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A long weekend escape to Barcelona

It became a habit of mine during exams, to book holidays. Not long holidays which needed a load of planning, but short escapes that I could dream of whilst sitting in the dreary, dark first floor of the library.

January 2017, was one of those times. Drenched in revision and battered by the winds of the East Midlands my best gal pal Jen and I were longing for an escape and after roughly 5 minutes of Skyscanning, Barcelona was the destination of choice! We celebrated with flamenco dancing around my bedroom and Jen proudly proclaimed she couldn’t wait to go to Italy! I had to inform her that Barcelona was in fact in Spain, seriously what could go wrong on this trip?!

8 weeks later and we were boarding our plane armed with euros and full of excitement. After grabbing a taxi from the airport to Las Ramblas (about 30 euros, discovered later it is much easier and cheaper to take the metro. Link here for the most up to date metro information!), we arrived at our hostel ‘ Hostal Benidorm‘.

Whilst I had heard nightmare about staying on Las Ramblas from stories of being kept up all night because of street fights, to muggings to euro-pop blasting from 7am I can safely say that I felt none of that. The hostel is hidden on the third and forth floor of a building, giving it a safe feel. Staff are on 24 hour duty, meaning that any issues can be resolved as soon as possible and from what I encountered they could not be more hospitable.

Our room was basic, but clean and all we needed for us seeing as we only planned to sleep there! My only comment would be that the walls were quite thin, meaning that I could hear the conversation the family next door were having, so maybe take some earplugs if you are a light sleeper! To check out their website and book a room click here!

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Basic but clean, all you need for a long weekend!

With accommodation covered, it’s time to hit my must do list for Barcelona!

  1. Jump on a free bike/ walking tour!

There are LOADS of free tours, and why pay for a tour when you can get it for free. I recommend doing this on your first full day in Barcelona, it will help you get your bearings of the city, as well as eliminate any places you may not want to go to again. We went with Free Bike Tours who took us to hotspots such as The Sagrada Familia (dancing round like Ed is encouraged) and the Citudel and also kept us entertained with local legends and stories.

NB: Tips are not expected but are encouraged, and really for a 3 hour guided tour and thoroughly entertaining tour guide I would say leaving a 10 euro tip is super cheap!

 

2) Explore the streets of El Born by night for quaint restaurants and bars

While most people will tell you that the Gothic Quarter cannot be beaten for its wide range of bars and restaurants, I’m going to make a case for the neighbouring district of ‘El Born’.

We stumbled across this completely by accident on our first night and returned again on our second because we felt there was much more to explore. El Born is a labyrinth of alleyways and restaurant lined streets with a wide variety of traditional Spanish cuisine.

Not only is this more of a locals area, but the restaurants are grateful to tourists who have ventured this far at night, often rewarding you with a free side and/ or drink!

Make sure you head down Carrer de l’Argenteria which leads to a beautiful square and home to Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. I believe the best time to see the Basilica in all its glory is at night as the lighting means it is your soul focus, but that’s just my preference. Be sure to stop at Giovanni’s and try their Kinder Bueno and Nutella gelato’s if you aren’t full after dinner (Nutella ice cream is a MUST for all Nutella fans!).

3) Hit up the rooftop bar at the W for a spectacular sunset

To get a great view of the city and a great drink to go with that head up to the W Hotel rooftop bar ‘Eclipse’. Notoriously busy due to its fantastic views of the city, especially at sunset, I would aim to get there approximately 35-45 minutes before the sun goes down.

 

Drinks are obviously more expensive due to the hotel’s reputation but if you’re only heading up there for one or two I think its a reasonable price to pay and compares to that of London prices.

4) Parc Guell (obviously) 

Most people who come to Barcelona will tell you their favourite place in the city is Parc Guell, and it’s not hard to see why! The views of the city from the Plaça de la Natura are hard to rival and the beauty of Gaudi’s work is simply stunning.

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Token tourist photo overlooking this beautiful city

What no-one tells you is how they booked entry to the Monumental zone in advance, which is an absolute must! I would personally try and book 2-3 weeks before your trip to ensure you get the right time slot to suit you. We missed the memo and ended up having a stroll around the park grounds and had to book the only time slot available for late evening the next day! It was still a magnificent view but I would have liked to visit in the day and taken our time to admire Gaudi’s work! To book your visit click here

 

5) Eat like a local in Carmel

Our late visit to Parc Guell meant that we were craving some Spanish tapas by the time we left. A quick search on TripAdvisor told us that Las Delicias was a real locals spot, not too far from the park and was largely unspoilt by tourists. Eager to practise some Spanish and fulfil my cravings for Patatas Bravas we set off.

