Whenever I visit a new city I like to pick a photographic theme. Barcelona was easy, the view of street art was everywhere. There seems to be an unwritten rule about graffitii in Barcelona, it is mostly limited to the doors of shops. The artistry varies but it is always colorful. As we walked through the city you get a feel for the neighborhood and the people. When you look at the street art, you see the people and businesses that are the neighborhood.
I have tried to include a good variety of artwork and if nothing else, I hope to encourage others to look around and take notice of the art around us. Recognize the artistry along with the creative graffi. Often the doors advertise the business behind them. To catch much of the art you must get up early before the doors open and the artwork is hidden from view.
I love a rainy day. We live in the desert, and when desert storms begin there is a sweet odor of desert plants like creosote bushes that fill the air. Following a desert rain plants bloom, washes turn to little streams and long silent desert color begin to blossom almost immediately. So of course I love rain. There is no raining on my parade.
We are getting ready for our first transatlantic cruise on Azamara Club Cruises. We’ve been looking forward to this cruise for a while because it was going to give us an opportunity to visit places we’ve never been and revisit some places we really loved. We will even be reconnecting with friends we made on a previous journey. Anyone who knows me knows I’m an optimist. But lately I’ve had to try harder to not be worried. Originally, the cruise itinerary planned to visit the islands of Saint Maarten and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Due to the devastation caused by two hurricanes the islands have been removed from the ship’s itinerary. I am sad for the people on the islands living in very difficult circumstances with broken infrastructure and still dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster. We loved visiting the magnificent beaches of Saint Maarten and delighted in exploring old town San Juan. I can only hope that the islands recover quickly and pray for the lovely people we met on our last trip.
I don’t lose any sleep thinking about terrorists. Being vigilant, aware of my surroundings and hopeful is basically all anyone can do. I will not stay home, I will not be dissuaded from travel. I love meeting new people and exploring new cultures.
Our transatlantic journey leaves from Barcelona and has stops at Madeira, Portugal, Gibraltar and Bermuda. We visited Barcelona last year and fell in love with the gothic city. The food and wine were fabulous. It is such a walkable city with so many more treasure waiting for us to discover. Unfortunately, Barcelona has been the victim of terrorist activity recently. Currently half a million protesters are in the streets of Barcelona marching for a separate state of Catalonia, apart from Spain. Hopefully the protests remain peaceful. I am certain this cruise is not cursed. The trip will be a wonderful experience. However, I did read that there is concern about a tsunami hitting Madeira. I will continue to be optimistic.
This has been an epic year for my husband Greg and I. I retired from a teaching job that I loved, learned to live with my husband full time, started blogging, traveled extensively and rekindled my passion for photography.
My husband and I have learned the dance of being retired together. He has his hobbies and interests and I am learning to take time to do the things that I love. First I had to figure out what those things were (writing, photography, crafts) but now we give each other space, so that later we want to spend time together. This year our European travels have included Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Amsterdam, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. My husband and I are very different people, he is quiet organized and cerebral and I am spontaneous, outgoing, and attention seeking. But the one thing that we agree upon is that we both passionately love to travel and meet new people from around the globe.
For this blog I decided to include some of my favorite photographs from the year. I hope you enjoy them.
This was a special gift we enjoyed nightly in Rome, our Airbnb was located in a fabulous area with shops, restaurants and so many sights to enjoy.
Sometimes you find you stumble upon a real gem of a restaurant, a family run place with homemade pasta and delicious specialities offered each night.
The location of our Airbnb in Florence was just steps from the Ponte Vecchio.
The sheer size and beauty of David was worth the trip to Florence.
We spent five days in the beautiful area known as Cinque Terre, where we enjoyed the spectacular scenery, hiking and seeing the beautiful cities clinging to the cliffs..
Following Cinque Terre we rented a car and explored Siena and Tuscany.
It was a great pleasure to turn in our car in Rome and board the Celebrity Equinox. No unpacking for a week and we were able to visit some great new places on the way to Barcelona.
After a week in Barcelona we took a flight to Geneva, Switzerland to visit friends and see much of the pristine beauty of Switzerland.
We left Switzerland and headed for a few days in Amsterdam, a city we loved because of its beauty, accessibility, friendliness and rich history.
Next, we flew to London for a few days before we boarded a cruise to the British Isles.
I hope you enjoy seeing some highlights of Europe 2016. I promise there is more travel to come in 2017. I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy new year.
We arrived in Barcelona ready to walk Las Ramblas, (the pedestrian center for shopping, sightseeing and people watching) Barcelona is packed with visitors, shopping opportunities, restaurants and really interesting neighborhoods. On our first morning we took part in a walking tour of the old city. We saw Roman ruins of the old wall that surrounded Barcelona, ancient churches and learned much of the history of Barcelona. We have been warned by many about pickpockets and it is apparent that you must be aware and vigilant with your purse, wallet and cellphone. But this is a spectacular city with so much to do and see.
Newer bridge in older part of Barcelona
Top of cf Temple of Sacred Heart of Jesus
Sagrada Familia Basilica
Gaudi designed building
Drink from the fountain and always return to Barcelona
Inside Sagrada Familia
Funicular up to Tibidado mountain
View from funicular
This week we have had some wonderful experiences. The weather has been fantastic. We have loved walking and dining outside in the cafes along the plazas. Often buskers (street musicians who rely on tips) surround the area with the lovely sound of their music. Barcelona is an extremely walkable city and we have walked nearly everywhere. We visited the beach which turned out to be a crowded, urban beach. A young guy was passed out the sand in front of me for quite a while. I thought he might be a bum, but later his friend came and gave his something to eat and drink. He went into the ocean and didn’t even have a towel. Apparently he and his buddy went to the beach from the last party. They were foreign exchange students from Australia. When we left the beach I gave him my unused towel. The guy was so sweet and grateful.
We also visited La Sagrada Familia, the famous unfinished basilica designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. The inside was spectacular with changing colors as the sun moved in the sky. We were relieved that the visitors were limited, which afforded us time in the church so we could appreciate it’s beauty and simplicity. It is definitely a good idea to purchase tickets online to reserve a specific time so you don’t have to wait in line.
We went to Tibadado mountain up a funicular to see the view of Barcelona from the mountain to the sea. At the top of the mountain is a beautiful church, Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We climbed around a bit and had an early dinner at Mirablau, with a view of all of Barcelona.
It’s fun to visit several local markets. I loved seeing all of the unique local fresh produce, fish and meats available. We both enjoy cooking and we love paella so we jumped at the chance to book Marta’s Private Paella Cooking Class which we found on TripAdvisor. After a bit of a difficult time finding her building (we will blame Mapquest and not my husband) Marta warmly greeted us to her home. We met six other people from around the globe who shared our interest in cooking. Marta, a former teacher explained the fundamentals of paella with patience and charm. We learned about the importance of quality ingredients and the order in which they must be cooked. Everyone took part in the preparation of the meats, fish and vegetables. Marta has a large propane powered paella pan on her patio that easily held enough food for a dozen people. Within a few hours we learned all of the elements of paella typical of Catalonia. It was great fun to be part of this diverse group of people who worked together and produced a truly delicious meal! We sat down at the table toasted one another and enjoyed the best paella ever. If you are interested in joining Marta’s class you can contact her at:firstname.lastname@example.org