Barcelona time

A few years ago, when I was in Barcelona for the first time I really liked it and said I’ll come back again one day. That day has arrived and because a travel friend that I met in Thailand and then again in Australia, said to me that she’ll host me, I had no excuse not to go . Alisa, my friend welcomed me with the biggest hug ever at the train station and our adventure was about to begin.

I had a few things in my mind that I wanted to do and one of them was to get a haircut. Maybe it’s unusual when you go there just for three days, but I had a good feeling about the salon and I got a cheap and good haircut a la Barcelona.

After the haircut we went to check out Park Güell, the iconic photo spot and the whole park itself.

Park Güell
View over the city from Park Güell

The good part was just about to begin. We went for dinner to a seafood restaurant recommended by a local, called Lluritu in the neighborhood called Gracia.

It’s hard to describe in words how delicious the food has been. We ordered a few things, such as tuna leaves, sardines, calamari and clams. We licked all our ten fingers after each of them. 100% the best seafood that I’ve eaten in a very long time.

Delicious food that we are at Lluritu

Very quickly the first day was ending, but not before a night stroll to the iconic Sagrada Familia, which now is even bigger than the last time I visited.

Sagrada Familia

And when we said we’d go home now, we end up eating a massive pancake for dessert at like 10 pm. No regrets about it tho! And the nonalcoholic cocktail called Chill out was as delicious and the pancake.

Yummi pancake and Chill out cocktail

Friday went by quickly but we did a lot and we went to bed satisfied with the day and reminiscing about our memories from Sydney.

How awesome is to meet your travel friends in different locations on this planet!

Saturday we woke up later, almost 10 am, and took it easy. Although the weather was a bit tricky, a bit of sun then lots of clouds and later a bit of sun again, I insisted on going to the beach cause that was going to be my only opportunity this year to go sunbathing. So even though we were the only people sunbathing, bare in mind there was no sun at that point , we still had a beach day. Well, one hour at the beach to be precise. Anyway, it was good and yes, I had a beach day !

Playa del Bogatell

It was lunch time and after being so impressed of the food the previous night, I was looking forward to eat some delicacies again. This time we’ve chosen a Lebanese restaurant called L’Autentic . No one recommended us this place, we just went with our gut feelings and it was a good choice once again. The food was great, the service great too.

Eating at L’Autentic

After filling in our stomachs our next stop was Westfield, the shopping mall. You can’t go to Barcelona and not get tempted to do some shopping, especially if you’re with a girlfriend. We laughed our heads off while buying new outfits.

The day was far away from being over, going up to Montjuic for the sunset being the next to do activity. Sadly there was no sun, therefore no visible sunset either, but ride up there in the cable car still offered stunning views over the city and the castle was quite pretty too.

Cable car views
Castillo de Montjuic
Barcelona views from Montjuic

After we checked out everything on Montjuic we were headed to Salts Terassa Bar, another of the recommendations, for dinner. The view is nice from this place and the patatas bravas really delicious. We even got spoiled with a rainbow.

Delicious patatas bravas at Salts Terassa Bar
Rainbow

It was around 8 pm when we decided to go to a new Irish pub that’s called the Old Irish Pub, ready to dance the night away. And that’s exactly what we did! After almost two years of not dancing in my case, COVIDs fault, it felt like normal life again that I could dance and behave normally in a pub. It was like the good old times, when quarantine, isolation and all the other Covid related things didn’t exist. It was heaps of fun and a night that I’ll not forget any soon !

Dancing the night away, someone gave me an Oktoberfest hat

Saturday night we got home after midnight, happy and pleased with how great the whole day was.

Sunday was going to be another awesome day because we were going to Montserrat, a beautiful spiritual place, where Helen, a friend I met in Sydney was going to meet us. I haven’t seen Helen for three years, so this was exciting.

We took the train and in aprox one hour we reached Montserrat.

It looked impressive even from the cable car station and was going to be even more impressive when we reached the top.

A short cable car ride and we reached the attraction. It was quite full of people, but we were not bothered. We went on a short hike to reach silence and just admire nature’s beauty.

A few hours easily passed in good company. We talked about our nice memories and decided on making new ones in the future.

Our fun group

After this beautiful adventure, we had to say goodbye to Helen and Alisa and me returned to Barcelona and went to a dance class and then go dinner to Santa Gula in Gracia, another amazing restaurant. I tried for the first time ever octopus and I’ll certainly eat again in the future cause it was delicious.

