Tag Archives: Travel

Spain, Barcelona – Aquarium Barcelona

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The afternoon of the second day of our trip we walked down to the Aquarium Barcelona in the Port Vell harbor. We have visited a few aquariums in our travels (Seattle, Chicago, Corpus Christi) over the years.

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We had seen it listed before our trip, but it was actually recommended as a place to see by the driver we had from the airport.

It was one of the best we have visited. In particular we liked the ‘tunnel’ shown above where you could walk through the midst of their large (118 feet in diameter, 980,000 gallon) tank.

This won’t be on everyone’s list of sites to see when visiting Barcelona, but if you like aquariums, you will enjoy it.


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Spain, Barcelona -Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

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The first thing we did on the second day of our trip while in Barcelona was to visit the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. The Basilica was designed by Spaniard Antoni Gaudi and has been under construction since 1882. Completion of the immense structure is not expected until 2026. My wife first visited in 2009 and could see many changes since then.

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The exterior of the church is covered in intricate carvings that tell many different stories. The church was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI on November 7, 2010.

The interior follow the themes set outside. The columns are shaped like trees with ‘branches’ at the top to support the ceiling.

We toured through the Basilica, then ascended one of the towers. There was a good view of the city. The trip up was easy in an elevator, but down was via about 400 steps. Afterwards we went through the museum under the Basilica, which was well worth the time.

Whether or not you are Catholic, you will find the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia worth your  visit. There is a fee  (15-29 Euros) to tour the Basilica.

 

Spain, Barcelona -Enrique Tomas Smoked Ham Bar

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2016 cruise – The last thing we did on the first day of our trip in Barcelona was find a place to have dinner. We came upon an Enrique Tomas Smoked Ham Bar that was very near our hotel. We were not at all familiar with it then, but investigating it as I prepared to write this article, I found that it is a popular and large chain throughout Spain.

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Sadly, I did not get a picture of the restaurant, but it was similar to the one above.

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We started out with an appetizer tray of cheeses. I tried a local (and very good beer) Estrella Damm.  This was an excellent start to our dinner.

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Our main course was a very tasty Tapas. Needless to say after our long day of travel, we ate every bite!

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There were also displays of various kinds of meats available. Several legs of meat were out and you could pick one to select your purchase from. A very different kind of store to American eyes, but one I would go back to in a heart beat.

If you are in Spain, or elsewhere, and you see one of these shops, I encourage you to give it a try. The food was excellent. I finished up the day with 8,192 steps according to my Apple Watch.


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Review of the Go Travel Worldwide Adapter

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Product Review – As I mentioned in my “checklist”  article, on my most recent trip, I forgot to take along a power adapter. After finding that our hotel was only wired for European power, my wife and I set out to find one for the remainder of our trip.

We were lucky to come across the Go Travel Worldwide Adapter, costing about $25 US. I have some other power adapters somewhere at home, but this is the first I have seen that is multiple adapters in one device.

We bought this and used it throughout our trip. It easily worked with my electric razor as well as our multi-port USB charger. Between using this adapter and the charger, we were able to keep our iPhones, Apple Watches and iPads charged throughout the trip.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Compact
  • Works with power in over 150 countries

 

Cons

  • Selected plug gives way sometimes when trying to plug the adapter in
  • Only one 120VAC outlet
  • No USB charging ports

 

I would strongly suggest buying your power adapter before you leave on your trip instead of searching for it after you arrive at your destination like we did. This adapter can be ordered through the Go Travel Products website.

Spain, Barcelona, Hotel Redding Croma

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2016 cruise – The first night of our recent trip was spend in Barcelona, Spain. My wife had booked us at the Hotel Redding Croma located at C/Gravina, 5-7 08001 Barcelona. This is a boutique hotel in the center of Barcelona. The hotel had a small, but very pleasing breakfast room that we took advantage of each morning. It offered free Wi-Fi which worked well for us during our stay.

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One of the reasons that we chose this hotel was the proximity to the subway. Within a block was an entrance and we used it to explore Barcelona during our brief stay. It is also near Las Ramblas, a tree lined pedestrian mall that runs from near the hotel south (just over a kilometer) to the port. There are many restaurants and shops along Las Ramblas.

The room was on the fifth floor and was small, but served us well as we spent most of our time seeing the sights. There was a small, slow elevator, though I did take the stairs a couple of times. While we were not there long enough to take advantage, our room had a nice little private patio. The only problem we had, and this was minor, was that the central air conditioning had already been turned off for the season. We were able to open the window onto our patio and this cooled the room well enough. The front desk staff spoke English and were very helpful.

If I stay in Barcelona again, I will certainly consider the Hotel Redding.


