Everyday Moments, Travel

30 Before 30: #3 Travel Back to Europe = Done!

October 1, 2016

May 2009 was the first and only time I’ve been to Europe so it’s been a goal to make it back (sooner than later).


We booked this trip ourselves instead of going through a travel agent or company. It was much easier to do than I thought it would be. RomeToRio.com was a big help when figuring out our options for traveling between cities. Cities are relatively close and having the options of train and flying makes it even more convenient. I would even consider hopping between countries comparable to hopping between states here in the US.

As a summary of our two weeks in Europe…

Things We Learned
I would totally recommend Delta for international flying. We booked through Delta–flying over on Virgin Atlantic and then Delta coming home. We didn’t upgrade anything and chose to sit in coach, but still had a very pleasant experience. Free food, free booze, pleasant flight attendants. (This was my first time flying with them, and I don’t belong to a rewards program with an international airline.)
We should have invested in the Swiss Rail Pass. Because we changed our trip so late, I didn’t have a ton of time to fully research travel options. The Swiss Rail Pass would have saved us money when traveling to, within and leaving Switzerland.
Water quality has improved. We drank tap water basically the whole trip and neither of us got sick or had issues. This infographic is a great resource for international tap water. We each took a refillable water bottle, too. I took my Hydaway Bottle and it worked great.
Train travel is great, but not always the best option. We could have flown between London and Paris for HALF the price as taking the train, but Tim really wanted to take the train. Another example is that it would have taken us 10 hrs to get from Switzerland to Barcelona by train, so we flew instead. Ticket prices were the same.

Things We Didn’t Do
Check out every tourist attraction. There were attractions that we just weren’t interested in. We didn’t go on our trip with a super strict itinerary. Some days we went with the flow while other days we did have a full itinerary. I preferred it that way…let us avoid some of the crowds.
– Take our DSLR camera. I love the image quality from an SLR camera, but ultimately decided against taking ours this trip. It was one more thing to haul around for two weeks. Between our iPhones and our “life proof” Pentax, we felt covered.

If we ever get to go back…
– Travel to other cities.
I loved being able to re-experience London and Paris, but I’m ready to explore other parts of Europe.
– EatWith Experience. EatWith.com has some really great food experiences that are offered through locals all over the world. I really wanted to do one, but our schedule just didn’t align with any offerings for this trip.
– Get a travel backpack instead of a suitcase. When we went to New Zealand and Australia, I used a full sized suitcase and realized it was way too much to deal with. This time I stuck to a carry on sized suitcase and was wishing I had a backpack instead. Navigating through subways and just the general public, a suitcase became quite bothersome to have. Tim has a backpack and I found myself saying “I’m getting one for our next trip” more than once.

We’ll be doing domestic travels for the next couple of years, but I can’t wait for our next international trip.



Adios, Barcelona.

September 30, 2016

I was running on fumes during the last full day of our trip. My nasty head cold hadn’t gotten much better and honestly I was just tired. Note to anyone traveling outside of the US: take plenty of American meds with you because you can’t get them outside the country. I had Tylenol, throat lozenges and orange juice and hoped for the best.

We started the day by walking to Park Güell. The walk was only about a mile from our AirBnB, but it was mostly uphill. I had read to go earlier in the day because there’s very little shade coverage once inside the park, which we did find to be true. We didn’t pre-buy tickets to the paid portion of the park thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal to get them when we got there. Wrong. We arrive about 9:30 AM and were told the next available tickets for the paid portion of the park (where the cool Guadi work is) weren’t available until 2PM that afternoon. We weren’t going to stick around that long or come back, so we walked through the free portion of the park instead. I would by lying if I didn’t say that I wasn’t a bit disappointed. They let 400 people every half hour into that park and there was no way that many people were there.

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We didn’t have much else planned for the day so we were able to take in whatever else we felt like. Tim wanted to check out the F.C. Barcelona stadium (Camp Nou) for the museum and tour. I have to admit that I wasn’t overly impressed with the stadium tour. The ticket price didn’t match the experience. The stadium is getting some major renovations done soon, but for the richest soccer league in the world, it was pretty dumpy. The field was torn up and being worked on, which probably added to the dumpy feelings. The museum portion was okay, but I’m not a diehard FCB or Messi fan either.

