Travel

Travel early and travel often. Live abroad, if you can. Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially. ~ Tom Freston

The beauty of living in London is that you have the rest of Europe literally just across the sea. It’s a great, cheap and an awesome way to get some culture in on the weekend. You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a quick getaway.

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I’m back from Barcelona with a wicked tan and a penchant for saying “Hola!” and “Gracias!”, all the time.

Dear Barcelona,

When I visited you two years ago, you took my heart. I vowed I would return, and whilst it took me two years to make it back – I did. You didn’t disappoint.

From your astonishing views to your chilled out vibes and amazing weather, everything about you is a hundred and ten percent perfect.

I didn’t want to leave, but alas it is back to reality for me. It won’t be long til I’ll be back. Adiós.

DAY 1

We almost missed our coach to the airport, and the panic almost settled in but we remained relaxed and calm. Thankfully, bag drop wasn’t too long and we managed to grab something from Pret before we got to our gate. I’ve never flown from London Luton Airport before, but it is so out of the way. 

We didn’t really spend the whole day in Barcelona because we arrived in the evening, but as soon as we had settled in the hotel – showered, readjusted wig, ordered room service, etc. etc. – we headed out. Our hotel was located 5 minutes away from Bogatell beach, so we headed in that general direction.

There were a bunch of restaurants lined along the beach, and so we headed over to El Chiringuito where there was good music and even better cocktails. The waiter got really excited when he found out we were from London, and proceeded to explain that people from Spain LOVE London. ALSO, €5 for a 20 pack of cigarettes. WTF, SO CHEAP.

We also ended up finding Port Olímpic, where there were many shisha bars, tapas bars and clubs upon clubs. 2am in the morning and we were eating tapas (chicken wings and patatas bravas) and drinking cocktails. Freaking awesome way to start the holiday.

DAY 2

Breakfast was included in our booking with the hotel, but I’m sad to say it wasn’t all that. Nevertheless, food is food and we filled our bellies up before getting ready to head out to Park Güell.

Tip: You can purchase a Hola BCN! travel pass for either 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. You can make unlimited journeys all over Barcelona and the metropolitan area on public transport: metro, Montjuïc funicular and bus (TMB), local train (FGC), tram (TRAM) and regional train in Barcelona (Rodalies de Catalunya). 

Park Güell is probably one of the best parks I’ve visited, and honestly the exhausting hike up to the top is definitely worth it because the view is out of this world. You can go even higher, but I was wearing the wrong shoes that day. Next time. Next time.

Park Güell is the reflection of Gaudí’s artistic plenitude, which belongs to his naturalist phase (first decade of the 20th century). During this period, the architect perfected his personal style through inspiration from organic shapes. He put into practice a series of new structural solutions rooted in the analysis of geometry. – Wikipedia

We ended up walking for ages and were lost at one point, but it was all okay because Barcelona served us with some more amazing views. We found a random lift, which led us to a random little cafe called Els Colors de L’Eva where we stopped for ice creams.

Absolutely loved the graffiti I encountered in Barcelona, as well!

We ended our day at Bogatell Beach, where I promptly fell asleep as soon as I lay down on my beach towel. ?

The view from the top of Park Guell

The view from the top of Park Guell

We were lost at this point... but look at the views!

We were lost at this point… but look at the views!

No more dramas... ?

No more dramas… ?

No tinguis por, que mai no serem vells. Emigrarem d'arreu com els ocells cap on la parla és solament un mot. / Don't be afraid, we'll never be old. Like birds migrating over to where the speech is just a word.

No tinguis por, que mai no serem vells. Emigrarem d’arreu com els ocells cap on la parla és solament un mot. / Don’t be afraid, we’ll never be old. Like birds migrating over to where the speech is just a word.

DAY 3

Our friend, Tilly, arrived the previous night and we were meant to go out but we were absolutely knackered. The real touristing started this day.

tourist life ?

tourist life ?

