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2016 In Review

2016 was a very busy, eventful, miraculous year. A crazy election…my first surgery… got engaged… Cubs win…whirlwind tour of Spain… A year ago, I had no idea that any of these things would happen.

With a boyfriend/fiancé in tow, I ended up driving a lot more instead of flying or taking the train on local trips. I took more short-haul trips and fewer big vacations, including countless road trips to Pennsylvania for work, a bunch of family visits in Maryland and New York, and trips to Chicago, Cleveland, Utah, and of course, Spain. With a wedding to plan and our usual hectic lives, I expect 2017 to be another busy one, but I hope M and I can add a country or two to our list.

2016 in numbers:

0: New state visited. I have still visited 39 out of 50 states.

1: New country visited – Spain.

2: New national parks visited – Arches and Canyonlands.

2: New credit cards. This is very low for me, as I’m trying keep the numbers down so I can apply for some Chase cards.

3: Countries visited, including the U.S.

15: States visited, including Washington D.C.

15: Amtrak trips taken.

23: Flights – half the amount of last year’s 43.

3,539: Amtrak points earned.

17,698: Number of miles flown, 30,000 less than last year.

160,000: Number of miles redeemed. This includes two tickets from D.C. to Barcelona in business class and two economy tickets from Madrid to D.C.

361,690: Number of points redeemed at hotels, including one free night due to credit cards. This includes six nights at the Westin Palace in Madrid, 1 night at the AC Palacio De Santa Paula in Granada, four nights at the Alexandra Barcelona (Hilton), two nights at the Courtyard St. George (Zion National Park), and four nights at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

Too many to count: Car trips to Pennsylvania (along with some stops in Baltimore, New York, and Pittsburgh).

Spain #1: Barcelona & All Things Gaudi

Barcelona and Gaudi are almost like the same word. The Gaudi structures were the attractions I wanted to see most in Barcelona, and they’re the items Barcelona markets the most.

Antoni Gaudi was a Catalan architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a practitioner of Modernista architecture and heralded in his lifetime. Today, he is an artistic hero in Barcelona. Gaudi (and the modernista architecture movement that he is known for) is everywhere.

Of course, the Modernista movement was bigger than Gaudi. There are many beautiful homes and buildings built by Guadi’s contemporaries or students. As we walked throughout the city, there were constant traces of Modernista architecture: A lamppost, the distinctive curved doorway, the soft bowed windows, not to mention the merchandising in every single gift shop.

The Gaudi structures are also insanely expensive. Twenty euros for Guadi’s most famous houses. A whopping 29 euros for La Sagrada Familia. Even Park Guell charges seven euros now. Luckily, M was able to wrangle a press card that let us in for free in some of Barcelona’s biggest draws so we could experience Gaudi without selling one of our kidneys.

Our first stop was CasaBatlló, a Gaudi home built for Mr. Josep Batlló i Casanovas and his family on Passeig de Gràcia. The home was built between 1904 and 1906, and the family lived in it until the mid-1950s.

**IMG_5040.JPGWalking down the street, it’s impossible not to notice the façade. It is, in a word, weird – in a whimsical and fantastical way. Walking into Gaudi’s homes feels is like into a fantasy world – the stuff of movies. But it is very much real.

img_5032As I first walked in and took stock of the curved walls and wavy staircase, I was struck by the notion that Gaudi sought to defy gravity. Where traditional walls are straight and box-like, he insisted on warping them. Everything is turned on its head.

img_5065*IMG_5069.JPG

img_5070img_5095img_5096The house is narrow and tall, climbing many floors. The curvy staircase lets out onto a rooftop with views of the city below and more of Guadi’s unique creations.

img_5160img_5169img_5081Only a few blocks away you can find another one of Guadi’s famous houses – Casa Mila. We didn’t go inside, but the exterior is a site to behold.

img_4888img_4891Gaudi is probably most famous for Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia – the famous sprawling church that has been under construction for nearly a century. More on those to come and the rest of Barcelona’s Modernista sites.

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