Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi!

Day 3

Day 3 is the day that I dedicated to Gaudi. I didn’t want to spend all my time in Barcelona in Gaudi museums so I decided to see the iconic Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia and one museum. Based on reviews and pictures, I chose Casa Batllo. Casa Batllo, a house redesigned by Gaudi, is one of his many masterpieces. It was  commissioned by the well known (in Barcelona) Batllo family and Gaudi was given complete creative freedom.

Casa Batllo facade

The balconies look like skeletal faces!

Before entering the building I spent some time admiring the outside. You probably can’t tell from my photo, but the facade is covered in mosaic of all colors. The facade of the house is so strange to me with all of its windows and oddly shaped balconies. I’ve heard the balconies compared to bats and masks, but I think they look like little skeletal faces. What do you think?

Exploring the inside of Casa Batllo was like exploring an underwater wonderland in some parts and walking through the inside of an animal in others. I know that sounds odd, but that’s what it felt like for me! It was a very fantastical building with surprises at every corner. I was walking through an open room full of windows, turned the corner and SURPRISE! A gorgeous courtyard covered in mosaic and colorful tiled floor. My favorite part of the whole tour was the rooftop.A great open space which gave lovely views of Barcelona and was covered in colorful chimneys and the “dragon spine”.  It took me 2 hours to get through the tour of the house using the audio guide. I’ve read reviews saying not to take the audio and just explore at your own leisure, but I highly recommend the audio if you visit! It gives you a behind the scene history on every inch of the house. And after you take the audio tour, you can take the time to explore the house without it! I definitely recommend this tour to anyone who wants to get an inside look into one of Gaudi’s masterpieces!

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Park Guell

After Casa Batllo, I met up with my new friend Nick  to head to Park Guell. Park Guell is one of the most iconic sites from Antoni Gaudi and the one I was looking forward to seeing the most. It’s a very large park and is now a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí”. Entrance to the park is free, but to see the main part which include the famous buildings, monuments and mosaics, you have to pay a fee.  Nick and I packed a lunch of bread, cheese, and wine and had a picnic in the park area! It was quite lovely! Be warned, the hike to Park Guell is super steep. I mean, super steep! I had to take a breather about halfway up!  Pack your trainers and leave the nice shoes at home!

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Days 4 and 5 

The last 2 days were full of hanging like the locals did and a bit of touristy stuff too. I ate tons of tapas, danced the nights away, visited the beach even though it was far too cold, skate parks, went on a self-guided tour of the Gothic Quarter and took a pay what you can walking tour. I totally recommend these tours. They’re very informative and I was enjoy them. I try to take one in every city I visit.

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I had a great time in Barcelona. I already can’t wait to plan my next adventure. Istanbul is really high on my list! What’s on yours?

Barcelona!!!

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DAY 1

Hola!  This is my first international trip since Toronto in 2010. I can’t believe I’ve been so stationary for so long. Well, this trip sparked my wanderlust and I’m ready to adventure again!

I usually fall asleep as soon as the plane takes off. Heck, sometimes even before, but I didn’t fall asleep once on  the 7 hour flight. I busies myself with movies and playing Animal Crossing until I landed in Barcelona. I was so exhausted when I arrived. I took the train to my hostel, Urbany Barcelona, checked in and slept until the evening. When I awoke, I met up with 2 Couchsurfing (CS) members for drinks and tapas in the center.  It was a Tuesday night, but the city center was still bustling with activity.

 

 

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Day 2

Wednesday! I woke up super early today to go to Els Encants Vells– Barcelona’s largest flea market only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. I’m a big fan of vintage and antiques so I was super stoked to get to visit a Spanish market. The market was HUGE and very crowded, but it didn’t have anything that really caught my eye. I was a little disappointed in their selection There were antiques, little souvenirs, but mostly vendors just sold little things you could get from anywhere! Still, I wandered around and had a churro while I explored.

 

After Els Encants Vells, I wandered over to La Sagrada Familia. The incomplete, yet beautiful church designed by Antoni Gaudi.  I opted not to go in, but walked around and enjoyed its beauty from outside. It’s truly a wonder with it’s gothic, but modern design, tall spires and beautiful facades. If I’m ever in Barcelona again, I will definitely see the inside. I took a virtual tour when I arrived back home and I kicked myself in the butt for not seeing it.

