Barcelona Travel Guide

Oh my god guys, I got back from Spain about a week ago now and LET ME TELL YOU, IT WAS AMAZING. My mom and I went as a belated college graduation gift and I already am planning my next trip back. The people there were phenomenal and nothing short of helpful — even with my broken, Gringa spanish! Anyway, we went to Barcelona, San Sebastían, and Bilbao. I’ll do this in a three part series so that it doesn’t get too overbearing with recommendations

Starting with Barcelona, we definitely went at an interesting time. I’m not sure if you’ve heard but there’s a ton of protests happening there due to the region Barcelona is in, Catalunia, wanting to secede from Spain. Or at least have a similar agreement to País Vasco. Anyway, to prevent myself from going down that rabbit hole, I’ll focus on happier things. Like food and accomodations.

We stayed at this cute little hotel called H10 Universitat off La Rambla, a huge promenade of sorts with gelato, alleys, and restaurants, and it was perfect. Our room wasn’t very big nor were our beds but it was a great place to come back to after a long day of walking. And the rooftop views were to die for. So stunning. And I’ve heard it wasn’t even the best view in town. The hotel itself was really centrally located and we were able to get to everything we wanted to see by walking. Plus it’s about a 25minute walk to La Sagrada Familia and great shopping.

It’s an absolute MUST you try the paella in Barcelona, or the seafood in general. I thought i’d had fresh seafood growing up on the west coast but this stuff — hot damn. We got a recommendation from the hotel front desk for some authentic paella that wasn’t overly touristy and they pointed us to a restaurant nearby that for the life of me I can’t remember the name of. BUT IT WAS SO GOOD.

But the absolute highlight of Barcelona, save for the gelato and the people, was by far La Sagrada Familia. It’s a cathedral you can actually attend mass in and it will change your life. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí and there’s still construction being done on hte place to this day, almost a century later. It’s breathtaking to see something that is so based on nature, without more straight lines than necessary, and it will leave you breathless.

I’ve never been all that religious but dang, this place made me want to pray and thank somebody up above. It was magical. If you’re ever in Barcelona, you need to go here. It’s beautiful and I’ve never really seen anything quite like it.

Have you been to Barcelona? What were some of your favourite spots??

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‘All The Missing Girls’ by Megan Miranda

First of all, this book, man. It’s told in reverse, is a mystery that literally keeps you guessing, and refuses to let go of your heart strings. Normally, i’m not a fan of books told backwards but Megan Miranda makes it work somehow. Not entirely sure how but she does. Anyways, moving on.

This book follows the protagonist, Nicolette (or Nic), as she moves back home to take care of her dad after he calls about seeing a missing girl. Along with her brother, Daniel, they check him into a nursing facility specializing in dementia care. And you learn that 10 years ago, after graduating high school, Nic’s best friend, Corinne, suspiciously went missing after the annual town carnival. And she was last seen with Nic and her then boyfriend, Tyler Then suspiciously, a few days after Nic arrives in town present day, another girl named Annaleise goes missing. The funny thing? It’s Tyler’s current girlfriend.

The plot thickens as you go back in time learning about how Annaleise is tied to Corrine’s missing, what actually happens to Corrine that fateful night, and how family feuds as well as old flames never really go away or fade quietly. It’s an interesting part where every chapter is named The Day Before or some unit of time. I’ve been getting into mysteries lately and this one by far takes the cake with keeping me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The twist at the end literally had me gasping. ANd normally, I pride myself on being able to call who done it halfway into something.

It’s also a fascinating look into how first loves never really go away and sometimes family wounds run deeper than one could ever imagine. As the old adage, every family is screwed up in their own way. And Nic’s family definitely fits the bill.

This book is a great look into what it means to be human, to fail, to lose, and still pick yourself back up again. It dives into what coming home really means when your past is less than picture perfect and how there’s never one pure definition of coming home.

I loved this book and read the bulk of it on a 9 hour flight from Paris. It’s great, dark, and fascinating. I loved it.

Favourite quote: If there’s a feeling to coming home –something comforting and nostalgic: a mother’s cooking, a family pet sleeping at the foot of the bed, an old hammock strung between trees in the yard — for me, it’s this. It’s Tyler. KNowing that there’s someone who has seen all the different versions of me; watched as they stacked themselves inside one another; knows all the choices I’ve made, the lies I’ve told, the things I’ve lost, and still. 

‘Wanna Be’ by Betty Who

So I just started getting into Betty Who’s music after shazaming one of her songs on the radio (does anyone still listen to the radio? just me? okay cool, cool) and hearing Sophia Bush rave about her. Sidenote: Sophia Bush, from One Tree Hill and general badassery, is life goals. Seriously. Anyway, I’ve listend to ‘Wanna Be’ by Betty Who more than I care to admit and most of her songs on Spotify. Why? Because ‘Wanna Be’ can apply to anybody’s love life complications and the need to be recognized.

This song is a gut shot and really makes you evaluate your craziness in wanting to stalk a crush. Betty Who’s voice is haunting too and you can’t get it out of your head, no matter how hard you try. With this song, for me at least, it was a great representation of wanting somebody you can’t have — whether that person is in a relationship, hooking up with someone else, or just plain emotionally unavailable. We’ve all been there, haven’t we, at least once in our lives? Thought so.

Even if you’re in a great relationship, this song will still remind you of your crazy exes and make you stoked that you’re in a better place now. It’s a reminder that emotions sometimes get the better of us and that my mother was always right, that matters of the heart are always complicated. No matter how much we try to uncomplicate it, the heart has a mind of its own and it’s completely illogical.

It also doesn’t help that this song makes you want to sway during a night of self-care and appreciation. It’s got a beat that makes you want to jam out with a hairbrush as a microphone and serenade yourself in the mirror. It’s a great song. Check it out on YouTube or Spotify and don’t forget to support your local artists!

Favourite lyric: i know she’s sweet but she isn’t me 

 

 

“The Gift From The Sea” By Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This book is short, sweet, and refreshing. It makes you feel like you’re in a beach house somewhere off the coast where nobody can find you and you come back completely differently. You know, the way a beach house is supposed to be. At least, the ones I visited growing up and dreamed of having one day. Anyway, this book follows the author while she’s on a solo writing retreat, collecting sea shells, and trying to figure out what it means to be a real modern woman.

Though it was written in 1955, a lot of the lessons still hold up today surprisingly. Where you learn that sometimes you just need to get away from it all, go somewhere where you’re forced to relax, and where time is a little slower than the city. Lindbergh goes into how she could never make a full time life by the beach but that might just be why it’s a needed refresher every so often.

The Gift From The Sea reminds us of the old adage and cliche “The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea”. And it’s something you never really understand until you see for the ocean for the first time. Because we all know a good sweat sesh at the gym or crying big heaving tears can be cathartic. But the ocean, man. The ocean is something else. I can’t really explain it but I always come back from it refreshed, rejuvenated, and recharged. It’s something phenomenal that I cannot wait to get back to again.

The only thing missing from this book was that I was left wanting more. But I’m not sure how much longer it could be while still giving the theme and message of it justice. Maybe I’ll just have to pen the sequel!

4/5 

Well, I’m in Spain, my loves, and I cannot wait explore San Sebastian. Send me your recommendations!

Uptown Block Party

So the other day, my boyfriend and I went to a local block party at a neighbourhood park with a few friends from our charity league plus a friend of mine from college. And man, they had me at Mediterranean gyros from a food truck. I was sold. Plus, Bob Schneider was playing and if you’re not from Texas & haven’t heard of him, I’m not surprised. He’s a local to Austin and is pure Texan country. But you’re probably wondering about the segway between gyros and country music. It works, promise.

The Uptown Block Party was a blast. They had food trucks (warm gyros covered in feta and lamb, yummmmmm), Peroni the Italian beer sponsored (don’t worry, Mom, we went over this), and there was live music. I was with great friends dancing on the lawn and trying to pet all the dogs I could without making my own jealous when we got home. It was a blast. 

I’m not entirely sure how they got Bob Schneider to headline a freaking block party but they did. And he was super interactive with the small-ish audience. He’s hilarious, plays acoustic guitar, and is a blast live. My boyfriend and I danced together, were probably a little nauseating, but it was worth it.

I guess what I’m trying to say that even though they had food trucks, a great band, and I was with good friends, it was just as much fun to do something free in the neighbourhood, go to a local park, and just have fun. If there’s something like this near you, I highly suggest going. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a story to tell and suggestions for next year’s block party!

