[Day 13] Day trip to Segovia

My last full day in Madrid, I decided to check out Segovia. I really wanted to see the Aqueduct of Segovia. This was as great place for a day trip and I highly recommend it. I was an 1 hour 20 minute bus ride and I booked the bus ticket using Omio. This website is super convenient for all travel in Europe!

In the morning, I made my way to Moncloa Station, which was a transit bus and train center. Once you were inside, you should see a line of people waiting by their bus gate number. I did not get my gate number on my ticket so I had to look for it. I could not find any information booth here so I went from gate to gate, looking at the signs and luckily, I was able to find the gate. The seats are the assigned so it’s first come, first serve. If you have someone you want to sit with, it is best if you get here early.

TIP: Even though it was off-peak season, the bus was filled! So I would recommend booking tickets early and getting to the transit center early, too.

This bus had two stops. The first one is Cristo Mercado and the second one is Segovia. Do not get off at the first one! This is a local bus stop by the street. They don’t really make clear announcements on the bus and lots of locals were getting off here so I can seem like this is the stop. Wait until the next stop and they should stop at a Bus station.

Once we got off, we started to walk towards the Aqueduct. The city is very small and everything is walking distance. Once you start walking towards the city, you should see the Aqueduct in the distance. And once you get close to it, you will notice how huge this is.

Walking through the arches, you are just amazed by ancient architectural beauty. Seriously, how did they built such a thing back in the days? You can walk up to the top and get a view of the city with the aqueducts. It is just spectacular.

After admiring it for awhile, we headed towards the city to find a place to eat. There were several restaurant choices but a lot of them were closed. So we ended up at Restaurante El Sitio. It didn’t look it from the outside, but it wasn’t a cheap bar/restaurante. I guess never judge a book by its cover.

We tried lubina horno (fish) and cochinillo racion (suckling pig). We didn’t get to see them actually cut the suckling pig but I was told that if we order 4 servings of it, they will bring out the whole pig.

TIP: If you are looking for something on the cheaper end, look for MENU DEL DIA. This is like the daily special menu and for a set price, you get a small course meal.

After our meal, we headed towards Catedral de Segovia. This catedral was not as grand as the one in Seville but still amazing. The gothic architecture and its details were so pretty. When we went inside, there was a ticket booth. There were two options for tickets available when we got there : General entrance fee (€3) and entrance and bell tower (€7). We wanted to get a good view of the city so we decided to do the bell tower. However, for the bell tower, they had a specific time slot and they only had the 4pm one available.

So while we waited, we decided to head over to Alcázar de Segovia first. The line for the ticket was really short but they had ropes wrapping around for busy season. General palace tickets were €5.5 and an extra €2.5 for Torre de Juan II. Since we were getting the bird’s eye view of the city from the Catedral, we decided to just do the Palace.

Before entering the palace, we spent some time admiring the outside of the Palace. Some people were saying that this place inspired Disney when they were designing the Cinderella’s castle. And I could see some resemblance in the pointy tops.

The inside was also impressive. The decors in each room were vastly different and each were unique. The Galley Room was my favorite with the gold molding. All the rooms had lots of windows that brought in sunlight and I bet the Royals living here loved to look at their land while enjoy the sunlight.

After walking through the rooms, you end up outside on the castle walls. It’s not the highest part of the castle but provides some view of the outside area.

After seeing all the rooms, we headed back to the Catedral for our tour. Unfortunately, they only provided one English tour and we had missed that one. Our tour was conducted in Spanish but our guide was able to answer questions in English and most of the signs had both languages.

We had to climb up several flights of stairs but had breaks in between which helped a lot. And once at top, you won’t regret it. The 360 view of the Catedral and the city was amazing! One really interesting fact I learned was that this Catedral’s tower was burned down due to a fire and they had to bring in another architect to rebuild. And their new architect decided that instead of a tower, he built a dome in a different style.

After seeing the view from up top, we headed back down and looked around the Catedral and found a small museum. We couldn’t take photos but they had several different Virgin and Child paintings. And as it was getting closer to sunset, we headed outside towards the courtyard and was greeted with amazing colors. It was hard to find the entrance to the courtyard and because of this, we had the whole place to ourselves. It was beautiful.

