Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Barcelona - Gaudi Style

On the last night of my Ireland/Scotland trip, I stayed in Dublin before an early flight to LAX.  I met these two guys from England, and one told me there's no city like Barcelona.  I had to see what he meant for myself, hence this trip.

One of the significant highlights of  Barcelona is the abundance of buildings designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, which are so unique.  I went on a Gaudi walking tour, which was interesting.  A girl from China asked a lot of questions, like asking when people buy houses, if its theirs to keep, since in China, you only own a house for 70 years and have to give it back to the government.  (Communism.)  Fun facts I learned about Gaudi's works - Gaudi liked his buildings to be imperfect and he liked them to be controversial (he wanted people to not like them).

Gaudi's most famous works are the Monument at Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.  More on La Sagrada Familia later.  If you ever go to the former, make sure you get tickets for early in the morning, since there are crazy crowds.  Your ticket is good for a 30 minute window, which they're strict about.  Although they don't kick people out after that window expires, they just don't let you in after that time.  The famous vantage point area  only has a few spots to take good pictures, so it was definitely crowded.  

A look at how crowded it is in just a specific area

Not as photographed but equally fascinating is the rest of the park area, the lower area.

Although I typically posts by the day, I'm trying something different, for the sake of streamlining. So these aren't in chronological order.  This is the plaza where the Gaudi tour began.  This light is one of Gaudi's first works.

Another Gaudi work.  Here's the walking tour guide Pablo.  He looks kinda like Enrique Iglesias.  I tried to tell a Canadian girl that but she didn't know who he was.

Casa Batllo, another Gaudi work.  I heard the inside is wonderful, but I didn't get a chance to go.  One of the most interesting Gaudi works - it has dragon-like design elements.

Other Gaudi work

Casa Mila.  This one is a residential building, unlike other Gaudi buildings, which are mostly museums.  People consider this one of his ugliest works.

This is the Gaudi house in Park Guell.  It was pretty small and only somewhat interesting.

Finally, La Sagrada Familia.  I'd gone by myself and gotten tickets to go inside.  But walked by the outside again on the walking tour.  It's the most popular tourist destination in Barcelona, so it was really crowded.

I didn't realize how much I enjoy Gaudi buildings until the rest of my trip, when there were a lot of interesting sites, but nothing as unique.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Blue Lagoon - Iceland, Day 5

This was my last day of the trip and I had to wake up so early to pack and get picked up by the shuttle that was taking me to the Blue Lagoon.  Again, I was so lucky to benefit from the advice of friends who told me to make sure to book before I left, since availability was sparse.  The only time to go to the Blue Lagoon when I checked, prior to my trip, was 8:30am.  That worked out perfectly, since I could juts leisurely go before my flight.  Also, my hostelmate let me borrow his waterproof phone bag, since mine wasn't easy to open.

This picture was taken after I walked out and not on the way in.  Too many people were taking pictures.

Same thing here.

The Blue Lagoon was fun to go to, but I don't think I needed more than 3 hours.  It was freezing when I got there but the water was nice and warm when I got in.  It was cool being there when the sun was rising.

Me in the silica mask they give you.  I put too much on.

They also had a bunch of different rooms, like dry sauna, steam sauna, etc.  It was fun to go in and out of the different rooms.

That's pretty much all. (I'll try to write better blog posts for future trips.)

The Golden Circle and Northern Lights Tours: Out of Reykjavik - Iceland, Day 4

This was my last full day in Iceland, and I was finally able to get out of the city.  I signed up for a Golden Circle Tour with my hostel, while two of my hostelmates went on one with an outside company that left two hours before mine but got back two hours earlier.  (Yet somehow they got back after I did.  Not sure how that happened.)  It was a small group of seven people all staying at the hostel.  Early on, the road was closed for some reason and our van was stuck on the highway for about half an hour.  The van driver let us get out if we wanted to take pictures, but there wasn't much around.

Our first stop was Pingvellir National Park, which had amazing views.  Game of Thrones was filmed here too.

