This post is a continuation of my first post about our time in Europe! I can’t believe we almost skipped Europe on this trip. Maybe it was because it was the middle of winter, but it was not nearly as expensive as we thought it would be (which was the only reason we had decided to skip it anyway)! There is so much to see and do in Europe and we could have traveled there for a year and not seen everything on our list. We settled on a few cities we have always wanted to go to that had some cheap flights.
We met up with my parents in Barcelona and had a great time! I wish we could have seen some other parts of Spain, but we were hoping to make this trip an actual vacation for my parents instead of our usually rushing from place to place (as we did with them in Japan). After Barcelona we went to London. The flights to South America were relatively cheap from London and the British Pound conversion rate was in our favor so it seemed like as good of a time as any to go!
We blinked and our time in Barcelona was already over. My parents met us in Barcelona for a week and it was the absolute best! They took a break from snow and cold in Cleveland to hang out with us in Europe. It is a shame we didn’t get to explore more of Spain, but it was fantastic to have an entire week to see Barcelona – there is so much to do, see, and eat in this city and we did not have to rush around trying to see too much. We ate our way all around the city and ate an unspeakable amount of pinxtos (smaller snacks similar to tapas).
Nights Spent: 7
Things We Liked
Family, Spanish (finally!), pinxtos and tapas, good wine, beautiful architecture, nicer weather, sunshine, football, and sangria
We also liked having an awesome patio at our Airbnb.
Things We Disliked
Not being able to utilize our awesome patio fully since it is winter, being on the lookout for the notoriously crafty Barcelona pickpockets, and still being sick (although we have both improved significantly).
The Bueschers Take Barcelona
I have been able to spend more time with my parents this year during our travels than on any other year in recent history. It has been so fun to see the world together…some of my favorite memories are traveling with my family. This year we have been able to travel with them to Niagara Falls (to both the US and Canadian side), Japan and now also Spain – how cool is that?!
FC Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid
Football, or soccer as Americans call it, is a big deal in Europe and Spain is no exception. We were able to go to a semi-final game in Barcelona at Camp Nou to cheer on the home team, FC Barcelona, against Atlético Madrid. It was a really cool experience and everyone was mostly behaved (except for the fan that went rogue and ran onto the field. It probably helps that they don’t serve alcohol at the games. The crowd would go through a range of emotions: quiet, anger, happiness, back to anger….it was a blast even though we usually had no idea the full extent of what was happening! The game ended in a tie (I still don’t understand how that works), but at least we didn’t lose.
Super Bowl & NYE 2017 (Again)
For as long as I can remember my parents and I have always gone through our highs and lows for the year on New Years Eve/Christmas. Some family friends got me started on writing out the highlights and lowlights when I was really young and I have loved doing it ever since! Spending Christmas abroad this year meant that we were not able to complete our yearly tradition…so New Years Eve happened once again in February! I always love reminiscing on the past year over a glass of champagne and this year was no different. We made it to midnight where we toasted to the new year (that was already 10% complete) before we turned out attention to the Super Bowl!
The super bowl started at 12:30 am in Barcelona. We watched the game until the end of the 3rd quarter…the Patriots were down and there was no way that they were going to win. It was around 3:30 am at this point and it just seemed smart to head to sleep and give up on the game. There was a 99% chance that the Falcons would win and it was really late already. The next day we woke up to the news about the Patriots and their epic comeback in the 4th quarter/overtime. My dad didn’t even believe me in the morning when I told him what happened. We may never forgive ourselves for going to sleep and missing out on the excitement.
Eating Everything in Barcelona
We are our way through Barcelona – tapas and pinxtos (smaller than tapas) were my favorite and I wish this style of eating were bigger in the US. Places that serve tapas in the US usually are expensive, pretentious, and I need to order so many tapas to have enough food. We really enjoyed being able to go into a place to grab a few pinxtos (priced at anywhere from 1-2 Euros/piece) and have a glass of wine or sangria. Our apartment was located 2 blocks from Blai Street, a street filled with reasonably priced pinxto places and the best tapas place in town, Quimet & Quimet. If you ever make it to Barcelona, do me a favor and eat at all of these places! The food scene in Barcelona is next level.
One of our most memorable dining experiences was our last day when we went to try a traditional Catalonian food that happened to be in season, Calçots. We initially learned about these onions on an Anthony Bourdain episode and did not think we would be able to try them ourselves until we arrived in Barcelona and saw them on a menu. The wait staff at the restaurant we went to did not speak English well (just about as good as my Spanish). They presented us with bibs, rubber gloves, and told us to put them on as our first dish of the calcots showed up on our table. The waiter then announces to the entire restaurant that we do not know Spanish and asks if anyone can help him explain how to eat them. He took one of our onions and demonstrated the proper technique – you are supposed to hold the top stalk, break off the bottom and pull the onion out. Once you do this you dip the onion with a healthy coat of sauce and strip the onion of the meat with your mouth. The meal was an absolute mess and we left the restaurant with grins from ear to ear. We had so much fun!
