Barcelona with Nabeeda

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I just got back from my first visit to Barcelona! I went with a hand luggage filled with excitement and a diary filled with plans. The city of wonders was at my feet and I was ready to go.

Upon arrival, I remember quickly leaving my stuff at my hostel and being ready to explore the city. I started the day with a walking tour of the Gothic City area. I am glad I went on the tour because I managed to make friends (surprises me too).

After the tour, I went to grab some lunch from the main market in Barcelona (La Boqueria). The market was amazing; my food choice was terrible.

After sneaking in a quick nap and charging my phone (the struggle of team iPhone), I left to tour the city on foot with my new friend. We visited the following locations:

  1. Barcelona Cathedral: entrance was free after 5PM so it was worth a visit as we did a quick tour and lit some candles.
  2. Parc de la Ciutadella: This park was amazing and some of the funniest things happened to us here; a strange man came up to me and my friend and said ‘Barcelona is so beautiful but dirty’ and then he cleaned the floor in front of us with a cloth and said have a good day and walked off. Didn’t ask for money or anything. So, for a laugh and to see a mixed range of people, this park is a must do.
  3. Las Ramblas: the main street and the busiest one as we walked along with beautiful sights all around us. It was amazing to see how engrossed people were in their worlds. Each living their own story and life.

Exploration continued late into the night but we did not find many remarkable sights. We just immersed ourselves into the Spanish culture rather than just being a tourist. You always learn more when you let the traveller/tourist label go. The next day was even more exciting as I started the day off alone with a quick breakfast and a bit of getting lost.

  1. Park Guell: A stop I am glad I made as I saw some of Antoni Gaudi’s work and some beautiful sights surrounding it.

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  1. Bunker del Carmel: This was on my list forever as I had seen many people post breathtakingly amazing pictures of this place. Due to my struggle with maps and directions, I ended up getting lost for an hour! One bus and a taxi ride later, I managed to get to this place. Trust me, the view left me speechless. It was one of those moments that made me realize what a little part of this big world I am.
  2. Barcelona Castellenos: This was an interesting stop. Not many people know but in Barcelona they have a competition where people create people towers to beat the world record. I managed to get to the place where they were having a practice run and it was amazing to see how high they managed to get. I was slightly worrying for the little girl on top.
  3. La Sagrada Familia: now this is a well-known sight and the one I was really looking forward to. I went with one of my friends and it was as beautiful as they say. Tip: book your ticket in advance because otherwise you will never get a chance to go in. I learnt from my mistake and unfortunately I couldn’t go in but the outside was enough to leave my mouth wide open.

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  1. Last and final stop; which was the reason I went to Barcelona was the Ed Sheeran concert. All I can say is one of the best nights of my life.

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Over 72 hours with 5 hours of sleep, I had an amazing experience of Barcelona. I missed some things but I will definitely be going again because Barcelona makes you fall in love and you can’t get enough.

 

To follow my journey and trips, follow my blog at https://worldofnabeeda.com.

Travels with Carlie – 5 Places to Visit in Latvia

It was 2015 and I had never been to Europe. My international travel experiences to that point included a cruise to the Caribbean, Jamaica, a cruise of the Panama Canal, Canada and a cruise to Bermuda. You may be thinking – “That’s a lot of cruises!”. To which I respond- “Get Out”. I don’t need that kind of negative thinking in my life. But in all honesty, yes, I was ready to take a break from cruises, despite how fantastic I think they are, and venture to somewhere a little more east and not on a continent that ends in America. Europe here I come!

Europe. I know what you’re thinking. London! Paris! Venice! There are endless options of cities and countries to visit in Europe, and I cannot wait to visit them all, but I would not begin my travels at any of these popular tourist destinations. Allow me to enlighten you on the great country of Latvia. Latvi-what? Latvia. This is the country you never knew you have to visit and I will share just five places and things you can do while you are there.