After viewing everything, we walked around the city. We needed some pick me up and ended up at Confitería El Alcázar, a sweets shop, and tried Ponche Segoviano. Guys. 100% please try this! This was amazing! It was like custard filled pastry and it was so good! I wish I could have bought a bigger size as take out! It was that good.

This was a really good day trip. Since it only took 1 hour 20 minutes, you got to spend more time seeing the city than in a bus. You can definitely make this into an overnight stay if you end up seeing both towers and doing some hikes around the city.

[Day 11 +12] Relaxing like the locals in Madrid

I am combining day 11 and 12 because most of the days, I just hung out with my brother and sister-in-law. After our other brother’s family left, we just wanted some time to be lazy.

My brother and sister-in-law really wanted me to try this restaurant called Taberna El Sur so we headed there for dinner. This place was really small and I would recommend that you make reservation in advance. There are lots of bar seating if you are ok with that as well.

It was tapas style and we tried different things from the menu. We all got sangria first and ordered tapas like ropa vieja (braised flank steak) and carrillada (braised pork cheeks). They were so good. And the portions were good too. We ordered 4 tapas and it was enough for us.

After our filling meal, we walked to Plaza de Cibeles to see Cibeles Palace. I saw this place while driving by so I wanted a closer look. The building is all white but during the night time, they flashed different color strobes on it, making it look green, red, and more. We tried to go inside but they were closed.

TIP: I also did not realize how close this place was to Retiro Park. I would see this Palace first and head into Retiro Park for a half day tour.

And because it was the holidays, the streets were full of decorative lights. And by the Metropolis Building, they even had a giant Christmas Ornament. While walking back to Puerta del Sol, we saw several Christmas trees as well. It was really beautiful during the night time.

Our Sunday morning started with us visiting a church. We walked most of the way to church but on our way back, I got to ride the metro for the first time. The ticket was easy to use but we ended up getting off at the wrong stop and had to buy another ticket. They had pretty bad customer service.

We didn’t know what to eat for lunch and ended up at Tierra Burrito Bar and it was similar to Chipotle. But the portions were huge! They couldn’t even roll the burrito all the way, which was better for me 🙂 I think this solved my craving for American food.

Afterwards, we headed to the Royal Palace of Madrid. I just wanted to see what it looked like. There were lots of street performers outside the Palace and many tourist and locals taking walks. It was pretty peaceful. I did not get to go inside since I did not have tickets but by the size of it, you would need to spend at least 3 hours to see the place.

I also got to see the Catedral de la Almudena and this was impressive. Even more so than the palace! The architecture was stunning. We couldn’t go in because it was too late but still amazing. I would recommend staying here and seeing the sunset. It would make a killer photo.

[Day 10] Easy day in Madrid

Today was the last day we were spending as a family in Madrid. We didn’t have a lot of time so we decided to take it easy.

First, we headed to Puerta del Sol and saw the KM 0 marker. It is easy to miss since there are no signs pointing to it and it’s in the middle of the street. It was used as a place people would come and set their odometers to zero when they were traveling. Sort of like mile markers.

Afterwards, we headed into the Square to see the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry tree. I’m not 100% what it means but it represents the coat of arms for Madrid. I know it is popular because I saw all the magnets and mug cups with the bear on it in several different gift shops.

The Square was full of people in lines to get the lottery tickets and we had to zig zag around them. For our last meal together, we decided to do something simple but impactful and ended up at Chocolatería San Ginés. My brother told me that this was his favorite spot for hot chocolate and churros. And yes! I agree. This place was the best! The hot chocolate was thicker and less sweet and the churros were hot and crispy. We also got to try the porras, which were thicker version of a churros. (Personally, I like porras better. It’s more fluffy)

After snacking on our hot chocolate and churros, we had to say good bye to one of my brother and my sister-in-law. And I had to move my luggage to my other brother’s house which was between Puerta del Sol and Mayor, a prime location. After moving all my stuff to their house, we took a small break because it started to rain.

Since it was getting chilly, we decided to get some food that would warm us up! My brother really wanted me to try the pho place in Madrid and I am also down for pho. We headed to a restaurant named Vietnam and ordered pho. Their menu was not as extensive as the Vietnamese restaurant in the US but had the essentials. The pho was pretty good but the sauces were not the best. They had a different version of sriracha sauce and it was too runny and the flavor was not the same. But it still warmed us up well.

After our meal, we walked back towards Puerta del Sol and saw a line of people headed into a building. We weren’t sure what it was but decided to check it out. We later found out it was the Real Casa de Correos building and they have an annual Nativity scene display inside called Navidad el Sol.

The display inside was amazing and I was so glad we accidentally stumbled in. The nativity scene here wasn’t just the stable but all of Bethlehem! I couldn’t fit all of it into my camera in one go. You can imagine how big it was. They also had Christmas Forest with several Christmas trees. If you visit Madrid during the holidays, this would be a must see!

[Day 9] Touring Madrid

Our first full day in Madrid started with some bad weather forecast. It was going back and forth between cloudy and rainy and we were prepared for both.

First stop, Mercado de San Miguel for some breakfast. The market is not as big as the one in Barcelona but it has all the offerings. It is indoors and when we arrived around 10am, it was already bustling with tourists. Similar to La Boqueria in Barcelona, they had simple take out stalls as well as restaurants. I ended up getting empanadas and they had so many different fillings.

There is a sit down area in the middle of the market and several of the restaurants also had stools for their stalls. If you missed la Boqueria, this could show you what it is like at these Mercado.

After filling ourselves, we headed to Parque del Retiro to see the Crystal Palace. Retiro Park is huge and you can easily spend half day here. We took an Uber to the park and our driver dropped us around Paseo de la Argentina. This entrance leads straight to the Retiro Park Lake and to the view of the Alfonso XII’s monument.

This would be a great spot to relax and hang around when the weather is nicer and warmer. There were lots of benches and playground for kids. We also saw a lot of signs for different gardens, art gallery, and monuments. One in particular was the Crystal Palace. My sister-in-law highly recommended it and we wanted to check it out.

However, when we got to the Palace, it was closed! There were many people waiting outside so I thought maybe it wasn’t open yet. However, the time posted outside said otherwise. We thought we could wait until they opened again since we saw a staff member inside the building. So we waited and took pictures of the exterior.

As we were taking photos, a police car came by and told everyone to leave the park. The officers started to usher people towards the exit. Without any explanation, we started to walk towards the exit. The park was so big and we didn’t know where we were so it took a bit to get to the exit. And once we were outside the park, we saw a sign that stated “PARK CLOSED. HIGH WIND” sign on the gates. So a storm was coming.

After a few moments, it started to pour! Thankfully, we brought umbrellas but we had to rethink our plan. Our original plan was to visit the Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid but with the rain, we didn’t want to walk through the garden.

After some thought, we decided to visit the Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple that was gifted to Madrid. When we got to the temple, there was a line of people waiting to get inside. Even thought it is called a temple, it is more of a museum and entry is free. Inside, you can see different gods and goddesses, scale model of the building, and learn about the history of the Temple. The inside is really small and you can see everything within minutes. Just be prepared for that.

And it would have been nice to see the moat filled with water but it was empty when we visited. We still got to walk around the walkway after we visited the temple. And because of the rain, no one was outside. Also, if you walk to the back of the temple, you can get a nice view of the city.

After seeing the Temple, we decided to take a break and headed back home. And before we got home, we stopped at Museo de Jamon. The name says it’s a museum but it is actually a store and restaurant. We stopped by to buy some jamon and cheese. They have so many different types of jamon, from front leg to back leg, and what feed the pigs were fed. If you are not sure what to get, ask for samples! The price range is quite wide and I’m sure you can find jamon that you like.

With our hands full of jamon and cheese, we came back home and rested. We snacked on the jamon and I kept going back to its saltiness. They are similar to prosciutto so if you like prosciutto, you will surely like jamon.

After some relaxation, we headed to our dinner reservation at Botin. A friend of mine had recommended this place for both the food and the history. It is considered the oldest restaurant in the world! Wow! Almost 300 years of history.

And my friend recommended the roasted Suckling pig. We ordered several dishes including the suckling pig and filet mignon. All the food was good but they were on the salty side. Ask for less salt if you do not like salty food. Also, make reservation! We had reservation right at their opening hour and there was a line already.

[Day 8] Royal Alcázar of Seville and off to Madrid

We had one last thing we needed to see in Seville and that was the Royal Alcázar of Seville. My brother really wanted to see this since it was in Game of Throne. We booked tickets in advance again and visited early in the morning. When we got there, the regular line was starting to get long.

