FYI. I’m not trying to find myself. I already know who I am. Well I know most of who I am. Most of us do. Most of us know most of who we are (for real)
Most of the time.
A lot of the time.
We are not allowed to be who we know we are. We are not allowed to be most of who we are. We are not allowed to be most of who we know ourselves to be.
Andorra, wait, what? Is that even a country? Yes. Andorra is a country. Like the Vatican City landlocked within Rome. Andorra is a micronation landlocked between Spain and France. During my Winter Wonderland 2018 trip. I took a day trip from Barcelona to visit the landlocked country.
From YouTube videos and reviews online, Andorra was painted as a country that was not worth visiting. Some people event went as far as to suggest that you should only visit it, if your aim is to visit every country in Europe. Well, I spent one day there, and would I do it again? Yes. Why not? Snowboarding lessons have been halted, when they restart I hope to take a snowboarding trip there, and revisit some of the art work that I mention in this post.
Travel in and out of Andorra’s capital, Andorra la Vela was very easy and straight forward. I brought my ticket online the night before. There were not many travel companies that provided direct travel to Andorra from Barcelona. So I decided to travel with ALSA, one of the more local bus companies. A return ticket cost me £32.92 and the journey was 3hr 15min.
7 Poetes by Jaume Plensa
This was the first work of art I saw. Each of the seven figures represent the seven parishes in Andorra. When googling things to do prior to this day trip, this didn’t really take my fancy. However when I saw it, I was taken aback. Primarily because I didn’t expect to see it. Also because there is always something special about seeing something online, and then being able to see it with your own two eyes. The 7 Poetes blended in with the scenery. I say that because I was only able to count six. Watch my YouTube video to see my initial reaction. During the night the 7 men light up.
My least favourite out of everything. Simply because it wasn’t anything fancy. The name ‘Paris Bridge’ invokes more of a feeling than the bridge itself. If you ever get the chance to walk across it you will understand exactly what I mean. When I think of Paris, I think elegance, cold, sophisticated, delicate and strong. Paris Bridge was more cold and strong. Whilst it did serve its purpose. It was not comparable to actual French monuments. i.e. the Eiffel tower and the Louvre. The name Paris Bridge sets that expectation in your head, so you can’t blame me for being slightly underwhelmed when I saw it. The water underneath is okay.
Pont dels Escalls (Escalls Bridge)
Before we go any where else, I feel the need to highlight what art is. Some of you may be thinking it’s just a bridge. If Paris Bridge is anything to go by, why is this bridge so special?
noun: art; plural noun: arts; plural noun: the arts
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
The reason why Pont dels Escalls is so special is because of how overwhelming it is. Being on the Bridge sends so many of you senses into a frenzy. Your sense of sight, smell and hearing are sent into a sensory overload. It’s fair to say I’ve never had anything make me feel the way this Bridge did. Hear me out. The smell: it was so damp, a really weird mix of mould and freshness. As I took a deep breath in, I felt every single one of my olfactory nerves light up. My brain was also trying to figure out if I’d ever smelt anything like it before. Tactile, for I while I was scared, holding onto the cold bars did not do much to alleviate this. People always ask me if I ever get scared traveling alone. To tell you the truth I don’t. But being at Pont dels Escalls was certainly the most fearful I have ever been during my Winter Wonderland 2018 trip. Acoustically, I couldn’t here myself think. I’m happy I vlogged my experience because at the time I’m sure I could not here what I was saying.
I expected the typical. Flamenco dancers, bull fighters, and football players. My expectations of Spain were based on what I had seen in the media. I’ve never read any Spanish books, don’t know any Spanish people particularly well, and I know that Paella is a big thing. So you can imagine how taken aback I was when I arrived in Barcelona, and felt like I had been here before. The familiarity of it was refreshing. I don’t want to say it was disappointing, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t very Spanish. Upon further exploration, I learnt that It was because Barcelona isn’t the most Spanish place in Spain to be. Barcelona is the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, not the capital of Spain itself! That explains why the ‘Spanish’ I could hear people speaking sounded ‘unusual’. It sounded ‘unusual’ because they were not speaking Spanish, they were speaking Catalan!
Catalonia vs Spain
Catalonia and Spain are not the same. This is not a political commentary, but my time in Barcelona made it very clear that the two are not so fond of each other. A fusion of resistance and nationalism is definitely present. I would loosely compare it to tensions between the UK and Scotland. If you know you know. If you have no idea then too bad. Catalonia is engaged in gaining sovereignty and independence from Spain. ONE of the reasons why this is such a big issue is because financially, Catalonia is a treasure chest for Spain.
Read NOTES ON NATIONALISM by GEORGE ORERLL.