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We stopped for lunch at Tapas 24 which was on the outskirts of the stadium’s parking lot. It was a weird location, but we had some delicious (and overpriced) croquettes. It also started down pouring at this point and we didn’t bring our rain jacket with us. We waited the rain out as long as we could before we high-tailed it to the closest metro. It continued to rain and storm most of the afternoon so we took that time to make dinner plans and put our luggage back in order.


We headed down near the University of Barcelona for dinner that evening. It was a neat part of town, and I would even say that I would consider staying in that area if we ever make it back. We ate at a restaurant called Vigo. Of course being Westerners, our dinner time was earlier than the locals and the crowds hadn’t rolled in at that point. The food was great! The portions were just much bigger than we had experienced at other places. Of course we still had room for gelato on our last night in town so we stopped at DelaCrem. Hands down, the best gelato of the entire trip. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know about the place sooner or we would have visited it multiple times.


Just as we got back to our AirBnb that evening, another storm rolled in. I sat nursing my head cold the best I could while Tim finished some wine. I was in the state of being exhausted, bummed we were leaving the next day but happy to be going home. It had been a really good trip.



Sagrada Familia

September 23, 2016

The Sagrada Familia was a highlight of being in Barcelona. I learned about it in more detail during one of my semesters of art history in college, but there’s still so much I didn’t know about it. The Basilica’s construction started in 1882, but won’t be completed until 2026. Though seeing a construction site isn’t always the prettiest, I’m so happy that we got to see it before its finished.

I would recommend pre-purchasing tickets to avoid a long line and even go for the audio tour. I would also take the recommendation we got–go in the afternoon or early evening to see how the stained glass windows change the colors inside the Basilica. There was plenty of room to walk around and explore when we went first thing in the morning, but at the same time there was a lot of people.

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Barcelona Day 2

September 20, 2016

Our second day in Barcelona was my favorite of our time spent there. We started the day by touring the Sagrada Familia. It looked so different during the day! We pre-purchased our tickets and were instructed to arrive at the entrance off Carrer de la Marina. This was the one thing I was probably most excited about to see while in Barcelona. However, I made the mistake of not doing the audio tour version of our tickets. Usually I’m not much for audio tours, but I really wish I would have opted to do it this time. We weren’t able to add it on once inside either.

The Basilica is incredible. My neck hurt by the time we left because all I wanted to do was look up! One thing we learned after visiting the Basilica is that we should have gone in the afternoon or early evening. There’s less crowds and the colors from the stained glass window just get richer as the day goes on. Next time, right?

(I’m doing a follow-up post with a bunch of pictures from the Sagrada Familia. Because we have a lot.)

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Once we were finished at the Basilica, we headed down to explore the El Born and Gothic Quarter neighborhoods. We signed up for a walking tour of the two neighborhoods through Sandman Tours later that day, so we didn’t want to explore too much beforehand fearing that we would end up covering the same ground. We stuck mostly with the El Born area, grabbing a slice of pizza from Les Dues Sicilies (delicious) and gelato from Heladeria Giovanni. I adored this part of town! I would have preferred to stay in the area vs where we did. I loved just walking around and exploring. Had I been a bottomless pit, I would have stopped into every tapas place I could. We also stopped into Wawas to take a peek at all the neat things.


The Sandmans tour lasted three full hours. I left the tour with mixed feelings. The tour is “free,” but you’re expected to give a nice tip to the guide at the end. We started by walking through the Gothic Quarter and ended near the El Born Centre Cultural i de Memoria, learning about Barcelona’s history the whole time. It would be super easy to get turned around in these neighborhoods because of the winding streets, so it was nice to have a guide. There’s also no way I would have seen everything we did without going on the tour.

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By the end of our three hours of walking, we were ready to regroup back at the apartment before the evening. We checked out the Arc de Triomph on our way to the metro. No crazy roundabout like in Paris this time.


We ended the day by heading down to the Barceloneta neighborhood along the water. We quickly figured out that all of the restaurants along the main Passeig de Joan de Borao street were very touristy. To get the good food, walk further into the neighborhood, which is what we did. Our friend Aaron stayed in this area when he had previously visited and recommended the restaurant Rebelot Cocktail and Food. It’s a “0 KM” restaurant so all food is locally sourced. The place is tiny, but it was good. The one standout dish was a grilled seafood platter. We have no idea what was all on it, but the various types of fish was delicious.

There’s a great boardwalk along the beach, so we walked down that after dinner. We couldn’t come all the way to Barcelona without going to the beach and dipping our toes in the sea. It was a great, relaxing way to end the day.