This time, we got the audio guide and walked around, listening to the history of the Royal Alcázar of Seville. The architecture here was heavily influence by islamic design but while listening to the audio guide, I found out that because the construction took a long time, several different styles were incorporated. I guess 500 years of construction will make you want to change your mind about what is popular then.

The Royal Alcázar of Seville is made up of several different halls, courtyards, gardens, and more. I would suggest you time your visit wisely. You can easily spend 3 hours here just looking around and taking pictures.

While looking and admiring the details in the design and decor (especially the tiles), my brother was eagerly looking forward to the Game of Thrones filming locations. He was looking for mainly three things: Mercury’s Pond (Estanque de Mercurio), Baths of Maria de Padilla (Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla), and the Fountain of Neptune (Fuente de la Neptuno) in Jardines del Principe.

These must have been major view points because all of them were bustling with people. We had to patiently wait for people to trickle out. The signs in the Garden’s are not easy to follow but Mercury’s pond is hard to miss because it is higher up and Baths of Maria de Padilla is right next to it. Mercury’s pond is relatively small compared to how big Alcázar is but the small waterfall makes a very calming sound and I could see the royals relaxing on that balcony.

Baths of Maria de Padilla is just steps away from Mercury’s Pond and it is underground. All the arches and its reflection on the water makes the wait worth awhile. The water here wasn’t all that clean and I’m guessing they don’t use it for baths anymore 😉

And lastly, we had to walk a bit through the Gardens to find it but we located the Fountain of Neptune. There were so many small fountains around the gardens and even the gardens were huge! Luckily, this fountain was also relatively close to Mercury’s Pond.

It was fun, walking and exploring Royal Alcázar of Seville with a mindset of “I’m going to find these filming locations!” because it gave us something to look for. And we tried to take pictures similar to the casts and had a lot of fun looking for pictures to try.

We didn’t get to spend a lot of time here but we had to catch our train to Madrid so we had to cut our tour short. We headed back to our accommodation and called an uber to head to the station.

At the station, we didn’t have much time so we quickly grabbed lunch from McDonald. If you have time, there are other restaurant options in the Station. When it was time, we found our platform and got on the Renfe train. It was about 3 hours 30 minutes to Madrid. The reason why we decided on taking the train was that the cost was slightly cheaper and if you consider checking in time and the time to and from the airport, it was going to be quite similar.

Once we were at Madrid, we took a cab from the station to our next accommodation near Plaza Mayor. There were lots of cabs waiting outside the station and it was very easy to find a bigger cab that can fit all our luggage.

Our accommodation was literally across the street from Plaza Mayor and it was crowded with people who were celebrating the Holidays. There was a Christmas Market here as well but they were selling more carnival goods such as masks, wigs, and small knick knacks.

For dinner, my brother recommended an interesting sandwich called Calamares Bocadillos. Literally Calamari sandwich. He took us to Bar La Campana, walking distance from Plaza Mayor, and got one sandwich. Why? Because they only took cash and we only had enough for one sandwich. They don’t give you any sauce or seasoning. It is just calamari. So if you like calamari, this is it! Since the calamari was fresh, the crispiness of the fried calamari with the soft bread wasn’t too bad. I do with they had some sort of sauces. (Maybe sriracha?)

To grab a real meal, we headed to Gourmet Experience. This was the top floor of a shopping center and the whole floor was about food. The roof top view of the place was really nice. However, all the seats were taken and there were multiple lines everywhere.

So we took this time to just enjoy the view and headed to a place my brother recommended for tacos called Taqueria El Chaparrito. And it was pretty legit tacos here. If you are in town and are craving Mexican food, this could be your spot! Great place for some late night tacos and beer.

[Day 7] Walking around Seville

I wasn’t at my 100% yesterday but was starting to feel better. However, everyone else got sick and needed to take the day off. We all needed some food and what is better than your hometown food when you are sick. So we looked for a Korean restaurant and found one in the city. It was called Moon and we thought we would give it a try. We were hoping to get some guk, Korean style soup, but they only had spicy options. We ordered several warm dishes but they were a bit salty. Make sure you ask for less salt.

After the meal, everyone wanted to go back to the house and rest more. I wanted to walk around a bit, so we split up. I didn’t want to take too long myself so I just followed one road to the riverbed.

While walking, I saw the Plaza de Toros. It was smaller than I expected from the outside. The white and yellow really stood out. The Plaza was closed but there were carriages waiting for customers and it seemed like a known hangout place for the drivers.

