Category Archives: Spain

Oh the Places You’ll Cruise??

My dear co-worker and friend Candace married her long time girlfriend Genna last month in Chicago. They had a lovely wedding, but like all weddings go…it is finally time for the honeymoon!!

Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio

They booked a Mediterranean cruise that goes from Barcelona to Naples/Pompeii to Rome to Florence/Pisa/Livorna to Cannes to

Pisa Cliche
Mom at Pisa

Palma, Majorica. I have been to six of those nine places. I thought I could give some good insight to it. Then I decided for a wedding gift that I would make them one of my iWander books of their cruise for free of charge!

It was a lot of fun to make, because I have always wanted to know all the potential places I could go to in limited time and therefore I (or whoever I am writing it for) would have lots of options once there. But, this was a cruise.

I gave Candace her book!
I gave Candace her book!

They are only allowed 10-12 hours in each place. How does one see all of Rome in 10 hours?! Well. Actually. One doesn’t. So I did a lot of research of finding the best one day excursions in each place. I looked up blog suggestions, must-do’s and must see’s, and travel sites suggestions. It was a really fun book to make because I was able to set personalized suggestions of where to go and when.

Here is a blurb of my Barcelona part:



History: The city is the capital of Catalonia and is Spain’s second biggest city. They have a population of about 1.5 million people. Best known for the Olympics being hosted in Barcelona in 1992, and since then the city has changed its neighborhoods and the way the city is presented today. It was originally under Roman rule. Barcelona was founded under two stories: the first being Hercules (yes, the Mythological God) founded the city, and the second being founded by Hamilcar Barca the statesman of Cyrene. He was said to command the forces in Sicily from 247 BC to 241 BC. The Roman redirected the city as a military camp around 15 BC, and used for its excellent harbor.  After the Romans were the Visigoths conquer, and this was a rule by the Moors for the next 100 years. The city gained a reputation during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century with the World’s Fair in 1888. Catalonia fought for freedom from the rule of Spain through the 20th century, and with this heightened Barcelona’s importance.

Suggested Options for A Single Day in Barcelona:
(On your first day, with only a few hours, it might be beneficial to start one of these and then finish the suggested list on your return back and be able to spend more time in a museum or Cathedral.)

    – Mirador de Colon         – Placa de Catalunya                 – Parc Guell
    – La Rambla                 – La Rambla                          – Train to Sangrada Familia (Go in?)
    – Detour thru Barri Gotic   – Mirador de Colon                  – Av. Diagonal to Casa Batllo (Go in?)
    – Visit Museo Picasso      – Placa Reial                         – Casa Mila (Go in?)
    – Walk back by Catedral     – Thru Barri Gotic                   -Thru Barri Gotic
    – La Boqueria (off of La Rambla) – Visit Catedral               – Visit Catedral (Go in?)
    – Placa de Catalunya           – Walk to Can Culleretes         -Visit Town Hall
    – Casa Batllo (Go in?)          – Montjuic                           – Olympic Stadium
    – Casa Mila/Pedrera (Go in?)  – Sangrada Familia (Go in?)        – Montjuic hill
    – Avinguda Diagonal              – Train to Parc Guell        
    – La Sangrada Familia (Go in?)                    
    – Train to Parc Guell                        

* (G) signifies Gaudi Work

– Avinguda Diagonal – A collection of bars and restaurants on one of the most important streets in Barcelona. It was designed by IIdefons Cerda (one of the city original planners).

– Barcelona Catedral (of Holy Cross) – The cathedral was started in the 13th century and finished in the 15th century. It was built on the site of an old Roman town (close to what was once the Roman Forum). The Roman city’s gate was once across the street (Carrer del Bisbe) and you can still see the lower segments of the towers as well as a Roman aqueduct at the base of the Bishop’s Palace (Palau Episcopal).The cathedral was spared by the anarchists during the Civil War and is the place where Santa…..cont.


The Tale of Three Hostels

Elise and I sat staring at the computer screen in our Canterbury University computer lab about 30 minutes before they were supposed to close. We were scrolling through hostel after hostel trying to pick that best one in Madrid suitable for our last weekend adventure abroad. There were so many and for so many different prices. Plus we didn’t know which location would be more beneficial to us. We only had 15 minutes left!

It was the middle of March and I was lounging on my porch in Boulder with my laptop in hand, in the abnormally beautiful weather. I lived in a huge vintage house with 5 other girls who attended the University of Colorado. Just the other day it had been snowing and I was skiing up in the mountains, but today the weather decided to feel like spring and was perfect for planning some more of my around the world trip. I had several websites open up on my screen and I was scrolling through several different search engines at all of the hostels in Sydney. Sydney seems to be a huge hub for ALL backpackers so there were plenty of options and opinions.

I was pretty sun burnt from being out in the Australian sun all week and decided that today would be a good day to stay in from the bay and just catch up on some emails and writing that I needed to do for back home. It was still gorgeous out, but I think my skin needed the rest from this Australian summer for an afternoon. I logged on to my email from the public computer at my hostel. I was lucky to come when there was no line for the computer and had it all to myself. As soon as my email popped up there were about 20 messages from my mother. Cairo was in a revolution and I was supposed to be headed there in a couple weeks…

With 5 minutes left in the computer lab, Elise and I decided together that whatever we chose it would be an adventure. We would be in Spain. This would be our final trip and it would be AMAZING. We chose one of the cheapest places with the most stars next to the name and crossed our fingers for luck!

After an hour or so of weighing the hostels in Sydney, I decided to do the most cost efficient and the closest to the city center that I could find. I ended up choosing three different hostels. They became more expensive after you stayed for a certain number of nights, so I figured if I hopped around then I would get the best deal and the best experience in one city. So I booked all three and was ready for it.

With Cairo rumbling, I had to cancel my hostel that I had booked months in advance. Crazy enough the hostel manager emailed me back a couple days later, pleading that I not cancel and he would let me stay for free if  I passed the word that it was a great hostel. He needed some kind of business than nothing. I thanked him, but knew it would not be safe. Where then was I to go after Malaysia? Change of plans were in order.

Elise and I flew RyanAir to Spain (which was quite the rocky flight leaving London), and arrived into sunny Madrid. Breath-taking. We were given instructions from the hostel (like many other hostels) of how to arrive to the hostel from the airport using public transportation. It was really easy and allowed us to see much of the city. Soon we were standing in the most majestic hostel I have ever stayed at in my entire life. It was called the Cat Hostel and was an old remodeled palace. Fountain in the lobby. Mosaic tile floors. Beautiful rooms. It was like staying in one of the best hotels in the city!

Within my week in Sydney, I carried my massive backpacker bag and traveler bag across the city of Sydney to go from hostel to hostel three separate times. It was a “pain in the hole” like my Irish manager always says, but I do not regret it for a minute. Hostel #1 met a great group of backpackers who took me to the beach my first hour in Sydney. Hostel #2 met one of the loveliest, most talented, and greatest friends I have ever had. Hostel  #3 was in the center of everything and it was the perfect adventure hostel (but I was very happy to not have been there longer than two nights). It may have been some work, but I was BACKPACKER EXTREME! One of the most beneficial ways to experience Sydney by far.

I was nearing the end of my stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and still was not sure if I would IMAG0169stay in the city or try somewhere new. I talked to a few backpackers at my hostel in KL and a lot of them recommended Singapore. It was only a train ride away and only $8 USD. I decided to do some research on my own and it sounded like the right place for me to go, especially with such a short time frame. I found some Wifi at a McDonald’s in a city square and booked myself into a hostel at the north end of Singapore. Without access to a printer it was the most unprepared I had been in my entire trip. But it definitely worked. I met a couple from Scotland and we ended up going together to the night Safari at the zoo as soon as we got off the train in Singapore and I found my hostel late that night open to all surprises coming my way!