  1. Riga- Riga is the capital of the country and a very beautiful city. There is the old city you can walk around with it’s historic buildings and beautiful architecture. You can venture over to the market and experience all the culture, foods, and….smells (the fish building). I highly recommend taking a free walking tour to learn about the history and culture from a local university student.You will see Freedom Monument, St. Peter’s Church, the National Opera, the list goes on and on. All of this information can be found on Trip Advisor. And before you leave the city, stop by the Radisson Blu Hotel, take the elevator up the the Skyline Bar and enjoy a delicious hot chocolate while you enjoy the gorgeous views unparalleled to anywhere else in the city. 
  2. Liepaja- On the western part of the country is a beach city named Liepaja. Since I was there in the winter, I didn’t get to swim, however it was still beautiful. You can find tons of amber and there is swimming in the warmer months.
  3. Bauskas- Did someone say castles? Get away from the cities and drive south of Riga to Bauska. Here you will find the gorgeous castle Bauskas Castle. And just a short drive away is Rundale Palace. Prepare yourself to wear some nifty plastic booties over your shoes and take a bajillion photos.
  4. Jekabpils- Now let’s venture over to the eastern part of the country to Jekabpils. If you didn’t know, Europeans love spas. Jekabpils has a wonderful little spa with multiple pools, saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs. Prepare to relax and enjoy being in a completely new country that few take the time to travel and experience.
  5. Cesis & Sigulda- These two towns are near each other and you really shouldn’t miss either one. Cesis castle is absolutely amazing. Sigulda also has a beautiful castle, and you can see Turaida castle from the back of Sigulda Castle, so double win! While in Sigulda I also recommend taking the cable car transport over the Gaya river. Even if you just ride it over and then back. The views are breathtaking.

Latvia has been the most memorable trip I have taken. I would argue it was better than any of the cruises I’ve been on, and I looove my cruises. Do yourself a favor and venture over to eastern Europe. You will not be disappointed. And eat at a Lido for me, because if there’s anything better than castles, it’s food.

Carlie writes about travel, weightloss, and military life on her own blog http://www.listfiveblog.com/ Please go read more about her travels and ramblings there!

Iceland: 19 Tips & Tricks

Iceland is so diverse in terms of weather, temperature, and activities that you can’t just pack a basic bag and leave. There is so much thought that goes into planning the perfect Icelandic trip that I wanted to make sure I was spreading the knowledge as best I can. Our trip was amazing and I want to share my tips and tricks with you in hopes I can make your trip just a little bit better!