The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

I’m sure you’ve seen some of Rupi Kaur’s poetry all over your social media and it’s probably made you cry. Or at the very least, pulled at your heart strings just a little bit. Unless you’re the Grinch or that guy who says ‘Bah Humbug’ during the holiday season every year.

Rupi Kaur writes poems on everything from being an immigrant to falling in love to being victim to sexual violence & incest. Her stuff is powerful, poignant, and gut wrenching at the same time. I read her first book, Milk and Honey, earlier this year and thought this second novel of hers would be a similar gut punch. While it was, I wasn’t expecting to have nightmares, flashbacks, and an unexpected catharsis at the end of it.

She’s blunt in her diagnosis of being a child of immigrants and how strenuous it was on her parents to come somewhere new and with a significant language barrier. Her work is novel in its simplicity and it’s no shocking development that The Sun & Her Flowers is yet again a bestseller for Kaur. Her pieces are short, sweet, and to the point. They pack a punch harder than Tyson and Mayweather combined but with the virality of something you can’t stop thinking about it, even when you don’t want to.

Kaur is brilliant. Her work came to success thru social media and the day & age where we passionately look for something to cling to when we’re so unsure mentally and politically. For me at least, Kaur put my own pain and triumph into words. She made things in my past come to light and made me face them head on not because I was afraid but because I was ready to tackle them. I wasn’t alone after reading her work and I’m beyond thankful for that.

Whenever somebody can take trauma into words that are poignant and not condescending, I’m in awe. And i’m thankful for the addition to the ever changing conversation. With the ever growing need for the arts, especially poetry, we need authors and poets like Rupi Kaur to be unashamed in their past and vigilante in their futures.

Be warned, this book is frank in its discussion of sexual violence, abuse, and immigration. If you’re in a spot where you can read about this subject matter, please do. It will take your breath away but it will bring you back to center all in the same cover to cover.

Favourite poem: I woke up thinking the work was done/I would not have to practice today/how naive to think healing was that easy/when there is no end point/no finish line to cross/healing is everyday work 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Peterson

First off, this book is a series of essays about famous women we all know — ie, Hillary Clinton, Kim Kardashian, Lena Dunham, etc — and all have strong opinions about, whether positive or negative. And second off, it’s nothing quite like I expected. Which I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a positive for me or not.

Originally, when I heard about this book, I thought the essays were penned by the women they’re about. But each woman portrayed is an image of something in our society that women aren’t necessarily supposed to be. Like too naked, too queer, or too loud. And all the essays are by Anne Helen Peterson, diving into what it means to be a woman today and be accused of being less than femininely perfect.

It’s a fascinating read and demands that you analyze these women thru Peterson’s lens and see if the points she brings up ring true for you. Taking, for example, the essay about Serena Williams, Peterson shares Williams’s history, how she was introduced to the game, and for being an African American woman who’s beyond successful in what’s typically presented as a white person’s sport. Then she pulls apart how the media and casual conversations attaches adjectives like “too strong” or “too masculine” or “too muscular” to Williams like it’s perfectly acceptable to criticize a person’s body when it’s not seen as the norm for something.

With Kim Kardashian or Nicki Minaj or Hillary Clinton or any of the women in this book, there are strong opinions about them. The adjectives we use daily to describe these powerful and strong women can be nothing short of ridiculous. And while at times Peterson’s prose is a little in your face at times if you’re not used to a women throwing caution to the wind and being an unapologetic feminist, she demands that you look in the mirror and see how you yourself see these women as well as how you address them.

To be honest, it took me a bit to read this book. Not because it was dense or uninteresting or material I didn’t want to dive more into, but because it was material requiring me to think. We’re so used to throwing these words around about women that they’re too much of something and not enough women. When the reality is that we live in a world where women can quite literally be anything they want and are still susceptible to ridiculous questions about their ideologies, their weight, their age, etc. And not to mention the wage gap or the inability to grasp that a woman can in fact know football routes in addition to STEM and fashion.

It’s a crazy world out there right now and I’m tired of the division amongst women. It’s books like Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud that take a critical lense to feminism, the lack of intersectionality, and what it means to be a woman in the public eye. This book may not be for the hearts unwilling to be exposed to new ideas but it is for those who are too much of something and refuse to fit into a box.