It’s been 6 months since my last Euro-confession. And by Euro I mean Spain and by confession I mean – dying to go back. All of the wine and croquettas people.
While it’s taken me awhile to get through all the photos and filter through the endless lists in my phone of places visited – I’ve finally pulled it all together in a Barcelona travel guide for the ages. Madrid to follow – but should you need some quick recos there’s always the city guide page.
After a trip in June to all of the Baltic States, we decided Spain was next on the list. Partially because we had never been and also because it was warm *af as NYC was in the heart of fall. Our week long trip afforded us 4 full days in Barcelona and it felt like a lifetime – there was so much to see but other than Montserrat and maybe some time on the beach, we did everything on our list.
The city itself is totally walkable. You’ll absolutely get your steps in and you’ll want to be out on the city streets – it’s where you’ll feel Barcelona’s vibrancy and energy. Although a cab up the hill to Parc Guell is highly recommended, whoa the hills!
The airport is fairly easy and taking a cab to your hotel is absolutely the preferred method. It takes about 20 minutes and coming in through the countryside really adds to the anticipation when you hit Barca’s city limits. So, future travellers should you be planning a trip soon, here’s the best of what to see, where to stay and 100% where to eat when you’re in “Gaudi’s City.”
The beaches of Barcelona!
The Bari Gotic
Now according to my Apple watch – we covered about 18,000 steps a day. So it’s up to you how aggressive you’d want to be seeing everything in Barcelona. We did it in 4 days but pending your level of vacation chill I’d give it almost a week. We stayed on the Gran Via de la Corts which was a great central location. About a block from the Placa de Catalunya and Las Ramblas and Passeig de Gracia (the 5th ave of Barca) we could walk everywhere. Even at night a stroll down to dinner in the Bari Gotic (Gothic Quarter) was easy.
El Palace Barcelona
Our boutique hotel, The Hotel Gran Via, was the perfect boutique with great suites, and a nice terrace on the second floor. At 4PM they put out tea and light fare so often times we’d skip lunch and power through the afternoon and then “wine” down at the hotel. The perfect pause after a day of touring.
Another hotel we looked into and after seeing it in person will absolutely try to stay at next time is the El Palace Barcelona. About two blocks farther down Gran Via still centrally located but oh so worth the gram!
Gaudi’s Casa Batllo – Apartments on the Passeig De Gracia
Like any Euro city, Barcelona has been built up over centuries around the Bari Gotic – e.g. “old town” or the Latin Quarter. I love these areas because it often feels like a time machine and if you get a good guide (or in our case Rick Steves’ walking tour book) there’s so many stories about the area. Also in this area is where the “Catalunyan government” buildings are. I use that term loosely because we happened to be in the city as Catalonia tried to succeed from Spain, voted on the refferendum and also were coming out for mass demonstrations in the streets. It was amazing and so exciting to see such passion and nationalism. Other neighborhoods to explore include El Raval and El Born both rich with history, sites and great Tapas!
Now for the good stuff! Here’s my hit list from Barcelona with a tips/tricks on what to see and do:
PLAN AHEAD FOR:
La Segrada Famillia
The National Museo
Churches throughout the Bari Gotic
The Port Cable Car
The Placa Reail
EAT // All the croquettas and wine! I didn’t have a bad meal the entire time I was in Barcelona. From recommendations of neighborhood places from friends to a few deep dives on other’s blogs – we had fabulous meals everywhere.
Obviously, all the tapas and places like Sensi Bistro in the Bari Gotic were great for a little date night out. We walked from our hotel at night old town which was such a cool experience because there would be guitarists and flamenco dancers in the old cobblestone streets. The walkways are so tight and the buidlings close that the sound echos making setting the coolest mood. It felt like quintessential Spain.
Other places like El Nacionale which is like an Eataly in NYC, has great restaurants peppered among a bustling market with LOTS of great Spanish wine. It’s tucked away off the Passeig De Gracia but absolutely worth the visit.
Also around the city are great local tapas spots like Tapas 24 quick in and out and from what I could tell the closest we ever got to fast food in Barcelona. The best tapas to order: croquettas, anything with manchego or chorizo, Iberico ham and always the house red wine!
Should you be wanting something quick for lunch and find yourself in the Bari Gotic, do not miss the outdoor dining at Mercat de Santa Caterina. There are lunch tapas and if you sit around 2PM, great wine and sunshine! Also back along Las Ramblas, Mercat De La Boqueria has some great quick options or one of their many juices – everything from coconut to watermelon, guava and others for just 1 or 2 euro. Some other good lunch spots in Eixample – Granja Pettibo, Alsur Cafe. In El Raval – Federal Cafe and Trópico.
La Mercat De Boqueria
Wine at El Nacional with my favorite guy/travel buddy.
A FEW THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Subway’s are cheap and a great way to get to La Segrada Famillia or straight down to the beach – otherwise, walk everywhere!
Taxi’s are available at stands around the city, don’t hail one – it’s like Rome in that way. Insider Tip: Take a cab up to Parc Guell. There’s no real easy way to get there since there’s no subway access beyond the foothills.
Travel with a really small bag close to you, pickpockets are everywhere, especially in the Placas and down Las Ramblas.
//// FOR MORE CITY GUIDES HEAD HERE ////
Have questions? E-mail me: Lauren@PRBlonde.com
Happy Thirsty Thursday folks!
Is it just me or did this week seem to drag on!
Workouts happened this morning so an adventure to my bar cart is on the books tonight and it feels like a good evening for a martini. I recently was introduced to Malfy Gin and after my trip to Positano and learning about Italian’s love for lemons I wanted to try out this gorgeous bottle. I mean come on – total bar cart stunner!
Made from Amalfi coast lemons and juniper and bottled in Torino, I didn’t know what flavored gin would taste like, so to ease into it – I made Malfy’s signature Martini. Three simple ingredients and because I was feeling fancy I opted for a champagne glass instead of a martini coupe. (#spillproof!)
THE RECIPE //
Fill a metal shaker with cracked ice. Pour in the dry vermouth, stir briefly, and strain out (this may be discarded).
Add 4 ounces MALFY Gin. Stir briskly for about 10 seconds, strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon.
It’s been 3 weeks since my last flight and I’ve just booked another one.
Wanderlust is calling and though the countdown has begun – (see where I’m headed next on the ‘gram!) I’m using the blog to share and relive some of my favorite destinations – particularly the warmer ones. It’s like that first taste of champagne after a week of sobriety… it’s just so good!
I try and make it back to Texas at least three times a year, once to Dallas and then once or twice to Austin. This past Memorial Day I headed back to the Lone Star State and checked into the Westin Austin Downtown for a one night stay before heading out to the hill country.
Now before I share details of my amazing overnight, you should know that I’m a Starwood loyalist. Between the points, their portfolio of properties and locations – when I think big city travel it’s Starwood all the way, More importantly Westin’s are at the top of my list.
The Westin Austin Downtown is no exception to the rule as its blocks from 6th street, restaurants, nightlife and the outdoor culture of Lady Bird Lake. The property also features some of the most stunning (and instagrammable views) of the city skyline especially during a not to miss Texas sunset from the Azul rooftop bar. Be sure to also order one of their elevated cocktails – a personal favorite is the Prickly Pear Mosa.
To say I was spoiled was an understatement. I had a top floor room with a view of Austin to my right and a southwest facing view with sprawling Texas skies. After being away for so long – sprawling landscapes are welcome after staring at buildings in the concrete jungle.The rooms are always so fresh and bespoke for the modern traveler, like myself, with USB’s by the bed, rain showers and the most comfortable bedding.
What I also love about Westin’s is their commitment to making sure your vacation is as restorative as possible. Whether it’s a guided run along the lake with the run concierge or visiting their fitness studio, there’s always options to get a workout in.
Recently, The Westin Austin just added Peloton bikes to their fitness studio! For a cycling evangelist like me – having access to more than 5,000 on-demand classes is a great way to get a good workout in. All that is needed is to head downstairs, workout, back up to shower then you’re out the door to explore. It saves SO much time.
Three words. Stella. San. Jac. Stella – on San Jacinto (clever!) is the Westin Austin’s southern style restaurant with lots of charm and flavor. From the sleek Danish deco décor, to its cocktail menu and to die for deviled eggs we had brunch (droolworthy – menu here) before heading out.
The meal started with their signature biscuits with whipped butter (hello southern goodness), we ordered the delicious deviled eggs and I took a deep dive into the blueberry french toast. All three was a nice entrée into a food coma for our pending ride out to the hill country.
What I love about this place is that it’s the perfect intersection of southern flair, convenience and a little bit away from the heart of Sixth Street – no sense in being reminded of my sins from the night before. The staff couldn’t be friendlier and their revitalizing juices are on point for both Westin’s rejuvenation thematic and recovery from the night before.
Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, it’s a great place to get brunch and perfect for a girls group, visiting parents or a day date when you may need a little more ambiance and ability to actually hear people – (a huge pet peeve of mine at other spots!)
Here’s more info on the restaurant.
Thanks to The Westin Austin Downtown for collaborating on this post!
Ever since I returned to NYC four summers ago, I’ve made it a point to venture out to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. A subway ticket and quick ride on the 7 train from midtown will get you there and the grounds are a great way to spend a Saturday.
The past two years I have been thankful to work with Chase, title sponsor for the US Open. As a chase customer you get a taste of the VIP experience with access to the Chase Lounge a place to grab drinks and a few signature honey deuces before matches begin – you can make a reservation here. Last year I attended an event at the Chase Lounge with Andy Roddick. Nothing like watching a tennis match with one of the greats!
This year, Chase was kind enough to help me get in on the action and watch another great, Roger Federer (SUI), take on Frances Tiafoe (USA) if you watched the match you know it was a doozy with Federer winning in the 5th set. There’s nothing better than being inside Arthur Ashe for a killer match. When the roof is closed (thank god it was because it was raining the night we went) the place gets really loud and with only 23,000 seats it can get really exciting with the whole stadium going.
Since the open is also only once a year – you often see a few celebs in the stands. While he was about the size of a Polly Pocket, I was in the same room as Sean Connery, fellow birthday buddy! (OMG!)
Thanks so much to Chase for making it another memorable year at the US Open. There’s still so much tennis left too, like the men’s semi’s tonight and the finals throughout the weekend. Even if not to attend a final match – there’s still grounds passes and Chase Customers get great access. See what’s available here.
Thanks to Chase for sponsoring this post.
I know it’s been a while, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for tradition.
(Photo – St. Petersburg, Russia)
Back home this one will involve a birthday story, champagne and a pointy hat, but with my travels this year – raising one to 13 new passport stamps deserves a toast just the same. So grab a glass because…
Happy BIG 2-9 to me! (I know, I can’t believe it either!)
I love writing these birthday posts. In a funny way they hold me accountable for the year past, help me set intentions for the one ahead and all the while, remind me of the themes that make any year just a bit more bubbly – champun intended! Don’t worry flutes and balloons are on standby.
So in keeping with tradition, I dove into the archives to find what 26, 27 and most recently 28 forecasted. I can check #1, #2 off the list and a valiant effort on #4 made for an epic year. 28 was arguably the best yet, one I’m slightly hesitant to say goodbye to as it was filled with…
Adventure – this year 13 countries, some repeats some new. All I can say about my passport is that sh*t needs framing!
Epic Accomplishment – this year professionally came with a Super Bowl, an ode to America and eclipsing the eclipse – thank you Bonnie Tyler. I have been so fortunate to work on so many big and amazing things.
Vulnerability – welcoming new people into my life with open arms and hearts. Xo B!
Stability – While I was off conquering the world, my best friends and family were always by my side of which I will always be forever grateful.
But now, 29.
I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t feel different. It just does. The hangovers are longer, the stressors greater and that “get your shit together” age of 30 now has a countdown clock. It was nice to wake up this morning looking and feeling the same as yesterday. As if my use of night cream was going to now magically turn me into a geriatric.
Yet, here’s to embracing the almost 30! (I know I said it!) and framing up the last year of my 20’s with a few PRB Originals to set the intentions for the last year of what has been truly amazing decade.
So here’s to marking the last year of the best decade with style, excitement and a little bit of grace. A new dress is bought, the mimosa is in hand – so I’d say I’m off to a good start.
To my friends, Elie Goulding said it best, you’re my army. B, your the best thing about my 28th year and beyond. Lastly, to the Power Pruners – they don’t call us superheroes for nothing. I love you all.
Now who’s meeting me at the bar?
Xo – LP/LOL
I feel like a city/island guide of a locale i’ve been to 5 times is long overdue.
The Cayman Islands have been a haven for family vacations and work destinations for years now and come complete with killer sunsets, island time vibes, cocktails worth drinking all day and some of the best restaurants on any Caribbean island I’ve ever been to. It’s arguably my favorite destination among crystal blue waters and great for every age – families, couples, millennials looking to relax (but not be bored). It’s just the right amount of activity and relaxation and one can dial it up or down however you’d like.
The island is fairly easy to navigate with points of interest like Georgetown, Rum Point and the newly developed Kaibo all reachable by car and boat and no more than an hour in any given direction. Each area boasts awesome hotels, beautiful views and tons of palm trees with a consistent reminder that you’re nowhere near home.
