Showing posts with label barcelona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label barcelona. Show all posts
Monday, January 11, 2016

Where To Travel In 2016

New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2016, New York Times Travel List, Parc Guëll, Antoni Gaudi
Parc Güell, Barcelona

Every January, I look forward to the New York Times' 52 Places To Visit feature. For 2016, Times editors consider places that will be particularly compelling to visit over the next 12 months. What makes a destination compelling? Something happening in it like a museum opening, a historical celebration and the like.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Travel Resolutions To Make In 2015

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallin Estonia
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallin, Estonia 
Are you making travel resolutions for 2015? So many people I know say "I will finally take that trip to ___________ (insert your dream destination here)". 

Wherever it is you want to go, do it. Don't wait. Save your money. Research and plan your trip and then GO. 

Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain
Taking a selfie before it was even a thing at Parc de la Ciutadella on my solo trip to Barcelona in 2008.

That's one thing I have always done. I wanted to go to Barcelona by myself a few years ago. I did it. Israel solo? Done. Travel is one thing in which I fully follow through on my intentions. Pretty much all the time. 

The New York Post lists 13 Travel Resolutions for 2015 and they're pretty good: 
  • Check that trip off your bucket list.
  • Invest in good luggage. This was a gamechanger for me. When I finally punted my hand-me-down suitcases, I bought a fabulous Bric's suitcase. One of my best investments, ever. 
  • Plan a solo trip. These are my favorite trips. No matter what your age, this is one of the best ways to learn more, not just about the world, but also yourself. 
  • Brush up on a language you learned in school and use it. Also try to learn a few key phrases in the language of the country you're visiting. I do this every time I visit a foreign country. You can't imagine how tough Turkish and Greek were for me. Simply attempting the language will endear you to locals in more ways that you can imagine.
  • Go to a new US city. This is something I try to do at least once a year. Discovering a new city is an absolute treat. We can get swept up in the romantic notions of Europe or South America but, don't forget, the United States has awesome towns, too. Go. Visit them. Get lost. Have fun. 
  • Explore your own city. Great advice. So many times we think our city is SO boring or SO lame. Taking time to be a tourist in your own city can lead you to discover parts of the city that are completely foreign to you...and fabulous. 
  • Set out on a road trip. I love a good road trip, complete with small town diners and fun local stores. A good road trip is a wonderful experience.
  • Unplug for a weekend or week. Digital detoxes are easier said than done. 
  • Use all of your vacation days.
  • Travel with a close companion. 
  • Check out a festival.
  • Take a walking, hiking or biking tour. 
  • Book a last minute trip. 

What Are Your Travel Resolutions?
Do you have any travel goals for 2015? Please share them in the comments section.

Travel resolutions for 2015, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer
Pin this!

Me? I have three:
  • I want to travel more for work. Yes, I am one of those crazy people who likes business trips. 
  • Take a road trip. I am due for a good one. I would really like to do the California coast again with plenty of time to spare. 
  • Spend more time in France. I'm an addict. Sorry. 
Whatever you decide to do, make this the year you plan a trip you love. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Travel Tips For Women Who Travel Alone

Travel tips for single women, travel tips for women traveling alone
Taking a selfie, before it coo, at Parc de la Cuitadella during a solo trip to Barcelona in 2008

The New York Times focused on the rise of solo travel recently and how the industry is reacting to it. People who are afraid of traveling alone befuddle me.  By virtue of having to live and work all over the world for the sake of my real job, I've never had a fear of going anywhere or doing anything by myself.

A girlfriend of mine thinks I'm crazy but it's a matter of not wanting to wait.  I don't have the luxury of a flexible schedule so when I have the free time, I jump on a plane.  I don't want to wait for a friend or a boyfriend to go with me.  By most accounts, my single girls who won't go anywhere alone want a boyfriend or husband to take them.  If I'd waited for that, I would have never left Dallas!

Antoni Gaudi, Solo Travel
La Perdera, Barcelona

The great thing about going it alone is that you can do absolutely whatever you want.  Want to sleep till noon and have a theme-park dinner at 10pm in the Tivoli Gardens?  No problem.  Plan to spend all day on the Mediterranean Sea?  You can.  Want to sit at that cafe right off the Seine River and people watch in Paris for two hours, you can and no one will complain.  There is no one to tell you can't.  It's the ultimate freedom.

You meet the most fascinating people.  I had dinner with the actual Pep, of Barcelona's famed Cal Pep restaurant one night.  He was busy but spent time with during dinner at his magnificent restaurant explaining the dishes in broken English.    

 From Balcony at Les Ombres
I've lived in Guam, vacationed in Tel Aviv, run a half marathon in Jerusalem and jetted to Barcelona and Paris all solo, not to mention countless solo sojourns for work.  I would do it time and again but there are some definite things a single chick on the go should do to make sure she's around to do it again.