I spent more time walking around the area exploring and met a traveler from Australia. We just started talking and hit it off and ended up spending the rest of the afternoon together.  We had coffee/churros and shared stories while we wandered around Barcelona. That evening I said farewell to my new friend and headed to Sabadell, Spain, a city about 30 minutes North of Barcelona,to have dinner with my friend Laura and her family. We had  a delicious traditional Catalan dinner with her mother, grandmother, and cousin. Laura’s grandmother kept raiding the fridge and cabinets to find interesting new foods for me to try. It’s amazing I still had an appetite for dinner.

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See more of my Barcelona photos on my Flickr account!

 

 

 

Race Day

Last weekend I went to NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.

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NASCAR?! Yep. NASCAR. The bf bought tickets  a couple of months ago. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about going to a Nascar event. I had a few preconceptions about Nascar fans and honestly, watching cars race around a track doesn’t really excite me. However, I never turn down a new experience-so, off I went.  I actually enjoyed it! I really did! Watching the cars race around the track, vying to improve their position on the turns reminded me of skating laps in roller derby. I was fascinated…for the first 50 laps. Haha.  My favorite part of the race was the pit stops. I got so excited every time  a  car pulled into the pit for refueling, tire changes, repairs, etc. Those pit crews are super effective and fast. Can we just watch them compete? I’d totally watch that!

I don’t think I’ll ever go to a race again, but it was fun. If you ever get a chance to see a race at the Speedway, do it for the experience…and the pork tenderloin. Trust me. That pork tenderloin is delicious!

The Sophia quote of the day, around lap 100- “Ok. I’m getting bored. How in the hell am I going to get through 300 more laps?! I WANNA GO HOME! Oh?!  What’s that? You mean the ‘Brickyard 400’ is 400 miles not laps? Oh…ok” >.<

 

(I posted a couple of videos from the race on my Vine. Here’s one where you can see a pit crew in action and hear how loud the cars were as they zipped by.)

 

Movie nights at the Indianapolis Museum of Art!

Indy’s Museum of Art is amazing. Great collection, great grounds, and great events. During the summer, IMA hosts movie nights in their outdoor amphitheater. I attended on June 7th and saw the movie Pillow Talk starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. It was a delightful romantic comedy. Holds up even after all of these years. My favorite scene was during a date between the two stars-

Cute, right?

If you’re in Indy you should definitely check out a showing. Take your blankets, lawn chairs, food, drinks(non-alcoholic! Alcoholic drinks will be seized!), friends, and bug spray! The movie starts at dusk(around 9:15), but the grounds are open at 6. Perfect amount of time for a picnic before the movie starts.

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the summer showings at the IMA! (Tickets are $10 for public and kids under 6 are free.)

Cherry Blossoms in bloom!

For the last couple of years I’ve been trying to see the cherry blossoms in DC in bloom and for the last couple of years I’ve failed. One year I arrived only to find out the rain had washed all the blossoms away. Another year I was sick. THIS year, I finally saw them in bloom and enjoyed a picnic underneath! They were beautiful and well worth the wait.

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A day in New Orleans

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Buskers on Royal St.

My boyfriend and I decided to go on a one day getaway! New Orleans was our pick because it was a quick flight, I hadn’t been there in years and he had never been there at all! Our flight landed around 10AM. We knew we only had a limited amount of time in the city so we headed straight to the French Quarter to start our visit. We are on a tight budget so rather than take a cab as everyone recommended, we took a bus all the way downtown and then walked in the direction of The Quarter. It was a long ride, but I’m so glad we took the bus! Not only was it cheap ($2 to get into the city), but we got to see parts of the city we wouldn’t have seen otherwise since most of our trip was French Quarter centered.  When we arrived in the French Quarter we just walked around. Even before noon the streets were full of people!  Street performers, tourists, and even people drinking already. Wandering up and down the streets, we found a nice little cafe’ ere we had lunch/coffees. After fueling up, we made our way to Jackson Square where we met up with our tour guide and other tourists for a free walking tour of the French Quarter.

The company we went with, Free Tours by Foot, offers a couple of different tours including a cemetery tour that we plan on taking next time! Jackson Square was beautiful in itself.  It was a nice day so there were people sunbathing, picnicking and just hanging out. On the tour, we were guided through alleys and historic streets with beautiful architecture. I was snapping pics the entire time. And listening! Anecdotes were given at every stop. The tour lasted 2 hours and gave us a brief, but detailed history on all things French Quarter. If you head to New Orleans, check it out.

Beignets!

After our tour we headed to get beignets! You can’t go to Nola without eating some beignets. Beignets are deep fried dough covered in powder. They’re the best paired with a cup of coffee and chicory. MMM! We had ours from Cafe du Monde. Probably the most famous beignet place in New Orleans. I’ve only had their beignets so I can’t say if they’re the best, but they sure are freaking delicious.

More walking, shopping, and exploring was done and then we decided to take a ghost tour. We actually didn’t decide this. The bf did. He chose a Haunted History tour. They’re supposed to be the best and are ranked #1 in New Orleans. I was a bit wary of it since their website looks terrible, but on we went!  The tour was centered around the French Quarter. A lot of the same places we heard about earlier apparently had some dark history to them. It was an entertaining tour, for sure. We went to about 7 different sites and heard a ghost story behind each. The highlight of the tour was for me was the visit to the “haunted” bar, Lafitte’s, which is reputed to be oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. I had a delicious Hurricane. If New Orleans had an official drink, this mixture of rum, grenadine and fruit juice would be it.  Though deliciously sweet, those things are strong! The rest of the night was spent on Bourbon. DRINKING! Not for very long. Like I said, those Hurricanes are strong. 😉 We stayed in the India House Hostel  located outside of the French Quarter and right on the Canal streetcar line. It was easily one of the coolest hostels I’ve stayed in. Lively atmosphere, tons of travelers, a huge courtyard and a freaking swimming pool! We booked the day of and stayed in a private room for only $45. Would definitely stay there again.  Short and sweet trip. It definitely sparked a love for New Orleans. I can’t wait to get back and explore more-outside of the quarter and actually eat some gumbo. I didn’t get to eat any gumbo!!!!

made it

I made it! I’m in Memphis. The drive down wasn’t so bad. It’s a 12 hour trip and we made it in 12 hours. Which was good time considering we stopped about 6 times. I like to stop during road trips. If I see a sign that says Scenic Overlook, you better believe I’m pulling over. If I see a sign for some sort of shop or winery I’ll pull over for that too! On the way down we stopped at the New River Gorge Bridge. A huge steel arch bridge in the southern part of West Virginia. It’s the 3rd longest in the world! Every year in October the West Virginia hosts Bridge Day. 80,000+ spectators attend and BASE jumpers come from all over the world come to jump off the bridge. CRAZY!!! I would never do that, but I do want to do the Bridge Walk. A 1.5 mile walk along the catwalk (850 ft above the river) of the bridge.

New River Gorge Bridge by me

 

We also stopped at Tamarack. A huge,interestingly,shaped building in Beckley, WV that sells handmade crafts, arts, and WV wines and other cuisines. We just walked around checking out the place and picked up two bottles of West Virginia wine – dandelion and blackberry.

I wanted those Raggedy Ann/Andy dolls, but couldn’t justify it for $35 a piece!

The bf spent a couple of days here with me and then left. 😦 I miss him like crazy, but I’m settling into life back in Memphis just fine. I had my first roller derby practice with my new league on Monday. It was an intense practice! I can already tell I’m going to be a much better skater, skating with this league. In my former league, me and a few of the other girls were the longest skaters of the team. Now I’m surrounded by ladies that have been playing 4 times as long as I have. I’m excited to learn from them. I’m a part of the league, but I’m not officially a part of a team yet. They have a draft day in September. When that day comes, the three teams will bid on me and I’ll be a part of  one of the home teams… hopefully!

Classes start on Monday.  But until then I have a lot of free time. Which means lot of quality time with my Kindle! I’ve been sort of a book nerd lately. :/

D.C.

D.C. Was a blast. I left WV at 6 am on Saturday morning and arrived in D.C. at 9:30 am. I may have been speeding a little bit…just a little bit. I stayed in D.C. for 3 days and did as much exploring as I could. I’ve been to D.C. a couple of times, but it was when I was much younger so I have almost no recollection of it. While I was there this time, I went to a cultural festival, took a cruise from Georgetown to Alexandria, took a stroll through the sculpture garden, hung out on the mall, went to a huge drum circle in Meridian Hill Park, shopped at the Eastern Market on Sunday,and ate a whole lot of food! I also hung out with an old friend and met some new friends. It was nice being away from here for awhile. I wish it could’ve lasted longer!

roadtrip recap

Last weekend recap!

Me and the bf began our road trip last Thursday. Destination-Boston for PaxEast, with stops in Philadelphia, and New Haven, CT.