I wrote this blog with the intention of showing how every hostel experience can be different, and how while choosing the right one is important, you will never know what is “right” until you get there. Check out this hostel story for another view: A $700 cigarette

Tapas anyone?

I am on the cold floor of the London Airport waiting for the red eye EasyJet flight to arrive. It is about three o’clock in the morning and I am running on pure “slap happiness.” I look out the window hoping to see our plane, but it is still dark and rainy out there. I can feel my eyes wanting so badly to close and to drift off into my secret land of dreams, but alas they won’t. I don’t know if it is the anxiety or excitement or pure focus I have on getting successfully to Spain, but I am more awake than a lion on the hunt. I look over and Elise is fast asleep in a stupid uncomfortable airport chair. She has this pink fuzzy sleeping mask that makes everything completely dark, and with it….she can sleep through anything. So there she is all wrapped up with that silly mask over her eyes and her mouth wide open. Lucky jerk.

Finally the plane arrives. Now this is an Easyjet flight (much like RyanAir) so it is not the most luxurious of flights, but it is affordable and fast and extremely convenient! I crawl over to where Elise is gone into her little dreamland. Let me just say…kudos to her parents and dear siblings in Chicago because this girl is NOT the easiest to wake up (even when you have a plane to catch). But we board on time and arrive into MADRID!!!!!

Elise and I have just spent the last three months in grey England. Please keep in mind how much I adore England and the English people, culture, Cadbury, and history,

Beach of Madrid
Beach of Madrid

however England in the winter is not exactly the easiest weather. So here we are in Spain. The sun almost blinds us coming out of the airport and we are not sure what to do about it. We immediately do the one thing we have been talking about for a month. We find a little convenience store, buy some new sunglasses, two Coronas, and some snacks and head for the beach. It is not the warmest in the winter of Spain either, but we take what we can get!

For the past couple months I have been dragging (yes Elise, dragging) her to major sites, tourist attractions, museums, art galleries, statues, famous streets all over Europe, when all the while Elise would be perfectly happy experiencing the culture in the pubs and hostels all day long. But, as wonderful as this friend of mine is she let me go wild all over the cities tracking down art and history and spending our nights in pubs and hostel bars. But now we are in Spain. Our last trip together with just us two. I want to lay back and enjoy without a worry. We of course have made certain plans for seeing the true historical Madrid, but we have also made plans with our hostel for a night of

Little girl Flemenco dancing
Little girl Flemenco dancing

Flamenco dancing, tapas, and clubs. So we spent the day at the beach and the night in the bars. It was so refreshing and so relaxing! This is not something that I would suggest every day, but every once in a while…YES! The hostel we were staying in hosted this event. (Always look out for these outings when you arrive at the hostel) Elise and I got all dolled up in make-up, hair, and outfits and clambered down to the main desk. A group was waiting there, and once our tour guide called out, we were off.

First, we arrived upon a very small tapas restaurant with a small buffet set up just for our group. It was only a couple samples, but they were heavenly (especially when you have been sitting on the beach all day), then they herded all of us over to the next bar where we got a free beer and jello shots. Elise and I at this point in our travels, know how to work other people to get their stories. We have each other’s back and ask lots of questions. I am so comfortable with her that I get annoyed when she does or says something before me because I wanted to say it. We are meeting  tons of people from everywhere. Next we head off to see one of the wildest, most amazing dances I have ever seen. Flamenco. These people’s feet fly and flail around as if they are puppets with a puppeteer guiding them. And suddenly this little girl of about 4 or 5 takes the stage and she is the best of all of them. It is one of those nights that you will relive in your mind often.

It is really lovely to plan ahead with trips and to do the research. It is the smartest way to travel, or else you are unprepared and do not get the full experience. However, you do need to know when to relax and just spend that time for yourself. Be good to yourself, because you deserve it. AND you also need to know when to compromise the two.

Wayne…honey…we have 23 days until we are headed off to Japan. I promise to ski and spend time relaxing in the hot springs, but I am also promising to research my butt off and learning all I can about what we can see in Japan before we go.

23 Days Til Hakuba