Marisa Visits London

To say I am behind on blog posts would be a major understatement. There has been so much I have wanted to share, but I have been so busy, and THANKFULLY did not open my laptop once on holiday last week. I had taken it with me hoping to get some posts drafted, but in hindsight am so happy the laptop went untouched (I needed that!). Also, I have been suffering from major Wi-Fi issues meaning I cannot post at home.

Back when I did my posts on Marseille (and this), Marisa was in town visiting. She is the first visitor to the new house (!) which is both a great thing and a terrible thing. Great because I missed her and was so happy to have a visitor; terrible because the house was in a dreadful state of Ikea parts lingering in every corner and unpacked bags/suitcases everywhere. Plus, we don’t have a sofa bed, which is a separate problem in itself.

Marisa went up to Edinburgh for a couple of days, so thankfully she was not stuck on the camping mattress every night of the visit. Between her being gone and me having work, we really only had one full day to spend with each other in London. And we definitely made the most out of it!

A Perfect Day in London:

  • Shopping
  • Afternoon Tea (with free flowing prosecco!)
  • A scenic walk (to walk off the tea, of course)
  • A London night out

I would like to mention that we did all of the above without even an outfit change or a nap. I was still recovering from being sick so super #proud of that fact.

We started our day shopping on Brick Lane. I’m quite over the high streets, and Marisa wanted to do some vintage shopping, so it was a nice change of pace that pleased us both. We also had a (very) late breakfast at a café on Brick Lane called Fika – it is so adorable and cozy inside!

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In the afternoon, we met Hope for afternoon tea. I love trying new places for tea, but struggled to find something with availability on such short notice (I was booking on Thursday…oops). I was able to get a reservation at Conrad St. James London Hotel for their autumn-themed tea. I was skeptical, but they advertised free flowing champagne, so I was sold.

I’m so happy we went with the Conrad, because the tea was beautifully presented, they refilled our prosecco after pretty much every sip, and it was a lovely atmosphere for the three of us to catch up. The autumn-themed desserts were also to die for! My favorite thing is that it put us in the perfect position to go for a nice scenic walk afterward, to show Marisa some of the sights she did not have a chance to see during her visit.

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[I was so into the autumn themed dessert cake…the pumpkin cheesecake was to die for!]

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We walked through St. James Park all the way to Buckingham Palace, and then back through the park to Westminster so she could see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We then walked along Embankment to evening views of the London Eye before settling into Tattershall Castle for a couple of drinks. It’s a boat turned bar in front of the London Eye that we honestly couldn’t pass up!

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[She’s a really good tourist, isn’t she?]

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We finished the night with a couple of drinks at Mabel’s in Covent Garden and then I opened up the girls to the Roadhouse experience. It’s such a funny place – not classy whatsoever – but when they have a live band on and you are with good friends there is little that is better.

I still feel bad about being such a miserable (and sick) host for Marisa’s visit, but am beyond happy she came. Now, as soon as the house is ready, I expect everyone else to visit as well!

p.s. When I say we only had one full day, I mean one full day but two nights. On Friday night, we took Marisa to our favorite fish & chips place and then showed her a (calm) night out in Clapham. Hope showed up as well and we were matching, as usual.

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[The whole matching issue – I swear we didn’t plan it!]

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[We struggle to get good photos]

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Barcelona, Pt. 2

Day 2

Hangovers get harder with each passing day. I don’t even want to know what they will be like when I turn 23 in December! 

We got a (very) late start to our second full day in Barcelona, meaning that our plan to do all of the touristy stuff was completely spoiled. We decided pretty early on that we did not have the energy to do anything, but settled on seeing La Sagrada Familia before passing out on the beach for the rest of the day. 

I was excited to see La Sagrada Familia, but have also recently started despising visits to churches in cities I visit. While I absolutely love seeing the architecture and learning about the history behind them, they start to all look the same after awhile.  I did not know what to expect of La Sagrada Familia, but I wasn’t expecting much…….I wrong. It was seriously the most magnificent thing I have EVER seen. I did not take many pictures because they just weren’t doing it justice, but I’ve included a few. 

   
    
    
 

After La Sagrada Familia, we went straight to the beach. This time, we opted for sun beds and an umbrella in order to ensure optimal napping conditions. I napped a bit, went for a swim, and napped some more. I forgot how much I enjoy swimming in the Mediterranean – nothing like the freezing cold, seaweed filled dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean! We ended up staying on the beach until about 7:00pm, when everything was closing for the day. 

  

We wanted to take the cable car ride before heading home, but got there to find out that they only took cash. The girls were short, and the ATM was quite far, so we decided against it, mainly because we couldn’t make it to the ATM and back in time for the last ride so we really had no choice. I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to see the view from the cable car, but skipping out on it meant we had time for tapas. 

Tapas was one of our other “best decisions” of the trip. We asked for a recommendation from the hostel staff and the place we were sent to was amazing. La Tasqueta was just around the corner from our hostel. It was absolutely buzzing and I completely understand why! The tapas were served buffet style and each piece was €1-1.80. It seems a bit expensive that each item is €1, until you’re about 3 in and already full. For €12 each, the girls and I were all absolutely stuffed, barely able to make it out the door. My favorites were the Brie, prosciutto, and zucchini and the fried egg & chorizo. I’ve already told Sean I’m going to be going through a tapas phase when I get back to England, so everyone is invited over for some!

        

After tapas, we went back to the hostel to hang out. We ended up playing Uno and a couple of other card games that left us dying of laughter. I cannot remember the last time I played a card game and had so much fun doing so. The rest of the group went out after that and the four of us retired to our beds. We decided we didn’t deserve to go out since we screwed up that day, and needed rest in order to get all of the touristy stuff done the next day!

Day 3

The next day was our last full day in Barcelona, so we felt the pressure to get everything done. We woke up early and ate breakfast in the hostel before heading to the FC Barcelona stadium, Camp Nou. We bought tickets for the tour & museum which allowed us access to the stadium. 

  
It was my first time seeing any stadium so empty (except for Fenway) and it was so cool to stand down by the field and imagine what it would feel like to be a player of all the seats were full. We got plenty of pictures and marveled at all of the trophies before heading to our next stop, the Gaudi houses. 

   
   

  

  
 
We stopped for lunch first, at a restaurant called Mordisco. It was a really cute restaurant and the food was delicious. I got the black rice and prawns and squid and was not expecting what ended up in front of me. For a second I thought I was about to eat tar, but it ended up being really good and I felt adventurous for trying something new. 

  
We visited Casa Mila and Casa Batlló, both designed by Gaudi, but only went inside Casa Mila, aka La Padrera. The design of the building was breathtaking – absolutely no straight lines, and incredible shapes. We explored the roof terrace for a good half hour before visiting the attic and the apartment. It was honestly like being inside a work of art. 

   
    
    
    
 
Due to time constraints, we only saw the outside of the second house, which is designed to look like a dragon. I wish we could have gone inside because Gaudi’s work is so fascinating that I want to look at it all day! However, in lieu of the second house, we went to Park Guell, another Gaudi creation.  

    
 
We did not actually go into the park as two of the girls were feeling ill, but we saw some incredible views of Barcelona before heading back to the hostel. A full tour of the park is definitely on my to do list for my next trip to Barcelona! 

   
   
In an attempt to cap off our trip with a fancy night out, we went back to the hostel to change before going to the W Hotel’s sky bar, Eclipse. I was a bit disappointed that the sky bar was more “clubby” than expected, but we had incredible views, sushi, and cocktails up there so it was ultimately a good experience. We went out with the hostel again after, but only for a little while, and then went back to pack and get a pre-departure snooze. 

   
   
  

Departure Day

In typical foodie fashion, my last experience in Barcelona was brunch. I found out about Federal Cafe on Foursqaure and knew we had to try it, so the girls and I grabbed brunch before I headed to the airport. Federal Cafe was decorated like my favorite brunch places (I don’t even know how to describe the decor but it’s my go to for brunch restaurants) and my dish was amazing. I had baked eggs florentine with Parmesan and did not want the meal to end!

  
After brunch, I made my way to the airport to fly to Turkey to spend six days with Sarah and Mike.

Barcelona, Pt. 1

The girls and I decided on a short trip to Barcelona back in May and I was excited for it from that day. The trip did NOT disappoint, and ended up being such a fun, but still relaxing, break from work. 

Arrival & Accommodation

We arrived late on Sunday evening and headed straight to our hostel. We were between hostel and Airbnb but decided on a hostel since we want to meet people. It was probably the best decision we have ever made because Hostel One was the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in! Upon our arrival, they had dinner and a jug of sangria waiting for us…we were in heaven!

At Hostel One, the staff were incredible. All four of us were determined the create lifelong friendships with them in our short four day stay. They fed us family style dinners every night, organized all of the nightlife, and were extremely helpful in every other regard. The rooms were clean and the bathrooms extremely modern and clean. I never really felt like I was in a hostel, except for the whole meeting new people everyday thing (which is obviously a plus). 

Day 1

Since we called it an early one that first night, we were up early the next morning ready to see Barcelona. We started with the Free Walking Tour, which wasn’t incredible, but led us to some sights in the Gothic Quarter that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The tour ended near the beach so we headed straight there afterwards, ready to soak up the sun. 

   
    
 
The beaches in Barcelona are an experience, to say the least. After paying for an umbrella and setting down our towels, we were immediately approached by people selling henna tattoos, mojitos, blankets, and even massages! The weather was perfect, though, and it was the first time I had stopped to relax in awhile. I’m not going to lie, I might have even gotten a (slight) tan – to anyone who knows me, it’s a big deal. 

   
   

After the beach,  we went for some snacks at a restaurant by the beach called Foc. We chose it because they were the only ones who did not have someone standing in the street trying to lure us in. It was more Brazilian/South American food than Spanish, but it was so amazing. Lucy and I split a trio of tacos and a guacamole selection and it was a lovely pre-dinner snack (because as always we end up eating more later). 

   
   
We went out with the hostel that night for our first Barcelona nightlife experience. We went to a local bar (which serves G&Ts as what appears to be 90% gin and 10% tonic in a MASSIVE glass) and then to Apolo, one of the best nightclubs in Barcelona. For a Monday night, it was absolutely wild, and we didn’t get back until 4:30 am! I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen 4:30 unless I was waking up for something. 

  
After that night, we quickly determined that we are getting old and cannot handle Barcelona nightlife. It made for a very rough (and unproductive) following day.