  1. Stay in a hostel or AirBnb that will allow you access to a full kitchen. Eating in Iceland is incredibly expensive so if you are trying to save money, eating in is one of the best ways you can do it. Shop at Bonus (Icelandic grocery store with the creepy pig) for the best deals. The food is still great quality but you are shopping at a discount. We ended up staying in an AirBnB which was so clean, welcoming, and convenient.
  2. Rent a car. Do not rely on day trips or others to drive you all over the country. Renting a car is easy and you are in charge of everything. Gas is expensive so be mindful of the car you are renting. It cost us about $120 USD to fill our 14 gallon tank. We had a Mazda 6 which was great on gas so in our 5.5 days we were in Iceland, we didn’t spend too much money filling up.IMG_2237 2.jpg
  3. Get out of Reykjavik. Spend a day there but the countryside has so much to offer. You have glaciers, geysers, and mountains everywhere. You have national parks with waterfalls and tectonic plates that you can see.
  4. Plan to wear layers everyday. We would start our days early and end them relatively late. It is chilly in the morning and evenings but would often find ourselves getting a little warmer as the day went on. We did go in May so we had 24 hours of sunlight which was helpful when attempting to get all our activities in but would throw us for a loop with the change of temperatures. The top articles of clothing I brought were my North Face hiking boots, my fleece-lined Columbia leggings, my Columbia fleece jacket, my North Face Tomales Bay rain jacket, and my Columbia waterproof pants. Don’t forget wool socks and thermals, especially if you plan on snorkeling in Silfra.13161875_10153364707452574_9063047029956274330_o.jpg
  5. Bring lotion! The air is incredibly dry in Iceland so make sure you pack a bottle of lotion, you WILL need it. I am not one to use lotion on a regular basis and I used it multiple times a day while traveling.
  6. Bring your own reusable water bottle. The tap water is clean & pure. To buy bottled water is relatively expensive. Just fill up before you leave and fill up at different stops along the way. You will save money and drink some of the purest water ever.
  7. Book your excursions in advance. There were a few times when we were so thankful we planned our days out to ensure we could do everything we wanted. Even Blue Lagoon needs to be booked in advance.
  8. Pack your own snacks. We brought about 50 granola bars with us and had maybe 10 left and the end of the trip. They come in handy often. They do add weight to your bag but the more you eat, the more you have room for souvenirs on your return home!
  9. Take a walking tour of Reykjavik. Yes, the city is small but you learn so much by going on a tour. You learn of places to eat, shop, and go. If residing in Reykjavik for more than a day, knowing your way around the quaint city is going to be helpful.
  10. Bring credit and debit cards only. No cash is needed unless you want to tip (which is not required or requested but appreciated). Make sure you know the PIN for your credit cards as some of places (especially gas stations) require a PIN.
  11. With the amount of international transactions you will be making, I highly encourage you to have a credit card that voids international fees.
  12. Gas stations and stores close relatively early so make sure you get your grocery shopping done and the car filled up with gas.
  13. Fill up on gas whenever you can when venturing out of Reykjavik. You never know when you will see another gas station.
  14. Do your research in regards to the season in which you are traveling to Iceland. It could change your mind in the type of car you rent, the clothes you bring, and even your accommodations. You also don’t want to go to Iceland during midnight sun if you want to see the Northern Lights (cause you won’t see them).
  15. Everyone speaks English but it is nice for you to say thank you in the native language. A simple ‘takk’ will do.
  16. Keep in mind you are on an island where cows are not common and you see sheep and water everywhere. Common Icelandic foods include lamb, fish, and seafood. If you are picky, bring your own food or make sure you have a kitchen to cook what you like to eat. You will be able to find burgers but they aren’t common so they don’t taste as good.13161759_10153361500342574_8371216029416906389_o
  17. Go to Blue Lagoon on your way back to the airport. It ends your trip in a relaxing manner and allows you to leave Iceland feeling refreshed even after a long active trip. I recommend upgrading to the next package they offer as it  will give you a robe, a towel, and flip flops. There are showers with frosted doors for those a little concerned with being naked in front of other women. It is extremely common and there are other Icelandic people there who will be walking around naked. img_9251
  18. Put conditioner in your hair when showering before you enter the lagoon. Do not rinse it out until you shower off after you have spent your time in the Lagoon. Put it up in a bun or ponytail. This will avoid any part of your hair getting super dry and hay-like because the minerals in the water destroy your hair.
  19. Always travel with an extra SD card. I unfortunately learned this while on my trip but my sister happened to have an extra card! I would have missed about 2.5 days worth of pictures!
  20. You don’t have to try Brennivin. It’s pretty awful and makes you feel like your throat might have a hole in it.
  21. Look up from your camera. Take the time to take a picture or two but no matter what you do, the picture will never look like the real deal. Just enjoy it. Take a deep breath and be thankful that you get to experience so beautiful.img_5766

I am sure with each trip to Iceland one would learn something new. How to do something better, what to avoid for future trips. The thing is, all we have is now. Enjoy your trip to Iceland!

10 Things to Do & See in Iceland

Iceland is the most naturally beautiful place I have ever been. You have volcanoes, black sand beaches, fjords, geysers, and glaciers. You have the opportunity to experience the Northern Lights or Midnight Sun. If you are reading this post, I really hope you have already booked or are at least considering a trip to Iceland soon!

One of the biggest discussion around Iceland is how much time you can spend in Iceland and see what you need to see. I spent about 5 days there and that was enough. With those 5 days, I want to share with you the top 10 things to do and see that I recommend based on personal experience.

1. Visit Seljalandfoss Waterfall

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This was my favorite place in Iceland as it is something you would only think is from a fairy tale. The water falls so perfectly and being able to walk behind it makes this waterfall the best one in my opinion (it is actually one of the best rated waterfalls in Iceland). Not to mention it is right off of route one which makes it super convenient.

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The magic does not stop here! Make sure once you are done walking behind the waterfall that you walk ALL the way to the end before returning to your car. There is a hidden waterfall in a cave which you can access by walking through the cave opening and jumping from rock to rock in a stream. You may get a little wet (especially if you miss a rock like I did) so make sure to wear proper footwear for this visit!

2. Visit Vik & surrounding areas

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Vik is cute little town at the southernmost point in the country. It is great location to stop overnight while still being  a part of civilization. I recommend staying somewhere you can cook or already have food prepared because there isn’t much to choose from. We made the mistake of not having anything for breakfast and the food store was not open until 10am.

Just down the road you can visit Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach). The beach has so many sights to offer which is hard to believe considering its not that big. First of all, you have the black sand which is really neat by itself.

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You then have the basalt columns which are so cool! (I know I sound like a complete child right now but it really was awesome).

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In addition to the sand and the columns, you also have the rocks jutting out of the water. I sat there for a minimum of 10 minutes watching the waves crash against them while also watching the birds come and go from the rock formations. Just a quiet and peaceful experience.

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Drive just a little bit further and you will find yourself above the black sand beach where you can take pictures from a different angle. The best part about this spot is the crashing waves you get to experience. It was such an adrenaline rush being in the presence of something so powerful.

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3. Snorkel or Dive in Silfra Fissure

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Who can turn down the opportunity to swim in the water that connects two continents? I most certainly could not. Silfra is known to have some of the most pure and clear water in the world due to the type of water that runs into this area of Þingvellir National Park. Let me also mention that this will be some of the coldest water you will ever swim in. Silfra is the rift between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates that started out attached and over time has moved further and further apart. The earth is literally ripping apart. Every year, the plates move 9mm apart, creating a larger gap.

I will say that while snorkeling sounds normal, doing it here is far from it. We used Dive.is as the tour/gear provider and they were so great. You can tell the employees really enjoy their jobs and for such an incredible experience, it cost 17900 ISK per person ($155 USD). You have to get geared up in so much equipment due to the super cold waters. You have a sleeping bag/snowsuit thing that you put on over your thermals (no regular clothes allowed) and then you put on on a dry suit to ensure your body does not get wet. You have special cloves, headgear, boots and goggles too! Even with all of this, your hands, feet, and face become so cold you think you wont have them when you get out of the water.

The cold and the pain are totally worth it as you get to see things like this…

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Since you are physically not able to take great pictures, your guide will give you the option to buy all the pictures they took from your tour for about $30 USD and they e-mail you a Dropbox account. TOTALLY WORTH IT. Just a friendly reminder, make sure you download those pictures ASAP as they are deleted after one month!

Another thing to keep in mind is the tour takes about 3 hours not including transit time.

4. Go on a Glacial Hike on Vatnajökull Glacier

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Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest glacier in Iceland. It take up about 14% of the country and is the biggest in Europe. It costs 10900 ISK per person ($95 USD) per person and lasts about 2.5 hours. Anyone can do this as long as you can learn to pick your feet up so you don’t trip on your crampons.

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Such a great experience being a part of something that is so massive.

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I recommend bringing your own lunch with you as they do not have much to purchase in the store and you will be hungry after the drive. The drive alone makes going on this glacier hike even better. You get to see Southern Iceland which is beautiful in early May. You have green mountains and little lambs while driving along the coast.

5. Drive the Golden Circle

Yes, everybody does it but its because its so incredible! We drove counterclockwise by starting in Þingvellir National Park and ending at Gullfoss Falls.

This is an easy drive from Reykjavik and depending on how much time you want to take, its an easy day trip. You could technically do it in 3.5 hours and that is if you spend a little time here and there. I recommend just making a day trip out of it so you can explore each of the stops as well as take in the beauty of Iceland and the pull-off stops to take pictures.

The drive is one of the prettiest and you literally stop every 2-10 minutes to take a picture. Here are just a few at “picture” stops:

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Þingvellir National Park was our first stop. This park is something you cannot miss if you take a trip to Iceland. It is a great way to really get a feel for what the country has to offer. Crystal clear blue waters, rolling hills, and snow capped mountains. Not to mention if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you may notice this place looks a little familiar.

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Geysir is the second stop on the way in which you need to see Stokkur. The geyser erupts every 10-15 minutes and shoots up about 10-20 meters each time. It is worth watching once or twice as it is the most active geyser in Iceland.

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While you are there, you can also see The Great Geysir which is currently “inactive” and is believed to remain that way until something like an earthquake wakes this massive geysir from its sleep.

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The last and final stop on the Golden Circle is Gulfoss Falls which generates more energy than Niagara Falls in Canada/USA. It’s bursting with rainbows and well…gushing falls. This was probably my favorite stop on the day trip as it is something so simple that is so beautiful.

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6. Spend at least half a day exploring Reykjavik

Reykjavik is this chill, artsy, small city that you can easily explore without public transportation. There are a variety of different places to eat and a few great things to see and do. The best part about Reykjavik is just being there. You don’t have to visit every museum or take every tour there is. It is one of those cities that is what it is.

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For food, I highly recommend you have at least one good Icelandic Hot Dog. I am not sure what is different about the hot dogs there versus the USA but they are not the same.

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Another recommendation is to spend a decent amount of money and go to Apotek. We did the Icelandic Tasting Menu (6 courses) and it was so good. It was also very filling.Not to mention the restaurant has a great staff and has an awesome environment.

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7. Go to the top of Hallgrimskirkja

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Hallgrimskirkja is the landmark for all of Reykjavik as its one of the tallest buildings in the city. It is also the largest church in Iceland. Architecturally this church is incredible and something to see while visiting the incredible city.

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You MUST buy a ticket to head to the top of the tower for some amazing views and incredible pictures. We did this one the first day of our trip to get some sightseeing in while being incredibly tired since none of us slept on the flight.

8. Pet an Icelandic Horse

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So this may or may not something that will make you jump up and down about Iceland but I can tell you that these horses are the friendliest most down to earth creatures. Not to mention the fact they are super majestic. Just be careful, one did not care for my boyfriend and tried to bite him!

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9. Experience Reykjavik at sunset

We did not really get a chance to see Reykjavik at all parts of the day until our last night in Reykjavik. It was absolutely stunning. The color of the sky seemed to be so perfectly placed that it was really special. We visited Harpa (the concert hall) which has one of the most fascinating glass walls ever. They change color at night and are meant to reflect the Northern Lights. It never officially got dark when we were there so that was disappointing but still very cool.

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You also have the Sun Voyager statue there which creates the perfect picture when taken at the right time.

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We found a geocache during our evening walk (9PM to be exact) hidden under a metal box while walking. Keep your eyes open. This is just another example of the hidden treasures Reykjavik offers.

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10. Go to Blue Lagoon on your way home

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After an beautiful, fun filled getaway, the perfect ending was the time spent at Blue Lagoon. It is like being in a giant hot tub without the bubbles with bars that you can swim up to. You also have the option to apply face masks which were really nice.

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As an American, DO NOT get freaked out by having to shower naked as most of the showers have frosted glass doors. Let’s face it, we are stuck in the days of people not accepting those for who and what they are. No one cares what you look like regardless. Just shower off and go have fun at Blue Lagoon.

Also, I recommend upgrading to the Premium Package if you have time to eat at LAVA, the restaurant at Blue Lagoon this package will help you get a reservation. You get a bathrobe and flip flops which is also super nice and just enhanced the experience.

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I hope these tips help you plan your trip to Iceland and more posts will follow this. If you have any questions in the meantime, please leave me a comment!

 

Dos & Don’ts of Flying with WOW Airlines

 For those that are planning on flying with WOW airlines, I figured I would write a post of DOs and DONT’s. This airline is no frills and super frugal. You get what you pay for is the bottom line. Great prices=no fancy added features.

DO follow the luggage requirements. We watched a couple have to rearrange their checked and carry on luggage. You don’t want to be that person. I recommend getting a luggage scale. The investment is well worth it.

DON’T have high expectations. Everything is super clean. The staff is super friendly. I have never personally flown on a budget airline so this  was really different for me. The legroom is extra small, there are no included beverages or snacks, no personal TV. Keep expectations low and you’ll be perfectly fine!

DO bring your own snacks and buy a large water from the airport. Everything on board is super expensive. I brought a few granola bars with me as a start.

DON’T forget your tablet, light laptop, or book. As I stated earlier, there are not any personal TVs so it’s easy to get bored.  I brought my iPad to watch movies and read books. It is light so you do not have to worry about the weight of a laptop and it has more than one purpose.

DO try and get the emergency exit seat or the window seat behind the emergency exit row. You get tons of leg room which is nice on flights like this.

DON’T try and pull and all-nighter and then spend the day in your arrival city exploring. We departed Boston around 8:30PM and arrived in Reykjavik around 5:30AM. I fought my exhaustion the whole time and was not able to enjoy the I Heart Reykjavik walking tour as much as I wanted to.

DO bring earbuds or headphones for music and or movie-watching. I feel like I could hear everyone and everything on my flights.