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2014 holidays

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jessg

Today’s post is by Jessica Galbraith, author of the travel blog The Fly Away American where she shares her adventures living abroad and travels around the world. She spent over a month living in Barcelona, and constantly dreams of being back on her golden sand beaches.


Barcelona is one of those cities that stays with you long after you are gone. The energy, the food, and the unique architecture are unlike any other place in the world. The Catalan culture can make a believer of the most disgruntled traveller, and will have you joining in on midnight feasts, afternoon siestas, and beachside romps in no time.

After spending over a month getting to know Barcelona like a local, I can honestly say that the city forever holds a special place in my travels and is easily one of my all-time favourite destinations. If you are planning a trip to this Spanish oasis of art, culture, and fun- these are the places to visit and things to do to get the most out of your visit to Barcelona.

cafe Beach Barcelona. Catalonia, Spain

11pm dinner parties

Everything seems to revolve around food in Spain. While the eating  hours are hard to initially get used to (dinner usually starts between 9 and 11:30 pm), the social aspect of food in Barcelona is one of its greatest strengths. The Catalan people love eating with friends and family for hours, taking their time with many dishes and lots of conversation.

When in Barcelona, make sure to try the wonderful seafood, caught fresh daily off the coast. Or opt for the traditional ‘May Y Mantagna’, Sea and Mountain, which is a plate of both meat and seafood representing the diverse landscape of the region. When you get thirsty, you can never go wrong with a tall jug of Sangria or locally produced cava. (I highly recommend a day trip to the Cordornniu Winery in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia where they make some of the best cava in Spain.)

Seafood

Golden sands

Four kilometres of pristine Mediterranean beaches, yes please! Going to Barcelona and skipping the beach is like stopping by Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Barceloneta Beach is probably the most popular, but expect huge crowds if visiting on a warm, summer day.

The Homenatge a la Barceloneta or ‘La Estrella Herida’ (The Wounded Star) by German artist Rebecca Horn is one of my favourite sculptures in Barcelona. Catch one of the Barcelona Harbour tours, for a unique viewpoint of the sculpture, and the coast and harbour itself. You can get drinks and snacks on-board, and they typically last around 45 minutes. Finish off with a drink at one of the beachside restaurants, the claras, lemon beer, is a favourite.

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Gaudi architecture

Sometimes I wonder what Barcelona would be like if Antoni Gaudi had never lived. His mark can be seen all over the city and truly adds a magical quality to the atmosphere of Barcelona.

The Sagrada Familia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a mesmerising church to behold. After seeing dozens of churches, some of the greatest cathedrals in Europe, the Sagrada Familia still stands out as the quirkiest, weirdest, and most spectacular of them all. Gaudi began his work on the church in the late 1880’s, but it remains unfinished to this day. Don’t miss the climb to the top, the trek up almost 400 stairs is well worth the beautiful view you are rewarded with. (You can also take the lift, but what fun is that?)

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

The Park Guell

Another Barcelona favourite of Gaudi fame is the Park Guell, a masterfully designed public park with unparalleled views over the city. Admission to the park is free, but be sure to visit early to avoid the crowds. Look out for the meticulous mosaic work and amazing views out over Barcelona.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

And finally… a mosaic salamander

While in Park Guell, look out for the famous salamander whose likeness can be seen in every souvenir shop in Barcelona.

Barcelona has so much to offer its visitors, and its laid back vibes pull them back again and again. A holiday in Barcelona is perfect for those looking to relax, recharge, and have a lot of fun along the way. I personally can’t wait to get back and enjoy the slow-paced way of life that the people of Barcelona have all but perfected.

Park Guell Salamandar

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With Christmas been and gone, the dreary and cold British weather might be getting you down. A sure-fire way to pick yourself up is to start looking into your summer holiday options – a great way to beat the winter blues.

There’s no need to book anything at this time of the year, but the benefit to looking at what’s on offer now is that you can keep your eyes open for any deals that appear in the new year, with the advantage that you already know where you’d like to go.

When you start doing your research, think carefully about what you’d like to get out of your break – are you looking for rest and relaxation, or would you prefer something a bit more exciting?

Planning your holiday for 2014
Copyright: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media

This will help you to narrow down your options quickly and make the whole planning process a little bit smoother. For example, some of the Greek islands are perfect if you’re after a relaxing break, with plenty of secluded coves and sweeping bays where you can work on your tan and forget about your worries. Kefalonia and Corfu are particularly good choices for this kind of trip.

For thrill seekers, you still can’t beat Florida with its abundance of theme parks boasting all manner of adrenalin-pumping rides. You can also get your heart racing by visiting Gatorland to see some of the huge alligators and crocodiles that inhabit the Everglades.

Should you be after something a little different though, consider Croatia. This European destination may not come to mind straight away as a summer holiday destination, but there’s an awful lot going for it.

Firstly, it has stunning coastal cities like Dubrovnik and Split that are perfect for anyone who wants to put a cultural or historical spin on their break. Secondly, the coastline here is dotted by small islands that are wonderful places to explore.

Take a leisurely boat ride around some of these secluded isles and make the most of their empty beaches. Croatia also has something for adventure lovers, with scuba diving a popular pastime in the country.