A Travellerspoint blog

Barcelona

A Beautiful City...

It felt like such a long time since the girls and I got away together so I was looking forward to our trip to Barcelona very much. It had been planned quite some time ago and then almost forgotten about - until, suddenly, the time was upon us to get packing and make the journey!

Of course, the flight being rather short it did not take long until we were touching down in Espana - one of my absolute favourite countries. It was easy enough from the airport to get on a city bus and it took less than an hour to reach the city centre.

We had booked a big apartment using a company called Oh! Barcelona - the same one we had used on our trip to Berlin (which was Oh! Berlin) and we were very impressed with. We had a little bit of a ball ache this time as we were advised that to get the keys for the apartment we had to go to the head office - which added a bit of a trek to the journey. However, when we got there we were told we could have just met them at the apartment, which of course was in the other direction. We also had a bit of trouble trying to get into the apartment (turns out we were at the wrong one!) but once in we were happy and had a lovely apartment. We were staying next door to an old person's home which was a little unusual - one of the gentlemen living there tended to wail throughout the night which kept Kerry awake and I got to practise my rusty Spanish with a little old lady who loved to try and talk to us - but generally it was fine.

By the time we got into the apartment and got ourselves ready it was pretty late so we went straight out for tea. One of the best things about Spain is being able to sit and eat outside, which we did. The street was busy with people walking around and music and a great atmosphere. I had a paella which was gorgeous! After the meal we went for a little wonder and came across a building which had lots of little bars inside. Words cannot do the place justice - it was just beautiful! There were lights everywhere and one wall was full of wine bottles. It had a huge staircase at the end of the room too - the whole effect was just brilliant. We spent the rest of the night there drinking cocktails!

The next day we decided we had to spend a morning on the beach, so to the beach we headed. The weather was lovely and the beach was very pretty. There were a lot of people on the beach trying to sell things (drinks, towels, blankets etc) which was a little annoying as they were constant, but apart from that it was a lovely morning.

On Saturday afternoon, we had booked to go on a boat trip and we spent quite some time trying to get to the correct place at the right harbour - a lot of walking was involved! And, unfortunately, once we did get there we were told that the trip had been double booked and we could not go on it until tomorrow. This threw all of our plans off but we went ahead with it. We spent the next few hours wandering the markets on the harbour and eating ice cream and then headed back to the hotel to get ready and get out.

In the evening, we went to see the Magical Fountain of Montjuic. This is a huge fountain that is moved to music and was gorgeous to watch! We went out for a meal and then headed to Las Ramblas - probably the most famous street in Barcelona. Everything is happening on this street and the atmosphere is fantastic, very energetic. We went into a square just off Las Ramblas which was full of bars and spent our evening there drinking far too much. We ended up in an RnB club which played the best music and stayed out until 5/6am!

The next morning - needless to say it was not an early start and there were a few bad heads - eventually we got going and went to do a bus tour of the city. As our time there was limited we thought this was the best way to see as much of Barcelona as possible. It was great to be able to see a huge amount of the city but I will admit we were all a little worse for wear and a bit tired and, because of this, we only actually got off the bus once (it was a hop on/hop off bus tour) which was a little bit of a waste, but we did still get to see a lot. The one stop we managed to make was at the Sagrada Famillia, a huge church designed by Gaudi. We knew the church was due to appear at any time and were on the look out when you can see the top through some buildings and then suddenly you turn the corner and there it is in all its glory. It was a breath-taking sight and one I will always remember. It is such a beautiful, different building and it is HUGE! The only downside to it was it had scaffolding all over it which was a little disappointing, however, the church is not yet finished. This is a sight I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

The final part of our trip saw us finally getting on the boat trip. I have been on a lot of boats in my life and all different types and never have I felt sea sick. However, on this boat something was different and about an hour in I had started to feel a little queasy. I had not said anything but Kerry mentioned that she did, as did Clare and before you knew it all three of us were hanging off the back being sick. I think this may have had more to do with the alcohol the night before but it did slightly ruin the trip! Once I personally had been sick, I was fine and even ended up driving/sailing (?) the boat back to the harbour which was great fun!

Overall, Barcelona was fantastic and a really good trip. Everything we did was great and my only regret is not having any longer there as I feel there is still so much more to do. Somewhere I definitely plan to visit again!

Posted by LaurenF3 00:08 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona Comments (0)

Marrakech

Morocco

sunny

One of the things that I love about having been to Morocco is that I can now say that, technically, I have been to Africa... (Although there is so many more places yet to visit there!) A tick on the old continents box...

