Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beautiful, Beautiful Barcelona

Dear Barcelona, 
I saw this on Facebook today. 
How beautiful you are, Barcelona. 
I miss you very much every day. We must 
meet again soon. I really need to see you. I need to 
walk those streets, admire those buildings, and most of all, 
I need to dance some salsa! They say you have the best salsa scene 
in Europe, and I believe it! Fabulous fabulous. Did I mention I miss you?

Funny h-              ow a city
     can come to           mean so much
 to you in so many     different ways... 
Barcelona is definitely one of
 those cities that will always
 have a huge piece
 of my heart. 

Video made by  Alexandr Kravtsov and found here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Goats and Squirrels in Fuerteventura

A little low on blogging-inspiration lately, I had a look through my photos, and I realized I never posted about the animals I encountered on my trip to Fuerteventura in May. Fuerteventura was so relaxing. So beautiful. There wasn't all that much to see/do, as other Canary Islands, but the beaches! Oh the beaches.
I had only seen such beaches in the Caribbean before. 

But a lovely surprise was to encounter some animals on some of these beaches. 
For instance, on one beach there were loads and loads of these: 

So cute! They were clearly used to people as they came straight over 
in hope of a few breadcrumbs. They are from our hands.

And as we were having a "hike" over the enormous sand dunes, 
suddenly we saw a whole hoard of goats! 

They were so calm, just walking from plant to plant eating a little, then moving on. 

So fascinating and beautiful to watch. 
We just sat down there in the sands and watched them for ages. 

I love animals, but being able to see them like this, apparently happy and (care)free is just wonderful!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Provence, Le France

One of my trips last summer went to southern France - the beautiful region of Provence. I had wanted to explore the region more for years. I had previously been in and around Montpellier a couple times, as a close friend of mine had moved there, but there were many other places I wanted to get to know.

I never got around to share any of that here on the blog, but one of my friends just went to Provence and asked me for tips, so I digged out the photos and was reminded of all those incredibly beautiful places I got to see!

I asked Sara Louise at Sara In Le Petit Village for help back then, and she gave me a fabulous list of names of cities and towns worth visiting. (Thanks again, Sara Louise!) All in all it was a great trip and I would love to do it all over again. We flew into Nice, and rented a car there, and had very little plans - we just went where the roads took us, found a camping site for the night and moved on the next day. Such a great, relaxed, trip. 

Good key words would be: 
  • Bread 
  • Cheese
  • Wine
  • And then some more of those three. 

On a side note, madre mííía, how the French drive! I have never been so scared, so many times, on the road before! But well, we survived ... I quickly understood why the car insurance was so ridiculously expensive. (We're talking 3-4 times more than at the same rental company in Spain.)

One of the things I really liked though, was how people in the villages said hello to me/everyone/anyone they met. I really got to practice my "Bonjour!", and although I felt silly and giggly every time, -how nice! 

Another thing was all that bread and cheese, and having picnics at the most amazing, incredible places. Do you realize just how beautiful Provence is? I always thought it was beautiful, but had not idea it was that beautiful! 

Many Norwegians go to the coast, Cote d'Azur, for some beach and sun in summer. If you'd ask me what to do in Provence in summer, I wouldn't even mention a beach but rather tell you to explore the interior. Ancient villages built on a mountain sides. Châteaux's. Lavender fields... 

OK, enough talking, right? Do you wanna see some of what I saw?

Moving on... 

This is already very long, and I will be back with more. There is one town and one experience that deserves a post of their own. In the mean time I would love to know:

Have you ever been to Provence, and what would be your suggestion 
if you were to give just one must-see/must-do-tip to someone?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pueblos con Encanto / Charming Canary Towns ~ Agüimes

It's been ages since I wrote about another Charming Gran Canaria village!
As I have said so many times, I am a bit saddened that so many people think Gran Canaria
is just a tourist circus with no personality and nothing genuine to offer.

So, in my quest to show some of the real Gran Canaria, today I thought I'd talk about Agüimes. There's a lot of history here, and it's a beautiful little town, definitely worth a visit when in Gran Canaria. I have brought most my visitors there and everyone have been charmed by the picturesque streets and plazas, and all the sculptures all over the town. 

More than thousand years ago, Agüimes already existed and was inhabited by native Canarians. After the Spanish conquest of the island about 500 years ago, the old stone houses were adapted to a more modern European way of living, or simply torn down to be replaced by newer, different houses (which can now be seen in the old part of the town). 

In the 16th century, when Gran Canaria had been conquered, the first colonies settled around the church. As the town grew, the old and new buildings coexisted with gardens and courtyards, and slowly but certainly the town grew into a little maze of winding, narrow streets. 

There is a neat little museum in the centre of the town which explains all about the towns history, the way of building and living in pre-conquest times. Entrance is free, and information is in Spanish, English and German. In the museum you can see a recreation of a typical outdoor 
pre-conquest settlement in this area of the island. 

The town is beautiful and something that surprises the tourists is 
all the sculptures all around the town ...

 ... the most famous one being the camel. So random, but so cool.

The church is like the icing on the cake of this town 
(as many other small beautiful towns when I think about it!)

The town at a distance:

If you're interested, 
I have previously written about the 
beautiful villages of Arucas, Agaete, and Teror.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How to travel in Norway on a budget ~Food and Drink

The other day I read an article in a Norwegian online newspaper about the impression tourists had of Norway. (The article via Google Translate in English here.) They had interviewed a group of foreign tourists around Vigelandsparken in Oslo.

I always find it fascinating to read how tourists experience Norway, what they hold up as good things and bad things, and how Norway compares to other countries. I guess my interest in this is simply that I love learning about the culture of other countries, and by hearing foreigner's thoughts about Norway I learn about their culture too.

For instance, a girl from Florida, US, mentioned that what had surprised her the most at first was that no one says 'hi' to strangers in the streets. She said that is normal in the US. Is it? How nice! In Norway, but also Spain, it's not usual to talk to strangers at all (In Norway: unless you are 1. Drunk, or 2. Mentally unstable. In Spain: number 1 and 2 + If you are a guy and you want to flirt.) I think it would be wonderful to greet strangers in the street with a smile without anyone reading anything into it!

Anyway, all in all, the tourists come together on the following about Norway:
  • Beautiful nature
  • Friendly people
  • Everything is waaaay too expensive. People especially mention they haven't really tried Norwegian food or eaten out at restaurants cause it's too expensive. 
That is a shame, but it's understandable too. Anyway, I thought I'd write another (and possibly last) post on how to travel in Norway on  budget, and this time I will cover food & drink.Yet another thing that can leave a big hole in your wallet. 

This is not an easy one though. If you are the kind of person who always eats all your meals at restaurants when on holiday, Norway’s going to be expensive. Restaurants are expensive on a general note. So is drinking at bars and restaurants. 

For the price of one big glass of Coca Cola in Norway I get 1-3 glasses of wine in Spain. 

For the price of one glass of wine in Norway, I’d get about 4-5 in Spain.

Of course there are cheaper alternatives for eating here and there, but self-catering is a good choice. Go to the supermarket, buy your stuff there and have a picnic. Or make sandwiches. Or whatever you’d prefer. There are several supermarket chains, but the cheapest ones are KIWI and Rema 1000. At camping sites and hostels you’ll have access to a kitchen. And a wonderful thing to do on a nice summer night is to get one of those little disposable barbecues (about €1.50  in most supermarkets), buy some food for the grill and head to a beautiful spot out in nature (by a river, lake, the sea! We wouldn't want you to start a forest fire or anything) for the most lovely dinner! (Just make sure to not leave the BBQ behind, please!)

Now that we’re talking about supermarkets, just a few facts about KIWI. They have a few deals that are worth checking out. 
  • Every Friday and Saturday, there’s a “Happy Weekend” offer, (Called "God helg", meaning happy weekend)- a piece of some kind of meat or fish, for just NOK 17 (€2). 
  • If you happen to find any products at KIWI that are expiring the same or next day, you’ll get it for free. If it expired the day before, and they can’t offer you an equivalent, you’ll get the money for the item paid out in cash! (Now that is a great way to save money on food isn't it?)
  • And if you are not happy with something you bought in the fruit and vegetable section you’ll get the money for the item paid out in cash + another new equivalent fruit/vegetable for free. 
  • KIWI (And also SPAR and MENY supermarkets) sell a brand called “First Price” with cheaper versions of the most popular products in most categories, and they are not necessarily worse in taste or quality than the more expensive equivalent although the packaging isn't as fancy as the more expensive ones. Worth checking out too.
(I am not sponsored by KIWI or anything, ha, I just think they have some great ideas going on!)

Other random tips for saving money on food and drinks: 
  • Tap water is pure and delicious in Norway and most people don't buy bottled water. Buying water is really not necessary (and very expensive!) It’s perfectly OK to ask for tap water with your food at restaurants, and it’s free. 
  • If you are a student with a valid student card you’ll get discounts on a lot of things such as transport, museums, sometimes even at restaurants. 
  • At bars, look for happy hour. Usually early in the night you will get cheaper drinks than later on.
  • Look for "Dagens rett" at restaurants/cafeterias (cheaper at cafeterias) at lunch time. This is one chosen dish of the day at a lower price.
  • One food tip is if you are staying at a hotel, breakfast is normally included. And it's heavenly. Huge and varied. So much food. Make sure NOT to miss breakfast and eat a lot! I hear people say they skip a meal later on because they ate so much for breakfast. 
  • Many supermarkets have take away food, sandwiches, fresh ready made hot meals. 
  • Do not buy your drinks, sandwiches and snacks at gas stations and kiosks, the prices are ridiculously high. Hot dogs can be reasonably priced at these places however. (But not necessarily!) 

Here, I've covered What to see and where to go, 
here- how to travel inside the country, 
and here- accommodation on a budget.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Customer service, Nephew's birthday and Internet Shopping

I have often complained/talked about the lack of customer service in Spain, (here, and here) how it bothers me to be treated with sour faces and rude comments and I probably never thought I would say this, but you know what? It’s really annoying with too much customer attention as well.

I guess you get used to things. Whereas I probably didn’t see it as anything strange before (I don’t remember) I find it quite bothersome now, that shop attendants in Norway always ask if you need help. In my logic, if I need help I will approach the sales staff and ask for help, but if I am browsing through the shop on my own, looking for something or nothing in particular, I don’t want help. How could someone who don’t know me, help me find the perfect dress, shoes, bag etc. that fits my personality and taste anyway? I am afraid I need to do that on my own.

Avoiding eye contact as soon as I enter the shops doesn’t help either, they will either come up to me and ask, or actually yell from afar to get my attention. I have thus far only smiled and politely turned down their offers of help, and I hope that I can keep it up that way! After all it seems this is part of the culture of customer service in Norway, and who am I to say anything about it?

I had one experience where they weren’t all that wrong in asking though. I was looking for a birthday present for my nephew. Young boy, favorite hobby being skateboards and everything related. So out of my comfort zone. I have no idea what is cool and what is not, but I had a list of brand names that I know he adores. So off I went searching for the perfect gift. Me in my more classic style clothes, I might have looked a little out of place in those skater shops, I will admit that. I certainly felt it. Asking me if I needed help right there and then wouldn't have been such an off thought I guess. I ended up giving up quite fast and went home empty handed.

The answer was of course online shopping, I don’t know why I even tried the shops. I prefer online shopping to regular shopping any day. When I moved to Spain, (especially Barcelona), I went from rather enjoying shopping to close to hating it. To have to stand in line a good 15 minutes to try on things or pay for them is just something I don’t have the patience for. [I found that the best day for shops in Barcelona was Monday mornings though. Afternoon, nights and Saturdays being the worst times if you are like me, if anyone's interested.]

The biggest chain shops in Spain like Zara, Stradivarius, Blanco, Mango etc. all have excellent webshops, and I thought there had to be one for freestyle and skating clothes as well- and I found FreestyleXtreme, the answer to my prayers. They had all of the brands that were on my list, they deliver to a lot of countries, Norway included (which is not always the case, as Norway is outside of the European Union and all that) and best of all, comparing to prices in the shops, I got more for my money through this website. (When buying from Norway, or whatever other country, choose the country by clicking on the corresponding flag up in the top corner before purchasing.) Judging from the smile on his face when he opened the present, I would say I did well too! Him happy, me happy, and I got an extra star in my ‘cool aunt’-book!

Do you like to 'get help' whenever you are in a shop?

P.S. Me disliking this might just be me being strange again, seeing as it's so common here to get help with everything in the shops. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Fiestas de Gracia are on ...

I am very much aware what time of the month it is...and what month it is...and what's going on in Barcelona right now...and that I am not there to enjoy it. 

I kind of don't like Barcelona too much in August, it's simply too hot and humid for me. But my absolute favorite Barcelona fiesta is in August, as we speak, and I wish wish wish I was there! I am talking about Fiestas de Gracia / Festa Major de Gracia.

What is this fiesta you may ask? Well, big parts of the barrio of Gracia (a lovely neighborhood in Barcelona) are decorated in the most imaginative ways (from used, recycled stuff, paper, plastic bottles, plastic bags etc.) Streets and plazas are filled up with things/figures/'sculptures' according to a theme, and there is lots of stuff going on every day, food, drinks, concerts, entertainment. 

I have been looking through my pictures, thinking back, remembering how great that week was last year, everything I did, and who I did it with, so today is a little trip down memory lane for me. I have chosen some of my favorite streets, isn't it just crazy fabulous?

~ Music & Dancing ~

~ The Catwalk ~

It's the neighbors in each street who do this together. I wish I could be part of this, how fun it must be!

~ The Circus! ~

~ The Wild West! ~

~... and the North Pole! ~

~ At night, the streets get new life. It's just as fabulous, but maybe a liiittle bit more magical? ~

If you're in Barcelona and have been to Gracia these days, please share! 
What am I missing? Is it fabulous? (Of course it is, but please tell me all about it!)

If you want to see my posts from last year's Fiestas de Gracia, 
more info about the fiestas and the creations in each street, 
click here!