48 hours in Bristol – 48 things to do!

© The Milk Thistle.
© The Milk Thistle.

Have you ever been to Bristol – Let’s eat & drink ’till the cows come home!

My second glorious press trip to England. Yes, I’m going to Bristol & Bath. Yippee!

But first, did you know that:

I thought I would put Shaun the Sheep in for light relief, in Bristol LOL!
I thought I would put Shaun the Sheep in for light relief, in Bristol LOL!
  • Bristol is located just 120 miles west of London.
  • It’s the largest city in the south-west of England.
  • Bristol is the only UK city to have won the title ‘European Green Capital’ for 2015 and is one of the first cycling cities in the UK too!
  • Bath is about 12 miles to the east of the city.
  • Bristol is a 45 mile trip across the Bristol Channel to Cardiff in Wales.
  • The city is situated on the rivers Frome and Avon.
  • Bristol has been a wealthy trading port since the Roman era.
  • Bristol is a port city known as the “Birthplace of America”.
  • John Cabot sailed from Bristol to help “discover” North America in 1497.
  • The city played an important role in England’s maritime trade in tobacco, wine, cotton and more.
  • From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, Bristol was involved in a massive slave shipping industry.
  • Bristol is a university city of 400,000.
  • The infamous pirate Captain Blackbeard once had a hideaway cave under St. Mary Redcliffe church. His original birthplace and childhood home still stands on Bristol’s harbourside.
  • Pero’s Bridge is named after Pero Jones, who was the African servant of a plantation owner.
  • John Wesley’s New Room in Broadmead, is the oldest Methodist church in the world!
  • Hollywood legend Cary Grant (Archibald Leach) was born in Horfield, Bristol. Grant’s first role in theatre was working at The Bristol Hippodrome.
  • Bristol is the street party capital of the UK. I know. Bristol!
I'm sorry but I look amazing! © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
I’m sorry but I look amazing!
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

As you all know by now and if you don’t, whose blog have you been reading? No! Don’t answer that. Back to me!

As you know, I went to Bristol and I stayed there for two days. In short, just 48 hours. I’m sure that I could have stayed for at least a week but time is tight for many of us so I’m going to tell you how I managed it. And if I can do it, so can you!

Yes, I was working in partnership with Visit Bristol but if you’re looking for maps, brochures, addresses and the like, just log onto their website. It’s free and they’re wonderfully helpful.

So without much ado:

48 HOURS IN BRISTOL – 48 THINGS TO DO!

© The Cowshed.
© The Cowshed.
  • Go forth and have an English breakfast. As I told you last week, whenever you’re in England or anywhere else in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you must get yourself a full English, Irish, Welsh or Scottish breakfast. If you’re vegetarian, not to worry, just order a veggie English breakfast instead!
  • Book a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) rather than a hotel as a B&B has a more distinct British flavour. I went to the boutique Brooks GuestHouse B&B situated right next to the St. Nicholas Market!
  • Go on a walking tour: You know how much I like city walking tours here or here! I had my historical walking tour organised by a Blue Badge Guide called Liz Gamlin who even collected me from my B&B! She was lovely and flexible enough to make the walk geared towards my needs. She was also sensitive to my interests, and would stop whenever I wanted to take a photograph of something or needed more info. We got on so well that we eventually left each other about 13:00 instead of 11:30!

Banksy in Bristol.

  • Check out the Street Art: Banksy is huge in Bristol. I didn’t go on a specific street art tour but if you want to, you can contact the guys at The Ultimate Bristol Walking Tour.
  • Visit Bristol’s oldest market – the 200-year-old St Nicholas Market and soak up the delights of the vibrant marketplace that has been trading since 1743! I really liked it and bought many nostalgic English gifts!
  • Check out the historical buildings. Bristol is centuries old and there’s a lot to see.
  • Ramble and stroll through the cobbled streets. Don’t be afraid to go down a narrow off-street path, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.
  • Go into The Commercial Rooms or the Cosy Club on Corn Street. I won’t tell you what’s there. Go see for yourself!
  • Check out the churches: In pretty much every corner is a church or cathedral sticking out or hidden around the corner!
Redcliffe Sunset in Bristol. © Gary Newman
Redcliffe Sunset in Bristol.
© Gary Newman
  • Take a harbourside stroll along the floating harbour.
  • Have a snack on the river side. What better than with a bag of fish n’ chips!
  • Meet some of the locals at a typical old-time historical pub!
  • Go to the Old City and check out Norman Bristol, Georgian Bristol and Medieval Bristol which look as they did hundreds of years ago!
The Crucible at the Bristol Old Vic in Bristol with Daniel Weyman as Rev Hale and Dean Lennox Kelly as John Proctor. © Geraint Lewis.
The Crucible at the Bristol Old Vic in Bristol with Daniel Weyman as Rev Hale and Dean Lennox Kelly as John Proctor.
© Geraint Lewis.
  • Watch pieces of drama at the Bristol Old Vic. I watched an outstanding performance of The Crucible which was marvellous. I totally loved it.

The Bristol Old Vic is the oldest theatre in Britain and celebrating 250 years with a special year-round anniversary programme that will feature five (5) world-class productions – one from each century of the theatre’s life – as well as a production of a Shakespeare play to mark the 400th anniversary of his death.

Jane Eyre at the Bristol Old Vic. © Manuel Harlan.
Jane Eyre at the Bristol Old Vic.
© Manuel Harlan.

With actors like Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, 2016 represents an extraordinary moment in British theatre history.

