Sunday, May 17, 2015

Travel Day and Barcelona

April 23-24
Our travel day started at about 2:30 PM at the Winnipeg airport. First flight took us to Toronto. We had almost 3 hours there to waste before the flight to Amsterdam, so we shared a dinner there.

When checking in for the flights, the cross-Atlantic flight had a really great special on Business Class. Knowing that we had a 7 hour flight ahead of us overnight, it was just too good a deal to pass on.

We were greeted with glasses (real glass) of sparkling wine or orange juice. Since it was almost 11PM, we both opted for some orange juice. We both kind took our time getting settled. I think we both didn't know what to do with all the extra space. The seats were basically like a lazy boy, complete with foot rest. They could also extend out flat to a full bed. On the website, it said that they were massage chairs. That wasn't an option on this flight, however we were okay without that.

Before "dinner", they provided a small bowl of mixed nuts and your choice of beverage. Because of the length of the flight they offered two full meal services. The first one was a full dinner. Because it was so late, I opted for the snack option- Pea soup and some seafood hor d'oeuvres. They were pretty good. David had the full dinner which featured mushroom ravioli.

For dessert, pecan pie! I have to say, it was nice having real cutlery and dishes. Plus the additional space to actually sit and eat your food without elbowing your neighbour.

The televisions were also bigger than in economy class. I watched The Imitation Game before calling it a night.

Another perk to the flight, a pillow and blanket is waiting for you in your spot. They also hand out a small overnight bag- it includes an eye-mask, ear plugs, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a pen, and chapstick.

Breakfast had quite an assortment of food- greek yogurt, fruit, smoked salmon, croissant, and a mushroom frittata. They also were passing out muffins, but I figured the breakfast was rather sufficient

At the end of the flight, the attendant comes out with this tray of ceramic houses. Apparently it's a souvenir for flying first class with KLM. You get to choose a ceramic house and it has liquor inside! We weren't about to say no to more free stuff!

Landing in Amsterdam was pretty cool, it was our first glimpse of Europe! We saw a few fields of tulips on the descent. The airport itself was a bit confusing. The signs for passport control, a requirement when first entering the European Union, are not until almost immediately before the station. Essentially, we landed at one side of the airport, had to walk to the central part to go through the passport control, then make our way back to where we got off. We were a bit confused and the airport was so hot, but we figured it out.

One of my few pictures from Amsterdam- we didn't have that much time to explore and really, airports aren't the best representation of a place. I saw this sign and thought it said Sgooon at first, but realized later it probably said So Go On.

Our flight to Barcelona was back to economy (it was only about 2 hours). We were still with KLM though, so it was a nice enough flight and they even gave out sandwiches. Given the opportunity I would fly with them again!

Above is the Barcelona airport, while waiting for our luggage. One thing that was lovely, but that I hadn't counted on was the timeliness of our flights. All three flights left on time and arrived early. It was quite nice and made for a stress-less travel day.

One our bags were retrieved, we headed to find our taxi. We pre-booked the service and only had to look for a sign with our name on it. We stayed at the Silken Gran Hotel Havana. When checking in, they advised that they were fully booked that weekend and since they had no rooms with double beds, they offered a terrace room with two single beds pushed together. Given that I thought we were getting a room with two singles pushed together anyway, there was no problem with accepting a terrace!

Here are a few shots of the terrace and the room.

The hotel had a rooftop pool and restaurant that we checked out later that night. We didn't go swimming- it was overcast and around 20, and we were more set on finding some dinner!


Some of the views from the rooftop.

Because we left late at night, both got a few hours of sleep and arrived in daylight, we didn't feel too tired amazingly. All we really wanted was a good shower.  A day of travelling, plus the ridiculously hot airports made us feel pretty gross. Once that was done, we felt human again and got a second wind (maybe even a third wind by that time).

We walked up to Passeig de Gracia and explored the area a bit, We even happened upon the Manzana de la Discordia. I had read about it and seen photos of it, but didn't realize we were staying so close to it. Here's a photo of the Casa Batllo.

After our walk, we settled on a place called Tapa Tapa. Totally cheesy sounding, but it looked alright. We figured day one of the honeymoon, might as well enjoy a drink. David ordered an Erdinger, I had some sangria. Given the lack of food, we were both a bit tipsy...

We didn't take pictures of the food, we were too hungry and mostly wanted to eat! We had a crab and shrimp salad, cheese croquettes, deep fried Camembert and calamari. We shared a creme brulee for dessert.

We got back to the hotel around 9:00PM, we managed to make it about 9:40 before calling it a night. Not too bad considering we had been up for over 30 hours with only a few hours sleep in the middle.

April 25

We got up at 8:30. Getting over 10 hours of sleep certainly did wonders! It also really helped us "forget" that it was 1:30 AM at home.

We purchased the ten pack of metro tickets on our walk the night before. I had originally mapped out us doing a whole lot of touristy things with walking everywhere, but the metro there was a total life saver! You could purchase 10 trips for about 10 euros and it could be used by multiple people. The metro was ridiculously easy to use. It really made our day easier!

We pre-purchased our Sagrada Familia tickets almost a month earlier for a 10:30AM entrance. We headed that way early since we needed some breakfast. As lame as it was, we found a Starbucks. All of the authentic looking places around there were packed. Besides Starbucks had what we wanted, coffee for David, some breakfast like food for both of us, and clean bathrooms that had toilet paper (we would later realize what a true luxury this was!).

Sagrada Familia is really quite the building. There are just too many details on the exterior to really focus on. You could probably stand there for hours and keep noticing different things!


The interior is really quite beautiful. All of the light shining through the stained glass makes such a calming and beautiful atmosphere! I took several shots inside, I just couldn't get enough of the light!

There was a park across from Sagrada. This was one of the only places we were actually approached by someone begging for money. It was a nice park nonetheless.

Most of the subway stations didn't have that much going on, but this one was kind of cool. Once we were done Sagrada, we rode to Las Ramblas to check out the market.

Getting into La Boqueria was a bit intense. It was a Saturday, it's always busy from what I had heard, and it was close to lunch. It was so bottle-necked at the entrance that it took a good five minutes to get in to a spot where you didn't feel like you were trapped. Part of the problem is that at the front there are a lot of candy displays, and they look pretty cool and a lot of people are stopping to take photos and others are simply trying to buy stuff. The next few photos are from both David and myself.

One of many candy displays!

Pig feet anyone?

Beautiful looking tomatoes.

One of the many fragrant cheese stands.

Fruit & Figs


Peppers & Spices

I would've loved to buy fresh food and cooked with it, but given that we were leaving the next day and didn't have a kitchen, it just didn't make sense! Guess we'll just have to go back and rent a place!

We bought some fresh juice and fresh fruit for a snack and explored a bit. Then we made our way to the Gothic Quarter. I loved this area and just enjoyed the sights and taking photos!

At one point along the walk there was a larger group of musicians/marchers singing and drumming and it was just a wonderful atmosphere. You could really feel the energy from them and the crowd. 

I had heard about the 4Cats restaurant from more than one person so thought it'd make a good late lunch destination.

It was a really good meal and it was nice to just sit down and rest for a while. I ordered a hake fish fillet with veggies. David had duck. For dessert we had a passionfruit cream an an apricot cake. Everything was delicious!

After that we made our way back to the hotel. David needed a nap. I was okay with just relaxing for a bit. Because we still had 4 trips left on our metro pass, we decided to check out the Font Magica de Montjuic. I had read about it before we left, but figured it was too far to walk to so hadn't really counted on going to it. However the metro definitely made that possible. 

There weren't that many dinner options around there, so we ended up going to a sushi place that was about a block or two away from the fountain. I know, we're in Spain and not having more Spanish cuisine. However, Barcelona is definitely known for its seafood, so at least we knew it would be incredibly fresh sushi. The restaurant was decent. Not at all busy and pretty reasonably priced.

After dinner, we walked over to the fountain. It was quite a sight to see!

What I hadn't realized is what an extensive and beautiful area it is. There are so many fountains besides the main one and they lead up to this beautiful building-Museum of National Art of Catalyna.

We were greatly amused by the outdoor escalators. Although we were willing to use the stairs, once we discovered that there were escalators, we opted for those! We had already walked over 7 miles that day!

A few more photos from the fountain area. 

Our last ride on the Barcelona metro system. 

We walked back to the hotel and called it a night!

April 26

Cruise Embark Day!

I wanted to keep sleeping, but we had to be ready to get going for 11:00. I stayed at the hotel and David went to find an open bakery. He came back with juice and pastries which we enjoyed on our terrace.

I had to take one last shot of the flowers.

Our ride to the port arrived promptly, right at 11:00. We were some of the first people to get checked in. The whole process probably took less than 10 minutes, and most of that was the time spent walking from the drop off point to the actual boat. 

Here we are on the 9th deck after having lunch.

Rooms became available around 1:00. This was the view straight down while parked at port. Pretty exciting stuff....

Our luggage was delivered before we even left the port, which was quite awesome. You never know exactly when it will be delivered. Here's a shot of our room, and David searching for something in his backpack

We left right on time at 5:00.
Here are a few of the sights as we left the port.

And here's my standard vacation shot of my fairly fresh pedicured toes and a body of water!

Dinner that night was at 7:15. David had some lamb-farro soup, some sort of beef and potatoes for the main, and carrot cake for dessert. I had a seafood salad, pork, and carrot cake as well. After dinner we enjoyed some vanilla lattes and then watched an aerial show.

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