Our first stop was Catedral de Barcelona, an absolutely beautifully built cathedral located in the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). We didn’t go in because 1) the line was really long and 2) it was hella hot, but we appreciated it from the outside. I was impressed by its architecture and I will definitely have to go inside when I go back.

We also found El Món Neix en Cada Besada (The World Begins With Every Kiss), a photo mosaic designed by Joan Fontcuberta using images snapped by local residents.

The mural, which measures 8m x 3.8m, was installed in 2014 as part of Barcelona’s Tricentenary celebrations commemorating the fall of Barcelona during The War of The Spanish Succession.

The mural, which measures 8m x 3.8m, was installed in 2014 as part of Barcelona’s Tricentenary celebrations commemorating the fall of Barcelona during The War of The Spanish Succession.

We then wandered around the Barri Gòtic, exploring all the alleyways and little shops with their wares on offer. The architecture is mainly in Baroque or Romanesque style, and there is so much to take in everywhere you walk. It’s amazing. 

Fun fact: we stopped off at a rent-a-bike place where I tried a motorised scooter and proceeded to embarrass myself by crashing into all the bikes lined up against the wall. Please believe I scarpered SO fast after repeatedly saying, “Lo siento! Lo siento!” [1. I’m sorry in Spanish] to the man. ?

Sangria pit stop at Tasca el Corral was much needed at this point. Had to get my bearings after all the shenanigans, and to figure out where we were to go next.

It still amazes me that they are still building the Sagrada Família. Seriously, construction has be ongoing since 1882 and they have an expected finish date of 2026. Still, it is a magnificent building and seriously awe inspiring. All of Gaudi’s designs are something else, and so much more better in person than any photo could ever show. We also visited Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, which are both located very close to each other in Passeig de Gràcia.

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona.

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona.

Casa Batlló is a renowned building located in the centre of Barcelona and is one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces.

Casa Batlló is a renowned building located in the centre of Barcelona and is one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces.

Casa Mila was the last civil work designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, and was built from 1906 to 1912.

Casa Mila was the last civil work designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, and was built from 1906 to 1912.

We headed back to our hotel, to get ready to go the beach (again!). After suntanning forever, we dined at Xiringuito Vai Moana. I tried the typical Catalan bread with tomato and extra virgin olive oil, and George’s BBQ wings – very delicious! For my main I had a pulled pork sandwich; the pork was slow cooked at a low temperature and had coleslaw as well as crisps as a side. Yum, yum, yum. I would definitely recommend their frozen margaritas, too.

Our plan was to go out on the town, but after being trapped by a random promoter on the street, we ended up paying €20 for 2 beers and 1 shot (or 1 mixer and 1 shot) and entry into different nightclubs. Never get trapped, guys. We were promised VIP travel to the nightclubs, but ended up walking for 15 minutes before we even got to the coach. The coach was hella fun, I can’t lie, because everyone was singing and SO drunk. Ha. We got into a nightclub called Shoko, which I vaguely remember being in last time I visited Barca but I was so drunk last time, and oh God. Not great. Not great, at all. Maybe if I were more drunk?

We didn’t even bother going to the other clubs and ended up going back to the hotel, instead.

DAY 4

This turned out to be a beach day. We woke up early, and after breakfast headed over to the beach. It was already quite packed by the time we got there, but we paid €8 for a deck chair (no umbrella, son, because I’m trying to be DARK outchea), and we even had drink service. Ladies of leisure, I’m telling ya. All you really need in life is a beach, a good book, good weather and gorgeous men in your line of sight. ? I particularly love how the women do not give two sh*ts, and walk around with no bikini top. I wish I had that confidence!

After spending half of the day at the beach, we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit before heading out to Telefèric de Montjuïc, a cable car ride. A round trip ticket is €12, and it is a great way to see the city from up high. The Telefèric also takes riders to the Castell de Montjuïc, an old military fortress, with roots dating back from 1640, currently serving as a Barcelona municipal facility.

