Visiting the Western Wall In Jerusalem, Israel

Although it may seem as though we had been traveling for weeks, we only spent three days and two nights in Barcelona, since our final destination was Israel. The most memorable part of our trip to Israel (besides seeing family members and loved ones) was our excursion to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. There is so much history and an overwhelming sense of spirituality as you walk around.

It is absolutely beautiful to be able to go to a place and pray to a higher power (or whatever one may believe in) and know that a countless amount of individuals travel here to do the same. We were lucky enough to come on a day where members of a certain sector of the Israeli army had completed their training, and were officially becoming members of the Israeli Defense Force. And as we walked around, the view of the surrounding area was breathtaking.

We had such a great time touring Lisbon Portugal, exploring Barcelona, Spain, and visiting various cities in Israel, especially Jerusalem. We were sad to return home and get back to the “real world,” but we have since been left with a lingering and exciting feeling of knowing we’ll be back on a plane traveling again soon—although for now, the destination is unknown!

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The Western Wall In Jerusalem, Israel

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Barcelona, Spain: Plaça Reial and Flamenco Dancing

After we walked along Las Ramblas, we turned on one of the side streets, which led us to Plaça Reial. Plaça Reial is a historic square, which translates to “Royal Plaza” from Catalan.

Around 1835, religious buildings were confiscated throughout the city, which was the case of a Capuchin convent where Plaça Royal was later built. At the time, the square was meant to praise King Ferdinand VII with a statue of him in the center of the plaza. When this idea didn’t come to fruition, a beautiful fountain of the Three Graces was built instead, representing beauty, charm, and joy. There are two street lamps beside the fountain, both designed by Antoni Gaudí (http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/page/1248/placa-reial.html).

Since this was the last of Gaudi of artwork we would see

After walking around Plaça Reial, it was time for us to enter Los Tarantos, a flamenco show in the plaza. This thirty minute show was absolutely incredible, and it gave us a great appreciation for this beautiful dance. After the show, my sister and I ate dinner in the plaza at a restaurant that serves traditional Spanish food. We ordered croquetas de pollo, or chicken croquets, gazpacho (a cold, tomato-based soup), sangria (of course), paella negra (which is really called arròs negre in Catalan). This meal is made with cuttlefish or squid, which is how it gets its black color. The food was delicious, and it was truly the perfect way to conclude our trip to Barcelona. Now it was time for us to head to the airport and arrive at our final destination—Israel.

Barcelona, Spain: Las Ramblas and Plaça de Catalunya

As our last afternoon in Barcelona quickly approached, we strolled through Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a long street in central Barcelona known for its shops, restaurants, bars, and various kiosks that sell flowers, souvenirs, and handmade art.

Las Ramblas is near el Barrio Gótico and in between Plaça de Catalunya and el Mirador de Colom, which was discussed in a previous post. The street is constantly crowded, as tourists know this is the place to be. We walked to the end of Las Ramblas on one side, which brought us to Plaça de Catalunya.

Plaça de Catalunya is said to be the city center of Barcelona, and it is where all of the city and tourist busses come to make their pick ups of those anxiously waiting to get around the city. The center is surrounded by shopping centers, hotels, financial institutions, and beautiful fountains and sculptures.

As we walked back to Las Ramblas, we came across the Font de Canaletes (Canaletes Fountain). It is said that if you drink the water from this fountain (which gives this area of Las Ramblas the name of Las Ramblas de Canaletes), you will return to Barcelona. The inscription in Catalan (the most spoken language in the city) states translated to: “If you drink water from the Font de Canaletes you will always be in love with Barcelona. And however far away you go. You will always return.”

I drank from this water nearly three-and-a-half years ago, and apparently it worked because I was back! So naturally, I drank from it again this time, and here’s hoping I’ll be back in Barcelona one day soon. (Here’s also hoping I come across a fountain that allows those who drink from it to access cheaper plane tickets).

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Las Ramblas, Font de Canaletes, and Plaça de Catalunya

 

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.

Barcelona, Spain: Catedral de Barcelona

The hop-on/hop-off bus dropped us off in the Barrio Gótico, also known as the Gothic Quarter. I’ll describe the Gothic Quarter more in depth in a later post, but as we walked around the area, we spotted the Catedral de Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral of Barcelona.

