onsdag 25. juni 2014

Barcelona, day 15!

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 - Day 12 - Day 13 - Day 14

Today was all about Sagrada Familia. It was the one thing we REALLY wanted to see that we hadn't seen yet, and it was our last chance. We bought tickets online, and were there around 13:30 (aka 1:30 PM).

Irene's right leg was a bit tired after yesterday, so we decided we'd really take our time today. We had nothing but Sagrada Familia on our itinerary, and we both agreed it was worth it. We started with the Gaudí Museum, went on to the gift shop, then went inside and looked there for a while. We sat and enjoyed the mood.

We then went back downstairs because it was nice and cool there, and watched the 15-minute long video they have about the history of the basilica. When it was done, we stopped by the toilet to freshen up before deciding to see the inside again.

When we reached the back of the altar, I asked Irene kindly to look to the right.

If you've read about day 13, the Sunday that didn't happen, you'll remember that Arild and I had a chat via Facebook about a surprise for Irene. Maybe it's now dawning on you that I didn't really mention when he had a surprise for her.

Arild was standing there in a suit.

What Arild talked to me about was this crazy idea that he wanted to come down here today to propose to Irene. I told him that it was the perfect moment - our last day of the best holiday of our lives, and the one thing on our itinerary was the architectural wonder Irene loves the most. I helped him decide on Sagrada Familia, suggested where inside to do it (it's a bit more private on the sides behind the altar), and we agreed on a time. Of course, the best laid plans... He was supposed to be there before us, but a delayed flight caused him to be there several hours later, which meant I had to really make sure Irene wasn't ready to leave the church until Arild had arrived. I also had to make sure she was at the right place at the right time. Finally, things slid into place, and I could take Irene to where she was supposed to be.

Arild was standing there in a suit. Irene froze. I had to nudge her and tell her to go to him three times before she moved.

While I was filming, he talked quietly to her, then went down on one knee and asked her to marry him. She said yes.

Many tears were involved, both from the three of us and onlookers. Afterwards, we sat for a while because the newly engaged(!) couple needed to sit and calm down, then went outside so they could make some calls to inform their loved ones back home. This was when we noticed this beautiful flowery canopy, and Irene knew she wanted a photo of her and Arild there.

The rest of the day was spent celebrating, getting Arild checked into our hotel and then dinner (and I got a new hotel room because of power issues, so I'm spending the last night in a 14th floor room with free breakfast in the morning, yay!) - and now it's packing and sleeping time.

I'll add the pictures from Sagrada Familia either tomorrow night or as soon as I can after that - I just wanted to bring you this beautiful story (with Irene's approval, of course)!

tirsdag 24. juni 2014

Barcelona, day 14!

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 - Day 12 - Day 13

MY BIRTHDAY! I turned 60, it feels like.

Which is also a big day of celebrations here in Barcelona - Sant Joan is really on the 24th, but the night of the 23rd is also called The Night of Fire. Because fireworks. Also bonfires.

We spent the day with stuff. First another visit to Lush because we'd both forgotten to buy one thing when we were there last. Then we went to Starbucks for breakfast and a frappuccino, and decided we'd buy a 1-day ticket on the tourist bus, because all the air is great (and yesterday was really humid) and we didn't have to walk all the way to the metro station. Yeah, we're that lazy sometimes. xD

When we got to the tourist bus stop, we asked if we'd get a 10% discount with a coupon and our previous tickets, but it was only valid in other cities. The 1-day ticket is 27 euros, and even though 27 is the most beautiful number ever, it is kind of expensive. Then the ticket sales guy was all whispers and told us that he had 2-day tickets from yesterday that we could get for 15 euros each. We said YES THANK YOU SO MUCH and I think it was just because it was my birthday. Fate!

We jumped on the red line and saw Montjuïc again, enjoyed the sun and fresh breeze, jumped over to the green line and decided we'd go to Museu Blau and the Diagonal Mar shopping mall. Of course, yesterday was Monday. Again. And we'd forgotten about that fact. Again. So Museu Blau was closed. We went to Diagonal Mar, enjoyed some ice cream, bought some really stupid stuff (I bought refill cans for Mom's Airwick air freshener spray thingie and .. dish detergent that smells like green apples), and then jumped on the bus again.

