Spanish Day Trip- Girona, Pals & Costa Brava

After being in Barcelona, Spain for a few weeks I was anxious to explore some surrounding areas outside the city. A friend suggested Girona, a medieval town about an hour from Barcelona, and I also came across Costa Brava and its beautiful beaches. During more research I landed on a small group tour company who actually takes you to BOTH in one day! Plus a tiny medieval town in between the two called Pals. I signed up right away and was so excited to spend the day exploring these new places. And best of all… I didn’t have to plan a THING!

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GIRONA

The first stop in Girona was a city rich in history with influences from multiple cultures. Our guide gave us a introduction to the city’s history while walking through the streets, and we were then given alone time to explore on our own. I made sure to hike up to the gardens on top of the hill where there were multiple towers looking over the beautiful city and green hills in the distance.

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PALS

Next up was a tiny town called Pals. It is known for the rice it produces there, and most of the dishes with rice in the surrounding areas have rice from this town. We strolled around the streets and admired the countryside that was very reminiscent of Tuscany, Italy.

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Playa Calella De Palafrugell, Costa Brava

My favorite was definitely saved for last! Playa Calella De Palafrugell is a part of Costa Brava, and the views were stunning. The water was crystal clear, and the blue sea was a gorgeous contrast against the bright white city. Our group divided off for lunch where we enjoyed a few drinks with a perfect view. I was set on getting in the water, had been wearing my bikini all day under my clothes. So despite the fact that it was freezing water, I dove right in.

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My Barcelona adventure is almost over on the blog! Next up is the wine and tapas tour to wrap up my first month abroad in such an artsy and vibrant city.

 

Madrid Weekend Getaway

Last weekend I said goodbye to my new home in Barcelona for a few days to experience another city in Spain, Madrid! A friend of mine who I hadn’t seen since she moved from the U.S. to Amsterdam 2 years ago was there for work and invited me over to visit. Because that’s just what we do now… hangout in other countries… no big deal. I was excited to see another city and spend some time catching up over tapas and wine.

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She suggested we go to the Rooftop Bar of the ME Madrid Reina Victoria hotel, and it was the best place we could have started the weekend. The views were so beautiful, overlooking the plaza as the sun came down over the rooftops. We enjoyed a few glasses of cava with her coworkers and because we are girls and this is what we do, got a few pictures taken with the picturesque scenery. The night ended with plenty of laughs, countless tapa dishes and a few bottles of wine at Max Madrid, just on the other side of the plaza below.
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The next day while my friend was busy being an adult and working, I set out on my own to explore the city. Before leaving the U.S. and for the first few days of being in Spain I planned on getting a SIM card for my iPhone so I could use it like normal while away from wifi. WELL, I ended up saying forget it and did the unthinkable… I can only use my phone on wifi out here. I know right, unplugging from technology, am I insane?! First of all it has been nice to be forced to disconnect while I’m out and about seeing these gorgeous places, but there are times when it would come in handy, like when trying to navigate new places. So to solve this I used my tech skills, screen-shotted a map of Madrid focusing on the main area I would be in, added stars to a few specific places I wanted to see, and saved the image to my phone. Gotta be resourceful in times of need.

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I spent the day visiting all the places on my list plus stumbling across so much more. That is one of my favorite things about traveling– finding unexpected places. I tend to pin point a few key things but the rest is fun to encounter while you’re getting slightly lost in a whole new place. I will never be one of those travelers with a regimented, timed-out schedule, and I never want to be. Living fully in the moment is a key aspect of traveling for me, and too much planning sucks the fun and spontaneity out of that. There aren’t too many times in everyday life you can be so open and carefree so it’s important to cherish those times.

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Museo Nacional Del Prado
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Plaza Mayor
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Plaza Mayor
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Plaza Mayor

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Catedral de la Almudena

On my way to the Royal Palace Madrid I came across the Catedral de la Almudena, one that was not starred on my makeshift navigation map. It was my favorite place I saw in all of Madrid. I am a sucker for old churches anyway, they are so beautiful and detailed. But this one stood out to me because of the brightly patterned ceiling. Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with patterns so it was like this church was made for me. The soaring arches and ceiling took my breath away.

