Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Montserrat – Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was August 2019 in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Park Güell

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Well friends, we’ve made it to the end. I know I’m not a very “timely” blogger when it comes to sharing about my travels, but to me they are more of a journal for me, so if you’ve stuck through with me, thanks. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I enjoy sharing.

Today is all about our trip out to Montserrat. Mom and I took a half-day trip there on our last full day, after Jodi had departed for home. However, Mom actually visited twice! The week before while I was still in staff-only meetings, Jodi and Mom booked a different half-day trip that included a horseback ride. Jodi is a regular cowgirl, so she was in heaven and I heard that you wouldn’t have known that it had been decades since Mom had been on one :). I was concerned at first that Mom was going to be doing the same trip twice but each tour actually ended up being quite a bit different so she was the true winner.

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a mountain top monastery in Catalonia, Spain, about an hour drive from Barcelona. “Montserrat” means ‘serrated mountain’ in the Catalan language, which describes the unique rock formations of the mountain.  The monastery was officially founded in 1025, though it is believed that monks started coming there in the 9th century and built the four original chapels, one of which is still standing — St. Iscle Chapel. The Basilica is home to the Virgin of Montserrat (Black Madonna). It is believed to have been carved by St. Luke in Jerusalem and found around 880 AD. The legend is that Benedictine monks could not move the small statue to construct the monastery, so instead, it was built around it. Today it is a Holy Site and is a popular pilgrimage destination. One of the other main highlights of visiting Montserrat is listening to the famous Escolania boys’ choir everyday who perform twice daily. The boys in the choir live and go to school there, and also travel all over the world to perform.

There are multiple way to get up to Monserrat including hiking (how cool would have that been?!). Mom and I were in a tour van (warning to those with issues with motion sickness, it’s not fun), while Mom and Jodi took the funicular/cable car up the mountain (Jodi says this was also not so pleasant). Once again, Mom and I used Viator to book this excursion. I talked a bit more about this travel service here — I highly recommend it! We had the best tour guide, Joan! On our way out to Monserrat, someone in our van asked him how he liked being a tour guide (he was also a pianist in a band), and his answer really stuck with me. He shared that he genuinely loved making people happy and that both of his jobs allowed him to bring joy to others, meet new people and share his pride for his country and its history. His personality and mannerisms actually really reminded me of a dear college friend and old DC roommate who LOVED giving tours of the U.S. Capitol (Hey, Prelogar!), so I just really appreciated what he added to our experience.

I just want to add here, before I lose anyone taking the time to read to the string of pictures ahead, that I am so thankful for the opportunity to travel like this with my Mom and experience this together. I know I am one of the lucky ones to have the kind of relationship I have with her that I do. But it also takes hard work. I know at almost 30 I still test her patience left and right and we aren’t immune to the typical mom-daughter clashes. But I know that aside from love, our relationship is also built on a lot of mutual respect, honesty and friendship. She’s my Mom, but she’s also one of my best friends. I know that doesn’t jive with everyone’s philosophy, but it works in our family. It was just really special to me to travel solo like this with her and have her meet and get to know my U.S. wheat (work) family and friends. I am also grateful for the folks back at home keeping our flower shop going, so that Mom could join me on this fun adventure with little hesitation.  

I would honestly love to go back one day for a hiking trip!

Thankful for super long lenses. I opted to be able to walk around and see more instead of getting in the long line to walk up close to the Virgin of Montserrat.

That ‘all’ I’ve got friends! Spain is such a beautiful country and culture, and I’ll definitely be back someday. For now, I’m just trying to decide where I want to go next. Cheers!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Park Güell – Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was August 2019 in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Montserrat

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Park Güell was another one of the top suggestions of “must-see’s” when I was doing my research planning for this trip. And again, we were not disappoint. My mom and I took this on solo one afternoon after buying our tickets online ahead of time. I would advise doing the same because those tickets for set for a specific entry time and once you are inside the park you can stay as long as you’d like. But if you just opt to get in the ticket line it could possibly be a long wait.

Park Güell was originally supposed to be a community of 60 plots for homes built for the wealthy in 1990. Property owner and entreprenuer Eusebi Güell gave his friend, architect Antoni Gaudí (the same architect behind the La Sagrada Familia), the assignment to design the property. As of 1914, one two of the houses had been built and there were difficulties selling the plots and carrying out the complex vision for the property. From there is became a large private garden until 1926 when it opened as a city park after the city purchased it. It would later be recognized as an artistic monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gaudí’s house that was on the property is also now a museum.

This view right here is what I saw all over Pinterest. Unfortunately it was kind of a gloomy day so the lighting was awesome for pictures but it was still beautiful.

These columns are what hold up the colorful overlook/bench seating from my pictures above.

Outside of the walls of Park Güell itself, is a larger city park where there are more trails and things to see. We decided to take the small trek up to one of the high points for a beautiful view of the city!

Looking a this view, you can see the La Sagrada Familia in the first third of the picture with the construction cranes the stretch just past of the break of the horizon line. Our apartment was just two block from there.

Alright, I’ll be back soon with my LAST post from this trip, which will be all about our trip out to Montserrat.

Thanks for stopping by!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Doors of Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was August 2019 in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Park Güell
Montserrat

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Hey friends, I’m back in the new year with the last couple of posts sharing about my trip to Spain. With the rush of the holidays and the end of the year, plus wanting to check out for a few of those days to relax, I decided not to push myself to try to get these posted any sooner 🙂

Last year, when I traveled to Italy my Mom and I were obsessed with all of the doors and she kept asking me to take pictures of them. I joked that I should do a “Doors of Italy” blog post and by end of the trip I had so many door pictures that I wanted to share that I had to. So, shortly after we arrived in Spain I knew I’d be doing another one.

I said it in my Doors of Italy post, but I think it bears repeating… I think a door says a lot about a home or a business. And like Italy, so many of the doors in Spain had so much character. It made me want to more about the people who chose them, and lived and worked behind them.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain Girona, Spain
Girona, Spain

Girona, Spain
Girona, Spain
Girona, Spain
Gothic Quarter, Barcelona, Spain

Near Jeon Leon Winery


Monserrat, Spain

Pals, Spain

Pals, Spain

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain

Hope you enjoyed those! I’ll be back again soon with my post on Park Guell.

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria – Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was this year in late August in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Doors of Spain
Park Güell
Montserrat

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You can’t take a trip to Barcelona without taking a walk through the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), the narrow, Roman medieval streets that make up the heart of the old city that has been fused with modern architecture to create an unique setting to walk through. Personally, I love to see that charming fusion of the old and new culture together, and the creativity that it inspires. We didn’t spend as much time here as I would have liked as there was a lot of history (including the Picasso museum!) and fun places to eat and drink that we could have gotten into, but you can never get to everything in a single trip.

The Bishop’s Bridge (Pont del Bisbe) that connects the two buildings. Though it blends in with the architecture around it, I read somewhere that it was actually built in 1928.

I loved these streets lamps!

The Gothic Quarter is also home to the Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia). It was constructed between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.

I’ve mentioned before that I love going to markets in every country I visit and the Mercat de la Boqueria definitely did not disappoint! We loved it so much that we actually went twice. It was on my list of things to do, but Mom and I stumbled across on our first day after we arrived in Barcelona in the morning and couldn’t get into our hotel room for several hours. I knew that we had to come back when we had Jodi with us. She and I first met while working at Kansas Pork together so I knew that the foodie in her was going to love it.

I am fascinated by food culture, what items and practices are unique to each place I visit and what appears to transcend across several cultures. Markets are the best way to see this.

In a lot of the cases with cheese they had cute little animal figurines to quickly share what kind of cheese it came from.

Ok, on to the next! I’ll be back tomorrow to share my “Doors of Spain” post! Thanks for stopping by!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Montjuic and the Olympic Park – Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was this year in late August in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Park Güell
Montserrat

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Montjuic is prominent hill overlooking the Barcelona harbour, that has several points of interest including being home to the Olympic Park of the 1992 Summer Games. We went there once on a beautiful afternoon just to explore when Jodi was with us, and then Mom and I visited again on our last day when the Olympic Museum was open. Though we spent a good chunk of time there, we didn’t come close to covering the whole area or seeing everything there was to see.

This is the Catalonia National Art Museum (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) and was originally built to serve as the main pavilion for the 1929 International Fair. We opted to not go through the museum but it was still beautiful from the outside.

View of the city from the other direction.

Montjuic is also home to several botanical gardens and parks, so of course Mom and I, the horticulture and floral nerds couldn’t not stroll through a few of those. I loved that most of the plants, trees, etc., had little signs that told us what it was, its age and an interesting fact.

This is the plaza you see looking out from the Olympic Stadium, including the Torre Telefonica Communications Tower that was designed by a Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to transmit the 92 games on TV.

I come from a big sports family so my Mom and I were pretty excited for this. The Barcelona Olympic Stadium (Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys) actually has a pretty interesting history. It was originally built in 1927 and was set to host the 1936 Games until they were canceled due to the Spanish Civil war. It was used for varies events and needs over the years, including hosting refugees, until it was renovated again in 1989 for the 1992 Summer Games.

Across the street from the Stadium leading up to the Museum are all of these plaques on the ground of the various torch bearers from 1992. Unfortunately, we were a bit underwhelmed by the Museum. It certainly did a great job of capturing the history of the 1992 games and did highlight the various sports events held at the Games and their evolution from the ancient games to the modern games. But it was pretty outdated. I think things were only updated up through the 2008 games in Beijing. But we still enjoyed it and were glad we circled back to visit it another day when it was closed the first time we walked by.

The main event of the day, and my main reason for wanting to visit Montjuic was to watch the Magic Fountain show on the Plaça Espanya. Several nights a week throughout the year there is a fountain water show with lots of colors, lights and all timed to music. It might be a little cheesy, but I really love this kind of stuff. We ended up getting there really early, because I was pretty HANGRY (owning this because Jodi and Mom deserve to be recognized for dealing with me) and everything nearby was closed for siesta. So, we ended up getting dinner at concessions stands that were right there at the fountains and just people watched for a while. But it was honestly a good thing we got there early because it got PACKED pretty early on.

Overall, Montjuic is a fun destination to explore while in Barcelona, especially if you want to get your steps in!

Alright, another one down. I’ll be back soon to cover our walk through the Gothic Quarter and visiting the Mercat de la Boqueria.

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Basilica de la Sagrada Familia – Spain

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was this year in late August in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done and my friend Jodi, who was also attending the conference as a consultant, also joined us for a few extra days. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Intro – Barcelona, Spain
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Park Güell
Montserrat

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I could recommend only one thing to do while in Barcelona, it would be to visit the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. And most travel guides, blog, websites, etc., will agree with me. Regardless if you are not religious or into architecture, skipping it is a mistake because it has an incredible history and is beautiful.

The Sagrada Familia is an unfinished Roman Catholic minor basilica. Its construction start in 1882 and it is STILL not done. The original architect dropped out of the project shortly after it began due to differences with developers. He was replaced with Antoni Gaudi who proposed a new, grander design, which has been completed slowly section by section. For the last 12 years of his life, from 1914 to 1926, this was the only project he worked on. Unfortunately, he died in an accident in 1926. When he died, a close collaborator continued his work until 1938 when a fire destroyed the workshop along with all of Gaudi’s original plans, drawings and photos, as well as many scale plaster models. Since then, construction has never stopped and has continued to respect the original concept.  As of now, it is set for completion in 2026. That was a very brief history lesson but you can read all about it here.

My pictures really don’t do it justice. I’ve always been fascinated with the amount of detail and meaning goes into famous and historic works of architecture, but this tops anything I’ve ever seen before. We bought our tickets ahead of time for a specific entrance time, which I highly recommend doing, because based on what I read the lines for tickets aren’t fun. We did a self-guided audio tour that took a little over an hour. It takes you around the outside and all through the main level inside section by section sharing the history of Gaudi’s vision, the meaning behind several details and more.

When I shared on my Instagram Stories, I had one friend comment that it was so cool to see it in present day because she had visited several years ago. It made me think a bit about how we normally view and experience historic places and items, and the fact that the Sagrada Familia is so unique in that it is both old and new. I would love to visit again when it is finally finished.

Even though it might be busier, I highly recommend that you visit in the afternoon. Its main stain glass windows are on the east and west sides of the building to best capture the strong morning and afternoon light, and the afternoon light is gorgeous. A friend and one of the farmers at the conference told me that when he first walked in he quickly turned around to watch the reaction on his wife’s face and he said that her jaw literally dropped. I laughed a bit at how dramatic his comments sounded, but friends… I walked in and my jaw dropped. And I teared up. It is that beautiful and honestly mesmerizing. I so wish that I could bottle up what that experience felt like. This place was so big and overwhelming, yet it also felt so peaceful in there. Gaudi took inspiration from patterns and shapes in nature, so his work contained no sharp lines or straight corners. The inside gave the illusion that you were under a tree canopy. This site does a  good job of sharing more about Gaudi’s style and the design of the Sagrada Familia.

Again, there is no way that my pictures do it any justice.

Ok, I’ll be back again soon to share about our time at Montjuic and the Olympic Park. Cheers!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Family, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Italy – Self-Guided Walk Day 1

In September, I traveled to Italy for two weeks with some of my family, which included an 85-mile, 6 day self-guided walking tour through the Italian countryside. We also spent time in Rome, Venice, Florence, Pompeii and Naples. 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:

Walking Rieti to Rome – Summary
Doors of Italy
Exploring Rieti
Self-Guided Walk Day 1
Self-Guided Walk Day 2
Self-Guided Walk Day 3
Castello Orsini Hotel
Self-Guided Walk Days 4 and 5
Self-Guided Walk Day 6
The Colosseum and Exploring Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
Pompeii and Naples
Venice
Florence

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The first day of our self-guided walk started in Rieti and took us to Poggio San Lorenzo. It covered a bit over 13 miles, taking us along creeks and through fields and forests, and across a 4th century Roman bridge . On this day we didn’t pass through any other towns so we had the hotel in Rieti pack us some lunches.

I’ll add here, as I mentioned in my summary intro post, part of our tour package included a baggage transfer service. So at every place we stayed we collected our luggage together usually in the lobby and the service came to pick it up and take it to the next location for us. It was always there when we arrived at the end of the day and we never had anything missing. It was really great.

Each of us carried a backpack of some sort with water, snacks, bandaids, bug spray and obvious other things we thought we might need throughout the day. I brought my backpack, which has a compartment for my DSLR camera and extra lens that you access from the back side. I bought it back when I first got my camera in 2015 and it is hands down one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It functions well for my needs (including a spot that is perfect for my Surface when I am carrying that), its lightweight, super comfy even when its full and breathes well if I sweat. It even comes with a rain cover that otherwise lays flat and is stored in the very base of the backpack. I have taken it everywhere with me over the past 3 years and it is only starting to show a little wear and tear now. It doesn’t look like it is available anymore, but I’ve linked it here regardless. I’m sure something else from this brand would be just as good.

Two florists checking out a flower shop in a different country.

One thing that we thought was interesting was that most homes and fenced in business had guard dogs of some sort, with Great Pyrenees probably being the most common breed. This guy looked friendly but I decided it was best to not stick my arm in there to pet him.

Probably not even a minute or so after taking this picture is when I stepped into the pothole and sprained my ankle. We weren’t even a full 2 miles into the walk. I recapped all of that in my first summary post which you can read here.

Since I wasn’t joining them on the walk for the rest of the day I asked my Mom to take my camera with her. And I just have to say that I am so happy that she went outside her comfort zone. She claims that she “so bad” at it when someone hands her a cell phone to take a photo but I think she did a great job considering I don’t think she has ever touched a DSLR before. Now I’m pretty sure she just took it because she just felt really bad for me, but for the rest of the walk she continued to carry it off and on and actually started to enjoy using it.

This is the 4th century bridge that was almost completely covered by vegetation.

My family said that this guy (a donkey) snuck up on them to say hello. We found that it wasn’t uncommon for homes, especially out in the country, to be hidden behind fences and stone walls that were overgrown with vegetation.

I put my name mark on some of these for the sake of consistency, but this pretty one was all my Mom 🙂

And so was this one!

Our first nights stay was at the Agriturismo Santa Giusta, which was just outside of Poggio San Lorenzo. Agriturismo’s are essentially bed and breakfasts, and while nothing compares to the castle we stayed in later in the week, this was by far my 2nd favorite place that we stayed.

I am also really thankful that this happened to be the place we were staying on the day that I sprained my ankle. There were only two other guests besides my family and just a few staff (I think it was a family that ran it). Once I arrived I was able to relax outside in a chair with my ankle propped up and enjoyed a beautiful view and some wine. There was even a small pool that was nice to soak my ankle in for a while.

 

We took quite a few pictures of our rooms in most of the places we stayed, but I didn’t know I really wanted to fill my posts up with those. This room below is where my Mom and I stayed. The ladder leads up to a small loft that had another bed. In every place we stayed all of our rooms were a little different from each other instead of being really cookie cutter like a traditional hotel.

 

Thanks for stopping by again! I have a post for Day 2 of our walk almost ready to go, so I should be back tomorrow!

Have a great rest of your weekend!

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala