A COMPLETE GUIDE TO SPENDING 36 HOURS IN BARCELONA <> BARCELONA , SPAIN

My time in this city was too short and I cannot wait for an opportunity to do over. I spent about forty hours in the city and was able to cover a lot of ground. If you have ever visited Barcelona then you know how incredible the city is and how the experience tends to stay with you long after. Everyone has something about the city that grabbed their wanderlust hearts; for me, it was the architecture. I am a sucker for design and great architecture and getting to stroll the same streets that the great Gaudi walked and seeing the buildings he designed was the proverbial cherry on top of an incredible time in Barcelona. Because my time in the city was short - I opted to sign up for a tour Company which in hindsight was the best decision. The tour company did an incredible job and my tour guide was a wealth of knowledge. If you are interested, here is a link to their website. I signed up for the tour which included Barcelona and Montserrat.  

My plan was to be checked in to my hotel by 12 p.m. but between flight delays and a mix up with my reservation, I did not check in to the hotel till almost 3 p.m. My tour was booked for the next day but I still wanted to explore on my own. I started with a walk around La Ramblas and the La Boqueria market. 

1. See La Sagrada de Familia. This is probably on every Barcelona list you will come across and there is a reason for it. This masterpiece is breathtaking and adds to that the incredible history associated with this building and there is no way you should pass this up.

2. Visit Park Guell. Another Gaudi masterpiece

Explore La Ramblas

Visit the Museum de Catalonia

Eat Tapas

Visit La Bouqueria Market

Casa Battlo

Visit Camp Nou

Tibidabo Mountain

Park De Montjuic

Take a day trip to one of these locations.

 

36 HOURS IN SAN FRANSICO CITY GUIDE <> SAN FRANSICO , U.S.A

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We had mixed feelings about our time in San Fransico. Maybe because we had San Fransico on the bucket list for so long and had built it up so much in our heads that thirty-six hours was not sufficient to do it justice; or if it was because it was the fifth stop on our seven day road trip along highway one and we were tired. Somehow our time in San Fransico felt like it needed a redo. That is why it has taken so long to get a post up about our time in San Fransico. While doing some digital cleaning, I went through pictures of our time in San Fran and in hindsight we had a pretty great time. We did not do all the things, but we stopped by the major sights and had a great time exploring.   Here goes - our thirty-six hours guide to San Fransico.

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WHEN TO VISIT. San Fransico is perfect for any time of year. We visited in early November and although the mornings were a bit cold; the weather most of the time was perfect. I will recommend avoiding the peak travel periods. San Fransico is a very expensive city and if you can save money by visiting off-peak then I will recommend doing that.

WHERE TO STAY. Because hotel rates are quite steep and we had a rental car (which cost an average of $45 to park per day at most hotels in the city). We opted to stay outside of San Fransico. We chose an inn in Daly city. It was not a five-star hotel but any means but it was clean; we felt safe and since we just needed a place to crash, it worked fine for us. As an added bonus, they had free parking and wi-fi. 

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GETTING AROUND. On our first night there, we took the train from Daly City into the city - it worked fine but we found the uber/uber pool was a better option for us and used that on Day two getting into the city and getting around San Fransico. Driving into the city was not an option - parking is scarce and if you do find parking, it is quite expensive.

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DAY 1 - GOLDEN GATE PARK; BAKER BEACH AND DINNER

By the time we checked into our hotel, it was almost 4 p.m. and we were tired but with a short stay in San Fransico, there was no time to rest.  We had to check things off our itinerary. We decided to head to Baker beach to watch the sunset over the golden gate bridge. We took the train into town and hopped an uber from Montgomery station. It was rush hour by now and after almost half-hour of stand-still traffic - we decided to walk to the sites starting with golden gate park.