After waiting in line, we finally entered the Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning.  Construction for the Cathedral began during the 11th Century, but whatever had been built was destroyed by the Moors in 985. Construction began once again a little later on and the central part of the building was completed in the mid 1400’s. However, the building’s facade was not completed until the late 1800’s.

There are twenty nine side chapels within the church, one of which is said to contain a “miraculous crucifix,” which supposedly helped defeat the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

Some other interesting facts about the Cathedral include the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulàlia, the patron saint of Barcelona. During the Roman period, Santa Eulàlia was tortured to death, and her body lies buried underneath the high altar. February 12th is dedicated to her, as locals celebrate a day of feasting in her memory.

On the side of the Cathedral, there is a beautiful Cloister with additional chapels, tranquil fountains, and beautiful landscaping. It has been said that from this area, you can hear nearby geese. Years ago, the geese supposedly “warned against intruders and thieves” (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).

There is a small elevator inside the Cathedral that takes visitors up to the rooftop. From there, we saw incredible views of the city from such a unique and special vantage point.

Barcelona, Spain: Port Olímpic

Upon leaving Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium, Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, my sister and I boarded the hop-on/hop-off bus and made our way to Port Olímpic. Before arriving, we passed the Mirador de Colom at the lower end of La Rambla.

This statue of Christopher Columbus (which is said to be the largest in the world) was built in time for the Universal Exposition of Barcelona in 1888, which payed tribute to Columbus’s first trip to the Americas. Seeing as he reported back to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in Barcelona after the trip, it is fitting for the statue to be placed here.

The statue has Columbus pointed with his right hand to the New World, as he holds a scroll in his left hand. However, instead of pointing west, Columbus is actually pointing southeast, which is the direction of his home in Genoa.

As we the bus tour continued, we passed “Gambrinus,” a thirty-two foot lobster, which inspired the mascot for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. We also passed “The Head,” which is a 50 foot sculpture, also designed in time for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

We then drove past La Vila Olímpica del Poblenou by Port Olímpic, which was a residential area the Olympic Village where the olympians stayed during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The area has since been turned into apartment complexes alongside the port (which are much more expensive now than when they were first built for the olympics).

End of the Year Appreciation

With today being December 31st, it is no secret that people nationwide are making last minute attempts at creating New Years Resolutions and fine-tuning their goals for the upcoming year. What I find interesting (even though I’m guilty of it as well) is that so many of us wait until January 1st to begin to follow through with ways we believe will better us. If our resolutions don’t work, or if we simply cannot stick to the plan we set out for ourselves, well, there’s always next January 1st for us to try again.

If we could move past the concept of New Year’s Resolutions, we could work on continuously trying to better ourselves. Moreover, we’ll have an entire year to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, rather than just waiting for a “re-do” twelve months from now. What is important for us to remember during these upcoming weeks of “resolutioning” (a new verb that’s quite fitting for this time of year) is that one minor setback is not a failure; we must not allow ourselves to get discouraged if things do not go according to plan. There is always tomorrow to wake up refreshed and begin from where we last left off. If we can view New Year’s Resolutions as the Year’s Resolutions, maybe we won’t be so harsh on ourselves. And maybe we’ll realize that our goals can be fought for at any given moment of any given day—not just for the first few days in January.

With that being said, one goal that I set for myself this past year was to continue blogging, since I had taken an extended break before the year began. Just this year alone, individuals from all around the world stopped by my site to read what I had to say. To me, there would be nothing more rewarding than knowing that one person (not including my mother) occasionally glances through my site. However, to find out that more than 2,000 visitors from sixty-nine different countries read my thoughts, experiences, and stories throughout the year is beyond overwhelming.

Just this year alone, my blog has had more visitors than the last three years combined. To my fellow bloggers, readers, and friends from 2015, I extend my sincerest appreciation and gratitude for your support. (In the tag section of this post, I’ve included the country of each visitor throughout this past year as a special way of saying thank you since it’s much easier than hand-written notes).

May 2016 be a year to remember, and may all of our resolutions come to fruition, regardless of any potential setbacks we may experience along the way. Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you, once again.

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