Monday, 30 March 2015

It’s all about Cahoots!

Soho’s new underground, tube themed bar has officially opened. So last night I headed back to the 1940’s to see what all the fuss was about. 

In an old air raid shelter in soho, you will find a secretive yet stylish, post war bar. That is, IF you can find it.

It's hard to get in without a reservation because the bar has only just opened and it's still extremely popular but we tried anyway and luckily we made our way underground. 

Take your ticket to the ticket inspector who will buzz you through to the train. 

Inside, it’s pretty cool but I don’t want to spoil too much because I think the beauty about this place is that it’s different, quirky and almost a bit taboo. You do feel like you’re in a speakeasy.

Apart from the atmosphere being electric, the cocktails are incredible.
Drinks can be served in Thermos flasks, milk bottles and goblets with drink ingredients ranging from oxo cubes to the sweetest mouth-watering cocktails I have ever tried.

Feeling peckish, we even ordered something from the rations menu.
Cheese and pickle sandwiches and crisp and salad cream ones too.

This bar is great but hats off must also go to the staff as well who are brilliant. Attentive and friendly they whizz around the place always in character and ensuring that you are having a ‘swinging’ good time. 

My advice is to try and book a reservation as early as you can. They don’t really let you in without one.
It's only been open for 2 weeks and already the waiting list extends until the end of May
However, I was still advised to try on the day and I’m so glad I did. Eventually the kind chap on the door let us through and even managed to find us a table.

So if you can’t get a reservation, just show up and smile sweetly at the man on the door. 

And don’t forget to ‘Follow the Trains’. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

The wonders of Gaudi

The next morning we made sure we were ready for a day of sightseeing. We had a lot we wanted to see.
After grabbing a coffee and some gorgeous fresh pastries from the bakery next door we walked towards the Arc de Trimofe. 

Not quite the same as the actual one in Paris but a good sight none the less. 
Heading towards Sagrada Familia, we were distracted by a rather large circular building on the way. 

Bright blue mosaics shined in the morning sun, enticing us over for a closer look and I'm very glad we did. 
We had stumbled upon a Spanish bull fighting ring.
After paying the rather sleepy looking man at the desk, we entered the stadium.

The entire ring was deserted. 
We couldn't believe how beautiful the inside was and how there were no tourists, in fact, we wandered round for about an hour and the only person we saw was the caretaker casually going about his day.

This doesn't seem to be in the tourist books, nor was it on the map that we had but I highly recommend coming here. 
If you are lucky enough, as we were, to have the place to yourselves, let your imagination run wild and picture what it might have been like when the stadium was packed and full to brim with excited spectators.

Back on track, we walked onwards towards Sagrada Familia. 
This is one of Barcelona's well known attractions, if not the most popular. 
Unfinished it may be but it still has over 2.8 million visitors a year. 

Construction began in 1882 and almost 100 years later, the work is still on going. 

The cathedral is huge and even if you stand at the bottom and look upwards, it makes you feel a little dizzy.
It costs you about 19 euros to go into the church which also included the lift up the Passion/Nativity towers to experience the views from the top of the towers. 
Go early!! We did have to queue but it wasn't too bad. However I can imagine that in high season, it will be busier. 

Guesses on when construction will be complete range between 2020's to the 2040's. 
Even before reaching that point, some of the oldest parts of the church have already required restoration work. 

But wait. If you think the outside is impressive, nothing prepared me for what awaited us inside. 

I cannot express how amazing the inside of the cathedral was. It was unlike anything I have seen before. 

'Give us this day our daily bread'

We got the lift up the Nativity tower which gives you wonderful views over the Barcelona skyline. 

Once you leave the lift you have to walk across a bridge before you can begin the walk down a very steep spiraled staircase.
We did stop for a very quick photo on the bridge but heights are not my strong point so I didn't linger too long here.
Let me show you some of the views.

The little square you can see in the picture above is actually quite interesting...
This magic square of order 4, the sum obtained in vertical, horizontal, diagonal or all four quadrants is 33, the age of Jesus Christ when he was crucified. 
In the museum you can see explanations of the Magic Square with all the different forms that sum 33. (It really is quite clever). 

With our feet back on the ground, we caught the metro up to Parc Gueill. 

I imagine in the summer this place would be a sun haven. Packed full of cheery people, basking in the sun and drinking home made Sangria.
Alas, it was still a little cold when we were there but the sun was shining and in the early evening sun light we managed to get a few good pictures. 

The mosaics are so pretty. We wandered along the long winding benches, gazing at all the different patterns, shapes and colours. 

We wandered around for a while and once the sun had set we made our way back towards the Gothic Quarter for some tapas and cava. 

We wandered the streets for a while, looking at all the different restaurants. There are so many to choose from. 
We didn't have anywhere specific we wanted to go this evening so we just wandered.
We stopped in here first.

I recommend trying the cava. It's what Barcelona is apparently quite famous for. 
It was lovely, crisp and extremely drinkable. 

We continued to explore and only popped into this place to see what it was all about but were suddenly whisked off to a table. Not wanting to refuse, we followed our waitress.

The best bit was that in order to get to any of the tables you had to walk through the kitchen! 

We had ended up in 'Los Caracoles' meaning....Snails. 
It was founded in 1835 by the Bofarull family which is currently in it's fourth generation who have carried on it's excellent reputation within Barcelona. 

Now this restaurant is actually in the Lonely Planet guide. It's very quirky inside with lots of hidden corners and tables tucked away. 
If you do decide to go here, try their most famous dish, Caracoles. Snails of course. 

Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures so you will just have to trust me on this one. 

If you haven't been to Barcelona before, I highly recommend it. 
I believe there is something here for everyone. Whether you like art, good food, architecture or you want to sample the local wine. I promise, you won't be disappointed. 

Let me know where you think I should go next?

Monday, 16 March 2015

To Barcelona we go

After very little planning and a rather spontaneous decision, it wasn't long before we were boarding the plane to Barcelona. 
I'm keen this year to visit as many places as possible and to tick off new cities and places that I can explore. 
We arrived early on Thursday morning and checked into our hotel 'Vincci Gala'. 
If you want a nice hotel that is close to the centre of Barcelona then I can definitely recommend this one. It's very close to Las Ramblas but far enough away that the noise of the city won't bother you. 

Check out the hotel's website here.

First stop on the agenda was the Marcat de Boqueria. Regarded as one of Barcelona's best markets, found just off of the Las Rambles, it was of course, a good place to start. 
For anyone who knows how much I love sweets. You can imagine my delight when I saw this. 

The selection of food here was incredible, especially the fish section, that had some of the best array of seafood I have ever seen. 

Brightly coloured fruit lined the market stalls

And some of the biggest strawberries I've ever seen. 

Salted cod, apparently a delicacy in Barcelona. 

Shortly afterwards we found La Cathedral.

Not wanting to miss anything that Barcelona had to offer, we ventured inside. 

There is something about being inside a Cathedral, especially something as grand as this one. It felt eerie, quiet. We marvelled at the architecture before we got the lift up to the top of the Cathedral where we were treated to some of the views over Barcelona. 
(You'll have to wait until the next blog post to see some views that rival these).

With our feet back on the ground we continued to wander through the city. 

Stopping at the famous Casa Bastillo -designed by Gaudi. We didn't go inside but the detail of the building was just incredible. 
The colours, the detail, really rival a lot of buildings we have today in London. 

We had read a few reviews about restaurants to try whilst we were in Barcelona but before we made our way to the first one, we stopped off at 360. 
A roof top bar in the city centre with 360 degrees views of Barcelona. We got there just after the sun had set and we managed to get some great of pictures of the skyline. 
Unfortunately the bar itself wasn't actually open, maybe because it's too early on in the season but that did mean we had the place to ourselves. 

They even have a pool up here. 

I highly recommend coming here if you are in Barcelona in the summer. 
The bar is called B-Lounge and it's at the top of a hotel called Hotel Barcelo Raval.

Finally we made our way to Quimet i Quimet.
It was possibly one of the smallest restaurants I have been to, if you can actually call it that.
The tapas bar is mainly for standing only but that didn't bother us.

Once you have made it in the door (and trust me it gets very busy) order a glass of Sangria or Cava if you are looking to try some of the typical Spanish drinks and then peruse the menu.
We ordered everything!

A selection of seafood which included: Mussels, razor clams, cockles, squid, tuna and lots of other things too. We also tried, goats cheese with foie gras and salmon with yogurt and truffled honey.
(I couldn't find a website for the restaurant but you can find them on trip adviser and they also feature in the lonely planet guide books).

By the time we left, we were full and in need of a good night's sleep.
Not bad for our first day in Barcelona, wouldn't you say?