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Archive for January, 2012

We are leaving Barcelona in the morning.  What a great time it has been.  Now that we are actually on the road, living from our packs, and exploring the unknown, we have a lot more pictures and stories to share.  So without further delay, we present to you some of our favorite parts of this amazing city.

Gaudi

What a guy! The famous Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi, drew much of his inspiration from nature’s constructive beauty. Through this revolutionary style of design, he made so many incredible contributions to Barcelona.  He has even made Amy’s “Top 5 list of people to bring back from the dead to have dinner with.”  We dedicated one full day to exploring Gaudi’s contributions, including two of his most famous works El Templo de La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia – interior of basilica, stained glass projecting on columns

View from the top of the Nativity Lift at La Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s House at Parc Güell

Open plaza surrounded by tile benches, Parc Güell

Columns by Gaudi in Parc Güell

Mercats

We spent a ton of our time in Barcelona simply walking around the city.  While not high on the list of must sees for most tourists, we found the neighborhood “mercats” in Barcelona to be a bright point of our time here.  While exploring a quaint old part of town known as La Barceloneta, we encountered our first mercat.  Imagine the produce section of Whole Foods on steroids. These are different than the make-shift, bazar style markets that you find in much of the world.  They are a well built structure, clean/sanitary, and packed with some of the best food we have ever seen.  Upon returning from Barceloneta, we found a very similar mercat just a few blocks from our hostel in the neighborhood know as El Clot. Since we had access to a full service kitchen at our hostel, we took advantage of the incredible produce, meats and seafood to cook affordable and yummy dinners.

Fish Vendor at Mercat El Clot

Cured Meat Vendor at Mercat La Barceloneta

Sitges

After a few days in Barcelona, we were eager to get out of the city and see more of Catalonya.  Based on a suggestion from Mike’s cousin, Lilli, we hopped on a train one morning headed towards Sitges.  Sitges is a pristine beach town, just 30 minutes south from Barcelona via a regional train along the coast.  Shortly after arriving, we stopped for breakfast where Mike enjoyed toast with “pata negra” ham, the most delicious cured meat he has ever tasted, and Amy a cafe con leche y croissant. We had a fabulous time strolling the beach and walking through the narrow, well kept streets.  It was a welcomed change from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

Cafe con Leche y Bocadillo de Jamón

Enjoying the sunshine in Sitges

Tomorrow evening we will be boarding a cruise to Spain’s Canary Islands, Portugal’s Madeira Islands and Málaga/Granada.  We found a killer deal on this cruise before leaving the States and it is an exciting change from hostel living!  Looking forward to sharing our travels upon our arrival to Valencia following the cruise.  Salud!

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Goodbye USA, Hello World

We made it to Barcelona (as locals call it: Bar”th”elona)!  The journey to get here wasn’t without a few bumps along the way though…

We spent our last few days in the US relaxing and spending time with family in Florida.  Delicious food, great company, warm weather.  What better farewell from the States could you ask for?

Ft. Lauderdale Beach

But, three days before our flight was scheduled to depart, things got a little hectic.  The airline, Air Europa, called to inform us that they were no longer providing service from Miami to Spain.  That route simply did not exist anymore. They even sent us a very helpful automated email letting us know that the alternative flight available to us had left the week prior.  Great, thanks for giving us such advanced notice! Not.

After five hours on the phone with these people and some not so pleasant verbal exchanges, our flight was rescheduled on a different airline.  In hindsight, the challenge with the airline served as a good reminder that things don’t always go as planned.

The flight itself was not so pleasant however.  The eight hours from Miami to Madrid were pure turbulence.  Picture this: Amy’s nails digging into Mike’s arm, guy across aisle cold sweating and puking into the provided barf bag, and zero communication by the pilot as to why this was happening and when it was going to stop.  On a positive note, the food was pretty decent by airline standards and there was plenty of vino tinto to go around.

After the second leg from Madrid to Barcelona landed, we hoped on a train straight to our hostel. We have stayed in many hostels in our lives and this is without a doubt the largest one we’ve ever seen.  It is literally a high-rise of bunk rooms – 14 floors with eight rooms on each.  We are staying in a room off eight and so far so good.