La Boqueria Food Market
Based on my observation of Barcelona, would I visit again. Yes. There is so much I didn’t get to experience or see. Picasso Museum being one of them. Before I go back I would like to take a trip to Valencia. I’ve heard it is not as touristy as Barcelona and has more of a Spanish feel.
Two days in Paris, no problem. In this guide I share seven budget friendly things you should do while you’re out there. I feel as if I was in Paris for one week, when in reality it was only two days. I kept busy and I kept moving. Paris was the first stop of my Winter Wonderland 2018 trip.
My place of rest while in Paris was St Christopher’s in by the canal. Yes, I stayed at a hostel, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I did say this was a budget friendly guide. Staying at a hostel was as ‘extreme as it gets’ in terms of visiting Paris on a budget.
1. Notre-Dame de Paris
Situated on ile de la cite, one of the many islands in Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris reminds me of York Minster, equally as breath-taking when you approach it. For about two seconds I was lost for words. Notre-Dame de Paris is one of those monuments that you have to see up close before you can appreciate how grand it really it. The inside of the Cathedral is okay. The outside is stunning.
2. Love Lock bridge
You may have seen the headlines. ’45 tonnes of locks removed’. If you are caught attaching a lock to a bridge you may be fined!
3. Eiffel Tower
I mean, you kind of have to see it in the flesh. Let me be the first one to tell you. It is absolutely massive! The Eiffel tower is located right by the river Seine.
Welcome to Paris.
4. Seine River Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens
For a two for one experience, start you mini cruise thirty minutes before sunset. That way half of your cruise will be during the day, and the second half will be lit by the Eiffel tower during the evening.
5. Louvre Museum
Its free to entre if you are under 26 and are a member of the EU. No need to wait at the ticket office, just go straight to the exhibitions (with your passport of course). Before going to the Louvre, have a plan of action. My plan was to see the Mona Lisa and I did just that. IN 2 HOURS. Yes, I was there for a while, not because of the long waiting times, but because of all the other pieces of art that I had to stop and stare at.
While I was in Paris I visited the Louvre twice. The first time was with Sandeman’d Paris. Watch my vlogs below.
6. Galeries Lafayette and its observation point
For a stunning view of Paris, visit Galeries Lafayette. French version of Harrods is the only way I can describe it. Make your way to the top and you’ll find a stunning view of Paris.
7. Arc de Triomphe
Shop till you drop then visit Arc de Triomphe, easily accessible from all twelve of it’s radiating avenues. If you plan on visiting more than one European country, you will find several versions of the Arc de Triopmphe. Barcelona and Lisbon have one!
National express is an inter-regional coach operator providing service throughout Great Britain. I have had the pleasure of taking more than 100 trips with them over the past 4 years.
My reasons for taking them are simple. They are the cheapest and most convenient form of transport for me. A return coach ticket with my national express card would normally cost me anything from £25-£28. If I was to take the same journey by train. I would be paying around £100 for a return journey, and more if I purchased the ticket on the day of travel, and or without a travel card. No matter how many times I say I am going to take a train. I always end up taking a national express coach.
Travelling with national express is particularly useful when:
Travelling to and from university halls. The baggage allowance means you can pack your bedroom, kitchen and front room in one trip.
When travelling to the airport. They stop right by the terminal doors.
Visiting new destinations such as London or Brighton. You can be picked up or dropped off at locations that are easily accessible and very easy to find. Drop off and pick up points are often located near train or bus stations.
Travel Hacks and Tips when traveling with national express:
Sit at the front of the coach.
The toilets on the coach can be a blessing or a curse depending on how close you are to them, and if you need to use them during your journey. The reason why I suggest sitting at the front of the coach is because the toilets are located at the back of the coach. The closer you are sat to the toilets. The stronger the smell of urine. Trust me, the smell is BAD.
Buy your tickets at least 24 hours in advance
In comparison to train tickets. Coach tickets with national express are relatively cheap. So, they tend to sell very quickly. I have been caught out a couple times by leaving it too late to buy my tickets. If you want to avoid disappointment, buy them at least 24 hours in advance.
Get a national express card
If you are eligible, get yourself a coach card and save yourself a 1/3 on all standard and fully flexible coach fares. National express offers a young person coach card, a disabled coach card, and a senior coach card. There is an upfront charge for a Coachcard. However, it only takes a couple of trips to ‘make your money back’. So, if you only plan on using national express coaches 2-3 times a year. It is still worth investing in one.
Taking long coach journeys can be pretty boring. Especially when you have taken the same trip more than once. So, download VUER. That way you can connect to the Wi-Fi on national express coaches, watch a couple T.V shows or a movie to keep you entertained for free.