I’m a lover of the creative arts so this was always going to be something that I would be eager to watch. It was a great performance and surprisingly, the actors came out and mingled with the audience at the end. I’m used to this in Berlin but I’ve never had the luck in England, unless it was a premier night, so I was pleasantly surprised. Saturday, November 7th was effectively, the last performance night and everyone was in a merry mood. I would usually stay and hang out with the cast but was exhausted from the long day, I did however, manage to have a quick chat with the leading actor –  Dean Lennox Kelly – who used to be Kev in the original British series Shameless and who I found to be extremely humble as he told me that he couldn’t quite believe that he was performing in such an establishment as that of the Bristol Old Vic.

Dean Lennox Kelly
Dean Lennox Kelly

I found that charming!

  • Have a snack or a drink at the Llandoger Trow which was built in 1664 and one of the last timber-built buildings in Bristol! It’s also said to be the inspiration for the Admiral Benbow in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and where Daniel Defoe met his Robinson Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk!
  • Go on a ghost walking tour!
  • Bristol is surrounded by water so take a ferry ride with Bristol Ferry Boats which provides a scheduled water bus service around Bristol’s unique Floating Harbour. Due to Remembrance Day or Armistice Day on 11 November – a day used to remember all the people who died in wars since the Great War or WWI, I decided to sail with the Bristol Packet Boat Trips.

I was the only customer for half the ride but the skipper and his assistant were friendly and chatty and pointed out the best places to take photographs.

A Whippy 99 flake ice cream! © wouldliketoeat.wordpress.com
A Whippy 99 flake ice cream!
© wouldliketoeat.wordpress.com
  • Get yourself a Whippy or a 99 flake ice cream and make sure it has an original chocolate flake bar with raspberry or strawberry syrup on it!
  • Go to a museum or gallery. Most of them are completely and utterly free. Hurrah!
  • Take a trip to the M Shed which is on the harbourside. It focuses on the history of Bristol and it’s people and is a historic wharf which has been turned into a museum. I only had 1.5 hours there but I certainly could have spent more!
©Brunel's ss Great Britain in Bristol.
©Brunel’s ss Great Britain in Bristol.

I would utterly agree!

If you only have time for one thing, I recommend you do this one! I had a marvellous time sailing the flag, skipping through the decks and imagining what it would have been like to be a passenger on board. It’s got a dockyard museum, a glass sea view of the ship’s hull, a dockyard where you can dress up and take photos, and you can climb up the top deck complete with flags, and then go from deck to deck opening doors and seeing what’s behind them. Some even have sounds and smells!

Myself "sailing" Brunel's ss Great Britain in Bristol.
Myself “sailing” Brunel’s ss Great Britain in Bristol.

I liked it so much that I spent three (3) hours there!

  • Potter around a vintage or second-hand bookshops.
  • Hang out and chat with the locals. I spotted quite a few people in fancy costume and one of them was dressed as Keith Richards in Pirates of the Caribbean!
  • Go to fringe theatre performances. Perhaps make a stop at the Tobacco Factory Theatres or the Raucous.
  • If you’re into film culture and media and digital technology, then the Watershed is not to be missed!
  • I haven’t visited myself but I hear that the riverside restaurant – The Glassboat  – is to be considered for that extra something.
  • Take a hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing bus and let a local guide provide a unique and personal experience of Bristol.
  • Explore British artists and go to the gallery.
  • Get yourself a plate of good British grub and chomp on locally served nosh at The Cowshed.
  • Have a pint of ale, craft beer or English cider and scrumpy.
A speakeasy at the Hyde & Co. in Bristol.
A speakeasy in Bristol. ©Hyde & Co.
  • Be creative and search for Bristol’s speakeasies which have secret entrances and payphones to call a waiter, so part of the fun is to find how to get to the entrance in the first place!
  • Go unconventional and chase the white rabbit at the Illusions Magic Bar!
  • Go to the Old Market Quarter which is home to a great selection of vintage fashion and antique shops and also has strong connections to the LGBT community and popular gay-friendly shops, pubs, bars and clubs.
  • Climb up the hill and go to the bohemian village known as Clifton.
  • Be an undergraduate for a day and visit the University of Bristol.
A bottle of sherry from Harvey's Bristol Cream.
A bottle of sherry from Harvey’s Bristol Cream!
  • Get a real taste of Bristol’s heritage at Harvey’s Cellars – the home of Harvey’s Bristol Cream –  and relax while you fantasise about Bristol’s glorious past!
  • Take a discrete peek at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, an independent school for boys and founded in 1586!
  • Go for a walk through the huge protected parkland and countryside known as The Downs.
  • Gasp over the amazing views and wildlife of the Avon Gorge.
  • Have a classy meal or Afternoon Tea at the Avon Gorge Hotel.
  • Prepare yourself for the gorgeous unparalleled views of Brunel’s grade-one-listed Clifton Suspension Bridge. A bridge said to be one of the greatest bridges in the world!
Go for a night out at the Milk Thistle in Bristol.
©The Milk Thistle in Bristol.
  • Go for a night out at any of the 101 bars and restaurants dotted about the Old City, the Harbourside, the West End and Broadmead.
  • Explore Bristol and hop on a bike.
  • Take out your credit card and go shopping at the Bristol Shopping Quarter. You know you want to!
  • Be an artist for a day and join in one of Bristol’s biggest and oldest art trails.
  • Visit The Harbourside Market which describes itself as ‘no ordinary market’ but an independent alternative to the high street, supporting local creativity and providing a safe space for people to shop, eat and relax within a setting rich with tradition. I saw a few food stalls, arts, crafts. It definitely lives up to it’s name!
  • Experience the luxury and glamour of a roof top Retro Rocket. The only one of it’s kind in the UK! More about that next week!
  • Have champagne. Why not!

