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Holidays in Barcelona: Park Guell, The Sagrada Familia, Mataro and more

My first trip to Barcelona was in 2013 with my friend Carol when this blog was just a few months old.

We had several mishaps including missing our flight over, paying about €100 each for a new one (I was broke for months after) and I accidentally broke the glass shower door in the apartment we were staying in!

Despite this, I had an amazing time and always wanted to go back. My boyfriend and I discussed going last year but went to Biarritz instead.

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My first trip with Carol and my, I had a lot of accessories back then

This year I was lucky enough to be able to take a long holiday and we settled on Barcelona.

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Park Guell, Barcelona

We chose an Airbnb in Gracia, a bustling hipster neighbourhood, full of cafes and bars and only ten minutes walk from the Rambla de Catalunya.

I had actually stayed in Gracia the last time but I didn’t realise until we were out for a walk and came across the street – I almost fell into a hole in the ground with excitement!

Another random discovery we made was finding Balenciaga’s former house/shop.

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Balenciaga’s gaff

We didn’t make an itinerary but what we did want to do is relax, enjoy some good food and drinks and catch up with some friends.

Temperatures were around 25C to 28C but it was still very warm given we’d just came from Ireland! Luckily for us, our apartment had air conditioning.

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Chilling the beans in Park Guell

We arrived late on a Tuesday night so after ducking into a kebab shop (the only place open that late), we headed home to bed.

The next morning we went to a little square to grab a coffee and then took the metro into the city.

We bought a five-day unlimited metro pass which proved to be excellent value. You can also buy shorter ones and we later bought a three day one for the final few days.

We wandered around the Barrio Gotico, the beautiful old Gothic quarter but returned home after a couple of hours as it was very hot.

Our Airbnb host had helpfully given us a map with areas he recommended visiting and areas to avoid!

After a siesta, we had one mission on our minds, getting a mojito in Bar Miramelindo in El Born.

My boyfriend had been there before and sung its praises and the mojitos were delicious and I loved the interior decor and neon lights.

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Bar Miramelindo, Barcelona
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Delicious mojitos!

We had dinner in a nearby square that night, along with a few more drinks before we called it a night.

Park Guell was on our to-do list but we woke up late and decided to head for Parc de la Ciutadella instead.

This beautiful park is Barcelona’s answer to Phoenix Park, with the Barcelona Zoo, a lake where you can hire a rowing boat and much more.

After a quick walk around the park, we made for Barceloneta and enjoyed a delicious paella with black rice.

That night, we went for drinks in Gracia and dinner in a Syrian restaurant.  We were spoiled for choice in Gracia as it has an abundance of restaurants with cuisines from all around the world and every type of bar also.

Unfortunately I felt quite ill the next day, however, we’d booked tickets for Park Guell so I had to suck it up and go.

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Park Guell trencadis mosiac

It was roasting climbing up to Carmel Hill which leads up to Park Guell.

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Park Guell
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Outside Park Guell
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View from Park Guell
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The Sagrada Familia in the distance

The park was originally meant to be a residential area for wealthy families, designed by Antoni Gaudi and his mentor Eusebi Guell.

This is why it is spelled “Park” rather than “Parc” as it was meant to resemble an English estate.

However, only two houses were ever built and it ended up being gardens and a tourist attraction.

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Views from the top of Park Guell

Despite not feeling the best, I was able to wander and admire all the details, trencadis mosiacs, turrets, palm trees and fairytale-like gingerbread houses.

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Incredible details
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A mosiac feature

The park is full of hills, so a sensible pair of shoes is a must.

To avoid long queues, it’s best to book online but entry times are staggered so you may still have to wait around.

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Salamander water fountain
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Turret
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Park Guell tower
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Details from Park Guell
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Pensive in Park Guell!

I felt really sick in the afternoon so I lay down and didn’t do anything. I felt a little better by the evening and we went for dinner in a local Mexican restaurant called MexCla.

We feasted on tacos served in cocktail glasses and I wished I was well enough to eat more!

On Saturday evening we went to meet my friend Eli and her boyfriend Pierre who had recently moved back to Spain.

