September 30, 2011, | 0 Comments

Europe on the Fly with Shiv and Lil – Part Two

The last we heard from Shiv and Lil’s awesome European vacation, the ladies were lying on the grass singing in Madrid and partying in Barcelona devouring tapas and paella and downing sangria!

The last we heard from Shiv and Lil’s awesome European vacation, the ladies were lying on the grass singing in Madrid and partying in Barcelona devouring tapas and paella and downing sangria! They had also watched the dancing waters of the famous Magic Fountain, but the ladies still have so many more must-see items on their list. In part two of their European adventure, Shiv and Lil go searching for the Olympic Rings, enjoy an expensive but very entertaining flamenco show, discover an old village, and of course, almost miss their flight to Rome!

So far it seems the ladies have been able to fulfill only 1 of their 3 simple goals! Having a blast has been easy to do with an amazing city like Barcelona, but let’s hope they’ll be able to stick with their budget of $2500 each (very unlikely after this week’s revelations!) and of course arrive home safely.

Let’s hear from the ladies to learn more about their adventures in Barcelona!

[caption id="attachment_1620" align="alignright" width="294"] Lying on the grass in Madrid[/caption]

Tuesday, September 20th 2011 – Barcelona, Spain

After our late and tiring night out the day before, Lil and I decided to keep our last full day in Barcelona less hectic, which of course didn't happen. Once having eaten the yummy breakfast buffet at our hotel, we went to check out the Olympic Park on Montjuïc, a hill overlooking the entire city. Let me tell you Lil is obsessed with the Olympics! Having already visited the Vancouver and Seoul Olympic sites, this trip makes it her third of many more to come.

Barcelona hosted the summer Olympics in 1992 and though it is now 19 years later, the city has done a great job of keeping the area very clean and beautiful. Since Lil and I both enjoy walking, we decided to make the uphill trek to the Olympic Park. It was truly one of the most breathtaking and picturesque walks I have enjoyed in a really long time, with beautiful trees and magenta flowers lining the curved streets as we ascended to the main stadium.

[caption id="attachment_1623" align="alignleft" width="294"] Lil and Shiv by the Montjuïc Communications Tower[/caption]

I'm glad I gave in to Lil's Olympic obsession as the architecture around the park was pretty impressive and the elevation gave us a stunning panoramic glimpse of the entire city – it was breathtaking! If you're into museums, there is a museum on site with all the key highlights from the ‘92 games, but we decided to forego this as we rationalized that we could save the 4 Euros and Google the info instead.

Eventually, we made our way down the hill – gasping for air – in search of the Olympic Rings but seeing that we’re not that good with directions, we failed to find them. It was a great workout though except I had made the mistake of wearing flip flops – NOT a good idea! I would suggest wearing very comfy shoes if you plan on making this trip. Along our way down we took some shots of buildings that we thought might be important.

[caption id="attachment_1625" align="alignright" width="294"] Shiv in front of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia[/caption]

With aching feet and our minds on another must-see item, we then visited Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllò, and Casa Milà. They really are unique and beautiful pieces of architecture that I could look at for hours. Lil and I considered going into the Casa Milà for 15 Euros each but decided against it in the interest of our budget. Perhaps I won’t mention that I spent a little more than that on a great blouse near Plaça Catalunya – the city’s central square. A girl’s gotta have her priorities!

Later, we headed back to La Rambla to wander around the Mercat de la Boqueria, a fairly large market where you can find anything from fresh fruits to meat and seafood. That is if you can stomach the pungent scent. Vegetarians, be warned; this is not a place for you.

[caption id="attachment_1626" align="alignright" width="294"] Mercat de la Boqueria[/caption]

After a short nap (surprise, surprise) back at the hotel, we ended our night with a flamenco show at the Tablao de Carmen (50 Euros each) where we enjoyed tapas, unlimited wine and sangria, and of course the great flamenco dancing and music. Finding this place was not easy. The restaurant was located at Poble Espanyol, a village built solely for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition and intended to be demolished shortly afterwards. It still remains however and serves as an open-air museum consisting of buildings representing the architecture, style, and culture of various locations in Spain as well as shops and restaurants. What's sad (yet funny in hindsight) is that mere hours earlier, Lil and I had taken pictures of this village on our way down from the Olympic Park but somehow we didn’t make the connection and wasted time walking around trying to find it – oops!

After the flamenco show, which we really enjoyed, around midnight we headed over to the rooftop of a mall nearby and shelled out a Euro each to get a 360 degree view of Barcelona from the centre. Here’s that one word we like to use a lot: breathtaking! We were still not ready to head to our hotel so we wandered the streets some more and ended up at a café nearby.

[caption id="attachment_1627" align="aligncenter" width="629"] The flamenco show at Tablao de Carmen at Poble Espanyol[/caption]

Having mastered how to order tea Tamil style in Spanish (con leche por favor), we enjoyed some delicious desserts with tea and boiled milk. By the time we chatted about anything and everything under the sun including boys and careers, and decided to hit the sack, it was about 3:00 AM. Not too shabby for a Tuesday night! We will definitely miss this city as we head out tomorrow for Rome. Buena noche Barcelona!

Wednesday, September 21st 2011 – Barcelona, Spain to Rome, Italy

Never again will we give self-satisfied smirks when we see people running through airports and think, “Should have left earlier!”

Never again will we kill time before a flight by spending three hours in a bar downing sangria and trusting that the clock is accurate.

Most importantly, never again will we find ourselves about to miss a flight running a mini marathon in the airport in a mad dash to catch it.

Today, if you haven’t already gathered, was a very interesting day. It was also a very expensive lesson in travel.

It started out innocently enough. Check out was not until noon and with our flight being at 5:20 PM, there was time to kill. The first lesson in travelling on a budget occurred as we were checking out. Turns out that delicious breakfast buffet that the hotel listed as one of their "inclusions" wasn't how we interpreted it to be. It was included... but you would be charged for it later in the day for 10 Euros each! Had we been aware of that, we would have had more Spanish omelettes!

Duly noted and at our hotel in Rome we will be sure to clarify beforehand.

Happy to have learned a tidbit to share with our fellow aspiring travellers and with plenty of time to kill before our flight, we set out to our favourite area in Barcelona to grab some food and hang out. Sant Antoni is a nice area we had stumbled upon the first night of our stay when we got lost. We settled down at a bar that offered free WiFi and between emailing friends and catching up on trending topics (Charlie Sheen's character on Two and a Half Men was killed off by a train in Paris), we spent a few hours there. But those few hours were still keeping us on track according to the bar clock so we decided to drink a pitcher of sangria to celebrate our wonderful stay in Barcelona.

It was only when we were about to jump on the metro to get to the airport when something didn’t seem right. Why was my phone stating 10:20 AM? Since my phone was still in Toronto time, that would mean it was 4:20 PM Barcelona time! This meant we had less than an hour to catch our flight to Rome!

That's when the adrenaline started pumping! No time to dwell on the "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??" question; Shiv and I did what we do best. We made decisions, stayed calm, and when we got to the airport RAN as though we were being chased by a pack of hungry wolves!

Shiv was very calm despite knowing that we were cutting it tight and after attempting to figure out how to take the train to the airport (the automated systems do not have an English option!) we shelled out the extra money for a cab.

At the airport, we found out that we had missed the luggage check-in. We knew we would run into a few issues with security though. It was now 8 minutes after 5 when we made it to the security line but the gates closed at 5!

As expected the bottle of hairspray and balm that keeps Shiv's hair Pantene Pro-V commercial ready (although she uses Garnier Fructis) were flagged. As the security officer proceeded to read the ingredients, we advised him to just throw out the products. Taking a divide and conquer approach, Shiv ran ahead to find out our gate number as I helped the security officer along in examining the liquid products. Side observation: how and why would reading the ingredients list help? We could have had ketchup in that hairspray bottle, or anything else for that matter!

Hopeful, but yet very anxious, that we wouldn’t miss our flight, I jammed the bag back together and found Shiv, where we made our final dash to the gates.

Fortunately for us, another group of equally dishevelled and out of breath individuals were also trying to get on the flight (it was now 20 minutes past the official closure time of the gates). We were able to make our flight, but because of our tardiness, we had to pay a penalty of 40 Euros for a gate check-in of our baggage. Looks like we’ve already thrown our budget out the window!

So how late were we for this flight? So late that when we boarded, the entire front row clapped at our arrival!

Anyway, here's a closing thought. Two years ago I read this book on how to be happy. In this book it asked you to pay attention to the number of times in a day where you would blame external factors on the outcomes you experienced. In doing this, how could you ever be happy because you're not taking accountability for your own outcomes? While we could point to a few things for our mad dash, the biggest being an inaccurate clock at the bar, but ultimately our mini marathon was a result of our own missteps and one we will learn from. We were fortunate to run into individuals who could tell we were rushed and were willing to accommodate us despite our own shortcomings.

For that, despite the extra 60 Euros spent, it was a great lesson learned! And now Shiv and I can join the ranks of THOSE people: the ones dashing madly through the airport, in a rush to catch a flight.

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With six other cities left to visit in six days, be sure to tune in to Part Three of Europe on the Fly with Shiv and Lil to find out what adventure awaits the ladies at their next destinations!

[caption id="attachment_1628" align="aligncenter" width="629"] Street performers on La Rambla[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1629" align="aligncenter" width="629"] The Four Columns and the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc near Plaça d’Espanya[/caption]

- Kiana Amirpour

[series title="Europe On the Fly" title_wrap="div" limit="5" list="ol"]

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