STAY // I have stayed in three properties on the island all on Seven Mile Beach. There’s really nothing quite like a beachfront room and with the abundance of chain hotels with Starwood, Marriott, etc. so your points can go a long way with a great view.
Additionally, the island has plenty of smaller condo options and AirBnb is growing island wide with the same beachfront access to Seven Mile Beach. One that we’ve looked into is the Caribbean Club – a little on the luxe side but full apartments with a great restaurant called Luca.
EAT // Fresh, fresh, fresh! Picture this, sailing out on crystal blue waters and literally catching mahi mahi, grouper, flounder, tuna or island signature wahoo fish and grilling, searing, marinating and cooking it up that same day! What I love about Cayman is that if you’re a seafood lover, there are many restaurants where you can get an AMAZING meal. My favorite is The cracked conch. With a great view at sunset and even night divers that head out, it’s a great view and they cook up some of the best Wahoo I’ve ever had. A few others that top the list for waterside eats include, Calypso Grill, Morgan’s Harbor and dessert favorite, Eric Rippert’s Blue at the Ritz-Carlton. Abacus is also a great eatery in shopping centrale Camana Bay and Catch the newest restaurant to hit the Island. Most restaurants take reservations and I would highly suggest making them especially around 8/8:30 so you can enjoy the sunset but not be rushed to leave the beach.
SEE // Cayman has always been a true getaway where the beach is the main attraction. However, each vacation I’ve taken a special charter trip on one of my favorite fishing boats on the Island, the Oh Boy! The 60’ luxury fishing vessel captained by Charles and first mate Jerry is one of the best days ever spent while in the Cayman Islands. From visits to stingray city, to reef snorkeling and fishing (reef and deep sea) it’s an incredible way to see the Caribbean Sea. Oh – if you go, ask for the ‘on board’ conch ceviche and lobster salad – Capt. Charles makes it fresh! From the ocean floor to the plate – it’s the freshest catch you’ll ever eat!
Other attractions I recommend include:
Nothing is better than island time, enjoy!
It’s back – that wanderlust feeling.
And this time I leave in less than a week to jet set to Europe again. – 7 countries in 2 weeks! yep!
But before I go, I had to share one of my favorite locations of all time – Santorini, Greece. What is there to say about one of the most picturesque destinations in the world. White washed towns blue domes and rich blue waters, it’s exactly what you think of when you think of Santorini. What most people don’t know however is that the Google drooling images are actually from a small outcove of Santorini called Oia. A small town that sits on the peninsula of the island and overlooks the calderas.
I think this maybe my favorite travel photo of all time.
While most of my time here was spent wandering the streets and taking as many pictures as my card would hold – what I loved the most was finding a quite corner to myself and just taking a few deep breaths. It was one of the most unreal locations I’ve ever been and while amongst the architecture, calderas and deep blue Ionian sea you feel the true size of the world.
This time next week make sure to keep a lookout on my Instagram to see where I’m headed!
Till then – xo, L.
So, I booked another trip. Shocker!
But aside from where I’m going next it got me thinking (okay worrying) about what to pack. While I have my go to outfits, footwear, bags and eyewear – what I often don’t take into account is my “flawless” beauty routine.
After battling acne for years, I am a skin evangelist. I have a regimen that works, I know my triggers and more importantly I know how to take care of it about 80% of the time. But recently, my friends at SK-II reached out to me and shared that not all skin protection is created equal. In fact, with all of my travel, my at home skin regimen doesn’t always work abroad. Climates change and so should my skin care routine.
So let’s take a step back and chat about skin treatment must haves against the backdrop of one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to – Ephesus, Turkey.
If you recall I spent about two weeks traveling around Italy, Greece and Turkey last year. Turkey was hands down my favorite destination. As we sailed into the port of Ephesus, it was a sight unlike any other – dense redish fog, sun breaking over a mix of arid and forest filled land and more intensely a sea of red flags masted every building, home and structure in an overwhelming welcome of middle east nationalism. I have never witnessed anything like it – nor have been so quickly reminded that I was somewhere I hadn’t been before.
Now while I’m a huge fan of exploring, preparation to tour around Ephesus was lacking. It was hot the ruins were dusty and the sun was strong – but the site was amazing.