Telefèric de Montjuïc

Telefèric de Montjuïc

?

?

I think you guys already know how I feel about views...

I think you guys already know how I feel about views…

For dinner, we ended up in Plaça Reial, a square in the Barri Gòtic where there a number of restaurants and nightclubs. There was also street entertainment in the form of sexy Brazilian men doing gymnast moves – fucking great ? We ate at Ocaña, a Mexican restaurant, where I ordered tortilla chips and guacamole, patatas bravas with aioli sauce, and chicken tinga tacos. Everything was washed down with sangria, of course.

We then trekked all the way Calle Aribau for Dry Martini, a cocktail bar recommended by Time Out. Although it was pricey the interior is so chic and sophisticated. The drink I had – Drive Me Crazy (Bacardi 8, Passion Fruit, Lemon, Vanilla, Cordon Negro Freixenet) – was absolutely gorgeous, and beautifully presented. Very James Bond-esque.

We then headed to Port Olímpic in search of shisha. What a woozy way to end the night.

DAY 5

I am ashamed to admit we didn’t leave the hotel until 3:45pm. By this time, we were absolutely hangry so we went to Timesburg, a gourmet burger place located right near our hotel. I will definitely be writing about this place for the Food Diaries because it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. I ordered the Kobe burger; 200g wagyu beef, arugula, tomatoes, asiago cheese, caramelised onions and Timesburg mayonnaise. GORGEOUS. I also ordered a portion of chips, which ended up way too much. 

We then headed over to La Boqueria Market, one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets. It’s located right on Las Ramblas, and therefore tourist central but all the noisiest and messiness of it all adds to the authenticity. 

source: jumpwhenisay

I absolutely love public markets, and it was fun seeing all the sellers and different things that were on sale. It is so colourful and smelly and overwhelming, and definitely a place you need to visit if you ever go to Barcelona!

We then headed toward the beach near the Hotel W. When I am rich and/or have a sugar daddy, I am staying at the Hotel W because it is one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever seen. The beach we ended up at wasn’t great, but I managed to grab some Headspace and also be amused by a man selling doughnuts. He promised us that we would chase after him for his doughnuts. Lol.

palm trees

palm trees

We were only there for a few hours, but actually ended up going inside the hotel and found out that we could chill by the poolside even though we weren’t guests. We rushed back to the hotel to get ready and then headed back out.

Best. Night. Ever.

Hotel W actually has a nightclub 26 floors above Barcelona and it was simply amazing. We did some pre drinking before hand, but we didn’t buy anything in the club because we were too busy dancing our asses off. It’s free to get in and the DJ was absolutely amazing.

We didn’t get home until 4am. The security guard at the hotel was very gracious about it all.

DAY 6

We did not even make it to breakfast. 

Absolutely shattered that day. We headed back to the Barri Gòtic to find some food because we were hangry again. Thanks to Yelp, we found a spot called Allium where the food was good and waiters were hella cute. 

Again, I ordered Catalan bread with tomato and olive oil and patatas bravas (the amount of patatas bravas I ate on this trip…). For my main I had roast pork with candied vegetables, which was drizzled in this amazing sauce. The waiter was very accommodating also, because Tilly wanted paella but it said minimum two people. As I’m allergic to seafood, and Mutay doesn’t eat seafood, it would only be her who would be eating it. Thankfully, the waiter spoke to the chef who agreed to make a single portion for Tilly. Love service like that! We also the best sangria ever at this place!

Loved it so much that we did this. ?

