2.5 Days in Barcelona

Back in October, I flew out to Asia & Europe for 3 weeks. Along the way, I stopped in Barcelona for a few days to tour the city, make new friends, and to do some yoga. With the craziness of non-stop traveling since then + moving to a new state, I finally have some time to sit down and write about my travels!

Spain has been on my Bucket list for a while, and since 2016 was apparently the year to cross off half my bucket list as complete, I thought I’d stop by Barcelona on my way from Thailand to Ibiza. I had 2.5 days before heading to Ibiza for a week of yoga, so I booked my flight, a cheap hostel, and didn’t plan one thing (!). Normally, I plan most of my trips out with a little wiggle room for spontaneity… however, I was way too busy to even think about looking for things to do – I figured once I arrived, the hostel & people staying there would give me some good tips. And guess what – I don’t think I’ll ever plan anything to do on any trip ever again! I had an amazing time exploring the city by myself, getting lost, and meeting some really bad ass people along the way. Below is a recap of my first time in Barcelona – and definitely not my last!

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Day 1:

Arrive at Hostel One Ramblas
The hostel was a bit dingy, and it didn’t look like the pictures on their website AT ALL. However, the staff was really helpful and gave me a huge map of the city with recommendations of best places to go. They also do your laundry for a few euros – so I handed the staff a bag full of sweaty yoga clothes and left to explore the city around 10 am.

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First stop: La Boqueria, because FOOD! La Boqueria is a huge open market in Barcelona, and it is easily my favorite place ever.

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Just look at how amazing and delicious everything looks!

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Fresh fruit, fresh baked bread, meats, cheeses, chocolate… I wish I could take this market back to the US!

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I grabbed a cup of fresh fruit & walked around, then bought some lunch before I left – baked bread filled with meat, mashed potatoes, and rice. So. So. Good.

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After leaving the market, I wandered down La Rambla and explored different shops + people watched. It was so busy and so easy to get lost! In fact, I did get lost. However, that is the best way to figure out where you are in a new city, right??

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tourist guide groups were everywhere!

I walked through parks, learned that street names were on buildings (seriously, so confusing!), and eventually made it to the Arc De Triomf. There was a lot of construction going on around it, but it was gorgeous!

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Park de la Ciutadella was nearby, so I headed over there and people watched for a while. There were salsa dancers practicing, people blowing huge bubbles, and couples enjoying romantic boat rides on a pond nearby.

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Blowing bubbles, with the Cascada Fountain in the background

Another reason to visit Barcelona: Architecture. Gaudi is very well-loved in Spain, as his architecture is stunning and so unique. His work is everywhere around the city, and it was amazing to be able to see it all! **In the picture above, you can se the Cascada Fountain, which was built by Josep Fontseré, with Gaudi as his assistant.

After leaving the park, I got lost. Again. BUT – I’m glad I did, because I found something very, very important: The Chocolate Muesum.

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Made entirely from chocolate!

I learned about the history of chocolate, which is something I should know about since I eat so much of it! There were a lot of displays from movies, like minions, star wars, bambi, etc, all made completely of chocolate (see above)!

Since I had been walking around all afternoon, I decided to stop by a local tapas restaurant to grab another snack on my way back to the hostel. Everything was 1 Euro – a small glass of champagne, cheese, meats, etc. So, cheese & rose it was!

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After finally making it back to the hostel, I showered & got ready for the night walk. There is a morning and afternoon activity planned everyday, and that night we walked for about a half hour across the city & up a LOT of steps & hills to get to a look point over the city. (I walked 12+ miles this day!)

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We grabbed a bottle of wine & some snacks, and watched the sun set over Barcelona.

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This night was hands down my favorite part of Barcelona – it was relaxing, gorgeous, and the views were unbelievable! If I lived in Barcelona, I would come here almost every night.

Afterwards, we all went back to the hostel to get ready for the night. The hostel I stayed at cooked a “family dinner” every night, and you could eat a plate (or 2) if you donated some money to help pay for the food. Afterwards, we all help clean up, then begin drinking before going out. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that I had been up for almost 24 hours and there was a 6 hour difference between Thailand and Spain… so, I got ready, decided to take a quick nap, then fell asleep until the next morning… Oops! Fortunately, I had another day to explore 🙂

Day 2:

Day 2 was all about getting lost, trying to find the best views of the city, castles, gardens, yoga, and dancing!

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Placa Espanya – picture taken on top of a shopping mall!

I started my day off with with heading west to Plaça Espanya & finding the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya + water fountain that overlooked a part of the city.

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The Fountain is HUGE in person!

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View over the fountain!

I am not really a museum person (unless it is about chocolate!), so I didn’t actually go IN to the museum… but, the outside + views were absolutely amazing!

