Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Barcelona, Spain

Oh hey there blog, my old friend. It’s been a while. I’ve been focused on other things in 2019, but after an amazing trip to Spain for both work and vacation, I decided it was time to dust things off and share. Never mind that its three months after the trip took place… hey, its been a full season for me!

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. 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:
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

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For my first post, I just want to share a little about the trip overall and my work conference, which also gives me the opportunity to share some of my “random” photos, meaning those that don’t really fall into their own specific post 🙂

Overall, we loved Barcelona! It was a great location for a conference, which went really well. With so many colleagues around the world that I connect with frequently over email, I always love reconnecting with everyone all together in-person. The opportunity to regroup and refocus is extremely important for us, as is just getting to know each other better and enjoy each other’s company. In the Communications Department we are working on a really fun campaign for our 40th anniversary in 2020, so we also brought along some friends from our creative agency so they could meet more of our staff and get a closer look at what USW is all about. This included my friend Jodi, who is a consultant for the agency. I first met Jodi when I worked for Kansas Pork right out of college and am so happy that we have been able to reconnect recently. Jodi also joined my Mom and I for a few days of vacation.

A few thoughts and memories about our overall experience…

  • Leading up to the trip, I don’t think anyone I spoke to had anything bad to say about their own experiences in Barcelona. From things we read online there was some concern about pick-pocketing, theft, etc. We witnessed the aftermath of someone realizing they had been pick-pocketed once and there was one time that we felt a little uneasy while we were sitting for a long time waiting for an outdoor show, but overall we followed all of the standard safety tips and tricks, and felt really safe.
  • Neither my Mom or I speak Spanish, just a few common phrases here and there, but we did not have any trouble overall with the language barrier.
  • For the conference we were obviously at a hotel, but for the vacation part of the trip we booked rental through VRBO, and other than an early morning that involved me yelling at the washer and dryer that we couldn’t figure out… we were so happy with our choice! I did a lot of research on location and rental options and chose an adorable little studio apartment that was very central to a lot of what we wanted to visit, including the La Sagrada Familia, which was just two blocks away. In my opinion, VRBO and AirBnb is the way to go, at least in Europe. It was very affordable for what we got and just gave us the space to spread out and relax a bit more than a standard hotel allows.
  • Barcelona was very walk-able (granted we really like to walk) and really easy to navigate. At first I used a paper map of the city that I snagged from my conference hotel and then just used Google Maps on my phone once I go the general idea of the city’s layout. Before leaving I had done my research on using the city’s Metro but we never ended up feeling like we needed it. There are also taxis on virtually EVERY corner, so whenever we were in a time crunch or tired of walking we hopped in one for pretty cheap.
  • This might be an unpopular opinion, or maybe I just didn’t go to the right places (I promise we mostly ate at non-tourist trap places), but I was a little underwhelmed by the food, especially how excited I was for all the tapas. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still probably give it a B+ overall, but I felt like our choices quickly became repetitive and I only had 3 or 4 meals that I was still thinking about well after the fact.
  • I think we were there at a good time of year. The weather was great and we felt like the crowds weren’t too bad most of the time.
  • I had read quite a bit about the fact that before the Summer Olympics came to Barcelona in 1992, the city wasn’t a huge tourist destination. But then afterward it became one of the top European destinations and there has been influxes of anti-tourism movements over the years. Obviously I can’t speak to a local’s perspective of the impact of tourism but I thought Barcelona was a very clean and friendly city that is very proud of its history and culture. I loved learning that because of Barcelona’s unique location, the area’s specific micro-culture, including religion, food, architecture and more, is the result of a variety of influences from other parts Western Europe and North Africa.
  • This last comment will be very specific to my mom and I, but last year around this same time we were on a family vacation to Italy where we were hopping from city to city every 1 to 3 days. For OBVIOUS reasons, staying in one city for 11 days creates a much different experience because we had more time to relax and really get to know Barcelona. I don’t know that either of us would say that we prefer one experience over the other, because they were both amazing trips and different in other ways besides timing. For me, I think it just made me appreciate both experiences a bit more… and definitely makes me want to go back to Italy and take more time on some of my favorite parts of that trip.
Pro tip: Surround yourself with people in your work life that also make stellar friends.

This was our best meal! Ciudad Condal came highly recommended by many so we decided to let the waiter to bring out what he thought was best for the group. I definitely tried some strange things that I wasn’t a fan of but this was such a fun evening together.

Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s main strip through the city. A lot of my research told me to just avoid it since it is tourist central, but we actually really enjoyed it.

So many of the streets in Barcelona are split down the middle with a center island, which definitely helps with foot traffic congestion. Most of the restaurants on those type of streets actually have the majority of their seating out on these islands which I really enjoyed because it made people watching super easy.


Since the conference had people coming in from all parts of the world, some of us arrived a day or so earlier than others. For those early arrivals, we had the opportunity to take a half-day trip out of the city to the Jean Leon Winery where we learned about its history, experienced Spanish wine country and of course did a tasting!

At the main building they had a small plot that featured a different type of grape in each row and we were allowed to go through and pick and eat them. As a wine lover and an ag kid, it was fun to compare each one with what I know the final product to taste like and apply some of what I learned in a class in college about viticulture.

This indoor, food court of sorts, El Nacional, was just two blocks from where we stayed for the conference. We went here with a large group for lunch one day, but thought it was so pretty that we returned later for a snack and more time to just walk around.


“Pan con tomate” is frequently served with meals here or included as an appetizer on the menu, which I was a big fan of. However, this was the one and only time that it was served to us not prepped and ready to eat. So of course I was THAT TOURIST that did it wrong… I started slicing up one of the tomatoes (with a butter knife haha) so I could eat pieces of it with the bread, but the waiter quickly came over and kind of scolded me before he explained that you cut the tomato in half and then squeeze and scrape the tomato across the bread, and finish with drizzling oil and salt over the top. Lesson learned, be better than me friends 🙂

I try to visit local markets in every country I travel to, and after visiting an amazing flower market in Thailand, I’ve tried to visit markets with flowers if I can find one. (Note: in case you are new or somehow don’t know this about me — my family has owned a flower shop for 30+ years.) So for this trip I did some research and really thought I found one with flowers, but instead it was just a really large flower shop that was a block away from the actual market. Regardless, my mom loved it, and it was both fun and slightly embarrassing to watch her observe the differences to floral arrangements in the United States and then proceed to take pictures of everything when we really probably weren’t supposed to.

 

I didn’t include any of the photos because they all were pretty dark, but my mom and I also spent a few hours at the Aquarium Barcelona. It was on our last afternoon and we were pretty tired and decided that a visit there would be a bit more relaxed than some of our other options. It might seem like a super typical tourist thing to do or more for families with small children, but we really enjoyed it. It has the only Oceanarium and the largest collection Mediterranean sea life in Europe. It also randomly has a penguin exhibit which I made my Mom sit and watch with me for way longer than a 28 year old should probably want to 🙂

Ok, that’s it for my random intro post, though I am sure as I work my way through the rest of my planned post I am going to think of other notes to add to this post about our overall trip. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part One of a fun day trip we took out of the city and up the Costa Brava.

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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, Friendship, Oregon

#MeganFINALLYGoestoOregon Part 1: Hermiston

Last week I traveled home to Eastern Oregon for a long-awaited vacation and this time around I had a tag along join me.

If you’ve read my blog before (or know me in real life), chances are you know or have at least heard about my best friend Megan. We met on the first day I arrived at the scholarship house at K-State, quickly became inseparable, and went on to live together for 4.5 years. Friendships as an adult when you live across the country from each other can be rough, but we’ve managed pretty darn well.

Since we met I have always wanted to share Eastern Oregon with her, so about a year ago I basically told her that she was expected to come with me the following summer.

The first part of our week was spent up at my family’s cabin, but we took a ton of pictures up there on both our phones and my DSLR that still need a bit of sorting, so we are going to jump around on this  Part 1 post 🙂

Reunited! Megan’s hair has always been pretty short, but I just cut my hair shorter than its been since I was a kid, so this picture kind of looks strange to me.

Our first night in Hermiston, my sister took us out to a new-ish local winery nearby. Echo Ridge Winery has been around a few years, but this was the first chance that I have had to try it! I will always love small towns, but I also love seeing how Eastern Oregon is growing in fun ways that highlight what it has to offer, while maintaining its small town culture. We did a tasting, and after agreeing that the Syrah was our favorite, we bought a bottle to take up to the cabin with us the next day.




