Global Adventures is reporting live from the land of leprachauns!

It would have been really beneficial if I followed some of my own travel tips! Such as taking into account the fact that a 10:40am flight out of Gatwick coincides with London’s peak hour and that every man and his dog seems to be crammed into the Jubilee line. Or an extra long queue at security due to a conveyor belt malfunction and overly grumpy security staff who probably hadn’t had their fix of caffeine yet. Made it to the gate just in time!

IMG_3289

Dublin is a 55 minute flight from London and is situated in the South of Ireland where the official religion is Catholic. The city centre is approximately a 30 minute bus ride from the airport and can be reached via buses 16, 41,11 or 31 at a cost of EUR 2.70 and EUR 3.10 buys you unlimited bus travel for 90 minutes. Our hotel, the Skylon Hotel Dublin, is about a 15 minute bus ride from the city centre and is very comfortable and pleasant-with a nice hot shower, comfortable bed and friendly and helpful staff.

Given the escapades of our morning, we were starving and lunch was the first thing on the cards. Situated in Temple Bar in the heart of Dublin are many traditional Irish taverns, many of which feature live music in the evenings. We chose Quays Irish Restaurant which serves traditional Irish and English dishes, including Irish Stew, fish & chips, burgers and bangers and mash. Being cold and hungry, Irish stew really hit the spot! Dublin’s city centre was notably smaller calmer and quieter than Larger-than-life-London!

IMG_3258[1]

Our next stop was Dublin Castle, followed by St Patricks Park. Unfortunately, by the time we reached St Patricks Park, Dublin’s famous St Patricks Cathedral was already closed. Dublin Castle was the seat of the United Kingdom’s government’s administration until 1922 and is now the Irish administrative hub. Throughout its history, Dublin castle has served many roles, including a defensive fort for the Norman City of Dublin, followed by royal residency by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and then as a place of parliament and law courts.

IMG_3276[1]

We finished off the day with a very enjoyable evening at Temple Bar, a traditional Irish pub, featuring live music and Cider! We were joined by a group of very attractive Spanish guys and spent the evening singing along with the live band and drinking cider!

IMG_3271

All in a days work! Stay tuned for more tomorrow…

Global Adventures handpicked favourite hotels!

Malta: Hotel Argento:
Rating ****

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Hotel Argento. The room was extremely comfortable, modern and spacious, the hotel staff were very helpful, friendly and accommodating and it is situated in Spinola Bay. It is a bit of a walk to Sliema and St Julians, but the weather was so glorious and the coastal views so stunning, that it made for a beautiful morning walk. I would definitely recommend this hotel and would definitely stay here again.

Global Adventures favourite hotels

Planning a Spring mini break? Check out our hand picked recommended hotels!

Barcelona: Vincci Gala Hotel

Global Adventures Rating: ****

My stay at the Vincci Gala Hotel was fantastic. Conveniently located in Ronta St Pere, it is walking distance to Las Ramblas, the Latin Quarter, Uriquinoa metro station and Catalunya Plaza. The room was extremely comfortable, with a comfortable double bed with luxurious linen and a spacious bathroom, with a bath. The room also had a balcony, which was a nice touch as it meant that I could enjoy breakfast or a drink on my balcony.  The interior is fresh, clean and modern and they serve a buffet breakfast on the ground floor. The service was flawless and the hotel staff were extremely helpful and friendly.

 

 

Essential Travel Tips for your Spring mini breaks!

Spring is finally here! The weather is warming up and with Easter around the corner, flowers are blossoming and flower festivals coming, up, it is the perfect time to plan your mini break in Europe ! Plan ahead with these practical travel tips! These tips can be applied for most short getaways this Spring!

  1. Book your trip at least 6 weeks in advance:  The best time to plan a trip is at least 6 weeks in advance. Book your flights and accommodation in advance, to take advantage of airfare and accommodation specials, which are the first and most important things you should book when planning a holiday. Make sure that your passport is up to date and that you have the necessary travel documents,31064_388494887129_2779967_n
  2. Consider your different travel options too: Many budget airlines such as Ryan Air fly out of Stansted Airport, however, depending on where you live, when you add on the costs of commuting there, this may result in it being more expensive than going to Heathrow or Gatwick. For me, being based in East London Stansted Airport is my best option. Research different options of getting to the airport too; most airports offer an express train service. IMG_0953
  3. Research the city and book a hotel in a convenient location:  For example, if you are planning a short holiday in Barcelona, hotels around Placa de Catalunya or Las Ramblas such as the Vincci Gala Hotel in Ronta St Pere is ideally situated, just a 5 minute walk from Plaza de Catalunya and perhaps a 15 minute walk from Las Ramblas, with Urquinoa underground station a short walk away. This will free up your time and enable you to fit in more time for sightseeing,as well as enabling you to avoid spending unnecessarily on taxis. Take note of how far away the hotel is from the airport too. Most hotels have free wifi and make sure you choose one that does, as roaming charges are extortionate.31064_388494872129_5858620_n
  4. Research the key attractions.  If you are planning a mini break to Barcelona, what are the top five things you want to do there and do you need to book things like the Sagrada Familia  or Monsterrat in advance to take advantage of early bird discounts or avoid the disappointment of tours filling up.
  5. Take out basic travel insurance to cover you and your family/fellow travelers for unfortunate events such as lost baggage, illness or injury. IMG_3136
  6. Allow yourself free time too. Personally, my trip to Barcelona was the perfect combination of organised tours and sightseeing, with free time to explore the city at a leisurely pace and absorb the atmosphere, culture and lifestyle, especially at places like La Boqueria Markets in Las Ramblas. So factor in a bit of free time for shopping and leisure in your trip. It is the best way to truly experience and absorb the culture. After all, holidays are supposed to be relaxing! Malta
  7. Check the weather of the place you are going to. Most European cities tend to be slightly  warmer than the UK, so you can finally replace your heavy winter coats, scarves and hats with lighter Spring gear! Since its not quite Summer yet, so you probably shouldn’t fill your suitcase entirely with bathing suits, singlet tops and flip flops-save these for your Summer holiday! Take note of dress codes too, especially for Cathedrals in Mediterranean countries, which require you to have your shoulders covered and do not permit you to wear flip flops. Be sure to take a half empty suitcase and leave plenty of room for shopping, as Barcelona in particular is an excellent city for shopping! IMG_3139
  8. Save time and check in online! Print your boarding pass, hotel and any other vouchers you may have. Having a  print out of your hotel voucher really comes in handy when you get to the airport and are trying to ask for directions via public transport or get a taxi to your hotel. You can also save time at the airport by ensuring that all your liquids greater than 100ml are in your checked baggage and that any liquids that you are taking in your carry on are less than 100ml and all within a sealed plastic  bag. Boots Pharmacy and supermarkets like Tescos have an excellent range of travel sized products such as shampoos and conditioner. If you did forget your toothbrush, do not despair! Most hotels provide these. IMG_3138
  9. Allow plenty of time to get to the airport and avoid driving if you can. Airports like Stansted Airport offer an airport express which departs from many of the big stations such as Kings Cross St Pancras and Liverpool Street. You will need to be at the airport at least an hour prior to departure, so ensure you allow plenty of time to get to the airport.
  10. Shop around for currency rates beforehand. Pack travel adapters. Another excellent idea is a portable battery for your smartphone, which will most likely have a big workout with all the photo taking. You can keep this in your handbag and avoid running out of battery at critical moments such at the top of  the tower of the Sagrada Familia! You can buy these at stores like Dixon Carphone, Currys or at your mobile phone store. IMG_3132
  11. Pack any medication you might need, including prescription medication and travel sickness tablets. Take precautionary supplies of paracetemol, cold and flu tablets, antihistamine, antiseptic, bandages, hand sanitiser and travel sized packets of tissues. Tissues and hand sanitiser are handy for helping you avoid picking up germs in airports and aeroplanes and also when you are out and about.  Unfortunately, I came down with a cold in Barcelona and Vienna and was glad I had cold and flu tablets on me so that I could start taking them, start feeling better faster and enjoy my holiday more! Also, whilst Spring means Europe is extra pretty, with all the flowers blossoming, however pollen levels tend to be higher which can trigger hayfever and/or allergies, so ensure you take your medication and/or antihistamine with you.  Buy these at your local supermarket or chemist, rather than the airport, though, where they charge you a lot more and lack the range that you can get in the supermarket. You may not be able to find your preferred brand abroad, so best to take some with you. 31064_388494882129_6095487_n

And you’re all set! All that’s left to do now is book your Spring mini break!Then sit back, relax and enjoy the journey!

What are you waiting for? Click here to book now and save!

 

 

City Sights

Sunday-my last day in Malta- was designed to be a day exploring Valletta, Malta’s capital city. Churches, shops and the famous Malta Experience.

Buses depart every 20 minutes from St Julians Bay and I enjoyed a morning walk along the coast in the sunshine to the bus stop. Malta is a traditionally Catholic city and church plays an important part in the Sundays of the local people there, so many people were heading to mass at the Our Lady of Carmel church in St Julians Bay, and also in Valetta.

IMG_2393

Valetta is a world heritage listed site, featuring baroque architecture, statutes, old churches, stalls selling everything from organic honey and jams to handmade jewellery, quaint outdoor cafes, piazzas, gelato bars and narrow streets with glimpses of the glistening blue Mediterranean sea. Being a Sunday, and a traditionally Catholic city, people were either coming from or heading to Sunday mass. It was named after Jean Parisot De La Valette.

IMG_2397

St John’s Cathedral is a must see. It was constructed by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578 and was designed by the prominent Maltese Military architect Glormu Cassar and features ornate interior decoration by Mattia Preti. When I got there, Sunday mass had just ended and people were spilling out of the church.

IMG_2388

After marveling at the church, I explored the various narrow streets and piazzas within Valetta, browsing the souvenir shops and stalls and buying souvenirs for family and friends back home.

IMG_2400

For lunch, I decided to try the traditional Maltese pizza in one of the outdoor cafes in the main piazza. The toppings consist of tomato sauce, Maltese sausage, bacon, peas and onion. I was starving and wood fired Maltese pizza really hit the spot. The cafe featured other traditional Maltese dishes such as rabbit stew and lampuki; the local fish.

IMG_2396

Afterwards, whilst admiring the artistic, almost too good to eat dolci in the cafes, I was tempted by coffee and tiramisu. After savouring the coffee and tiramisu and enjoying the glimpses of water views from various points of the city, I headed towards the pier, where there was a fortress and at the Grand Harbour there is the Malta Experience in the Meditterranean Conference centre which is a fabulous audio visual show encompassing the 7000 years of Malta’s history.  The Conference Centre was formerly La Sacra Infirmeria-The Sacred Hospital of the Mediterranean. It was built in 1574 and was a revolutionary hospital in Europe, where many chemists invented ground breaking treatments.

IMG_2426

Tickets are available for a tour of the former hospital and/or the show, with combined tickets being offered at a discount. Unfortunately, I hadn’t purchased tickets and had missed the session, but I enjoyed the picturesque scenery of Grand Harbour and made a mental note to come here next time.

IMG_2433

Sadly, it was time for good things to come to an end and I made my way back to the hotel, to collect my luggage and head to Luqa International Airport. I will miss this beautiful place, with its unspoiled rugged cliffs, crystal clear waters, such friendly and hospitable people, timeless Baroque architecture and delicious food served in quaint outdoor cafes. This little gem of an island is too wonderful not to visit!

Post card perfect

Hop on Hop Off Tours such as Viator’s tour are a perfect way to see a city. With regular stops at reasonable intervals, they provide you with the flexibility to cherry pick your destinations-ideal when you are on a limited timeframe. They provide you with informative audio visual commentary which provides context and greater significance to the places you are seeing.

That is exactly how I spent my Saturday in Malta. I chose the South City tour which covers Valetta-Malta’s capital city, the three cities (Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea), Tarxien Temples, Marsaxlokk, Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim & Mnajdra, Castille and the Mediterranean Conference Centre.

The tour was on a double decker hop on hop off bus, stopping first at Valetta, the capital city of Malta. There was informative audio commentary throughout the trip, providing context and significance to each place. Valetta is the administrative, and commercial capital of Malta and is named after Jean Parisotte de la Valette. It was built as a fortress city and was completed in 1566 and included bastions, forts and Cathedrals. You could get off and explore St John’s Co Cathedral and museum, as well as the beautiful gardens. Since I had decided to spend the day in Valetta the following day, I decided to concentrate on Marsaxlokk and the Blue Grotto.

IMG_2227

The next stops were the “three cities”: Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea. These offer a rich insight into Malta’s history and maritime life, being home to the numerous groups of settlers on the island. The harbour inlets have been used since the Phoenician times, with the docks providing a source of income for the local people. The three cities are the home to the Knights of St John and its palaces, fortresses and churches are much older than the ones in Valetta.

The next stop was the Tarxien Temples. The Tarxien Temples are an archaelogical complex in Malta, dating back to 3150BC. It was listed as a World Heritage site in 1980.

IMG_2219

Marsaxlokk is Malta’s fishing village, situated in the South East of Malta. During the great siege of Malta, it was used by the Ottoman fleet as anchorage. Most of Malta’s fishing supply is caught here and it is filled with colourful fishing boats and seafood restaurants. Every Sunday, there is a fish market there. I decided to alight there and explore. Once again, it was a beautiful, day with bright blue sky and sunshine and the water was crystal clear. There were several fishing boats and seafood restaurants and cafes along the coastline. Since it was lunchtime, I decided to have lunch here and get my fix of fresh seafood.

IMG_2234

Lampuki is one of the local fish in Malta and I had that grilled and served with homemade chips and a Meditterranean salad. Lampuki is similar to mahi-mahi and migrates to the Maltese waters during Autumn. It was delicious and I was well and truly in my element with alfresco dining and fresh seafood.

IMG_2330

The next stop was the Blue Grotto, which I was really looking forward to after reading glowing reviews about the crystal clear waters, rugged rocks, It consists of a series of sea caverns on the South Coast of Malta. Its colourful reflections make it popular with tourists for snorkelling and scuba diving. When I got there, it was every bit as beautiful as I imagined. You could do short (ten minute) boat trips inside the caves for EUR 8, which I did. There were about five people to a boat and the waters were relatively calm and the different shades of blue within the water were beautiful and amazing. There were several cafes, small pubs and seafood restaurants, servicing the many tourists.

IMG_2342

The next stops were Hagar Qim & Mnajdra, a megalithic temple complex. The last stop was the Mediterranean Conference Centre, which was a fairly non descript building. After the tour ended, I got off at St Julians Bay and walked to Sliema-once again past the port and through the shopping complex at Sliema, now illuminated with Christmas lights in all its glory. I had dinner at the same restaurant, once again ordering the Lampuki and the famous cassata for dessert. What an amazing day!  I had seen so many beautiful sight and tasted some delicious food. An evening stroll along the water was the perfect way to end this. Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow!

IMG_2201

 

 

 

Golden Bay

I woke up to a beautiful sunny day, without a cloud in the sky. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day and the idea of breakfast on the beach was very, very appealing, I decided to call in at Cafe Bocconcino. I had a delicious  homemade cheese and tomato pastry and a cappuccino.

I asked the friendly hotel staff for recommendations on what I could do that day, thinking that perhaps I could do a day trip to Gozo. They advised that I was a bit late for that as it was quite far and with public transport being relatively infrequent, I wouldn’t have much time there.  If I was after a day at the beach, my next best bet would be taking the bus to Golden Bay and the staff gave me directions to the nearest bus stop.