There are wine regions all over Spain and it didn’t feel quite right to visit without learning more about Spanish wines. We signed up for private wine tasting with Blended and Bottled where we learned about Cava (equivalent to the champagne of Spain) and other wines of the region. We paired them with some Spanish meats and cheeses and had a fabulous evening! None of us knew that we liked Spanish wines so much and I will certainly pick up some wine from Rioja in my future.
It was always the idea that half of our trip would be in Asia and the other half in Spanish speaking countries. We are now 6 months into our trip and have not set foot into a place we can use Spanish until now – it has been slightly frustrating, but how can you complain when we have had the opportunity to see so many incredible places? With the exception of our 5 days in London to finish off our Euro-trip all of the remaining countries we will visit on this trip speak Spanish as a primary language. I am so excited about that! I have forgotten most of my speaking skills and need some serious practice, but I am ready for the challenge…even Scott is remembering his Spanish from high school and it has been really fun.
La Sagrada Familia
After visiting a few cities in Europe we have seen a fair share of impressive churches. La Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi, is unlike the others. The outside is stunning even with the ongoing construction site since the church is not yet complete. Seeing the outside of this church would be a notable activity when in Barcelona, but the inside…the inside is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is incredible and so different from any other place I have ever seen. My engineer brain can hardly understand how so many curved lines in the architecture of this church make any sense structurally, but damn it is beautiful.
We love London. This could be partly due to the fact that we felt comfortable here – we could speak the language, eat comfort food, and shop at familiar stores. It could also be that London is just a really, really cool city. It is like NYC, but with much more charm. Everywhere you look there is beautiful architecture, a museum (usually with free admission), or a historical site. I am not sure if you can ever run out of things to do in London. It was really cold and rainy most of the time we were here, but it did not stop us. London is an incredibly beautiful, picturesque city and has so much character despite being so large. The iconic red double-decker buses, black taxicabs, and red phone booths litter the city and the style in the entire city is so unique.
In addition to seeing the London sites we also got some things done in London. Both Scott and I saw the doctor (which was free – I still don’t understand why), got haircuts, and restocked our bags with some much-needed supplies. We ate really well, drank good beer, and I was able to get my earl grey tea fix.
Nights Spent: 5
Things We Liked
English, T.K. Maxx (yes, just like T.J. Maxx), beautiful architecture, museums with free admission, the tube/the Underground, Chipotle, craft beer, full English breakfasts, fish & chips, and being comfortable.
Things We Disliked
Expensive (although the exchange rate is fantastic right now – thanks Brexit!), the weather could have been less cold, and mushy peas – what is the fascination with those? We really disliked very little.
Whole Foods, Chipotle, and T.K. Maxx (just like T.J. Maxx, but way better selection) to name a few of our favorites. I freaked out in the middle of the street upon learning there was a Chipotle nearby and I had zero chill at the Whole Foods salad bar. You could not wipe the smile off my face as I ate my salad, which is really embarrassing. These things are really basic, but to us they were incredible and familiar (and they might have made us miss home a bit). We were able to go to the drugstore and restock our cosmetics and toiletries that were running low with the same brands we love back home. We could absolutely live in London if someone told us we had to move there. It was a highlight to go to some places we have been missing!
New York City has Broadway, but London has West End. Anyone who has been to NYC probably knows about TKTS, the place you can stand in line to get cheap tickets to Broadway plays the day of. London has this too! We decided to see a show for Valentine’s Day because…why not? We were able to find reasonable tickets to Kinky Boots, a show that we had heard rave reviews about from family and friends. We knew nothing about it, but decided to give it a shot. It was amazing! We had a great time. Our seats were way better than expected and the show was full of energy and hilarious. It was a memorable V-Day across the pond. Also, we had ramen before the show and found a shop that sold our beloved pastries from Portugal, pastel de natas, for desert (we may or may not have snuck them in). I swear those things are like crack.
All of the Sites, All of the Sights
Big Ben, Hyde Park, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey…the list is endless. There are so many iconic and historic places in London to see. As I mentioned above, most of the museums offer free admission so we were able to go to the Natural Science Museum and the National Gallery (which has some pretty famous artists’ works). We wish we had time there as there is so much to see in the city.
Changing of the Guards
We went to go see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. Most of the year they have this everyday, but during the winter it only takes place every other day. That could be why so many people were there, but in reality it is probably always packed with tourists. We could hardly see anything despite arriving almost an hour early. The ceremony is a bit spread out so we were able to see the new guards march in and the band, but other than that we were in the dark. I hear the ceremony is really great, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see much. We did get to see a bit of the fanfare though! There were police on horses, the band that marched in uniform and of course the Queen’s Guard. We don’t regret going to see the excitement, but maybe wish we would have gotten there another half hour early and would have known exactly the best spots to stand. We will know for net time we make it to London!
Total Number of Nights: 12
Languages: Spanish and English
Currency: $1 USD = 0.95 Euro = 1.24 British Pound
Number of Flights: 2
Number of Miles Traveled: 4,275 (including our flight from Lisbon)
Number of Miles Walked: 88.4 miles (average of 6.8 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 190,260 steps (average of about 14,635 per day)
Transportation Used: Taxi, metro, train, and plane
Type of Accommodations: Airbnb (1) and hotel (1)
Number of Beds: 2