Barcelona’s Best

My favorite issue of Travel and Leisure each year comes out in August: “The Best in the World”. I hungrily read it from cover to cover to learn what readers select in the World’s Best Survey as the best hotels, cities, island, cruises, and airlines in the world. Whether I’m pleased to have personal experiences with places on their pages or I’m planning a future adventure (here’s looking at you, Charleston and European cruise), this T+L is my definitive list.

One of the parts that I am always curious to read is the best cities, especially in Europe. This year, Florence, Rome, Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Budapest rounded out the top five European cities. Having been to 80% of these cities, I began to think of how I’d rate these cities. I loved the stunning river views in Hungary’s capital, and I visited both Italian cities on my very first international journey. I can see why Barcelona rates highly up there: it has perfect weather, delish cuisine, and the architecture was riveting!

In this post, I’d like to go back ten years ago and share some memories of a trip to the capital of the Catalonia region. Upon arrival from a UK business trip, I met up with my traveling companion on a Saturday night. An easy taxi ride into the city, we started the mini-break with sangria and incredible veal–a typical late evening dinner in Spain. Over the next few days, we saw the Palau Nacionale’s fountains, rode Vespas around the city (bucket list!), ate paella, and basked in the sun on a playa.

Visiting Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece, Sagrada Familia, was a joyous highlight. Then, I was mesmerized that the construction on this gorgeous temple would not be complete until decades later. As I pen this, the official website of the basilica states that the architectural work could be completed in 2026. The Sagrada Familia’s carved murals and Christian symbolism throughout its design was somewhat of a pilgrimage for me, and any visitor would be stunned by the incredible views from its many complete towers.

I think of Barcelona as a journey through Gaudí’s unique vision with additional visits through Parc Guell and on the terrace of his famed apartment Casa Mila. Besides his modern–and sometimes zany–creations, the shopping off of Las Ramblas and the hospitality of its people make Barcelona an excellent choice for a long weekend.

And the readers of Travel + Leisure certainly agree with me: 2017 is the first year in three Barcelona didn’t make its top 10 cities in the world list. (If you’re curious, #1 this year was San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, followed by Charleston, South Carolina.) ¡Olé!

August 2017 Travel Photo of the Month

As someone with a background in green buildings and sustainability, I love seeing new life breathed into old buildings. In San Antonio’s Pearl neighborhood, a fabulous shopping and dining district has risen from the ashes of the former Pearl Brewery. Imagine a place where kids play in a water feature while parents sit nearby and sip coffee. Shoppers peruse 13 unique stores, and guests marvel at the brewery-turned-luxe Hotel Emma. The Former Pearl BreweryOn a recent summertime visit, my best friend Holly and I had a double date with our mothers. We enjoyed mimosas at the lobby bar at Hotel Emma before cobb salads for four at Southerleigh. The moms–kindred spirits who were cheerfully in awe of the transformation of old to new–and daughters alike were inspired by the story behind the restaurant Cured (story here). An leisurely afternoon at the Pearl should be on the list of any visitor to the Texas Hill Country!

June 2017 Travel Photo of the Month

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With the first day of summer being a week away, I am thinking about vacations, traveling, and spending time outdoors–or at least poolside!

June’s Travel POTM™ is a simple photograph taken on a business trip several years ago to Leicestershire, England. My company at the time had an office in the amazingly worded town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and while accommodations at the Fallen Knight (now permanently fallen…and closed) were adequate, I stayed in Market Bosworth.

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My British colleagues recommended I stay at Bosworth Hall Hotel and Spa, and after looking at the picturesque countryside views, I concurred. I remember strolling through the grounds taking photos, then wandering into the village to inspect my surroundings. Here in Market Bosworth, known best for a weekly market on Wednesdays, I found this lovely sight that has become one of my favorite travel photos. And in honor of spring and our impending summertime, I share it with you.

May 2017 Travel Photo of the Month

Self-reflection is an interesting thing, and May’s Travel POTM™ makes me go into a journey thinking of the me of the past. “Professional Travel Girl” is what I named my blog several years ago when I was traveling the world for work in the energy efficiency business. Now, I don’t travel as much in my professional life, yet I am still hungry to explore the world.

Recently, I visited my 42nd country: Cuba (of which I’ll cover in a future post). For a nation to count on the travel list I am constantly hoping to grow, my trip must be more than an airport layover or a train ride across…sorry, Switzerland. There are too many places on my current shortlist, but for now, I can look forward to exploring more of the United States and reliving past adventures in my scrapbooks and blogs.

So, what about the bright photo below captured in Isla Mujeres makes me go into reminiscing? It reminds me of a great trip to Mexico with my dear friend Holly and the day we took a catamaran to the island. We tried on Mexican wrestling masks and sipped on fresh rum-based cocktails. This photo captures the me at the time: fun, colorful, exploring, experiencing culture, and of course, working to make the world sustainable and energy efficient.

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It’s good to reflect–and remember two other very different trips to Mexico. If I were to take a photo of the me today, what would it look like? It’d certainly be of Vegas me, a marketing and communications consultant who still loves to travel the world.

April 2017 Travel Photo of the Month

One of the coolest things I’ve ever done was go on a month-long business trip around the world. For four weeks, I circumnavigated the globe on an American Airlines around-the-world fare, starting in Europe, going through the Middle East, and concluding in Australia. Spending time in both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates were both so different than anywhere I’d ever been, and I truly treasure my days of global traveling.

The POTM™ was taken in Dubai in front of the Burj Khalifa, which is still the tallest building in the world. I took the opportunity to actually go up in it, which I will happily check off my list but not replicate, due to the insane amount of visitors that had the same idea. In fact, I think I’ll happily stay on the ground–or shop at adjacent Mall of Dubai–and snaps some photos!

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Last Stop through Balkans: Dubrovnik

After learning about the recent history of Dubrovnik–including the city being partially destroyed in the 1990s and later renovated–I really wanted the opportunity to explore “The Pearl of the Adriatic”. Medieval fortress? Check. Chic shopping? Done. A famed spot only findable by its “Cold drinks…this way” signs? Count me in.

We visited Croatia in the fall of 2013 as a part of a Balkan road trip. Our journey took us through three countries, beginning with Albania. Beautiful in parts, one could tell that this poor nation was still reeling from Communist rule that ended in 1991. Our favorite parts were the southern coastline and the quaint village of Berat (where our “expensive” meal was $26 for the two of us). We next ventured into Montenegro, and the difference between it and Albania was shocking. We lunched in the coastal town of Kotor (a must-see!) prior to continuing our road trip with the most wonderful people from Australia.

By the time we reached our last stop of Croatia, we were all fast friends and continued to tour Dubrovnik together. There, we explored Old Town’s city walls, as well as the famous cliff bars. Home base for my boyfriend (now husband) and me was the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, which was adjacent to the gates of Old Town and had stunning views of the sea. It was a perfect meeting spot for our group to meet to walk into the walled city, where we strolled, had incredible meals of fresh fish, meandered on the actual wall, watched cliff divers, and soaked up the culture.

 

 

December 2016 Travel Photo of the Month

Between the brutal jet lag and catching up on real life, I’ve neglected editing the 824 photos my husband and I took during a recent trip to Southeast Asia. Equally daunting: how can one possibly chose just one to feature as December’s Travel POTM™? Time management and prioritization aside, I’d like to offer a glimpse into a part of our journey that wasn’t even on our radar prior to our trip planning.

Enter Tonlé Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. Some interesting factoids about this body of water in Cambodia? It flows in two directions–due to the Mekong River–and can swell to be four times its size in the wet season. We traveled by car to a boat “dock” (I use that term lightly), where we boarded a rickety local boat, run by an engine that resembled a weed whacker and sorely needing a fresh coat of paint.

Our cruise took us to Kampong Phluck, a small village entirely on stilts! Fishing is the main local economy, and we delighted in seeing families working together to bring in that morning’s catch. Imagine an entire existence based upon living on the water in a house on stilts! Even further, the schools, police department, and even temple were raised high above the muddy waters as locals buzzed about in small boats.

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Stilt Village on Tonlé Sap Lake

We also saw multiple crocodiles and had a harrowing canoe tour, yet that is a story for another day. Perhaps one in the future when I have edited all of the photos from an incredible visit to Southeast Asia…