IMG_1993

The bus cost EUR 1.50 and took about 45 minutes to get to Golden Bay. Golden Bay was exactly what I was after; golden sand, crystal blue ocean, rugged rocks and panoramic views. It is situated next to Ghajn TuffiehIMG_1965a Bay, which is a quieter, red beach, about 200 steps from Golden Beach. The Radisson Blu Hotel is situated there and attracts many tourists.  Being mid December, it was low season and therefore pretty quiet, but I imagined it would be pretty busy during Summer time. By this stage it was lunch time. There were about three places to choose from to eat; the restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel and two beach cafes, one at the top of the hill and one further down. I chose the one at the top of the hill as it had better views and seating.

Essence had a broad range of Mediterranean dishes to choose from and I end

IMG_1985ed up choosing the deep fried calamari and a Mediterranean salad. With a glass of rose, of course! The calamari was fresh, golden and crispy and the salad refreshing, light and tangy. Of course, no meal is complete without dessert, so I took a short walk down to Pebbles and Radisson Blu to compare gelato choices and ended up choosing the hazelnut gelato from Pebbles.

IMG_2087

I then decided to follow the track to Ghajan Tuffieha Bay.

Ghajan Tuffieha Bay features a tower-the Tower of Ghajan Tuffieha Bay, built by the knights of Malta under the reign of Grand Master Juan de Lascaris-Castellar. It is one of the seven towers that was built between 1637-1640. There is also a camping site, Il Majistraal National Park and a small horse riding school.

After wIMG_2141atching a stunning sunset, I decided to head back into the city centre and took a walk from St Julians Bay to Sliema Village where I enjoyed the coastal walk and checked out the restaurants and shops lining the street, including The Point, a large shopping centre in Sliema, with cafes, restaurants and a few Christmas market style stalls in its plaza. I took photos of the streets lit up with their Christmas decorations. I also stopped by the beautiful Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in St Julians Bay and entered inside to take photos. The church was originally built in the 1570s and was given to the Carmelites in the 1700s, which is when it received its patronage.

IMG_2189

IMG_2178

IMG_2180

I then decided to have dinner at one of the many restaurants in Sliema and opted for a traditional Italian restaurant with outdoor seating and heaters. I chose a Vegetarian pasta dish which, in all honesty, was nothing to write home about, but the dessert, Cassata, was out of this world! It is a traditional Sicilian dessert made out of sponge cake, moistened with fruit liquer, and contains almond, ricotta cheese, candied peel and marzipan. It looked almost too pretty to eat! (I said almost!)-and tasted even better. Fully satisfied, I walked the 20 minute walk back to my hotel. Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow, coming soon!

IMG_2203

Making the Most of Malta!

Malta! The photos in my family photo album from the last time I was there looked so appealing! Crystal blue waters, Latin architecture, delicious Meditterranean food and mild climate conjured in my mind, making it an easy decision as to where to go next. Since I hadn’t been there since the age of six months, which is a very, very long time, this pretty much counted as a new destination for me.  All I needed to do now was book it!

IMG_2044

Stansted is the easiest airport for me to reach, via the Stansted Express which departs from key stations within London, such as Liverpool Street and takes just under an hour to get to the airport. Unfortunately, after looking at all the options, flight times were not ideal-either super early in the morning, or late afternoon, meaning I would arrive there in the evening and miss a day there. I chose the latter and opted to depart Malta in the evening on the way back, to get a full three days in.

Three and a half hours later, I was in Luqa-Malta International Airport. It was about eight O’clock in the evening and one thing that surprised me initially was that all the signs in the airport, the taxi driver and the street signs on the way from the airport to my hotel in St Julians Bay-were in perfect English! Maltese, English and Italian are the three official languages in Malta, reflecting Malta’s mixed origins and empires throughout its history. The other thing that struck me was how helpful and friendly everyone was! From the taxi driver, to the hotel staff who recommended a place to eat, to the staff at the restaurant where I ate that night.

IMG_2276

Malta is a small European Island, just 80 kilometres south of Sicily, 284 kilometres East of Tunisia and 333 kilometres north of Libya. It has had a mixed succession of empires, ranging from the Romans, Moors, Spanish, Sicilians, French and English. Given its history and geography, I expected this to be reflective of the food and culture, but the food was predominantly Sicilian, with some French influence and local fresh seafood such as Lampuki.

