Thursday, January 28, 2010

Barcelona Trip Summer '09

Arrived in Barcelona, Spain on July 30, 2009 afternoon. We stayed at the Hotel 1898, a Philippine themed hotel right on La Ramblas, heart of Barcelona, I suppose. It's a great location next to the Boqueria Market, Carre Four Supermarket, Starbucks conveniently located at the hotel lobby, McDonald's, Burger King, Tapas Bar, Museums and so on. You find beautiful, fresh produce at the Boqueria. It's nice to take a walk in the morning when they start putting out their produce which are being handled carefully and displayed nicely. Perfectly sliced fruits and smoothies are ready to go.

There are lot of stalls that sell cured meats such as ham, chorizo, salami, deli meats and etc.

Below must be the Hotel Monte Carlo. The light effects make it look eerie at night.

Since we love to walk coz you get to see more places on foot, we decided to head to Sagrada Familia which is about 2.5 miles from the hotel. We didn't go in coz of the long lines and it's under renovation as you see in the picture.

I stumbled upon this pastry shop. They look soo good and had to take pictures from the side of the shop. I just didn't want them to stop me from taking.

Below was taken inside Picasso Museum. We went there on a Sunday and line was really long. Found out that admission is free on Sundays, 10 Euros on regular days.

Below is the Casa de L'ardiaca Catedral. It's a nice place to hang out, so many souvenir shops surrounding this Cathedral.

A Cookie store. I wonder how long they've been on display. They all look old.

Parc de Carles where I almost got robbed. Yeah, be careful when you go to places or parks esp. if you're alone. Never entertain people that look locals on their bikes asking for direction. They're just trying to scale or size you up, see what you got and don't be surprised if they come back. Thankfully, I was aware and suspicious of them esp. when the guy came back with another person also on a bike and stood behind me. I had to grab my belongings immediately. I maybe wrong, although, I knew they're up to something. They knew I was a tourist, so why would they ask me? They could've gotten away with a digital cam and an HD Camcorder. Guess, they realized that I sensed it so they fled. Believe me, I was frightened and weakened my knees. Made me paranoid the whole time. So, never let your guards down whenever you're in public.

Below is the Mirador de Colom right at the end of La Ramblas towards the water. Walk along the boardwalk in La Barceloneta and make sure you bring a mat or beach towel with you to lie on the beach.

If i'm not mistaken, that's the Maritime Museum (below) near Mirador de Colom.

Crema Catalan served on their traditional plate.

Be sure to visit Placa Reial where you find restaurants with the best deal such as Le Quinze Nits, the line is so long that you have to be there early. Ambience is great and to my surprise, most of the staff are Filipinos. Food is amazing and very reasonable, just 7 Euros for a pitcher of Sangria, can't beat that, huh? Their sister restaurant few feet away is La Fonda, also good food and nice decor. Below is a Duck with Strawberry sauce over Sweet Potato puree from La Crema, right across from Les Quinze Nits. This restaurant is a lot smaller, so be sure to get there early.

Overall, Barcelona is a vibrant city. There are so many young people on the streets especially on La Ramblas, just hanging out until the break of dawn. My hubby and I thought it was "okay", will I go back? Sure, but I would consider going outside the city next time.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico '09

This is my second time spending Christmas and New Year's in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The weather is perfect during this time of the year. We stayed at the Mayan Palace in Nuevo Vallarta, about 10 miles north of the airport. It's such a nice place to stay coz we got a really huge accomodation with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchenette, dining and living rooms plus a killer ocean view like the one above. We would watch the sunset, the luxury cruises coming and leaving and all the action going on the beach such as the parasailers and nice sail boats and yachts go by.

Every morning, we would walk along the beach for a little exercise. But there's one thing we noticed, it seemed like the water level had risen. On our last visit 3 years ago, the beach front was deep but this time, the water destroyed some of their properties such as the Palm trees, retaining walls and even the preparation for the New Year's eve gala. They were supposed to hold it on the beach but then the big waves spoiled everything. So, they had to transfer right on the golf course. They didn't want to take a chance which i'm glad they did.

Then one day, we saw these little eggs on the beach and found this baby turtle. It's the cutest thing ever. They were all in a bucket trying to get away while the rest of the eggs were buried. The waves must have eroded the sand and exposed all the eggs and these little creatures.

This picture was taken when we went to El Centro, downtown Puerto Vallarta. It's where the action is, more touristy and crowded. You find countless bars and restaurants right on the beach, as well as, hotels. Although it lacks privacy coz the hawkers would just pop up right in front of you. Unlike where we are staying, it's very serene and private. We don't have to worry about leaving our stuff on our lounge seats while we're having lunch at the bar or go back to the room. It's very secluded. The downside is that it's very limited in restaurant options. We always have to take the bus to get to El Centro and when we go, we would stay for hours.

This is Grilled Chicken with Lettuce and Tomatoes on Tortilla which I had for lunch almost daily on the pool. While below is Chicken Tacos smothered with Tomato sauce and Sour Cream with Guacamole. They're equally delicious.

Below are hand-painted plates made of clay (I guess) which you find everywhere. I bought some bowls with chilis and a plate for our plate rack in the dining room. I got them for a reasonable price in the town of San Francisco when we went on a day trip up north.

Next is a Mexican feast. Yes, we had Mexican buffet one night and it was fantastic. We both enjoyed the food, my hubby had the Cochinita Pibil (a Pork dish) for the first time and he loved it. I tried almost everything but a little bit of each dish. I love the Chicken Posole and their Salpicon de Res. They're all familiar to me since we prepare most of them at school. I also like the Bunuelos and watched the cook made them. He uses this flower shaped mold, dip it in batter and fry. It's so light and addictive. You can top it with Cajeta or melted Chocolate or Cinnamon sugar and so on.

We went back to El Arrayan (below) for our Christmas eve dinner. It's always nice to be back to your favorite restaurant where you know you'll have great authentic Mexican food. My hubby had this Grilled Mahi-mahi with Tomatillo sauce while I had Steak with Mole sauce. It was divine. I've always wanted to have Mole and this didn't disappoint me at all.

For appetizers, we ordered Duck Tostadas, didn't look appetizing coz of the color but the flavor was there. Then the Chicken Taquitos with Cream and crumbled Queso Fresco are also to die for. I'm not exaggerating it nor got paid to rave about it. When I like it, I really do. And I would tell the whole world. No desserts, we don't normally get it from the restaurant as we always end up stuffed.

Below is a table side Fresh Guacamole salsa. We went to Pipi's restaurant in El Centro. This was recommended to us by the resort concierge, very touristy ,yet, the ambience is great. They had the Mariachi serenading every table and people are in their festive mood. As soon as we sat down, they served us a basket of Nacho chips with Pico de Gallo and Fresh Guacamole salsa. That's what i'm talking about. Atleast, I know it's freshly made right before my eyes. We ordered Beef and Chicken Fajitas served with Rice and refried beans. The frozen Margarita was served in this humongous glass as big as my face. The food is mediocre but we still had a wonderful time. It's not as authentic as what I had expected. We originally planned to go to El Arrayan but they were closed, so we ended up here. Will I go back? I doubt it.