I was very happy when we got this holiday booked as Adam is a little on the worried side about going to places out of his comfort zone - this is NOT something I thought I was going to be able to get him to go! But he agreed and we booked and we went and we loved!

One of the great things about going to Morocco for me was, compared to Mexico last year (I really did enjoy Mexico, however) we only travelled half the distance and had a much shorter time difference with better weather and for half the price. Cannot complain about that! With regards to the weather, we went in June and by the end of our holiday it was already beginning to get far too hot, with the hotel staff telling us that it was nothing, August was by far the worst month and most uncomfortable for the locals, never mind tourists. My recommendation would be to go either before the end of June or the beginning of September onwards.

There are a lot of things to do in and around Marrakech but one of the things we were keen to do was go and see the medina. The medina is a densely-packed, walled medieval city that holds the souks (which is a marketplace) that sell everything you imagine from jewellery to pottery to leather - they have everything you need! The souks themselves are a huge spiderweb of little streets and alleyways. When walking through these you are likely to get pestered and approached, but we were expecting it to be a lot worse than what it actually was. We did go to see the souks and medina on a guided tour, which I would 100% recommend. The souks are a complete maze and we spoke to several people who went on their own and could not find an exit out of it, became completely lost and disorientated and became very stressed with it all (and personally I believe if you are on a tour this helps to being hassled a lot less). Do not take any photos at all whilst in the souks (unless given permission) as people there are very protective of their shops. We heard stories of shop owners taking camera/phones off people and demanding that they delete the photo of holding on to them until they paid them. The tour we were on allowed us some leeway, but we still had to be very careful with it. The souks were amazing to see and so different to any other market place that you must see them, however, if you are going to go alone be careful and take breadcrumbs because you are going to need them to get yourself out...

After the souks we entered the Jemaa El-Fnaa square - the heart of Marrakech. This square is huge and it is still used by locals daily so it feels very authentic and not-at-all commercial. There is a lot going on here and so much to see, it really is worth having a wonder around. For me, one thing that stuck out the most was the snake charmers. Snake charmers are something that I felt could not be really and are only made up for stories or films, but, Jemaa El-Fnaa square is jam-packed with them! After convincing Adam to come within distance of one of them (he is petrified of snakes) I did feel a little disappointed as the snakes were clearly drugged or something similar as they barely moved and looked close to death, not moving and slithering around like you would expect a snake to. Still, it was interesting to see - my only advise here is do not get too close as the men nearby will throw a snake around your neck and demand money for a photo and if they catch you taking a photo they will not let you go until you have paid them. Keep your wits about you and enjoy the culture - there really is a lot to see!

Another trip that we did whilst in Morocco was to go on a camel trip. This was an adventure however, we kind of got too much for our money! The trip was very long and my bum hurt a lot, but it was a great way to get out into the desert more and see some of the country. Warning - camels are high up!! It was a little nerve-wracking getting up and down but I did enjoy the trip.

Marrakech was great and somewhere that I would highly recommend to anyone!

Posted by LaurenF3 10:35 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Ireland

Dublin

There is nothing better than a little city break to finish off the year with. Luckily, Adam surprised me with a booked trip to Dublin - somewhere I have always wanted to go and never been, despite it being so close!

The flight was the shortest one I have ever taken. By the time we were level and able to take off our seat belts, we were putting them back on to come back down again! Once off the plane, we got on a city link bus right outside of the hotel that stops off at various points around the city. The time we got to the hotel was bad as it was still early and we could not yet check in so, after we dropped off our bags, away we went exploring.

Our first stop was the Guinness factory. I was unsure if I wanted to do this as I do not drink or like the stuff, but Adam does and it is Dublin's number 1 tourist attraction so we thought we would give it a go. I actually found it pretty interesting and there was some cool things to do. You get to pour a pint how it should be poured and also go into a taste room and get shown how you should drink it (still did not like it). After you have worked your way around all of this you can then go up to the observatory bar where you claim your free pint and get the best view of the city. You can actually see rather a lot from up there. As we were nearly finished and thinking of leaving, a cloud of black smoke completely blinded us and it turns out the factory next door was on fire! We made a swift exit as the fire engines were turning up...

Another thing we did was visit Dublin Zoo (we chose this because we got free entry tickets through Tesco club card boost!) We had to get a bus to another part of the city then using our map walked down a very long street. The map was not very clear as things did not quite match up as they should. Either way, we walked past the zoo! We ended up walking quite a bit extra before we realised and turned around. We did eventually get to the zoo and it was okay - having been at Chester Zoo so many times I have found it hard to beat. Dublin Zoo did not beat it! The enclosures were quite a lot smaller and there was a lot of construction work going on at the time. Still, there were some cool animals and some that you do not get in Chester Zoo, like red pandas or wolves, it was still a good day out.

We stayed at Temple Bar hotel whilst in Dublin and it turns our Temple Bar is the place to be. The area comes alive at night and the bars are full and energetic. We went to one bar that had constant live music and it was brilliant! They even played Galway Girl which made my night. Despite the fact that there were two drunken idiots causing trouble and the high drink prices, I had a good night!

Another thing we did which was pretty cool for me being someone who has studied English - we went to see the Oscar Wilde memorial. It was not a huge thing just a statue of him leaning on a rock and some quotes, but it was still nice to see.

Overall, Dublin was a great getaway and I would love to go see another part of Ireland sometime. Well worth weekend away!

Posted by LaurenF3 04:44 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland dublin Comments (0)

Glastonbury

The festival of all festivals...

I have been going to V Fest for the past few years and my friends and I finally decided it was time to make the leap and go; it was time for Glastonbury. Having tried and failed the year before I was so surprised this year that not only did I get a ticket but all of my friends did - not one person was left out! This made it all the more exciting....

Due to the festival falling on one of my friend's 30th birthday's she wanted to camp in Tangerine Fields. This is a campsite in which you pay extra (between £100 - £150 depending on how many and what tent) and what this includes is a short walk from the car park to campsite, own showers and toilets, own bar, a hairdressing tent and the best part of all...the tents are already pitched up! From going to V for years I know the worst part was the walk and then after that fighting for a good spot and the hassle of not only putting the tent up, but then also taking it down at the end when you are tired and want to get home, so this was a huge plus for me. I did have my reservations about going in this campsite as I thought we would loose the feel for Glastonbury and would not be getting the "full experience" but I can honestly say after staying there it was such a good decision and I could not see myself wanting to do it any other way. The luxury of having a shower half way through the week was brilliant and the walk was literally five minutes from the car. To get to the actual festival main areas in took about twenty minutes, which was fine as on the way there it is all down hill so an easy walk and goes quick and on the way back despite there being a hill we usually had enough alcohol or excitement to make it seem like nothing. It is definitely something that I would recommend.

One thing that completely threw me about Glastonbury is the overall size of the place. We got given a map and when I first opened it out I was in complete and utter shock...it is HUGE!! It was both a blessing and a curse as it was amazing that there was so much to see yet no way we were going to be able to do all of that in the time that we were there. I would take a guess that we managed to complete around 40/50% of it at most and that felt like we had seen and done a lot. The Park had to be my favourite place as it was just so cool and funky and, of course, the famous Glastonbury sign is there! (Do not do what I did and decide that you do not need to get a photo with it the first time you see it because you will be coming back as I said that and we never ended up going back and was devastated I did not get that shot!)

Another cool place was The Stone Circle. This is a place where you tend to go after dark and everyone makes fires and sings and just has fun in what is basically a big field. The atmosphere there is awesome - it really is the sort of hippy vibe where everyone loves each other! My friend turned thirty whilst we were in there and we started singing and before long hundreds of people had joined in - what a way to welcome your birthday in!

The fact that there are clubs in a festival says a lot for the size of it. We walked through The Dance Village one night and there was so much going on you just did not know which direction to look in. It was so much fun and it was enough just to see it, never mind get involved in it also! The best club for me had to be Arcadia. A huge robotic spider with dancers hanging off of it and fire blazing...it really is nothing you have ever seen before.

Generally, the atmosphere of Glastonbury is one that cannot be faulted. As I mentioned I have been to V several times and also Leeds Fest, but nothing matches this. In V you get groups of rowdy lads who love creating mosh pits and throwing their piss around and fighting all over the place, but you got none of it here. There was just the general feeling that everyone wanted to have fun and just got on with it.

The mud. Ohhh that mud. It really is as bad as they make it out to be. Once it has rained there is NO escaping it and I spent most of the time between stages and acts concentrating very hard on not falling over (which thankfully I didn't). There was some very bad weather on the Friday (the first day that the acts come on) and at one point when I was watching Rudimental the lightening was so bad it hit a stage and everything went onto lock down. I was standing in the rain drenched through and cold with nowhere to go for shelter trying to stay upright - I truly felt miserable at that point! But you just have to get over it and make the most of it. Some acts did get cut short because of the storm which was a shame but I eventually dried out and my beloved Paolo made it on and it was a great night (we made it to the front for Paolo Nutini and it was unreal!!!).

