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Busy in Barça

Catalonia - Barcelona

all seasons in one day 23 °C
View Catalonia on kmmk17's travel map.


After almost a week by the beach in Salou, we took the train back up to Barcelona for the final weekend, in what felt like an entirely separate holiday.

After just over two hours, we arrived at our hotel around the corner from the Sagrada Familia. With much to see, we quickly dropped our bags off and headed into the city.

We began by walking over to the Hospital de Sant Pau, a UNESCO protected former hospital when the heavens opened. As we walked through the rain towards the Sagrada Familia, we ended up close to a flat where a fire has erupted on one of the roof top air conditioning units. With the road closed and many people standing watching we watched as the fire was put out before making it to the Gaudi Park outside the Nativity side of the cathedral.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Originally we had hoped to go inside the cathedral itself, however when we got there we realised that tickets for the whole weekend were not going to be available. As a special event was taking place, only morning slots were open, which had by now all sold out.

Catalan Parliament in Ciutadella Park

Catalan Parliament in Ciutadella Park

We therefore made our way over to the beach, before walking around the zoo site to the Ciutadella Park. Walking past the Catalan Parliament and the lake, we made it to the Arco de Triunfo, our last sight of the day, where a big protest movement towards the upcoming disputed independence referendum was being held. We could tell that this was about to kick off - with a week to go there was so much tension in the air.

Arco de Triunfo

Arco de Triunfo

Before heading back towards the hotel, we stopped for food, and then had a few hours to chill. We waited for it to get dark before heading back out to the Sagrada Familia for views of it lit up.

Sagrada Familia by night

Sagrada Familia by night

The following morning we got up for breakfast which felt like a step down. Having stayed in only a 3* after our week of 4*, we went down to find no pancakes, no chocolate syrup and no champagne! Nevertheless this was still a decent breakfast in a decent hotel. No worse than on any of other holidays this summer!

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d'Espanya

After having our fill, we made our way out for our full day of exploration in the city. Starting at Plaça d'Espanya, we went up to the roof of the bullring-turned-shopping centre for a view over the roundabout, Palau Nacional and Montjuïc before actually heading up there on foot.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park

After stopping at the Palau Nacional for views over Plaça d'Espanya, we then ended up at the site of the 1992 Olympic Games, before making our way across Montjuïc towards the eastern end with views over the port.

Barcelona Port

Barcelona Port

After a lot of uphill walking we then made our way down the cliffside path towards the city centre. After seeing the Columbus monument, we walked up Las Ramblas before entering the Old City and Plaça Sant Jaume. This was full of protesters for democracy, and after eventually making our way through the crowd, we continued towards the Barcelona cathedral.

Protesters in the Old City

Protesters in the Old City

By now we were feeling really achy, and so after a short walk we stopped for a break at the Plaça de Catalunya. Our final sights today were the Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, two fancy buildings designed by Gaudí.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

Although still relatively early, after yet again walking around 10 miles, we headed back to the hotel for a long rest. Going back out for dinner later we decided not to view this evening's festival entertainment as we wanted to rest instead.

On our final day, we left our bags at the hotel and made our way out to Park Güell on the outskirts of the city centre. Full of Gaudi architecture it was unsurprisingly filled with tourists.

Park Güell

Park Güell

After having a look around the park, with views over the city, we made our way across the city towards Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona stadium filling up the remaining time before we needed to head to the airport for our early evening flight home after a busy but lovely week away.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 13:44 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture park hotel city cathedral catalonia olympic Comments (0)

Castles & Alpine Bavaria

Bavaria - Hohenschwangau

sunny 23 °C
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As like yesterday, the plan for today was to take an excursion on the train, before filling what remained of the day with some sightseeing in Munich.

Waking up at the disgusting time of 6:30am, we headed down for breakfast, before making our way to catch the 8:40 train to Füssen, not far from the Austrian border.

The German Alps

The German Alps

The border area is full of mountain backdrops, which although most of the peaks are in Austria, there are also some German mountains, and thus after yesterday's mild disappointment, we were about to embark on an Alpine experience.

Neuschwanstein overlooking the village

Neuschwanstein overlooking the village

Getting off the train with tonnes of East Asians, we raced to make sure we could get a place on the bus to the next village. Luckily two bendy buses turned up, and so there was plenty of room! 10 minutes later we were in the village of Hohenschwangau, home to the Neuschwanstein Castle.

The Marienbrücke

The Marienbrücke

After a bit of confusion, we took the bus up to the Marienbrücke - a bridge over a gorge with fantastic views of the castle, before we crossed over and walked up a bit of the hill opposite, where views above the castle could be seen.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

The views were very good, but as it was quite steep we headed back towards the castle itself, past the bridge. Not long later we were at the castle itself.

Views over the castle

Views over the castle

We had decided not to go inside as the queues were very long and it didn't seem worth the wait, but we managed to get inside the courtyard itself anyway, and thus we still saw a fair bit.

Inside the Courtyard

Inside the Courtyard

Heading back down the hillside, we eventually ended back in the village, where we then headed towards the lake at the bottom of the road.

Alpensee

Alpensee

Surrounded by mountains with clear water, it was particularly beautiful, and after taking many pictures, we headed back into the pretty village and towards the bus stop to head back to the station.

Alpine Buildings

Alpine Buildings

Whilst Salzburg had felt very generic and city-like, this village on the other hand gave us that Alpine experience we were craving. After a two hour journey back through the countryside, we arrived back in Munich and headed back to the hotel.

Glockenspiel

Glockenspiel

Having a quick rest, we then headed back to the city centre, in time for the Glockenspiel performance at the clock tower, where at 5pm an old story about the city is told through figurines.

Munich buildings

Munich buildings

After grabbing dinner, we then headed for a walk around the city centre sights, heading towards the Englischer Garten - a large landscaped park along the riverside.

Englischer Garten

Englischer Garten


Chinese Tower

Chinese Tower

After walking as far as the Chinese Tower, we headed back towards the city past the university before our last stop, at the Theresienwiese, site of the Oktoberfest, where tents for this year's event were already being assembled.

Oktoberfest site

Oktoberfest site

After a long day of walking and exploring, we headed back to the hotel for a well earned rest, before our final day in the city.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:09 Archived in Germany Tagged hills park walking mountain city castle alps bavaria Comments (0)

When a cheeky night becomes a cheeky weekend

Madrid

sunny 25 °C
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After a successful trip to Italy in the summer, Fara and I were off for another adventure - this time to the capital of Spain, Madrid.

Although having been to Spain several times before, I had never been to the capital, and with friends in the city as well as some good flight times, it was a perfect destination for a weekend getaway in the autumn.

We had booked ourselves an early flight out on Saturday and a late flight back on Sunday, giving us almost two solid days in the city, despite it being just one night away. And with the second biggest metro system in Europe, after the stress of Central Asia, Madrid was simple to get around and wouldn't take us too long to see everything we wanted.

Arriving in Madrid by 10am, we cleared the airport and headed to the hotel to drop our bits before exploring the city. The hotel was even closer to the metro than we had expected and after grabbing some snacks at the supermarket next door, we found that our room was already ready for us, and so checked in and dropped the bags.

Puerta Del Sol

Puerta Del Sol

Our first sight was Puerta del Sol, the very heart of Madrid, and from where all distances in Spain are counted from before continuing towards Plaza Mayor - the main city square built by Philip II.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor


Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Heading through the Old City streets we then arrived at the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral, in the heart of Royal Madrid. After going inside the cathedral at the end of mass and taking photos of the nuns, we watched the changing of the guard outside the Palace's eastern entrance before heading past the Opera house and to Gran Via for some shopping and food.

Tapas Night

Tapas Night

After a busy morning we headed back to the hotel for some rest as this evening we would be meeting up with some of my friends. Having been part of the Erasmus programme, during my time in Germany I made lots of friends across the world. Laura, whom I had met up with earlier in the year was from Madrid, and in addition, Teresa from Granada was now living near the capital.

Coincidentally, Marianna from Greece was also in Madrid this very weekend, and so we all met up at Sol on the Saturday evening to catch up and enjoy some drinks and Tapas at a festival taking place this weekend. Meeting more Spanish people we had an enjoyable evening catching up before Fara and I headed back to the hotel for a well earned sleep after an incredibly long day.

Cibeles

Cibeles

Enjoying a very long lie in, the following day we left our luggage at the hotel and headed to Plaza de Colón, the square dedicated to Christopher Colombus, before walking down to Cibeles and then Puerta de Alcalá and the Retiro park, where we would be joined again by Laura and Marianna.

Retiro

Retiro

With Madrid experiencing an exception 25˚C, the park was incredibly busy with city residents and we had an enjoyable time walking around the lakes and gardens before saying goodbye to Laura.

Inside Retiro

Inside Retiro

We then headed back towards Sol, and after saying goodbye to Marianna, Fara and I had dinner before heading back to the hotel to grab our bits and finally the airport for our flight home - or so we thought.

Eventually getting through the incredibly long security queue, we found our flight had been delayed by 45 minutes - ok, nothing to worry about we thought. When this was extended to 75 minutes we had a gate change but everything appeared to be going well - we boarded the plane and were greeted by a less than enthusiastic Agatha, who despite appearing to be able to provide any assistance, when asked for help smiled and stepped backwards. The captain then told us that because of bad weather and landing restrictions back in Luton, we would have an 80 minute delay - in addition to the 75 minutes we'd already experienced, but they would see if they could bring it forward. Not great when it was already getting on for 11pm, but at least Agatha came around with some cups of water - even if we did have to practically wrestle her for them.

Delayed again

Delayed again

Nevertheless we waited, and after an hour we were told they hadn't been able to bring it forwards and therefore because of working hour limits, we couldn't be taken home. Great. Now we had to unbuckle, get on the airport bus, and go back through immigration, where we found a timid Spanish easyJet employee stood in the corner providing little information. With it now getting on for midnight, the plane load of people were of course quite agitated. And with her not giving out any information in English we had to rely on Spaniards translating to let us know our flight was delayed until 10:55 the following morning. Great. There goes me starting work at 8:30....

Eventually she stood on a baggage reclaim belt and announced she would tell us the information in Spanish and then English. After 10 minutes of a question and answer session in Spanish, she eventually started telling us we had a hotel. However by this point the black man next to us had become so irate he shouted at her asking how he was supposed to get his duty free back through security and how his poor wife could go to her job interview the following morning (although why she was fluting back from holiday in Madrid late the night before is another question...). Meanwhile, a Chinese man was filming the whole scene, and when she asked him to stop as it was not allowed, he replied "I know" and then continued to chase around the room; leaving the rest of us not knowing what was going on.

Eventually we were informed that we'd be getting on a coach to take us to the hotel. Hoping that the speedy boarding policy was no longer in operation, we boarded the coach and were taken to a lovely 5* Marriott Hotel for the night and provided with food and breakfast the following morning. Although as it was now 2am, it was just an hour per star of the hotel. Had they simply cancelled the flight at the first delay we could have at least rested that night.

The next morning we were taken back to the airport, and with the same seating and same passengers, given a new crew who would take us home. Arriving just after 12, I was so determined/stubborn (delete as applicable) that I would go to work - as I should have been there this morning that I then drove straight from the airport to Hemel, despite still being in yesterday's clothes (including underwear) and with none of my work bits, including door pass in order to prove my point. What a miserable end to a lovely trip....but Madrid was nice at least.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged park palace city friends erasmus Comments (0)

New York & The North East USA

RTW - New York

overcast 7 °C
View Round The World Trip on kmmk17's travel map.


After 19 hours of travelling, I had finally arrived in my last destination, New York just after midnight on a cold November evening. I then had to make my way from JFK airport to my hotel in Chinatown, adding another hour or so to my day, but when I finally arrived I did find my room to be lovely and warm, and easily set about going to sleep and having a long lie in.