We then did a detour and ended up going on a boat trip on Las Golondrinas. A 40 minute trip and only €7.40, it is quite a basic boat trip – so no audio or anything like that. Still, it’s a lovely way to relax especially if you’ve been walking around loads – hence why I fell asleep on the trip, ahahha.

take a picture of the professional picture so you don't have to pay €10, lol

take a picture of the professional picture so you don’t have to pay €10, lol

We attempted to rent bikes, again, but there was all sorts of palava including needing a credit card for deposit, ID and all sorts, so we ended up leaving it. We did find a Chicken Shop & Dirty Burger, a restaurant we have in London as well, where they were doing €4 cocktails. I ended up getting a quarter chicken and two cocktails: Tommy’s Margarita; Tequila, lime, agave, nectar and Lilly the Pink; Bacardi gold, manzanilla sherry, strawberry sugar syrup lemon, prosecco. So good!

We were meant to go to the beach, but the previous night had literally shattered us so we ended up heading back to the hotel, instead. We vowed to head back to Hotel W for round 2 at the club, but that didn’t happen either – think I’m getting too old, guys.

We ended up eating McDonald’s in the hotel room, LOL.

DAY 7

LAST DAY. *insert tears of anguish here*

Again, we spent the morning on the beach and then headed out to Maremagnum, a shopping centre close to Barcelona Port. We paid extra for late checkout, so we weren’t rushing around. We didn’t do much on our last day, and our flight was at 6:40 in the evening. I literally spent most of the day lamenting about how the holiday had gone by too quickly, and can I just say I lost my passport and stay forever.

For sure I know I will be back. The first time I visited, I fell completely in love and it happened all over again the second time I visited. I feel I need to make Barcelona an annual thing, because honestly a piece of my heart is firmly planted in that country.

no se preocupe, voy a estar de vuelta. amo demasiado como para dejar para siempre. / don't worry, i will be back. i love you too much to leave forever.

no se preocupe, voy a estar de vuelta. amo demasiado como para dejar para siempre. / don’t worry, i will be back. i love you too much to leave forever.

I actually don’t know how to be one, but I felt like that title would grab people’s attention. Perhaps you have to go around drinking coffee that isn’t from Starbucks and not be bothered about the rain, because it rains all the time. In that case… I’ve got it down to a T because I do that in London, anyway.

News that Taylor Swift had gotten together with Tom Hiddleston exploded all over the Internet, whilst I was in the US, and I can’t lie… it infuriated me. So, I drowned my sorrows in food and decided to not let the likes of a blonde bimbo get to me.

Ahem.

DAY 11

This was a really chill day spent exploring more of West Seattle. It’s a bit of the way out from where my cousin lives, but it’s definitely worth a visit. 

West Seattle is home to spectacular views of Puget Sound, quirky and chic shops and Alki’s Beach Park. It’s a nice neighbourhood, especially if you’re just looking for some downtime on your trip.

My first stop was Easy Street Records, which has an impressive array of vinyls and CDs. There are also a handful of second hand bookshops, where you can buy books for $1. Honestly, I felt like I was in heaven as I walked around. I then took a bus to Westwood Village, mainly because I needed to go to Target to pick up some things that my dad requested, and also ended up in Barnes & Noble. I bought ‘303 Writing Prompts: Ideas to Get You Started‘, which has actually been extremely helpful in getting my creative writing juices flowing!

After, that I took another bus to Alki Beach and literally just stayed there until I needed to meet Doreen. The weather was really good, so I plonked myself on the sand, put my sunglasses on and chilled with my book. Note: Once on Alki, there are two free buses which operate in the local neighbourhoods. Route 775 travels along Alki Beach, Route 773 services the West Seattle “Junction”.

basic beaches.

basic beaches.

Before heading back to Downtown, I picked up some vanilla bubble tea from Saigon Boat Cafe. Delicioso.

After relaxing for a while, myself, Doreen, Chris and Tonette headed out to go on a little food trip, which according to Doreen was just a normal weekly thing. Oh, to eat like a king.

