Celebrating Christmas in Europe: A photo essay

We pulled ourselves from the beaches of Mauritius and mountains of Cape Town and purposely headed back to the northern hemisphere – yes, into winter – to take in the sights and sounds of the holiday season by celebrating Christmas in Europe.

We have been able to celebrate Christmas for an entire month, spread over three countries and five cities (Lisbon, Barcelona, Seville, Madrid and Lecce), as celebrating Christams in Europe doesn’t end on December 25, but continues until January 6, the Day of the Epiphany. read more

When long-term travelers are joined by vacationing friends

When long-term travelers are joined by vacationing friends

Zipping through three cities in Spain in 12 days during Christmas and New Year’s, joined by our friend, Lowercase, from the United States, had us feeling more like we were on vacation than long-term travelers. And we needed it.

This is what happens when long-term travelers are joined by vacationing friends:

  • We travel faster
  • We eat and drink more
  • We talk to other people
  • We get spoiled
  • We all adapt

When long-term travelers are joined by vacationing friends we travel faster.

We moved at a lightning fast pace, similar to how we traveled back when we had limited time off from work, spending five days in Barcelona, three in Seville and four at our last stop in Madrid. We ate our way through the tapa scene in each city, consuming way too many creamy cheeses, cured fatty pork products and deliciously doughy bread. read more

3 parks in Madrid’s city center

As much as we like admiring the architecture of the historic buildings, spending evenings in museums and endless hours in cafes, we also enjoy a bit of nature. We found three parks in Madrid’s city center –  to the west, south and east – which are great for a picnic lunch, an afternoon stroll away from the bustling center or just a breath of fresh air.

Parks in Madrid’s City Center

To the West: Sabatini Gardens

The Sabatini Gardens on the north side of the Royal Palace are an easy escape from the sightseeing trail. The gravel walkways, laid out in a grid, pass by fountains and provide stellar views of the Royal Palace. read more

A Self-Guided Walking Tour to Sights in Madrid Spain JetSettingFools.com

10 sights: A self-guided walking tour to sights in Madrid

Twice before we have visited Madrid on quick, less-than-24-hour layovers. Both times, we dashed through the city to see as many sights in Madrid as we could. On this trip we had more time – but still only two days – and we were anxious to show our visiting friends to the best sights in Madrid. We’ve outlined 10 sights to see in Madrid – including plazas, churches, markets and museums – as an introduction to the city in the form of a Madrid Self-Guided Walking Tour.  read more

New Year's Eve in Madrid, Spain How we got it wrong

New Year’s Eve in Madrid: How we got it wrong

New Year’s Eve in Madrid promised to be one helluva party. It’s touted as one of the top places to celebrate the New Year and Puerta del Sol, the plaza in the city center, was where the midnight action would be happening. We had been briefed on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight – one at each chime – for good luck in each of the year’s upcoming months and each secured a handy, 12-count pack.

To keep ourselves from over-imbibing, we spent the afternoon checking out the less-visited, but more modern, northern neighborhoods of Madrid. Home to the nation’s embassies and high-end retailers, it was relatively quiet, as we had expected in such an area on such a day. read more

5 Tapas Bars in Seville, Spain (plus 3 non-tapas bars)

As we wandered the streets of Seville’s neighborhoods, it became evident that the tapas bars in Seville, Spain, both classic and trendy, are part of the city’s charm. People gathered around outdoor tables and squeezed their way into small bars – and we were eager to join them.

We were told that locals live their lives outside of their homes, spending time as a family and joining friends and neighbors for a meal or a few tapas. Based on a few recommendations and simply following the crowds to the action, we found our way into many tapas bars in Seville, Spain – and a few drinking bars, too.  read more

5 neighborhoods in Seville, Spain JetSettingFools.com

5 neighborhoods in Seville, Spain

We only had two full days in Seville, Spain but we quickly got ourselves acquainted with the atmospheric town. Visiting actual sights – which there aren’t that many of – wasn’t of high importance to us as we preferred to enjoy the ambiance of the timeworn neighborhoods in Seville. Each have their own church and square filled with cafes. Once we got our bearings, the maze of narrow, cobblestone streets was easy to navigate and traveling on foot made it easy for us to soak up the charm. read more

3 Tapas Bars in Barcelona, Spain JetSettingFools.com

3 Tapas Bars in Barcelona (and 3 drinking bars)

On our first trip to Spain, to the Basque region, we experienced the delight of pintxos: creatively crafted, bite sized tapas that were proudly presented atop every bar. Our return trip to Spain, with the first stop in Barcelona, promised some of the same scene and I was salivating at the thought of the many tapas bars in Barcelona.

Normally, we would have selected just one or two places to keep our budget in check, but meeting up with our friend, Lowercase, made it all too easy to wander into whatever bars might catch our eye. Fortunately, the house wine was never more than a few euros and we could graze on tapas without ever splurging for an expensive meal. We never entirely adapted to the much later hours they keep for eating and drinking, but that didn’t stop us from indulging. read more

Hiking Montjuic in Barcelona Spain

Hiking Montjuic in Barcelona, Spain

On Christmas Day we anticipated everything being closed, so we packed up a few sandwiches and a bottle of wine and headed for the hills. We were spending the day hiking Montjuic in Barcelona.

We took the Metro to the L’Espanya stop and emerged to find a thriving square. Las Arenas, the old bullfighting ring, now houses a mall and outdoor terrace on top; an elaborate fountain sits prominently in the middle of the intersection and a long, ornate road leads to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and 1929 World Expo Fairgrounds. read more

Christmas in Barcelona churches, markets and traditions

Christmas in Barcelona: Churches, Markets and traditions

There are so many things that make Christmas in Barcelona spectacular! From the fabulous churches to historic Christmas Markets to two extremely odd Barcelona Christmas traditions, we jumped right in and celebrated the holiday Catalan style!

Christmas in Barcelona: Churches

Barcelona seems to have two distinct styles of architecture: European Gothic and Modernism, led by Antoni Gaudi. It couldn’t be more evident than when looking at the two most visited churches in town: La Catedral and La Sagrada Familia.

La Catedral, wedged into the crowded Barri Gotic district, has soaring spires and gargoyles on the heavily decorated façade. The spacious, wide interior is lit by grand chandeliers, with two main aisles on the sides along the chapels, rather than one down the middle of the church.  Stairs lead down, beneath the altar, to a crypt, which is the final resting place for Santa Eulalia, one of Barcelona’s patron saints. read more