A Hendo in Barcelona

As you will know if you follow me on Instagram, I recently went to the city of Barcelona in Spain, for a hendo / bachelorette weekend celebration.

It wasnโ€™t my first time in Barcelona, I actually love that city and have been there quite a few times already. Although I know it quite well, it never ceases to amaze me and I love discovering new places, restaurants, bars, streetsโ€ฆ

I especially fell in love with its most famous inhabitant, late Antoni Gaudi, in my opinion the most incredible architect of modern times. Over the years and my visits of Barcelona, I have bought a few books about Gaudi and his work, and I love to dive back into them from time to time to rediscover his magnificent work.

If you ever go to Barcelona, you will feel Gaudiโ€™s presence everywhere. The most beautiful places to visit to get a good idea of his work are La Pedrera, the Park Guellย and the Sagrada Familia. You canโ€™t possibly go to Barcelona without visiting these three places. Of course, there are many more places to visit to enjoy his work, but the visits have become quite pricey so I you donโ€™t want to ruin yourself, these are my suggestions.

The most famous landmark is of course the Sagrada Familia, a 170-meter-high Basilica in the heart of Barcelona. The Basilica was designed in 1882ย and is still in the building phase today due to lack of funds from the state, which is delaying the construction. Today, the building company counts pretty much solely on tourist revenue to finish the work. Gaudi was very inspired by nature and this is reflected in each and every detail of his constructions. Walking through the Sagrada Familia is like walking through a forest at dawn/dusk and feels very mystical. Every detail has been very carefully thought out so I invite you to use the free audio guides when visiting the Basilica in order to have a thorough understanding of the work behind it.

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Photo Credit: La Sagrada Familia

But Barcelona isnโ€™t just about Gaudi and visiting monuments. You can take a stroll along the Barcelonetta, the beach of Barcelona and even take a dip if the weather is nice! I wouldnโ€™t advise on the bars along the beach as they are often quite expensive for what they are and pretty loud. They are very touristy so not the best places to hang out if you want a real feel of the Spanish way of life.

During the weekend, we ate in several amazing restaurants, which I would really recommend. Please bear in mind that the Spanish people eat very late so if you go to a restaurant before 2pm and 9.30pm, it is likely the restaurant will be empty: donโ€™t worry, itโ€™s normal! It doesnโ€™t mean the food wonโ€™t be good.

 

For dinner:

First of all, you should check out the Lateral restaurant. It is a tapas restaurant with a lovely lounge-like atmosphere and very affordable prices. Order their ham and croquetas, which are just to die for. Their wine list is very good too. We had the Cava, which was very refreshing and bubbly.

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Photo Credit: Lateral

If you want something a bit inventive, you can eat at this great Spanish-Lebanese fusion restaurant, called Ziryab. The restaurant offers a wide selection of tapas, most of which are based on Lebanese dishes. You can try the โ‚ฌ25 menu, which is a selection of entry, main and dessert tapas and which is more than enough for the price you pay. Of course, it doesnโ€™t include wine, but nothing ever does ;p However, it does include a liqueur after dessert :p

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Photo Credit: Ziryab

For lunch:

If you are looking for a typical Spanish place for lunch, then stop by the Sol Soler. It is a typical Spanish brasserie, which serves a great selection of homemade tapas at a very affordable price. They have a very nice terrace where you can sit in the sun, but it does pack up provided the weather is nice.

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Photo Credit: Sol Soler

For brunch

The weekend of the 22nd of April is a regional holiday in Cataluรฑa, called the Saint Jordi. Unfortunately, we hadnโ€™t realised just how packed the city would be on the Sunday, which made the search for a brunch place fairly difficult. Luckily, we ended up in a restaurant just adjacent to the Lateral, called Vinitus. From the outside it looks like a wine bar, but go in and you will find the food is actually to die for. You can choose between tapas, montaditos (typical Spanish mini sandwiches) or actual dishes. We tried a wide selection of tapas and montaditos and every single one of the dishes we ordered was amazing. Very good value for money!