The site of Ephesus, Turkey is a site of ancient Greek ruins that date back to 10th century BC and considered seven wonders of the ancient world. I was fortunate enough to walk what are considered sacred grounds. While we were asked to cover our shoulders, nothing could compare to the sun that lit the walls of the Temple of Artemis, The Library of Celcus and a theatre with the capacity to hold 25,000 people used for gladiator fights, theatre and spectator sport.
Abandoned for thousands of years it felt as if we were facing the overgrown wild but with stories hidden in every stone, bust, statue and structure. Our tour guide Oz shared the most amazing narratives along the way and each vignette felt like something different and new.
Now if we’re bringing this full circle – I wasn’t ready for any of it. The emotional history, the call of the wild in a middle eastern country and I certainly wasn’t prepared with a product to protect and hydrate my face in the hot hot sun. Plus I had just come from Greece, a coastal seaside climate and was returning to a major city the next day. So in the context of my trip, my friends at SK-II shared how Facial Treatment Essence could help protect me from city to city, climate to climate. Think about it? From the dusty streets of New York to the coastal salt of Greece to the dry and dusty ruins of Turkey – my beauty regimen wasn’t going to cut it. Cue the bags, the bumps and the dry skin.
Recently – SKII partnered with fellow traveller Chiara Ferragni on a video series called “Face the Wild” a beautifully shot series of vignettes spotlighting how easy it is when you travel to put your skin to the test. As I continue my travels this year, it had me rethinking the make-up bag. Like in Turkey, I needed something that was nourishing, filled with vitamins, minerals and what SK-II calls Pitera™ a secret ingredient meant to soothe skin surface concerns that can be caused by a range external aggressors such as harsh UV and pollution. Ephesus conditions, checked all the boxes.
So here’s to the next wild adventure and being fully prepared for whatever comes my way – to check out SK-II’s video series, hit play below.
Thank you to SK-II for partnering with me on this post.
It’s the first Monday in May! Is anyone else excited that summer is right around the corner?
My trip to London was amazing (more to come!) but what happened in the time I was away in was miraculous! Trees popped, flowers are everywhere and this past weekend summer paid us a little visit in New York City leaving sidewalks packed and parks teeming with sun bathers.
So on days like this, my outfit tends to skew a little more play thank couture than play. While uptown they may be putting finishing touches on couture – I’m more of a downtown, play clothes kind of gal. Remember that? Play clothes? They were the perfect combination of cute and comfortable and allowed the freedom to adapt to any activity.
Fast-forward 20 years and I don’t think play clothes have lost their appeal since my day took me from brunch to a neighborhood walk to cocktails on open rooftops and then a birthday party. While it may not be hide and go seek, “grown-up” play clothes need to withstand my on-the-go life. So that’s where finding something of quality and at the right price while also capitalizing on the cuteness factor matters.
So in the spirit of spring/summer – I paid a visit to one of my favorite hidden gems of New York City – Century21. Built for those that love the hunt, (I totally do!) this blue off the shoulder number from Essue was a great find. It’s versatility factor? It’s actually a romper! Built in shorts for the function, off the shoulder fashion made for the perfect run around town outfit. Also, if you haven’t purchased a pair of Karl Lagerfeld’s shoe line – do it! I love these luggage brown sandals with gold stud accents and a good block heel fun yet still comfortable for running around town.
We also won’t talk about the Keds that are currently in my bag. (wink!)
For more affordable, fun and fashionable finds you can visit Century21 at their Lincoln Square or TriBeCa Downtown locations. With floors and floors of high-fashion at great value, it’s a perfect play clothes kind of place. Plus if you can’t find it in store – much of their stock is also online! Check it out here.
So here’s to many more play days ahead and while I’ll be watching the social media feeds of the most couture, I’ll opt for play clothes instead!
Thanks to Century21 for partnering with me on this post.
The exciting part about rebranding has been taking time to rethink everything on the site. From new layouts to meta tags to logos and content – it’s kind of nice to shake things up.
(yes – this is gingham, but hey all the prints, right?)
So as we wrap up April I’m introducing a new series – Top 10’s. A way to share some of my favorite style and beauty finds and some favorite must haves I’ve been sharing and shopping lately. As I’m sure you’ve seen in storefronts and throughout the liketoknow.it feed blue and white striped everything is everywhere! I am loving it as it’s the perfect blend of pastel hues and reminds me of Santorini. Photo diary coming I promise. During my few weeks of spring shopping I even added to my already growing collection as Zara, Banana Republic and favorite ShopBop designers added pieces to spring collections. So if you’re in the “blue mood” here’s a few favorites from ruffle off the shoulder tops to Soludos slides and more.