About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Edinburgh with and without friends

When planning my trip to England and Scotland I wasn't sure one day was enough time in Edinburgh so I added 2 extra days in Edinburgh at the end of the trip.  I had a chance to see the city with friends I had made and then a chance to return and see it as a lonely sad person.  Should I even continue with this post?

Ok, I'll continue.  Before the trip I had 2 days alone in London, and while it was a little lonely with no one to talk to, I was fine.  But the difference of being alone after your tour, after spending 2 weeks with a group of great people, it was a world of difference.

I left Glasgow after saying goodbye to all my friends, so I was sad as it was.  Then my hotel wasn't ready, but I was ready, I wanted to get myself going and seeing things before I got depressed being by myself.  I had to keep busy.  I eventually got into my room and was out and about to Hollyrood Palace.  I ended up keeping myself pretty busy for my 2 days.  The nights were a little hard though.  I did take a tour one night and stayed in the other night - I packed and watched some movies.

The worst part though might be that there is not one picture of me in Edinburgh from after my trip!  Glad I got some during the tour.

The good things I experienced were that I had freedom, I could eat at any restaurant I wanted, picking my own hotel (the Contiki hotel was a bus ride out of the city but I was staying a block off the Royal Mile).  Seeing whatever site I wanted and lingering over the little weird things that caught my eye. Having already been to the city I already knew my way around.  Free free time.  The time where you've seen all the big sites and you don't mind spending time in a little wacky site or at the internet cafe, or wandering into random shops because you could.

I've always found traveling by myself a little lonely, but after doing a tour that feeling is heightened.  The contrast of being around people 24/7 to being around only strangers is dramatic.  The moral of the story - plan for the solo days at the beginning of a trip.  I should take my own advice.  I planned to spend a day alone pre-cruise, but 2 days post-cruise in Barcelona.  But this did work out better as I did meet some people on my cruise who were also staying longer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Barcelona Hotels

Trying to pick a hotel for my pre and post cruise stay in Barcelona was an exercise in torturing myself.  As much as I love to plan travel, I also obsess about every little detail.  I ended up staying at different hotels before and after my cruise, mostly because I couldn't made a decision.

How I chose the hotels was I started with a search on internet for where other cruise passengers were staying in Barcelona, this brought me mostly to Cruisecritic.com, I also got some leads from friends and on Twitter.  I made a list of all the hotels, checked their prices (I didn't want to spend more then $200 a night) and locations.  I eliminated anything too far from Las Ramblas (tourist center) and over $200 a night.  Then I went to Trip Advisor.  Most places had good ratings, but I was able to elimiate a few with Trip Advisor.  I do not go by one or two reviews, but try to get an overall view, I specifically looked at comments from people who were traveling by themselves as these travelers would have similar concerns as I did - safety.

Taxi to and from these hotels and the port was 10-12 euro.

I eventually decided on Hotel Continental (3 Stars) and Hotel Colon (4 Stars).  Both hotels were nice, and suited my needs just fine.  The Colon was the nicer of the two, but it was also the better rated and more expensive hotel.  I would happily stay at either hotel again if I was visiting Barcelona.

Hotel Colon
The Hotel Colon is located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, a 5 minute walk from La Rambla.  It's across the square from the Cathedral, it's a very nice location, quieter then Las Ramblas, but still lively.  On Sundays there is a flea market in the square. 

The service at the hotel was wonderful.  When my taxi pulled up the doorman helped me out of the taxi and with getting my luggage up the steps to the front desk.  The doormen did not speak much English, but enough and were always friendly and polite.  At the front desk everyone spoke English and were very helpful.  They took my luggage to a storage room since my room was not ready, and it magically appeared in my room when I returned that afternoon. 

The room itself was decorated with flowery wallpaper and a matching chair.  The bathroom had a full supply of toiletries, and included a hairdryer.  The bed was comfortable and there was a flat screen TV, perfect for watching the end of the soccer match - Barcelona vs Manchester United - Barcelona won.  My only complaint about the hotel is that even though they had wireless internet I couldn't get it to work reliably on my Ipad, fortunately I wasn't there enough to bother figureing out what the problem was..  Breakfast at the hotel was expensive, but there was a bakery and a Starbucks across the street. 

