Monday, January 1, 2018

Looking Forward: 2018

Happy New Year!

2017 definitely brought a lot of changes for us. I have a brand new job that I'm very excited about and Jason keeps moving on up at Southwest. One thing that hasn't changed? Our love of travel. We've really been enjoying our motto of "less trips, but longer". 

We're returning to a lot of our favorites next year (Tulum, Japan, Italy), but trying to do something new in each place to keep it fresh. We've definitely made life choices in order to prioritize both work/life balance and travel, and we hope to make the best of both.

I'm not going to lie, 2017 was a tough year but also an amazing one. Life has a funny way of listening to what you want and giving it to you in the most unexpected ways. The end of the year especially reminded me that I have an amazing support group of family and friends that are just incredible. Couldn't be happier for what this next year has in store for us!

Here are our (extremely tentative) plans for 2018:

St. Louis to visit family
Tulum in a few weeks for my birthday
An epic Japanese cross-country adventure (over 2 weeks!)
San Francisco, CA
Italy (Venice, Bologna & Florence)
Kona, Hawaii (if Southwest starts flying there this year)
Berlin, Germany (Christmas markets!)

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2018! Happy New Year!



Saturday, December 16, 2017

Barcelona, Spain {Day 3}

Our last day in Barcelona came WAY too fast. We woke up early and caught a cab to Park Guell. I definitely recommended this option if you don't have long to explore the city as it's on the top of the hill and the nearest subway station is still a 20-30 minute walk. We had pre-purchased tickets online and walked right in at 9:30am. Once we walked off the main path, we basically had the place to ourselves!

My favorite part was "the wave" walkway - the first time I ever saw this was back in one of the first seasons of America's Next Top Model, ha! I also loved that you could see the Sagrada Familia (our next stop) and the rest of Barcelona from the balcony up top. It was nice to wander in the crisp air, especially because we were still feeling some of the effects from the previous night's Tapas & Wine tour.


We were really enjoying the fresh air, so we actually ended up walking all the way to Sagrada Familia. It was such a nice, leisurely way to explore the city. It was already noon by the time we arrived, so we grabbed a quick lunch at McDonald's (very authentic cuisine, I know) and walked across the street for our 12:30 entrance ticket to Sagrada Familia.

I can't even express how beautiful this church was. The outside looks like a drippy sandcastle and gives a completely different impression than the inside. It was so open and the columns made it look like you were under a canopy of trees. The stained glass gave off the most stunning reflections - one second you were underwater, the next, you were looking at the sun. We found a spot and just enjoyed the church for a long time. This was Jason's favorite thing we did!


We took the subway back to our hotel (our 10 ride ticket coming in handy!) and went to the lounge for snacks and drinks. As the sun was setting that evening, we took a stroll along the Barceloneta beach - walking out to the pier and enjoying the energy. I can't wait to go back in the summer to see it during the peak season, but it was still bustling in November!

That evening, we had a wonderful tapas dinner at Acola, inside our hotel. Since part of our upgrade included $100 to spend at the hotel, we figured we'd have an amazing meal for not very much! The tapas were more modern than what we'd had before and we really enjoyed each and every one of them. My favorites were probably the beef tartare and the torta! We said goodbye to the lounge and then went to bed.


We absolutely fell in love with Barcelona, and as with all of our trips, wished we had more time to explore. We will definitely do our best to return to Barcelona ASAP!

The next morning, we BARELY made it back to Houston. We literally got the last two seats from Barcelona - Frankfurt and the only reason we got on from Frankfurt - Houston was because a plane was delayed and they were going to miss the connection. We got seats together, so definitely still a win in our books.

Thanks Southwest, KLM & Lufthansa!

As I promised, I am going to start listing out the deals we get when we travel due to airline discounts and credit card deals:

Airfare: $450 for both of us - thanks to Zed Medium Fares on Lufthansa/KLM and a $250 Airline Credit Refund from the Citi Prestige Card

Ritz Carlton Club Level Access (including upgraded room, 5 meal presentations/day, & champagne/cocktails) and $100 Credit: Free, thanks to 1 of our Club Level upgrades from Ritz Carlton Card

Lounge Access at IAH: Free thanks to Jason's Ritz Carlton's Priority Pass and Christy's Citi Prestige's Priority Pass

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Barcelona, Spain {Day 2}

Day 1 was a great introduction, but on Day 2 we really jumped in to our exploration of Barcelona! We started the morning with a yummy breakfast on the Club Level of the Hotel Arts. Next up, we caught a quick subway to Casa Batllo (pronounced Bayo). I think this ended up being my favorite thing we did in all of Barcelona!

Casa Batllo was built by Antonio Gaudi for the Batllo family. What to do you see when you look at the facade below? Jason sees sea creatures and I see Venetian masks! Everything had natural curves and just flowed together so beautifully. Even the door knobs were created by Gaudi using a piece of clay that he squeezed in his hands. The chairs were perfectly made to fit the human form and the hand rails were the same.

The VR experience was one of the best I'd seen as well. Everyone got a headset and a phone, which showed you pictures of what the rooms would have looked like with furniture and even highlighted some of the more unique features of the room. I won't ruin anything, but it was so fun (and included in the admission price).


Next, we walked down the Passaig de Gracia a few blocks to Casa Mila, built for the Mila family. This was also fun to walk around, but for a different reason. They had decorations and furnishings from the era inside of this one! There are still many people that live inside this complex as well. The rooftop was pretty spectacular and we probably spent the most time here, looking at the arches and ventilation hoods that looked like soldiers.


After this, we walked over to La Boqueria for a delicious strawberry coconut drink and explored the stalls. We found one we liked and grabbed a seat at El Quim. All of the food (and cava) was delcious, but my favorite was the baby squid on top of over-easy eggs. Honestly, SO delicious!


We went back to the hotel for a bit to hang out at the lounge and relax a bit. We had big plans that evening - a food tour with Devour Barcelona! 

We started at Bodega La Puntual, where we had patatas bravas, croquettes, and a glass of vermouth. Next up, we went to a fun little wine bar and had a few tostadas. My favorite was the eggplant one! Lastly, we went Gran Bodega del Maestrazgo to have a few glasses of wine and jamon, olives and cheese. 

We picked the wine and tapas tour and we were able to learn so much about Spanish wine. We really enjoyed our tour!



After this, we went back to the lounge for a while and called it a night. What an amazing second day in Barcelona!!

Up Next: Our final day - with more Gaudi, of course!