We went to Barri Gòtic and ate lunch at Bilbao-Berria again - no sign of our Norwegian waiter :(
Then we went by Happy Pills, because it's "the sickest store ever", according to the American girls that were there, too. And it really is! You get inside and it's a wall of pick-and-mix candy. There are plastic gloves and various containers, and then you just go to town. At the counter, they give you the cap for the container and ask you to choose a prescription - there are several different stickers you can put on that says what the "pills" are for. So yeah, SICK. Or Happy. Anyway, it's awesome.

Then we got lost in the streets of Barri Gòtic again, Irene bought a small carry-on suitcase so we can make sure we don't have any excess weight on any of our suitcases. We haven't shopped that much, but just in case, it's good to have another bag to even things out. By that time, we were getting hungry again, and Irene was close to dying of a heat stroke. Okay, so maybe not, but she was very hot because she'd gotten sunburnt, and the humidity was a bit tough to handle. We went back to the hotel room to cool her down, put our shopping bags away and get ready to go to Hard Rock Café for my birthday dinner.

Away we went, and dinner was grrreat! We started off with their potato skins. SO GOOD. Oh god, so gooood.. mmm. TATERSKINS. Then Irene had the Legendary Burger while I had Twisted Mac, Chicken & Cheese. So good. So good. We both ate until we died a little, and then paid for our meal and left.
By the time we got out of there, the party had started outside. Everywhere, families and friends were gathered to throw firecrackers around, and MAN, those firecrackers had OOMPFH. Our ears were ringing when we reached the metro station!
Back at the hotel, we took advantage of the view from our room, cracked open a beer each and watched the fireworks. So beautiful!

After a while, though, we found out we were really, really tired, and went to bed. It was a great birthday, with a lot of well wishes. Makes one feel so, so good :D

(Yeah, I know, no pictures. I had almost no power on my cell phone yesterday because I forgot to charge it. Plus, we didn't really.. SEE anything. I'll see if I took any pictures with my compact camera - If so, I'll add them either tonight or when we get home.)

Barcelona, day 13!

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11 - Day 12

Okay. Sunday actually didn't happen.
Irene was so tired she slept all day, and I sat here watching YouTube, anime and stuff in the meantime. Then we went out to eat in the evening.

Also, Irene's SO, Arild, contacted me because he has a surprise waiting for Irene.
I think it's a great one, and Irene will be so glad when she sees it.
Of course, Irene found out that I was chatting with him on the Facebook chat, so it's not a complete secret that there's a surprise, but she doesn't know what the surprise is. That's killing her a bit, because she is so insanely curious when she finds out there's a surprise waiting. So I'm even teasing her with this blog post, because she has to wait to see it - I'm not telling, and neither is Arild. :D

søndag 22. juni 2014

Barcelona, day 12!

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11

Considering Irene's leg hadn't gotten any better during the night, but actually kinda worse, we got a slow start today. Whereas yesterday it was her lower leg that hurt, this morning it hurt all the way up to her thigh, so she slept while I sat editing pictures and blogging.

After some talk back and forth, she suddenly announced that her SO had given us money to go to a spa. My first reaction was "..lol? :o", but it was true. We decided it'd be my birthday present from them, and I knew exactly which spa we should pick.

Rituels d'Orient has a nice reputation, and is also conveniently located a 5-minute walk from our hotel. So we went over there, got an appointment an hour later, and then walked over to Starbucks for a frappuccino while we waited.

I was pretty nervous, because I've never been in a spa before. Ever. And the closest thing I've gotten to a massage was when I went to a naprapath in 2010 for my tension headaches. She told me to unhook my bra and slide my t-shirt way up and lay on my stomach. That's the most nudity I've ever shown to someone like that. Add to that the fact that I'm really uncomfortable with my body, and you have yourself a nervous Silje.