  • First stop was Soi, located in Capitol Hill. It is a Thai restaurant, with a focus on the food of the raised plateau of the North Eastern region of Thailand called Issan. My favourite dish had to be Nang Gai Tod, which is crispy fried chicken skin – I could eat that every day for the rest of life, ngl. I would also recommend Phad Kana Moo Krob, which is found at many roadside stalls through Thailand and comprises of crispy, tender pieces of pork belly stir-fried with garlic, Chinese kale, soy sauce, and fresh Thai chilies. Their drinks menu is also really good!
  • Next stop was Big Mario’s Pizza, which is only around the corner from Soi. An absolute dive of a place, a place you probably wouldn’t be caught dead in unless you’re a biker or a druggie, but the sort of place that you still want to be in because they serve the: Best. Pizza. Ever. New York-style slices with combinations you didn’t think would work, but actually do, for example pear and gorgonzola. So, so good.
  • Last stop was Kurt Farm Shop, also in Capitol Hill tucked away into the Chophouse Row building. All you really need to know about this place is cheese ice cream. CHEESE. ICE. CREAM.
Nang Gai Tod หนังไก่ทอด

Nang Gai Tod หนังไก่ทอด

Everyday, I eat

Everyday, I eat

Hearts satisfied, and bellies full, we headed back home.

Day 12

I just had to brave the queue at the Original Starbucks! After picking up a yummy corndog from one of the stands in Pike Place Market, I joined the queue and whilst the wait was hella long, it was definitely worth it!

Located near the waterfront of Pike Place Market, everything in the entire store is original: the floors, the fixtures, the counters. It’s pretty magical. They even have the Starbucks’ original mermaid, baring her breasts and spreading her tails.

Also, an amazing thing happened where I ordered my iced frappé and whilst I was waiting the barista gave me an extra refresher because they just had one spare. Love, love, love!

logo

star

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The weather wasn’t that great, so after popping into Target and raiding the stationery section (I bought a new calendar and planner), I headed back home. Later on that evening, we went to see Central Intelligence. I would definitely recommend this film if you love comedies. Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson are epic together, and the sight of the Rock in a My Little Pony t-shirt is sure to set you off.

Day 13

What do you do on your last day in Seattle? Why, you head out to Tukwila and chow down on some Jollibee, of course! Tukwila is a suburban city in King County and the northern edge of Tukwila borders Seattle. Doreen and I ended up in Westfield Southcenter, where we obviously had to go to Jollibee because when will I ever eat Jollibee besides going to the Philippines? I had to go for the Chicken Joy because that crispy skin, tho… *drools. I can’t believe how much rice I ate on this trip, hahahaha. The queue for Jollibee at 10 in the morning was already hella long!

I could fried chicken every day. Every cot damn day.

I could eat fried chicken every day. Every cot damn day.

We also went to Seafood City, which is basically the second home for Filipinos.

We walked around a little bit and I bought some last minute gifts for family and friends. It’s a generic mall, and we have Westfield here in London, so it was nothing new.

Go Seahawks!

Go Seahawks!

By this point, I had already seen most of the touristy things in Seattle and then some, so there wasn’t much left for me to do. We ended up back home to relax before heading out for a late lunch with Tonette and Chris.

Westward is located on the north shores of Lake Union, and if you sit outside you get some great views of Seattle’s skyline. The weather wasn’t great, so we decided to sit inside, however if you want to brave the cold weather they also provide blankets and there is outdoor heating 🙂

It was definitely one of the fancier restaurants I visited whilst in Seattle – Tonette and Doreen ordered a buttload of oysters, but as I am allergic to seafood I settled for chips & dip and crudités. For my main, I ordered Confit Chicken Hash: pearl barley, green garlic, broccoli raab, poached farm egg, lemon yogurt. It was absolutely delicious. To be honest, when it arrived it didn’t really look appetising. I mean the presentation was good, but the colours were so bland. Nevertheless, it was really, really tasty!

I then had a latte and beignets for dessert. Beignets are absolutely gorgeous! I’d never had them before I went to Westward, but when Tonette told me what they were I just had to order a plate 🙂

chips and dip/crudités (raw, pickled & cured things)

chips and dip/crudités (raw, pickled & cured things)

Honestly, tasted better than it looks!

