Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Refresher Course on Change

I posted a while back about major changes and embracing those changes and whatever may lie ahead.  Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that and brace myself for whats to come.  A good friend just shared this with me, and it was right on time to help me get on track.

"So often when things change in our lives, we have such a resistance to the change. This is because when people see a big change appearing they are often fearful that it is something bad. But it is important to remember that when something big changes in our lives, it means something better is coming. There cannot be a vacuum in the Universe, and so as something moves out, something must come in and replace it. When change comes, relax, have total faith, and know that the change is ALL GOOD.  Something more magnificent is coming to you!" 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hogmanay - New Year's in Edinburgh!

This post is a bit overdue, but I wanted to share our New Year's Eve experience - we went to Edinburgh, Scotland to celebrate Hogmanay, one of the world's largest New Year's parties.  We flew into Edinburgh from London, and it was a quick 40 minute flight.  Once at the airport, we took the city's airport bus which provides transportation into the city center. 

Once we were checked in and settled we decided to spend our day exploring the city - we started with visiting the Edinburgh Castle, which provided amazing views of the city and beyond, and from there we headed down the Royal Mile to explore.  That evening, we headed to Princes Street to view the Torchlight Procession which served as the official kickoff to the Hogmanay weekend - the turn out was great which made for great photos of all the torches!

We grabbed dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe (yes, I know this is so American of us, but we were CRAVING some American style food!), and to our surprise ran into some fellow Americans who live in England - great times and dinner with everyone!  That night, the two of us enjoyed the Winter Market in the city centre, all of the sights, and took a ride on the ferris wheel - it was a bit cold but we enjoyed it and took some great pictures. 

On New Year's Eve, we toured the Royal Yacht Britannia, did some shopping and rested up for the big night.  We enjoyed a great celebration meal at our hotel, and then headed out for the evening.  Hogmanay is a huge street party with people from all over the world in attendance, concerts, food vendors, and really excitement and some pretty hilarious people everywhere you look. The big countdown and fireworks show was what we were all waiting for and it did not disappoint - I cannot tell you how special it was to bring in our first New Year as a married couple in such a great atmosphere! 

As you might expect, we were a bit exhausted on New Year's Day, so we slept in and toured the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence while she is in Scotland, and then headed back to London!  One thing we did fall in love with in Edinburgh is Thai Orchid, a delicious and very popular Thai restaurant - we ate there twice!  We had a great weekend and it was not nearly as cold as we expected, which is always a plus! 

Here's to a happy, healthy, and productive 2011!  Up next....Athens, Greece!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Viva Barcelona!

I must say that being so far away from home for the holidays is not easy. Something about this time of year just SCREAMS family, friends and loved ones. It was not possible for us to make it home last month, so we decided that we would again, make the most of our time here in Europe and see a few new places. First on the list, Barcelona!

We spent the three days after Christmas in this beautiful city, and I must tell you that of all the places we have visited and that I have shared with you, Barcelona is one of the places that we would like to visit again (along with the South of France!). The sights, people, food, and just the feeling of the city, is something I really cannot explain...but I will try!

Once we arrived in Barcelona, we headed outside of the airport and took the Aerobus from the airport into the city center. This is an extremely easy and affordable way to get into the city - and the final stop is in Plaza Catalunya, Barcelona’s central square and the starting point of Las Ramblas - the major avenue of the city. From there, we headed to our hotel, Le Meridien Barcelona, and got our vacation started.

Day one was really an orientation day for us - we walked the length of Las Ramblas from Plaza Catalunya onto the Columbus monument and the Harbor. It was a bit chilly, but warmer than the United Kingdom and quite sunny - so we were pretty happy. From the Harbor we headed back towards the hotel and stopped to tour the Barcelona Cathedral. That night we grabbed dinner at La Xina, a Chinese restaurant of all things, right across the street from the hotel - this place is good, and highly recommended.

The following day we headed out to experience a bit of Antoni Gaudi’s architecture. First up - Sagrada Familia - Gaudi’s most famous work, a magnificent unfinished church. There was quite a line to get into the church, but it was worth the wait. We spent time standing inside this work of art in awe - its truly like nothing I have ever seen. From there we took a taxi onto Parc Guell - which I imagine is even more lovely when its warmer - but a great place for views of the city and people watching. At this point, we were pretty hungry, so we decided to try a tapas restaurant that was recommended to us by the hotel concierge, Velodromo Bar. Here, we enjoyed tapas, great wine, and beer - the food is delicious and the waiters are great at recommending dishes for you to sample.

Our final stop of the day was Casa Mila - another of Gaudi’s fantastic works - we toured the apartment, museum and then onto the lovely terrace that reminded me of a Dr. Seuss story. Great views of Pasieg de Gracia can be found at the top of Casa Mila - which ignited our next journey - walking back to our hotel along this main road, and doing some shopping and checking out some more architecture along the Block of Discord.  When we arrived a Plaza Catalunya, we decided to walk down Avinguda Portal de l’Angel to see a few more of the shops and sights. We made our way to the popular Granja la Pallaresa, where there was a line of people waiting to get inside! We waited in the quick line and got our seat to enjoy churros con chocolate - what better way to end the day!

Our final day in Barcelona, we decided that instead of going to the Picasso Museum we wanted to walk the city a bit more and see some places we had not yet visited. We sometimes get in museum overload with our travels and chose to see this the next time we come to Barcelona. So, we headed out of Le Meridien and onto La Boqueria Market - such a colorful, open-air market, and then checked out another Gaudi work, Palau Guell - but it was under construction so we could not see much.

We walked along and visited the church of Santa Maria del Mar and the monument behind it. At this point we were so close to the sea, that we walked along the Barceloneta and onto beautiful beaches - it was too cold to swim, but there were people swimming! Still it was gorgeous and gave us all the more reason to plan another trip to this great city.  Our final stop of the long weekend was to take the funicular and gondolas to the top of Montjuic, where we walked around a bit, grabbed a snack, and took lots of photos of the amazing views the the city.

What a wonderful way to spend Christmas when you cannot be at home with your families! While we did not see everything we wanted to see in Barcelona, 3 days was the perfect amount of time to see the major sights and get a feel for this beautiful city, and to also convince us that we WILL return!