tell him what sauce you want and 1 minute later you have a yummy fresh meal (I was mucho excited about all the veggies I could choose from). When we were done we stepped outside and were greeted by a downpour. Lasted for quite a while and completely soaked my shoes. We decided to go to the Picasso museum to dry up, that man’s art is crazy different and quite enjoyable.

Off to Granada tomorrow then spending the day at the beach in Malaga on Monday before we head out to Sevilla for a few days on Tuesday.

LOVE,

SB