Urbany Hostel, Barcelona

After not sleeping all night on our bumpy flight, we were pretty exhausted.  A quick siesta turned into a four hour nap, but gave us enough energy to explore a bit and get our first taste of the Spanish tapas dining experience.  We had some great chorizo, croquetas and tortilla.   Today we are headed out to tour La Sagrada Familia and whatever else we stumble upon.  As always, let us know if you have any suggestions of must-sees in Barcelona.

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Lightening the Load

Just two backpacks; that’s all we’re taking with us.  The truth is that we’re taking a lot more than that.  You can actually fit quite a bit into a 40 liter sack.  For the first leg of our trip in Portland, we brought extra luggage along because we knew we would be staying with family and taking part in holiday festivities.  Until loading up our backpacks for Florida two nights ago, we couldn’t honestly say what we would be bringing with us on our RTW trip.  But the deed is done and we have shed our excess belongings!  Below are pictures and descriptions of what came with us to Florida and what we will be carrying oversees.

Amy’s Gear

3 T-shirts, 1 blouse, 2 tank-tops, 2 long sleeve shirts, 1 pair jeans, 1 pair leggings, 1 pair zip-off pants, 1 pair Chacos, 1 pair tennis shoes, 1 pair flip flops, 2 dresses, 1 sarong, 1 skirt, 1 pair shorts, 1 fleece, 1 raincoat, 1 hat, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair sunglasses. Not pictured: scarf, swim suit, undergarments and Gregory Jade 38 backpack.

Mike’s Gear

1 T-shirt, 1 short-sleeve collard shirt, 2 long sleeve shirts, 1 micro fleece, 1 zip-up vest, 2 pairs zip-off pants, 1 swim suit, 1 raincoat, 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair Chacos, 1 pair tennis shoes, 2 scarfs, 2 hats, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair sunglasses. Not pictured: 1 T-shirt, 1 pair pants, undergarments and REI Pinnacle 40 backpack.

Miscellaneous Shared Gear

starting at top left, moving clockwise

“The Junk Drawer” – Q-Tips, 2 collapsible water bottles, EmergenC, deck of cards, Yahtzee, First Aid Kit, plastic bags, Kleenex, sewing kit, watch, ear plugs, compass, head lamp, string, mini salt & pepper shaker, converters, immunization records, notepad, wet wipes, drain stopper, sharpie, duct tape, head phones, flashlight, extra batteries, zip ties.

“The Towel Rack” – 2 quick-dry towels

“The Bathroom Cabinet” – shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, body & face lotion, sunscreen.

“The Pharmacy” – various prescription and over the counter medications, including anti-biotics, malaria pills, anti-inflammatories, and many more.

“The Liquids” (carefully separated thanks to TWA) – Aquamira water purification drops, DEET, medications, saline solution, neosporin, etc.

Not pictured:

“The Library” – we are starting with 2 guide books and 3 novels, which we plan on switching out with newbies as we make our way around the world. Have suggestions on good reads? Let us know!

“The Safety Deposit Box” – passports, yellow cards, wallets, insurance cards, credit cards, cash, family photos.

Electronics

Acer Aspire One netbook, charger & waterproof case, Nikon 3100 SLR camera, charger, extra battery & shoulder bag, Fujifilm digital camera, charger & case, 1 flash drive, 3 memory cards, GorillaPod, portable speakers. Not pictured: iTouch and iPod.

Storage Cubes & Day Packs

1 REI backpack, 1 Sea To Summit packable daypack, 1 money belt, 1 purse, 3 EagleCreek storage cubes.

It feels liberating to have nothing but each other and the packs on our backs.  Surely the items described above will not be the same items that make it back home with us at the end of the trip. It will be interesting to see what we aquire, replace and discard along the way.

We arrived in Florida yesterday to spend a week with family.  It is nice to be in 70 degree weather in January!  Our flight to Spain leaves this Monday and we will be in Barcelona on the 17th.  Looking forward to reporting from our first international stop!

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