Beforehand, we stopped on the Rambla de Catalunya for a vermouth and tapas. I hadn’t drank vermouth before but I started to get a taste for it!

We also checked out Casa Batllo but didn’t go inside.

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Casa Batllo

This is an ideal spot for people-watching as there are restaurants lined all down it and pedestrian walkways right beside.

We then went to the Barrio Gotico again where we drank gin, ate tapas and had a great catch up.

I woke up the next morning sweating with a banging headache! A greasy breakfast dish of heuvos fritos with chorizo and potatoes helped somewhat as did a long nap.

In the evening we decided to go to the Bunkers del Carmel, a site where anti-aircraft guns were kept during the Spanish Civil War.

We’d heard that the Bunkers were a great spot to watch the sunset and take pictures but unfortunately, it was an overcast evening when we were there.

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View of the city from the Bunkers

I liked the Bunkers but my boyfriend wasn’t so keen. It was very busy with crowds of people taking selfies, chilling and drinking.

Carmel is a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city and getting to the Bunkers involves a long walk uphill.

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Tibidabo can be seen from the Bunkers
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The Sagrada Familia

I think there may be a bus that brings you part of the way but we were able to walk it although it was tough.

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The city at night

Back in Gracia, we treated ourselves to pizzas in a pizza/Lebanese restaurant.

On Monday, we visited my good friend Marta in Mataro, which is a seaside town approximately 40 mins outside Barcelona by train.

Mataro is easy to get to with trains from the city every hour.

Marta and her fiance Javi drove us to a beautiful restaurant high in the mountains and treated us to a traditional Catalonian lunch.

The Santuari del Corredor is a former monastery which looks like something out of The Godfather and is now a popular family-owned joint.

We stuffed ourselves with tomate con panne,  fresh aioli, bread, meats, cheese, desserts, as well as after dinner shots! Afterwards, the owners gave us fresh figs from their trees outside.

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The Santuari del Corredor restaurant
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The Santuari del Corredor wall
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Mataro

Back in Mataro, Marta showed us their “apartment” which turned out to be an incredible old building that is a UNESCO heritage site.

It had huge double doors with ancient knockers, wooden beams, a wooden staircase, and an enclosed courtyard.

We also got to walk around Mataro, visiting the stunning cruciform cathedral the Basilica Santa Maria and walked down the pier before leaving around 7pm.

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Mataro harbour

Tuesday was September 11 or Dia de Catalunya, the national Catalan day.

We had been warned that there would be a lot of demonstrations so we decided this might be the best day to go to the Sagrada Familia.

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Outside the Sagrada Familia
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Stained glass windows in the Sagrada Familia
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View of the ceiling of the Sagrada Familia
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One for the four pillars, each representing one of the Four Gospels

I had been before but it’s 100% worth visiting again.

We booked tickets online which were about €15 each (I think there may be a discount for under 30s).

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Even the Sagrada Familia was draped in a Catalan flag
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Reliefs on the Sagrada Familia
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Incredible details from the Sagrada Familia
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I could look at the Sagrada Familia all day

There was a bit of a wait outside but we didn’t have to queue up at the front thankfully as it was 28C!

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Gaudi was inspired by nature and animals and plants feature on the Sagrada Familia

Gaudi himself is actually buried in the crypt of the church. He met an unfortunate end after he was hit by a tram in 1926.

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Details from the inside of the Sagrada
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The light shining through the stained glass creates amazing effects
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The pillars and ceiling of the Sagrada Familia
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Crucifix suspended from the ceiling
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Chimneys of the Sagrada

After fortifying ourselves with Five Guys, we headed back to Gracia where demonstrations were underway.

Everyone seemed to be wearing the same neon pink t-shirt and waving Catalan flags and there was a lot of shouting “Libertat!”

It was quite interesting to watch as I didn’t know much about the campaign for independence until now.

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Dia de Catalunya

I saw yellow ribbons everywhere but I initially thought they were in memory of those who died in the 2017 terror attacks.

They actually represent imprisoned and exiled Catalan politicians.

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Demonstrations in the city

That night, we donned our glad rags to go to Terraza Alaire, a rooftop terrace bar overlooking the city at the Hotel Condes.

