One of the appeals of returning to Barcelona once again is to finally make a visit to Park Güell, another place I missed during my last visit to the city.
I schedule my visit at the opening so I can maybe have a visit that isn’t uncomfortably crowded.
My travel instructions have me exit at the metro stop at the bottom of the hill. I am not excited about a morning sweat.
Once at the top of the hill, I am still early and I have views of the city.
Once inside the park you can stay inside as long as you want but to see some of the more fabulous features of the park you must visit in one direction only. I start my visit by heading to the most popular spots. I am not completely alone but I have photos mostly void of people that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Like anything these days it gets more busy as the day goes on so I visit all the highlights, sometimes multiple times, and then leave. I imagine at one time this might have been a great place for a picnic, when perhaps the crowds were not as bad.
After my visit to Parc Guell I decide to walk back towards my hotel since I want to explore the artsy neighborhood of Gràcia.
I still have half a day left so on the walk back I detour over to another of Gaudì’s works – Casa Vicens. This house is the first important commission he received, said to even begin Modernisme movement in Catalonia and Europe. I am just pleased to view the interesting tile choices and wild ceilings that are in almost all the rooms. Its current layout is different than its original configuration since it is now used as an event and exhibit space.
The classy gal I am, I decided to try a local delicacy. (Well not really since it is worldwide chain and I might have fallen to peer pressure to take a picture “for the gram”.)
Finished the evening at wandering around Las Ramblas. I head back to my hotel with the most confusing lobby. You can only tell the elevator is there because I catch the door partially open in a photo. Tomorrow I visit the inside of another of Gaudì’s great works, La Sagrada Familia.
The main event of today is a visit to the Alhambra, a royal residence in Granada during the Nasrid kingdom (mid 13th century). The fortress like structure sits on a hill and can be viewed from most of Granada.
I have time to take advantage of the included breakfast at the hotel this morning since my reservation for Nasrid’s palaces is not until 11:00 am. To visit Nasrid’s palaces you must book in advance since it is very popular. With the booking you can enter the rest of the complex as early as 8:30 am if you like. Breakfast first then I will head up to begin my visit.
I enjoy the continental-style buffet that includes a torta and meat & cheese slices as well as fruit. I take advantage of the patio and the mild weather in the morning.
The Alhambra compound entrance is about a 30 minute walk by taking the back pedestrian entrance. There are ways to get there by bus but I didn’t bother researching that.
It is a constant walk uphill to get to the entrance. I walk between the area that holds the Generalife and the other side that has the palaces; but down below. In fact we walk under a walkway.
When I finally get to the entrance tour guides approach me. I forgo the tours since I have downloaded tour information on my phone and would rather take things at my leisure. When I approach the entrance gates it is like crossing the border to another country. At Alhambra you need to keep your ticket and passport readily available at all times because they will constantly ask to see it. Alhambra has more passport control than most countries I’ve been to. It gets kind of annoying because each time I take out my passport it is another opportunity for it to get lost or stolen.
Once I am inside I head over near the nasrid palaces because I have not left myself time to do anything else. I pass by a church and walk down a pretty shrub pathway and head down a hill. I line up outside the nasrid palaces waiting for my entrance to be called.
They let us in at batches I believe every 15 minutes. Once you are in you are free to view at your own pace. My strategy is to fall behind the pack in the hope that I can get a few pictures without crowds. I can’t fall too far behind though because the next group will be entering soon after us. Another couple or two has the same idea. I can’t get completely people-free photos because the couples need to do their photoshoots. Everyone is an instagram model these days. I won’t complain about it here because I complained about it enough during my sabbatical posts. One needs to just accept it is part of travel now.
I enjoy Mudéjar and Islamic style architecture so touring the palaces is a treat.
Loving all the textured patterns.
I catch a window area with a colorful stained glass ceiling that shoots rays of color down below. It is beautiful.
As the tour comes to a close there is a walkway with tremendous views of the city and a nice courtyard.
After my tour of the palaces I head over the Alcazaba or military fortress. The fortress has some good views of Granada and the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains.
I almost never have a sweet tooth but I am hot from being outdoors and this ice cream sounds like the ideal lunch/snack right now. It hits the spot.
Next I visit the Palace of Carlos V next door. The circle architecture is kind of cool and there is a small artifact museum inside as well as an art museum upstairs but otherwise the building is not very exciting and doesn’t need a long visit.
