Barcelona Travel Guide: Things to Do & See

 

My first trip to Spain was this past weekend. I know, crazy, right? I can’t believe it’s taken me 29 years to visit such a beautiful country and one that my husband especially loves. Vinn actually studied abroad in Madrid for a summer and speaks fluent Spanish, so he was really hyped to show me around one of his top favorite countries!

We spent four days in Barcelona, just enjoying our time, taking it easy and drinking pitchers of sangria. I think we found the perfect balance of touristy and relaxing, so I wanted to share what we did in case you get to the opportunity to visit Barcelona. And, believe me, you should. In another post, I will share where we ate because we had some pretty epic meals.

Where to Stay

I wanted to give a quick note about where we stayed because it was just fantastic!! We stayed at the W Barcelona, which is right on the beach. You can see the hotel from every vantage point throughout the city and it has great amenities.

The hotel is quite far from all the happenings of Barcelona but it’s still a nice walk. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the main areas. There is also a cable car that will take from the little peninsula to the “main land,” which seemed really cool. You can’t take your dog on that so we didn’t get to do it, unfortunately.

Barcelona Beach Hotel

You can see the hotel in the background. It’s supposed to look like the sail of a boat. The rooms all have Nespresso machines, which we loved because then we didn’t have to think about getting coffee in the mornings. We also ordered room service breakfast twice just to make life a little easier. When traveling with a dog with lots of energy, sitting down for a breakfast isn’t always easy!

Overall, I highly recommend the W Barcelona. Even if you don’t stay there, visit their bar, Eclipse, because it has tremendous views of the city and beach!

Sagrada Familia

A visit to Barcelona is not complete without a visit to Sagrada Familia. The church is the largest unfinished church in the world and was designed by Antoni Gaudi. Unfortunately, Gaudi passed away before he could complete the church and it has been under renovation since his death in 1926.

 

Barcelona Sagrada Familia Facade

The church currently has eight spires and Gaudi designed the church to have 18, 12 for the apostles, 4 for the Gospel writers and one for Jesus and Mary. Since there is construction constantly, there is scaffolding everywhere, both inside and outside the basilica. The goal is to complete Sagrada Familia in the next few years to match the original ideas by Gaudi. It is definitely a tall order but will be so worth it in the end.

Sagrada Familia Outside

The inside of the church is truly remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like it. Gaudi wanted to design the church so everything could be seen from the entrance, so there are curves everywhere. The stained glass shines beautifully from all angles and your neck will hurt from looking at the ceiling.

Sagrada Familia Ceiling Entrance

Sagrada Familia Stained Glass

Sagrada Familia Jesus

This cross is hanging above the alter and is just magical. I sat in a pew and just looked at it for about 15 minutes.  It was a wonderful moment for me, spiritually and emotionally. I felt a connection to my Mima, like she was there with me. There’s is something about being in a church that makes you think about life and really deep things. And this UNESCO World Heritage site is the perfect place for that.

Ceiling of Sagrada Familia

 

Sun coming in on Sagrada Familia

It is possible to visit the top of one of the two towers, Passion or Nativity. The Passion tower faces the city and the Nativity faces the water. We chose the Passion tower and were honestly a little disappointed. The towers are under construction, so you couldn’t go all the way to the top and there were bars everywhere obstructing views. There are elevators that take you up but you must take a spiral staircase on the way down.

It is necessary to buy tickets in advance because it will save you money and time. In fact, when we got there, the tickets were sold out for the day. To purchase tickets, click here. Allot for about 1.5 hours to visit and make sure you arrive on time so you don’t have to worry about missing your designated entry.

Sagrada Familia Stained Glass

Casa Batllo

This was probably my favorite thing we did in Barcelona. Another Antoni Gaudi design, this house is one of his most exquisite designs from his life. I mean, just look at the details!

Casa Batllo Barcelona

Again, it is smart to buy your tickets in advance. You can purchase them online here and we opted for the fast pass so we could skip the line. It was very easy to find and get all set up with our audio guide. They even allow pets, so Copley got to come with us.

