Tag Archives | Barcelona

Barcelona for Begginers

Ok…you have booked your trip to Barcelona!  Congrats!  You are about to set foot in one of the most storied cities in all of Europe.  You are about to indulge is masterful art and architecture, a compelling history, complex cuisine, and meet warm and friendly Catalonians as they call themselves.  A few of the basics:  Barcelona is perched on the sun drenched Mediterranean Sea.  It is a kaleidoscope of culture.  The city is perhaps best known for its championship football team, aka “Barca”.  They call Camp Nou home, it is a shrine to the game, a must see for any soccer fan.  There are many lodging options, everything from the very basic to luxury apartment rentals in Barcelona.

Getting there

Barcelona international Airport “El Prat” is the gateway into the city.  Flights from Europe and the rest of the world arrive there each day.  Some 47 million passengers arrive each year at El Prat.   The airport is some ways away from the downtown area.  There are a number of options for transfer/transportation including:  rental car, bus, metro and smaller shuttles called Rapid shuttle.  Barcelona is actually a very drivable city, if you elect to rent a car, you will have additional freedom to explore the entire region.

Getting around

Navigating around the city is simple.  They have a very advanced metro system.  You can easily purchase tickets in the underground and navigate yourself around the city.  We suggest the weekly card for extended stays.  There are a number of aps that help you design your routes.  You can combine bus and metro to get to all of the key areas, as well as the outlying areas.  As with any large city, keep an eye on your belongings and be situationally aware.

Lodging

Barcelona offers a wide variety of lodging options.  You can choose from everything from luxury accommodations to the very basic spartan lodging.   We elected to stay just outside the city, in a very nice business class hotel, and found the commute easy via the metro, and our dollars went a lot further.

Discovering Barcelona

Lets go see the city!  A quick primer. The city’s skyline and history is dominated by one name: Gaudi.  Antoni Gaudi (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a famed artist and architect.  His work is one of a kind.  You see his fingerprints all across the city.  The best way to get a feel of the entire town is to take one of the double decker open bus tours.  I know, I know, they are bit basic, but the hop on hop off buses really give you a lay of the land for your visit.  Take note of the sights that interest you the most and build your itinerary.  If you are traveling with your sweet heart, check out our post on the best places to Kiss in Barcelona.

The other dominate thread throughout the city is the Olympics.  The city played host to the 1992 summer games.  There are a number venues that are still in place and operating.  The Olympic museum is a fun visit and is a tribute to sport and friendship.  The diving platform with views of the city is one of the iconic camera shots from the game.

The view from the top of Park Guell

Park Gurell

Hands down, our fave place to visit in Barcelona is the Park Gurell. (https://www.parkguell.cat/en/)  This is truely one of Guadi’s grand visions.  Originally, it was intended to be an upscale planned community.  Fortunately for today’s visitors, Gaudi’s vision was a little deeper than the pockets of prospective investors.  Today, the entire development has been transformed into a public park and greenspace.  It is a masterpiece.  Wander around the grounds then climb the Instagram worthy lizard stairs.  There are a number of vistas of the city and of the grand Sagrada Familia Cathedral.  The park is the perfect place to picnic or cool down during a warm afternoon.  There is a nominal charge for entering the park.

Sagrada Familia

Once you have had a view of Sagrada Familia from a distance, time to go discover the work of art up close.  First things first.  This place is very popular.  By popular we mean there are throngs of people that que up to see the inside and take pictures of the quirky characters that adorn the exterior of the building.  We recommend making this a first or last stop during the day to avoid the herds.

Barcelona

So what exactly is this?

Dreamed up and designed by Gaudi, the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) cathedral is Gaudi’s tribute to his beloved religion, Catholicism.  He spent every last peso on its development and construction.  He died leaving the building only 25% finished.  Construction was commenced 1883 and continues to this day.  Construction has been interrupted by civil war, construction company disagreements and most of all lack of funding.  With all of that turmoil it is one of the most unique and intriguing structures.  The way the entire building is filled with light, the shapes, curves, and spires make it an icon.

Waterfront

One of the most underrated parts of town is the water front.  While Barcelona proper doesn’t have any prime beaches, it does have some stellar fish houses along the water.  You can dine on some seafood paella and watch the boats come in and out.  Don’t forget to snap a picture of one of you fellow travelers- Christopher Columbus!

Barcelona

The Fountains of MontJuic

Monjuic

Once you have had your dinner, head over to the city center and watch the magic fountains of Montjuic.  The display is made up of hundreds of jets shooting water high into the air, and the entire show is set to music.  It is a wonderful mix of water, color and sounds!  Not to be missed.

Barcelona is truly one of those places that change the way you travel.  You immediately want to dive deeper and understand the architecture, culture and the vibrant and engaging people of this city.  Did we miss something?  Have you been?  Please let us a comment below.

1

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia: The Beauty Lies Within

Have you ever worked on a project that you had such a grand vision for but it becomes an obsession?  Yes. I am raising my hand.  There are certain posts that we have written that we keep coming back to.   We keep adding and adding and in the end it becomes this huge garbled mess.  What was once a slim and sleek read has hit the buffet line and swelled to a 2000 word monstrosity.  We feel that one of the most noted Catalan modernist architect Antoni Gaudi may have had the same problem with  his  masterful creation the Sagrada Familia Basilica.  The good news?  While Gaudi may have overdone the exterior, the inside of the Basilica is close to perfection as we have found in our travels.

Barcelona church

The Sagrada Familia from a distance.

A Little History

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is better known by its familiar name: the Sagrada Familia.  Construction the on basilica began in 1883.  The principle visionary behind the project was none other that local Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi (25 June 1852–10 June 1926).   Gaudi literally poured his soul into this project.  He labored 40+ years on the structure, which was only a quarter of the way to completion at his untimely demise.  The construction was plagued by work stoppage, lack of funding and a civil war.  The Basilica continues to be a work in progress as the cranes in the photo above reflect.

Gaudi is interred in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia.  His grave stone reads:

Antonius Gaudí Cornet. Reusensis. Annos natus LXXIV, vitae exemplaris vir, eximiusque artifex, mirabilis operis hujus, templi auctor, pie obiit Barcinone die X Junii MCMXXVI, hinc cineres tanti hominis, resurrectionem mortuorum expectant.

The life of an exemplary man, exquisite  designer of this wonderful work, the author, died piously in Barcelona on 10 June 1926, from the ashes of such a man, the resurrection of the dead are waiting.

 Barcalona cathederal

The Beauty

The capstone of our visit to the wonderful Spanish city of Barcelona was the Sagrada Familia.   Walking into the main nave of the Basilica is a spiritual experience regardless of which direction your faith points you.  The inside of the church is best experienced on one of those days when the Spanish sunshine bathes Barcelona.  It’s light filled nave fills the huge room with warmth and glow.  Towering columns draw the eye skyward.  Beautiful stained glass shower the entire nave with warm light in a myriad of colors.

 Barcelona stained glass and organ

Basilica of Gaudi

Towering columns of the interior of the Basilica.

The Beast

With the good there is always the bad.  The exterior of the basilica is nicknamed the bird’s nest.  It is plastered with every biblical illustration imaginable.  Way over done in our uneducated and untrained eyes.  It feels like a project that lacked a good friend to say, “ok…that’s good.  Time to move on.”  Every inch of the exterior is covered, in some areas, there are three and four levels of figurines.  Candidly the longer you look at it, the more you feel it went over the top leaning more kitsch than moderiste.

George Orwell thought it to be one of the dreadful buildings he had ever seen and was said to have “wondered why the Anarchists hadn’t wrecked it in the Civil War”.

Picasso also had some choice words for the design that are not fit for print.

What are your thoughts?  Too much?

ugly Sagrada Familia

Too much?

Opening Hours and Getting There

The basilica is open to the public from 9am till 9pm.  Please visit the basilica’s website to get the latest details on opening hours.

 

Getting there:

By metro:

L5 and L2 Sagrada Familia

 

By bus:

19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 and B24

 

 

5

Spring Break Europe 2013

Spring Break Europe 2013: What is Hot right Now?

If you’re wondering what European destinations are still making the top slot when it comes to spring break, look no further.

We’ve enlisted our friends at beatthebrochure.com to help give us brief rundown of what’s hot in Europe for 2013:

Iceland

It may not score highly for hot temperatures, but give Iceland a go for its stunning architecture and scenery of glaciers, ice fields and volcanoes.  It’s also a prime position to catch glimpses of the Aurora Borealis, that’s the Northern lights to you and me.  There’s fantastic terrain for hikers to conquer, The Winter Lights Festival in February to enjoy, volcanic thermal spas to luxuriate in and capital city, Reykjavik.  The best news is that holidaying in Iceland is still relatively affordable.

Holland Museum

Willet Museum Amsterdam. One of our faves!

Amsterdam

We have long used Amsterdam as a stopover in route to destinations afield in Europe.  We always like to build in a day or two in the city.  There are so many things to do in Amsterdam!  Spring break is the perfect time to take in Holland’s famous tulips.  Yes, the city is noted for it’s dark and seedy underside.  But the Dutch capital has so much to offer for the arts, history and culture lover.  The city is home to an amazing Van Gough Museum.  2013 marks its 40th birthday and no doubt will be honoring the country’s most celebrated artist, Vincent van Gough on what would be his 160th birthday.  Take a morning and visit Anne Frank’s home.

