On my first trip overseas, it was an adult version of ‘backpacking through Europe’. We traveled to 6 large European cities within 4 countries in 16 days. Our trio had minimal luggage which consisted of backpacks and tiny rolling suitcases. Adult version meaning we slept in hotels and used planes, trains and automobiles. Sleeping on the ground or in a tent or hitchhiking through Europe was not an option.
This travel trip was priceless. It allowed me to have a tasting-portion of each city and country. Which is helpful to zero in on a spot for an extended stay for later. I hope to return to one of these locations this year, good lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. I miss the joy of traveling in a foreign locale.
My friend AKA Traveler was a great choice to introduce me to Europe. Traveler had been overseas on many occasions for extended periods of time. Traveler was sharing her experience with Smiley and I. Smiley had graduated college and was celebrating with a European tour from her lovely parents. We were all on a fabulous journey.
A journey requires a genie or some one like Traveler with skills to navigate. Traveler is a genius at navigating the subways. If you can navigate the subway in Paris you can go anywhere. For someone who is direction-ally challenged like myself, it is imperative that you have a Traveler in your group. Use of the subways in a foreign city requires skill or use a taxi or automobile service. You may thank me later.
Midway through our trip we boarded the train in Madrid one evening to discover that our “sleeper car” was not an option. We would spend the next 8 hours in a train seat. I am not a person that is able to sleep just anywhere. I would not call myself a princess but I require certain conditions. Doesn’t everyone want a bed, cool temperature, dark and minimal noise when trying to sleep?
Our trio settled in for the evening. I was not ready for this part. I needed a blanket, pillow, mask, sleeping pill and ear plugs. Traveler had her mask, blanket and ear plugs from plane ride. None of this was available for me. I would have been happy reading a book but the train went too dark to read a book but not dark enough to sleep. Trapped in a seat, and on a train without a genie.
Every time someone came into our train car the door would open and emit a ding ding ding. Near the end of our train ride my ding ding was done. I won’t bore you with the details of my struggle to get comfortable. It just was not in the cards. I tried really hard. I was fidgety.
When everyone around me woke up, we were in Barcelona. I needed a bed with a cool quiet dark room. We had arrived wearing clothes from yesterday which I was going to wear all day through the city. Our itinerary consisted of 10 hours in the city and then back on the train to continue our journey.
Our trio was new to the city and eager to cram in as much as possible. As eager as even I could muster with zero sleep and yesterdays uniform. We wanted to get a flavor for the city and people who called Barcelona home.
We elected to buy a ticket on the hop-on-and-off bus tour. It was a tour that wound through the city by most of the main attractions. The on-off option allowed us to navigate the attractions and linger as necessary.
On our day-tour, we had a couple of things that we wanted to include in our visit:
Basicilaca De La Sagrada Familia
Lunch at La Boqueria
Shopping down La Rambla
Our bus tour provided a grand overview of a few of the main attractions. We rode the open air bus with eyes wide open taking in all the sights. It was a great way to tour.
One of our main stops was The Basilica De La Sagrada Familia. It is an important architectural feat that everyone should try to visit. The first site of Sagrada Familia intrigued me and lured me in for more. The first stone was laid in 1882 and signaled the start of a project that would continue even still today.
This is the most mystifying structure that I have ever visited. The complex differences in the architectural design inside and out are very unusual. I suppose that the work of the different architects have a part to play in this.
It is a study in geometric shapes. The Basilica has 18 towers that each have special meaning. To wander in this structure that is Gothic and Byzantine, turn your head to see a crane handling materials is puzzling. The craftsmanship that makes this structure possible is amazing. I was in awe of it all. Add this on your travel list to visit if you enjoy history and design.
No trip would be complete without a visit to the local food market. It is one of the main reasons that I LOVE to travel. After a visit to the market, I wanted to buy everything, open a bottle of wine, turn on the music and cook. I was tempted to knock on a door close by, “Hello, It’s Mimi, May I cook in your kitchen?”
The food vendors in the La Boqueria Market on La Rambla offer choices that any gourmet would love. The recipe options were endless. The markets are bursting with people. The vendors have fruits, vegetables, breads, candies, nuts, spices, dried meats, cooked and uncooked meats, fresh seafood , cheese, coffee and prepared meals.
Outside the boundaries of this sanctuary of food, I have a confession. I hesitate to share. I know how strongly people feel about this and it is very personal. I confess I had the world’s best slice of pizza. Apologies to New York and Chicago for this confession. Apologies to my two favorite local pizza-makers, Focus and Pierre.
It is slightly possible that the “up all night on a train with zero sleep” was impacting my ability to judge pizza. I was on a 16 day tour traveling through multiple locations, sleeping in strange beds, adapting to continuous new experiences, cultures, and language .
Not to mention that at each dining place I was forced to try house wine varietals from Europe. Let me say, this was a tough job but somehow I pulled it together. PSSST, house wine in Europe is delicious. It was all amazing! Well, not the “up all night on a train with zero sleep” while watching my companions sleep like babies but everything else.
I was sad to leave the market. I was in food heaven and did not see any reason to leave. We had to move on to continue our quick tour. On our way down La Rambla we stopped in many shops and touched everything. We looked at clothing, antiques, jewelry, chocolates, linens, and all things imaginable including shoes.
Yes shoes! I purchased a pair of bright red espadrilles from Spain. I really wanted a pair in every color. Sadly, I managed restraint and purchased a single pair. I adored those shoes and wanted to cry like a baby when I discovered that I had worn them out.
If you discover yourself in an overseas location admiring shoes, pause. If you need help, deciding which pair to buy, breathe. I can help you now. Don’t waste another second, buy them both. It is not like your going to be back next month to pick up another pair. Look at me in the photo showing off my new shoes, don’t I look happy.
After the adrenaline rush worn off from my shoe happy, we continued walking and shopping. I remember feeling very tired. Very ready for bath and bed. We made our way in and out shops, up and down streets heading in the direction of the train station.
We had tickets for overnight trip with a 4 person sleeper car. The three of us and a “stranger”. At this point, I didn’t care who was traveling with us, I wanted bath and bed. When we settled on the train in the sleeper car. Our stranger turned out to be a lovely young woman from Mexico traveling to university.
Our plan was to go to the dining car and have a lovely meal before we settled in for the night. Our student was not going to the dining car. I panicked, I needed her to leave so that I could take a bath. I could not stand one more minute with myself. I managed to bribe her with dinner and she joined Traveler and Smiley.
I could not strip down quick enough. I lathered up head to toe. I was a happy girl. If you have traveled overseas in a 4-person sleeper car you know that a shower is missing. You probably also know that the towel in the sleeper is really a thin piece of paper-like substance that is the size of a large dishtowel. I won’t regale you with all of the details, you will have to fill in the blanks.
Let me just say, I may have prayed while taking the faster shower possible. The last thing that I needed was the ticket taker to open the door while I was in mid-lather. Fortitude and determination are handy items to pack when traveling. When I completed my tasks with the limited tools available to me, I breathed again. It is not every day that you need to bathe with the use of a tiny bathroom or in my case, sink. I needed a cocktail.
I felt like a princess. I was ready to join my friends new and old in the dining car. I needed a glass of wine, maybe some food and then a good nights sleep. I was ready for anything, now.