And once you cross the street, you could see the river and Puente de Isabel II, one of the main bridges. The weather was so nice after the rain last night and there were several people relaxing here as well. I also sat by the water and just watched some people on kayaks, boats, paddle boards, cruises, and even rowing! It was winter but there were still a lot of people taking part in water sports.

Also, the houses across the water were so colorful and unique. I really liked that the cities in Spain had so much color to them. I walked along the river towards another bridge, Puente de San Telmo and there was a road made for biking and walking. The walk was very scenic and quiet and at the end of the road, you would see Torre del Oro. It really is a single tower by the water.

You could go up the tower but I think the view from the Cathedral’s Giralda would be much better. But I really liked how the tower wasn’t a square or a circle, but a dodecagon, 12 sided. It was a watch tower, a prison, and also an anchor point for chains in case invaders came with ships. This way, they could not get into the city on their ships. The history behind it was fascinating.

After the walk, I decided to head back home and rest. There were rows of gift shops on the streets and most of them had similar things including the Seville tiles. These ceramic tiles were just mesmerizing. The colors, the design, all of it. And it wasn’t in just gift shops. These tiles could be seen around the city in multiple architectures and they were just beautiful.

Once I was done shopping, I headed home, grabbed the family, and went to dinner. This time, we decided to try our other favorite food, Italian. We made reservation at La Piemontesa and tried to take it slow. I would highly recommend making reservation. It was packed when we arrived. We ordered pasta and it was really good. My brother said that it was one of the best Italian food he had so that said a lot. And the atmosphere here is really nice too. Quite romantic.

After our meal, we looked at some Christmas lights on the main street and my brothers goofed around on the motor scooter for a bit before heading home. We all hoped that tomorrow, we would all feel better.

[Day 6] Seville Cathedral and Plaza de España

Today, we were going to spend the day explore two of the City’s main attractions: Catedral de Sevilla and Plaza de España. We had purchased tickets online for the cathedral from the official website the night before.

TIP: Buy tickets in advance! Time slots sell out fast and you might have to stand in a long line to buy the ticket. If you buy them in advance, there is a separate line that is much faster.

When we arrived, the line for the regular ticket was already long but we were able to skip the line and head straight inside. While walking in, you can see all the details of the building and it will awe you. I mean, it is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and an UNESCO site. Everything here is grand.

When you first walk in, you enter into an art gallery. There are several Madonna and Child portraits and statues along with Crucifixion. There wasn’t any English description on the art pieces but I still enjoyed the artwork.

We didn’t get the audio guide for the Cathedral so we roamed around freely. Once you pass the art gallery, you are guided into the Cathedral. And wow! The ceiling are so tall and they had several chapels and tombs for famous people such as Christopher Columbus. There were so much to see

We walked around, saw several alters, more paintings, more tombs, and decided to walk up the bell tower, Giralda. First off, this was a walk. It’s all sloped and is about 34 floors high. I’m not sure how the tower’s numbering system worked but it goes up to #34. My brother said that we were almost there starting at 16 and I’m so thankful that he kept pushing me up because the view is breathtaking!

From the top of the tower, you can get a full view of the city in all directions. You might have to wait a little to see the view because it is a popular spot and a lot of people were taking pictures by the fences. And it was super windy and I saw a couple people chase after their hats so watch your belongings!

From a different angle, you could see the Cathedral and its orange tree courtyard. While looking at this, I couldn’t stop imaging what it would be like if we came during blossoming season. The orange blossom’s citrus fragrance would definitely reach the towers.

We were able to enjoy the views for about 15 minutes and the bells started to ring. At first, we were going to waited it out but they were really loud. 25 bells ringing in sync is not something your ears can handle. We decided to walk back down. This time, a bit slower and I was able to look out the windows and admire the architecture a bit more.

Once you are done with Giralda, you walk into the orange tree courtyard. There were several people enjoying the shade and relaxing. It was a nice pace to be at. It was also nice to see the bell tower from the bottom up this time. Different views, different perspective.

After leaving the Cathedral, we walked to Plaza de España and this was a long walk. Longer than I expected. And once we arrived, according to Google map, we were met with a fence. It wasn’t the entrance. Or at least it was closed when we got there. We followed the road along the fence and found the entrance. Once you are inside, you forget about the walk you just had to take to get here. It is beautiful.

