New Year, New You (But seriously)

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I never make New Year’s Resolutions, can never be bothered. Any changes to lifestyle and well being can be made at any time of the year. Saying that though, I thought I’d share my little pearls of wisdom that I either learnt this year, or used to help me get through trying times this year. If there’s one thing I see on social media, it is people moaning and whinging. I think we could all do with looking a little more after ourselves, and taking it step by step to becoming happier. Let 2016 actually be a happy year!

 

Cut Out Toxic Friends

The ones that make you feel bad. The ones you never hear from unless they need your help. Sometimes we hold onto friendships for old times sake, but when people change so much over the years sometimes its better to just admit to ourselves those who we were close to two years ago, maybe not so much anymore. And when you stop making effort with those who don’t spare a second for you, you have the time to make the effort with those that do.

 

Adopt Healthy Habits

I have finally joined the gym for the first time in my life, and I intend to keep it up. (Although the trainers at my gym suggest working towards going from my current two days a week to every day. How about no. Gotta still have lazy, chocolate eating days. For my emotional well being). You don’t need to be one of those super healthy freaks (erm no offence super healthy people…) who never have a binge eating day, but it’s good to cut out some of the bad food, eat more of the good stuff and get a bit more active to feel more alert, and better about yourself!

 

Appreciate your Favourite Qualities

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year,  it’s to recognise what I like about myself, and appreciate my good points without having to rely on others to tell me so (on bad days you have to be the one to tell yourself how awesome you are!). We rely too much on approval and verification from others, but confidence can only come from knowing your own worth, and everybody is worthwhile!

 

Get Out of the House More

Not just travelling (but yes, always travel as much as possible), but also just going outside for a walk, or a coffee, or to see a friend. I always feel really lousy when I’ve spent too long cooped up indoors (I say this at the end of a day I’ve spent sleeping off a hangover and not venturing outside once). The world is a big one, but even the smallest adventure can make you feel good about life.

 

Never Stop Learning

Short story: I looked at my Facebook Year in Review, and like last year it started off well, showing my life to be an interesting one, but then just showed the most random photos (including one of a melted chocolate heart. 2015 you crazy time). But it did show my Spanish qualification and my dissertation, and I realised how much I have achieved this year in regards to my brain. Not only my CEFR Level A2 in Spanish, but my Bachelors degree, my TEFL certificate, my photography diploma, and most recently a certificate in understanding Human Rights from Amnesty International. I seem to have gotten into online learning this year… But I do believe the mind should never stop exploring. So read, take up hobbies, enroll on courses, anything to help you learn how interesting the world is! The more you accomplish the more you’ll realise that yes, you’re pretty damn smart.

 

Always Try New Things

I for one hate being in my comfort zone too much. But I know people who have permanent residency there. The best memories don’t come from sticking to what you know – they come from biting the bullet, letting go of your fears, and searching for new adventures. So whether it’s a strange new delicacy in a foreign land, or a dance class you think you’d be terrible at, anything that is easy to say no to, but you wonder “what if it did happen”…do it! I always like to say better to know than to wonder what if.

 

Reduce Social Media Usage

Those 30 blurry photos from a night out you just HAVE to upload for your 400 facebook friends to see what a crazy party animal you are? Nah, we don’t need to check in everywhere we go, or have a photo of us with our food, or document our evening on Snapchat. Truth is, most people won’t miss those photos, and deep down we know that. I don’t advocate refusing to use social media, I know I’m on it too much, but it’s a great way to stay in contact with people. But if we use it less we care less about likes and trying to show the world too much insight into our lives. Rather then checking in or taking selfies we actually enjoy the time we spend with others, and that is what’s important!

 

So I hope 2016 brings you all many joys, sweet memories and adventure! I have very different plans for my 2016 than my 2015, but I think I’m more excited for life than ever!

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Polaroids from Barcelona

Personally these are some of my favourite polaroids I have ever taken. The colours developed with very cool tones, but it still captured the colourful and beautiful essence of Barcelona.

