Barcelona on a Time Crunch

Is eight hours enough?

There’s never enough time in a city, but here is how to make the most of it.

First things first, are you here on a layover? Do you have bags? Check them in somewhere! They will slow you down. Nannybag is what we used in Barcelona, but there are plenty of services similar.

Cabs aren’t too expensive in Barcelona, so we made sure to check our bags in somewhere we wanted to go anyway, no wasted time! Then first thing we did? Beach. (We stored our bags in this surf shop and headed straight there, it was so perfect).

We had been traveling through Amsterdam and Paris, which was chilly, so beach it was. We looked for sea glass for probably 30 minutes then had lunch at a tiny restaurant. AKA nachos and sangria. After that, we decided to walk to the Gothic Quarter and picked up gelato on the way. If you don’t know, this beach is famous in Barcelona for it’s sea glass. It’s a must sea!

We got to walk around and see some of the best architecture Barcelona has to offer. We did shop in a few little boutiques and I got a really pretty turquoise ring. We decided our number one in Barcelona, was getting lost. We didn’t want to rush this city because there is something beautiful on every corner.

Our game plan was basically walk as far away from our end destination as possible, then make our way back slowly. We did decide to head to our cruise ship early, which was the best decision because we got on quickly. But, we did have time if we wanted to go to La Sagrada Familia. We got an incredible view of it from the ship, but we decided against up close and personal.

Plus, I know I will be back to Barcelona one day, needed something special waiting for me.

Why Paris Should be on your Bucket List

The city of love.

And amazing food. I honestly never had any interest in going to Paris, until somehow, the flight was booked. Long story short, the cheapest way for my friends and I to get to Europe for our cruise starting in Barcelona, was flying to Paris. Another long story short, we ended up going to Amsterdam first, then Paris. So after an overnight flight to Amsterdam, spending a full day there, and a *late arriving* overnight bus to Paris, we made it. And then after an amazing Parisian breakfast, we fell asleep in the hotel lobby.

file2-6After also getting ready in the hotel lobby, we headed out for a self guided walking tour of the city. We walked around the Louvre buildings and gardens, strolled alone the Seine looking at little boutiques, and obviously looked for the best macaroons and crepes.

We made our way to the train with some mini bottles of wine and spent the rest of the day exploring the Palace of Versailles. Let me tell you, Versailles was unbelievably beautiful. Go there if you have the chance. And make sure to look up, my favorite part was the ceilings.

After our long day of walking through Marie Antoinette’s former place of residence, we ended up at Notre-Dame at night. The detail on this building was also incredible. When you see a new place like this, you almost get lost looking up. The sheer detail and intricacies and the age, it makes you fall in love. You feel that deep aching sensation in your chest because of it’s beauty and you feel just so lucky to be able to see this other side of the world. That’s how I felt in all of Paris. Every corner we turned, every monument we saw, every single second of exploration felt like bliss.file-10

Our second day was filled to the brim with Parisian delicacies, champagne, and gorgeous architecture. In the morning I roamed by myself and toured museums. After a few euphoric hours, I met my friends at the Arc de Triomphe while drinking amazing espresso. We got to eat bread and macaroons under the Eiffel Tour, we drank champagne around the city and on a cheesy tourist bus, and played bubble soccer on Tour Montparnasse. (Tip: Tour Montparnasse is the best view in the city and of the city. I’m sure the top of the Eiffel Tour is beautiful, but nothing beats being able to watch the Eiffel Tour sparkle from afar. And pro tip: go for sunset!)

We did eventually have to go, an early wake up call and a cold uber ride to the airport, and Paris was in our rear view. For a city I had no intention of ever visiting, I’m glad I went. Sometimes the places not on your list turn out to be your favorite. Je t’aime, Paris. I’ll see you soon.

 

 

Why you Should Road Trip Iceland

Driving through Europe.

I have been out of the US before, let’s be clear on that. Have I ever gone anywhere other than an all inclusive resort in Mexico or right across the border in Canada? No. (FYI I live in MI so getting to the Canadian border takes 30 minutes – not as exciting as other parts of Canada mostly because of how accessible it is.)

Anyway, long story short, I somehow ended up on a trip to Iceland with an old friend. We’ve known each other for 10 years but haven’t talked as much recently. Spoiler alert, felt like 0 time had passed. Basically, I was bit HARD by the travel bug last year. I recently looked at Skyscanner and found a cheap flight to Reykjavik. Not knowing ANYTHING about Iceland, I posted on Facebook and said, “I want to go to Reykjavik!”. (This was after googling Iceland and seeing the gorgeous country). A few people commented on it saying they were going to Iceland, a few said where the hell is that, and others said that’s on my bucket list! My friend, Taylor, messaged me and said “Hey, I’m planning on going in September for photography and northern lights and stuff. Wanna come? It will help me split my costs”. Um, yes. Basically we booked it a week later.

Votnajökull National ParkFirst thing you need to know about Iceland, transportation while in the country isn’t as expensive as you would think IF you’re renting. If you’re not, good luck. A bus, taxi, etc… all pricey. Plus, having a person waiting for us with the rental was so nice. We spent

almost $700 for a car and camper van for a week. We also added on WiFi and a plug extender. So $350 a person for a week of traveling, lodging, and internet, not bad.

Driving Iceland is also a plus because your plans can change at any minute. You have flexibility so you don’t have to be anywhere at any time. This was so helpful! We added things onto our trip that locals recommended and being able to drive a little further at night to a different campground, was so nice and easy. Wake up at Skogafoss and be the first person there. Eat breakfast while looking at Vatnajökull. Go to bed right next to a black sand beach… There’s nothing cooler.

So, cost, experience, and flexibility, makes driving Iceland worth it. I would recommend this over a hotel or AirBnB any day.

Lolla in Chicago

The music festival to end all festivals.

While I have been to Illinois and Chicago many times – I have never been to Lollapalooza. In a turn of events, I ended up going alone, and I had an incredible time. Here is my experience plus some tips and tricks.

First things first – screenshot the map and schedule/lineup for all the bands. We bought tickets for Friday only and were able to see where the stages were and when our favorite bands were playing. Because I went alone – I was able to see my favorites and explore a bit more.

A photo of the entrance to Lollapalooza. A artsy cartoon boombox.

Plus, do some research for hotels in advance. I could see the main stage from my room. This photo was right inside the gate across the street from my hotel entrance. Also – I would highly recommend the Congress Plaza Hotel because it’s in Grant Park and there’s a ton of security because of the location meaning you feel super safe. Also, it’s an old hotel that is really ornate and interesting.

Okay, so you’ve got your hotel, you decided which day to buy or what pass works best, you know which bands you want to see. How do you make the most of your time?

Go early and make a plan of action. The two bands I wanted to see the most were at stages that faced each other so they rotated. I got to see James Bay and then The Neighbourhood started playing right as he finished. Once The Neighbourhood was getting close to the end of their last song, I left and beat the crowd out because the next artist on the opposite stage was Post Malone. I got to watch him from afar because I didn’t feel like getting trampled. After I saw the songs I wanted to see I made my way towards the main stage and got caught up at a small stage and watched an incredible band I had never heard of. THIS is why I love festivals. You get to hear so many artists you would have never heard of. Two of my favorite bands I found this way; Bad Rabbits (Warped Tour) and R. LUM. R. (Lollapalooza).

A photo of a moose with the Lyft logo and people waiting in line for tacos.

Make sure you have a full battery and possibly an external charger if your hotel is further away. You will need to take a Lyft, Uber, L train, cab, something back. I would recommend whatever ride share company is partnered with the event. For Lolla, Lyft was their main choice meaning they had a Lyft pickup lot that was close to the event and gave out free water, energy drinks, tacos and tamales, and small souvenirs while you waited for your driver. I was able to use the restroom, get some food, water, listen to music, and got free hand sanitizer, beer koozies, and keychains.

Thankfully, my biggest tip is back in style. FANNY PACKS! (or if you’re British Bum Bags). There are thousands of people here and I ended up wearing my small backpack backwards due to some missing items and opened pockets. (Nothing major, just a missing zipper string and oil blotting face papers).

Either bring money or pre-load it onto your wristband and make sure you have the essentials for being out in the sun. I had the best time here and I felt totally safe being alone. I made a ton of new friends because everyone there is super friendly. Lollapalooza is definitely not one to miss.

 

 

California

Exploring the West.

If you follow me on Instagram then you know I recently took a trip west. Far west. More west than I have ever been before. I had a Memorial Day weekend in California. (Southern California to be exact).

While this is a huge state, I believe I explored my fair share being there for only 3 days.

33816531_10156666558923689_4071882833470160896_n.jpgHere’s a picture of me looking cute in Malibu.

Okay, now that we have that covered – here is my itinerary/how you can see as much as I did in a short amount of time.

Huge shoutout to my cousin who chauffeured me around SoCal all weekend.

Day 1 – Fly in, Lyft to my cousin’s apartment, play with her dog, shower, head to Long Beach with her husband. Julia (my cousin friend) works at this cool ass shipping container food market called SteelCraft. I ate lunch there and had a few beers because the time difference was not in my stomach’s favor. (Aka it had been a long ass time since I ate anything).

After this little rendezvous we headed to Ballast Point brewery in long beach. This was super cool because craft beer in MI is huge and my ex always loved Ballast Point. It was cool to experience it. This is pretty much all we did this day.

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Fast forward to night time, my roommate flew in, we went to bed, the end.

Day 2 – Santa Monica and other typical Southern California things for tourists. This day we woke up, got ready, hopped in a car, and drove out to Malibu. We had brunch, walked through the Adamson House Gardens and saw the gorgeous house. We hopped back in the car and drove to the Point Dume state beach in Malibu – got sunburnt, drove back towards Santa Monica. Saw the cute stores and restaurants, watched the sunset on the pier, and got to see a seal just playing in the water and chasing fishermen’s bait. We then went for ice cream in Venice on Abbot Kinney Blvd at Salt and Straw.

Day 3 – We started the day at Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. We met my cousin and I don’t remember the exact order of events but we saw Melrose and all the famous Instagram spots, walked throug33747764_10156666555508689_4452018796722388992_n.jpgh Downtown LA and went in The Last Bookstore – aka an incredible masterpiece. We then did Mulholland Dr and saw the Hollywood sign from the Bowl Lookout. We also saw West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

The best food I had was fried lobster Nik Niks and some great tacos at a small place.

The next day basically it was get up and head to the airport – that’s why I said we were there for only 3 days. The things I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND, is seeing Melrose and Rodeo Drive. It’s just so beautiful and interesting. Santa Monica was probably my favorite little city/sector of the larger picture that is Southern California. Also something insanely cool – The Murder House from American Horror Story is in LA. So go see it.

Find as many little shops as possible, ask about strange records in The Record Collector (they probably have it – like the copy of War of the Worlds I bought by Orson Wells), go check out some rare books at The Last Bookstore, and if there’s a huge line for ice cream, it’s probably worth it.

Happy exploring.

Travel Apps

What to do?

Travel apps. Some are useless while some are absolute lifesavers. I’m starting a series on here where I am going to review some of the most popular travel apps along with some you may not have head of. If you have any suggestions for me, drop them in the comments below. Without further introduction, here are my top 3 travel apps.

Splitwise

The best travel app when you’re traveling with others is Splitwise.

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I blocked out my friends names but this is what Splitwise looks like when you add in groups and trips. You don’t pay each other through this app like Venmo, you just add in expenses and it carries over to all trips you have planned with them. For example, in “Cruise” I booked a Naples Tour for all four of us. How they are paying me back is by Person 2 is paying me back by buying my flight to Barcelona from Paris and buying our hotel and comedy show tickets in DC.

Person 3 is actually going to be doing my hair and adding it to Splitwise instead of me paying her cash. This app just makes everything much easier when booking trips, abroad or domestic. You would rather book all four spots in a tour at once and all four flights at the same time rather then everyone fending for themselves. This takes out the guess work and most importantly, it takes out the MATH. Thank the lord. This is the easiest way to stay organized with expenses.

Skyscanner

This app is a lifesaver and any travelers best friend.

skyscanner

Skyscanner checks every travel app and airline to compare prices. Sometimes when I’m trying to plan a vacation and I know I have off certain days but don’t know where I want to go, I look on Skyscanner. This is how I’m planning my NYE and Birthday trip. Another great feature is when you know where but not when. I want to volunteer in Nepal so I’ve been tracking what months are the cheapest to fly to Kathmandu. It’s harder to stay loyal to one airline when you search for the cheapest flights but I’ve never had a bad experience. I would rather travel more than pay more per trip for a short flight.

That being said – you can still search for specific airlines. Lets say you refuse to fly Delta, you can uncheck it on the side so it won’t show Delta flights. If you don’t fly Delta – why? You can also check a little box that says “Add Nearby Airports”. I sometimes do this because in Michigan there are several airports and sometimes one is cheaper than the other. I suggest downloading this and playing around for a while to get the hang of it.

Google Maps

I can’t make a list of my top three travel apps without including a map app of some kind. There are a lot of mapps (lol I’m clever) that work great. I will be looking into more of them coming up but I have found the best one for me currently, is Google Maps.

google

The best part about this app is that you can download maps for use offline. This way you don’t have to use data or wifi to know where you’re going and thats huge. Looking like a lost tourist makes you a target. Knowing where you’re going gives you a lower profile and also, makes your life a bit easier.

Another plus is looking at things nearby. This helped me a lot in Denver. I would just pull up Google Maps to find a place to get an appetizer and a drink alone. Anything close/in walking distance, sign me up! Plus, what better way to see a city than roaming around?

I swear by these three apps as well as a few others. You can basically plan your entire trip using these three as well as even out expenses among friends and travel partners. I highly recommend giving them a whirl.

Let me know if you have a holy grail that I need to try next and I’ll add it into my rotation.