Your audio guide will tell how Gaudi designed the rooms and there’s even an interactive piece that displays what the room looked like when it was occupied by a family. Just like Sagrada Familia, there are curves everywhere and stained glass on almost all of the windows. The house was designed to feel like you are under water or part of the ocean throughout your visit and that is exactly what it feels like thanks to all the blue glass.

My favorite part is that the house has a little balcony set up with a camera, so you can have your picture taken on the outside. It was 12€ and worth every penny. You get a physical print and a digital download. This is my favorite picture from our trip!

Tour of Casa Batllo

Part of your ticket includes going on the roof of the house and exploring the old washing rooms. The roof is amazing and you can see most of Barcelona and seeing these broken tiles up close is spectacular.

Family on Roof of Casa Batllo

 

Casa Batllo Towers

 

Park Güell

 

Park Guell Sign

Another must visit and another Gaudi construction. You should purchase your tickets ahead of time because it does get really crowded. We went at 9 AM and by 10 AM you could barely see any of the monuments. It’s definitely worth it to get there early.

 

Park Guell Views

We spent about 2 hours walking around the park, taking pictures and sitting on the benches. The tiles are so amazingly beautiful, your eyes just get caught in the patterns and the detail. There are different sections of Park Güell the monument part that requires and entrance ticket and then the nature parts that do not. We walked around the nature parts, as well, but once you leave, you can’t come back in.

Park Guell on a Bench

 

 

Park Guell Columns

Can you spot Copley?

Las Ramblas

A walk along the most famous boulevard in Barcelona is one of the first things we did. Las Ramblas is a very long street with street vendors everywhere, flower shops, restaurants and bakeries. The street is PACKED with people, so go with caution. This is also a major area of pick pockets. There is also a food market that looked fun but was filled to the brim with people, so we did not visit.

If you are only in Barcelona for a few days, these sites will definitely keep you busy. Most of these destinations are not close to each other, so you’ll be walking a lot or taking a cab. But, one thing’s for sure, you will not be bored in Barcelona!!  I leave you with a cute picture of Copley.

Dog in Park Guell

 

What to Do & See in Barcelona, Spain in a Weekend

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How to Choose an AirBnB in Europe

 

It’s no secret that I travel a lot around Europe. Probably once or twice a month. Sometimes it’s a quick long weekend and other times it’s a two week adventure. I’ve written about how I plan and research for our European vacations and today I thought I would chat about how to choose an AirBnB.

When we travel, a lot of the time we stay in hotels because my sister works for a hotel chain and we get some great deals. Thanks, Laura! But sometimes, the hotels are booked or we’re traveling with a larger group, so we opt to rent an AirBnB instead.

*If you’ve never used AirBnB, click on this link to sign up for an account and receive a $40 travel credit. This is an affiliate link.*

We’ve chosen AirBnB’s in Vienna, Venice, Geneva with my parents, Reims with friends and Split with my sister and boyfriend. All of the apartments have worked out and I’ve learned the best ways to search on the site, how to filter and what to look for on the listing. If you’re traveling to Europe, an AirBnB is a great option because you will most likely have access to a kitchen, be in the heart of town and save some money! Here are my tips for choosing an AirBnB in Europe.

Filter by entire apartment // First and foremost, I always filter by entire place. This way, I know I will not have to share with anyone and will be able to only see those options. The other options are for a private room or shared room and if those are up your alley, go for it! But when traveling with a spouse or another couple, going the entire place route is the way to go.

Choosing an apartment for your European vacation

Select the number of bedrooms, not number of beds // This one is especially important when traveling with more than one person or couple. I always filter by the number of bedrooms instead of number of beds. This way, you know there won’t be a pull out mattress in one room and the host is saying you can fit 6 people in an apartment with only two bedrooms.