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Photo Credit: Vinitus

Bars / Hang Outs

Of course, I canโ€™t write an article about Barcelona and a hendo without mentioning alcohol :p. Here are three bars that we visited, all of which were very fun.

The Espit Chupitos is famous for its shooters, called Chupitos. I honestly canโ€™t tell you what I drank, but I can tell you most of it was very sweet, like drinking a liquid Haribo. It was very nice, but deadly! Some cocktails come with dares, such as sharing a Haribo banana with your friend through the mouth before drinking a shot, or the infamous signature cocktail called the Monica Lewinsky. SPOILER, PLEASE DONโ€™T READ THIS IF YOU ARE UNDER 18!! That cocktail is actually just a bottle of beer with a plastic penis stuck to the top. Needless to detail what you are dared to do with the penis before you are allowed to just drink the beer. You can click on this link if you want to find out more โ€“ send the kids to sleep before you click :p.

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Photo Credit: Espit Chupitos

A more chilled out option is the rooftop at the Axel Hotel. We actually found the hotel completely by coincidence on the first evening when we were walking around looking for the next place to go after the Chupitos. The hotel is a LGBT themed hotel so donโ€™t be surprised with the population that you will encounter. The staff is amazing and extremely friendly, the atmosphere is very chilled and if you donโ€™t mind half naked men waitering your table at night, then this is also the place to hang out for a nice party in the evening. During the day it is much more quiet and you can go up and enjoy the rooftop bar and pool, provided the rooftop isnโ€™t too packed as the clients of the hotel have the priority of course. Order their Kir Royal which is huge and really tasty!

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Photo Credit: Axel Hotel

Thinking of taking something Spanish back home with you? If you wish to buy some real and qualitative Spanish ham, you can stop by the Reserva Iberica where an amazing selection of hams and cheeses will be offered to you. If you really want to indulge in the most amazing ham, then you can go for the Jamon de Bellota, the best quality ham out there in my opinion. Only downside is the price which is very high. You can also buy some Lomo, which is a different type and preparation but equally amazing. Finally, this might sound weird but the Spanish tuna โ€“ aka Bonito โ€“ is to die for. I have honestly never tasted better cooked tuna in my life.

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Photo Credit: Reserva Iberica

Finally, if you are thinking of organising a hendo in Barcelona, you could consider the website https://www.evjf-barcelone.com/devisย for your activity bookings. It is a French website but you can easily contact them to ask for your quote in English, they will gladly respond to you and help you organise everything. They were super helpful with us and very quick to reply. We booked a pole dance activity and had loads and loads of fun doing it. Our teacher was the sweetest lady, very patient, friendly, constantly smiling, took pictures and videos of us AND gave us a bottle of free bubbly. What more could you ask for?

 

Thatโ€™s all for me now, I hope that you will find this article inspiring and useful if you are thinking of visiting Barcelona. If you have any questions, do let me know and Iโ€™ll gladly answer them ๐Ÿ™‚

With Love,

Nat

The Good the Bad and the Ugly about traveling through south America

As our amazing five month long adventure around South America is coming to an end, I feel it is the right time to share with you my experience of it so that if anyone out there is thinking of visiting this magnificent continent, for shorter or longer stays, you will be able to refer to this article for resources on what to expect out of your trip. This is not an article to badmouth South America or any given country, it is rather an objective transcript of our journey, including the good, the bad and the uglier aspects of traveling around Sur America ๐Ÿ˜‰. 

Over the course of our five month journey, we got to visit Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and finally Chile. We started off in Lima and worked our way down all the way to Ushuaia before heading back north to Santiago. We got to see a plethora of amazing places, magnificent landscapes and got to meet some wonderful people, both locals and fellow travelers. 

There is absolutely no doubt regarding the fact that South American landscapes are as varied as they are breathtaking, from Atlantic to Pacific and travelling through the Andes, we got to experience the harsh cold of very high altitudes as well as the burning heat of Rio de Janeiro in the summer. 

