Hola Peregrina

It’s time to introduce the Camino de Santiago, one of my biggest dreams for this year of travel.  Today I completed my 14th day of walking.  By the middle of May, I hope to have walked the 475 mile pilgrim route between Roncesvalles and Santiago de Compostela.  If medieval pilgrims could do it in sandals, I think I’ll be able to manage in hiking boots.

It’s hard to break up all of the kilometers into cohesive chunks, so I think I will try to post for every five days of walking.  The first five days (from Roncesvalles to Torres del Rio) were full of firsts.  Most surprisingly, I hiked in snow for the first time!

After two snowy days, I reached Pamplona.  What a lovely city!  If, like me, you’re a sucker for any stone building completed centuries before you were born, Pamplona rocks.  The first five days were also my first in Basque country (see the graffiti below) – very exciting.  If you have any hints or experiences with the Camino that you would like to share, please leave a comment or email me!

More Barcelona!

There’s a lot more to Barcelona than Gaudí and Modernist architecture.  I probably could have walked around staring at houses all day, but I did try to branch out a little.  If you’re going to step inside any buildings in Barcelona, I’d strongly suggest the Picasso Museum, MNAC, and the Fundació Joan Miró.  So much killer art from regional (and global) all-stars.

The picture in the bottom left corner shows the uncovered remains of the largest synogague in Barcelona.  There’s not much left from the 1100s, but you can learn a lot about the history of the community and see some original vases from the site.

In the last post, I might have downplayed the other cathedrals in Barcelona.  They really are worth a visit.  Plus, at the Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC), you can see amazing frescos transplanted from Romanesque chapels and churches around the region.

Going Gaga for Gaudí

Bon dia!   I’m excited to share my experiences of Barcelona, the catalan powerhouse.  This post will focus on the amazing architecture of Gaudí and the Modernistas.  First up – Park Güell aka playground of my dreams.

The entrance to Park Güell is spectacular, but very crowded.  I enjoyed exploring the areas higher up and further back into the park.  You can get a great perspective on Barcelona from the hill with three crosses.

After frollicking along all the paths, I walked from the park to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s constantly evolving masterpiece.

You may want to consider checking out Barcelona’s other cathedrals before you visit Sagrada Familia.  Otherwise you may be disappointed when every church you visit isn’t a religious fantasy forest explosion of light.

Palau de la Música Catalana.  The Palau is not Gaudi, but it is a stunning example of Modernista architecture.  I strongly suggest getting tickets to a performance here.  I saw an organ concert for only 5 euro – budget travel does not get any better than that.

Athens

Athens!  Acropolis!  Parthenon!  Protests!  So much excitement.

I had a wonderful time hanging out with my family and checking out what Athens has to offer.  I’d give two major thumbs up to the Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum.  Cape Sounion is out of the city, but definitely worth the trip.

And, finally, one of my favorite parts of the Greek experience – eating.  Grilled meat, fish soup, and lots of yogurt with honey.  I lead a pretty difficult life.

The Classical Tour (part 2)

So many delightful columns to see in the Peloponnese!  Today’s blog post covers Olympia and Delphi (which is actually on the mainland).  You may recognize Olympia from torch lighting ceremonies on your TV screen.  This may not be the location of the first ever Olympics, but it’s the oldest one they’ve found so far.  Notably absent from my tour: the Greek actresses who dress up like priestesses to light the torch.

Sometimes a person on your bus tour says, “Take a jumping picture.”  And you do it, because you’re in the original Olympic stadium and you feel like a boss.

After a day of visualizing naked Greek guys wrestling, we continued on to Delphi.

Ancient Delphi was the bellybutton of the world, or, more famously, the home of the oracle.  Talk about a stunning setting!  People came from all over to climb the attractive hills and visit the oracle.  She gave famously vague answers because of a little vapor-from-the-center-of-the-earth inhalation problem.  Sadly, we couldn’t find any priestesses on our visit, but we did visit the excellent museum.

 

The Classical Tour (part 1)

Welcome to Greece!  Home of delicious yogurt, fierce national pride (yes, even now), and some of my amazing family members.  Hi family!  It was a little too early in the year for island hopping, but I did manage to fit in another tourist special – The Classical Tour.

First up on the bus tour from BC was Mycenae.  This may be both the first and the last time that I say I’m obsessed with a grave circle.  The site itself is spectacular, and you can some awesome artifacts in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

On day 1 of the bus tour we went to four different places.  The other one that I want to spotlight is Nafplio.  Nafplio is a small, beautiful town with three (THREE) fortresses.  One is surrounded by water and another has a very ugly hotel sitting on top of it.  But the third fortress RULES.  Do climb up the 900 steps and explore the whole complex.  You’ll get unforgettable views.

Rome Mega Post

I had the great fortune to spend time in Rome with one of my brothers and two friends who might as well be family.  And so, because I know everyone’s mother likes to see photos of them on the internet, I bring you multiple photo collages.  Hi Mom!  There’s also the small detail that Rome has one bajillion photographable places.

A big thank you to Tom, Simon, and Grace for being the best travel companions ever.