Spring in Barcelona, España!

About a week ago I took a trip with my family to Barcelona in order to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday! What a beautiful reason to travel out of the country and explore!

I was there for three full days, which speaking from experience, is plenty of time to explore a city the size of Barcelona. I did a lot of planning beforehand and narrowed down my list to what I wanted to see and do. As always, you can’t see everything in one go, which trust me, I am not complaining about. I will take any reason to go back to Barcelona! It is such a charming city that combines old and new so exquisitely.

Without any further ado, here are the must see’s and do’s in Barcelona.

Montserrat Mountains & Monastery:

This may have been my favorite part of the trip. I have never seen mountains that were so unique in shape and color. The Montserrat Mountains are made out of a sedimentary rock called pink conglomerate, which is what creates this uncommon appearance. Now let me tell you that this mountain is no joke. The highest point of it is 1,236 meters above sea level and we took a little train all the way to the top. I was literally walking in the clouds. Two other sights to explore up there are the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey church and the “Steps to Heaven”.

Las Ramblas:

This is the most famous strip in Barcelona. It is hustlin’ and bustlin’ from morning to night time. The street is full of shops, restaurants, bars and of course, tourists. It is great for shopping and just taking in the culture of Barcelona. Walk around, buy some souvenirs and have a couple of drinks. If you’ve had some drinks, don’t be afraid of the street performers! They are awesome!! Drop some money in their bins and see what they do!

**I would not suggest eating here because it does lack authenticity and you are sure to get a very mediocre meal. Try venturing out of the way to find mom and pop restaurants to try real Spanish paellas and sangria.

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El Molino:

Oh my lanta is this Burlesque Bar a blast!! I seriously had the time of my life! You can buy one ticket, which is 33 euros or two tickets for 50 euros. If you buy the two people deal, you also get a bottle of champagne, plus the show. You really can’t beat that. The show is passionate/ funny/ engaging and just over all so special! This was my first time seeing a show like this so I was excited to begin with, but the greatest thing of all is that I ended up getting pulled on stage, by two hunky lumberjack men. It was HILARIOUS! It was basically a scene out of Magic Mike… I will leave it at that. It is for-sure great entertainment for a night out in Barcelona.

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Montjuïc:

Ah, this place is so surreal. The overall location is technically a hill but everything on it is to die for. The main place here is Palau Nacional which hosts the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Even if you do not want to go inside of the museum, the outside of this palace is magnificent. When you climb all the way up to the top of the stairs, you can see the whole city of Barcelona and the mountains behind it. Breathtaking….that is the only way to describe that. Also, if you’re feeling adventurous, do approach the man with the spray painted pigeons, you will not regret it! He has trained them to not be afraid of humans so you can take pictures with them! Quite the experience. 

Olympic Stadium:

If you’re a history buff and love sports, this is the location for you and even if you’re not, it’s wonderful to visit a site with so much history and character! This stadium was used for the 1992 summer Olympics and is used for sports/music events to this day. There is a beautiful area where you can walk around and some tables where you can enjoy lunch. You are welcome to bring your pets here to play as well, plenty of grass for them.

Windsor Restaurant:

We really did not go out to eat much but from the places we visited, this was the best. There was a mix up with the reservations but the staff was so professional and accommodating that they set up a private room for us. Everything we orders was superb! The lamb, the chicken, the fish, the calamari…everything! All of the ingredients were extremely fresh and cooked perfectly. And the deserts? Don’t even get me started!! I had chocolate ravioli with chocolate on top…soo delicious.

Camp Nou:

My dad has been a soccer coach his whole life so this trip destination was for him and he loved it!! Soccer has been in my life ever since I was born. Although I never played it, I do enjoy watching the big games. This was a fun excursion for me too! To be in that massive field and walk around where truly talented men play the sport was really cool. They also have a museum part with tons and tons of trophies, old/new gear and memorabilia. It was very interesting to walk around and see how the sport has evolved and changed and especially how well the Barca team has done over the years. A must see for sure!

La Sagrada Familia:

Now I am into more traditional and Renaissance churches but this one is quite out of the ordinary. So this is the church that many of you have heard about, its almost like an ongoing joke on how relaxed the Spanish are. This church was designed by Antoni Gaudí and the construction began in 1882. If you aren’t aware, its now 2016 and the church is still not finished. It’s been 132 years. The church itself is extraordinary, just like everything else that Gaudí designed. It looks like a sand castle with extremely intricate colors and designs on the tops of the towers. It is really an interesting interpretation of Gothic architecture.

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Platja de la Mar Bella:

Even though it was cold, we did decide to stay on the beach. Our apartment overlooked the water and it was so breathtaking to wake up and watch the sunset every morning. We did venture to the actual beach to stroll around and it was great. The actual beach sand is clean and soft. There is a skate park nearby which was very interesting to observe. I am sure that during the hot months this beach is full of all different types of people, activities and cafes.

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Overall, I really did enjoy Barcelona and everything that it has to offer. It has a great nightlife scene, superb food and beautiful scenery. What else could you want? I did enjoy visiting during the spring, even though it was chilly, there weren’t a crazy amount of tourists and I finally was reminded of how gorgeous Spring is. There were blossoming flowers and little leaves sprouting on trees. Really quite the sight!

 

Have you ever been to Barcelona/ do you live there? Did I miss out on anything that is special? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Up and Coming Travel Destination: CROATIA | Rutele

Ready for a cheap and outdoorsy vacation? Croatia might be the destination for you!