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Catedral de la Almudena
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Catedral de la Almudena
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Catedral de la Almudena
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Royal Palace of Madrid
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Royal Palace of Madrid
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Royal Palace of Madrid
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Basilica of San Francisco el Grande
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San Jerónimo el Real

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Buen Retiro Park

These trees. were. ridiculous. I would love to meet the person who grooms these trees just so perfectly.

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Buen Retiro Park
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Buen Retiro Park
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Buen Retiro Park
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Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora
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Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora
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Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora
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Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora
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Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora

After my friend and I enjoyed a delicious and refreshing sushi dinner (which I am now craving just by typing the word sushi), we turned the corner from the restaurant and stumbled across this freaking BEAUTIFUL place. Its like the time of day and lighting perfectly aligned for this picture to be taken. I can’t get over the architecture and the complimentary orange and blue colors happening here.

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The next day we were determined to enjoy yet another rooftop. But come on, you can never enjoy TOO many rooftop views. This specific place made it to pretty much every list for best views of the city, The Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes. I will say it’s very touristy up there. You have to wait in line to go up in the elevator, wait in a long line for drinks, wait in a line to leave. Lots of waiting. But the waits are totally worth these amazing views of Madrid. I never knew how vast the city was until that rooftop.

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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes
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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes
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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes

And because we are girls and this is what we do, we had to snap a few pictures to document the moment. Plus the light was absolutely perfect for some sunset snapshots, can’t pass up some good sunlight.

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Tartan Roof on top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes

The next day I returned to Barcelona where I’ll be until June 30th! A day after Madrid my friend came to stay with me for the rest of the week and we saw some amazing sights around the city. Be sure to check back for the next post to see our time at the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, two iconic parts of Barcelona.

Balancing Work y La Playa

The day after arriving in Barcelona it was time for me to get back to keeping up with work. I’ve been asked a lot by people I’ve met out here if I’m here for work or pleasure, and I always answer with both. Do I have to be in Spain for work? No. Am I on vacation? Not exactly. I’ve had to find a balance between wanting to explore the city all day and making myself stay put to get my work hours in. It definitely makes it easier that there is so much to do work wise and my travels depend on getting it done, but there are definitely those times where I look out the window from my apartment on a beautiful sunny day and just want to close my computer for the rest of the day and go to the beach.

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I found in the early mornings or later evenings (when the sun isn’t directly in my eyes and on my screen!) our little patio is the perfect spot to enjoy the amazing weather while still knocking out some projects on our apartment’s wifi. It’s definitely necessary to switch up your environment when you’re working from home. When you’re not surrounded by coworkers in a regular office environment sometimes the change of scenery helps stimulate your mind and you can get more accomplished.

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Another routine I have started while working remotely out here in Barcelona is my midday break. Usually I throw on a pair of sneakers for a run, but other times just a casual pair of sandals for a walk around the neighborhood. With the time difference between here and Atlanta, GA I can usually get back from my afternoon explorations by the time everyone else over there is just getting to work- perfect timing. This has helped me break up the day while still feeling like I’m taking in more and more of the city each day.  And with SO many beautiful places to still explore there is always more to see.
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Once the weekend came I was ready to treat it like a true weekend. Now I did still open my computer for a few hours of work here and there, mainly just to make up some time  from earlier in the week during my travels. On Saturday despite the cloudy skies I made my way down to Port Olímpic, right next to Barceloneta Beach. Thankfully once I got there after 2 metro rides the clouds had moved past the beach and I still was able to get a few hours of sun in.

On Sunday I went to Basílica Santa Maria del Mar, what a beautiful interior of a church. I have a thing for cathedrals, they always make it to my must-see list when visiting a city. The architecture, soaring ceilings, stained glass and attention to detail is so beautiful. From there I took a walk back down to… you guessed it… the beach. 🙂 I can’t help it, I am in love with the ocean and needed to take full advantage of now living so close to it. Although my neighborhood in Barcelona is not right near the water, a nice long walk or a quick metro ride gets me there in no time. After another full day enjoying the sun it was time to wind down, get some tapas and prepare to get back to work.

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