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6 p.m. If your schedule will permit, I will recommend a half day exploring the golden gate park - there is quite a lot to explore - historical sites; botanical gardens; Japanese tea gardens and museums - we did not have the time to see it all. We caught the highlights as we hurriedly tried to catch the sunset at Baker Beach. Unfortunately, we arrived as the sun was going down and only caught a glimpse. The downside of traveling in November is the unpredictability of the tides. By the time we got to Baker beach, the tides were getting quite high - we got a few pictures and left.

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8:45 p.m. Before heading back to Daly City, we stopped for dinner at Little Skillet - a soul / southern restaurant that we stumbled on and it was the most beautiful stumble. We ordered the chicken and waffles and the bbq pork sandwich with slaw. I am not a fan of slaw but this slaw at Little skillet was delicious. After dinner, we joined an uber pool back to Daly City for an early(ish) night.

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DAY  2 - GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE; PALACE OF FINE ARTS; FISHERMAN'S WHARF; PIER 39; LOMBARD STREET; PAINTED LADIES AND GHIRADELLI SQUARE

Day two was packed, it was our only full day in the city and we wanted to make the most of it. We started off the day about 7:30 using an uber pool to get into the city.

8:30 a.m. We started off the day at the Golden Gate bridge. We wanted the iconic view of the bridge and thought Marshall beach was the best option to get the view. Unfortunately, with the rising tides that was not an option. Just before giving up on the view, we found the signs leading to the Fort Point which gave us the view we wanted. We were very happy. You will also find incredible views of the Golden gate bridge from Baker beach ; Lands end and the Golden gate overlook.

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10 a.m. GIven the day we had planned, nourishment was essential. We decided to give Rose's cafe on Union street a try. We ordered the french toast bread pudding with strawberries and whipped cream and the grilled tarragon sausage with poached eggs, polenta and tomato sauce. Breakfast was excellent.

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11:15 a.m. After breakfast, we visited the Palace of fine arts - a stunning architecture structure in the Marina district. The structure was designed to look like a Roman ruin with a small lake around it. It was absolutely stunning to explore. I am told it is even more spectacular at night.  

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12:30 p.m. The painted ladies. Can we really say we were in San Fransico if we did not stop by the painted ladies on Steiner St & Hayes St ?  Unfortunately, construction was working against us during our visit - one of the homes had construction equipment blocking part of the exterior and the pack across the houses which gives the best vantage point for pictures was closed off for constuction.  We had to get up close which is great for viewing but not so much for the photographs. No matter, it was still a highlight to see the buildings.

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1:30 p.m. The fisherman's wharf and pier 39 was next on the itinerary. We mainly walked around the shopping center - it has got an array of shops and restaurants. Mainly, we wanted to see the sea lion, so after a bit of time wandering, we made our way to the sea lion center and watched the sea lions for about half hour. before we stopped by Ghirardelli square.

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3:00 p.m. At this point, the weight of our road trip itinerary was getting to us and we were running low on motivation. Perfect time to stop by Lombard Street. Lombard street is the east (embarcadero) - west (presidio boulevard) street in San Fransico famous for its steep eight hairpin turns. It was such a beautiful sight and this is one of those spots that pictures don't do justice. Cars were driving down the one block stretch - I will advice you walk down (or up) the street if you can. The beauty of it is lost viewing it from inside a car. There is also an incredible view of the city from the base of Lombard street.

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4:00 p.m. Time to head to Chinatown for lunch and more sightseeing. We had lunch at a dim sum spot. Unfortunately, I dont remember the name but Hang Ah dim sum teahouse has come highly recommended since our visit. After our late lunch, we wandered around Chinatown in search of street art. They have got some pretty amazing street art. Then we made our way to the fortune cookie factory to see how those are made and pick up a few bags to take back home.

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We called it a day at about 6:30 - we had a 9 hour drive from San Fransico to San Diego the next day and needed to be well rested for that trip.