Honestly, tasted better than it looks!

Required to touch the soul to wake it up

Required to touch the soul to wake it up

Beignet, synonymous with the English "fritter", is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry.

Beignet, synonymous with the English “fritter”, is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry.

I was utterly distraught to be leaving Seattle. The fact that it was raining as well, was surely a sign that the sky was crying because I was leaving. Alas, I’m a hopeless romantic like that. Just like that 2 weeks were over in the blink of an eye. My flight home was uneventful; as my flight was in the evening, it meant that I arrived afternoon time the next day. Didn’t really have jet lag, to be fair, and I kept myself awake until it was time for bed. I had to do that because I had work the next day, otherwise my body would have been messed up, ha.

Back to reality.

Back to reality.

I had the most amazing time discovering new cities whilst in the US, and I know for sure that I will definitely be back. From visiting the Space Needle to going to Disney to crossing a death-defying bridge, and of course, eating all the food along the way – I would do it all over again… right now

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

For now, it’s back to reality and dreams of going to Barcelona next August. Until the next travel post ?

Sometimes when I haven’t blogged in ages, I forget what it feels like to blog. Then when I actually do get round to writing a post or checking out blogs or replying to comments, I feel a rush and I’m like, “Damn, Chynna. You should really get your sh*t together and keep up with the blogosphere more because this feeling is amazing.”

Moving on.

Oh, LA. Where do I even begin with LA? Of course, the ultimate highlight of my trip to LA was meeting Nancy for the first time ever in our 5/6 year blogger friendship. I specifically remember my airbnb hostess asking us when was the last time we saw each other and her reaction when we said this was the first time we’ve actually met. Hilarious.

Nancy – you are awesome and sweet and just as amazing as you are online. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I’m so grateful that you were there to show me around some of LA. I’m also so touched that you were willing to spend your birthday with me at Disney! Love you, girl ❤️ – and as Terminator would say, “I’ll be back.”

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The thing about Canada is that it is a massive place. A massive place that I am hoping I get to see more of one day, but for now I am content that I got to visit Vancouver at least. Don’t worry, Merry-Beth, I’ll be back 🙂

Highlights include:

  • Richmond Night Market – for all the foodies out there, this one is for you!
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge – don’t go here if you’re afraid of heights, ha ?
  • The Peace Arch – look at me, I’m crossing borders!

DAY 6

selfie

Canada bound!

So, plans from the previous night fell through because we decided to be lazy and eat Dick’s (ha!) and watch Sherlock instead. Also the fact that we had to wake up early anyway was a factor in the final decision to stay in.

We woke up early that day to get ready for a road trip to Canada. Muta was still in my eye as I entered the car, but it’s whatever. The journey wasn’t too long, and took us approx. 3 hours. We had to stop off midway to drop off something for my Tita’s friend and then we were on our way to Vancouver!

Our check-in at the airbnb wasn’t until around 2, so our first stop was Stanley Park, which borders the downtown of Vancouver. The park is absolutely massive, and shows off some beautiful skylines of Vancouver. You have the option to wander around the park on foot or take a guided tour by horse-drawn carriage, shuttle trolley or tour bus. 

They have nine totem poles at Brockton Point which is a definite must visit. 

The collection started at Lumberman’s Arch in the 1920s, when the Park Board bought four totems from Vancouver Island’s Alert Bay. More purchased totems came from Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and the BC central coast Rivers Inlet, to celebrate the 1936 Golden Jubilee. In the mid 1960s, the totem poles were moved to the attractive and accessible Brockton Point.

The Skedans Mortuary Pole is a replica as the original was returned home to Haida Gwaii. In the late 1980s, the remaining totem poles were sent to various museums for preservation and the Park Board commissioned and loaned replacement totems.

The ninth and most recent totem pole, carved by Robert Yelton of the Squamish Nation, was added to Brockton Point in 2009. – Source

They also have a gift shop where I bought a Canada mug and a dream catcher 🙂

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