Barcelona Spain: The Beaches

Let me start out by saying.  I love the beach!  Some of my favorite vacations are those where I do nothing but sit in beach chair all day listening to the ocean waves.  Well, I wouldn’t recommend spending everyday doing this in Barcelona since there are so many sights to see in and around the city, but I would take at least a day or two to relax on one of their many beaches.  We spent our

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Barcelona Spain: Monjuïc

Monjuïc is one of the funner sights in Spain to visit, especially if you have children with you.  Let’s face it, the Cathedrals are awesome, but when your kids protest saying “I don’t want to see another church!” still take them to the cathedrals, but then take them to Monjuïc!  Olympic park from the 1992 Summer Olympics is in this area, and if you go up high enough, you get a priceless view of the city of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea!

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Barcelona Spain: Casa Milá & Casa Batlló

Barcelona is a city of art.  It is unlike anything else you will ever encounter in your travels.  Thanks to the works of Antoni Gaudí, we have one of the most original looking Cathedrals; La Sagrada Familia.  Antoni has additional Masterpieces in Barcelona that are worth visiting.  Two of them are houses, which are now museums called Casa Batlló and Casa Milá (also known as La Pedrera).  They are not far from each other, so you can easily visit of them in one afternoon.  They are both buildings with some very unusual architecture and some rich history.  It takes about 1 to 2 hours to tour each building.  These are some very popular landmarks, so if you are visiting Barcelona and you want to visit these houses, be sure to book in advance as they can sell out, especially during peak season.  You can book these through Expedia’s “Things to do”, the Viator, and many other booking sights including local ones in Spain.  The tickets are fairly inexpensive, so it certainly should not break the bank.

La Casa Milá features unusual shapes and turns on the outside of the building with a courtyard on top, balconies with strangely shaped iron balcony walls, and originally designed furniture inside the house.

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Barcelona Spain: La Sagrada Familia

Some of the best tourist attractions to visit in Europe are old Cathedrals.  This is especially true in Barcelona Spain, the home of the one of the most unique and beautiful Cathedrals in the world.  You will have a hard time finding any cathedral as original as La Sagrada Familia and you will certainly not find a cathedral that’s taller than La Sagrada Familia as it is the tallest Cathedral in the world.

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Europe: Barcelona Spain

During our European vacation this last summer, we visited London, Paris, and…………………BARCELONA.  I love Spain.  It’s my 2nd home as I lived there during a time I served a mission for my church.  Other than the fact I carried a residential Visa at one time and became very accustomed to the culture, there are many reasons I love Spain.

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Paris France: Odd Eats! SNAILS

Most of the food in France is pretty down to earth and not too unusual, however, it’s not hard to find restaurants that serve food that may come across as unusual, strange, or downright disgusting to some people.  One of the most famous “odd eats” in France is Escargot, or to be politically incorrect “snails”.

This is not the first time I’ve eaten escargot, but it’s the first time I’ve eaten it in France.  One difference I noticed in France (at least at the particular restaurant where we ate) is that they leave the snails in their shells, where when I’ve eaten escargot outside of France, it was already out of the shell.  If I hadn’t eaten and fallen in love with escargot prior, I would have found it a lot more challenging to eat it out of the shell because it gives more of that sensation that it was actually picked up off the ground while it was slowly crawling, then it was cooked, and then it was put on my plate instead of pretending it was small pieces of rich dark meat chicken.

How does escargot taste?  Heavenly!  My 6 year old daughter who is a lot braver than I would have ever been at her age, ended up eating 3 of them within a couple of minutes because she loved them so much.  My wife agreed that they were delicious too.  They taste like a very rich dark meat chicken with a slight earthiness flavor to them.  They are usually cooked in a buttery garlic mix, so they have a strong flavor of both.  They are not very cheap, 6 of them will run you 11 Euros (about $15), but they are worth it.

I recommend you try escargot next time you visit France. If you’re too chicken to taste a dish that tastes like chicken, there are other alternatives………………………………….you wimp!   You can eat Steak and Frites (fries), burgers, sushi, chinese food, sandwiches on a baguette and so much more.

Snails in the shell:

My brave older daughter eating snails:

Video of my younger daughter refusing to eat snails:

Paris France: The Simple Things

When traveling overseas, it’s easy to get so caught up in busy schedules we set for ourselves in order to visit as many tourist attractions as possible that sometimes we forget to take a moment to take a break and breathe.  It’s good to spend a couple of hours doing simple activities such as taking a walk through a park, taking a boat ride on the river, or simply letting the kids run around in an open space.

We took a few such breaks while we were in Paris:

We let the kids run and chase birds in a park adjacent to the Eiffel Tower.

We took a boat ride down the Seine River where we cruised by multiple famous landmarks.

We visited a chocolate factory and museum.

We roamed the street market in front of our hotel for several minutes.

Slowing down for a moment and enjoying the simple things famous cities have to offer not only gives you a break from the hustle and bustle of long lines and crowded subways, it also allows you to become more present mentally, it makes you feel at home even though you are thousands of miles away, and it allows you to take in more of the local culture because let’s face it, even though the Eiffel Tower is definitely French, you will not see a bunch of French people touring the place, instead you will mostly every nationality but French.  The locals will likely be doing the more simple activities during their off time, such as going to the park, going on walks, or sitting in a bar.

So, next time you visit a big city, such as Paris, London, or anywhere else, be sure to spend some time eating an ice cream, taking a walk, hanging out at a local bar, or relaxing in a park.  You’ll be glad that you did because some of your favorite memories will be from those more relaxing moments when you felt more present and slowly took in the local surroundings.

Paris France: The Palace of Versailles

If you are in Paris and you only have time to visit one tourist attraction, be sure to visit The Palace of Versailles.  This tourist attraction is by far the best and most interesting place to visit in Paris, yes, even more than the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre.  The Palace of Versailles has everything you look for in a tourist attraction.  Do you like art?  They have plenty of paintings and sculptures throughout.   Do you like authentic baroque architecture?  They have that.  Do you like cathedrals?  They have that. Do you like gardens?  They have that as well.

The palace is huge, and it gets very crowded during peak season, which is summer.  Some things to know and some suggestions before you visit the Palace of Versailles:

  • It is recommended to show up before 9:00am as the lines to enter can get very long, in fact we showed up at 11:00am and waited almost 2 hours in line.  Do you have a skip-the-line pass?  Be sure to read the fine details, it may only allow you to skip the ticket line, which isn’t very long, but you still have to wait in line to enter the palace.
  • Get up very early in the morning as the train ride to Versailles is long
  • Bring lots of water, especially in the summer months when it can get hot and humid.  Bring snacks in case you get hungry while waiting in line.
  • Bring a camera as there are thousands of photo opportunities
  • Bring patience and a good attitude as the the crowds can become unmanageable

Paris France: The Louvre

The Louvre Art Museum is undoubtedly one of the most famous art museums in the world and one of the most famous landmarks in Paris.  In fact when most people think of Paris, two landmarks likely come to mind; the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre.  The Louvre is a very popular tourist definition, it’s very crowded, and it’s very large,  but it’s also very beautiful and very much worth it to visit.

There are a quite a few types of art to view here including paintings, sculptures, and statues.  I recommend seeing everything you can. If you’re in Paris for a week or longer, I recommend giving yourself at least whole day to visit this museum, maybe two days as it’s very large and it will take this much time to take in the whole museum.

A few other recommendations:

  • Get there early as the lines to get in through security can become very long later in the morning
  • Bring bottles of water with you as you will get thirsty throughout the tour
  • Bring a camera, there are lots of photo opportunities within
  • Try to visit on a week day, weekends are noticeably busier
  • Even though the crowds are insane, make sure to visit the Mona-Lisa and don’t be afraid to push yourself through the crowd to the front, everyone else is doing it
  • Watch for pick-pockets, especially in the crowded sections.  Keep your wallet in your front pocket or don’t bring it at all if you can help it


Paris France: Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral is another must-see destination on your trip to Paris.  The cathedral is over 850 years old and features gothic architecture and rose stained-glass windows.  Where else can you visit a church that is almost a millennium old?  As with visiting lots of other European Cathedrals, being inside the Notre Dame Cathedral takes you back hundreds of years and once you enter, it’s hard to leave!

This Cathedral is a very popular destination.  It is NOT off the beaten path at all as everyone and their brother and sister will be there, so plan accordingly so you can get the most out of your visit to this landmark.  Avoid visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral on weekends or Catholic holidays.  Also try to arrive by 9:00am to avoid the crowds.  We learned this lesson the hard way.  We showed up at 10:30am on Saturday morning in the summer (peak season)!  We were eventually able to get into the Cathedral after waiting in a long long line.  It was worth it, but I wish we could have spent longer there.  We also wanted to climb the 387 stairs to the top of the bell towers, but the line was literally 2 city blocks long and we had other destinations to visit.  Apparently we missed a real treat.

If you want to visit the bell towers (and I highly recommend it as you get to see more cool architecture including gargoyles), it is recommended that you get in line no later than 9:00am to avoid literally waiting two or three hours.

When you are in the main hall of the cathedral, be sure to see the South Rose Window!  Also be sure to check out the huge pipe organ in the upper part of the back side of the Cathedral.  Finally take a moment to sit on one of the many benches to relax and take in this magnificent structure, you don’t get to visit places like this everyday.

As always when visiting these destinations, bring a camera, bring lots of water, and keep your wallet in a safe place.  This landmark is a hotspot for pickpockets.