 

 A glass of champagne at the Avon Gorge Hotel, Bristol.

Even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Visit Bristol all opinions and the sailing experience and skipping that I indulged in, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you and will continue next week with my final post on Bristol!

In December, I’ll be taking part in The Best of Berlin in 48 Hours campaign.

Yay!

Sausages and a meat pie at the AspirePlus Airport Lounge in Bristol.
Sausages and a meat pie at the AspirePlus Airport Lounge in Bristol.

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you have any questions about Bristol or Bath, let me know!

November is going to be frosty!

Watch this space!

48 hours in Bristol - 48 things to do!

Have you ever been to Bristol? Is there anything else you would do on a 48 hour weekend visit to Bristol?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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10 reasons to go to Barcelona – And it’s not only for tapas and sangria, but you know, I’ll take it anyway!

The headless man in Barcelona, Spain.
The headless man in Barcelona, Spain.

So last week, I told you how I got abandoned at Barcelona Airport and it was pretty traumatising. Not only did I have to go through a flight delay with Vueling before I got to Spain but I went through a horrendous flight delay with Norwegian, on the way back to Germany too.

You really couldn’t make it up.

The fact is, whenever you go through an unpleasant time, it leaves a slight taste in your mouth and then you have a negative image of that destination.

The fact is, you begin to think it was that place rather than that airline.

Spain - Here we come!
Spain – Here we come!

The fact is, Spain is a great country to go to and Barcelona is just a thrill and I reeeeeally do like Barcelona and don’t want last week’s post to spoil the good time that I DID have in Spain so perhaps, I might go back to Spain again sometime this year.

It deserves a second chance.

One of the best things about going to the TBEX EUROPE conference is that you get the opportunity to be introduced to other organisations and outlets that you might not have thought of. You also get interviewed. I was asked, by the Travel Massive community in Spain, whether it was worth attending TBEX. Here’s the link to what I said!

Catalonia or Catalunya, Spain. Spain - Catalonia
Catalonia or Catalunya, Spain.
Spain – Catalonia

Now, I’ve actually been to Barcelona about four (4) times now, and this was the fifth (5th) time so I knew Barcelona as a fun city, but I didn’t know Barcelona as a cultural city!

As you know, my time was extremely limited in Lloret de Mar and I really only had one day to play with as the TBEX EUROPE bloggers conference took place from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15. Basically, three (3) days and nicely done over a public holiday and the weekend.

My initial plan was to use May 3rd to go to Barcelona, as you can’t be in the region and NOT go to Barcelona. That would be sacrilege!

Moventis, Sarfa.

As a TBEX EUROPE accredited blogger, the city of Lloret de Mar and the region of Costa Brava did their very best to provide either complimentary, or reduced-priced transport.

Now for those of you who have been following my blog in the last year (thank you so much!), you know that I attend quite a few parties, festivals, and events and I’m not averse to having a jolly good time LOL! I do however, also like history and culture, so I signed up with a company called Context Travel or #DeepTravel.

Context Travel had tours operating in Barcelona and in order to join the tour, I had to make my own way down …

Barcelona isn’t actually that close to Lloret de Mar and depending on where you are going, can take up to two (2) hours…..Since I wasn’t going to the airport, I decided to make use of local transportation which would comprise of either taking the bus or the train. Would you believe it if I told you that travelling by bus was much faster?

shutterstock-92810047-zob

You know how I love coach-bus travel so by bus it was to be.

On the last official night of TBEX EUROPE there was a closing party at a local club in Lloret de Mar. I was still quite exhausted from sleeping at the airport the previous day so I decided to go back to my hotel a little after midnight! Thankfully, the lovely 4-star – Hotel Gran Garbi in Lloret de Mar was about just seven (7) minutes away from the local coach-bus station so I sprinted towards it and took the 09:30 bus to Barcelona early on Sunday morning!

The fantastic thing about the Lloret de Mar coach-bus station is that not only could you go straight to the airport, but you could also travel to Toss de Mar, Barcelona, Girona and France!

I didn’t have any time for France but I did have the whole day allocated to spending as much time as possible in Barcelona.

Train & Bus tickets in Barcelona, Spain.

In order to get a return ticket, you have to choose and book the time that you wish to return. It’s a long journey so I chose the outward journey of 09:30 and a return time of 19:15. A return ticket would usually cost €10.75 but with a TBEX “pass” it cost just €9.75. Every penny counts.

The bus was quite comfortable, very clean, and pretty much fully booked. I ended up sitting next to an Italian guy who lived in Switzerland and had travelled to Spain to get his suit custom-made! He was pretty worried about getting his suit squashed and spent the whole journey holding it. He was fun to talk to though!

The bus is described as having WiFi but it didn’t work all the time, and on the return journey didn’t work at all!

From the Land of the Dead.
From the Land of the Dead.

I was set to meet Context Travel at 11:00.

Our meeting point was at the Hard Rock Cafe on Plaça Catalunya. When I got to Est Nord – which is the Barcelona Central Coach-Bus Station – I realised that I only had twenty (20) minutes to get to the meeting point, so I took a taxi.

You hear many things about the unscrupulous taxi drvers in Barcelona.

And the cost?

€5.00!

I didn’t get cheated at all and I managed to get to the Hard Rock Cafe with two (2) minutes to spare!

And then I looked around.

No tour guide but very creative students in Barcelona, Spain. Getting "married!"
No tour guide but very creative students in Barcelona, Spain.
Getting “married!”

No tour guide!

No person, man or woman holding-a-context-travel-sign-with-the-name-of-the-tour as instructed.

No umbrella person.

No groups of lost-looking-tourists-also-going-on-the-tour.

Nothing!

Sigh!

He was in the Shopping District in Barcelona, Spain. Gorgeous!
He was in the Shopping District in Barcelona, Spain.
Gorgeous!

I spent fifteen (15) minutes staring into the faces and peering at random strangers, hoping that they were the guide. Or lost tourists.

And then I saw a woman constantly looking at her phone and wearing pedal pushers. Could she be?

Yep! She was a blogger – Luxe Travel Family.

A fellow TBEX EUROPE blogger.

Hurrah! I’m not in Kansas anymore Toto!

And she was standing next to a young lady. She was a blogger too! – Travel Geekery.

And then not more than a few minutes later a woman came huffing and puffing. Another blogger! – Rachel Heller.

Hurrah, for TBEX EUROPE bloggers.

But wait. Where was our guide?

We’re experienced travel bloggers. We have social media at our finger tips. We’ve climbed volcanos, interviewed top artists, and sat on the front row at Fashion Week, surely we know what to do with all that technology at our finger tips?

Yeeeeeah!

So we called up.

Yep! We used the telephone LOL!

Anyway, it transpired that the organisers had messed up. There was a guide who was at the other side of Barcelona who had been waiting for a group of tourists who hadn’t turned up, and we were on the opposite side of the city thinking the same thing….!

Biel - our guide in Barcelona.
Biel – our guide in Barcelona.

In less than twenty minutes, our lovely guide arrived. His name was Biel. He was an absolute top fellow, in his late twenties, and professional. After making sure we were all together and brief introductions, off we went.

I’m an eager beaver, so I booked up for two (2) tours. The first one was called: The Gothic Quarter and the second one was called: Gràcia and the Spirit of Catalan Independence!

The Festival of The Day of the Virgin Mary, in Barcelona, Spain.
The Festival of The Day of the Virgin Mary, in Barcelona, Spain.

For the Gothic Quarter Tour, it was just the four (4) of us so Biel was really flexible and let us concentrate on the things that we were interested in or in anything we saw. And we saw a lot of things not even included in the tour because May 3rd was a public holiday in Barcelona, and the locals were celebrating  the festival of The Day of the Virgin Mary!

Loads of local Spaniards were out and about and I saw lots of families with children putting their blanket on the cool stone stabs and simply having a picnic, right there in the historic quarter of the Roman era! The festival turned into a bit of a musical parade which was in full force, and we even left the tour for about 20 minutes and joined in the parade itself.

Barcelona, Spain.

Now this is being in Barcelona!

It was a great day, extremely sunny and the feeling that I was really in Spain, began to slowly settle in.

Si!

So let’s have some history:

BARCELONA

Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain.
Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona,, although not the capital of Spain, is indeed the capital of Catalunya or Catalonia and with 1.6 million people, is the second largest city, after Madrid, – Spain’s real capital city! It’s an old city founded by the Romans and emerging in importance in the Middle Ages. It’s a city that is over 2,000 years old and is open to the sea and influenced by many cultures.

Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city and a capital of business and commerce as well as a leading tourist destination, with some of the world’s finest architects having left their mark that integrate with the elegance of the Eixample district, and the down-to-earth squares of the Gràcia districts.

Barcelona, Spain.

It’s a fantastic city of both history and culture and it’s no wonder that millions of people flock there.

Catalonia’s fight for Spanish independence was based on political and historical ground, as far back as the 14th century, but was lost in 1714. The region got a resurgence of Catalan nationalism in the 19th century but with the dictatorship of General Franco, all of Spain was in dire straits.

Today however, Barcelona is a mediterranean city  that invites you to stroll on it’s streets filled with life and atmosphere, or to breathe in the rich ancient language of the Catalan people.

 THE GOTHIC QUARTER AND GRACIA AND THE SPIRIT OF CATALAN INDEPENDENCE

There be dragons in Barcelona, Spain.
There be dragons in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona’s Barri Gótic, or the Gothic Quarter is one of the best preserved medieval districts in the world, where you can ramble through the squares and hidden corners and discover the charm of buildings that are hundreds of years old.

We certainly did.

Our guide – Biel – took us through the layers of Barcelona from ancient Roman times, through the Middle Ages and until the 19th century.

The ancient Barcino Temple in Barcelona, Spain.
The ancient Barcino Temple in Barcelona, Spain.

We were shown the remains of a Roman gate, parts of the Roman wall and some Roman architecture. You all know the saying that “All Roads lead to Rome.” Not only that, but did you know that the saying in Barcelona goes – “All Roads lead to Rome and to the Gate of Augustus!”

It’s certainly true as in practically every twist and turn in and in every back alley, you could see a part of Roman history and Roman architecture and ideas that comprised of guilds, sophisticated professional and merchant classes, and a rich religious life for many religions.

FC Barcelona.
FC Barcelona.

Later in the day, I went on my second tour to Gràcia and as I was the only guest, it ended up being a private tour of one.

I also got to know a little bit about Biel as we sat in the Spanish sun and drank a can of non-alcoholic beer!!!!

Biel – the tour guide – was actually a young academic and an Art Historian who had not only been working with Context for three (3) years, but was also teaching at the local university AND was also involved in a local street festival, that took place once a year. The celebration was called the Festivity of Gràcia or the Fest de Gràcia and was a community effort.