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The view from Casa Battlo’s rooftop terrace

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La Sagrada Familia

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The dragon from Paerc Guell

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Casa Battlo

 

And with these my mini series of Barcelona is finished! I really loved the city, and it was worth the wait visiting! Travelling off peak tourist season is advisable, but maybe one day I will hopefully return during a time it’s good to visit the beach!

Barcelona Cathedral and Basilica de Santa Maria

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Whilst La Sagrada Familia is such an internationally recognisable  landmark – it might be easy to overlook the Neo Gothic Cathedral residing in the old town in Barcelona. It is also a must see attraction, with free entry! I adored the architectural design of the outside and of the interior.

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Here lies the tomb of Saint Eulalia, who was a young girl martyred in the Roman times for her religious beliefs. She was forced to parade around naked, and was tortured. Her tomb depicts her martyrdom. There are also a few legends surrounding the young girl, including that a dove flew from her neck once she was decapitated.

The cathedral is also famous for being the ‘Church of 13 swans’. which can be found in the courtyard of the cathedral. Only they are geese. Just fyi. Also in the courtyard was a nativity scene you could walk around – I love Christmas!

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Afterwards we headed to the nearby Basilica of Santa Maria, as it was high on a “Things to See” list. Another beautiful church worth dedicating time for visiting! We also passed a market en route selling lots of beautiful items. Sadly too expensive for my purse!

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Casually taking a nap…

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Feliz Navidad!

Taking a little break from my Barcelona series! Although it is Christmas Eve and I am currently in England at my dad’s house soaking up all British Christmassy things, it has been a true joy to experience the build up to Christmas Spanish style. Especially as working in schools, I can compare how Christmas is for British and Spanish kids. The two countries have very different traditions: whilst in Britain we have Santa Claus, in Spain they have the Three Wise Men; we open presents on Christmas Day, they open either on Christmas Eve or on the Epiphany; we also eat our Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, whereas they eat on the night of Christmas Eve!

 

One thing that doesn’t change, is that cities light up with the Christmas spirit!

 

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So Feliz Navidad/Merry Christmas! I hope you’re all surrounded with loved ones, and that you’re looking forward to 2016!

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

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On Fridays and Saturday evenings, outside the National Art Gallery the fountain provides a show of colour and song every half an hour. Many people gather to watch the spectacle, and I had good fun trying to get some magical shots on my camera!

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I think the first and last are my favourite!

Palau de la Música Catalana

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This beautiful music hall is lesser known than the architectural works of Gaudi, but was one of my favourite things I saw on my trip! Designed by  Lluís Domènech i Montaner in the famous Catalan modernism style, it was commissioned by the Orfeo Catala choir, who hold importance in Catalan culture for their music. Nowadays the music hall, which is situated on a tiny street, is a World Heritage Site and tours are available in may languages for under 20 euros.

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Our tour included being able to step out onto this balcony – a recent addition to the tour. I can only dream of living in such close proximity to the music hall – imagine having beautiful music filling up your days and evenings for free!

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The stage of course was beyond impressive and beautiful. The entire building is Art Nouveau, which takes inspiration from all artistic styles and leaves not an inch of space bland.

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I fell in love with the glass ceiling design that helped the building be filled with natural light within such a compact space.

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Muses of music to help inspire the many performers who have graced the stage.

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I arrived in Barcelona having never heard of this place – now I am desperate to return to hear a concert performed here! An experience I have no doubt will be like no other.

La Boqueria Market

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A famous street in Barcelona is La Rambla- full of shops, tourists and pickpockets. However to the side of it is also La Boqueria market: a food market that sells delicious, quality goods (for a hefty price!). Despite the crowds it is definitely worth navigating your way around, even if it is just to look at what amazing products each stall has on display.

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Christmas treats that look far too cute to eat!