IMG_1949

I had dinner at U Bistrot, a restaurant next door from the hotel and across from St Julians Bay, where I could enjoy the view while eating.  The restaurant offered typical Sicilian food, such as risottos, anti pasto platters, salads and traditional desserts. I was famished and it was a bit chilly that evening, being mid December so a hearty risotto hit the spot. Hot, tasty and delicious. I was tempted by the desserts (rationalizing that the calories covered both lunch and dinner as I had skipped lunch). I ordered Canele, a delicate pastry, served warm with a delicious caramel sauce. So contented! I decided to end the evening with a short stroll around St Julians Bay. The bayside was lined with restaurants, cafes and hotels and the beautiful Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

I stayed at the Hotel Argento in St Julians Bay. The hotel is classy and modern, the staff were very friendly and helpful and the room was comfortable and flawless.

IMG_1955

Can’t wait to explore this beautiful place more tomorrow! Stay tuned!

 

Sagrada Familia

I was told that I couldn’t go to Barcelona without seeing the iconic Sagrada Familia. It boasts Gaudi’s magnificent architecture and is arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Barcelona.

IMG_1710Due to the popularity and crowds at Sagrada familiar, the very helpful hotel staff advised me to book online. By doing so, with Viator, this enables you to avoid queuing up for 1.5 hours to get in.  When booking online, you can select a timeslot that you would like to visit and there are different package options. I would recommend selecting the Top Views package for EUR 29.00 as this includes entry to the tower where the birds eye views of Barcelona are breathtaking. I chose the 10am slot, given that I was flying back to London that evening and wanted to make the most of the day, whilst still allowing me time for a lie in, capuccino and pastry. It is easily accessible by public transport, with Sagrada Familia metro station being the nearest metro station, which is where I got off. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I could see stalls being set up across the road from the Sagrada Familia in preparation for the Christmas markets. Since I had a few spare minutes before my pre determined entry time, I decided to browse the local area-it was a tidy, but peaceful area, with terracotta style cafes and shops and a pretty public garden across from the Sagrada Familia where the Christmas markets were being set up.

IMG_1709

The ticket included an audio guide to the Sagrada Familia, which explained the history of the Sagrada Familia and the significance of the designated stations. Construction of the Sagrada Familia commenced in 1882, with architect Antoni Gaudi taking over in 1883 and transforming it to reflect his architectural and engineering style; a combination of Gothic and curvillinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudi passed away in 1926, when construction was less than 25% complete and construction is currently 70% complete.

IMG_1724

I walked from station to station, listening to the audio guide, in awe of this beautiful cathedral, so majestic, yet with so much detail and thought into each and every feature-the spires, the facades, the layout and the sculptures. The overall layout of the Cathedral is typical of Catalan and other Gothic European Cathedrals. It has a complex layout, with double aisles, several towers, an ambulatory with seven chapels, each in distinctly different sizes and in decoration.  Another interesting feature of the Cathedral I noticed was a rectangular cloister enclosing the church.  The Cathedral has eight imposing spires, which the audio guide explained represent the four apostles present at Jesus birth, and the four apostles present at Jesus death. Gaudi’s design is for eighteen spires, with the remainder still to be constructed.

IMG_1743

The next station I went to was the Nativity Facade. Gaudi’s designs feature three facades; the Nativity Facade, the Passion Facade and the Glory Facade, with the Nativity and Passion Facades so far being constructed. The Nativity Facade is situated in the Basilica’s East and is dedicated to the birth of Jesus. It consists of four towers; each being dedicated to a Saint and has ornately decorated sculptures; decorated with natural images such as turtles and chameleons. The Nativity Facade faces the rising sun in the North East and is divided into three Porticos; each representing a theological value (hope, faith and charity). There is a Tree of Life decoration, rising above the door of Jesus in the Portico of Charity.

IMG_1720

The next stops took me inside the Cathedral, which was just as stunning as the outside-enormous, light, bright and airy, ornate with intricately decorated stained glass windows. The audio guide explained that the interior layout of the church depicted a cross with five aisles. Towards the rear end of the Cathedral was the Lord’s prayer engraved on the wall.

IMG_1731

The tour then lead me to the Passion Facade. I found the decoration and features, such as the  This was facing the sunset and had much harsher, simpler features than the Nativity Facade, reminiscent of the sombre atmosphere surrounding Jesus passion and death. The stations of the cross are featured in a Spiral in three layers, with Jesus death on the cross being on the top.

I was really eager to see the tower, after hearing raving reviews about its panoramic views of Barcelona. You had to take a small lift up to the tower, due to the limited space and it was amazing, being up there and gazing down at the picture perfect, postcard image of this sprawling, beautiful city of Barcelona.

IMG_1733

After I had finished with Sagrada Familia, I decided that I wanted to get my first taste of European Christmas markets. I had seen stalls being set up around the Barcelona Cathedral and had heard how beautiful European Christmas markets were. I had heard that night time was the best time to go, but unfortunately I was flying out that evening, so would have to settle for daytime. Besides, I needed to get my mum her figurines!

IMG_1752

By the time I got back to the Barcelona Cathedral, the Christmas market stalls were set up, featuring Christmas decorations, stockings, knitted articles, handmade soaps, tablecloths, jewellery and glass ornaments-and most importantly-my mum’s figurines!

 

 

IMG_1754

IMG_1757
My mum’s figurines at the Christmas markets at the Cathedral of Barcelona

After getting my mum’s figurines, I browsed around the shops. My sister Cristobel had given me a long list of things she would like for Christmas and as it happened to be the Black Friday Sales, I decided to take advantage of it and do my Christmas shopping. But not before I had eaten lunch. One needs sustenance for shopping!

IMG_1769
Tapas platter at Taller de Tapas of deep fried squid, ham & cheese croquettes, spicy potatoes and fried beans

Since I was so impressed with Taller de Tapas, I decided to go back there for lunch and ordered the Tapas special, which consisted of Patates Bravas (spiced potatoes), deep fried squid ham and cheese croquettes, chorizo, spicy meatballs and beans. Delicious, satisfying and hit the spot! Time for shopping! Barcelona is terrific for shopping, particularly with the Christmas markets being open and the Black Friday Sales. All the major European brands were there and Placa Catalunya, El Raval, La Ramblas and Diagonal Mar are excellent for fashion and gifts, with stores like Berksha, H&M, Desigual, Zara as well as department stores and boutiques selling jewellery, beauty products, shoes, and traditional Spanish sweets like marzipan and handmade chocolates. It was a very productive afternoon, where I ticked off many items from my sister’s list and from my overall Christmas list-and bought some marzipan for my aunt and uncle. (Plus a few little presents for me, like a warm jumper from Berksha which has come in handy for the British Winter!) Definitely go to Barcelona with a half empty suitcase! I made the mistake of not taking checked baggage and was seriously cramming everything into my hand luggage to the point where it was nearly bursting at the seams!

IMG_1444
Pastries

As it was my last few hours in Barcelona, I decided to cram in as many “last” snacks as possible. I was yet to try the traditional Spanish hot chocolate, so I tried one at a cafe with a pastry and it was dark, dense and delicious and the pastry hot, light and fluffy. Sadly it was time for good things to come to an end-time to head to the airport.

IMG_1502
Barcelonetta Beach: the part about the trip which I enjoyed the most

Shuttle buses to Barelona El Prat Airport depart every 15 minutes from Plaza Catalunya and are blue in colour, with separate stops depending on the terminal. It takes about 45 minutes to get from the city centre to the airport and the shuttle bus costs about EUR 6.00-which is very, very reasonable. The sun set as the shuttle bus drove to the airport and I watched it go down as I reflected on all the enjoyable times I had had on this trip. I would definitely recommend Barcelona as a place to visit for a family holiday, a long weekend for couples or a group of friends. There is something there for everyone-shopping, culture, history, coastal and mountainous scenery and delicious food. Time to plan my next holiday!

xoxo