Sunday, June 29, 2014

Parc Güell | Day 2 in Barcelona.

Our second day in Barcelona started out at the beach. After leaving our AIRBNB in the gothic quarter, we grabbed a quick bite at Taller de Tapas next door before walking to the beach. In order to get there, you have to cut through Barceloneta, which I imagine could be potentially dicey after dark, but it was bright out and calm in the neighborhood. I whined briefly and partially jokingly to Andrew for always dragging me through sketchy places, lol.

Next time I'm in Barcelona, I'll have to remember to bring a bathing suit because their beaches are absolutely gorgeous. Crystal blue waters and plenty of space to stretch out in the sand. We lounged for a bit in some beach chairs before realizing that you actually have to pay for them, oops. After cooling down with some sangria, we left the beach and started walking back towards the central part of town to catch the metro to La Sagrada Familia. I feel pretty silly now for not bothering to go in just because the line was too long, oh well.

From there, we trekked on over to Parc Güell, not fully realizing how far and how uphill the walk from the church would be but we made it--as evidenced by these photographs. The park was really breathtaking and a good place to relax after walking in the heat. I enjoyed listening to all of the musicians throughout the park--it felt like a scene out of Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I love watching films set in the cities you're about to visit--it makes you feel romantic about your trip.

In any case, we had to wait for an hour before we could enter the "monumental" part of the park. They now charge to enter. I think in the past it used to be free. But all in all, just gorgeous mosaic work everywhere along with the unforgettable views. This was probably my favorite day in Barcelona. After strolling through the park, we left to make our reservation at TICKETS. You can read my previous post to hear about how amazing Tickets was. So delicious.

After the incredible meal we went to the Magic Fountain and waited until sunset...Unfortunately the fountain never turned on (Thursdays through Sundays, only). I hope I'll always remember how it felt to sit along the wall with other visitors waiting eagerly for the fountain and having a good time nonetheless.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Barcelona is for food lovers.

"People who love to eat are always the best people." - Julia Child

When we planned our trip, we added Lyon because of its reputation for being France's gastronomical capitol. However, it really did not hold up to the incomparable Barcelona. Everything in Barcelona was delicious, almost pornographically so. We spent a lot of time researching where we wanted to eat (as one does) before taking off for our trip. I knew I wanted churros con chocolate, because uhm. Because. In any case, I spent most of the visit stuffing my face at every opportunity and then walking it off. I'm grateful for a boyfriend who really relishes eating because as Julia Child said, people who love to eat are the best people!

If you are visiting Barcelona soon, you must visit the following three places:

  • TICKETS - This was by far the fanciest meal I've had to date. You have to make your reservation months in advance. Expect really inventive tapas, excellent service, and a most memorable meal. I was really glad my boyfriend went through the trouble to snag a reservation way back in March. My favorite tapas was the grilled octopus with kimchee. Best. Octopus. Ever.
  • PINOTXO BAR - My brother and a coworker had recommended Pinotxo to me as I was researching joints to eat at. We actually didn't find it our first time wandering through the Boqueria but I am so glad we did. We should have eaten here daily because it was just the freshest, most delicious food. The old man that presumably owns the place is adorable. You just tell him if you want meat or fish and he takes it from there. 
  • CAL PEP - This also came as a recommendation from a coworker. Come here if you love seafood. We waited in line for seats at the bar. Go with the recommended courses from the chef and they'll just take it from there. I really loved the fish here. I have no idea what kind of fish it was, but oh my god, I'm drooling at the thought of it.

Northern Ireland

During my first weekend in Ireland, I had the chance to visit Northern Ireland with Andrew. We didn't want to rent a car, so we went on one of those Paddywagon Tours that a friend had suggested. The tour takes you through Belfast and up to cross the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and Giant's Causeway.

It was a really beautiful day and so clear out along the Northern Coastline. I was really impressed with it all, having been taken primarily with California's coastline. If you look below, you could almost imagine this being out somewhere along Highway 1 don't you think? In any case, I actually liked the rope bridge visit more so than Giant's Causeway. The Causeway is really fascinating but aesthetically speaking, I didn't think it held up to what you see below.

As for the tour itself, we had a ton of fun. We had really awful seats on the bus (poor Andrew's legs barely fit in the aisle), but overall it was a great value. We had lunch before heading to the causeway in a tiny mom and pop restaurant (I had seafood stew) and then we returned to Dublin around 5 PM to catch our early reservation at Pearl Brasserie. This was one of my favorite days on the trip. I didn't feel stressed out. I didn't think about the e-mails coming through for work. I just had a blast visiting new places with Andrew. All in all an unforgettable start to my trip abroad.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The feeling of being truly carefree.

Ireland was a home away from home. I cannot begin to describe the comfort of having a place rendered familiar by virtue of the fact that someone you love lives there. It was so enjoyable for me to see the place where my boyfriend has been spending his year abroad from the moment I hopped into my cab to the second I arrived in his neighborhood and rang the doorbell at that bright blue Georgian door.

Of course, I got ripped off by my cab driver. But you live and you learn I suppose.

I spent my first day exploring Trinity College solo. It resembled Berkeley's campus in many ways, but I guess we can't boast of having the oldest book in the world in our library. Seeing the Book of Kells was incredible. The thought of being in the presence of a book from 800 AD still sends chills down my spine. Following the exhibition, I continued along into Trinity's long library too. Oh to be able to actually have access to such a magnificent library for research! It was so romantic in there thinking of the students and scholars using such a beautiful library.

I lucked out with the weather during my stay. Not a single drop of rain. I miss it so much already. It was just one leg of my trip but I would do anything to be walking around in Ballsbridge right now hand in hand, enjoying the extra long days; the feeling of lightness knowing that I had no obligations the following day. Vacation is such a precious thing.