Barcelona, Spain: Barrio Gótico

As previously mentioned, the hop-on/hop-off bus dropped us off at Barrio Gótico, which is also known as the Gothic Quarter. At one point, this area was a Roman village, and some of this great history can still be found here. There are beautiful cathedrals, churches, restaurants, and shops—all of which can be found in the 2,000 year old Gothic Quarter and any of the side streets you may find yourself walking along.

My sister and I stopped for churros y chocolate (churros, also known as a fried dough pastry with chocolate) since this is said to be a must in Spain. When the dessert is ready, you receive a plate full of churros and a cup of warm, melted chocolate, and you dip your churros in the chocolate, and enjoy!

Once we had enough to eat, we continued walking until we came across another bakery that had been highly recommended—Ecribá. We ordered a cremadet, which is a caramelized custard filled puff pastry. Once we were stuffed and had enough to eat, we continued walking around outside, until we came across an exciting parade taking place nearby.

One of the shops we passed in the quarter was a store for jamón ibérico, or cured ham, which happens to be very big throughout the country. We saw an employee cutting slices of ham (pictured below), which is exactly how the locals do it at home as well. We found another beautiful church in the area with a great sign that stood out to me. It read, “Caigas donde caigas. Allí estaremos,” which roughly translates to: Fall where you fall; we’ll be there.

As we turned onto a side street, we walked past another sign that seemed to be a campaign of some sort which read, “I’m doing nothing.” Underneath, a question was written, “How many things would you do if you were not scared?” This is definitely food for thought that many of us could benefit from taking the time to think about.

Day 3 In Antigua Guatemala

Our third day in Antigua was definitely our most active day yet, as we set out to hike Pacaya Volcano, situated near Guatemala City. Before giving ourselves too much credit, we were told that the hike is very exhausting due to its elevation and high altitude so it was recommended that we horseback ride up the volcano and then hike down. When we arrived to the volcano, there were horses ready for anyone wanting to ride them, so we hopped on and began our trek up the volcano.

Since the volcano is still active, it is forbidden to hike past a certain area, just in case the volcano should erupt at any given moment. A few weeks before our arrival, the volcano had a small eruption, so some of the ground we stopped at was still hot. Thanks to our tour guide who provided us with marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate, we were able to make s’mores over the hot ground.

The views from the highest part of the volcano we were able to access, as well as throughout the trek down the mountain were beautiful, to say the least. We were grateful to have such great weather during our hike, but we were even more grateful once we had lunch and dinner after what was indeed an exhausting but worthwhile hike!

Day 5 In Costa Rica Continued- Coffee and Chocolate Farm Tour In Monteverde

Seeing as Costa Rica is known for its delicious Coffee, and of course its successful coffee exportation, we had to stop by and tour a local coffee farm. But to make things even better, the farm also produces and manufactures chocolate. And right when we thought our luck couldn’t get any better, we were even provided traditional Costa Rican food for lunch before the tour even started!

We began with the coffee part of the tour which began with a brief history lesson about the start of Costa Rican coffee and its importance in helping boost Costa Rica’s economy. We started by looking at the beginning stages, which of course are the coffee seeds. We then saw how the coffee cherries are picked, and how the pulp of the cherries are removed. From there, the coffee beans must be washed and dried under the sun. They are then stored in large, fiber sacks which helps with the breathing and aging process. Selection, roasting, and packaging of the coffee beans are all completed on site. And any brave volunteers were given the opportunity to ride in a traditional ox cart which showed how the coffee beans were transported years ago.

From there, we were given some historical background into the fascinating world of chocolate. We learned how the cocoa beans are roasted and ground, once the husks of the seeds had been separated. We then tried the fruit of the cacao, and made our own chocolate too! Although the experience was incredible, I have to admit, buying pre-made chocolate is a much easier process! And as an additional treat, we were shown how sugarcane is traditionally extracted to make sugarcane juice, which was also delicious!

We had a great time touring Don Juan’s Coffee and Chocolate Farm, and much to our surprise, we had the chance to meet Mr. Don Juan Cruz at the end of the tour. Born in 1937 to one of the first pioneering farming families in Monteverde area, Don Juan was a true gentleman with delicious coffee and chocolate! (http://donjuancr.com).

As our tour came to a close, it was time for us to return back to the hotel to enjoy our last night in Monteverde. Our group went out to a local restaurant and enjoyed the evening together before having to make our way back to San José the following morning.