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Afterwards, I began to wander South to the Olympic museum & stadium(s) as well as through some gardens. Honestly, I was just trying to find my way to Montjuïc Castle Castell de Montjuïc, but I could not for the life of me figure out how the heck to get there. Fortunately, there are signs that point you there, and a LOT of hills that let you know that you are reaching a higher part of the city (where all the views are!).

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You can also take a cable car up to the castle, which will definitely save you some time and miles… However, I recommend walking, as it is great exercise and you can walk through different gardens on your way!

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I had to pay a small amount (I think 10-20 Euro) to get into the castle, which was really cool to explore. And the views were of course, amazing – you can look out over the city & the harbor – well worth it!

On my way back to the hostel, I got lost. Again. However, I did find a yoga studio, which I ended up going to later that night… this is why I love traveling!

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I stopped at a local tapas restaurant called Blai 9 (recommended by the hostel staff) for some food + a beer, because.. Spain! There needs to be more restaurants like this in the US… It’s like a buffet, but for appetizers – 1 Euro each!

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After walking around all day, I stopped by a local nail studio for a pedicure… 20 euro for a gel pedicure = best money spent the entire trip! The salon staff were hilarious, and they helped me learn a few more spanish words in the hour that I was there 🙂

After my pedicure, I finally made it back to the hostel for a quick nap… then, YOGA! The entire point of my international travels 🙂

I went to The Garage, a yoga studio transformed from an old garage from the 1940’s. It was an absolutely beautiful space, and I was lucky enough to take a class from the owner.

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The class was slow, calm, and entirely in spanish & sanskrit – so I knew what was going on half the time! Chanting & breathwork followed by a simple sequence was perfect following a day of walking 10+ miles around the city.


Following yoga, I went back to the hostel for a shower and dinner… then a night full of drinking & dancing! I couldn’t tell you the places we went, as we took a train across the city and went to 2-3 different places. However, it wasn’t the places that we went that were awesome – it was the people. I met some really amazing, beautiful people traveling – for fun, on a search for meaning in their life, coming from a pilgrimage on Camino de Santiago, students, working people in their 20’s and 30’s… It didn’t matter if I’d ever meet these people again – hearing their stories and learning from them are priceless, and it’s one of the main reasons I travel. Hearing about someone else’s experience can literally change the course of your life, your passion, where you live, where you travel… it’s amazing, and I think everyone should experience & meet other travelers at some point in their lives (whether it be in a hostel, across the world, across the US, in a bar, at an airport… location doesn’t matter!).

After leaving the first bar (where an entire bottle of liquor was given to pour as much as we wanted into a glass), we went to a club and danced… until 2:30 am! Hours literally passed by in minutes, I swear. So, I left with a few other people & headed back to the hostel. After we got back, I ended up walking to the pier and talking with another girl from Germany  until 4 or 5 in the morning. It was so quiet & peaceful, and it was the perfect ending to my stay in Barcelona!


Final Day:

The next morning, I decided to stop by La Boqueria again, because I wanted some chocolate/candy before grabbing a cab to the airport…

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and, of course, some gelato and a cappachino for breakfast. Who doesn’t love being an adult?? (I swear, I don’t eat this bad everyday!)

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All sugared up, I headed back to the hostel & said my goodbyes. Then, a quick cab ride to the airport, on schedule to fly out for a week in Ibiza (blog post coming soon)!

**Side note – I flew Ryan Air for the first time and learned the hard way that you need to print your ticket out ahead of time… Otherwise, you will have to wait in line for an hour + pay 20 extra euro just to get the ticket printed out.
Also – Spain & Ibiza is expensive. And the cost to take money out at the airport & ATMs are ridiculous – so try to take as much cash as you can before flying internationally, or you will be paying a lot of fees! I recommend stashing different amounts of cash in different areas of your luggage/carry on/clothes in the case that something gets stolen or lost.

Overall, Barcelona is amazing. I would go back and spend more time there, or even live there for a year or 2. The city is gorgeous, and there are so many things to do and explore!

Has anyone ever been to Barcelona? If so, what were your favorite parts??

Upcoming Workshops: Arm Balances

Hi all!

Finally getting settled back into the states, and I have a little time to put on a few workshops! Melt Hot Yoga & Fitness will be hosting me at their studio for an arm balance series – check out the info below!

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Part 1: December 4, 2016 2-3:30 pm:
Fundamentals of arm balances
We will explore the fundamentals of arm balances, focusing on drills for strength & flexibility. No experience required!
 
Part 2: December 18, 2016 2-3 pm:
Intermediate poses
Eka Pada Galavasana, Astavakrasana
, Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and variations of crow/crane – building on the fundamentals of Part 1.
**Recommended to attend “Part 1” in the series before taking this workshop
 
Part 3: January 8, 2017 2-3 pm :
Advanced postures
Mayurasana, Pincha Mayurasana, Ganda Bherundasana
 – some experience needed.
**Recommended to attend “Part 2” in the series before taking this workshop
 
Sign up under the workshop tab at the link below! You can sign up for 1, 2 or all 3 workshops! 

Yoga Retreat in Thailand

Sometimes the world has a funny way of making your dreams come true. For the past 5+ years, I have been dreaming of traveling to Thailand. I didn’t know how or when it would happen, but I hung pictures on my wall & wrote down Thailand on my bucket list. Then, I forgot about it.

In my Elephant Trek post, I wrote about how it all came to pass:

Less than 1 year ago, I traveled to NYC for a Yoga workshop & met my now very good friend Heather, and we connected through instagram. We met up in March for my half marathon in NYC, and she invited me to Thailand for a yoga retreat in September.

I’m normally a solo traveler, planning my trips, staying in hostels, and being super adventurous… I would have never gone to a yoga retreat for pampering, relaxing, and laying by the pool. If I did go on a yoga retreat, it would most likely have been a training course to add on to my yoga training. With that being said, I DID learn from the instructors, and I was able to bring a lot back to teach in my own classes! The week ended up being so amazing – including an elephant trek, snorkeling, muy thai classes, 2 yoga classes a day, awesome instructors, thai massage, and becoming friends with so many amazing women from around the world!

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Flexi Lexi Thailand Yoga Retreat

The yoga retreat was hosted by Flexi Lexi Fitness, a yoga clothing store in Thailand. The retreat was 1 week long in Koh Lanta, Thailand, and cost $2100 for the week (with a roommate). This sounds extremely expensive, BUT —- there was a LOT included:

  • 1 Week stay in a 5-star resort
  • Buffet brunch & Dinner included (I think I only ordered food 1-2 times at lunch the entire week… the brunch filled me up!)
  • 2 yoga classes/day
  • Photographer (you could take pictures with him whenever & wherever… and we all got a USB drive with ALL pictures on it from the entire week!)
  • $100 of Flexi-Lexi Clothing
  • 1 all-day island excursion
  • 1.5 hour Thai massage
  • 1 free cooking class
  • Free workout classes & excursions (I took a 1-hour muy-thai class + a guided bike ride to a temple!)
  • Free transport to and from airport (1.5-3 hours from the airport, which included a car  + ferry/water taxi)
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First view upon arriving at Pimalai!

Every day started out with a 1.5 hour yoga class at 7:30 am. The instructors switched classes the entire week, and it was a mix between yin, heated/vinyasa, acro, and rocket yoga. The instructors – Robin Martin & Irene Pappas – were very different from each other, (a good thing!) and I learned a lot from both of them.

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That’s me with the cheetah butt 🙂

Following the morning yoga class, we had brunch from 9-10:30 am overlooking the infinity pool & ocean.

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Brunch view every morning!

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Then, the afternoon was free until our second class at 5 pm… I laid out by the pool a few days, went for a run one day, and did a few other fun things the other days:

  • Went on an all-day snorkeling adventure
  • Took a private muy-thai lesson (please note that my ankles/feet/shins were literally black and blue for 2 weeks following this!! Extremely painful, but an amazing workout & experience!)
  • Rode a bike past town to a Monestary, where we lit candles & gave our blessings
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Heather giving blessings

  • 1.5 hour Thai massage – I requested the deep, deep, DEEP tissue massage… please note that this isn’t a massage for the light-hearted. I have a high tolerance for pain and normally receive deep tissue massages, but this was really painful. The massage therapist used her elbows and really got into my back & neck (she climbed onto the table to really get in there!). She also got into my calves/shins and broke up a lot of scar tissue/build up, which felt amazing AFTER the massage. So if you are in Thailand… I would recommend getting a light-medium Thai massage, unless you really like pain 🙂
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Post-massage relaxation area with ginger tea

  • Went to Old Town Lanta to explore & shop – a few hours in this tiny town is all you need!

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Little Girl in a Tuk Tuk

  • All-day excursion to a small island (included lunch, snorkeling, Stand up paddle-boarding, kayak, etc)
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Boat ride to the island!

The all-day excursion was perfect… we hopped on a boat and relaxed for about 1.5-2 hours until we arrived at the island. I took a kayak in, and we took pictures with the photographer all day!

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Me & Serene

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Thailand Beach

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SUP Yoga!

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On a sinking paddle board!

On the final night, Pimalai put on a GORGEOUS closing ceremony dinner, including a beautiful table set-up that looked like it was for a wedding!