Barcelona: Day 1

September 16, 2016

We had a fairly low-key (maybe even boring?) first day in Barcelona. And apparently I didn’t take any pictures this day. Whoops.

We left Bern bright and early to take a train to Basel, where we were flying out of. This was one part of the trip I was a bit nervous for because I didn’t want us missing our flight to Barcelona. The Basal airport is technically across the border into France, so I didn’t know the logistics of crossing country lines. Turns out everything was fine and we had plenty of time.

We booked our flights from Basel to Barca through Vueling Airlines – a super budget airline that gives you no legroom whatsoever. Like my knees basically touched the seat in front of me. I would compare it to Frontier or Spirit here in the States. But the tickets were cheap and it was only an hour and thirty minute flight.

We landed in Barca and hello warm weather! I had pre-booked roundtrip tickets on the Aerobus, which got us to and from the airport and the city center. (highly recommend this) From there we used the subway to get to our AirBnb on the edge of the Gracia neighborhood. We ended up taking a nap (oops to only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before). I was also still feeling pretty terrible from catching a cold.

That evening we walked more into the Gracia neighborhood and headed to a tapas restaurant called Cafe Flanders. They didn’t speak a ton of English and my Spanish was rusty, but we got it figured out! We learned that “fried potatoes with spicy sauce” is a staple on tapas menu. We ordered this “fried cheese” dish and it was nothing like what we expected. What came was a plate of sliced green tomatoes topped with melted white cheese and sprinkled with Italian season. Well…okay then.


We ended the evening by walking down to the Sagrada Familia to see it lit up at night. It truly is unbelievable. Parts of it was designed to look like it was melting, and it certainly did look that way. We had tickets to tour it the next morning, which I was pretty excited about.



Hiking in the Swiss Alps

September 13, 2016

We had a couple options of what to do during our second, and last, full day in Switzerland. Option A: stick around Bern and hopefully see some cyclists or Option B: go hiking in the alps. I told the boys that I was not going to leave Switzerland without seeing the alps. So Option B it was. It was by far my favorite day of the entire trip. I’ve always felt like I was meant to live in a more mountainous area (sorry, Midwest). I couldn’t even be angry about the sunburn I had by the end of the day.


We went to the tourist center in the train station and bought tickets to Lauterbrunnen. (Had we planned a bit more in advanced, I would have purchased the Swiss Pass for Tim and myself. It would have saved us money from all of the train travel we did while in Switzerland.) Aaron had just been to the area a couple weeks before so I felt kind of bad that we were heading there, but at the same time he knew exactly where we needed to go. Once in Lauterbrunnen, we took the train up to Wengen and then the Grindelwald–Männlichen gondola up to Männilchen to head out on a hike. It’s crazy to think that the train and/or gondola is the only way to get to those villages and resorts.

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We hiked the Rotsteckli trail between the Männilchen trail head and the Grindelwaldblick Restaurant. I loved being able to look at the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountain peaks the whole time. It took us about 2-3 hours to do the trail plus stopping along the way to eat our picnic lunch. Oh, and a cold beverage at the restaurant. While we were eating lunch, we watched what we think was the Swiss Air Force doing practice flights. A hilarious site was watching a helicopter bring in a new porta-potty and then take away the old one from an outpost. The hike was not hard by any means–people of all ages were doing it. There’s no shade coverage while on the trial, so I’m not surprised I got sunburnt.

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We took the train back down to Lauterbrunnen from the Kleine Scheidegg train station, which took almost an hour. Aaron led us to the Staubbach Waterfall at the edge of town that had stairs to a lookout point behind the water. That was also really neat to see. There’s not much else in Lauterbrunnen, so we then headed to Interlaken. Interlaken was on my Switzerland wish-list so I was pretty excited we were heading there. What I wasn’t expecting was the amount of tourists there.

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I’ve read that Interlaken has become more of a tourist hotspot over the last several years, but I didn’t expect to see the amount of people. It was already early evening when we arrived, so we weren’t able to explore as much as I would have liked. We stopped at a chocolate shop and ate dinner at Hüsi Bierhaus. The three of us agreed that the restaurant was the best we had while in Switzerland. The boys thought it would be funny to stop into the Hooters for a beer on our way back to the train station, so we did. It was pretty lame, not surprisingly.

We took one of the last trains out of the city and headed back to Bern. My sunburn was pretty red by that point and I was exhausted from being sick (still). We hung out at the AirBnb and packed up our things. Sadly, we were having to part ways the next morning.