Every corner of this Plaza is picturesque. There were families resting on benches, children playing by the water fountain, couples taking a stroll. It was just peaceful. The architecture is also unique to the region and I really loved seeing all the arches.

And because we were visiting during off season, there weren’t a lot of tourist around. We were able to enjoy time here like locals and hung around the benches and just talked and relaxed. The fountain turned off and turned on so you have to time it right for pictures. Also, walk inside the building to see the wall decors and the arches!

After all the relaxing, we were getting hungry so we took an Uber back to the Cathedral area. There were several restaurants gathered here and we decided to eat at Bar la Catedral. We ordered some Sangria for the table and more tapas and of course, paella.

And it was a good thing we decided to sit inside because right after we ordered food, it started to pour. With the sound of rain drops, the small chitchats of the restaurant, the smell of all the delicious food, we really enjoyed the food. And by the time we finished paying for the food, the rain stopped and we were able to walk home and relax.

[Day 5] Off to Seville

Our last day in Barcelona. We were lucky that our airbnb had a late checkout. We left our luggage and headed into the city for the last time. A lot of the places were closed on Sunday and because of this, a lot of cafes had lines out the door. So if you had a place in mind, make sure to make reservations!

We ended up at a Korean style cafe called Bing Bing Cafe and it was pretty legit. They had several bingsu flavors that are authentic to Korea which was pretty rare. We wanted to try some bingsu but we were here for brunch. And their brunch menu was also pretty good. They had several different bowls, smoothies, pancakes, hamburgers, and more. I got their poke bowl and it wasn’t too bad. If you are looking for something with a kick, I would recommend the Benedict Thai.

After our brunch, it was time for us to head to the airport to fly over to our next location, Seville. The check in line was long but we were able to check in online and only needed to tag our bags and send them off. The check in desk lines were long here so please check in online before coming to the airport. After we checked out bags, we headed through security. Weirdly, the line for the security seemed long but moved really fast.

Once we were inside, we headed to one of the lounges to relax before boarding our flight. There were several lounges but we settled in Canudas VIP Lounge. They had a decent food selection, mostly finger foods and snacks, as well as their drink selection. One thing about their drinks were that they were all bottles and you could not take them with you. It was weird to see glass bottles but also felt fancy.

When you are at the lounge, just check the time of your flight gate frequently. The airport is rather large and it might be at the end of the terminal. We had to run at the end and we were practically the last ones on board. But we made it to Seville safely.

We took an Uber to our airbnb and the driver could not get us to the front of the house. He ended up dropping us off a block away and told us which way to walk. So if you plan on bringing a lot of luggage, ask the airbnb if a cab can drop off at the front of the house.

Once we settled in, we started to look for a place to eat. We were pretty close to all the major attractions and had an array of restaurants to choose from. We didn’t want to go too far so we ended up at place called La Bartola. It was a small bar and we were lucky to have gotten the last seats at the bar. And this place was really good! They had an extensive wine list and a full list of tapas. Again, we wanted to try everything so we ordered one of each. They did have several tapas that also had meal size available. One that we really wish we got the meal size was the pork cheek stew. Carrillada Iberica con Parmentier de Patata. This was so good. We definitely need more. Everything here was good and I would recommend it. It is small so make reservation if you would like to try their pork stew!

With the travel, we wanted to be at our best condition the next day, so we decided to relax at home. We bought some snacks and wine from the local store and headed home. Nice day to relax a bit.

[Day 4] Gaudi, Gaudi, and more Gaudi

Today was our grand Gaudi tour. We started the day with a visit to La Sagrada Familia. We had purchased tickets from the official website for Sagrada Familia with Towers and picked the Nativity Facade. One of the reasons we wanted to see the Nativity Facade was that it was completed by Gaudi himself in 1935. And it was really a good thing that we purchased from the official website. I’ll explain in a bit.

We bought morning tickets and the line was pretty short. You have to go through security similar to the airport and they have several lines so it moves quickly. Once inside, you have to get in a separate line to pick up the audio guide. And with the audio guide, you are really left to venture around yourself until the time for the tower rolls around.

And wow. This place is just amazing. The gothic details on the facade are definitely a sight you don’t want to miss! Just standing here, you are facing one the world’s most prominent architecture that is still being built. We spent a lot of time here, carefully listening to the audio guide, learning about Gaudi and his masterpiece. The nativity scene here is decorated with different plants and animals and all was intended by Gaudi himself. Just wow.

And when the time for us to go up to the tower came, we realized that there was no line. At first, we were excited to the first one but saw the line was blocked off! We asked the staff what was going on and they told us that because of high wind, the towers were closed for the day for everyone’s safety. WHAT?! No!!! I was looking forward to going up to the tower but weather was something out of our control. And this is the reason for buying with the official website. They told us that within a month, we should we getting a portion refund for the towers. If you buy with a 3rd party, most of the time, you would not be able to get anything back.

We were sad that we couldn’t go up the towers but we were able to spend more time inside and see the sunlight start shining through the stained glasses and wow. What colors! I would really recommend staying longer to see the colors.

Once we were done with the inside, we came out to the other side and you see a whole new style of detailing. The Passion facade is a bit more bulky and more masculine. The scene here is the Crucifixion of Christ and the feel here is different from the nativity side but still amazing.

After seeing all around, we headed to La Boqueria. During the day time, the market was packed and they had so many different types of foods, from raw materials to cooked meals. While here, we tried all of them. From sandwiches to juices. They were all very good. It isn’t really cheap here so I would suggest that you share the snacks to try different ones together.

Afterward, we headed to Parc Guell. We did not buy tickets in advance since we were not sure what time we would head over but please buy it online. The line gets really long and during busy season, they can even sell out. When you buy tickets, there is a time of entry so make sure you buy the one that works. The staff were very strict on time. We bought our tickets when we arrived and we had about one hour to kill. We were able to look around the free parts of the park beforehand. The free portion of the park is higher up so you could get a good view.

And once our time came around, we were able to go inside and see the park. However, there were lots of construction going on and some parts were even closed off. Even with that, the park was very pretty and interesting. We first started off with Casa del Guarda, the gatekeeper’s house. Inside, they had an exhibition about the park and it was worth a look. The blue colors of the walls were really pretty.

The architecture here is interesting too. There are lots of arches and curves. I really loved their use of mosaic tiles in multiple places, including on the colorful chameleon. He was much smaller than I expected but cute regardless. And once you follow the road up to the top of the park, there is this huge open space and the view of the city from here is spectacular. The tiles on the benches and the backdrop of Barcelona cityscape is just perfect for pictures.

After spending some time here, we wanted to check out more of Gaudi’s work so we headed back to the city. We didn’t know which one we should go into since we didn’t have much time. We had to pick one between Casa Mila and Casa Batlló. They were the same price and they were only 2 blocks from each other. After some deliberation, we decided on Casa Batlló.

Casa Batlló also used lots of colorful stones on the exterior and the sunlight made the building sparkle. Even the roof was colorful. And their audio tour was very interesting. They used AR technology with their audio tour which provided a more interesting walkthrough of the building. When we arrived, the sun had already set and I think it would be better if you visit during the day.

As interesting the exterior is, the interior is also fascinating. Starting from the entrance, the floors, the walls, everything was made with intent. And t he blue tiles on the inside makes it seem like you are outside and they had snow flurries and it really looked as if you were looking into a courtyard. And through the audio tour, I learned that the tiles were placed inside to reflect light into part of the house and I really loved the idea.

After seeing the house, we headed back to Font Màgica de Montjuïc to see the Magic Fountain show. We arrived perfectly for the show at 9:30pm and it was very pretty but cold. The wind was strong this day and the water from the fountain got everyone wet. But the music, color, and splash of water was truly magical. They used different types of music including classical, pop songs, and traditional songs. It was really fun to watch.

The show as quite long so you don’t have to be there at 9:30pm but if you want front row, you should come early. I wouldn’t recommend it since you will get wet and even the view from the back is really good.

We headed to grab dinner at Ciutat Comtal and I highly recommend this place and you 100% should make a reservation. We had a huge party and luckily, they had a table for us. I was recommended this place by a friend and she told me that we have to try their honey cod and I agree! We had several tapa dishes including the honey cod and we ended up ordering more cod. Look for Bacalao al Allioli de Miel. We also tried their gambas, calamari, razor clams, and of course, sangria. They are all very good and the price wasn’t bad at all for the quality of the food.

After our delicious meal, we wanted to end the night on a sweet note so we made our way to a churro spot. Both my brother and I found a same place named Xurreria. It had really good reviews and we were down. What we didn’t know was that the one we picked was an outdoor stall. But do not look down on these stalls. The staff made the churros fresh in front of us. And eventhough it was cold and late, there were several locals who came by for takeout.

What a day!

[Day 3] Full day of City tour

Our first full day in Barcelona together. We were super excited to explore the city. First we headed to Firebug for some delicious brunch. They had variety of cuisines to pick from and also some good brunch drinks. The restaurant was very cozy and the staff were very friendly.

TIP: Most restaurants in Europe are not in any hurry. The staff are slower and they take their time. If you are in a hurry, please let them know.

After our meal, we headed to the Arc de Triomf. The only other Arc I knew was the one in Paris and I was excited to compare the two. The one in Barcelona was smaller in size but quite impressive as well. It’s a reddish terracotta color and it definitely has a presence. The brickwork really stands out and you cannot miss it. It is a gateway into the Ciutadella Park and there were many tourist working through. If you have more time to spend here, I suggest walking through the park.

We decided to skip the park and walked along the path from the Arc towards Santa Maria del Mar. This cathedral was in a residential neighborhood and at first glance, we weren’t sure if we were in the right place. The entrance we saw was the side entrance and did not have any signs. However, once we were inside, we were in awe.

The east end had these impressive pillars and stained glass and we just stood here, taking it all in. There were many student groups on field trips so I knew this was a popular spot. They had a view point that you could climb up but we were ok being at the bottom. We were walking around the cathedral and they started ushering people out. We assumed they might be preparing for a mass.

After leaving Santa Maria del Mar, we decided to walk around the neighborhood. I really liked the multi-purpose buildings were the first floors were shops and the upper floors were residential. Some of the streets were decorated for Christmas.

Following these streets, you will see the Museu Picasso. It was about 20 minute walk and I sort of expected the museum to be on the main street. There were several options for audio tour and I highly recommend the audio tour if you are interested in learning more about Picasso’s life and what and who influenced him.

I had imagined seeing several of Picasso’s artwork including Guernica and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. However, what I did not realize was that both of these paintings were in a different museum! So if you have artwork you are particularly interested in seeing, see where they are and then pick the museum.

After seeing the museum, we headed towards Barcelona Cathedral. On the way, we saw a Valor, a chocolate cafe. He said that this was a famous brand and that we should get churro and hot chocolate here so we took a short break. It was pretty packed but luckily we found a table. The waitress came to the table and we ordered chuuro and hot chocolate. Eating them on the spot was the best!

The chocolate was closer to a rich, dark chocolate and the churros were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. So good!! And after finishing the churros, we drank the rest of the chocolate and that was good too. Not too sweet.

After a bit of rest, we headed to Barcelona Cathedral. It was even more grand than Santa Maria del Mar. The Gothic architecture was just divine. Again, we were just speechless walking through the Cathedral. This place also had a viewpoint that you could visit and it even had a little gift shop.

Right outside the cathedral was the Fira de Santa Lucia, a Christmas market. It was bustling with tourist and locals and many of the shops were selling handmade nativity scene pieces. Very different from American city’s Christmas market where there are handmade goods that are not exclusive to nativity scenes and foods and more.

Once we were done looking around, we took an Uber to Barcelona Pavilion. My sister-in-law wanted to see it. It wasn’t too far but it also was not walking distance. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when we got there but it was a small house, very simple. Even the inside was very minimalist with only 4 chairs. But the water basin in the front and the back were great features of the house. If you are into modern architecture, you might like to see this.

After seeing the house, I wanted to stay for the water fountain show, the Magic Fountain, but we were all really hungry so we decided to visit again tomorrow and headed to eat!

We went to Bo de Boqueria, a quint restaurant next to La Boqueria. The market was closed but the restaurants around it were all open. Even during the winter, they had outdoor seating available. We ordered several dishes including arros negre paella, jamon, and of course, wine. When we ordered, we weren’t sure if we ordered enough but the portions were good here and with 2 paella, 1 salad, and 4 appetizers, it was enough for the 5 of us. (€85.90)

After the meal, we were stuffed and decided to walk down the street to see where we would end up. And we ended up walking all the way to the pier! We were on Rambla de Mar. It was practically empty but I really liked that feel.

We walked around the whole place, including the mall area and most of the shops were closed. We just enjoyed the night air and enjoyed each other’s company. What a great way to end the night.