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.

My Travel Bucket List

I’m a list maker–whether it be a shopping list, an ever-evolving to-do list, or my places to visit bucket list. As a travel blogger, this last list is one that I am constantly scheming places to add and later cross off. As I draft this, I’m currently at 39 countries visited, and soon, I hope to have seen more.

So, without further adieu or waxing eloquently (un-eloquently?), here is the shortlist of where I’d like to visit sooner than later:

  • All 50 U.S. state capitols: I currently have 9 left to hit.
  • Cuba: I am hoping to see Havana before it catches up to modern city.
  • Galapagos Islands: Turtles!
  • Peru:  Bring on Machu Picchu.
  • Brazil: After the Olympics this summer, I’m looking forward to Rio even more.
  • Antarctica: It’s the ultimate…and I do have a goal to hit all 7 continents.
  • Iceland: Air Iceland’s stopover package in Reykjavik sounds amazing.
  • Jordan: The historic architectural site of Petra seems unreal.
  • Egypt: I really want to see the pyramids…should have gone several years back when I had the opportunity!
  • South Africa: Friends went on an incredible safari…yes, please.
  • Cambodia: Angkor Wat is absolutely at the top of my list.
  • Vietnam: I’m curious to see the difference between Northern and Southern Vietnam.

With ever-growing inspiration and places I’d like to go, it’s almost impossible to want to revisit destinations I love. Yet there are places I want to be again. Places like Bora Bora, where we honeymooned, or Greece or Italy, which I’ve traveled to a couple of times but want to experience more.

As I pen this, I think of the Things To Do While Alive advertising campaign that struck me almost a decade ago when I lived in Sweden. Some items are checked off, and some of the items are still on my bucket list. I am thankful for these experiences, for the technology to capture memories (from my trusty Canon EOS! to Hipstamatic! and now my Sony and Instagram app), and for 5 senses to take in the world. Cheers to those places and people that have made impressions on me, and here’s to all of the adventures in store!

 

November 2016 Travel Photo of the Month

When asked what my favorite country in the world to visit is, I immediately think of Thailand, home of friendly people, phenomenal food, and incredible sites. I love visiting it so much that my husband and I are preparing to journey there in the near future during an upcoming Southeast Asian vacation. Making this my third trip to Thailand, I began to research new things to see during our initial couple of days in Bangkok.

The recent passing of Thailand’s long-serving monarch, King Bhumibol, certainly shed a sad light onto my planning, as the nation is now in a mourning period. I did find these recommendations for tourists from the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT); these guidelines mentioned Wat Phra Kaeo and the Grand Palace would be closed for funeral rites. From a past visit, I recall that both are stunning architectural sites–and this inspires November’s Travel POTM™. This photograph, of a Grand Palace guardian, was taken on a sunny May afternoon and remains my desktop image…reminding me of colorful, historical Thailand.

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September 2016 Travel Photo of the Month

Shall I post a snapshot of Old Town Dubai, after talking about trip with a friend this weekend? Or do I go old school and pay homage to my first visit Down Under, which happened seven years ago? Nope. September’s travel POTM is a recent image I captured last week on a tour of the U.S. Capitol.

About a month prior to visiting, I emailed my senator, who just so happened to be Harry Reid and currently the Senate Minority Leader. For those that know me, I am not the most political of people, yet I was thrilled when my visit coincided with a breakfast meeting with Senator Reid. We met in the LBJ room–fitting for a Texan-turned Nevadan–and our host was charming and personable.

After spending 30 minutes or so with our small group, Sen. Reid jetted to the Senate floor to give a speech about Donald Trump. Since I’d been eagerly been awaiting a tour of the Capitol for many years, I can’t tell you what he said in that speech. I can wax eloquently about the dome–featured in the picture of the month, as well as giggle about the “sassy chicken” that traipsed across the floor of the crypt during construction. (Her footprints were fun to find, in addition to statues from each state in the union.)

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Our POTM highlights the center of the dome, with a painting called “Apotheosis of Washington”. It clearly shows George Washington–whom I learned so much more during jaunts to Annapolis and Dover!–being the baller leader that he was, rising to the heavens. It was a gorgeous, patriotic experience, and I must express my gratitude to Senator Reid and his staff for hosting a lovely meet-and-greet and tour of our nation’s capitol. While the first presidential debate tonight rages in the background, I am proud to be an American…and a Nevadan!