Thursday-Got off work, dropped Peanut off at the kennel, and hit the road to Philly! The drive to Philly was 6 hours, so by the time we got there it was already too late to really do anything. We checked in to our hotel, and decided to have Philly cheesesteaks at Tony Luke’s! It was recommended on some travel blogs I read and it was on Man vs Food! Last time I trust them.  The bread was SO hard and the meat was dry. Not good at all. I should’ve listened to the local who told us there were MUCH better places to have cheesesteaks. After the fail cheesesteak, we went to Eulogy, a Belgian beer bar, and had some drinks. I fell in love with this place because it reminded me of the little cafe’s I always went to in Amsterdam. The beer list was amaaaaazing and had over 400 beers. I had 2 beers, which was more than enough for me considering their 10.0 ABV. Went back to the hotel and proceeded to pass out.

Friday-Woke up really early because we wanted to see a few things around Philly before we started our next leg of the trip (Philly to Boston!). We walked along the waterfront at Penn’s Landing, and saw some cool ships including the HUGE and very old SS United States. After walking around and getting some breakfast there, we went to Philadelphia Art Museum, not to see art, but to run up the “Rocky steps”. Remember this scene from the movie Rocky? It was filmed here so…we had to!

bf at the top of the steps

my Rocky pose

After that, we hit the road to Boston. We should’ve made it there in 6 hours, BUT I saw an outlet mall and had to stop. I picked up a dress, a new top, and the bf got some shirts. Successful pit stop? yes!  We had another pitstop to make too, but it was planned. I wanted to stop by New Haven, CT to see my Great, Great, grandfather, Sengbe Pieh’s statue which stands in fron of their City Hall. My family has gone multiple times for dedications and memorials, and I’ve seen the statue in pictures, but I have never seen it in person.

We made it to Boston (finally) Friday evening and went straight to the Boston Convention Center where PaxEast was being held. Unfortunately, we were too late to see the show floor, but we did meet up with my friends from Memphis and hit up the table top gaming area! It was huge guys. Tables of Magic, Munchkin, DnD, Dominion, and a whole bunch of other table top games I’ve never heard of. The bf and I played a couple of games of Magic and hung out with my friends before heading to the hotel.

Saturday/Sunday-Woke up early and got our butts to PaxEast. You know to enjoy gaming and panels! We got there when the doors open and stayed until the doors closed. I played the new Magic game which will  be released summer 2012, 3DS (which is awwwweosme!), a whole bunch of games, went to some panels, wandered around, met some twitter friends, and just hung around at PaxEast. I didn’t want to leave on Sunday. I really had a good time just hanging  out and I can’t wait to go back next year!

Monday, MONDAY, MONDAY-Sunday night after Pax we drove straight to Philly and proceeded to pass out. On Monday we saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and hung out on the hip South Street. We had lunch at an awesome cheesesteak shop (Steaks on South! The sandwiches were so good. If you’re in Philly, go there!) and then we went to The Magic Gardens!Magic Gardens is an indoor/outdoor maze of mosaics inlaid with various pieces of poetry. After the gardens we headed back home to WV.

If you’d like to see more pics go here or here.

NYCC and stuff

I had such a good time on my little getaway to NYC this past weekend.

My flight for New York left Pittsburgh at 6 am on Friday morning. 6 am!!! That means I had to leave my house at 4 am to get there an hour before my flight departed. No fun! I knew neither my bf or I would wake up in time, so I pulled an all nighter. I worked all day  Thursday, went to an intense derby practice that evening, and then stayed up all night before a day full of walking around NYC. Crazy!!! I don’t know what I was thinking.

I spent Friday at the Met, walked through Central Park, met up with my sister and her friends (they were in town too!), and of course went shopping.

I spent all Saturday at NYCC. Oh, man. I wish I bought a 3 day pass instead of just a one day ticket. I had so much fun! I walked around for hours and hours and still didn’t see everything. I didn’t go to any panels, just walked around, met some people, played some games, visited booths and bought stuff! I saw some really creative cosplay.

Recognize them all? ^_^

Unfortunately, I didn’t dress up. I, Sophia the princess of procrastination, didn’t finish my costume in time.  Surprise, surprise! Hopefully, it will be perfected before the next con which will be *drumroll* Pax East in Boston. Who’s coming?!

badge, me and Thor, anime floor

It was nice getting away from everything for a bit. Really relaxing. I’m already counting down the days until I can do it again! Being in a big city reminded me how much I love city life. This little town life is NOT for me. I need the diversity of people and activities.