Croatia is one of the top up and coming traveling destinations! I visited this beautiful country a couple of years ago and it has left a huge imprint in my heart. The food is delicious and the nature is indescribable. The best part? It is not overflowing with tourists! It is alluring and peaceful…what else could you ask for? Oh and the transportation system in the cities is flawless. It is so easy to get from point A to point B which tends to be the most difficult part about traveling. They have a very impressive railway system in the cities, plenty of buses and 68 airports to fly into.

While in Croatia I visited Plitvicka Lakes (ahhhhh I can’t even find the words for this amazing park), Zagreb and Split. Check out the pictures in the gallery if you haven’t already!

I will keep it short on Zagreb and Split. They are both unique cities. Take advantage of the nature and go on as many hikes as possible. You will run into some astonishing views of the cities and the landscape, which you wouldn’t normally stumble upon. Split is right on the water so do visit the beaches. I never visited the islands nearby but I would recommend it since I have heard that they are superb! Zagreb is the capital so of course it is full of awesome restaurants and churches. Make sure to eat some octopus and fish (mom and pop restaurants are the best) while you’re here and visit the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s quite a marvel.

And now to the destination that stole my heart…Plitvicka Lakes. Wow, just wow. I really don’t think I have been anywhere quite as breathtaking as this. The park is surrounded by a small town consisting of  a couple of hotels and mostly personal property. I would suggest renting from the locals instead of the hotels. My host was beyond anything I could have imaged. He made  breakfast and dinner every day, he drove us to the park and picked us up! The atmosphere that the locals created was very friendly and inviting.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Now the park…it is a wonderland for all nature lovers. In the park you will be surrounded by the woods, the lakes,the streams and the waterfalls.It is quite a lot to take in. The foliage is deep green and the water is crystal clear. I was so tempted to jump in and take a swim with the fish. The trip I took was in the summer so it was very much alive and flowing, whereas in the winter some of the water freezes and some of the trees shed their leaves. I do suggest that you break away from the beaten path and go hike the different trails. These take you up to higher levels from where you can see the whole park and really take in the magic of it all (plus you will by yourself). It’s really hard to describe how this place can make you feel. It is so pure and so untouched by the human hand that it almost cleanses your soul.

You may just have to save up and take a trip to experience this for yourself.

Here is a link in case you want to explore the park virtually.
http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/en/

Over all, Croatia is a beautiful destination with gracious people, hearty food, and magical views. Did I forget to mention that it’s cheap??

Have you visited Croatia or know of a place that’s similar? Let me know!

 

XOXO, Ruta.

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What You MUST DO in FLORENCE, ITALY | Rutele

 

I have been to Tuscany twice, within two years. No shame, that is how much I love it. The people, the views, the art, the food and the WINE are all to die for. At this point it feels pretty much like home, a place where I can relax and really enjoy every minute.
If you are planning a vacation in Europe, this is the spot. It can be a bit overwhelming due to the fact that Tuscany is quite large and some parts are hard to get to, but having been there twice, I have done enough research and testing to know the best way. Below is a list of must see’s and must do’s.

El Duomo:

This is the main church in the heart of Florence. Buy tickets to the tower so you can climb all the way up and see the whole city. Really breathtaking views. Don’t forget to check out the inside of the church as well.

 

Medici Chapel:

Now we all have heard rumors of the Medici family being cruel but that is not a reason to skip out on this church. I basically drooled over the painted ceiling. There are a couple of chairs inside that I do suggest you take full advantage of. Sit down and embrace the feel of this magnificent church.

Medici Chapel in Florence, Italy

CHURCHES:

Really to sum it all up, just GO to as many as you can. They are all filled with the most intricate art and designs your eyes will ever see. Thank you Renaissance!!

Church in Florence, Italy

Wine Tours:

Same as the churches, GO to as many as you can. I would suggest visiting the Chianti region since that is the most famous wine spot. It is quite difficult to get to these places transportation wise and hard to gain access to them so I do suggest just booking a tour. This way you will learn a lot of information, meet cool people and not have to worry about renting a car and doing the driving. Make sure to try as many of the wines as possible and just have a good time. You’re here to relax!

Museums:

The two that I would suggest are The Magnificent Uffizi Gallery and The Accademia Gallery. The Uffize museum houses the works of Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and many more. Tons of beautiful artwork and really intricate sculptures. The Accademia museum houses the real statue of David. My oh my is that a sight to see! Totally worth waiting in lines to see the complex work of art.
 David by Michelangelo in Florence, Italy

Gardens:

The Bardini Garden has the most beautiful view of the entire city of Florence. (It is quite a hike up the hill). The suggested time to visit this park is in the spring when everything is blooming. They have an archway that blooms with purple chandelier like flowers and that, forsure, is a must see. Also, a fabulous wedding destination. I also recommend the Boboli Garden and Giardino Delle Rose.

Florence, Italy

Food and Drink:

Eat out as much as possible! You can never go wrong with the Italian pizzas and pastas. Try to be daring and try something out of your comfort zone like a seafood pasta dish! Delish! If you aren’t ballin on a budget, I would recommend spending some moola on the Bistecca alla fiorentina. It is a local, thick, two to eight pound porterhouse cut of beef. A dream for a meatatarian!! As for drinks…WINE WINE WINE. I do not have any particular restaurants in mind but I will suggest taking some off beat paths and discovering hole in the walls. Those are the most authentic.

 

Really my biggest tip is to just relax and take in the feel of this marvelous place. Walk as much as you can, see as much as you can and try to embrace the culture and everything that it has to offer.

 

Have you ever been to Italy? How was your experience? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!