Here's the
This is the view from where all the people are walking toward.

More trees
And to the left
Same thing but this side has a house.

I think this is the part where Game of Thrones was filmed but I don't know, since I don't watch the show.
So after walking between the snow-covered rocks, I was going to take a look at the second viewing area, where you can see below on the right.  I saw people slide down the stairs from the viewing area going down, since the snow had turned icy.  Since my boots didn't have any traction, I knew I needed to be extra careful.  So there I go, down the path TO the stairs where people slipped and on my first step to the path, I slide and fall face first into a snow pile.  It was very embarrassing and a lot of people around offered help.  I decided that it wasn't worth my trouble and kept walking on the path.

After this was Geysir, which is.. just a geyser.  I thought this was the geyser but I stood by it for a while and nothing happened.  I later realized the actual geyser was behind it.

A lot of Asian people waiting for a geyser

Then I decided to get ice cream.  People in my group were surprised.  Hello, it's ice cream.
After this was Gullfoss, a waterfall.  It was pretty but kinda tough to take pictures.  It was really cold, I didn't bring my gloves, and the combination of the wind and the water from the waterfall was blowing sharp, small pieces of ice all over.

Last stop was Kerio, which was really just.. a crater.  I could've walked around, but I figured that the crater looked the same from all sides.  Also, I'm scared of heights so I was worried I'd fall to my death with my no traction boots.

Our guide sang an Icelandic song.  It was cool!

Our bus
Before going back, we took a rest stop and I thought it was interesting that their "Cooler Ranch" flavor is called "Cool American".
The tour guide gave us Icelandic beer and a few of the people cooled theirs up by sticking it in the snow.
I was able to get back and take a nap to rest up for the Northern Lights tour later that evening.  The last night was the first good night to see the lights while I was in Iceland, since it was clear.  I wore a lot of layers but was still not sufficiently prepared for how cold it was going to be.

Pre-Lights shot with my hostelmates on the bus.
While we were waiting for the bus to pick us up, we could see part of the lights in the city, so we knew we'd have a good chance.  We drove about 45 minutes out of the city before we stopped.  It was really dark and I was trying to last as long as I could outside before I had to go in the bus to get warm.  Obviously, I didn't bring any professional gear, so I don't have pictures to capture what I saw.  But we were looking at the camera and tripod of someone else and the pictures he captured were amazing - no filters needed.  I was trying to see if my hostelmate to get the pictures so I could put them on here, but the guy never sent them.  At least I have my memories of the lights.  This is the best picture I got with my Northern Lights camera app.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

My Rey or the Highway - Iceland, Day 3

I woke up to the aftermath of the snow storm, which I found out was a record-breaking 20 inches, the most Iceland has seen since 1937.  It felt like an apocalypse (snowpocalypse?), with huge piles of snow on the streets and covering cars, buildings, traffic lights, everything.  I spent half an hour in the morning helping my hostel mate shovel out his car, something I don't think I've done before.

Walking on the streets felt like a ghost town.  Since barely any cars were on the roads, it felt pointless to abide by the traffic lights.  Also, the unshoveled snow at some areas were so high that it made it difficult to walk around.  Unfortunately, when packing, I didn't have the foresight to bring taller boots.  This made for miserable walking conditions for me that day.

Even this kid was out shoveling snow.

I really wanted to go to the cultural museum (I love those), but it was pretty far away and the buses weren't running in the morning.  Their winter hours are very limited - they only give guided tours at 1pm, so it was clear that I wasn't going to make it.  There was also a chance that, due to the storm, it wouldn't be open.

I ended up meeting up with two of my hostel mates, and we decided to go to Videy Island, the mountain that I see outside my hostel window.  To get there, you have to take a ferry.  So we trudged through the snow piles to the ferry stop, only to learn that it was closed and we'd have to make our way to the other stop, quite a distance away.  We made a long (to me) walk to the bus stop, where we'd ride and get off, then walk again to the ferry station.  I was (am?) too lazy for this trip, so the poor boys heard me struggling.

