Barcelona Day Four: Easy Mazes and the Gothic Quarter

Our last day here in Barcelona started slowly as our over-priced cocktails from last night took a grip. After re-hydrating we sloped towards the nearest cafe we could find. Typically we found the best breakfast spot on our last day. It was a tiny, albeit slightly cramped veggie cafe. But it was cheap and delicious.

After consuming some food (5 plates of food to be precise..) we strolled around the nearby gothic quarter; home of the town hall and very impressive gothic cathedral. The area was buzzing with locals, tourists and street sellers.

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When i’m in a new city I like to try out the different modes of transport they have on offer, and Barcelona has trams. So we boarded a tram to our next and last destination of the holiday- a hilltop maze. unfortunately it turns out the tram lines are very limited and we had to get off after two stops to get a bus. We both needed the toilet and luckily we had got off the tram near a new, and very modern shopping mall in the middle of nowhere. There was music playing out speakers around the shopping mall, if you’ve ever played Sims, you can imagine the music playing.

We also realised we hadn’t consumed any water for a very long time so headed into a CarreFour super market- well we tried. The entrance wasn’t very clearly marked (considering Alex speaks both Catalan and Spanish)  so we just headed backwards through the self checkouts so we could get into the supermarket. But one lady on the checkout did not take us ‘breaking in’ to the shop very kindly and proceeded to shout at us then call security..

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So after that slight misunderstanding we boarded the bus; drink-less.  It dropped us at the bottom of a massive hill, on a road, with no pavement and no phone signal. Against our better judgement we started to walk up the giant hill.. And to our surprise the winding path did lead us to a beautiful gardens complete with a maze..

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Although often the main selling point of these gardens is the maze, it was very small thus easy to complete. The real charm of the place is the hidden, secluded paths winding through forests, past waterfalls and beautiful wildlife.

As we reached the exit of the gardens and the entrance of the metro it dawned on us that this was the end of our holiday. So we collected our luggage, stocked up on tapas and spent our euros in duty free. So here we are at Barcelona airport planning our next trip whilst waiting for our delayed flight home..

Barcelona Day Three: Cable Cars and Castles

Day three in Barcelona called for an Al Fresco breakfast. Alex and I returned to the cool shopping centre built in an old bullring to buy some pastries and fresh orange juice. We then headed to the  national art museum of Catalunya. I was promised escalators to the top and there were- but they weren’t moving. So after a sweaty trip up hundreds of stairs and some now, slightly warm orange juice we made it to the entrance of the museum. But we weren’t there for the museum- the view opposite is stunning. The only problem was, this view is no secret. There were hundreds of tourists and school kids at the top. Along with some pesky pigeons vying for my pastry so we didn’t stay too long.

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The view from the bottom of the art museum of Catalunya

Luckily the paths at the back of the museum is slightly quieter and even better, leads to a cable car.. The cable car was 8 euros and took around 10 minutes to get you to the summit- the location of Montjuic Castle. As we are travelling on a budget we decided not to pay to enter the castle, instead we went for a stroll around the castle grounds which are free. You can do a full circle around the castle- we even spotted some archery practice.

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After a returning on the cable car, a frantic search for a free toilet and a delicious waffle we decided we needed some culture. After looking through a list of art exhibitions in Barcelona we chose to visit the centre of Photography, showcasing the work of legendary photographer August Sander. I was really excited as I had researched Sanders work last term at uni. The Photography Centre is extremely accessible, plonked ring tin the middle of Las Ramblas. Which made it even more odd that it was so quiet when we entered. Not that odd though when we re-read the exhibition poster. It was opening in 3 days time- a day after we leave. With our tail between our legs we did the only thing possible- retail therapy. After Alex bought a whole load of make-up which will be impossible to pack in our hand luggage decided a rest at the apartment was needed.

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The Terraza Hotel 360 bar

I don’t know why but when deciding what I wanted to do in Barcelona, I was set on seeing a sun set. Maybe (and rather embarrassingly) I assumed the sun would set beautifully over the beach- obviously not, Barcelona is on the East coast. After speaking to some local friends they suggested the rooftop terrace at the upmarket Terraza hotel. So after dressing up and pretending we knew what we were doing we walked straight into the hotel lobby, to the lift and up to the top floor. We walked straight into a 360 rooftop bar with seats around the edge primed to witness the sunset- just what we were looking for. After paying for some over-priced cocktails we sat down ready for the sunset and boy did it live up to expectations…






Barcelona Day Two: Walking my socks off

Alex, who I’m travelling with, has family on the outskirts of Barcelona so she headed off early this morning on the coach to visit them for the day.  Leaving me with a metro ticket, a map and a day to explore the more ‘touristy’ side of Barcelona.

First stop, Sagrada Familia. After trying to memorise the map in my head (don’t ask me why) the Sagrada Familia poking out about the buildings was a welcome sight. Its an incredibly impressive piece of architecture and like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I didn’t stay too long as I knew there was a lot more I wanted to see but I am really glad I visited, it’s a must see for a reason.

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According to google maps the walk between the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, my next stop, was 32 minutes away. What it didn’t tell me, and I should’ve worked out from the geography of Barcelona, that this walk was all up a steep hill. That being said this was one of my favourite parts of the day as I explored some of the backstreets and enjoyed chatting to locals in a sweet cafe half way up the hill.

After arriving at Park Guell, slightly hot and out of breath, I spotted a queue for tickets. Being British I saw my time to shine and stood in line. But as I got to the front I was told theres a limited capacity in the park and the next available tickets were for 5pm (it was only 1pm).

But the women on the information desk was extremely helpful and told me that a large portion of the Park (around 2/3) is actually free to walk around at anytime. So I thought the best compromise was walking around the free parts rather than waiting around for 4 hours- Im glad I did. The wildlife I spotted along the beautiful paths was worth the uphill walk alone. At random parts along the paths you could get a glimpse of the Barcelona skyline. And at one view point there was an Elvis impersonator singing Take That songs- all a bit surreal.

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I spent a couple of hours in the park wandering around, buying snacks and eating snacks. By this time I had just about recovered from my earlier hike so I decided to embark on another uphill walk, this time to the Carmel Bunkers which according to many travel blogs offer the best panoramic views across the city.

From the park it was a 30 minute hike, but halfway up I started spotting graffiti sprayed by the locals. It started off as ‘go home stupid tourists’ and got progressively more aggressive the further up the hill you go. After researching, I found the locals are against the Carmel Bunkers new found popularity as tourists often drop rubbish and the prices in local cafes and shops have been hiked up.  I made the decision to carry on as it’s a weekday so it wasn’t very busy and of course took all rubbish home with me.

After a steep walk and a set of steps I reached the top. The views were stunning and only a handful of people were at the summit. I sat for about 30 minutes taking it all in as the top offers a 360 degree view. It you visit, it’s a great idea to take food and drink with you as it is a de-hydrating hike to the top, but please respect locals and take any rubbish home with you.

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The view was pretty spectacular

With Alex heading back from visiting her family I jumped on the metro back to the apartment. But before I did I checked the pedometer on my phone- I had already walked 15km!

After a (well-earned) nap we headed out for dinner which provided more great views! We headed to a shopping centre which has been built in an old bullring. And if you take the escalators to the top you get to a 360 degree balcony with restaurants based in the centre. Here we had Paella and some more tapas (of course) and watched the sun set out the window.

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The view from the restaurant

After a day of walking and eating we headed back to the apartment for an early night and to plan for tomorrow. Already we have planned to visit a castle, a photography exhibition, an art museum and ride on a cable car..

Barcelona Day One: Airports and Beaches

Today I set off for the East coast Spanish city of Barcelona. I have been before, but when I was a kid so I was looking forward to returning and exploring more. I am here just for few days during my spring break from university. I am travelling with Alex who like me, lives in Brighton but spent her childhood in Barcelona.

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Like any good holiday we spent our morning consuming overpriced food at the airport, loosing track of time and running to our gate. Although we were the last to board the plane, we made it in time to sit onboard as our flight got more and more delayed.

Finally we were off and after watching copious amount of Parks and Rec we landed. Travelling with someone who has spent half their life in Barcelona made travelling from the airport to the city centre stress free. This was helped by the constant stream of reasonably priced airport shuttle buses.

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An aerial shot of Las Ramblas

It was a 30 minute bus ride into the centre and then a 5 minute walk to the apartment we were staying in. By the time we had refreshed and unpacked it was early evening. So we decided on a walk along the beach and some food. To get to the beach we had to stroll down the most famous street in Barcelona; Las Ramblas. Its a palm tree-lined avenue leading from the centre of town down to the beach. As I remembered from when I was a child it was filled with tourists and stalls selling everything from souvenirs to flamenco show tickets. If visiting it’s a good idea to keep your belongings close as pick pockets operate in this area.

The beach was beautifully serene and quiet with the sun setting behind it. The only danger here is getting hit by what felt like hundreds of skateboarders- all way cooler than I’ll ever be.


Walking along the beach built up our appetite so we dipped into a side street for some tapas from a recommended restaurant. This was the first tapas I have ever had and it didn’t disappoint. The only negative I can think of, is the broken unisex toilet door which led me to seeing a man in a rather uncompromising position…

With full stomachs a good night sleep was needed so we headed back here to the apartment. Tomorrow we have a full day planned so stay tuned..





48 Hours in Vienna: Day One

It has taken more than one attempt to visit Vienna. Ill-timed illness as it were caused me to miss out on Vienna earlier this year but finally, this summer I managed to experience the Austrian capital and all it has to offer..