Going to south America during the summer was, in my opinion, a very good call as going all the way down to Ushuaia and patagonia was cold enough as it was. In January-February, which are our equivalent of July-August, the temperatures rarely reached more than 18 degrees in the height of the afternoon when it was completely sunny. It is important to bear that factor in mind. Going down to Ushuaia in the winter (July – August) will mean you can go skiing but hiking will become more of a challenge. Your call! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Traveling to south America for Europeans and probably Westerners in general, means accepting that the cultures you are faced with will be different from what you are used to. While it is a great experience to open yourself up to what the world has to offer, it can also be hard to put up with at times. First of all, South Americans for the most do not speak English – with the exception of some Chileans in the most touristic areas. For the rest, you will need to have some basics in Spanish if you don’t want to have to rely only on body language and taking the risk of not being understood. 

Each country is very culturally different from the next: in Peru, people are quite open and starting to embrace globalisation, which is great! On the contrary, in Bolivia people are still very grounded in their indigenous roots (their current president is the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia), which makes them quite shy and private. As Westerners, we tend to translate their behaviour as being unfriendly and rude, but it isn’t actually the case: it’s a difference in culture! Each country has its share of cultural differences which make the continent both amazingly rich and quite difficult to adapt to sometimes.

Another interesting aspect is the food. Every country has its culinary traditions but none of them are even remotely related. My best experience by far was in Peru. The country has real knowledge of their available resources and know extremely well how to mix them in order to create perfectly balanced dishes. Some of their foods are just as surprising as the French frogs legs or the Chinese dogs, (both of which I can’t bring myself to try) such as their unique guinea pig based dishes. My other half promised me it was very tasty so I guess if you’re into trying new things, then go for it! Of course there is also the world famous Ceviche, the delicious Quinoa and many other tasty and amazingly fine national dishes. The best part for me though, was the variety of vegetarian options. Most of the Peruvian soil is set in the Andes, which are high and arid mountains so you don’t breed much except for lamas and guinea pigs. Therefore, the Peruvian people grow a lot of vegetables and seeds and have learned to live a lot off a vegetarian lifestyle. So spending a whole month there was a pure delight for me! I wish I had known to enjoy it more than I did because what came up next after we crossed over to Bolivia and the rest would prove much less choicy. 

Amazing Ceviche selection at Cafe Mar in Lima, Peru ๐Ÿ’–


The hardest country food wise was Argentina. You may be aware that they are renowned for their beef meat, which I admit is on another level. The problem is, that’s all they have… Their fruit and vegetable choices were extremely poor and I guess nobody in Argentina is gluten or lactose intolerant… Or The ones that are must have a very hard time living there. We spent most of our south American trip in Argentina so for me it was very hard to cope food wise, but more on that in a future post. Chile came as a relief as they have a lot of choice, but sadly they don’t really have any national dishes; everything we ate was cooked with fresh and qualitative ingredients but all the ideas were imported which was a shame.

I will finish this article with probably the number one factor to take into account: the money aspect of things. While South America may be known to be cheaper than western countries, this is only partly true. Staying around the northern part of South America definitely is. Peru and Bolivia were cheap and I hear Colombia, Venezuela and all countries north of Peru are cheap. But Brazil, Argentina and Chile are most certainly NOT ๐Ÿ’ถ๐Ÿ’ท๐Ÿ’ต

And while that isn’t necessarily a problem if you’ve thought your budget through, it can become one when your Western expectations of “quality of service” come into play. We live in Great Britain and while it is an expensive country, generally speaking the quality of service is impeccable wherever you go. And the more money you spend, the more impeccable it is. When we arrived in South America, we had no expectations regarding the quality of service because we knew that the countries we were visiting were mostly fairly poor and still quite new to tourism compared to Europe or the US (oddly, we had much better service in poorer Peru than in richer Argentina).

The first thing that shocked me a bit is that wherever you go and no matter the country, everything you do and I mean EVERYTHING is subject to local v.s tourist or “extranjeros” (understand “strangers”) prices. And the tourist prices can go up to X5 the local prices. While I understand that local people don’t have a lot of money and it’s normal that they pay less, after a while you just feel like a cash cow that’s being milked until it is left raw. 