Hotel Colon Bathroom
The Hotel Continenetal was located at the Plaza Catalunya end of La Ramblas (the nicer end of La Ramblas), about a block from Plaza Catalunya.  This hotel was convenient if you want to take the Aerobus from the airport.  I taxi will cost 30-40 euro.  The hotel shares a building with a hostel, though I never saw anyone go to the hostel, nor did it seem to bring down the hotel.  I would describe this as a Rick Steves special (it is a Rick Steves recommendation).  A 3 star tourist hotel - basic, clean hotel in a touristy location at a good price, but nothing fancy.
Hotel Continental

The staff was very friendly and helpful, they all spoke English.  The hotel offered complimentary internet which worked, and had a couple computers for guests to use.  There was a 24 hour buffet and a seating area with TV.  The only food I ate was bread and cereal, the rest of the food didn't look very appealling.  They also had free beer, wine and soda and I hear the beer was good.  The hotel overlooks Las Ramblas and has a balcony in the public area for those who do not have a balcony in their own room.

The room was small - by hotel standards, not by cruise ship standards, but it was a single room with a full size bed.  It had ugly wallpaper, a pink bedspread, and the furniture was Rubbermaid plastic drawer units with nice tops.  The bathroom was old and could use some sprucing up but it was clean.  All the towels were pink, matching the hotel's pink theme.  The bath tub was very high (typical in European hotels in my experience) and my friend with bad knees did struggle getting in and out of the tub.  I couldn't get the air conditioning to work, it was warm there, but not hot so I didn't even bother asking the front desk about it.
Rubbermaid Dresser

Bathroom at Hotel Continenetal
Overall both hotels were very good and I would happily stay at either one.  Hotel Colon was a nicer hotel, it had a great price for the services offered so I would say that was a better value (depending on what you value).  The Hotel Continental attracts a lot of cruisers, so if you're taking a cruise it might be a nice place to stay as you may run into other cruisers during your stay.  If you're looking for a more relaxing beach type stay in Barcelona then I would consider staying in the Barcelonetta area by the beach, it's a lovely area.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Haggis: When in Rome, do as the Roman's do!

 My appologies for not posting much lately.  My mother's recovery has been very slow and has left me little free time.  I'm starting to get myself organized and starting to do some normal things again.  I may still miss posting occasionally, but I have started some posts, they just need finishing and some photos. 

I have another issue which may cause some delays.  This blog is hosted on Blogger, which is owned by Google.  There are rumors that Google will be rebranding blogger, which worries me that they'll be changing blogger too.  I have been considering moving the blog to Wordpress, which I'm not researching.  I've heard some good stories and some bad stories about this type of move.  If everything goes as easily as it could go, you'll probably just notice a new face to the blog.  If things go badly, who knows what will happen.

On with the post...
I am not in any way shape or form an adventuresome eater.  I would be happy eating a cheeseburger for dinner every night if it meant I didn't have to try something new and weird.  Yet, when I travel I tend to live a little more dangerously:  escargo, foie gras, etc.  Well on my trip to Scotland I tried, yes, Haggis.  Hey, when in Rome do as the Roman's do!

I have to say, it actually tasted pretty good.  The only problem, I knew what was in it.  Gross parts of sheep!  I'll spare you the details and let you look it up for yourselves.  It was actually so good that I continued to try it 2 or 3 times, but in the end, I couldn't get past the mental picture of what was in it and didn't eat much.  They do make vegetarian haggis though, I think maybe I should have tried that, it obviously doesn't have any gross sheep parts in it, and based on the taste it would be quite edable.  Maybe next time.

So when in Scotland, eat Haggis!  And if you like your sheep alive and saying bhhhhaaaaa, then try the vegetarian version.