Tag Archives: Life


IMG_2091IMG_2164IMG_2167This past August, I managed to fit in a quick city break with my lovely Mum to Barcelona. It was right at the end of the month so the heat wasn’t too intense but it was always sunny, with no rain or dark, looming clouds to speak of. We only had a few days there, but using the Visit A City app, we were definitely able to make the most out of it! I’d definitely recommend this app if you are travelling to somewhere new and want to fit in as much as you can in the time that you are there. It creates an itinerary for you based on how long you are staying and then groups the attractions based on their distance from each other so that there is less time wasted travelling and more time spent at the places you want to see. There is so so much to see and do in Barcelona, and our days there consisted of getting up early and getting to the first tourist attraction at about 9/10 in the morning and finishing at the last place around 8pm.

IMG_1986IMG_1991IMG_2002The first attraction on our list was the stunning Sagrada Família (pictured above top), a towering unfinished Roman Catholic Church and UNESCO World Heritage site, designed by Antoni Gaudi, a Catalan architect whose work can be found throughout Barcelona. It was quite difficult to get a photograph of the church without including various cranes and building work apparatus. Even with the different parts under construction, it was still one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever seen. The intensity of the artistic detail was incredible and really added to its phenomenal overall appearance.

Following our visit to the church, we headed on a half an hour walk through the streets of Barcelona to reach the Avinguda Diagonal (pictured above middle), one of the principal shopping boulevards, full of boutiques, mainstream shops, cafes and restaurants. The avenue was also lined with even more beautiful architecture in the form of apartment buildings, more churches as well as other places of worship. Included in these, are four key buildings designed by various artists: Casa Milà (pictured above bottom), designed by Antoni Gaudi between 1906-1912, Casa Batlló (pictured below), designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1904, Casa Amatller (pictured below), designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch between 1898-1900 as a residence for chocolatier Antoni Amatller, and Casa Lleó Morera (pictured below bottom), designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1902. The latter three make up the three most important buildings in Barcelona’s “Block of Discord”. The beautiful clashing of different architectural styles in such close proximity make this group of buildings stand out but they each manage to fit in with the golden tone of this glowing city.

IMG_2008IMG_2014If you walk further down this main shopping street you get to Plaça de Catalunya (pictured below top), a large square considered to be Barcelona’s city centre full of fountains and statues and is the point where the city’s most important streets meet. Surrounding the square are more mainstream shops, restaurants and tapas bars, and is a great place to stop, as we did, to relax and take in the hustle and bustle of the city.

IMG_2025IMG_2026IMG_2036IMG_2044After leaving the plaza, we arrived at La Rambla, another busy shopping boulevard full of souvenir shops, cafes and bars which stretches for 1.2km and connects Plaça de Catalunya to the Colombus monument down at Port Vell. Just off one of the side streets, is the big, bright and colourful La Boqueria market (pictured below), selling absolutely anything and everything you could imagine. You can buy fruits, smoothies, meats, full meals of different cuisines, clothes, jewellery and souvenirs at this indoor market which dates back over 100 years.

IMG_2054IMG_2055IMG_2061IMG_2064IMG_2068We rounded off our first day in Barcelona by visiting the beautiful Palau Nacional (pictured below) situated on Montjuïc hill. Constructed in 1923, the palace was initially the main site for the 1929 International Exhibition, but since 1934 it has been home to Catalonia’s National Art Museum and holds over 5,000 art works. the palace itself is truly stunning, and you walk past multiple enchanting fountains to get to the front steps. It should definitely be one of the top places to see on a Barcelona travel list!

IMG_2170IMG_208620180828165939_IMG_2183We began the second day by visiting Parc Güell (pictured below), a large public park designed by Antoni Gaudi from 1900-1914 and consists of various gardens, sculptures and modernist architectural elements. It is such a calming space to just lazily stroll through (particularly appreciated after the mini hike through practically vertical streets to get there!).

IMG_2118IMG_2109IMG_2131Following on from the park, we took a quick trip on the train to reach the Palau de la Música Catalana (pictured below), an absolutely stunning concert hall designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and built between 1905-1908. Both the exterior and interior of the building are breathtaking, and it is immediately evident as to why over half a million people visit this place each year to view a variety of musical performances from symphonies to traditional Catalan music.

