[Day 2] Montserrat and family

Full day ahead! We had time until our other brother and his wife were landing in Barcelona so we decided on a quick day trip to Montserrat. We had found Julia Travel agency the night before and made a last minute booking for a Montserrat Mountain and Basilica half day tour and it started at 9am.

We walked to Julia Travel and checked in around 8:55am and received our tickets, discount coupons, and the audio receiver. We met up with our tour guide, Clara, at 9am and boarded our bus. It was one of those greyhound bus with lots of seats. Our tour wasn’t full so we had plenty of seats to pick from. While on the way, Clara talked about the history of Spain and Barcelona in both Spanish and English.

We also learned about the history of Montserrat. It was destroyed many times by fire and other accidents but several architects participated in restoration of the monastery over the years.

As Montserrat is built on a mountain, they used a lot of curves to fit with the nature. So on the way, the mountain roads had a lot of hairpin turns. The right side had mountain views and the left side had the cliff view. If driving is not your think, you can take the cable car but our tour did not include other transportation options.

When we arrived, it was very cold compared to Barcelona. Make sure to wear lots of layers here! But we all hurdled around our tour guide to listen to the legends of Montserrat. She said that there were 2 legends. One was about how a ray of light pointed at one location. When the people went to check, they found the Black Madonna statue there. They tried to move her but she was too heavy. So they left her at the same place and built a house on a cliff.

After a brief history lesson from Clara, we had free time. So we hiked up to the view point, which was only about 30 minutes away. It gave us a panorama view of Montserrat. Follow signs to Cami de Sant Miquel. It is about a 20 to 25 minute walk uphill. But the panorama view and the fresh wind makes it all worth it.

Once back, we stood in line at the Monastery to see the Virgin of Montserrat(the Black Virgin). The line seemed long but it moved rather quickly. The line led us upstairs to the front of the chapel and we got to see the Virgin and there was a small part that you could touch. I noticed a lot of people in front of us, touching her and praying.

Once we were out, we headed back inside to listen to the L’Escolania choir. This is an all boys’ choir at Montserrat and our guide highly recommended them. These boys all lived at Montserrat and only got to see their family a few times a year. They were schooled at Montserrat in all areas including music and had published hundreds of albums. They performed at 1pm inside the basilica so we were able to enjoy about 15 minutes of the singing before heading out.

TIP: If you would like to spend more time in Montserrat to hike around more, the public transportation is a good option!

After arriving back in Barcelona, we walked around the neighborhood and found cute popup shops. There were a lot of handmade goods and all the stores were full of cute knickknacks. We also tried to look for a place to eat and most of the restaurants were closed for Siesta or had reservations. We ended up at a restaurant called El Raco. More like stumbled upon it. The staff were very friendly and seated us right away. Their menu had various things including tapas, pasta, pizza, steak, and more. They also had a good list of wine and beer.

We didn’t understand the full menu but with some recommendation from the staff. we ordered a risotto, a crepe, and a steak as our late lunch. When we got the food, the risotto was the only one that looked like the ones in the States. The crepe was open faced? and the steak was more of a open faced sandwich with only the bottom bun. It was interesting but it tasted good! We enjoyed our meal (€34.45), relaxed a bit, and headed back to our accommodation and waited for the rest of the family.

My brother and his wife arrived a little later then expected due to flight delays but when they arrived, it was perfect time for dinner. We didn’t want to go too far from our place since everyone was still tired from traveling. So for dinner, we visited a place called Oporto. It had high reviews on tripadvisor and we were excited to try new food. What we didn’t realize was that it was Portuguese food.

When we arrived around 8pm, we were the first ones there. We ordered multiple tapas to share including pulpo salsa verde(octopus), gambas aguillo(shrimp), arroz marisco(seafood pot), and bottles of wine. When you order at this restaurant, start small. The size of these tapas were huge. And the Arroz Marisco can be ordered in 1/2 sizes so make sure to ask! The food was really good. Everyone enjoyed the meal (€117.50)

On our way back home, we stopped by the local super market to pick up more wine and snacks. I picked up a lemon beer (Damm Lemon) and it wasn’t what I was expecting but very refreshing. It was a pretty good match with some jamon.

[Day 1] San Diego to Barcelona

A start to a new trip! This trip is the longer trip I’ve ever taken so I’m so excited to write about it.

First day was mostly travel day. I’ve never flown to Europe from the West Coast and wow! It was long! I try to be a frugal travel when I can be and usually that means cheap(er) flights.

I usually fly with Star Alliance because I have good status with them. So this time, it was with TAP Air Portugal. And my schedule was the following.

It was long but since it was broken down and at each airport, I got to rest up at the lounge, it didn’t feel that bad. And maybe because I took the breaks, I wasn’t hit with jetlag.

My first stop, JFK, I was in terminal 5 and it did not have any lounges I could use. So I sat close to the gate and waited. While waiting, there were people who are asking if anyone wanted to join an auction for the first class seats. I’ve never heard of this before but seemed interesting. By joining the auction, you may be able to get cheaper first class seat for a 5+hour flight. I saw several people sign up for it but this wasn’t for me.

At my second stop, Lisbon, I would have gone out to venture the city if I had more time. But with 3 hours, it wasn’t worth it. Lisbon had Priority Pass lounges as well as Star Alliance lounges. Usually, I go for Priority Pass but this time, I tried the Star Alliance lounge (TAP Premium lounge).

This lounge was great! It had a great view of the runway, had lots of great amenities including a shower, and great food and drink selection. If you are a wine drinker, this place had a wine dispenser! They also had several cheese and meat selection to go with the wine.

And after another flight, I landed in Barcelona airport. This place was a bit of a nightmare! The signs were so confusing. It took me awhile to find the exit to baggage claim and once I got my bag, I was looking for a taxi symbol. I found one and followed it and suddenly, it disappeared.