We watched the sunset while sipping cocktails (me) and beer (him) and listening to live music.

It took me a while to relax up there as I am terrified of heights but it was an experience I would 100% recommend!

It was pretty pricey but you’re paying for the view as well as the drinks!

We headed into the city for a Mexican dinner followed by mojitos in Bar Miramelindo.

Getting home was problematic as we missed the last metro and it proved very difficult to get a taxi (possibly because it was Dia de Catalunya).

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Cocktail at Terraza Alaire

On the way home, we nipped into a Cuban mojito bar called El Sabor to watch people salsa dancing to amazing reggaeton tunes but I wasn’t too impressed with the bar service.

Service in some of the bars and restaurants wasn’t great but as the minimum wage in Spain is pretty low I can understand why.
Another place I was not impressed with was a shop in Gracia called In Love With. I really wanted to look at their dupe bags and shoes, however, when I went in 15 minutes before closing, the owner started to scream at me in Spanish to get out!

I later discovered it has a lot of bad Google reviews…

While my boyfriend slept in the next day, I hit the Rambla de Catalunya to shop.
There were all the usual chain shops, including Zara, Mango, H&M, as well as designer stores and I picked up a t-shirt and black pinafore dress in H&M.

We intended to go to the beach that evening but a MASSIVE storm erupted and went on for at least 40 mins, pouring rain, thunder, and lightning.

We were running from one spot to another before we finally found shelter at an underground garage.

The storm
We got soaked in the rain

We paid a brief visit to Barceloneta beach the next morning but didn’t sunbathe or swim as we had bags with us.

Our final day was spent wandering around the city centre, picking up some souvenirs and I bought some Rayban sunglasses.

I came across one vintage store Flamingo Vintage but my suitcase was stuffed so I didn’t buy anything.

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Flamingos Vintage

Unfortunately, I felt sick again on the final day but I was better by the afternoon.

I was really sad to leave Barcelona but it was an incredible trip that I’ll never forget.

Word of advice, I was there in September on both occasions and there are still a LOT of tourists at this time of the year. We were also warned about pickpockets but thankfully, we weren’t robbed.

Thanks to our lovely friends for making the trip even more fun!

Have you been to Barcelona? Leave me a comment and let me know. Thanks for reading and if you would like to follow me on social media,  check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

 

 

Palma de Mallorca 2015

This is a long overdue post on my trip to Palma de Mallorca. I meant to put it up much sooner but then I began my Master’s and got swept away by a tsunami of assignments. 😛 I should be studying right now also to be honest….

Prior to my sun holiday I’d been to London where I picked up some great bargains for my holiday wardrobe. I also had the cute clothes I got from the swap shop I attended which were perfect for holidays. The first night of my holidays I wore a simple outfit, a beaded top, shorts, white espadrilles and a gorgeous vintage belt I got for €1 in my local charity shop.

The worst part of going on holiday at the end of the summer was trying to find a bikini! It was near impossible to find a matching bikini top and bottom in the right size. However I found one in the most unexpected of places, Tesco! Yep £7 for a really cute tropical bikini!

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I wore it to Playa Es Trenc, a beach on the far side of the island. This beach is near a salt mine and the sea is really salty! It is known as one of the most beautiful beaches on the island but beware part of it is a nudist beach so don’t be shocked if you visit.

I also bought some cute shorts for the trip, the yellow high-waist ones were £2 in Primark and the denim ones were £5 at a market.

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Another place I visited was Los Cuevas del Drach, a sort of tropical Ailwee Caves. These caves are considered to be one of the best tourist attractions, extending almost 1200 metres underground and contain a subterranean lake. The cave tour concludes at an underground amphitheatre where a group of musicians pulled up in a boat and serenaded us! It was very surreal.

Outside the caves, you can see Mallorca’s east coast.

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The caves are located quite far away from the city of Palma de Mallorca so you would need to hire a car if you wanted to go there. Luckily for me, my friends had a car so I got to see a lot of the island.

I was there for 5 days and my agenda included exploring the city centre, visiting the famous cathedral and taking a trip out to Port de Soller.