Choosing the amenities // The amenities filter is where you can choose your preferences. If you will be working, blogging or wanting to stream Netflix, I always select WiFi. If you’re going in the summer, pick air conditioning and winter, select heat. Our AirBnB in Reims didn’t have air conditioning or fans, so we made sure to bring our own and it was a life saver!

Read the reviews // The reviews are where you get A LOT of information. Many reviewers will include how the check-in process was, if there are lots of stairs to the apartment and how close the place is to restaurants and attractions. Many people also say if the rooms are tight, there’s a bad smell or how attentive the host is. I do not rent it if there are less than 4 stars.

Essentials // Here’s a big one. Always make sure under the amenities tab of each listing shows “Essentials.” See how in this example, there is a line through air conditioning but not for essentials? This means that the apartment will have bed sheets, towels and soap. You do not want to show up on your vacation and have to find a store that sells towels just so you can take a shower.

Choosing your AirBnB apartment in Europe

Pay attention to house rules // This is where the host will put in information like if the apartment is suitable for events or if there are quiet hours and the check-in, check-out times. I pay close attention that the house rules say No Smoking since I don’t want to stay at a place that smells like smoke.

The photos are worth 1,000 words // Keep in mind that anyone can make a place look great with pictures, but really pay attention to them. For example, the same apartment in Reims didn’t really show a picture of the bathroom, only a picture of a tub and sink. This should have been a giveaway that there was no shower and only a tub with a handle on it. Everything worked out fine, but it was a little strange to only take baths for two days. I never worry about decor because who cares, you’re not going to be spending time in the place too much but want to make sure the beds look comfortable and not too small.

The cancellation policy // AirBnB has several different measures for cancellation. Some policies only allow you to cancel your trip for a full refund prior to 30 days. You’ll want to make sure you understand your options, just in case.

Communication with the host // I usually send several emails back and forth with the host, which you must do through AirBnB’s site. I tell them who we are, when we’re arriving and ask for restaurant recommendations. I emailed with our Reims host several times to ask about fans, which is how I knew we needed to bring them. Use the host as your concierge and ask anything. Most are usually super helpful and will recommend airport shuttles, restaurants and things to do in the area.

Well, those are my tips! I hope they help you book your next dream vacation.

Have you ever stayed at an AirBnB? If yes, how was it? Did you do anything other than the above tips when you booked? If no, would you ever?

Choosing an apartment for your next European vacation

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11 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me: Sunshine Blogger Nomination

 

TGIF!! I’m popping on the blog today to share that Room for Gelato was nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award, an award that highlights various bloggers and allows them to share 11 facts about themselves involving blogging, life and everything in-between.

I was nominated by Powered by Sass. Go check out her blog for some real-talk about life, body image, work-life balance and some hilarious anecdotes on surviving life as a military girlfriend. Thanks for the nomination, Kaitlyn.

Kaitlyn wrote these 11 questions and I’m going to share my answers and, hopefully, you’ll learn something new about me!

Pumpkin_Festival_Ludwigsburg

How did you get into blogging? 

Well, I originally started Room for Gelato to share my marathon training journey with friends and family. I was never really a “runner,” but wanted to challenge myself and reach a fitness goal. I ended up finishing the Nashville Marathon with my husband and took a break from blogging. When we moved to Germany in 2016, Room for Gelato became a way to share what this new life was like with everyone back home. Now, it’s about expat life, travel and all the great things in life. You can never have enough great things, like you can never turn down gelato after a big Italian meal.

Who are some of your favorite bloggers and blogging inspirations?

Oh gosh. I have so many. I got into blogs after a co-worker shared a blog post from Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers about how to pack for a two-week, European vacation and I’ve been addicted ever since. I also love Cupcakes & Cashmere, Carrots ‘n Cake, Powered by Sass, Maureen Gets Real, Blair Blogs, Capsule and Carly, the Prepster.

As far as blogging inspirations, I love to read articles from Pinterest and am super thankful for Blair Blogs’ Blogging Mentorship Program. Blair inspired me to go after my dreams and gave me the motivation to keep blogging and sharing.