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THE NICE CITY GUIDE <> NICE, FRANCE

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Finally! The Nice City guide. Nice (and the French Riviera) remains favorite vacation to date and I cannot stop recommending it to friends and family. Nice is perfectly situated and if you plan your travels well then you get to experience not just the incredible city of Nice but also part of the French Riviera. If you can, I will recommend visiting over a long weekend and if you can spare more - spending up to a week in this part of the world is worth it.

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GETTING THERE. If you are flying from London, British Airways and Easy Jet have flights from London Gatwick. Flights are usually quite affordable. If you are coming from North America or another part of the world; you may have a stopover in London or Paris but it is still fairly easy trip. I lived in America when I visited so I flew into London for a few days before proceeding to Nice.

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FROM THE AIRPORT. When you arrive at Nice, you have a few options to get into the city. Uber and Taxis are available. You can also take the local bus or the airport express. The Local bust will cost you about 1.50 Euro and one way trip on express will cost you about 6 euros.  I chose the express because you can catch the buses at the terminal and it has fewer stops than the local bus. If you choose the local bus route, then look out for signs for Bus 98. 

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WHERE TO STAY. I stayed in a part of town called Quartier des Musiciens. I chose this part of town because of the proximity to the promenade de angles and it is within walking distance to Old Nice. I will not consider this city center but I did not have to commute more than 20 mins either by bus or on foot to get places so it worked for me. I stayed at Hotel Villa Rivoli which I found via booking.com. It is on a semi-quiet street and the proximity to the Ocean sold me on this place. The hotel is located right behind the famous Negresco. After my visit, I found this review of the property on The Telegraph and I tend to agree with their review. The review does ding the hotel for the lacking restaurant on site but there are so many options around the hotel that I did not find that to be an issue for me. 

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WHERE TO EAT. While compiling this post, I realized most of my favorite spots were in Old Nice. That part of town has got some incredible food options and you can't really go wrong having all your meals here. Two things that were highly recommended to me - Socca and Moule Frites (Mussels and Fries). My favorite Socca was from Chez Theresa in Cours Saleya market. Her stand is open as long as the market is open (usually till about 1 p.m.). If you miss it - she has a restaurant in Old town that is open later. For the best moule frites, Lou Pilha Leva was highly recommended and I was not disappointed. The saffron sauce was yummy. I ate several meals at Emilie cookies - awesome bagels and pastries. For dessert, I always headed to J. Multari - there are a few locations around town. Other food options: Cafe Marche (lunch only) ; Al Taglio (Pizza) ; Nuef-50 (Italian); and La Rossettisserie.   

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Emilie's Cookies

WHERE TO EXPLORE. I could write an entire post on this and I may at some point because the options of things to do in Nice are endless. My favorite thing to do was a quick day trip to other towns in the Riviera. I only made it to four but there are about twenty different day trip options from Nice. My favorite parts of the city were the Old town; Promenade de Anglais and Cimiez hill.

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My Nice morning routine was a stroll along the promenade past monument aux morts; castle hill and port lympia to get to Cours Saleya in Old town. I loved spending time at old town eating socca and exploring the narrow cobblestoned roads of the old town. On one of my wanderings, I stumbled on Lascaris Palace - this hidden gem may not pop up on a lot of Nice itineraries but it was one of my favorite parts of my trip. This post has a guide to everything to see and do in old town. Just on the edge of old town is the oldest square in Nice - place Garibaldi; it is also one of the busiest squares with shopping and eating options and is found right on the edge of old town so it is very accessible. 

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Cours Salera
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Lascaris Palace
Lascaris Palace

I was on the Promenade de Anglais daily and could have spent my entire holiday on the promenade.  One of my favorite spots on the promenade was Palais Massena. I walked past Palais Massena on my to the hotel on my first day in the city and made a note to visit before the end of my trip. The palace/museum hybrid was an afternoon well spent and a recommendation for your Nice itinerary.  For the best view of Nice, head to Castle Hill. It is about 200 step hike but the waterfall and views of the city make the hike worth it.  You can access the hill from Old town Nice place Garibaldi or from the promenade. 

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Palais Massena
Palais Massena
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Castle Hill
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Cimiez Hill - My favorite parts were the Musee Matisse; the Roman archaeological site and Franciscan monastery - don't miss the church or the Monastery garden. Before leaving Cimiez hill, stop by The Regina hotel famous for being the "home" of Queen Victoria for part of the 19th century. The garden is spectacular.

Cimiez Hill
Cimiez Hill
Franciscan monastery
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Franciscan monastery

Other favorites - Russian orthodox cathedral; Notre Dame; Musee Renoir; and Marc Chargil museum.

DAY TRIPS. Because Nice is centrally located in the french riviera - a trip to Nice is the perfect opportunity to explore other parts of the Riviera. During our time in Nice - we visited Monaco; Eze; Antibes and Ville Franche Sur Mer. With better planning, we could have fit other stops into our itinerary. Some other options for day trips I looked into - Cannes; St. Tropez; Menton; Cap Ferrat; St. Paul de Vence. All of these locations are with a two-hour bus ride from Nice. Some are under thirty minutes from the city center.

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The best of nice blog was very helpful while planning my trip - check it out here for all things Nice.

WASHINGTON D.C. CITY GUIDE - WHERE TO STAY; EXPLORE AND EAT IN THE US CAPITAL CITY

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Now that I live in London, I have to say one of the things I miss about living in the states is my annual trip to Washington D.C. It was the unofficial start of summer (and travel season) for me and going to D.C. always felt like a well-earned treat after months of never-ending deadlines and long work hours. For the first time in almost eight years, I am missing my annual pilgrimage to the capital of the nation. I am making up for it with my idea of the perfect three-day itinerary for Washington D.C. - Should you find yourself in need of a summer getaway - it does not get better than D.C. There is always something new to see and explore, and old favorites continue to raise the bar. If you have spent any time in the city, I will like to read about your favorite things to do in comments. 

The Lincoln memorial

Getting around. The Capital has a metro system which I have not ventured to use but I hear is fairly reliable.  I rely on cabs and ubers to get around, and when possible, a comfortable pair of shoes. Several areas around the Capital and Georgetown is walkable. If you can, taking walks around a neighborhood, like Georgetown or the area around the national mall is the best way to explore. 

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Where to stay. Over the years, these have been my favorite hotels. Some are cheaper than others, but they all provide excellent service and make for a great home away from home - Kimpton Rouge hotel; Intercontinental and the Hyatt Regency. I always use a discount booking site like Hotels.com or booking.com or apps like Hotel Tonight to make reservations. The rates tend to be more discounted than booking directly with the hotel.

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Where to Explore. My favorite areas to explore are Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Treat yourself by going off the major streets and have a wander through the residential streets for beautiful 19th-century-row houses. Both neighborhoods offer the best combination of attractions - shopping; food and entertainment. Besides Georgetown and Dupont circle, the stroll along the National Mall is a personal favorite. This stroll can take up several hours if you decide to visit the museums on the National Mall.  

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What to see. There is quite a bit on to explore in the Capital, and a weekend in the Capital is not enough.  Obviously, there is the usual suspect (which I recommend for a first-time visit) -  the White House; Steps of Congress; the Supreme Court building; the Monuments. Add on the National Mall and all the museums and you have a full weekend itinerary. There are a lot of museums in D.C. I counted about fifteen on the national mall on one visit. I  recommend making a list of three of four must-see museums instead of trying to fit in all into one visit. My personal favorites are the sculpture garden; National Museum of African American historyNational Museum of American History; the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. A short walk off from the National Mall is the Newseum, one of my favorite museums in the Capital (and anywhere in the world). 

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air and space museum

The monuments. Conveniently, the monuments are located in the same area which makes it easy to visit all of them on the same day. The Roosevelt Island, the MLK Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial are a bit off from the other monuments, but still within walking distance. If you are short on time, I recommend, the MLK Memorial; Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool, and WW II memorial. 