I still chose a body treatment that sounded right for me; "Softness of Shea" includes a full-body scrub with apricot seeds, argan and other nice things, then a full-body slathering of warm shea butter followed by a wrap. You're wrapped in plastic and towels and 10 minutes later you get a full-body massage that lasts for about 30 minutes. I survived, and it felt great even though I was keenly aware that I was very naked and it was weird. I'm still full of oily shea butter, though it's mostly been sucked up by my dry, dry skin now xD Also, I still smell awesome. I'm considering stopping by the spa another day to buy some of the shea butter she used on me, because it really smells wonderful!

Meanwhile, Irene chose something that hopefully would help her legs; "Freshness of the Oasis" includes a rhassoul and shea butter wrap followed by a draining massage with essential mint and green tea oils to promote circulation. It seems like it did some wonders as well, her legs were less swollen afterwards, and her right leg wasn't as painful as it had been earlier!

After our treatments, we got to sit and relax with some Moroccan mint tea and these cute little snacks that I'm not 100% sure what was - they were like this crispy shell filled with almondy goodness, with honey and sesame seeds on the outside. We only got one each, and I really wanted one more because NOM.

The whole experience was somewhat weird because I'm awkward about nudity, but I actually think I'd do it again. It was definitely worth the money, and it was an awesome early birthday present! :D Thanks again, Irene and Arild!

Since we had some money left over from Arild's generous gift, we headed over to Lush again. I can't help it, it's become kind of an obsession. I WANT IT ALL. We shopped a bit more, and this time I took pics of everything. This is the complete Lush haul of this vacation:

There are some gifts, but mostly it's stuff for myself. Yay, pampering!

We then decided it was about time we found some food, so we found a small café-ish thing that had tapas.

Okay, so we kinda dug in before we remembered we were supposed to take pictures of the food. xD It was delicious, and the patatas bravas were spicy, but good.

After eating, we went back to the hotel with our bags and then went to the store. On our way there we randomly ran into some other Norwegian people, which was just so random that I once again couldn't let it go until way later. When we returned from the store, it turned out they were staying at our hotel as well, so that's.. so random I can't even :D They were from Bergen. Hello, Bergen!

Finally we ate dinner at a place Mom and I went to last year - L'Arrosseria Xàtiva. It looks really dodgy once you get inside, and Irene was NOT amused. Additionally, nothing on the menu yelled out for us to eat it, so we didn't really know what to do, considering we'd already gotten our Cokes. We finally decided to share an order of woked rice with prawns, and it was really good. I think I managed to turn Irene. We're probably not going back there, though, considering the menu didn't appeal to us that much.

We were back from dinner a few minutes before midnight, and since then I've been blogging and we've just been relaxing. I'm finally no longer lagging behind with the blogging, and we're gonna go to bed now!

Tomorrow's plans include the tourist bus, Olympic arena, botanical gardens (with bonsai exhibition) and the Museu Blau. We'll see how much Irene's leg is up to, though. See ya later!

Barcelona, day 11!

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10

Friday! The plan was to go by La Boqueria, buy something we could bring to Parc de la Ciutadella and have a picnic, then visit the Zoo. Again, the best laid plans..

We started off with La Boqueria, at least, which of course means PICTURES. Since there are a lot, I'm gonna choose a smaller size for most of them. As usual, they're clickable, so you can enjoy them in full size!


All the cute candy. All of it.

Veggies and fruits!

All of the veggies and fruits.

More candy!


Also all of the fruit juices and smoothies.

Creatures of the sea!

So foamy.

I don't even know what these are supposed to be. D:

Some saffron.



Some kind of shell.. snail.. spikey thingies for eating.

"No photos" - Did I see that sign? Actually not until I was editing the pictures. xD

Chicken hearts and feet.


Those.. are pig's faces. Just sayin'.

Also, chicken head.

Various dried mushrooms.


Small octopi or squid or something tentacle-y.

After walking through ALL THE TOURISTS in La Boqueria, we remembered we didn't really have any cash on us, and went to find an ATM. Then we started looking at street art and found the hostel my class stayed at on the school trip ten years ago, and then we decided we didn't really want to go back in to all the tourists in the world to find food. So we decided to just go to the park and figure stuff out as we went.