Keep It Close and Closed
When strolling solo through Barcelona's Gothic Quarter or gawking at the Eiffel Tower, you'll be alone in a sea of people.  First and foremost, keep your purse closed and tucked securely under your arm.  I don't bring a big backpack, for many reasons, but for the purposes of being safe it's impractical.  A pickpocket or thief can grab something out of one of those zipper pockets even if it's securely closed with safety pin or other attachment.  I carry a nice mid-size bag, nothing too big or too small, and keep it closed at all times. Barrington Gifts Stadium Crossbody bag or GiGi New York's Madison Crossbody are great for touring a city.

Don't Carry Your Entire Wallet 
Tallin, Estonia
I have a little cigarette holder and while I have never smoked, it's the perfect credit card and cash holder.  I always bring that along with me when out and about.  I fill it with one credit card (not that ATM card, keep that separate), a copy of my passport and some local currency.  I usually don't exchange currency.  I have an international ATM card that charges significantly less fees and commissions when changing money so I generally just get local currency through an ATM.  That is a separate trip I will make in the morning while I am out getting coffee or breakfast.  With your mini-wallet,  if you do have the unfortunate luck of it getting lifted, at least not everything is gone.  Carry just one card and some cash for the day. 

Don't Bling It

This is a tough one for me.  One of the few things in the world I love as much as traveling is jewelry.  Sue me.....I have jewelers in my family.  But when overseas or traveling solo, I wear the less expensive goods.  I have a great big shell ring, some silver pieces and beaded necklaces that I bring.  None of the good stones or really nice watches.  With a lot of sparkles on your hands or ears, you will stick out like a sore thumb and in a bad way.  You will attract attention of potential pickpockets, gypsies or others who might think you a good candidate to rob, attack or do something even worse.  Don't do it.  It's just not worth it.

RELATED: Chic travel jewelry.

Old City, Jerusalem, Israel
Old City, Jerusalem

Dress Appropriately
I learned this the hard way.  I was walked through Jerusalem's Old City and got terribly lost.  I was wearing an outfit that, honestly, was pretty conservative for me: a long-sleeved knit top, denim skirt and closed-toe shoes.  Having my legs exposed as I was unknowingly walking towards the Muslim Quarter was the mistake of a lifetime.  I had men sneering at me and hurling words I didn't understand towards me.  Finally, it took a sweet, little 12-year old to clue me in. 

"You must stop," he said.

"I'm just trying to get out of here," I replied.

"No," he responds.  "You are not Muslim.  That is the Muslim Quarter.  You are not allowed."

Light bulb moment.  Message understood.

Walking back to my hotel, I got more awful comments thrown my way by a variety of men.  It was really one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever had.  The rest of the trip, it was jeans and long-sleeved shirts.

Don't Let Them Know You're Solo
Part of the fun of traveling solo is that you meet a variety of people and end up chatting with some lovely folks.  Some, though, not so lovely.  Don't let them know you're alone.  If some inquiring mind asks you why you're eating alone, or hiking by yourself, just say you're visiting your dad or that your brother is back at the hotel.  My father actually lives in Israel and spent a few days of my time there with me.  He didn't have the stamina to run around with me all day, so I would be alone most of the time.  The "dad at the hotel line" worked quite a bit for me when dealing with those guys. 

What About You? 
Are you a solo traveler? Is there a place you're dying to visit by yourself? I would love to explore Rome solo. Have a question about visiting a city solo? Email me. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Barcelona Food Porn

Entrance to La Boqueria

Paris gets all the love.  No doubt it should, it's home to some of the world's best and most innovative  restaurants.  But Barcelona's cuisine is fresh, flavorful and stunningly executed.  From sampling cheese, fruit and cortaditos in La Boqueria (where I would begin every day) to some of the more elegant and refined tapas bars, there is an explosion of flavors to be found in Barcelona.  There were three spots, though, on my latest trip to the Catalan capital really blew me away and I had to share.

Bar Mut

The first was Bar Mut, a popular wine and tapas bar in L'Eixample.  This is a local spot.  In fact when I got there and tried to order in my bad Spanish, my server told me to wait while he got the one English speaking server in the joint to assist me.  I needed it because some of the menu items needed explaining.

I started with the jamon iberico, widely considered the world's finest.  Before I go any further, I hate ham. Can't stand it.  Yet, I could wear a dress made of the cured, nutty meat and eat my way through it even if Karl Lagerfeld himself hand-sewed it.  It's amazing.  The pigs are fed things like barley, maize, chestnuts and acorns resulting in a slightly sweet yet salty, nutty flavor that is stunning.

Following the ham, we had the razor clams that were simply sauteed in parsley and olive oil.  I ordered the small clams and wish I had gotten the larger ones because they were delicious yet hard to get out of their little shells.  From there it was on to cheese and mussels.     