The ferry stop that wasn't open
Passed by the concert hall.

Look how much snow there is.
Since it'd taken us so long to get to the ferry, there was only one more trip of the day, so our time on the island was limited.  It was only a five minute trip, though.  There were a couple other groups in the ferry with us.

You can see a bit of the ferry on the right.
Since we were on the last ferry drop off, there was also only one more ferry pick up for the day.  So we just had about 45 minutes to explore before having to get picked up.  The snow was so high and it made it difficult to walk around, especially since the snow on the island was largely untreaded.  Somehow I ended up as the first one out of the ferry so everyone else had to follow behind me on the one path up.  I was really slow and turned around and saw an equally slow line behind me - embarrassing. I blame the short legs.  I think one group even turned around right away and took the ferry back without even going anywhere on the island.  I'm imagining it went something like this.  (Takes a glance around.)  "NOPE.  PEACING OUT."

It took a long time to walk, since the snow was so deep and I was either sinking forward or sloshing around, akin to a newborn giraffe.  I kept having to scoop snow out of my boots and after a while, I just gave up and walked with snow-filled boots.  Although there's a few things on the island, including an Imagine Peace tower from Yoko Ono, we only had enough time to walk up to an isthmus and then walk back.  That took about 45 minutes.

So. Much. Snow.

Once we got back from the ferry, it took forever to get to the hostel.  There were three different times of waiting for the buses to stop, only for them to pass by us.  Apparently they weren't running that route on the weekend or something.  Needless to say, with wet, cold socks, I was highly annoyed and feared losing toes to frostbite.  We walked what felt like miles back to the hostel and I couldn't wait to change, shower, and pass out.  Day over!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rey(kjavik) to Go - Iceland, Day 2

Here's the gist of this blog entry: I went to a lot of museums and here's what I saw.

The day after the wind storm, the weather was great.  Little did I know that this was the most walkable day of my time in Iceland.

When I'm asked what I like to do when traveling, I'm not always sure what to answer, since I'm not a beach person, I'm also not very outdoorsy, and I like cheap food with cheese but am not a foodie.  I realized that I love weird things - that's my favorite.  So I was really excited when I heard that Reykjavik has a penis museum, because that's definitely weird.

To be honest, it's probably the thing I was most excited about seeing in Iceland.  I was warned that it was small, to which my hostelmate quipped, "And no one likes a small.. museum."  It wasn't particularly thrilling - it was various animal parts and memorabilia, like artwork and novelties.

I think this is from a whale.

This shot is blurry because someone was coming behind me and I was embarrassed.

There was also a section of fictional penises.  This is a merman's penis.  The display with an elf penis was empty.

After that was Culture House.  It was standard museum fare, but two pieces stuck out to me for their absurdity.

Sometimes I feel like this.
And this.
After this was the Reykjavik Art Museum, which was much more interesting, since it was modern art.  Some of the stuff was pretty weird but I love that.

I need something like this in my room.  Except that pie needs to be mac 'n cheese.
Or this.  Glorious cheese and food everywhere!

This one was super strange.  A video of women getting covered in frosting and the end result.

It wasn't clear what this was.

After this was the Settlement Museum, which was pretty neat.  In 2001, there were archaeological remains found, so the museum was built around the ruins, which was dedicated to explaining what the original settlement would have looked like.

I didn't get pictures of the main museum, so here's a couple I pulled online.

Image result for settlement museum iceland

Image result for settlement museum iceland

Since I mostly like fun things, I did take pictures of the kids corner.  I may or may not have put on the helmet and started flinging around the weapon.

After this, I went to the National Museum, but they don't let you take pictures anywhere in there.  It was interesting because it talked about the role of religion and vikings and how it influenced Iceland.  On the way back, I passed by the lake.

Made my way back to the hostel as another storm was starting to head in.

I woke up in the middle of the night during the storm.  The sky was so pretty, it was so orange and I had to take pictures.  You can't really see the sky in these pictures, though.  But as someone who doesn't see snow that often, it felt magical to see a ton of snowball in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping.