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..

Lisbon Travel Diary: Eating the Most Famous Custard Tarts in the World!

Belém, a district famous for it’s custard tarts and monastery, is just a short tram ride away from the city centre. Unfortunately for us the tram didn’t turn up for half an hour and the queue was so long we wouldn’t of got on the first couple of trams that arrived.

So we made the decision to take the metro- only problem was the metro doesn’t go to Belém. So just two metro’s and a train later we finally arrived.  First impressions was busy- so so busy. Filled with tourists and students spilling out the cafe’s and taking in the beautiful architecture of the monastery.

Like many visiting, first stop was lunch. After trying to find a seat in a few restaurants we stumbled into a burger place. Turns out this place was a cosy, artisan burger joint and the best decision we made all day- it was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately I was so hungry I ate it before I could take a picture but this is the front of the restaurant, if you ever visit Lisbon I highly recommend a visit..

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With our stomachs full we headed to the windy riverside to see the gigantic monument; Padrão dos Descobrimentos.

The 171ft tall monument was finished in 1960 after 2 years of construction. It sits on the edge of the Tagus river and has a viewing platform at the top. There are 33 sculptures surrounding the monument representing figures (mainly white men) from history, with Henry the Navigator leading from the front.

The size and detail makes this a must see for a visit to Lisbon, as is the most famous Portuguese custard tart cafe. Pastéis de Belém house’s the most secretive recipe in the whole of Europe. The recipe was first created by monks 200 years ago and the recipe has not changed since. It is so secretive only 3 people know the recipe-and they won’t travel in the same car together. The custard tarts are so popular on an average day they sell 20,000!

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The queue came out the entrance all around the block.  But as we weren’t planning on returning to Belém during our time in Lisbon we joined the masses. And to be fair, the queue went down extremely quickly and before we knew it we were inside ordering a couple of custard tarts to take away. And boy, did they live up to the highest of expectations, well worth the wait.

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To end the day we headed back into the centre of Lisbon, this time by bus, and took a funicular up to a stunning viewpoint across the city to watch the (cloudy) sun set.

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How to Prepare for Travelling in a Developing Country

Since moving back to the UK from Bangladesh lots of people have asked me what its like to live and travel in a developing country. So I thought I’d put together a handy little guide of tips and tricks I learnt during my time.

1.Have realistic expectations

Doing some research is a great way to set some realistic expectations and get excited for the country your visiting. For me hygiene is the biggest cause of concern, so before flying out to Bangladesh I made sure I prepared myself for having to use squat toilets  that are often found outside.

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2. Learn the Language 

Don’t assume people will speak English, especially if you are visiting rural areas in a developing country. I have never had an ear for languages but having daily language lessons really helped me get my head around bengali and got me out of some tough situations including getting detained by immigration! It is also a great way of making connections with locals.

3.  Be Wary of Food

Trying new food is one of my favourite things to do when i’m travelling. BUT this is also one of the most common causes of illness when in a foreign country. Although its hard, avoiding street food can be a great help in avoiding food poisoning  along with making sure you only eat food that has been peeled or cooked.

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4.Be Money Conscious 

When your in a developing country your money will often go further than at home. For example, in Bangladesh buying tea and cake for my whole team (10 people) came to $1.34. But when things are cheaper than at home don’t let the locals hear your surprise/happiness at the price, this can often cause offence and the price to rise next time your at the market!

5.Prepare for the Worst

The likelihood of anything bad happening is so slim and shouldn’t worry you, but do be prepared. From having a first aid kit with you to knowing the embassy number and having travel insurance. When it comes to reviewing your best travel options I have found reviews.com really helpful especially their travel insurance guides reviews.com/travel-insurance/   .

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Reviews.com top 4 travel insurance’s