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There is a tradition in Thailand to send off Sky lanterns – It is considered good luck to release a sky lantern, and many Thais believe they are symbolic of problems and worries floating away (Wiki). However, we did something a little different – our photographer hand-made floating lanterns out of banana leaves to float on the infinity pool (How beautiful are they?!).

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handmade banana leaf lanterns

We all lit our lantern, made a wish/blessed others/asked worries to disappear, and sent our lantern into the pool.

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It was the perfect end to the week, and I am so incredibly happy I went! It would have never happened without my friend Heather – she is so amazingly thoughtful and such a ball of energy – I had so much fun with her the entire week!

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Me & Heather!

One of the greatest things about Thailand is the friendliness of people. Everywhere we went, everyone was so kind & accommodating. Also, everything is so inexpensive! The exchange rate was about 100 baht to $3.25 US dollars… so, basically everything was under 5-10$.

The time difference from Ohio is 11 hours, so it was a bit of an adjustment getting there… however, if you time your flight/sleep schedule correctly, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue. I also stopped in Spain for 1.5 weeks following Thailand, so I was able to progress slowly back to Ohio time by the time I returned.

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Final night, sunset on the ocean in Thailand

The entire week was such a whirlwind and went by so, so fast… I would like to return to explore more of Thailand, including Bangkok & Chiang Mai! Koh Lanta was amazing, but it is such a tiny part of Thailand, and our group didn’t wander too far from the resort the entire week. Also – I loved the retreat, but sometimes, a vacation just needs to be done alone! (or maybe I am just a serial solo traveler?!) While I love meeting people, there is nothing like going off on your own and doing things on your own schedule 🙂 There is so much more to do & explore, so I will definitely be back… just need to add Thailand back to my bucket list 😉

Has anyone else been to Thailand? If so, where have you been? I’d love to hear about your travels!

 

Snorkeling at Phi Phi Islands in Thailand

Mid-way through my trip to Thailand, I accompanied my friend Heather on a scuba diving trip to Phi Phi Islands. She organized the trip in advance, and I was able to tag along as a snorkeler for an extra $25!

We were staying at the Pimalai resort in Krabi, Thailand, and Scubalanta had a location within the resort… yes, the resort was that big!! We hopped in a truck that took us to a small fisherman’s boat, along with a few other people who were going scuba diving/snorkeling.

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10 minutes later, and we all climbed into a bigger boat, taking a 1.5 hour boat ride to Phi Phi Islands. During the ride, we had breakfast, and we were given medicine for sea sickness (much needed!). The guides came over to each person explaining the different fish near the islands, including the route around the island we would swim around.

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After arriving at the islands, we put on our gear, and jumped in! Divers went first, then snorkelers. The waters were incredibly blue and clear, and the weather was the perfect temperature for snorkeling!

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Nerd-alert, pre-jumping into the water!

We went snorkeling for 45 minutes, then came back to the boat to relax and eat lunch. After a little bit, we went out for a second time, and we were able to see a shark at the other island we were at! However, my favorite part was all of the starfish – there were so many, and they were all just chillin out at the bottom of the ocean.

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There was an option to go for a 3rd dive, but the overall vote was to head back – we were all tired and ready to go home! The entire day trip, from pick up to drop off, was 8-9 hours. The weather was perfect, and Scubalanta was so accommodating! The staff was great, and they were extremely helpful – I highly recommend booking a tour through them if you are ever traveling in Thailand!

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Me and heather, pre-dive/snorkel

Also – there is a photographer that dives with everyone, and you have the option to buy pictures at the end of the trip!  The photographer will go through the images and show them to you before you make a decision to buy. You can buy 1,2, or 3 pictures at a set price… or, you can buy ALL pictures, including special deep-dive shots from the photographer & islands.

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I’ve been snorkeling in Belize before, and while Phi Phi Islands were beautiful, I think Belize was more amazing (I swam with sharks there, so a little more adventurous!). With that being said, the weather was perfect, staff great, and the dive/snorkel experience amazing. Next time: Getting Dive-Certified & coming back to Thailand 😉

Where is your favorite place to snorkel/dive? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experience(s)!

Post-ACL Surgery Yoga Flow

It’s been about 2.5 years since my ACL Surgery… Since then, I’ve fully recovered, trained to become a yoga teacher, and have been instructing for the past 1.5 years. During this time, I have learned a LOT about the anatomy of the body (actually, just the body in general!), and I’ve been getting more technical when creating my classes/YouTube videos.

There was a request from a few of my readers to put together a post-ACL surgery yoga sequence, and I was finally able to record something after returning from my recent travels. Check out the video below and let me know what you think! I can create more based on each person’s timeline recovery & what needs to be strengthened. I hope this helps!! <3

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