Along Las Ramblas there's a building that's easily overlooked, Casa Bruno Cuadros. I didn't take many pictures of it, because there's a lot of people swarming around on Las Ramblas and we didn't want to waste too much time. Anyway, the building was refurbished in 1883, and it ended up being a giant mix of modernist, Oriental and Egyptian elements, to name some of it. In addition, there was an umbrella shop on the ground floor, so it also has a lot of umbrellas all over, leading the locals to name the building Casa dels Paraigües - House of Umbrellas. Also, dragon:

We walked over to Carrer de Ferran, where suddenly, church. One of my favorite things about Barcelona is exactly this: You walk around some random street, and suddenly there's something beautiful right there.

We decided to pop by Starbucks and get a frappuccino each, and sat there for a while enjoying the airconditioning and .. sitting. Sitting was nice.
Then we saw these in a shop window, and I kinda wanted them because Salvador Dalí is one of my favorite artists, but I don't have anywhere to keep them, so I had to say goodbye.

After getting thoroughly lost in little streets and alleys in the Born district, we stumbled onto this amazing wall of streetart:

Some close-ups:

So much awesomeness. We stood there for a little while, just because there was SO MUCH to see, and then kept walking. What did we stumble upon but the Santa Maria del Mar?

We didn't go inside because we were kinda on a mission, but we'll see if we can squeeze it in another day!
Right next to it, we found this:

With an eternal flame type of thing on the top.
 And a street further away, this:

So much cute.
 And very close to that we found the Born Centre Cultural, which is dedicated to the Barcelona of year 1700 and the Siege of 1714 (which is what that monument just now was all about). We didn't go inside here either, mostly because we wanted ice cream and to sit in the park.

Finally, the entrance to the park. So nice:

And.. a.. diver's helmet thing?

The bottom of the pole with the diver's helmet thingie.
The Parc de la Ciutadella is the city park, a huge green oasis which houses a small lake with rowing boats for hire (also ducks and small turtles, not for hire), a huge fountain by the name of Cascada inspired by Rome's Trevi fountain, several government buildings, a few museums and the Barcelona Zoo.

We were like "Aaw, cute pavilion!"

And then we saw this and fell more in love with Barcelona.

Also, mammoth:

We bought ice cream and found a nice place to sit and relax for a while. Irene's right leg had started to act up. Technically, it had been aching all day, but it was gradually getting worse, so some rest was much needed. While sitting there, we were starting to wonder if maybe it wasn't such a good idea to go walking through the huge zoo when her leg was already starting to hurt. We finally decided we'd rather go to the nearest metro station, return to Plaça Catalunya and walk back to Bilbao-Berria for an early dinner (which actually turned out to be a reasonably timed dinner instead), then return to the hotel.

On our way through the park, we saw this statue, which is nice, but nothing special.

 Except for..

Heart butt!
 The nearest metro station was Arc de Triomf, which meant photo opportunity!

The Arc de Triomf was built as a main access gate for the 1888 World Fair, and leads straight to the Parc de la Ciutadella.

A short metro ride and a short walk later, we were suddenly near the AquaBliss fish spa where Mom got her feet nibbled on by little doctor fish last year. I told Irene about it, and she decided she wanted to test it out on her tired feet. So she did:

Busy fishies.
Forty-five minutes later, we were at Bilbao-Berria, where we ate tons of pintxos and dessert. And when we were ready to pay, Irene wanted to pay with her credit card. When the waiter put the card in the reader, he obviously saw that she could choose to pay with euros or Norwegian kroner.. and promptly said "Norsk? Er du norsk?" ("Norwegian? Are you Norwegian?") in near perfect Norwegian.
Turns out our waiter had lived in Oslo for 12 years! :D We chatted a bit with him in Norwegian before leaving. That was so insanely random and shocking that we just tipped him more than necessary and left in somewhat of a daze. I think I brought it up for almost an hour afterwards. "I just.. I'm not over it yet. That was the most Norwegian we've heard since Oslo Airport!"

Irene's leg was better after the fish spa and resting, so we decided to look in some stores before going home. I'm not sure that was the best idea we've ever had, because the walk back from our metro station (about 7-10 minutes) was excruciating for her, and we had to stop on a park bench for a while. That leg was not very happy at all, I tell you! We finally made it back to the hotel after a quick detour into a supermarket for some water and Pepsi Light, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.