My trip to Port de Soller was a nice break from the city. I went on an old-fashioned steam train which was the noisiest thing I’ve ever been on and my fellow passengers were passive aggressive German pensioners! The rustbucket, sorry train took us on a scenic route through the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. The train then proceeded to break down in a tunnel which was quite scary as it was really claustrophobic, there was no light and it was really hot! After about 15 minutes they finally got it up and running again!

The views from the train were worth all the discomfort, from the window we could see tiny white houses below us, mountains all around and lemons growing by the tracks.

The previous day I’d bought a white off the shoulder top in Stradivarius so I wore that for my day out.

Soller is a seaside town with some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. The pictures really don’t do it justice. The port is a perfect horseshoe shape, surrounded by mountains and tropical vegetation with azure blue water and white sand. It’s quite a wealthy place, judging by all the yachts around! I felt like I was in paradise!

Palma is quite small so there’s not as much to see in the city but I enjoyed wandering around window shopping and having a traditional ensaimada pastry and coffee.

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Palma’s most famous building is a Roman Catholic Gothic Cathedral known locally as “La Seu.” Unfortunately I didn’t get to see it in daylight but was still impressed with the night-time view.

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Hope you all enjoyed this travel post! Thank you to my lovely friends Dani and Santi for giving me a great holiday and an escape from Ireland! Thanks for visiting my blog as always. If you want to follow me on social media, my Facebook page is here and Instagram here.

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Edel

Spanish Wedding & Trip to Madrid

I promised a post on the wedding dress I was helping my friend Dani to make and here it is at last! In the past, I studied basic dressmaking at an evening class in Galway and designing and making clothes has been a passion of mine since I was a kid.

Dani is a qualified designer so she made the body of the dress but I helped with the decorating. It was a strapless dress covered in tulle flowers and pearl beads sewn onto each flower.

Each flower petal was painstakingly decorated with beads and as you can see the dress has hundreds of flowers on it. I only did a little bit of work on it so you can imagine the effort involved on Dani’s part!

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I really loved working on the dress despite how time-consuming it was. I worked on some of the flowers at the back and the edges.

I would take a piece of tulle, sew on the beads in tiny rows on the petals then pin it in place on the dress. The body of the dress is quite simple, the decoration, however, took months for Dani to complete.

I worked on some of these flowers at the back. The veil was bought but matches the dress perfectly.

I’m not someone who always loves traditional wedding dresses but this dress is just exquisite. Knowing the work put into it also makes it very special!

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I worked on some of the flowers on the edges and the back.

We got pins and needles and backache from sitting down labouring over the tiny petals. I really love dressmaking and would like to do more.

I believe weddings are overly commercial nowadays and making your own dress is one way to reduce this and be original. However, to make a dress like this requires serious dedication!

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Every single bead hand-sewn on!!!

The big day arrived and Dani looked incredible!

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My own outfit consisted of a green satin dress that I keep for special occasions. It’s very glamorous with silver bead straps and a ruched front.

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I added some gold and green earrings from Forever 21, green sunglasses and cream heels with floral details.

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After the wedding which was held in a town called Valladolid, two hours from Madrid I headed back to the capital to explore with my friend.

Madrid is very authentic and more “Spanish” than Barcelona.

You have to make the effort to “hablo espanol” and they seemed to understand my Spanglish at least 50% of the time!

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Campo Grande Valladolid
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Valladolid-the town no-one can pronounce!

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Of course I looked in the shops 😉 The flower ring is from a shop called Tierra, find them on Facebook here.

I also browsed in Brandy Melville and had a look at Topshop’s summer collection!

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Flowers, flowers errrwhere!

075I love mock-croc! (Update I bought these back home and they are fabulous!)

Everywhere in Madrid there are beautiful churches and most of the street names have a religious connotation. Each street sign has a picture on it which I loved.

My other favourite thing there was the street performers from a whistling clapping goat covered in tinsel to a human tree in Plaza Mayor.

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Hope you all enjoyed this post and thanks for reading. If you would like to follow me on social media, check out my Instagram and Facebook page.

Edel