MLK Monument
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Lincoln memorial
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Newseum
Newseum

Georgetown and other recommendations. I love everything about Georgetown.  I spend my time in D.C. wandering the streets in Georgetown and dreaming about living in one its pastel-colored row houses. The best way to explore Georgetown is to have a walk around. I also recommend Dupont Circle; National Zoological Park; the Washington Cathedral especially if you make it in early spring - the cherry blossoms framing the facade of the cathedral is a bucket list item. Of course, the cherry blossoms in Spring is a must.  If you have more time to spare then visit China town; Dumbarton Estate in Georgetown; the U.S. Botanical Gardens and the Museum of African American history.

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Where to eat. Georgetown has a lot of great (must visit) eateries on offer. I have written a post about my favorite places to eat in Georgetown here Some all-time favorites in Georgetown are Baked & Wired which has the best cupcakes I have ever had - the Vanilla Satin is a personal favorite); You will find incredible Italian food (and desserts) at Filomena's (call ahead for reservations); Dolcessa gelato has one of my favorite gelato menus - the lavender thyme gelato is seriously the best. Ever ! and the burgers and milkshake at Good Stuff eatery ended my aversion to burgers and the toasted marshmallow milkshake deserves a special mention.  I also recommend the famous Georgetown bakery. Away from Georgetown, there is also Ben's Chilli (Cash only, so be prepared); Nando's - this South African chicken import is is great on the wallet and an appetite pleaser; The Diner serves up upscale diner brunch that you won't be able to stop talking about long after your visit.  Old Ebbitt Grill - this restaurant is just as historic as the capital. It opened in 1856 and serves the best crab cakes. Make sure to call ahead to limit your wait time. A few other favorites include Tryst coffee (next door to The Diner) and Compass coffee; Larry's Ice cream; Paul's bakery; and Momofuku milk bar.

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Ben's chilli
Good stuff eatery
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THE BEST VIEW IN SEVILLE AND WHY THE SEVILLE CATHEDRAL SHOULD BE ON YOUR BUCKETLIST

Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral

I did not intend to dedicate an entire post to our time at the Cathedral, but as I edited the photos for the city guide to Seville post, I knew I had to give our time at the Cathedral its own spot in this corner of the internet. The Cathedral is just a few feet from the Royal Alcazar, right in the city center; and it towers over the entire city.

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Seville Cathedral

 If you have seen other European cathedrals then you might think you know what to expect here but I can assure you - the cathedrals in the South of Spain are nothing like you have ever seen and the Seville Cathedral is in a class all by itself. In part, for its size and gorgeous exteriors but also for the seemingly over the top gold interiors and with a massive gold back drop at one end of the interior that will leave you in awe.

Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
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Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral

As breathtaking as those are, it is the tower atatched to the Cathedral that made this one of our favorite parts of Seville. I cannot believe we debated skipping on climbing the tower. The trek up is not the worse one my out of shape self has ever done, but I will advise taking a bottle of water with you and pacing yourself - you will be rewarded for your effort. Even before we made it to the viewing platform - we knew we had made the right decision to climb the bell tower. On the trek up, we caught glimpses of what awaited us at the top and that was motivation to push on; we arrived at the bells first and then the colorful rooftops appeared before us. We were left speechless. We just looked at it each other and laughed loudly that we almost missed this. Then,  I proceeded to take over 250 pictures from every angle possible.

Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
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Seville Cathedral

We were surrounded by people but it still felt incredibly peaceful up there viewing the city below. We had spent the morning at the Royal Alcazar and thought there was nothing else in Seville to top out time there - who knew. There was nothing else on the calendar so we were not rushed to escape the beautiful before us. My growling stomach was however not on board and we regrefully had to pull ourselves away to get nourishment. We followed the crowds out through the cathedral lawn which was equally beautiful. We exited through the gates from the lawn and rows of orange trees to join the rest of the tourist crowd exploring the city center.

Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral