Spain, Italy and France – The European Life!

If you have been reading my posts, you know that my little sister Becca is headed off to Optometry School in the fall. So she will be gone for the next four years with no time for any time off. Because of this, my parents decided to do one last trip with her. Where did we go? Europe!

Since mom and dad were at a Nationwide Conference in Ireland already, Becca and I met them in Europe. She and I flew into Barcelona (with a few delays and a few crazy storms in America) and had two days to tour Barcelona on our own. We landed in Barcelona around 10:00 am their time. We flew over night but we didn’t get much sleep. We knew we hamontd to pace ourselves to stay up until at least dinner time in order to switch our bodies to the new time zone. The first day in Barcelona we did a lot of places we needed taxi’s for, since we knew we would be in no mood to walk for hours. After we went to the hotel and dropped off our luggage, we hit the Montijuic Castle first. We were unaware there was a funicular to go up until we had already passed it. So we walked up a pretty steep hill. But it was worth it for the views of Barcelona from the top. It was a gorgeous fortress today so I can’t imagine what it looked like 2,000 years ago! We did decide to ride the funicular downhill though, less walking that way!

olyAfter we rode down the hill, artwe realized there were no taxis to be found to take us to our next destination. This seemed very unfortunate at the time. However, it led us to walk to find a taxi which led us to find the Olympic Stadiums used while the Olympics where hosted in the city. as well as a gorgeous art museum! Perfect random walk

gaugaudigaudWe finally found a taxi and went to our next destination. Parc Guell. This is the park the Gaudi was known for creating. He was a Spanish architect known for his “distinctive” style. Ever wonder where the word gaudi (ie, that is a gaudi shirt) came from. You got it! Because of his buildings in the time were so different and unique, people used this term to describe items you now think of as gaudi today! He has several buildings in the city of Barcelona, however, Parc Guell is where he lived and built multiple buildings in one location.

cathNcatext stop? We went to the Cathedral of the Sacred Family. This was one other piece of work by Gaudi. He started this and only managed to get 1/4 of it done before he passed away. It was his last piece of work ever. Since then it has never been completely finished. They are still working on it today and expect completion in the next few decades. It has been in the making for nearly a century! It was a beautiful building with amazing detail. We didn’t wait in line to go inside but we went around the outside, which was plenty for us.

chathedacatherdaAfter this cathedral we went back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner. Then we went out and ate dinner at a little bar. We had our first “tapa” which are super famous in Spain. We chose some sort of potato omelet which was awesome and then we both had a sandwich. We finished dinner, went back to the hotel, showered and went to bed by 7:30 pm their time! We were exhausted! The next morning we woke up refreshed after 12 hours of sleep! We both couldn’t believe we slept that long. We got ready for the day, it was all going to be on foot. We had a map worked out with locations thanks to Frommer’s walking  guide.Before we started our map guide we visited the Cathedral across from our hotel. Another Gaudi building. It was beautiful!

fountfoodThe first stop was a fountain. When we go to this so called fountain, it was not working and it was very…..dinky to be kind. We were a little concerned because Frommer’s NEVER takes you to things like this. Well we decided it must have just been a bad one and to proceed with out walk. We then walked through Las Ramblas. This is Barcelona’s main drag. Shops and restaurants everywhere, a very artisan area with homemade items, paintings, actors, flower shops and even a market with fresh fruit, veggies, meats, cheeses etc. A very cool little market and a very awesome street to visit. We spent a lot of our day on Las Ramblas and on the streets that went off of it. We ended up walking this street multiple times in full, and it was not a short street!

collioncolumbusAt the end of Las Ramblas towards the Sea, was a monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus. Our goal was to walk to this. We finally saw the monument and right before we got to it, we were distracted by people posing as monuments. There were all kinds of them. One was a cowboy, he was my favorite! After we watched them for a while we proceeded to the Christopher Columbus monument. It is such a tall thin monument it is very hard to get your picture with it. We took mom and dad back to the monument when they got there. But when it was just Bec and I, we settled for pictures with the lions at the bottom of it! Since we were already at the sea we walked down to the sea and looked at some little antique stands and all of the sail boats in the port.

faountgaudiAsfunt we ventured on our mapped out tour, we sort of got lost after going on a side street off of Las Ramblas. Then out of no where, we came out onto a gigantic fountain…..haha the fountain we were supposed to go to in the beginning! It definitely was much bigger and we ended up seeing another Gaudi building behind the fountain. Here was also the location where Becca and I stopped for our 3rd dip of gelato that day! Oh how I had forgotten why I loved gelato so much. It seriously can get no better than gelato! Over all on the trip, I ate more gelato than you would consider humanly possible!! SCRUMPTIOUS! Becca and I then ate dinner and lots more tapas, had more gelato and then watched a live band and people dancing in front of the cathedral.

pmpFinally mom and dad met up with us in Barcelona that night. We all four squeezed into one hotel room and Becca and I were demoted to sleeping on the floor! But we made it work. We woke up early the next day and showed mom and dad a few things around the hotel and finally made our way to our cruise ship! On the cruise we had lots of food and watched lots of shows. They had this one dinner show called the Circus. They fed us and preformed in this little room that they made look like a circus tent. It was very impressive. My favorite of the trip for sure. Our first full day on the boat was a day at sea. Then we docked in Naples. Becca and I did a tour to Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri. Mom and Dad pomplater caught up with us in Capri. In Pompeii, we toured the cameo factory and we both bought a ring to remember this by. We then toured Pompeii. For those of you who do not know, Pompeii is a town that has basically been frozen in time since 79AD due to a volcano eruption. This was a Roman city and it is cool to think this town basically looks like what our world looked like while Jesus walked the earth. We had a tour of the whole city, at least the parts they have excavated; 30% still remains under ash and pumice. What amazed me most was that there were still marble floors and walkways everywhere in perfect condition. How neat.

caprNcapriext our tour went to Sorrento. This was mainly to do lunch on the way as well as stop at the inlaid wood shop. This is where all those Italian music boxes and wood pieces come from. It is quite amazing how they actually inlay the design. it is like a puzzle with thin paper pieces! I found a music box with what looks like a Block O for Ohio State on it! I was so excited, and of course bought it! We had lunch at this little family owned restaurant and they fed us way more than we should’ve eaten, all delicious.After Sorrento we headed to Capri, mom’s favorite place in the world. It is like a city on a hill on an island none the less.  After meeting up with mom and dad, we walked around, shopped and looked at the views in Capri.  A beautiful city. Then we headed back to the ship after a really long day in Italy!

collestreviAnother early morning came the next day where we toured none other than….ROME! We didn’t do an organized tour from the cruise, we just did what they called Rome on your Own! We knew what we wanted to see and it was a blessing we made this decision. It ended up being 100+ degrees that day. Had we been on a tour it would’ve been miserable. We were able to find shade and places to visit that were cooler with just the four of us. We visited many of the ruins, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and a really cool artisan area we just kind of fell upon. It was a very long day but we covered a lot of ground. The Trevi Fountain was much busier during the day. Last time we went it was 1:00 AM and pretty dead. I prefer it that way! Plus it was much prettier at night than during the day. But all in all it was a great day in Rome with a lot of fantastic food and even more gelato!

lucca After another nice evening on the boat with good food and a show it was another long day abroad. We were docking near Pisa. Since Becca had not seen this yet, it was something she wanted to do. So we picked a tour the ship provided to do Pisa and a town called Lucca. We all kinda thought the Lucca part sounded a bit boring. Little did we know, this would be one of our favorite stops and we all four wished we had had more time to spend in Lucca. It was such a cool little town, the only town NOT to be taken over by the Roman Empire because of its rulers forward thinking in building a different type of fortress pisawall. They later bought the walls from the government when they wanted to tear them down! It is a very small town, very few cars, not targeted towards tourists at all. We only saw one tourist store in the whole place. We also found a heavenly food item called granite. It was sold in a gelato shop, little did we know it would be way way way better than gelato even! We ate gelato as well, because it was created here! We never saw this again but it was worth getting it in Lucca! After Lucca we did Pisa. I learned a lot about Pisa and about Galileo’s start from items in these buildings. It is amazing how something as simple as a chandelier has created laws for science and math we still use today! Very interesting. We of course took the standard holding up the tower pictures, but the tour was much more interesting than anticipated which is always good. We were lucky and had an awesome guide. Did you know that the other buildings in are also sinking!?!? It is amazing how much history is in some of these small towns all over the world!

marse Our next stop, Marseille, France. If you know me at all, you know that I love Italy. I could quite honestly be completely happy living in Italy. I even really loved Spain. But France has never been a country I have enjoyed spending time in, plus the people are nmarseiot very fond of anyone called an American. So Marseille wasn’t quite as interesting or as enjoyable as some of our other stops. We had a short day, not as much time to explore. But we did see a lot of really neat buildings, including the Catheral of Notre Dame. While we were there, a choir came out and started singing for us! We also had a delicious meal, one of my favorites, that included Pistachio Creme Brulee. Sounds weird I know, but Creme Brulle was created there and we had to try it! The city was setting up for some sort of music festival and there were French stars practicing out in the middle of the town for their concerts! The fishermen had also come in with all of their catches and were selling them right out of their boats. Very neat.

valdeOur last stop on the cruise was to the Spanish Island of Mallorca. They are known for making pearls from coral. We took a tour that went to Palma and Valdemossa. Valdemossa is a beautiful farm town. We passed so many farms on the way that are indescribably beautiful. We don’t have anything in America like them anymore. Plantations every where. Lots of almond farmers in this area. Valdemossa is a beautiful town. Not touristy at all and little boutiques and shops everywhere. We had time to ebullxplore the area and we even found a sweet shop that sold every combination flavors of fudge you could possible imagine! Becca even managed to see an ostrich in an almond tree field, protecting the nuts! (we though she was crazy at first too, but we confirmed it later!) Palma was just like a typical port city. The main focus in this area was the pearl factory and the bull fighting arena. One right across from the other! Both were very neat places to visit. Dad even took a picture pretending to be a bull! Weirdo :).

tossa The next day we docked back in Barcelona. Dad and I went to pick up the rental car and when we managed to get back to the dock we were lucky enough that the car held ALL of our luggage, they have small cars over there and we had a lot of luggage. It was a miracle it all fit! Then we headed on our way mom and I’s last stop of the trip, Tossa De Mar, Spain. This was a little town on the Sea that used to be a fishermen’s stop. Our hotel only had 10 rooms and was built into the side of a castle wall built in 991 AD! That Castle Walls hid a town still completely intact from that era. We had a room that was so close to the beach and water I cotoassdeuld probably have jumped from my window to the beach! There are lots of neat shops in the area. We shopped and beached it here for two days! On day two we took a ride up the coast line (a very curvy drive!) and hit another little town close to the French border to do some more shopping and eating of course! Then the next day, we got up with the sun and left for the airport. Becca and dad were dropping us off to start on another part of their adventure! Mom and I had a LONG day of travels with delays and running to catch planes. But we made it home late that evening our time, without our luggage! Luckily it came the next day.

It was an amazing trip to see parts of the world where most of their buildings are older than our country! I ate way to much but it was all fantastic. You only live once right?


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