The particular night we were there was a holiday, the Festival de Sant Joan, that celebrates the summer solstice.  It's sort of  like a non-independence day July 4th holiday: fireworks light up the sky, families celebrate on the beaches or head out to eat.  The tiny Bar Mut was packed with families enjoying the night.  It was quite the authentic, upscale Catalan experience.

La Torreta de L'Escorial
While making the three-mile uphill walk from our hotel to the beautiful Park Güell, my boyfriend and I started to get faint around 1pm.  He noticed this cute little pink building on the right side of the street that I was convinced was a doctor's office.  Wrong again.  It turned out a quaint, charming neighborhood restaurant.

We were the only Americans in the joint.  There wasn't an English speaking server or English menu so my bad Spanish skills were put to the test but I did ok except for dessert.

Both of  us ordered the menu of the day, which came with either soup or salad, a choice of three entrees and a dessert.  Water, beer or a cold carafe of red wine was also included.

Both of us started with the gazpacho which was amazing.  It was a fresh puree of tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and herbs.  It wasn't the chunky salad-soup I was used to eating.  This was creamy and  unquestionably delicious.

The boyfriend ordered a sauteed chicken dish served with cooked pimientos de padron.  This was the first time I sampled the salty, sweet and almost smoky pepper.  I could have eaten a whole plate of those alone.

I ordered a salad.  It was fresh, simple lettuce salad served with fried fish filets.  I love fish, just not fried.  The flavor was actually quite good but a fried fish is just not my preferred choice.   Bad Spanish, again, biting me in butt.

We had our choice of desserts ranging from a flan to a beautiful cuatro leches cake.  Unfortunately, I ordered the ice cream.  My bad Spanish got me in trouble, again.  I thought I was ordering gelato (hello, helado!) which is served all over the city but, no.  This, however, was a brick of Neapolitan ice cream sliced out of a box. Blech.

What made this restaurant so special was the local flavor of it.  It's the kind of place where 70-year old men solve the world's problems over a full fish and three bottles of wine.  Or maybe it's more of a place where men take their secretaries, who may be a little more than there their secretaries, if you know what I mean.  At least that's what looked like was going on at the table next to ours.

I would go back again and again order the same ice cream out of a box just for the experience of it.

Santa Maria
Real food heaven came when we visited a place in El Born called Santa Maria.  It's sort of a luxury tapas concept run by a chef who is definitely fun.  He shoots YouTube videos of his creations which are definitely television worthy.

We did the tasting menu, which cost €27 per person and featured nine courses.  It was the absolute steal of a lifetime.  The wonderful tempranillo we had that night muddled my what-would-have-definitely-been perfect recall so here are the highlights:

We started with a tiny peach-mango smoothie that was light, refreshing and a great amuse bouche.  Next was one of the most amazing salads I've ever consumed.  It featured shrimp, mint and avocado in a mojito-like vinaigrette.  Simply sublime.  The flavors were fresh, delicate and complemented each other perfectly.  A white fish ceviche followed and then it was hakefish topped with and avocado puree.

Frog legs were next on the menu.  I am embarrassed to say that I had never tried them until that night.  I can't say the cliche´ held true for me: they tasted supremely better than chicken.  They were lightly friend and seasoned in a way that I can only call "Barcelona style".  If you've been there you know what I mean.

A filet with apricots dressed in a whiskey sauce was served after the frog legs.  I can't say that was my favorite.  I am not a steak fan nor do I enjoy whiskey.  It was an interesting marriage of flavors but it was a course that I could have skipped.  Pickled cabbage was served with the filet.  An interesting choice in my opinion.  I would have rather had more frog legs or hakefish.

Dessert was perhaps the best.  The chef proved the urban legend wrong by combining fruit-flavored Pop Rocks with a Coca-Cola foam (a nod to Spain's most famous chef, Ferran Adrian) for a wonderful little concoction they call Dracula.  It was a simple, sweet mixture but fun to eat.  We spent a good five minutes trying to figure out what exactly it was we were eating.  Pop Rocks!  We finally determined.  Needless to say, we lived.

We weren't done.  At this point, my skinny jeans were about to bust.  We closed the meal with two small cookies, chocolate truffles and a little white chocolate, nut concoction that was sort of a better tasting version of the infamous white trash party treat

This was a NIGHT.  An absolute treasure of an evening that lasted a good three hours. We walked the mile and a half back to our hotel at one in the morning satiated but hungry for another dining experience like that.

Anyone who has visited Barcelona knows the food is one of the highlights of a trip there.  From the traditional Catalan pa amb tomaquet to freshly caught mussels or the Dracula dessert, the food there is a study in Catalan and Spanish culture.  It might force you out of your culinary comfort zone because you can definitely run into a rogue calf brain here and there.  But if you just trust the menu and kind of go with it, you will create a food memory that will last a lifetime and will definitely have you longing for more.