Day One

As with most holidays it started with our plane being delayed and spending an abnormal amount of time in the airport Starbucks. But eventually we were on our way, the flight was just under two hours from London Gatwick. Due to the delay we arrived at night- but this didn’t stop me being impressed with Vienna from the off.  The airport was clean, the train station was clearly sign posted and getting through passport control took literally two minutes!


The lift ‘artwork’ in the hotel

After a good night sleep in our comfy yet slightly creepy hotel room we headed out to see Vienna. First up food (obviously). Cafe Central  famed for having customers such as Totsky, Stalin and Freud and serves pastry and hot food all day. Given the grand surroundings I was expecting a very high price tag- but instead I consumed the most beautiful food for an incredibly reasonable price.

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With full stomachs and time ticking on we decided we should probably see a bit of culture. The museum quarter is packed with museums (of course) but also a well though-out central area with chairs for reading, cafes and a water fountain. Each museum takes around half a day to go round so we had to pick one, we went for the Kunsthistorisches Museum which opened in 1891. It turned out to be the most stunning building I’ve ever seen, it’s packed with original artworks by painters such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt and my personal favourite Gustav Klimt. It’s so big I had to make use of all the sofas placed in all the rooms to give my feet a rest.

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After loosing track of time we left and explored more of the city. The city was buzzing and completed by chance we were there during the Vienna Music Film Festival. It’s on for the whole of the summer and takes place in front of the magnificent town hall. Its a big screen showing music-related films with 100 food stalls and around 2000 seats for the audience. And best of all its FREE. It would be unheard off to have an event like this free in somewhere like London.

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So with the sun setting we bought some burger, fries and settled in for a night under the stars watching a live recording of an Alicia Keys concert. Tomorrow we have a full day planned- shopping, the famous Prater fairground, St.Stephens cathedral and returning to the film festival.

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Bangladesh Travel Diary: Riding Motorcycles to India

I’m currently here living in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with my adventures exploring this beautiful country..

As with a lot of things in life it’s not what you know it’s who you know. Since living in Bangladesh I have already met some brilliant people and made some great friends. And recently two of my friends, Dipo and Bunty, offered to show me and my work friends the beautiful Bangladesh landscape in a whole new way; by motorcycle.

It was great to experience the country in the way locals do, all whilst rocking some very fashionable face masks to avoid our faces being caked in dust.

Dipo and Bunty wanted to surprise us with where we were going; it was an hours ride along roads, through forests and up mountains. And boy, was the view worth the numb bum…

After a small climb we reached the summit, we overlooked a stunning, winding river. After numerous group photos we made our way down to the river. One side of the riverbank was Bangladesh and the other, India. It was heavily policed by border guards but they were all very friendly and smiley and didn’t mind us wandering along the border.

As the sun began to hide behind the mountains we boarded the bikes again and watched the sun set as we rode back through the fields and villages home.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: My Very First Bangladeshi Wedding! 

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the adventures and challenges faced when living Asia..

We were very lucky to be invited to our very first Bangladeshi wedding. A friend of one of our Bangladesh-based team members was getting married and we were invited to the reception.

We were a bit like deers caught in headlights given just 24 hours notice. Us girls scrambled to wash our nicest shalwar kameez and the boys were trying to get the creases out their smartest shirts with no iron available.

On the way we rushed to the market to buy a gift, unsure of what you buy for a Bangladesh wedding we went with buying the stereotypical wedding gift of crockery.
One slight problem- the market path was muddy. By the time we had bought the gift my feet and flip-flops were caked in mud, not quite the first impression I was going for.
We were quite worried that it would look weird; 6 (very pale) foreigners turning up to a wedding of people we have never met. We thought we would stick out like sore thumbs. But it turns out an extra 6 people didn’t make a difference considering there were 1200 people invited! And even more people had turned up. The invites are done by invitation and word of mouth. The wedding was based in the fields surrounding the couples house.

The first marquee

There were several marquees, the first one you sit under waiting for your turn to enter the house and meet the bride. She was very beautiful and surrounded by her female family members, managing a small smile at all the guests, although she was sitting down for so long she must have had a very numb bum. As it was so busy we didn’t stay too long and headed for the best marquee.. the food. It was incredible, although we aren’t meant to eat food cooked for us by people other than our chefs we got into the wedding spirit and devoured rice, chicken and beef.

You can see our fear of imminent food poisoning..

We stayed for a while exchanging what little Bangla we know but decided to head home and let the people who actually know the couple enjoy the night. Overall I am glad and very grateful at how welcoming everybody was and that we got to experience the wedding reception. It’s a lot to get your head around as it was an arranged marriage and the couple have only been speaking on the phone for 2 months before getting married yesterday. I can’t even comprehend marrying someone I’ve only known 2 months. But that it why experiencing different cultures first hand is great-going to the wedding dispelled a lot of myths in my head and has made me curious to learn more.

Not all fun and games. We came home to a mouse in our room so have created this DIY mousetrap. Update: this was last night, there is no mouse in the trap and all our snacks have been taken.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Riverside Hikes 

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the adventures and challenges faced when  living Asia.. 

Bangladesh is home to the worlds longest natural beach; the Coxs Bazaar. As I am currently based in landlocked Northern Bangladesh I haven’t had a chance to visit the Beach yet. But here in the north we are spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful rivers. 

The Team

After a hard days work the teams’ favourite way to unwind is a sunset walk or hike along the edge of one of the many rivers. Unlike most rivers in England the rivers here don’t have a footpath, you can either walk along the sand or in the river itself- whilst being careful of the quicksand! We have almost lost 5 flip-flops and a team member to quicksand. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Reaching the Indian Border 

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and on this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

For the past 48 hours we have have been in the centre of a unexpected tropical storm. To keep safe we stayed in our rooms due the high winds and non-stop heavy rain was causing coconuts and branches to fall from trees. The storm also caused a power cut for the whole town and all the surrounding villages so we have been living in the dark using candles for light. But thankfully this morning we woke up to blaring sunshine drying out the sodden ground and the electricity was back on  so we can charge our phones and write some blogs! 

Before the storm hit I had one of the best days in Bangladesh yet. It started off with a very bumpy hour long rickshaw journey to the far north of Bangladesh. We jumped out and headed to a school which the NGO we’re working for funds. They had asked to meet us while we are here in Bangladesh and put on a great welcome with all the kids running out the classroom when they saw us. We played loads of games with them, received a lot high-fives and gave out snacks before bidding farewell. 

We then headed further north towards a wooded area. We weaved our way through truly beautiful paths which guided us through forests and incredibly clear streams. And after a stunning 30 minute walk we reached what we were there for: the Indian border. 

Police on the Indian-Bangladesh Border

The border is made up of mountains, trees and white flags showing there’s no conflict between the two countries. Nowadays the word ‘border’ often conjures up negative connotations but here the border was nothing but a calm green landscape with no one around apart from two houses and the odd farmer. 

We stayed as long as we could in the midday heat before heading back to the rickshaws waiting for us with the snacks we accidentally left behind. On the way back we had to cross a stream. We all slid our flip-flops off and made the short 3 metre journey across- apart from our police escorts who were weighed down by the their big leather boots. But rather than inelegantly sitting down in the mud to take them off, they asked for piggy backs..  

My laughter soon turned to concern as I noticed a leech had made my leg home. Without thinking I grabbed it and tried to pull it off but it dug in further and further. After a couple of minutes I managed to pull it off along with a bit of blood. Luckily it looked worse than it was as the pain soon wore off and I forgot all about it. And anyway it was all worth it for the view.. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Getting Complacent 

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

We have been living in Bangladesh for well over a month now and complacency has begun to creep in. We all feel really safe in the town we are based in and we always see familiar faces on our day trips around the local villages.

A community workshop

Eating with our hands no longer feels odd and I actually look forward to eating rice everyday. Same with wearing a scarf, it’s now second nature to grab a scarf and my water bottle on the way out my room.

A cow that wandered into our garden a few days ago and hasn’t left since

But last week we realised we have to stop taking things for granted. One morning, before heading off to lead workshops, my roommate fainted in the bathroom. Luckily she managed to unlock the door as she was fainting. We later found out it was due to a lack of iron in her blood the effects of an infected insect bite. She is now on a cycle of antibiotics and recovering with lots of rest. It was a stark reminder our bodies aren’t used to the carb-heavy diet and insect bites can cause serious complications.
A few times a week we visit our local market to buy fruit, fizzy drinks and snacks that slightly resemble the ones we’re used to back home. Another team member was over the moon to bag herself the last bottle of Sprite being kept in the shops fridge. But her joy was short lived when she opened the bottle back at home and didn’t hear a fizz. She was sold plain, still water that had been poured into the Sprite bottle. And just to rub salt into the wound the local water here makes us sick so she can’t even drink it.

The culprit

One of our favourite hobbies is shopping around the market for fabric, designing new outfits and then taking them to our onsite tailor. But this week everything got so lost in translation that I have ended up with a brown-leafed patterned top, with a pocket, buttons and a collar that I didn’t ask for. The outcome is so bad that the baggy top I intended to wear around the compound and relax in is now too embarrassing to even wear as a pyjama top.

My new traditional dresses

My newly recovered roommate showing off the fashion disaster

But as with all things in Bangladesh there is always something positive around the corner; I have now received two really nice dresses from the tailor and my roommate recovered enough to join us at a workshop-the best one we’ve ever done. And this week is due to be a great one including a visit to the Indian border.