The second thing that shocked me is the quality of service. When you stay in Peru or Bolivia and then cross over to Argentina or Chile, you can really see a difference in culture and financial means. Argentinians and Chileans are much closer to Westerner cultures. Therefore, you expect a more Western behaviour. But fool yourself not, especially when you reach Patagonia. Expect your breath to be taken away by the amazingness of nature but also by the very expensive prices and very poor way in which you get treated in return.

My worst experience was between Puerto Natales and Los Antiguos. The two to three weeks that we spent there were not only almost more expensive than the rest of the trip put together, we also got insulted by our own hosts, kicked out of a hostel on the grounds of “overbooking”, told that we could “Walk the 8km to cross over to Chile” because they had randomly decided not to allow buses to cross over anymore, sold some “fully reclinable seats” on 12 hour long bus rides that actually weren’t reclinable at all, and generally speaking never – ever – helped out when we needed it, except when it came to suggesting to throw some more money at the problems that we were facing in exchange for some less than impressive solutions. And this all happened in the most expensive region of the whole of South America!!! 

The good thing about all of the above is this: we learned so much more about ourselves, our ability to cope with one another’s shortcoming but also with different cultures and sometimes stressful situations. We met some great (and less great ๐Ÿค”) people along the way and above all we got to experience the amazing wonder that is our mother nature. If I had to do it all over again exactly the same way, I would a thousand times do it again. And I would really advise anyone who is thinking of doing it to take the plunge and use this article to hopefully help you prepare for it even better than I was. ๐Ÿ’“

I want to thank my other half for taking me on this wonderful adventure and for putting up with me 24/7 for the last 6 months. I really look forward to our next adventure, whatever it will be. ๐Ÿฆ‹๐Ÿ’œ For now, it’s back to London town!


Much Love,

Nat

How I became a travel and photography addict

This will be my last article to lay down the basics of who I am and where I’ve come from. After I’ve shared the roots of my yoga and nutrition passions, I now want to tell you how I became a travel and photography addict. 
It all started before I was even born…

My mother, who grew up in the Midlands of England, traveled to France at a very early age. She had always been attracted to the French language and culture and wanted to discover more by moving there. She traveled to several regions in France before landing in Paris where she met my father.

My father was born in Northern France and at a very early age moved to Noumรฉa in New Caledonia with my grandmother, uncle and aunt. He lived there for about ten years before moving back to Paris to finish his high-school studies. He met my mother during his uni studies. 

So as you can see, my parents were already quite the travelers and it carried on after they met and once I was born. It still carries on today. 

The first long distance trip I took was to Montreal. I was barely two years old. I don’t remember any of it, but my parents do because on that trip I developed the chicken pox ๐Ÿ™ˆ we never went back together but Montreal is on my grown up bucket list because well, I don’t remember my last trip there ๐Ÿ˜

Ever since then, half of our yearly holiday allowance was spent traveling the world, mainly to sunny destinations during cold European winters. 

To this day, the top destinations that truly moved me and that I would really recommend are Cuba and Australia. Both destinations could not be more different from each other, which is why I love them both for completely different reasons. 

My latest 5 month trip around south America with my boyfriend is my newest addition, and I would especially recommend Machu Picchu, Uyuni, Valdes Peninsula, Torres del Paine and Easter Island. I will develop further on each destination in future posts to explain why.

As for my passion for photography, I can’t really explain where it came from. I guess travel and photography go hand in hand. You want to remember everything that you see and rather than relying on memory, might as well be able to look back at them. 

I’ve had cameras for as long as I can remember, even when they were just dispensable cameras and I was 13 years old. Today I have much better cameras and a phone, and am capable of taking thousands of pictures in just a few days. 

I find everything has a soul. Whether it’s a human, an animal, a building or a  landscape, I love to try and bring out the soulful side of it. I don’t know if it really transpires to anyone else than me ๐Ÿ™‰ but I guess that if I take each shot lovingly then hopefully it’ll show in my work ๐Ÿฆ‹

I look forward to sharing some of my photography work and travel stories with you and can’t wait to hear your thoughts on them!

With love,

Nat