What’s your most favorite vacation destination?

Oh man, this is a tough one because you know I love to travel! But if I have have to pick one, I would say Italy because there’s everything: beaches, mountains, vineyards and amazing food and wine.

What’s your #1 piece of advice for being confident?

Screw everyone else, you’re awesome. Let the world see it.

What do you love most about yourself?

Hmm…probably that I can turn any negative situation into a positive. I can always find the joke and use that to my advantage when going through a negative or sad time. I also think I’m quite hilarious.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without?

Cheesy answer: my husband, dog, family and friends. Legit answer: Probably my Apple TV.

What character from Friends are you and why?

My most favorite show of all time! If I have to pick one, I’d probably say Chandler because I am sarcastic and don’t take life too seriously. If I could pick two, I would add Monica because I’m a slight control freak and like to be the hostess and a good cook.

Favorite motivational quote?

Comparison is the thief of joy. I wrote a whole blog post about this topic!

Name 3 things you’ve learned since growing older that you wish your college self knew.

One, that your story will play out the way it is supposed to. Two, working in an office doesn’t have to be your career. Three, there are things you can’t control, loosen up.

What’s your favorite city in the U.S. to explore and why?

New York City. There’s just so much to see, do, eat and drink. There’s always a new, up and coming neighborhood to wonder, great Broadway shows and Magnolia Bakery is always a good idea.

What’s your all-time, I-will-die-if-I-never-eat-this-again favorite food?

My mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. No question!

That was fun! Did you learn something new?

Now onto the rules for the Sunshine Blogger Award. The rules are to nominate other bloggers and give them questions to answer on their blogs. I’m nominating 5 bloggers & giving them 11 questions to answer.

The bloggers I nominate:

  1. Maureen Gets Real
  2. Horne State of Mind
  3. Blair Blogs
  4. Capsule Blog 
  5. Pugs & Pearls 

Your Questions:

  1. Why did you decide to start blogging?
  2. What would you do if you weren’t blogging? If blogging is your side hustle, what would your side hustle be if you weren’t blogging?
  3. Where was the last place you traveled?
  4. Who was the last person you texted? What was the text?
  5. Where’s your favorite place to shop?
  6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  7. What’s your favorite season and why?
  8. Favorite motivational quote?
  9. What’s your favorite sport to watch and play?
  10. If you could only go to the same destination for vacation each year, where would you go?
  11. What advice would you give to your 16-year old self?

Your Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate 5 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

And now it’s your turn! Pick 3 of the above questions and answer them in the comments below so I can get to know you a little better! Happy Weekend!

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Experiences over Gifts

 

Happy Valentine’s Day. Or Galentine’s Day. Or just happy Wednesday if you don’t feel like celebrating this year.

I am a combination of the first and last this year. Valentine’s Day used to be all about writing little cards and giving out candy to everyone in your class, making a homemade mailbox for all the cards you’d receive and then eating your body weight in chocolate. I miss the simpler times.

I mean, I will gladly take all the chocolate and a nice card but really only need one from my husband. And probably my mom. She still sends me little notes and gifts on Valentine’s Day and I love that tradition. It usually involves heart Reese’s cups! So, this holiday will always have a special place in my heart because mine and Vinn’s first real date was Valentine’s Day 2007. Whoa, that was 11 years ago.

Vinn and I have celebrated with gifts, cards, candy and flowers years past but we’ve recently adopted an experience gifting scenario in place of physical gifts. I’ve written about it more in this post and this year is no exception. We booked a trip to Barcelona this weekend and it will be my first time visiting Spain. It’s been on my list for as long as I can remember and I’m really excited to finally check it! I hope we are still able to go because Vinn pulled a back muscle at a tennis match on Saturday and hasn’t been comfortable or mobile since. Fingers crossed.

I would much rather spend the holiday weekend experiencing new things with my husband than have another piece of jewelry or purse. I want to be able to sit on our front porch when we’re old and look back on all the things we did, not look at all the things we’ve bought.  I want to try new foods and build memories with my Valentine instead of gifts.

