Grant’s good friend Stephen Demjanenko recently visited us in Barcelona. They worked together at Meraki, rock climbed, and spent endless night in DOTA (computer game) tournaments. Once, I went to sleep and woke up before Grant had gone to sleep. True story. I blame Steve and DOTA for that!
The first order of business was to walk around our neighborhood, Gracia, enjoy the wonderful €10 four-course lunch menu, and make copious dinner reservations at restaurants Grant and I have been wanting to try. We headed to Park Guell to enjoy the crazy amounts of sunshine Barcelona is still getting.
We learned from Megan’s visit that sunset in Park Guell is one of the best views and peaceful experiences, so we had to experience that again.
We capped off the first day with a delicious dinner at Santa Gula, a restaurant that’s been haunting my instagram feed for months. Between that and La Pubilla, two tiny but delicious and local restaurants, we ate well the first few days in Barcelona.
One of the highlights of our time in Barcelona was exploring the neighborhood of Horta, which is definitely off the beaten path. It’s been on my list to explore for a while now. First we headed to the Labyrinth Garden, where Grant and Steve raced through.
It was so fun to play around the park. We might have had a mini photo-shoot….
We strolled through the Horta neighborhood, stopping on the way for important landmarks, such as this huge match, and this caterpillar train. So much caterpillar train!
Then we hoofed it up to what is considered the best viewpoint over Barcelona – the Bunkers of Carmel. You can literally sit on the edge of this old crumbling bunker and look out over the whole city. It makes Montjuic look like a tiny bump, instead of the huge hill that it is.
Sitges is a seaside town 30 minutes by train from Barcelona. It also happens to have one of the best Carnaval parties and parades in Europe! We hit up our local dollar store shop for some costumes (people dress up here like for Halloween). I think we did a fantastic job combining all the randomness….
…ok, I look a little weird. But I was obsessed with my wings:
In true Spanish style, the actual parade we came to see did not start on time. This wouldn’t really have been a problem with the buzz of energy in the air, except it was also freaking cold. We moved along the parade route, looking for a warm spot. Finally, we made the best decision to duck into a restaurant along the parade route and ate warm pizza while sipping red wine. When the parade finally came by (two hours late), we went out in shifts to watch the excitement before ducking back into the warmth.
I don’t know how all those dancers on the floats were surviving in the cold!
From the sea, to the mountains! The guys really wanted to do winter sports, so we headed up to one of the best winter resorts we’ve heard of, which happened to be in Andorra. When I finally looked at a map, I realized that Andorra is its own separate country. It’s a tiny landlocked country in the mountains between Spain and France. The official language is Catalan, and it seems very culturally similar to Catalonia. We took a three-hour bus ride from Barcelona, and we basically just drove into the country without much customs/immigration.
Grant told me there was an igloo hotel in Andorra, and I latched onto the idea. So our first night in Andorra, we had the really unique opportunity to stay in an IGLOO!
We took a snowcat up the mountain to the igloo hotel (my first time in a snowcat!). It so happened that we were the only other people staying there that night. A little background about the igloo hotel…it is built every winter season. It had electricity in it, working and heated bathrooms, and most fantastic of all, a hot tub! Each guest room was a block of ice covered in furs with sleeping bags on top. You would think it would be cold, but we were in our ski clothes most of the time, and we were perfectly comfortable. Each room also had its own theme, and there were unique ice carvings in each one. We got really lucky, because there had been a wedding in the igloo in the past month, and there were extra carvings and decorations in the common areas.
It was a definite “glamping” (glamour camping) experience. The hotel owners made dinner and breakfast for us, and they started the hot tub up for us so we just totally relaxed. We did a small snowshoeing excursion from the igloo up to the top of this range. The sights were beautiful; nature was beautiful. This stay was definitely a highlight of our adventures!
Unfortunately for me, this was the end of my Andorra adventures. This is where the saying “we’ll always have the iglú” started. I became very ill the next day and remained holed up in bed for the rest of the week with a bad cold. The guys did get a chance to do downhill skiing and a thermal spa day, and they took great care of me in between.
Thank you, Steve, for coming to visit! We had a great time checking off things on our list with you!