Barcelona

Barcelona is still as popular as ever.  Could this be due to the fact that it is crowded with fantastic architecture, is the place to indulge in guilt-free café culture and has its very own beach?  Whatever the reason, Barcelona is a must-visit destination for spring breakers, if only to appreciate architect Antonio Gaudi’s own inimitable style of architecture throughout the city.  Check out our post about the 10 Best of Barcelona.  The mild temperature of the area makes this the perfect spring break location.  Better yet take in the Barcelona and Real Madrid match!

Istanbul Carpet

One of our treasures being wrapped up at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

Turkey

The next pick is a Fighting Couple favorite  Istanbul.  This welcoming city is an interesting blend of old and new.  A contemporary art scene, boutique hotels and plenty of retail therapy opportunities rub shoulders with historical places of interest.  Enjoy the best of both worlds, but be sure to check out Turkey’s latest discovery, the ruins of Göbekli Tepe.  As well as Istanbul’s Old Town, Midyat and Mardin are also worth exploring.  Don’t forget to get an unforgettable Turkish bath!

Berlin

The once imposing Berlin Wall, now reduced to remnants and the city’s chequered past, are of course huge pulls for visitors.  After all who isn’t fascinated by Berlin’s history and this now physically undivided city?  You’ll also find the Reichstag and great art galleries and museums to explore here.  Berlin is no longer dark and cementy? (Is that even a word?)  It is now a vibrant metropolis offering couples romantic parks, and tasty eateries.

You cannot go wrong choosing any one of these lovely locations.  Get out and enjoy spring!  So do you have a fave European city to welcome in spring?

Drop us a line below in the comments section if you have been to Iceland, Berlin, Amersterdam or Barcelona!

1

The Fighting Couple’s 10 Best in Barcelona

If you spend much time on our blog you know we write a ton about Barcelona, Spain. Why? There are so many layers to Barcelona. The wonderful city has so much it wants to tell you.  For us, it is one of those places that around every corner is something new.  As we walked down the Las Ramblas, retracing the steps of Orwell and Hemingway you can’t help be feel a connection to the history of this place.  As you stare in wonder at one of Gaudi’s playful architectural creations you begin to understand the city and it becomes a part of you.

Those of you that have yet to visit this incredible city, here are our top picks:

Camp Nou

For you football fans Camp Nou is one of the world’s great cathedral’s of sport.  It is the home of the mighty FC Barcelona.  The sheer size of the venue is what is so unbelievable   Even if you are not super interested in athletics, you must tip your hat at the impressive expanse of facility.  Take a tour of the storied FC Barcelona museum.  It is a bit over priced, but for the exuberant fan, it is a must.

Yellow Tram

Tram to the top

Montserrat

Our next recommendation is not in even in Barcelona…It is the must see day trip outside of the city:  The monastery at Montserrat.   Pack a lunch for you and your loved one and board the train for the hour long trip north of the city.  We did a post recently about visiting the benedictine monastery check it out here.  Go for the views and the tram ride up and down the mountain.

The Opera House

We have a tiny confession   We have never been into the opera house.  We have stood in line for tickets twice, took pictures from the lobby, and dreamed about what it looks like on the inside.  But due to circumstance beyond our control we have never made it in.  That is why it is on this list.  We want to see it too!  If you do go, please let us know what you think.  Should we keep it on the list of must sees in Barcelona?

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia Exterior

Sagrada Familia

We exited the underground right in front of the grand cathedral, walked out into the sunshine and there towering over me was one of the most interesting structures I have ever seen.  I stood looking at the exterior for nearly 30 mins!  It is a collage of biblical proportions in more ways than one!  The detail, the stories, the cast of characters just on the exterior of the church is impressive.   Then we walked inside!  I couldn’t help but feel dwarfed by the soaring ceilings inside.  This is one of those places that the pictures simply does not do it justice.  It is a must see on any visit to Barcelona.

Park Guell

Barcelona

Park Guell Barcelona

We have done a couple of posts on this famous park.  It is a bit of a hike to get to the park but it is so worth it.  The views from the plaza of all of Barcelona is breathtaking.  The park is another creation from the mind of Gaudi.  It is one of those iconic places that is on every tourist map for the city.  But  there is so much more than meets the eye.  Gaudi outdid himself on the design and function of the park.  The serpentine benches that line the upper plaza are a work of art.  The lower plaza has unique little design details that make it fun.  The columns that support the upper plaza are actually hollow and are used to collect rainwater from above!  The beauty of the park is that a visit any time of day delivers a great experience.

water feature

Magic Fountain Barcelona

 

Monjuic

We are lumping a bunch of different sites under this one heading.  There is a good reason for this.  We want to you see it all!  A great primer for seeing the mountain is to start at the Olympic museum atop the hill.  Wander around the many displays.  Get your bearings on where and what events were held.  Your next stop is of course the Olympic stadium.  Take you pictures and move on not much to see there.  Take in the views of the swimming and diving centers.  Walk through the parks and gardens.