My amazing Barcelona trip ended that night with this finger licking dinner at Santa Gula, the next morning rushing early to the airport and returning to normal life in Zurich. Can’t wait to go again to Barcelona and try other good restaurants. Hasta luego, Barcelona!

Another scenic Swiss hike: Trübsee in Engelberg region

With no doubt hiking is the best way of discovering Switzerland’s natures beauty and Engelberg region is a beautiful hiking area, so a friend and me put on our hiking shoes and off we went. The train from Zurich to Engelberg takes roughly two hours, with a change in Luzern.

The small town of Engelberg is quite nice, surrounded by massive mountains and there’s also a stream that has crystal clear water.

Engelberg

We started the hike, that was quite steep most of the way and it took us roughly three hours to reach Trübsee, our destination.

The views along the way were gorgeous, big mountain peaks with snow on top and lush green valleys and of course some friendly cows too.

After three hours of serious hiking, we reached Trübsee and it definitely was worth the steep hike. We were very lucky with the weather, the beautiful blue sky reflecting in the water making it appear clear blue. It was the perfect place for a well deserved lunch and a few moments of just silence and enjoying the views.

As we were admiring Trübsee and the peak of Titlis mountain, we agreed that if we came all this way, we can’t miss going up to Titlis. Although not prepared for the cold up there, at 3020 m altitude, we still hopped into the cable car and started ascending to the top of Switzerland’s most visited mountains.

Once we reached the top, we found ourself surrounded by the serene beauty of the mountain, lots of snow and quite chilly temperatures, especially in the ice cave.

Excited about the snow on Titlis
Ice cave

Going from autumn straight to winter was fun for a bit, but then it was a good idea to leave it all behind and return to Engelberg, this time by cable car. I was expecting to have muscle pain the next days in my legs, but surprisingly I escaped without any major pain.

Discovering the deepest treasures of Portugal – Peneda Geres National Park

Once discovering the existence of Peneda Geres, I knew I need to check it out. That’s why I included Braga in the first place in my itinerary. Braga is relatively close and it’s a good place as a base if you want to visit the national park, though if you have more time on your hand, better spend a few days in Geres itself. Let’s see how did it all happened…

I didn’t feel my trip rushed at all because I did it all in my own rythm,  which can be at times really intense and exhausting for other – hence traveling solo works so well for me – and just spontaneously decided spending only half day in Geres. Basically the day started very early in Braga, where I had my bus at 7:15 am. It was still dark and just a couple more people on the streets when I was trying to figure out my way to the bus station.

  
Obviously I never have a map, I don’t need it and frankly, I’m not even good with it, it makes me more confused then I am. Relying on locals suits me much more and surprisingly even with all the language barriers you could imagine it works out perfectly eventually. So it happened that early morning too, when I picked a random public bus driver and asked him directions. He spoke a few words in German but the information didn’t help me much because apparently the bus station was too far to make it in time there by walking. I was like: oh,no!!! I’m gonna miss the bus! That’s when I discovered the genuine Portuguese good will. The bus driver literally drove the bus with a few more passengers in it on a different route all the way to the bus station I needed and I catched my bus in the last minute. It was the most impressive thing I experienced! Nobody complained about the change and his face was all brightened when he saw I’m in time for my bus. Wow!

The day continues with other surprises, this time from our beautiful nature: it’s sunrise time.

  
In approximately one hour Geres is reached and I’m all energized to discover it. At the supermarket where I buy my water and food provision, they speak great English and point me to the trails. Hiking goes well until I reach a point that leads through the forest and I continue my way very brave, though it’s like a jungle and the trail is hard to follow cause all kind of plants with pointy leaves stick to me and I start to don’t see the path anymore. For a minute I become the prisoner of the naughty plants and getting rid of them is quite a work. I decide returning before I completely lose my way, here there’s nobody to ask for directions, and my whole body feels like I had some kind of Chinese massage with those sticks they sting you with. Funny feeling – those naughty plants!

My hiking adventure failed, but instead I found a cute park, which was not a bad replacement.

   
   
In Geres you can do shopping, relax at the spa, eat and drink in the few restaurants they have there. But if you really want to see something nice, aprox 5 km away there is a gorgeous lake. Transportation can be problematic if you rely on the buses and your time is limited. So I took a long long walk, which didn’t seem as long thanks to the breathtaking view along the way.

   
    
 
I reached the lake much earlier than I expected, so I guess I walked aprox 5 km?! It was worth it! In the sunny day the water reflected the blue sky and was so inviting that my feet tried it but brrr too cold! Surely I good chilling place though. Quiet and beautiful, great location to connect with nature. 

   
   
Silence is enjoyable, but if it’s too long it’s not my piece of cake and anyways it’s time to catch the bus back to Braga… See you later beautiful lake!

Hiking spot:France – view: Switzerland 

Geneva, as city is not too bad, it’s location is convenient either you wish to visit Switzerland or France. The local bus in less than 20 minutes takes you to the border and literally you walk out of the country easy as it sounds. No border officer to nag you, no formality – at least not on this lovely Wednesday. However, for a second it feels a bit like the middle of nowhere and slightly confusing but the view is interesting.

 At the cable car station, asking for directions it’s impossible not to notice a bit of the typical French arrogance, which actually makes me smile back cause my mood is too good today to be disturbed by such manners. It seems that Megan and myself are the only brave gals determined to hike up to the top of Mont Salève, which at first sight seems to be just a massive rock.

  
As we follow the trail, trying to find the well hidden signs, we realize that’s it’s not an easy hike – we are both beginners, let’s be clear about that – sweating becomes normal, some complains are hard to avoid, but overall it’s a fantastic work out. Even if the trail most of the time takes you between the trees, in the middle of the woods, at some point you reach some great viewing points and the view gives you the push you need to continue. 

   
 
The path, then some steps, the steep trail – all lead you to an unexpected sight: a village up in the mountains.

   
 
It’s quiet and away from the busy cities, all surrounded by green trees, in a picturesque setting there are several little houses, a church, a cafe and even some locals speaking decent English. I’m in a very positive way surprised! 

  

Leaving the cute village behind, our aim is the top, in order to reach it we continue on other steep paths leading to some other unexpected locations.

  
Buddhist center? Yes, that’s right, I didn’t expect to find that up there, but I enjoy this day full of discoveries. And who wouldn’t enjoy  also this beautiful nature which surrounds us?

   
    
 
I’m just wondering why all those young people we see at the destination had chosen taking the cable car instead hiking up? The satisfaction you have when you “suffered” to reach the top must be incomparable. Your legs are shaking, sweat is trickling down your back under the T-Shirt and your face is all red, but brightens up as you look down and see the perfect picture: the city, the lake, the trees, the roads, the moving cars – and you are all above them, watching in silence as if time stopped for a while.

   
    
    
 
For me time stopped for a while… I lie down, the sun burns my cheeks and I like it, I breath in  the fresh mountain air, I enjoy the French spot and I admire the Swiss view. Voila!

Zermatt – all seasons paradise – Switzerland 

As much as I may love Zürich, life in the city becomes boring at times. In such situations day trips are life savers… or mood savers. In any case, on weekends not just me, many others escape the city life and go to the mountains. I took my hiking shoes and my friend, Ania, an enormous amount of excitement, a little doze of determination for doing sport and after a 3 hours smooth train ride we arrived to the beautiful, car free mountain village of Zermatt. Not only the fresh air hit our nose, but also a few rain drops coming from the massive, dark clouds above us.

  

We must have scared away the grumpy clouds with our big laughs ’cause once we set our feet on the trail the friendly sun came out and followed us a long while during our hike.

  
  
  
Before you’d believe what a professional hiker I am, I should admit that I was tempted to stop every 2 minutes to take a pic of the view?!  … And I actually did stop to do so. Just because the nature over there it’s gorgeous, pure, beautiful and so on, so on. 

  
Still, for a daytrip from such a distance as Zürich, it’s a bit rushed, but God bless the cable car! In aprox 40 min this magic invention will take you all the way up to Matterhorn, where is winter, freezing cold, ice, wind and fog, but a special sensation, though if you take a thick jacket you will appreciate it more than I did in my thin hoodie.

  
   
  
 Is my smile convincing you to not wear winter gear in August? Maybe the ice and snow will make you think it over.

  
  
On the way back down there’s a lot more to discover than just warmer temperatures. Some cute, little lakes and the beautiful lake of Schwarzsee surrounded by the massive rocks of the mountain. Hard not to feel connected to nature in such a place. 

  
  
  
In Zermatt not only  mountains, also love is all around you! You don’t believe me? Have a look what’s up there on the balcony?!