Barcelona, Spain.

I had a look at his workshop which had signs asking for the locals to send in their recyclable products that he and his team needed, and they did. In fact, the project was so successful that last year, they won first prize for creativity.

Gràcia is very different from Barcelona Central and quite working class. There were hardly any tourists around and lots and lots of locals sitting in the sun, drinking, playing or just chatting.

I saw many churches, places of worship. And flags. I also got a peek into the history of the rise for independence by the Catalan people and even though Biel said nothing to suggest his feelings, I could feel the passion in his voice.

The Catalan people are proud. Proud of their language, proud of their culture, and proud of their soul.

Iberico ham.
Iberico ham.

If you’re thinking of going to a warm European city where the sun always shines, Barcelona is a good bet.

Here are ten (10) reasons why:

  1. Barcelona is easy to reach by plane, train, and by ship.
  2. If you like “living” history, there are so many open-air museums, squares and streets that you can stroll through. Take your time, close your eyes and imagine that you’re right back in time. At every turn and nook and cranny, you can bump into medieval bridges, romanesque chapels and gothic arches.
  3. The most brilliant works of Catalan Art Nouveau such as the marvellous beauty – La Sagrada Família –  are to be found all over the city through it’s most talented son – Gaudi.
  4. The Catalan people have a patron saint called Sant Jordi who happens to be the exact same patron saint of England – Saint George. I couldn’t believe it. I was enthralled and delighted.
  5. Look for dragons which are hidden. You can find them everywhere. If you look! Take a closer look at the architecture, in the stones and on the windows. They’re all over the place!
  6. The traditions of Catalonia are so rich that it is packed with carnivals, festivals, dances, bonfires, streets and squares filled with “Giants” and human towers that are such an exquisite sight, that the castellers have been declared a World Intangible Heritage! It was such a shame that I missed seeing them personally on my first day, due to my flight delay…
  7. Catalonia isn’t just Barcelona but consists of a diversity of land and regions ranging from the rugged Pyrenees, charming villages and towns, and farmed fields of the plain, not to talk of the beautiful sea, and has 16 natural parks and nature reserves, and a collection of sea scapes and mountains that are as wide in size, as the country of Belgium!
  8. Check out Barcelona’s most modern stadium and visit FC Barcelona filled with such beauties and talents, as Neymar and Lionel Messi!
  9. Visit Barcelona’s open-air or Historic Trail Markets and stuff yourself with the abundance of extremely tasty natural produce and gastronomy, based on seasonal produce such as paella, tapas, seafood, fideuà (a type of noodle casserole), black rice, home-made desserts and Cervesa.
  10. Discover and hang out in Barcelona’s underground scene that includes wild jam sessions, techno dancefloors, film screenings and flamenco!
A special Catalan dish at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.
A special Catalan dish at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.

I only had roughly eight (8) hours to spend in Barcelona in which I went on two (2) walking tours, had a local lunch at a Spanish bistro that served traditional tapas and typical Catalan dishes, with the bloggers. The bistro was called Carmelitas Tapas. After that I had some ice-cream, and still managed to take a couple of selfies at the Arc de Triomf, and in plenty of time to take the coach-bus back to Lloret de Mar!

if you’re interested in history and art then Context Travel or #DeepTravel might be a good fit for you.

I loved my day out and found Barcelona utterly charming!

Barcelona, Spain.

Here are the details:

WHAT IS CONTEXT TRAVEL?

Context Travel also known as #DeepTravel, is a network of scholars and specialists who specialise in archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, and the classics, and who design and lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups of people who are intellectually curious.

Their vision is to bring together local scholars and specialists, with visitors who are curious, so that they can learn and allow them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight. Their biggest goal is to take visitors off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history, and culture.

My type of people then!

WHAT IS THE GOTHIC QUARTER TOUR ABOUT?

Barcelona, Spain.

The Gothic Quarter Tour goes through the heart of the town, learning about the evolution of Barcelona, going through the neighbourhood, walking through Barcelona’s main market, into La Ramblas and taking a look at how modern development has changed the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. You get to learn about the rich religious life and Barcelona’s history through the remains of the ancient city, the medieval splendor, the modern technology and the cosmopolitan urban mix.

WHAT IS THE GRACIA AND THE SPIRIT OF CATALAN INDEPENDENCE TOUR ABOUT?

St. George AND the red cross on the streets of Barcelona, Spain.
St. George AND the red cross on the streets of Barcelona, Spain.

The Gràcia Tour is about the loss of independence in the region of Catalan and the neighbourhood of Gràcia. The walk introduces us to the intricacies of Catalan history and culture, the difference between the Catalan and the Spanish and why they continue to fight for independence. The tour also shows the wealth of the area during the Industrial Revolution and at the same time, the village-like feel of the tiny squares, the places of worship, the narrow streets and the romantic architecture.

Phew!

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND SPANISH?

Nope!

These tour are in English. If English isn’t your native-language not to worry, as the company can arrange customised tours.

Some Spanish biscuit and cake!
Some Spanish biscuit and cake!

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of good shoes, a pair of sunglasses, suncream, a hat, a huge bottle of water, a few Euros for a snack, and a huge smile!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes. The tours are extremely small and have no more than six (6) people at a time. It’s a little pricey at $91.00 or €80.00 but if you want professional art historians who really know their stuff, then it’s worth the price.

The tour is three hours long so don’t make an important appointment immediately after. You might want to hang-out with the tour-guide and other members of your tour group, over a beer or two.

MY VERDICT:

Barcelona, Spain.

I’m aspiring to be an art history and culture buff, so it was just perfect. If you’re not that well inclined, then they do customise tours for individual groups. As my last tour was just me, my tour guide did just that. We focused on the things that were of interest to me and skipped the ones that weren’t!

Everyone should do a walking tour every now and then, if only to make sure that you know exactly what you’re talking about or can follow up with someone who does LOL!

I really enjoyed the tours but I don’t recommend them for children or young teenagers. Highly recommended for a more intimate, hands-on experience.

Many Thanks to TBEX, TBEX EUROPE, the Catalunya Experience, Costa Brava, Lloret de Mar, Context Travel and all the wonderful bloggers that I met, for the good times and for their warm hospitality.

See you in Stockholm, 2016.

This article is not sponsored, and even though I was a guest of Context, all opinions and the Iberico ham and lovely red wine that I consumed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Paletilla Iberica at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.
Paletilla Iberica at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.

Next week, I’ll be back about the secrets of Estonia and what we did in Tallinn with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what we thought about Helsinki in Finland!

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. It’s going to be great.

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin right now, then you’re losing the experience of Berlin – the place to be!

May is going to be exciting.

Watch this space!

About to leap outside the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, Spain!
About to leap outside the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, Spain!

 

Have you ever been to Barcelona? Are you a fan of Gaudia or a fan of sangria?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

10 reasons why Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as Northern France, is more than just stinky cheese and a paté made from goose!

Heart-shaped Coeur d'Arras cheese in Nord-Pas de Calais.
Heart-shaped Coeur d’Arras cheese in Nord-Pas de Calais.

So last week I returned from my first press trip ever. And it was in France!

OMG!

Like, France!

I mean, come on!

Isn’t that everybody’s dream. Riding on a French bicycle with garlands of onions strewn across, a beret on one’s head, and a basket of wine tucked away ready to be drunk next to that certain someone, on a French field, with French cows in the background.

Images of garlic and onions. Or is that just me!
Images of garlic and onions. Or is that just me!

Or is that just me!

OK. Cut to reality.

The Press Trip that I went on last week was completely awesome, and more than I ever imagined it would be.

I was sooooo anxious. Excited. But anxious.

I needn’t have worried.

I was going to Northern France. Yay!

In my last post, which you can find right here. I told you why I was picked to go to Northern France or Nord-Pas de Calais, and what the trip was all about. Basically, it was a way to introduce the delights of the Northern Region. I mean, everyone knows Paris, the French Rivera, Champagne, the Loire Valley, Brittany, and Normandy. I’ve been to many of these places but I had never been to Nord-Pas de Calais. I’d never even heard of this part of Northern France.

I thought that I was going to Normandy. Ooops!

I’d never even heard of this part of Northern France. I thought that I was going to Normandy. Ooops!

Suffice to say, in 3.5 days, I learnt a lot about Northern France and now it’s time for you to follow my footsteps and see what I discovered, and what you missed!

So let’s break it down.

10 REASONS WHY NORD-PAS de CALAIS OTHERWISE KNOWN AS NORTHERN FRANCE, IS MORE THAN JUST STINKY CHEESE AND A PATÉ MADE FROM GOOSE! 

1. Northern France is awfully near: In fact, you can take a plane, take a car, take the train, or take a bus. You can probably cycle too. It’s that close! On this press trip, we got to experience travelling by bus and travelling by train.

Should I take the train in France or not? It’s obvious though isn’t it!

We had a 5:00 wake-up call (that was eeeugh!), and we took a long-distance bus or coach that took us through Germany, Belgium and France. Breakfast was provided by the Northern France team and free tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and water was also available whenever we wanted. This bus was privately hired for our group but on commercial buses you can also buy beer AND you CAN drink it and eat snacks on the bus, as long as you take your litter with you.

Take the train in France!

On the way back to Germany, we took the train. The Thalys train and in First Class. A snack, lunch AND wine is included too. Service by pretty girls and attractive guys. Huge plush individual seats. With free WIFI. Wow! These guys want you to know that you don’t have to fly to France to have comfort, and guess what? They’re right.

You don’t have to fly. Magnifique!

Hurrah for Europe!

At the National Sea Centre in Nord-Pas de Calais!

2. Northern France is near the sea: If you’re looking for brisk walks in fresh air then this region is pretty good. The French Rivera it is not, but you can’t have everything! You can go sand yachting and experience local history by the port and harbour in Boulogne. In fact, we watched a film on the bus about what other French people think about Nord-Pas de Calais, quite frankly, they think it’s like England. Weather-wise.

Sand yachting! Doesn’t that sound exciting? In Northern France.
northernfrance-tourism.com© Anne-Sophie Flament

And was it?

Pretty much. I was the only person who took off my jacket and strolled along in the wind and drizzly rain, whilst the French and German participants huddled under jumpers, scarfs, and water-proof jackets! Ah, dear old England! Ye olde Englande of yesteryears, of vinegar, fish and chips, and digestive biscuits and….

Oh sorry, we’re talking about France!

Images of France!

3. Yes, in Northern France you can go to a sort of seaworld place. French-style called Nausicaa or the National Sea Centre. We didn’t have a huge amount of time there but they have:

  • 36,000 fresh water, land, and marine animals.
  • 1,000 species in 4.5 million litres of water.
  • 50 aquariums, large pools, and terrariums.
  • More than 60 sharks.
  • An oceanographic expedition.
  • 6 Sea Lions.
A Giant Turtle!

It’s pretty good for underwater observations of sharks, huge fish, giant turtles, jellyfish, and seals. You know my feelings about responsible tourism, but as far as I could see, the seals seemed to be well looked after, and there was no painting, writing, or jumping through hoops of fire, or anything, but if you’ve got a few hours to kill. Why not?

4. It’s full of history: Northern France is definitely in France. France is in Europe. Europe is thousands of years old, so it’s absolutely chock-a-block with memorial sites, churches, stately homes, buildings, gardens, museums, markets, town squares and the like, with a rich and varied heritage. It’s true that a lot of them were destroyed in WWI but the Northern French people were determined to carry on regardless, and built most of it back again!

France is chock-a-block with memorial sites, churches, stately homes, buildings, gardens, museums, markets, town squares and the like!

We were able to see some of these historical places. We went to an old town called Bethune or Béthune. In fact, it’s origins are celtic in nature and flourished due to clothing, trading, and coal. And it’s main glory? A UNESCO World Heritage property called The Belfry which we were lucky enough to go up in so that we could get really close to the bells and the clock, in order to get panoramic views of the town from the roof! The Belfry was originally built during the Middle Ages and managed to survive.

A giant from Bethune in Northern France!

Oh yeah, Bethune is also known for it’s history of giants. I’ve seen two (2) of them about seven (7) years ago, passing through Berlin on the riverside. We all came out and were awfully impressed!

5. Northern France is actually Belgian!: Northern France has history with Belgium and although distinctly French, is enormously proud of it’s Flemish heritage. We visited a lovely little town called Arras which has a wealth of Flemish history, architecture, and lifestyle. We went to the Town Hall that is amazingly Gothic in style with wonderful Flemish buildings surrounding the Square. In fact, it reminded me of Krakow. In Poland!

You can find Gothic architecture, all over Europe!

We were also told that in the winter, the famous Grand’ Place holds a huge German-style Christmas Market with 70 stalls filled with French chefs, craftsmen, and choirs, catering to local goods and products. Consider the image of horses parading, soldiers clattering, and the glitter of a German Xmas Market. These German Christmas Markets are everywhere!

Memories of both wars are everywhere in Northern France, but that of WW1 or The Great War is especially painful.

6. The First World War or The Great War: Northern France was heavily involved as the region is steeped in history and charged with emotion. During The Great War between 1914-1918, Northern France suffered and was practically razed to the ground. The region is surrounded by traces of WWI. More so, that The Great War is now 100 years old. Arras in particular was at the heart of the torment of the First World War and so we were shown the Wellington Quarry that was taken over by the British Army in the memorial of The Battle of Arras on the 9th of April, in 1917….

We were shown the scarred countryside in Arras and Cambrai, and the many cemeteries and memorials necessary and important, to keep alive the awfulness, and utter wretchedness, of war.

A reminder of "The Great War" between 1914-1918. Let there be peace.
A reminder of “The Great War” between 1914-1918. Let there be peace.

Visiting the cemeteries of The Fallen in the British, Canadian, French, and German sites was painful. I found that I was more emotionally affected than I expected, surrounded by the silence of trenches, gunshots and screams of an utterly, bloody war. It brought home to me how many young men, women, and children, were really involved and died for the cause of a “Great War.” Nobody could even imagine that less than 20 years later, an even more horrific war would take place, yet again.

At the Lovuvre-Lens Museum in Nord-Pas de Calais.
At the Lovuvre-Lens Museum in Nord-Pas de Calais.

7. Traditional Art and Culture: Northern France has a clothing, trading, and coal background. Located at the heart of a coal-pit is one of the world’s largest museums – The Louvre-Lens Museum. Yes, the sister of that most marvellous French icon – The Louvre! This museum only opened in 2012 and in a contemporary building of glass and light, has now become a must-see attraction so of course, we went along too. You know how I like to go to museums as I like old art.

The Louvre Lens. The sisiter of "the" Louvre is in Northern France. Hurrah!
The Louvre Lens. The sisiter of “the” Louvre is in Northern France. Hurrah!

I was salivating when I heard that we would get to see “the other Louvre.” However, The Louvre-Lens Museums goes through a lot of effort to let you know that it isn’t THE Louvre but “another Louvre” with pieces that have never ever seen the light of day. I was so excited! The Museum is free (except for temporary exhibitions) until the end of 2014, so go now!

The Museum Matisee in Nord-Pas de Calais
The Museum Matisee in Nord-Pas de Calais

Another museum to note is The Museum Matisee in Cambrai. Founded by Matisee himself. It’s recognised throughout Northern France for the quality of it’s collections, and it’s exceptional works by major modern artists.

8. French food and drink: OMG! The nosh and booze of Northern France is glorious to behold. I mean, it’s French! Forget your supermarket croissants, and your cheap hams and salamis. On this press trip we were sooooo looked after. This is what we had:

French food and drink: OMG!
  • Networking glasses of French beer, a blue and green non-alcoholic drink of some sort, and slices of French flan.
  • The first night was a buffet and I was so hungry, and everything was so new, that I just gobbled everything up and didn’t take any photos at all! I remember that we had crepes with meat sauce, crispy potato balls, white fish in parsley sauce, ratatouille (of course!), rice, beef bourguignon (how French!), soup with Croûtons, a variety of salads, baguette, butter (thank goodness!), ice-cream, white chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, fruit salad and red and white French wine. This was while we were still in Cologne LOL!
  • Our 5 a.m. breakfast was a white paper bag of goodies filled with a huge croissant, an apple, a pear, a chocolate wafer, a carton of iced lemon tea, a bottle of water, and as much tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, as we wanted!
French chicken in Nord-Pas-de Calais.
French chicken in Nord-Pas-de Calais.
  • Our lunch in Boulogne was at the Nausicca restaurant and I had….Well, you can see what I had. Chicken! For dessert, we had that lovely crème brûlée which I put on my previous post!
  • During our afternoon walking tour we went into an underground cave in the Wellington Quarry and we had a tasting session of trays of Nord-Pas de Calais regional cheese with slices of baguette, and a wide variety of French beer ranging from white beer, dark beer to Rhubarb beer. Yes, rhubarb beer. That was my favourite! Nobody bothered with the juice that was on offer, and the beers went down pretty well I can tell you!
Seafood in Nord-Pas-de Calais
Seafood in Nord-Pas-de Calais
  • Our dinner at the Amarine Restaurant was predominantly seafood so I had white fish, creamy mashed potatoes with bread-sticks stuck in, and sliced carrots covered with parsley.
Ice-cream sundae in Nord-Pas-de Calais. Is this yum, or is this yum?!
Ice-cream sundae in Nord-Pas-de Calais. Is this yum, or is this yum?!
  • Dessert was some sort of ice-cream pudding with raspberry dribble, chocolate sticks, and crushed biscuit at the bottom of the glass. So yum!
  • Breakfast at all our hotels were fully continental in style and some even had bacon and sausages too. I was very pleased!
  • Lunch in Lens was at Le Pain de La Bouche. It was a really lovely place and one of my favourites as it was packed with French people. Always a good sign LOL! I had rabbit (I think), pork, chicory, and roast potatoes, and a type of pudding covered with biscuit crumble.
The frightful pudding in Nord-Pas-de Calais!
The frightful pudding in Nord-Pas-de Calais!
  • I had a bit of a scare as somebody said they thought there were hazelnuts in the pudding. I went pale and almost had a panic attack as I had already taken a spoonful. After investigating the chef, the manager, the waiter, and the organisers, they all assured me that there were no nuts in my dessert. Phew!
  • In Lille, we went to a restaurant called the Basillic Cafe. We were very tired as we were 1.5 hours late due to an incident on the motorway. We had baskets of crunchy bread, thinly sliced ham, pickled baby onions and cucumbers and bizarrely, spring rolls with sweet-sour sauce! I also had lamb chops with creamy mashed potatoes and a lovely buttery sauce, and after much deliberation I had lemon cheese cake.

ANYTHING ELSE?

One of our French guides - Raphael - in Nord-Pas de Calais.
One of our French guides – Raphael – in Nord-Pas de Calais.

9.  Yes. Lille!

I absolutely loved Lille!
I absolutely loved Lille!

I.

Loved.

It!

I loved the fact that the Northern France city of Lille is young, vibrant, bold, innovative, exciting, re-inventing itself, and yet able to retain it’s traditional French flair and exceptional heritage.

Macarons in Northern France. Even though I can’t eat them, I’m told they’re quite yummy!

I can’t begin to describe the old town with it’s charming cobbled streets that make Europe so lovely, the hidden little squares, the architecture and history of it’s colourful buildings, it’s slim buildings with a flair for drama, it’s festivals of culture, music and art, it’s avant-garde buildings, and wealthy Flemish houses. The richly endowed streets overflowing with boutique shops, French knickers and bodices in respectable front windows, Haute couture, and rudely delightful French cakes and pastries.

10. Because Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as, Northern France is worth it. If you’re in France, Germany, Belgium, or in the UK, go visit.

Down the cobbled streets in Lille.
Down the cobbled streets in Lille.

MY VERDICT:

I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I want to go to Northern France again. Hint! Hint!

Very Recommended.

It's embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!
It’s embarrassing. I had no idea who I would be meeting, I just knew that I would be going to France!

WERE WE OVERWHELMED BY CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD AND FRENCH RHUBARB BEER?

Oui! Oui!

WHAT IF NORTHERN FRANCE ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!

One simply cannot get enough of France!

This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Atout France Deutschland, Comité Régional de Tourisme Nord-Pas de Calais, and Hotels Indépendents Francais, all opinions and the stinky cheese and paté made from goose, that I had for breakfast, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you so I will be returning to our adventures in Indonesia, and Qatar, in November.

Next week, I will be writing about the Eat-the-world food Kreuzberg walking tour that I went to yesterday! Enticing!

In October, I will be writing about the British National Theatre LIVE production. The next production coming up at Cinestar Berlin – Original is:

Skylight on: 30.10.14.

Frankenstein – Original Cast on: 13.11.14.

Frankenstein – Reversed Cast on: 27.11.14.

DANIEL SLOSS – Live! with very special guest Jack Woodhead – is going to take place on 21.10.14 at the Quatsch Comedy Club in Berlin.

In October & November, Berlin will be celebrating and marking the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Following a smash-hit tour of the UK and Ireland, LET IT BE will descend on Berlin with a six (6) day exclusive showing of a celebration of The Beatles from 11.11.14 – 16.11.14 at the Admirals Palast.

October is going to be smashing!

Myself at the entrance of that wonderful street in Lille; Nord-Pas de Calais.
Myself at the entrance of that wonderful street in Lille; Nord-Pas de Calais.

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

10 reasons why Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as Northern France, is more than just stinky cheese and a paté made from goose!
10 reasons why Nord-Pas de Calais otherwise known as Northern France, is more than just stinky cheese and a paté made from goose!

Would you go to Northern France on a break? Have you ever seen giants? Do you like French food?

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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