The Magic Fountain

A great evening attraction is the magic fountain of Barcelona.  The mix of water, lights and if you time your visit right… music is highly entertaining.   On most evenings you can watch as water is launched into the air in a choreographed display that is memorizing   A word of caution, watch you belongings.  This is a favorite spot for the el pickpocket-itos.

La Padrara

We could of filled this list with just Gaudi related locations.   He is that good.  And there are enough Gaudi locations to fill many a list.  We are offering our recommendations for the best.  La Padrara is a wonderland.  There really is no other word to describe the feeling of wandering the bends and bumps within the apartment complex.  Being there reminds us the power of the mind to create beauty.  At every turn during your tour you are going to smile and be amazed at the level of creativity that Gaudi possessed.  Our hint, look for the details, they will amaze you.

People watching in an anarchist bookstore

If you know us well, you know we love to people watch.  There is no place better in Barcelona than in one of the many revolutionary bookstores.  This is where the red-blooded revolutionaries come to get more….. revolutionary.  Sip your beverage, read some Hemingway.  Take it all in at your own pace.

Barceloneta Restaurant

Calle L’Escar, 22, 08039 Barcelona, Spain (La Barceloneta)

Our last recommendation involves food.  The perfect ending to any visit to the inviting city of Barcelona is a dinner at the Barceloneta.  You are going to have to save up your Euros to splurge on this one but the return on the investment is huge.  Located on the city’s harbor, this seafood out of this world.

That is it.  Our quick recommendations for Barcelona.  Getting to Spain is easy.  There are direct Barcelona flights from all of the major hubs in the states and Europe.  Barcelona also has one of the most user-friendly airports.  Enjoy your stay in Barcelona! Send us pictures!

5

3 tips for Sun Seeking in the South of Spain

The Spanish do a lot of things very well: revolution, paella and SUNSHINE!  With its sun soaked beaches, lofty climbs, and vibrant cities, Spain continues to invite sun seekers from near and far.   We want to take you along to visit three of our favorite locations for the perfect holiday in Spain.  Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Gaudi BarcelonaThe Terraces of Barcelona

Let’s start our sun seeking tour at the heart of Southern Spain, Barcelona.  Barcelona’s mix of style, art, and warmth beckons sun seekers.  One of the central figures of the city is the renowned master architect Gaudi.  His thumbprint is all over the cityscape.  Barcelona is home to one of his masterpieces which is a sun seekers dream: Park Güell.  For the “un-Spanished” the word Güell is pronounced “Gwell”.   The park is actually an abandoned upscale housing development envisioned by Gaudi which included villas, an elaborate water collection system, shops and the highlight, the gardens.  Gaudi’s talent was injecting animals and nature themes into his designs.   The park is filled with little touches that create interesting finds at every turn.  The focus of the park is its outlining benches.  The tile benches surround the city facing portion of the park.  Gaudi elected to use a snake like theme, which creates these small intimate bends and nooks for sitting with your loved one enjoying the sun.

Getting to Park Guell is a little bit of a chore.  By Metro, Take the green line to the stop “Lesseps”.  From there follow the signs that lead to the entrance of the park.  It is a roughly a 20 minute walk.  It is located at the top of a steep hill.  The effort is well worth it!

Montserrat

TramThe next stop on our Southern Spain sun tour is the mountaintop location, Santa Maria de Montserrat.  This wonderful Benedictine abbey is located 30 miles west of Barcelona.  It is perfect for a daytrip outside the city.  From this wonderful perch you can take in one of the most amazing views in all of Catalonia.  There are a number of small hikes that you can take from the abbey.  This is going to sound a little crazy, but the food at the cafeteria of the abbey is actually really good.   There is not an entrance fee to the Montserrat Monastery but if you wish to visit the museum the entrance fee costs €6.50 for adults.  Of course, you are there for the sun.  Pack a picnic and take a walk across the smooth stones of the mountain top and take in the glorious sunshine.

Getting to Montserrat is half the fun.  Shrug off the easy way and forgo the cram packed tour bus.  Simply catch the Line R5 train headed toward Manresa at the Espanya rail station.  Tickets are very affordable.  I don’t think we paid over $20.  It takes about an hour to get from the Espanya station to the Montserrat stop.  Once there, enter the ticket office and purchase your tram ticket.  Pick a spot to stand near the windows and make sure your camera is set, because the ride up to the top is simply amazing!

Did you know that you can ask the Fighting Couple Anything?  Yes!  “Ask us Anything!”

Costa Brava

The grand finale in our sun seeking adventure is heading up the coastline to wonderful Costa Brava or “Wild Coast”.  The Costa Brava stretches from Barcelona all the way to the border of France.  If you are into sun, sand, and seclusion this is your place.  Unlike its twin sister Nice, France further up the coast, Costa Brava continues to be one of the great under-discovered locations.

Some of the best beaches on the Costa Brava are near Palamos.  The Platja de Castell with it’s warm sand and relative seclusion is one of the areas finest.  The sapphire colored water is so inviting!  You can also follow the old smugglers trail to a wonderful ocean viewpoint on the east end of the beach.  Bring or rent a sand chair, open a good book, and soak up as much sun as you like.

There are a number of different accommodations levels, everything from wonderful resorts like the Rehana Royal Beach Resort to more rustic abodes.  Access to the beach is the key.  We highly recommend you have a car for traveling the Costa Brava region.  Public transport is scare and unreliable.

So these are our recommendations for sun seeking in the South of Spain.  Tell us, what is your favorite places to seek the sun?  Island destinations?  Swanky resorts?  Leave us a comment below.  See you in Barcelona!

6

Kissing Capitals: Barcelona

Best places to kiss in Barcelona

“Her lips on his could tell him better than all her stumbling words.”-Margaret Mitchell

Are you looking for a few good places to kiss?  We are here to help.  We are launching a series of the best places to kiss in the world.  We are calling it the best of the kissing capitals.  Our first nomination is Barcelona, Spain.  Barcelona with its warm ocean breezes, Eclectic art scene, and Latin vibe is well deserving.  The Entire Catalonia region of Spain is steeped in romance.  Kiss in Catalan is pronounced petó.  Peto has a number of different meanings…we will leave that between you and Wikipedia.

Lets begin our kissing tour at the top literally.

BarcelonaMontjuic

Overlooking the entire city of Barcelona is Montjuic. It is more of a hill than a true mountain, but the vistas night or day are dramatic.  Nestled on the banks of the hills are wonderful walking paths that meander through gardens.  Montjuic is a wonderful place to pack a picnic, or take an evening stroll.  Montjuic came to its prime through development during the Olympics.   Many of the Olympic events were held at venues on the Mont.  Montjuic continues to be a favorite of both locals and first timers.

Sunset is truly the best time to visit Montjuic.  There are a number of benches and stops along the trails up and down the mount that offer great places to watch the sun go down and steal a kiss or two!

 

fountianMagic Fountain

At the base of Montjuic you will discover a wonderful display of water, light, music and magic.  We give you our next stop on the kissing tour: the Magic Fountain of Barcelona.  A little history on the fountain, it was erected for the World’s Fair that the city was playing host to in 1929.  The original plans by designer Carles Buigas were initially cast off as an overly ambitious impossibility.  One year later, thousands of workers completed the fountain ahead of schedule.

Today the fountain continues to wow its crowds.

You will need to time your visit when the Fountain is in full splendor:

 

Winter: (October to April)

Fridays and Saturdays from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Music sessions: 7:00 PM 7:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:30 PM

Summer: (May to September)

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 pm to 11:30 pm
Music Sessions: 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM 11:00 PM

 

Gaudi parkPark Guell

Could we have a tour of Barcelona without a Gaudi location?  Impossible!  Antoni Gaudi, the Catalan master of art and architecture designed a number of unique attractions throughout Barcelona and the Catalonia region.  One of his most expansive projects was an entire housing development for Barcelona’s well healed.  Located on a hill just outside the city is his vision of subdivision living.  Fortunately for today’s visors, Gaudi’s vision was a little deeper than the pockets of prospective investors.  Today, the entire development has been transformed into a public park and greenspace.  It is a masterpiece.

You and you lover can walk on trails criss crossing the entire development.  Climb the famous “lizard” stairs, and arrive at the main terrace.  It commands excellent views of another Gaudi masterpiece the Sagrada Familia Cathedral.  The terrace is surrounded by cozy benches that are designed to a tee for couples.  These unique benches are actually in the design of a sea monster!  Park Guell is a wonderful place to kiss your sweetheart.

 

Mountain tramOn the tram to Montserrat

Clinging to the crests of cliffs outside Barcelona is the Monastery of Montserrat.  For those couples demanding a little more adventure in their smooching venues, we highly recommend the tram to Montserrat.  The highest summit of Montserrat is called Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) and stands at 4,055 feet above sea-level.  The tram ride up to the top is truly an experience that cannot be fully described or missed!  Visiting Montserrat can be a full or half day venture depending on your interest level.  Don’t get conned into taking a special tour bus ect.  There is train service to the tram station.  It is a very affordable side trip for any stay in Barcelona.

How did we do?  Did we miss any special places in Barcelona?  Where do you nominate that we discuss next?

4

My Day With Gaudi

Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator. –Antonio Gaudi

There is a long list of things the Catalonian region (Barcelona, Spain) has given to the world: amazing paella, an incredible football team,  and one of the greatest modernismo architects: Antonio Gaudi.

We are going to take you on a visual day tour of the greatest Gaudi masterpieces in Barcelona.  You are going to see futuristic designs, wild abandoned whimsy and holy edifices that rival the best of Rome!