Of course, when we have kids, I will gladly welcome the homemade mailboxes again and will definitely give them gifts, but for now, I’m choosing experiences over gifts. They fuel my soul and are what make worth living.

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day this year?

Why I'm Choosing Experiences Over Gifts This Valentine's Day

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Cultural Differences Between Germany & America

 

I have certainly touched on some of the cultural differences between life in Germany compared to life in America, like no stores being open on Sundays and how your neighbor can sign for your packages in you aren’t home. Now that it’s been over two years since moving to Germany, I thought I would share even more cultural differences.

I would like to first say that these are not positive or negative things, they are merely differences. And differences are what make cultural so exciting and make the world go round. If you’re traveling to Germany, I hope these differences will allow for you to more easily adapt to life when you’re visiting. If you’re moving to Germany, I hope these will help ease you into your home.

Breastfeeding in public is no big deal here // I am not a mother but I have noticed that mothers here are more open and free with breastfeeding in public. I have seen women feeding their babies in grocery stores, restaurants, stores, etc. It’s a natural thing.

Car trips are given in distance, not time // If someone asks how far it is to your parents’ house, for example, Germans respond in kilometers. In the States, I would say I live 4 hours from my parents because I have no idea how many miles that is!

The middle finger // Giving someone the middle finger out of anger, like when you’re driving, is against the law. It can actually result in a lost license. Admittedly, I have to remember this a little too often.

Parenting and work reviews // I have been told by other Germans that parents are very critical and do that because it’s how they show love. If your parents aren’t criticizing you, they don’t love you. The same thing goes for work reviews. You will rarely get a, “That was so well done. Thank you so much. You’re great.” But you will get, “You have done a pretty good job, but…” Some say this produces children who can handle the world and are self-reliant and not reliant on trophies or pats on the back.

The German stares // It is well-known that Germans like things done a certain way and if you’re doing it wrong, they will point it out or just stare at you. If you wear athletic clothes outside the gym (hello, me everyday), then you will get stares. Sometimes, you’ll just be walking down the street and get stares. It takes some getting used to, but I don’t even notice it anymore.

More vacation time // It’s not just in the number of days, it is the acceptance that someone is on vacation that is most striking. Germans receive 30 days of vacation, as well as earning vacation days if they are an associate (not a manager, director or above) for working over 40 hours per week, but vacations are typically two weeks or more. In August, offices are a ghost town because people are on their summer holiday for 3 weeks. While this idea is unfathomable to many Americans, it is welcomed, appreciated and expected in Germany. The most striking thing is that co-workers, bosses and upper management accept when their employees are on vacation. No one bothers you, expects an email response or for anyone to log onto their computer at all. Projects aren’t expected to still be completed on time, either. “So-and-so is on vacation,” is a complete answer and is the project status. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but happens more often than not.

Team work // This one I know thanks to Vinn’s German teacher. He was in a lesson and asked how to say team work in German. She said, “team work,” just like in English. And then she went on to stay that Germans are not taught team work nor is it a focus in school or sports. Remember in college when you had 5 classes and 5 group projects? That doesn’t exist in Germany. Everything is by yourself. German students, even undergraduate students, must write a thesis surrounding a topic and include interviews with professionals. It’s all per student.

Splitting checks is easier // Eating out with friends is so much easier in Germany. The wait staff split the check for you and most places accept credit cards. There’s no getting a check, writing the last 4 digits of your card on the back of it and waiting for wait staff to swipe your card. In Germany, you just tell the waiter what you ate, how much you want to tip (you give the total amount you want to spent), and they run your card right at the table. It’s much easier! It will still take a long time, but it’s easier.

Of course there are more, but these are the ones that have affected me and stick out the most.

Have you ever been to a country other than your own? What culture differences did you notice? 

Cultural Differences Between Germany & US, What to know when traveling to Germany

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