Posts tagged ‘Barcelona’
One of my favourite travel bloggers, Angela, of Chasing the Unexpected, tagged me on this a couple of weeks back. Of course, I’ve been a bit lazy in completing it - The Best of travel 2011 rules indicate that the series ran through till Jan 16. But, bah, I still want to write this - reminisce in some of my favourite memories of 2011, and plan ahead for 2012.
2011 has been a pretty good year of travel for me – starting from the fact that the definition of ‘home’ changed right on January 1 on the midnight hour (well, not exactly, but sometime during my 10 hour long flight from Bangalore to London) as I moved to work in Nottingham, UK.
You might see a lot of destinations here that I haven’t written much about. Hopefully, this year, I’ll be documenting a lot more of my trips in both 2011 and 2012.
So, I’ll jump right in..
Best Domestic Travel Destination
It’s a surprisingly forgotten domestic travel destination, considering that very few Britons had even heard about it when I told them about my plans to go to see this Natural Wonder of the World. Giant’s Causeway, a naturally-formed collection of thousands of hexagonal shaped rocks, is located on northern edge of Northern Ireland, about 60-70 miles away from Belfast. Not only is the location itself very beautiful, it is also accompanied by a picturesque rope bridge a few miles of cliff-walks away.
Best Travel Experience
When I signed up for the Contiki Eurotrip in early summers, this was one of the optional activities I was dead certain that I’d be signing up for – Paragliding. An unmissable opportunity – the feeling of flying, that too in the middle of the Alps – turned out to be as good as I had expected it to be. The wind fluttering against your face, the icecaps on the peaks of Alps shining on the horizon and the greenery and streams of water below – it was a very beautiful experience.
Also, got the opportunity to take some really nice photographs!
Best International Destination
A 10-day trip to Barcelona turned out to be one of my best experiences in terms of solo-travel and immersing into the culture of a place. I was fortunate to have timed the trip to happen at the same time as La Merce, the annual festival of the city. So, not only did I get to see the architectural gems by Gaudi but also felt the real vibe of the city through the evening jaunts to cultural performances and carnivals, amidst visiting some classical pieces of art by masters like Picasso and Gaudi.
Worst Travel Experience
Although I haven’t had too many bad travel experiences (thank god!), falling ill with fever and unforgiving cough and cold in Rome, during my Eurotrip, was a very tough one to deal with. I didn’t want to miss any of the travelling, but did not want to fall ill further. I completely lost my voice and felt like I had zero stamina to walk. Thankfully, some rest and a cancelled visit to Colosseum helped me recuperate and enjoy the rest of the trip.
Most Embarrassing Travel Moment
Another one from the Eurotrip. Our tour bus made a surprise stop in Verona – the home to the legend of Romeo and Juliet. At the mansion claimed to Juliet’s house, there is a statue of Julietta. You aur supposed to cup her breast for good luck – every tourist does it. So did I. And it was very embarrassing.
Best Local Destination
Not sure how different this is from the first category, so I chose to talk about a local Nottingham treasure. Alley Cafe is a vegan cafe bar, tucked into an alley right next to the city centre , has an atmosphere right from Paris of 1920s with quirky music and artwork. I have found the place to be absolutely delightful every time I’ve been there. Make sure you visit it if you ever visit Nottingham.
Best Travel Lesson
The travel lesson from 2011 for me is to live life to the fullest, without regrets. And that there is absolutely no harm in trying out something offbeat, something different. For example, I went to the Toone Theatre in Brussels (actually, stumbled on to it quiet accidentally) on my recent trip around Christmas time. Although I didn’t understand a single word of it, it was all in French, I still found it very funny and a very amusing experience.
So, here we go, that was the best of 2011 from my trips! And I have already planned a couple of interesting trips to Rome, Paris and India!
Keep watching this space!
Here’s the latest in this new section for a dreary Monday morning…. something to inspire you to travel and explore!
Last month when I was in Barcelona, I visited Park Guell, a tranquil space full of greenery and interesting architecture, designed by Antoni Gaudi – the genius of moderniste architecture. The park has some amazing view of the city of Barcelona, and also a museum which was Gaudi’s residence during the time he constructed the park and and La Sagrada Familia.
While I was roaming around the park, I came across a busker playing Spanish guitar – which sounds slightly different from a normal acoustic guitar – a sound I’ve been fascinated with. I was entranced by his music. However, I don’t know too many music pieces on Spanish guitar. As I was enjoying his music, I was thinking about the one song I definitely knew (and had tried to learn to play it on keyboard). And as if reading my thoughts, the guy started playing the song – Spanish Romanza! Enjoy!
If you liked it, you can find some more Spanish guitar music here.. http://www.youtube.com/user/johnclarkemusic
I am off today for another round of Schengen visa application. Wish me luck!
Have a great week ahead!
I might be stepping on a lot of toes here. Before visiting Barcelona, while researching places to visit, I had heard every possible praise for La Boqueria Mercat (Market). I don’t think I’d agree with all of it.
Warning: This post may not end well for you if you are easily grossed out. But on other hand, it has a photo of hundreds of colourful sweets and candies towards the end. Read on..
My Frommer’s Barcelona guidebook said: “La Boqueria: One of the world’s finest food markets.”
“The Boqueria market (La Rambla 91-101, Mon-Sat 8am-8pm; Metro: Liceu) is the largest market in Europe (and probably the greatest in the world) and a must-see in the Catalan capital. It’s located right in the middle of the famous boulevard La Rambla. While many markets have little to offer a visitor in terms of practical shopping, the Boqueria displays great produce, boasts some of the best bars and cafes in the city, and offers a chance to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers who have put the city at the forefront of world gastronomy.
The Boqueria’s 330 stalls are a living testament to the fertility of the peninsula and its surrounding areas. What lies inside is a gastronomic cornucopia that changes its palette from season to season. Early fall sees the hues of burnt yellow, orange and brown in the cluster of stalls selling the dozens of varieties of bolets, wild mushrooms from the hills and forests of Catalonia. In spring, the candy colours of fresh strawberries and plump peaches, and in early summer the greens of a dozen different lettuces, from curly bunches of escarole to pert little heads of endives and cogollos (lettuce hearts), make an appearance.
The fish and seafood section takes prime place in a central roundabout known as the Isla del Pescado (Island of Fish), a pretty marble and steel affair dating from the Boqueria’s overhaul back in 2001, which brought more natural light to the market and provided more space for the customers. The variety of produce is awesome - from giant carcasses of tuna that send Japanese tourists into a camera-flashing frenzy to the ugly but tasty scorpionfish, prawns the size of bananas, live crayfish, octopi, bug-eyed grouper, and countless other species. Other stalls range from game and delicatessens to bewildering businesses specializing in one product, be it lettuce, potatoes or smoked salmon.“
With a description like that, you’d think stepping into this market that the hunger and thirst, that you’ve accumulated from walking up and down La Rambla, is going to be quenched, and you’d come out with a stomach full and camera memory full with photos.
So, I walked in with confidence, and was immediately hit back with a stench. The smell of raw meat and seafood overpowering the crowded market making the stifling humid atmosphere even more difficult to bear.
It started from ‘normal’ meat stalls..
.. moving on to some fish and seafood..
.. and then some severed animal heads, with their eyes looking intently and pleadingly at you..
.. and some things I don’t even want to know what they are.
After looking at all this (and imagine the accompanying ‘fragrance’), my hunger disappeared in a jiffy, and I started wondering why this market was so popular. But I guess, it’s also a question of how big a fan are you of raw meat – to some, all these may be culinary delights. Looking around, I saw a lot of locals doing their usual shopping, lending a lot of local support to the market. Fair enough. Also, I saw a lot of tourists gravitating away from these not-so-nice-looking stalls towards more visually enticing things like fruit juices and sweets.
And I can’t deny it. The market did look very colourful and intriguing because of these..
My conclusion? Definitely worth visiting! If the fresh food isn’t an invitation enough, the fruit juices and photographing-opportunities will provide a welcome break from the hustle-bustle of La Rambla. Although if you are a vegetarian, beware of the sights and smells.
What did you think of La Boqueria market? Which other popular street markets around the world would you recommend visiting?
Traveller’s tip: If you do feel tempted to buy any food items here, I’d recommend purchasing from the stalls inside the market instead of the ones at the entrance as you would avoid having to pay inflated ‘tourist prices’.
La Rambla or Las Ramblas (which is the plural form) is the most famous street of Barcelona. It’s in fact a series of shorter streets (hence the plural form), connecting Placa Catalunya to the Christopher Columbus Monument. Before writing this post, I looked at the wiki description for Las Ramblas – which described it as ‘a 1.2 kilometer-long tree-lined pedestrian mall between Barri Gòtic and El Raval‘. However, going by how crowded the street is, I’d rather describe it as ‘pedestrian-lined‘!
If I were to describe Las Ramblas in 5 words, I’d say ‘Crowded, Touristy, Expensive, Pickpockets and Buskers‘. The first four are fairly obvious, as they are all correlated – one encourages the other. The one that piques my curiosity are the buskers (i.e. street performers). You’d find here all styles of buskers – Still-standers (is there a better word for that?), instant artists, card/dice tricks (these ones I consider almost synonymous with conmen), guitar players to break-dancers.
Well, busking is becoming a popular activity, almost an ‘art-form’, these days in so many cities. So, when I got a chance to see it in more detail in Barcelona, I stayed to watch and take some photos. And I got some interesting behind-the-curtains shots of buskers!
The still-standers do move after all! This ‘witch’ had a long chat with the cyclist, and kissed him goodbye as he cycled away!
The street-artists, who always have these catalogue of paintings ready to sell but you’d never see them actually paint, do actually draw and paint!
And this is the best one – this evil looking character, who earns his living standing still,surprising people and posing in scary photos, is in fact one Mr William Roberto who wears glasses and suits up in his ‘real’ life (click on the next picture to see the zoomed-in version)!
Have you seen any interesting buskers around who provided an unforgettable experience?