20 minutes, and 2 wrong turns later we arrived and we were certainly not disappointed! The food was delicious and a fraction of the price we had been paying eating out in the Gothic Quarter and El Born. I can whole heartedly recommend their croquetta’s if you head out that way.

6) Visit the ducks in Barcelona cathedral

 

 

Did I miss anything out?!? What are your favourite spots in Barcelona? I’d love to hear!

Adventuring always, Amy xxxx

 

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

You can find adventure on your own back doorstep

Call this whole post cheesy, and it’s probably not the ‘coolest’ post to start with but today I have felt inspired, I have felt uplifted and I’ve felt what only can be described as whole. It could be that Easter break has FINALLY arrived, it could be because I have had a chance to relax and sun myself in Barcelona over the past few days or it could be the fact the weather today was simply so beautiful.

So inspired, that I have to take pen to paper, or in fact fingers to buttons and recall what a day it was.

Having just returned from 5 days in sunny, stunning Barcelona I was readily prepped for a day of hard work doing final preparations for the project I am running next week when it struck me that I hadn’t called in on an old lady I’ve been popping by to visit over the last month. I felt as if today I really couldn’t manage it; I was really pressed for time. There were risk assessments to go through, files to print off, confirmation emails to be sent, parents to ring, but something told me that today, today it was important I go and visit Mrs Q.

With my pal Lien, we headed over to Mrs Q’s who was ready and waiting at the door when we arrived, with her wheelchair all set up and was over the moon to see us. It’s a hobby of hers that she likes to keep an eye on the neighbourhood bins, making sure the bin men are taking them away and that locals aren’t stealing students bins for their own. Today we wandered a few streets, rearranged a few binbags and dropped off some bric-a-brac before we turned to go back towards her home. It was then, she gingerly asked if we would mind if we wheeled her through the park for a bit, she hadn’t been able to go in years because she had injured her spine, couldn’t walk very far, and doesn’t have very much family so only managed to see her daughter once or twice a week. It was her favourite place in town and she would so very much love to see it.

As I said earlier, it was a beautiful day, the perfect temperature and whilst I knew I had a pile of work that needed doing, there was actually nothing I would love more than to wander through the park with her.

We made our way through the park and as she pointed things out along the way, I could see Loughborough town in a completely new light. The office buildings to our right were once a hosiery factory, the now paved car park was once a cattle market and where now parked Vauxhall Corsa’s and Ford Fiesta’s was where cows broke loose from their pens and ran amok. I had never believed there had been too much history to the town, but now it had a story, it had characters and I was invested in their tales.

We headed to the park café where she insisted that she buy us all an ice cream whilst we talked about where we all dreamed of travelling to, where we had all grown up (a real range, myself in the South East and France, Lien in Hungary, and Mrs Q in Loughborough) and our experiences of the town we all now called home. We spoke of how we’d met, why we got into voluntary work in the first place (to make friends, distract ourselves from the boredom of 10 hours a week learning, because we just loved to help others), our family’s and I felt that I wasn’t just talking to an elderly person for an hour, I was talking to a friend. The café began to close and we slipped off back towards Mrs Q’s with ice cream mouths, sun-kissed skin and belly’s full of laugher.

We dropped her off, bid her a thank you for the ice cream and wished her a very happy Easter. She laughed at how we could be so thankful for something trivial, and that our company had been truly priceless. We promised we’d be back again once Easter break was over.

Rounding the corner onto the main road where I had parked I realised that I had definitely exceeded the one hour parking slot I had parked in. I’d definitely seen a traffic officer walk along the street when we had set out well over 2 hours ago and I could feel I would definitely have a £25 fine. Great, that’s all I need, especially with the final term rent coming up soon, I thought. To my surprise and delight there wasn’t a ticket in sight. Some may call it coincidence, some may call it lazy police work, I would like to think it was karma.

As we drove the short journey home, I thought about the 2 hours we had just spent. Throughout all our conversations and differences, it was clear to me we all had one thing in common, a sheer love for life and the people we had the pleasure of meeting along the way. It really hit me quite hard that our one small act of kindness, the decision that it was important for me to go and see her today, that had a real impact on someone and (hopefully) made her day a whole lot brighter.

So with this I’m kick-starting my own #KindnessChallenge and I challenge anyone who has made it to the end of this post to do so to. One act of kindness for whatever community you may find yourself in, and it doesn’t have to be huge. Say hi to your elderly neighbour, play a five-minute game of catch with your mum’s best friends kid, buy that homeless person a coffee or a doughnut from McDonald’s. I can assure you it will brighten both yours and their day because, no act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted. I’ll keep you up to date with mine, and I’d love to hear what you get up to too!

 

All my Love

Amy x