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The little lobster guy was still alive…

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I love seeing fresh fish and seafood displays, as it’s not common in the UK. However they also tend to gross me out a little. Wonder why…

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Many flavours of juice to choose from. I had a blackberry and coconut milk smoothie. It was delicious: tangy and creamy. I feel like coconut milk smoothies could easily become a new fad, and I fully support this.

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So if like me you love looking at, admiring, and occasionally eating food- La Boqueria will not disappoint!

Casa Batllo

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There are a handful of houses in Barcelona designed by Gaudi, and Casa Batllo looked like one of the most interesting and prettiest to visit on limited time and funds. It’s located on Passage de Gracia – a shopping street full of designer shops such as Chanel and YSL. When this house was built it was a very fashionable street for people to live on, and the family who owned this house certainly wanted one to show off their wealth!

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With the 21.50 (!!) euro ticket comes this interesting audio guide – complete with animations to bring the casa to life.

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Even just at the entrance it felt like I had stepped into a surreal, Alice in Wonderlandesque world!

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The lighting in each room was one of a kind and beautiful in their own ways.

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The outside patio was patterned beautifully with mosaic pieces, and frankly a great place for a BBQ.

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Gaudi clearly planned every detail – from the curves of the walls to the use of colour. It seems hard to believe this was a family home – it very much had Gaudi’s soul invested into it!

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Outside on the terrace roof came with amazing views and even more fascinating details thought up by Gaudi.

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Truly, Barcelona is filled with unique gems! Coming up next I step away from the works of Gaudi to explore more of what Barcelona has to offer!

Parc Guell

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Another famous Gaudi installation in Barcelona is Parc Guell found in the north of the city. It’s a tiring trek from the metro station to reach the park, something I couldn’t imagine surviving in the hot summer, but oh so worth it.

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The park is like a maze – we may have gotten a bit lost once or twice. But it’s great fun to wander around and examine all the different pieces that give the park its uniqueness.

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From the top of the park are fabulous views of the city, the weather when we were there was quite misty, but that did not take away the beauty.

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Oh hey there…

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We arrived just as sunset was about to begin – not recommended for the greatest of views but certainly not terrible to see!

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Another bonus of our late arrival was that entrance into the main part. which now includes a fee, becomes free after sunset! Hooray for saving money!

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I was very excited to hear there was a dragon…turns out it’s a lizard… still a beautiful piece.

 

So Parc Guell: definitely on my list of favourite parks in the world!

La Sagrada Familia

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So first up in my mini Barcelona series is the world famous La Sagrada Familia, a magnificent basilica designed by the renowned Antoni Gaudi. Its status as one of the most famous landmarks in the world is partly due to its incomplete state – current estimated year of completion is between 2026-32, and construction began in 1882.

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Although it is basically a massive construction site, it is still an impressive and majestic site to behold. As you get closer to the building, you can notice more and more of the intricate detailing that makes Gaudi’s work so recognisable and unique.

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Entrance into the basilica is about 15 euros without a tour or audio guide (not really worth paying extra for either in my opinion). It’s best to book online, as in the high tourist seasons the ticket queues can be insanely long! But it is worth visiting the inside, which is just as beautiful as the outside. Plus you contribute to the construction fund, and it’s about time they finished it!

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Inside (and the outside really) is different to any other basilica or cathedral I have visited. Of course it is a lot more modern, and while I am a huge fan of baroque and gothic design, the modernism of La Sagrada made it light and airy – still possessing the serenity only found in places of worship. The colourful stained glass windows were constantly catching my eye!

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For around 5 euros extra you can also choose a time slot to go up one of the towers – either the Passion tower or the Navidad tower. We went up the Navidad tower, as tis the season after all. There’s not much to do, you go up one tower, walk across the other and back down again. But it boasts spectacular views of the city and you can get even closer to the genius mind of Gaudi. Not bad for a fiver!

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An iconic piece of work that as long as you don’t mind huge crowds is definitely worth dedicating time to in Barcelona!