First off a little primer on Gaudi:

The most famous architect of the 20th century was born in Rues (or just outside, depending on what account you believe) in the Tarragona providence of Catalonia, 50 miles south of Barcelona.  After enduring a childhood troubled by rheumatism, the son of two coppersmiths travelled to the Catalan capital to enroll as a student at the Escola Technica Superrior d’Arguitectura where he duly studied from 1873 to 1877.  Even his professors did not quite know what to make of his work, and when he was awarded the title of architect in 1878, Elies Rogent, the director of the school, declared:  “Who knows if we have given this diploma to a nut or to a genius?  Time will tell.”  http://www.barcelona-life.com

Lets start our tour!

 Park Guell

One of Gaudi’s wealthy patrons wanted to build a par for the blue bloods of Barcelona.  He wanted to build a gates community before the advent of gated communities.  He wanted a park setting with fountains, dramatic vistas and swanky amenities.  Gaudi was up for the challenge.

Barcelona, Spain

Park Guell sits atop a gentle hill with views of the city, the sea and another piece of Gaudi’s handiwork the Sagrada Famila.

barcelona spain

Today you can stroll through the park setting and take in some amazing vistas.

Barcelona Spain

 Casa Mila-La Pedrera

At the top of the mighty tough fare Las Ramblas is the Modernismo masterpiece, La Pedrera.  La Pedrera means The Quarry.  It is the precious gem of Barcelona.  The apartment complex was commissioned with money made in America by married couple Roser Segimon and Pere Mila.

The address quickly became the pinnacle of success.  The façade of the building reflects the rolling waves of the sea.

Barcelona spain

 

Perhaps the most photographed part of the structure with its unique statues and fireplace chimneys.

Barcelona spain

 

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi has been nicknamed, “God’s Architect”.  While this might be a little presumptuous, one cannot argue his dedication to integrate what he say in Creation with a capital C into his creations with a little c.

The construction of the Sagrada Familia predates Gaudi’s involvement.  It began its construction in 1882.  Shortly there after, Gaudi was brought in and completely transformed the scope and design of the project.  Gaudi employ his skills building the cathedral until his untimely death in 1926.   At his passing the building was a little over 25% complete.  The Sagrada Familia is still a work in progress.  Gaudi’s grand vision outstripped his lifetime’s devotion to building.

When objections were raised as to the extended completion date of the Sagrada Famila, Gaudi said:

“Don’t worry, my client isn’t in a hurry.”

Since then the project has been on again off again.  It is projected that the completion date will be around 2026 the centennial of Gaudi’s death.

Gaudi Barcelona Spain

 

Barcelona spain

Gaudi’s work is on full display in beautiful Barcelona.  Don’t miss it!

 

Are you looking for Free Coupon Codes or Southwest Airlines Coupon codes?  You just found them.

 

5

Do Olympic cities really win gold by hosting the “Games”?

“The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that’s wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us. “
– John Williams

 

During our recent trip to Barcelona, Spain I went on a mission to really see what the aftermath of hosting the Olympics really is.  The answer I found truly shocked me.

First off, you must know, that both Luci and I are huge fans of the games.  I remember fondly of donning my PJs to watch the games on our little black and white tele, watching the games.  Names like Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Mary Lou Retton are linked with my view of the games.  Victors of the games become national heroes overnight it seems.  Needless to say, I am bias when we start to talk about the games.  One must not overlook the international unity that the games create.

But what happens after all of the gold is given out, the spend-happy tourists have been lightened of their coin and the lights are dimmed?  Then what?

Barcelona an Olympic Story

From the start of the games with its dramatic torch lighting display, there was something magical about the Barcelona games:

 

The before and after picture of Barcelona is just as dramatic as one of those cheeky weight loss pictures where a huge hulk of man is turned into a bantam weight string bean.  The Olympics certainly changed the face, the mind, the strength, but certainly not the heart of Catalonia.

Barcelona 20 years after the Olympics

The Olympics have long been a huge endeavor for the cities that win the bid.  The sheer expense of building venues, building infrastructure to get to and from the events not to mention the efforts to attract the patrons that help pay for all of the above.

Here are the quick facts:

Expense:

Installation and prep for facilities ($460 million usd)

Services to Olympic Family ($370 million usd)

Telecommunications and electronics ($240 million usd)

Competitions ($100 million usd)

Commercial Management ($10 million usd)

Ceremonies and cultural acts ($90 million usd)

Image and promotion ($80 million)

Security ($40 million)

 

Key Revenue:

Sponsors:  $580 million

Television Rights: $635 million

 

Bottom line:  It is estimated that the direct investments related to the games of Barcelona from 1986 to 1993 reached over $8 Billion.  Staggering.

Source: http://olympicstudies.uab.es

 

Infrastructure Legacy

The Olympic Stadium

The entire area of Catalonia is dotted with improvements.  The stadiums and venues, primary located in Montjuic, Diagonal, and Vall d’Hebron, are a lasting tribute to the games.  A lion share of these venues are still in full use today.  Transportation improvements were significant.  The improved ring roads of the city, improved mass transit capabilities made the city much more easier to navigate for come lately tourists like myself the and millions that call Barcelona home.  There was an increase in new sewage systems of 17%, new green zones and beaches increased a staggering 78%!  The results of these key infrastructure investments continue to pay mighty dividends today.

One of the infrastructure highlights is what has been dubbed, “the Most Beautiful Dive Pool in The World”:

 

Seeing the Olympic side of Barcelona today

Start your visit at the Joan Antoni Samaranch (The father of the 1992 Games)  Olympic Museum.  Located right next to the amazing Olympic Stadium.  Wander around the many venues located on top of Montjuic.   Footstep of famous Olympians adorn the sidewalk outside the entertaining Museum.

The Olympic Museum in Barcelona

 

One of the many interactive exhibits at the museum

Money, Money, Money?

Over a third of the game’s infrastructure improvements came from private hands.  This is impressive by any standard.  The Spanish state, regional authority and local municipalities footed the remaining 2/3rds of the bill.  The build up to the games and influx of investment caused a boon for those involved.   The population employed in construction grew 72% from 1985 to 1992.  The consumption of cement rose 74%!  The trickle down effect of this massive influx of investment spread across the entire region.  Average family incomes as well as tax receipts increased dramatically.  (http://olympicstudies.uab.es/pdf/od006_eng.pdf)

What might be one of the most telling reflections on the Barcelona Games is the number of cities submitting bids to host their own.  The total cities submitting bids went from 6 to 12.

Back to our original question asked at the begging of the post, do the games really help cities?  In the case of Barcelona you must say yes.

 

 

 

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The Perfect Date in Barcelona

The Fighting Couple is always on the lookout for great day dates.    We found the perfect place during our recent visit to Barcelona, Spain.  In the center of town is a vibrant fruit and fish market.  Located right off of the Las Rambas, is La Boqueria.  Don’t get us wrong, there are a fair amount of touristas there.  But the market continues to perform a vital function for much the central area of town.  Walk up and down the aisles, take in the sights, sounds and smells of one of the really great traditional European markets.

Barcelona spainThe Perfect Day Date

The Boqueria is the perfect spot to get a start on your day date.  Wander around that many tempting booths of fruits and veggies.  Try some tapas.  Do some sampling.  Pick out some ripe strawberries, a passion fruit?, select a loaf of sour dough bread, and your fave beverage.  Best of all, don’t forget to buy some of the amazing Catalan Chocolate!  Head for the lovely vista of Montjuïc.  Take the metro, or hike to the end of Las Ramblas and walk along the harbor to the hill.  Once atop, you will have a commanding view of the city, and the harbor.  A beautiful sight on a sunny day.   There are many gardens along the north side of the hill.  Find your ideal secluded spot and enjoy your finds from the market.  Read some versus of the famed Catalan poet Salvador Espriu. As day turns to evening walk down the hill and take in the waterworks of the magic font.  A perfect ending to a perfect day.

 

barcelona spainHow to Make a Purchase

If your Spanish or Catalan is limited, the market can seem like a daunting challenge.  Don’t let your heart be troubled.  You are among friends.  This market is one of the more easier markets we have found to make purchases without a command of the native language.  Step one is to survey.  If you are looking for fruits, walk up and down each of the alleys to scope out your target.  It may be helpful to pick a both where there is not a line of people.  This will give you a chance to chat up your stall attendant.   Once you have identified the object of your desire, flash a big smile and point and ask “Quanto Questa?”  The response back will likely be in English.  Discuss quantity, fork over the euros and bam!  You have your items.  Now was that so hard?

Barcelona Spain
A word of warning about the market.  It is not immune of the pick pocketers.  It is close quarters inside the market.  Keep your belongings close by.

Barcelona Spain

A Little History

The market was founded around 1200.  At that time it was an over growth of another market in the area.  For the next 600 years the market held a butchers market, a pig pen and then in the mid 1800s the market was formally recognized by the town.  At the turn of the 1900s the metal roof that exists today was installed.  Today, the market is a destination for the local and visitor alike.

 

Have you been to Boqueria?  How was your experience?  What tastes did you have?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

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Get Ready….Get Set….

We get asked:  so what do you guys do to get prepared for your trips?

We are going to give you a behind the scenes view of our trip prep.  We take one big trip a year and put a bunch of effort into it.  On average we spend 8-10 months planning our adventures! Crazy huh?  We have divided our planning regimen up to a few areas:  tickets and tomatoes,  the Fons (background in Catalan), keeping the homefires burning, and our favorite:  depth charges.

Tickets and Tomatoes

This is probably the one step that we do the same as everyone else.  Buying your flights and finding the hotels, hostels, and the perfect mom and pop linguini joint in Tuscany.

Amazon Jungle Trip PeruFlights

We are credit card points addicts.  We admit it.  Typically we don’t have the same “points card” at the same time.  This forces us to fly on different carriers.  We love the reaction we get from people when we tell them that we rarely fly together.  Trust us…it is much better that we don’t fly together.  The fights would fill up 20 blogs!  We are both window seat people.  Luci is a talker…Mike is a reader.  Two very different approaches to long haul flying.   Each year we take turns picking the location of our “big” trip.  Once a location is identified and vetted with the other, we start the arduous process of getting points to fit the destination.  This can be extremely difficult.  At times we have taken short hops via Southwest to get to a departure city that fits within our points budget.  Then we attempt to get the flights to land around the same time.  So far we have been successful.  We have had some harried convos with airline’s customer service.

Hotels

Once the destination is decided we come up with a draft list of things/areas that we want to visit.  From there our first step is to look for Hiltons.  Luci and I are Hilton disciples.  We both travel a ton for work and rack up some nice point totals.  They also treat us really good as we are members of their “Diamond” class.  It’s not unlike us to spend half of our vakay in Hiltons.

Wanna learn more about some great hotel deals?  Just like our Fighting Facebook page and we will give your some great ideas!

Finding hotels

One of the best tools we have found for finding research on hotels is Tripadvisor.  Love the TripAdvisor!  If your are not familiar with the site, basically is a free forum of travelers to post their reviews on hotels.   Basically what you are looking for is a hotel with reviews in the top 10(small city) or top 100 (large city).  Don’t get too caught up if you see one or two bad/terrible reviews.  This is likely the competition being a bad citizen or a person that is really grumpy.  Hone in on the tone of the entire collection of reviews.

Rental Cars

Just a quick word about rental cars.  When traveling into another country, always buy the insurance.  Trust me.  If you are lucky enough to need a car hire in Ibiza, look no further.

Finding Food

We are planning nerds.  We know.  Go ahead say it!  We typically find two or three interesting places we want to try in areas we are staying 3-4 days.  If it is just a day, we don’t bother.  Find something when we are “on the ground.”  By far our best dining experiences has come from advice of the locals.  We do use tripadvisor and urbanspoon.  We typically eat breakfast in the hotels we stay in or grab some bread ect.  We have had some awesome experiences with hotel food.  At a little family run hotel we stayed at in Selchuk, Turkey, we hung out with the owners and had some great conversation watching soccer.   We don’t get too hung up on having an amazing meal at every sitting.

Picture of me in the shower

Actual picture of our shower!

The Fons (background in Catalan)

Warning: this section contains obsessive compulsive confessions.  (if you actually have a “life” skip this section.)

This is the part where we are a little different than most travelers.  We do a ton, and I do mean a ton of background work on the places we are going.  We learn the language.  What works for me is a list of vocab words in the shower, and then listening to how the words are said in the car on CD.  We learn the religion.  We learn the history.  We took a college course on Turkish Culture before our trip there.  We read not just the Fodors, but novels and histories of the places.  I am reading Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” in prep for our upcoming trip to Barcelona.  When we set foot in a country, we really want to have a context for what we are seeing.  We want to drink deep.  Never rely on a tour guide.

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

We have kids.  They don’t travel with us on our annual big trip.  We do involve them in our prep.  They learn the language with us.  They learn about the places we are going to see.  On our return, we share with them our experiences, make presentations to their classes at school, and engage them on global issues.  When we leave, typically for two weeks, we leave them with games that trace our travels day by day.  They have to figure out trivia questions to get points and of course they get points for good behavior for grandma or the nanny.  We generally travel when they are in school, limiting the disruption to their routine.

 

 

Depth Charges

We saved our best preparation technique for last.  I really hate the term “off the beaten path”.  But I have not been able to come up with a better description.  We look for sites that  go below the surface and are truly explosive.  Our recent post about our visit to the Marquis de La Fayette’s grave was a great example.  We spent hours researching the site and the history.  We want to know what happened at given place, how did it impact the world.  If we don’t know more than the average tour guide, we have failed.  The beauty of the internet is the access to information and people.  We engage other bloggers that specialize in an area.  What is so cool about these depth charges is that you walk away from traveling a more “deeper” human being.  You did more than visit the cell where Mandella was jailed, you understand the why.

That’s it in a nutshell.  We really do our homework on the places we visit.  There are many out there that specialize in “slow” travel.  Our focus is on “Smart” or “prepared” travel which can be slow or fast.  Its not for everyone.  So tell us, how do your travel?  What kind of preparation do you put into your trips?  What has worked for you?  Leave us a comment below.

 

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