Grand Central

Grand Central

Waking up at about 9am, I decided not to keep lying in bed, as I had a very early start the next day, and so started exploring New York. I started my day going over to the Flatiron building, and then walking up Fifth Avenue, past the Public library, Rockefeller Center, and into Central Park - before heading back down to Grand Central station, the Chrysler Building and finally the UN building - where I had booked a tour in the late afternoon. The UN is classed as international territory, and once inside we got to see the Security Council chamber, (unfortunately the main debating hall was closed for repairs), and many artefacts and awards, before going to the shop and buying gifts and postcards with special UN stamps for postage.

UN

UN

After this I went off to Times Square to eat and then head back off to bed, as for the following three days I had booked an excursion to Niagara Falls and Washington DC.

Meeting early the following morning in Chinatown, I boarded the bus that would take us on our trip with mostly Chinese tourists, but also Europeans and some Americans and Australians. Each of our days involved early starts and late finishes, but crammed in a lot into just 3 days!

We began the trip heading north, stopping at the Secret Caverns en route...however with the trip already not being cheap, I decided that for most of these "optional excursions" as they were called, I would not bother with. Unfortunately this did mean hanging about outside on my own in the cold for 45 minutes most of the time...but in the end I realised this was probably worth it, as they were all tourist traps I wasn't bothered about.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Eventually we arrived at Niagara Falls in the evening, and after getting some dinner I went off to explore the falls in darkness, which meant that they were lit up with lights from the Canadian side. Unfortunately the way the trip was planned, and the experience of American immigration meant I had to scrap my plans to cross over into the Canadian side, where the best view undoubtedly was....but I did get to get insanely close to the waterfall edge!

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls

We returned to the falls again the following morning to see them in daylight (where water got inside my camera and almost ruined the day's photos) after we had visited the Niagara Fort up by Lake Ontario, where there was even a view of Toronto!

View across Lake Ontario

View across Lake Ontario


US Capitol

US Capitol

On the final day of the excursion, we started by visiting Washington DC. Here we visited the Capitol building, the White House, and Lincoln Memorial before going on a river cruise past the airport and Pentagon.

Washington DC

Washington DC

We then went to the Space museum, where I touched part of the moon, before heading back off towards New York.

Stopping in Philadelphia for just 15 minutes, we got to see the Liberty Bell and the Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, before making our way back to New York and completing our excursion.

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Although the excursion was very quick, and involved a lot of driving, I really didn't mind, I got to see a lot of things and have now seen everything in the USA I wanted.

Having arrived back in New York, the following morning I got up and headed straight over to the World Trade Centre memorial site, which had just opened a few months previously, allowing visitors to see the new fountains on the site of the towers.

South Tower Fountain

South Tower Fountain

After visiting the moving site, I then took a short walk over to take the free Staten Island ferry which gives a great view of the Statue of Liberty as it goes past (which many others seemed to also realise).

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

The change in Staten Island involved a quick run through the ferry terminal to make the return ferry in 1 minute, or wait another half hour - successfully I made this, unlike many others who were shouting "ruuuuuuuuuuuuun" only to fail to board in time.

Manhattan

Manhattan

Making my way back to Manhattan I walked around much of the civic and financial buildings, such as Wall Street, before crossing Brooklyn Bridge and taking loads of pictures of the Manhattan skyline. It was here that I got a laugh, thanks to a girl was discussing with her friend the biggest issue in her life - that whenever someone asks her where she's from, when she replies Brooklyn they always reply "No, where are you REALLY from? ...Nobody is from Brooklyn" #FirstWorldProblems

Central Park

Central Park

On my final day I had a late flight, and so after leaving my suitcase back at my hotel, I went off back to the Rockefeller Centre, where I went up to the top floor, giving me great views to the north over Central Park, and to the south over Manhattan, with a great view of the Empire State Building in its full glory.

Manhattan

Manhattan

I then finished the day and my trip with a wander around Central Park, before heading off to the airport and my flight home.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls boat tower park city capital parliament border rtw niagara liberty Comments (2)

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