I am finished with this portion of Alhambra so I head over to Generalife. Generalife was the sultan’s summer palace and gardens. The palace is not as impressive as the nasrid palaces but the gardens are very beautiful. I almost wish I brought a picnic lunch with me to enjoy with the flowers and the views.
There is a staircase that has relaxing streams of water pouring down the handrails. At the top of the staircase I find some refreshing cold water to refill my water bottle.
At the top there is a nice breeze. One almost forgets how impossibly hot it is down below. Again more beautiful views of the Nasrid palaces, the city of Granada, and Sacromonte.
I head toward the exit. On my way downhill I stop for a beer at the nearby café.
I follow the stone path back down the hill. I admire the towers and cross walks from down below.
I walk down Carrera del Darro to head back to my hotel. Later this evening I am going to a Zambra flamenco show in Sacromonte. More about that later.
It is M’s first full day in Cartagena with me. We have booked a cruise to the Rosario Islands. We could have traveled directly to an island to do a day of relaxing on the beach but from reviews it doesn’t seem like a relaxing option due to beach vendors constantly bothering you.
There are a couple different choices for a day cruise ranging from packed-like-sardines in a speedboat to a luxury yacht cruise. The speedboat option seems like it could be fun but we both agree we would prefer the more laid back (though more expensive) catamaran tour.
There is an early start of 8:00 for our tour. We leave early to ensure we arrive in time.
One we arrive we wait at the marina for quite a while.
Finally our boat arrives. It is a lovely sight to see.
After arrival we still wait to board. Eventually the staff announces that they are cancelling the cruise for the day due to strong winds at sea. We are disappointed.
Luckily we can reschedule in a couple days. There is already a line of people waiting for refunds to be processed or to book another day. They let us onto the boat to wait in comfort which is great because we get to use the very clean bathroom downstairs. M has a great idea of getting cheap morning beers from one of the vendors on the dock. It didn’t take much for her to talk me into one as well. We sip our beers while we wait our turn to rebook.
We have rebooked and the day is still early. We have a free day we did not plan for. We head from the marina area and decide to explore town a bit, stopping first in a nearby museum.
The museum we stop at is the Museo Naval del Caribe, the Museum of the Colombian Navy.
All the exhibits are in Spanish but we understand enough to get an idea of the history. The exhibits are heavy on the military and the sea. We had some playtime in a submarine for a bit.
Side Note: M and I combined have a pretty good grasp on Spanish. We seem to fill in each others gaps well. What she doesn’t remember I remember and vice-versa. It gives me a bit more confidence.
After the museum we decide to check out the funky neighborhood of Getsemani. Fortunately it is in walking distance so no taxi is necessary.
We pass through some more charming streets on the way and stop for arepas.
We stop at Quero Arepa for an arepa snack.
Sloth at Parque Del Centenario
We walk past Parque Del Centenario where it is said you can see monkeys but we instead find a sloth on a tree. He is snacking on some tree fruits. Some people are trying to feed him and pet him but we respectfully keep our distance.
We have arrived in Getsemani. The neighborhood of Getsemani is funky and colorful. We originally considered staying in his neighborhood but opted to be closer to the tourist sites. If I am ever to return I am definitely staying in Getsemani. I really like the vibe.
I see lots of street art in many different cities but it never seems to get old.
Flags hang from above, in this case flags from different countries.
We watch an artist at work.
Today is about walking, eating and drinking. We stop to try local fried foods at a hipster restaurant.
We stop for food once again, this time to split a small pizza.
We end up down a narrow and colorful street shaded by colorful umbrellas.
We are almost out of Getsemani but not before we stop at a corner bar that sells sushi and beer. We order only beer.
Once back in the tourist area we climb the fortification walls to catch the sunset.
After dark I get to try the Russian themed bar near the apartment. We decided to test our luck and have a Moscow Mule at the KGB Bar. Back in the USSR!
Keeping the theme of Soviet area relics we head next to my happy place at Cuba 1940. We don’t stay for the band tonight but we will be back.
As we walk back to the apartment we peak into a service at a beautiful church.
Even though things did not go as planned our day ended up pretty great.
Tomorrow we head on a trip a little out of town to see the pink sea. Hopefully it is the perfect pink color.
It is my first full day in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. I have a couple days here alone before a friend comes to meet me. I’ll save the major sights for when she arrives, now is the time for me to enjoy the city leisurely.
Fortunately I wake up early enough to take advantage of the free buffet breakfast at the hotel. A friendly kitchen staff member greets me and asks how I would like my eggs. I enjoy coffee and the buffet of fresh fruit along with my eggs.
Against better judgement I have been eating a good amount of fresh fruit in Colombia but it isn’t until my visit to Cartagena that it has an effect on me. The bacteria in Cartagena is different than other parts of Colombia. I have some mild stomach discomfort here (the water quality has something to do with its lower elevation).
After breakfast I wander around to explore and stop to order a fun cocktail and a snack at Lobo de Mar.
I am once again in another town where the buildings are painted in vivid colors. It is a beautiful sight to see.
I grab a beer and rest in the courtyard of my hotel to escape the heat and book some tours.
The next day or so is about the same; I take things easy.
I see on a map the home of Gabriel García Márquez (the famous Colombian author) but I cannot find it. While I really like the novel Love in the Time of Cholera, I had a annoying experience reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Many praise the novel but I find it impossible to follow. There are so many characters introduced in different timelines and they all seem to have similar names. I’ve tried to read it three times and still have not been able to complete it. I am unable to locate the house.
I did see this boutique hotel in his honor…..the map shows that this hotel is right next door to the house. If it is there I did not see it.
There is also a fortification around the city “Murallas De Cartagena”. One can walk along the walls as I did a few times during my visit.
More city photos
One plaza has a bunch of sculptures by Edgardo Carmona, a local sculptor.
I soon find one of my favorite places to have a drink in town – Cuba 1940. I watch live music here a couple days later. (Cartagena really makes me want to party, lol).
While people watching I’ve seen Captain America, Iron Man, Deadpool, Spiderman, Edward Scissorhands and a large-bellied man dancing shirtless in a hula skirt. Being Friday night people must be out for birthday celebrations or stag nights. Cartagena is a fun city.
Later on I treat myself to a nice meal at Agua De Leon restaurant. The restaurant is busy but they are able to seat me at the bar. I still have a view of the live band playing up front.
The next day …
I have a travel partner again! My friend M has arrived. I’ve checked out of my hotel and transferred my belongings to the apartment where we will spend the next couple days. Unfortunately when we arrive they want all cash payment. We are both confused because we thought we had prepaid. Additionally the booking had no specification about paying in cash. We don’t have that much cash on hand so we ask if we can pay later after we are able to withdrawal more money; hopefully we have high ATM limits. After we gather the funds we have a really hard time finding a person to pay. Our days are similar, we return after sightseeing and we still not know who/how to pay. It makes us a little irritated and anxious. Eventually we learn that there is an office that is not often occupied. One day we find a person in the “office”. They seem ready to leave but we make sure that we pay for our stay and get a receipt. Whew! Glad that drama is over! Luckily our next hotel is prepaid by credit card.
Once we drop our bags off we hit the ground running. We first head out for a beer at the pub around the corner.
We then walk around town a bit. We end up catching the tail end of a wedding. It is fun to see local wedding traditons.
Finally we share a Colombian version of a charcuterie platter. We have an early morning cruise scheduled tomorrow so no late night for us.
It is new year’s day in Sydney Australia. We get a late start today because we were up late. Luckily I am not hungover from last night’s celebrations.
After visiting both Melbourne and Sydney I decide Melbourne is more my style but I think I would like Sydney more if I didn’t visit in the middle of their darn summer! It is quite warm here – as is most of my travels lately. However it is nice to be with family though. It is also nice to travel with someone who is compatible with my travel style right now. Prior to my sabbatical I would take 2 week or shorter trips where I would book every moment moment possible with stuff to do. I cannot do that type of travel on this trip or I will burn out. It helps to travel with someone who has already been to Sydney and doesn’t have an urge to see everything that can be seen.
We didn’t just sit around during our visit though: We crossed off a bucket list item by booking tickets for show at the Sydney Opera house on New Years Day. We witnessed great performers singing opera hits.
What an experience!
Bondi to Coogee
Easily accessible by train and bus we took the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. It is a beautiful and warm day and the views of the coast are great.
Along our walk we see Sydney ocean pools some of which were constructed in the late 1800’s. They are a very interesting concept. I enjoy looking at them and the different rock formations along the coast.
Still in Sydney for a couple more days. I’ll talk more about my visit in one more post!