The toilets are not as bad as you think they are going to be. Do not get me wrong they are vile and not nice but you always hear such horror stories about them and I can confirm it is a lot of exaggerating. What do you expect at a festival? My tip - do not look down. My second tip - if you drop anything, tough. It is gone (you do not want to be known like that poor soul who got dubbed "poo girl" after falling down one of the long drops trying to retrieve her camera).

Glastonbury was everything I expected and so much more. Something I feel anyone who likes music needs to go to at least once in their life (and who doesn't like music, right?) Put it on your bucket list now!

Posted by LaurenF3 08:45 Archived in England Tagged music glastonbury Comments (0)

Mexico

Riviera Maya

Finally!! I have finally been able to get away on a holiday. It feels like it has been such a long time since I last went anywhere. It took us some time for us to decide on somewhere we both wanted to go (I fancied Sri Lanka and he wanted USA...), but Mexico it was. We booked it at the beginning of the year so waiting for this holiday to come around has felt like a life time!

We went all out on this holiday and ended up doing a 5* all inclusive hotel, called the Grand Bahia Principe. It was so big, huge! It was basically three hotels rolled into one. We got access to golf buggies that would take us around to different parts because it was so big you couldn't always walk it. We also had an extra added upgrade to our stay which was called The Hacienda. With this we got access to an exclusive breakfast and lunch restaurant, exclusive swimming pool and part of the beach. We got our mini-bar topped up daily and a private reception. On top of all that, we also got a robe and slippers (which we used a lot more than you would expect in that heat!)

With going in September we thought the weather would be ideal - our rep at Thomas Cook who booked it for us did not make us aware that this was prime storm/hurricane weather. In the days leading up to the holiday the weather was reported as rain all day every day. It was quite depressing! I was contemplating changing the clothes I had packed to suit the bad weather! The day we arrived, although it was warm, it was overcast and miserable, which later resulted in rain and thunder. This lasted until the next evening and then luckily after that the sun made an appearance! We were pretty lucky with the weather after that, only had a couple of miserable days until the last one which was stormy, but by this point I was glad of a change in temperature. The weather was very hot!

The bad thing about this weather is that it brought out all of the mosquitoes. I am not one to get bitten and Adam says he is not normally either. I got a couple of bites nothing bad but more than normal. Adam on the other hand got eaten alive! No amount of repellent could keep those bad boys away, so get the strongest one possible if you are going!

How could one go all the way to Mexico and not visit Chichen Itza - one of the seven wonders of the New World right on the doorstep. We took an organised trip as it is around two hours away and cannot be done in a costly fashion if you were to try and do it yourself. With the trip lunch was included and we also got to go through more rural, real Mexico (rather than the built up tourist areas we had seen so far). We went to a Mayan village. Through going here you could see how little the Mayan's really have. They lived in huts with no windows and very basic amenities. Occasionally you did see a satellite disc on a roof top so they do have some access to television and electricity, but from what I learnt a lot of the villages choose not to have any and live by natural means. What is truly applaudable is the fact that, despite having so little, everyone truly was happy and friendly and nice. Could not do enough for you type of attitude. I guess it is true when they say less is more!

Chichen Itza itself was amazing. There was over 450 ruins in the area and we got to see a fair few. Some are as they were found whereas some have been restored back to the original. Obviously, the main most famous pyramid has been restored and looks brilliant. We tried the whole clapping thing and it was so cool! (Look it up on YouTube if you do not know what I am referring to!) Our guide taught us a lot and definitely wanted us to believe that the Mayans were aliens. Very interesting stuff. The only problem with it was that it was a sun trap, there was nowhere to hide!

On our tour we got taken to a shop to buy things that were "authentic" and "real" - basically they were costly. We were advised it was much better to get your souvenirs there than at the place itself, which I did, but regretted. They choice there was so much better and a lot cheaper. The guide had told us all of there stuff was imported from China, but you could watch the people on the side carving and painting, making everything themselves, as you walked past so I felt bad that I had given in earlier. Definitely wait and get your stuff there if you were to go!

The other thing we did was to go swimming in a cenote. A cenote is a big sink hole (it goes down over 150feet!) It is fresh water that has a lot of fish swimming around in it. We went in and it was amazing. So refreshing! You could jump as well a bit higher up, which I eventually did! It was really one of the best things that we did.

I would definitely recommend Mexico as a place to go - just try and get out more. I admit I was a little lazy and just spent a lot of time relaxing, but there is so much more to see and do so get out there!

Posted by LaurenF3 04:30 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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