We packed a lot into the week, especially since Megan was leaving a few days earlier than I was. I showed her the high school and the flower shop, since those are basically the main places where I grew up. Of course we grabbed food at my favorite taco truck for lunch and we drove out to the house I grew up in (my parents moved a little less than a year ago.) We also spent an evening with my childhood best friend Richole, (and saw her beautiful new house!) I love that my favorite people from different stages of my life know each other. Richole’s little boy Wesley (who is a regular “guest” on my So There’s That posts), is officially in the toddler stage and is just as shy and cute, as his mama was when she were little. I can’t believe that I didn’t take any pictures that night!


Didn’t take any pictures with the grandparents throughout the week, but this Snapchat that my sister sent me definitely made me smile.


On Megan’s last day I took her to the Umatilla County Fair and the Farm City Pro Rodeo. These are two of the things that she has heard me chat about endlessly over the years so it was fun to share that with her. We had a blast with my sister to round out the end of her visit.

Megan and I are definitely “soul sisters” in every way, and a large part of that is that she has also become friends with my family. My family is VERY close, so they have always made the effort to get to know and invest in the other important people in my life. Believe me when I say that I know that combination is really special.





Visiting home during the country fair and rodeo has its ups and downs. It’s great because I get to see a lot of people in one location. But there are drawbacks when your family is still involved in many ways behind the scenes. I love that we were able to round out each of the nights during the second half of the trip by going to the rodeo together.


But the star of the trip was definitely Miss Sawyer June (sorry Megan). She was just 3 weeks old when I arrived and I really could have spent the majority of my time snuggling with her. As I mentioned in a post soon after she was born, it’s been 23 years since there was a baby in this part of my family, so basically she’s the shiny new toy that no one can get enough of.


Even her Uncle Tom and Uncle Jay slowed down for some Sawyer time.

So that’s Part 1! I will be back soon with Part 2 and an overload of pictures from the cabin!

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 22

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

Colorado

During the last week of May, I was in Estes Park, Colorado for a work trip. My mom tagged along and we tacked on a few days for a mini-vacay, which included a great hike to Gem Lake.

Girl Time

Lately the girls from my young adults bible study have been making lots of plans together. Earlier in June, a few of us did the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls, which was a bit more challenging than I expected… but such a beautiful day to be outside and chat with these girls who have added such a positive light to my life lately.

This last weekend we had a laid back girls night hosted at my place and then spent another afternoon at Quattro Goombas Winery for wine slushies (insert all of the heart eye emoji’s here) and awesome pizza. The location also has a brewery and a great outdoor space.

Kansas – National Festival of Breads

Earlier in June, I made a quick work trip to Kansas for the National Festival of Breads. Yes, it was a awesome as its name sounds. The festival is hosted each year by Kansas Wheat, and brings together eight finalists (that competed against hundreds!) to compete for the title. The festival also features a small trade show, a demonstration stage, a kid’s interactive section, a BBQ, live music and more. I spent the day of the festival taking pictures and enjoy a “few” samples! This event is a great way to showcase the diversity of bread and the quality of U.S. wheat.

Obviously since I was in Kansas, I made the most of my down time by catching up with friends that I don’t get to see nearly enough.

So many of my favorite things wrapped up in one. If you visit Manhattan and appreciate a good wheat beer, you NEED to try 1863 Wheat at Tallgrass Brewery!


College friends turned commodity colleagues.


Considering I just saw Leah, Ryan and Robin a month ago in Colorado,  I was so happy that they made the drive from Topeka (on Father’s Day nonetheless) to see me again. It doesn’t look like it but I swear Miss Robin was happy to see me…

Kansas Wheat Harvest

During my trip to Kansas in I spent a day out on a farm in central Kansas that was in the middle of wheat harvest. In my mind there are few things more beautiful than a wheat harvest. I took lots of great pictures and shared them in a separate blog post.

Ed Sheeran Carpool Karoke

To know me is to know my obsession with all things Ed Sheeran. So really when you combine that with my obsession with James Corden (Craig!!) then basically you know that dreams really do come true.

I have probably watched this at least 6 times now.

Happy Birthday Jancz

My sister Janci turned 23 last week!

True Friendship

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.


Pictures from home make me happy, especially when they include my sister and my favorite little guy Wesley. (Also, super jealous she got to hang with him for the day.)




Sugarloaf Mountain Winery is so picturesque, and their wine is pretty good! Enjoyed a lazy Saturday afternoon there.


Eastern Market finds.

Missed out on getting a group picture, but my work took an afternoon for an outing and enjoyed a Nationals game together.

These adult coloring postcards are my new favorite stress reliever.


My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

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So, There’s That.

Cheers!