I had called a taxi using an app called FREE NOW (similar to UBER) and the driver called me to ask where I was. He did not speak much English, he waited for me to find the taxi loading area.

The taxi area very difficult to find if you follow the signs. It was very close to the exit and had a huge TAXI written on it. So keep your eyes open. You take a sloped escalator down and you will see a line of taxis. Not all taxi pick up is here so make sure you check the app to see where the pick up is exactly!

TIP: If you are going to use FREE NOW, use my promo code jin.moon to get a €5 coupon. Also, this app has a feature that presets the cost and even if the meter goes over, you will only pay the set price. Another option is that you can pay either via the app or pay in person, credit card or cash. All options are open.

I got to the airbnb and met up with my brother and sister-in-law. The place was pretty big and had separate rooms for all of us. I put my luggage in my room and we all went out for our first meal.

My first meal in Spain ended up being Italian! But no complaints because it was actually really good. We visited the restaurant BelleBuòn around 7pm and it was empty! They asked if we had reservation and even without it, they were able to seat us. We ordered a bottle of wine, pizza, and lasagna. And everything was delicious!

TIP: While in Europe, a lot of places asked for reservation. Even small cafes. So if you are set on visiting a specific restaurant or cafe, call and make a reservation!

Afterwards, while walking back to our accommodation, we noticed a beautiful building. It was the Sant Pau Art Nouveau site. We did not go inside but just the building itself was gorgeous. I couldn’t wait to see more of Barcelona.

I am back, ready to update!

Hello everyone!

I hope you all are having a great start to 2020.

I was able to end my 2019 with family and also start 2020 with family so I’m having a blast! This Europe trip has been amazing and I cannot wait to share experience with you 🙂

Stay tuned for travel schedule and tips!

Here is a small preview 😉

So any photos! But I’m excited to go through them~

Packing for winter Europe

It is extremely hard to pack for a trip in winter. Winter clothes take up more space in your luggage and are heavier too.

Here is a list of things I packed.

Clothes
3 coats (red, olive, and grey)
1 light coat (grey)
3 jeans (blue, black, pink)
2 leggings
2 tights
2 skirts (camel and light grey)
3 long sleeve shirts
3 sweater
winter scarf
glove
ear muffs
2 satchels
1 tote bag
grey walking shoes
dark grey ankle boots (wearing)

Tech
laptop and charger
camera (Sony a5000) and charger
extra memory cards
phone (Samsung S10) and charger
fitbit and charger
tripod
adapter
earphones
sim card

Others
vitamins
make up
tooth brush/paste
piercing healing spray (I recently got one so I need to clean it)
board game (small)
hot packs
passport
priority pass

I did not pack my travel size hair dryer because of the difference in power. I wasn’t sure if the adapter could take it. So I’m just relying on my accommodation having one.

So I packed all this in 1 luggage, 1 backpack, and 1 tote bag. After packing, there was still some space left so I have space for light shopping. Hopefully I can keep it light!

Also, I will let you know if what I packed was enough or too much.

Spain! And where else in Europe?

Back in September, my brother and his wife moved to Madrid, Spain. So since then, my family started to plan for winter break in Spain. My parents have never been there before and same with me so I thought it would be perfect. So I talked to the family and they all agreed! Spain for winter break for my parents, 2 brothers, 2 sister-in-laws, and me. This was exciting! So I started planning right away.

However, planning for this trip was difficult. I’ve never been a long vacation like this nor have I planned a trip for so many people. So this was new to me.

First thing was to figure out what day to fly out to Spain. What days can we all be available. We had to figure out our parent’s schedule and work around that. We were able to find 9 days that worked for all of us.

Second, we decided on what cities to go to. Usually, I like to go from city to city and hit up all the major spots. However, this time, we wanted to take it slow. Take time to enjoy the city a bit more. So we all agreed to do 3 cities. But which ones? The major must were Barcelona and Madrid. Barcelona was unanimous between the kids and Madrid because my brother and sister-in-law moved there.

So which city would be our third?

I was stuck between Seville and Granada. Seville is the bigger city but Granada had Alhambra. I ended up making a powerpoint presentation for my parents and they decided on Seville by just looking at pictures from the internet. Here is my presentation. Which one would you have picked?

Photos from Google images
Photos from Google images
Photos from Google images
Photos from Google images

Third, after we had the dates and the cities, I picked a route that fit our schedule. Barcelona in – Seville – Madrid out. So once the route was set, I went ahead and purchased my parent’s flights using my Chase Reserve card. It was going to be an early Birthday gift to them from the family. When I told them the news, they were so excited.

I wanted to make sure that they were not arriving in Spain and being strained alone. So I looked for flights that arrived before my parents. And perfectly enough, I found a KLM flight for my parents that arrives at 5:05pm and a TAP flight for me that arrives at 5:00pm. Perfect!

Once, we had our dates, flights, and cities, we booked our accommodations. I did not realize that booking a place for 7 people would be so hard. Hotels were out because we would have to book 2 rooms and would not know how to separate the family members.

So we started looking at Airbnb. We were looking for apartments that had multiple bedrooms and bathrooms and living area. With a whole apartment, our family could spend more time together. So we all looked. All the cities we picked were tourist cities so there were a lot of Airbnb rooms and apartments to choose from.

However, there were some issues with some of the places for family use. A lot of the places had room for more than 7 people.However, it would be 2 bedrooms with several bunk beds. This was not suitable for my parents. So when making a booking on Airbnb, don’t just look at the number of people the apartment can host but what type of beds they have and how many rooms they have.

After all the arrangements, we are just all looking forward to this family vacation!

I’ll write about my experiences when I come back!