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macOS, iOS Tip – Use Notes for Travel Checklist

I do not travel often since I am now retired. When I do, I have always worried that I forgot something, and sometimes that proves to be the case.

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In an effort to solve this, I have been using Apple’s Notes App for the last year to develop a checklist for when I travel. I use the recently added ‘Checklist’ feature of Notes so that things can be checked off as I handle them. To make something a ‘Checklist’ within Notes, highlight the items, then hit the keys Shift-Command-L. A click in the ‘circle’ will change it to a checked off item.

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I like using Notes as the list is available for updating on my Mac, my iPad or my iPhone. With the new document sharing feature of Notes, I can also share the checklist with my wife.

Our recent travel abroad found my list incomplete as I had not traveled with it internationally (I had forgotten to add a power adapter). Fortunately it was an easy thing to make updates to the Note on my iPad while on the trip.

I have shared an image of my checklist (above) to give you an idea, but each of us has our own requirements. If you travel, creating a checklist like this will save you time and frustration.  But don’t wait until you are ready to travel to make out your list. Start now, then review when you are about to travel.


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iOS App Review -Ulmon Maps

Product Review – My wife and I just returned from a Mediterranean cruise. One of the Apps, or I should say a collection of Apps, we used were the travel guides from Ulmon. These are all free, provide a searchable database of locations, can be used off-line, and allow you to drop tags for those locations that you want to visit.

Off-line operation was important to me as I did not have a SIM to enable network access. I was able to turn off Cellular Data and put my iPhone into ‘Airplane Mode’ to avoid charges while still navigating through the cities we visited using the Ulmon App.

The maps I used were: Barcelona, Spain; French Rivera (for Marseille and Cannes, France); Florence, Italy; Rome, Italy;  and Venice, Italy. These were really helpful as we made our way around these cities.

We did find that some of the locations we had selected to visit – coffee shop and book stores – were no longer at the location reported in the App, but for the most part they were accurate.


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Netherlands, Amsterdam, Cafe Chocolat (Schiphol Airport)

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2016 cruise – In route from Houston to Barcelona to meet up with our cruise ship we passed through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. We discovered the Cafe Chocolat there two years ago. It was every bit as good as we remembered.

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The Cafe lives up to its name as you can see in the photo above. YES those are platters of large chocolate chunks you see in the photo above. Several different kinds of chocolate. But they have several other goodies to help pass your time.

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I have had coffee, hot chocolate and one of their little chocolate cakes and it was all enjoyable. If you are passing through Schiphol Airport and have the time, drop by Lounge 1 and satisfy your chocolate cravings. You will not be disappointed!


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Just Returned From a Cruise

2016 cruise – As I mentioned yesterday, I have been traveling most of the past three weeks. We were in Houston a couple of days with a grand daughter for a dance competition, then we headed to Europe for an 11-day cruise of the Mediterranean.

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We flew into Amsterdam, then on to Barcelona. Lots of sitting and flying. We had a couple of days free in Barcelona before we boarded our cruise ship, the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Spirit. The Spirit is one of their older ships holding only 2,000 or so passengers. We left Barcelona, Spain and sailed to Provence (Marseille), France – we ended up taking the train to Aix-en-Provence for the day. The next day we sailed on to Cannes, France. From there we sailed to Florence/Pisa (Livorno) (Italy). The next day we sailed on to Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy. Following Rome we sailed to Naples, Italy, though we chose to spend our time ashore in Pompeii. We had a day at sea then. We needed it as we had walked more than 10,000 steps each of the previous days exploring the sights. We next arrived at the Greek islands of Santorini, then on to Athens, Greece. We had another day at sea, then arrived at Zadar, Croatia. Finally we ended our cruise in Venice, Italy.

We were surprised at how pleasant the weather was for much of the cruise. We ran into a little rain while in Zadar, and it was on the cool side (in the 40’s) in Venice. Ship was smaller than the others I have been on (this was my third cruise with NCL) and was starting to show its age. Beyond the regular dining options, we particularly like Cagney’s steak house and the Le Bistro French restaurants. I spent a little time in the on-board library which is small, but adequate. They even have the equivalent of a “Little Free Library” where ship guests could leave a book and pick up a new one.

I will share more on details in each city over the next few weeks.


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Glad to be Back to My Own Brewed Coffee!!

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Well, I have been traveling for most of the last three weeks. I found it very satisfying to get back to ‘my’ coffee mug and coffee brewed ‘my way’ this morning. I did like ‘Coffee Americano’ but my own home brew is better. Certainly I get a lot more of it in my cup and I can drink mine without adding cream or sugar!

Lots more on my travels in coming posts.