IMG_2142The rest of the day was spent strolling through Barcelona’s hidden streets and visiting more beautiful cathedrals and churches. But there was one place which I had had on my list to visit since arriving, the Poble Espanyol, and it definitely did not disappoint. A short walk from the Palau Nacional, the Poble Espanyol is a stunning and immersive open-air museum which comprises of 117 full-scale buildings including recreated Spanish villages, restaurants and artisan workshops. I absolutely love experiences like this because it appears so separate from the rest of the world, like it is stuck in time. it was very calming and quiet to walk around due to the lack of tourists, and there were lots of places to stop on the walk around to check out. There were little shops which sold the sweetest trinkets from handmade soaps, to  jewellery and from handcrafted laces and fabric to gourmet food and different kinds of olive oils. It was a great place to wander around after a busy day and we rounded off our trip that evening eating a huge mixed paella looking down on the inner square and watching the world pass by.

IMG_2193IMG_2196IMG_2198IMG_221920180828202150_IMG_2229I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my (slightly longer) blog piece on Barcelona – it was just so beautiful and we saw so much that I wanted to omit as little as possible.

It should definitely be one of the top places to visit on your travel list, but beware of pickpockets and make sure you have plenty of battery charge in your camera (I learned both of those the hard way)!


Places Visited/Mentioned:

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed // Reading For The Road


I decided to create this new blog series to showcase the different books which help me through my various travels. From specific travel books, to poetry books, journal books and actual literary books, I’m hoping that each different suggestion with backed anecdotes will help you all in your own travels!

There was no doubt in my mind what book would have the privilege to commence my new blog series “Reading For The Road”. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed is one of the only books I keep rereading and its impact on me as a woman, as a traveller and as a human, has been profound.

I’m sure that some of you have either read this book or seen the film, but for those who haven’t I’ll give a little insight into what it is about. “Wild” is an intrepid journey of self-discovery, where, after life became too much to bear, a woman decides to trek the Pacific Crest Trail alone for 1,100 miles. Cheryl Strayed recounts her trip in the present tense and interweaves various anecdotes from her past which bring a richness to the book where the reader is taken along on her journey and gets to fully understand what leads her to hiking the trail in the first place.

If you are not much of a reader, then you can watch instead the film adaptation of “Wild” which boasts an outstanding cast including Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. The film is rated 15 and was released in 2014 meaning that it can currently be bought on DVD. I love both the film and the book equally, but one of the reasons why I like the film is because of its soundtrack. Songs such as “Tougher Than The Rest” by Bruce Springsteen, “Walk Unafraid” by First Aid Kit and  “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” by Simon & Garfunkel, add further dimensions to an already brilliant movie.

For me, as a female solo traveller, “Wild” speaks to me on so many levels. When I began my trips they were a means of escaping a life which was slowly suffocating me. I travelled from country to country trying to learn how to breathe again, to move on from my past mistakes, to become stronger and to find some sort of enlightenment. “Wild” helped me in my journey through all of these aspects and has encouraged me to keep going. The book and film also prove that we are capable of anything, despite past mistakes and future uncertainties.

Buy the book on Amazon here

Buy the DVD on Amazon here


I was finally able to visit Canada in August 2017, where I stayed with a friend and his family in Toronto. I was travelling from New York to Toronto overnight, having recently visited a friend who lives in Astoria, Queens. I travelled on the Greyhound on the evening of the 20th August at 7:30pm and arrived the following morning in Toronto at 6:00am. I do need to disclose that I literally slept for that whole day, because I found out that I do not sleep on public transport – even when it is overnight and is actually encouraged to do so. I think I just did not want to waste a whole day travelling, but I ended up doing it anyway through sleeping.

The friend I stayed with lives right in the centre of Toronto so if I wanted to go shopping or go out for food, I just had to walk about 15-20 minutes and then I was in the main district. It was so convenient and also meant that I did not have to spend much on public transport.

By staying with someone I knew, I got a lot of free personalised tours, and through walking around Toronto, I noticed the amount of street art, sculptures and unique architecture there was in the city and as I am currently studying for an Art degree I was so fascinated by it all. One place which is interesting to see is the Gooderham/Flatiron Building (pictured above – front and back).

One of the places we walked through which was full of different forms of art was Toronto’s distillery district. If you love industrial-style architecture then this is definitely one of the best places in Toronto for this. The district, as well as being great to just look around, also has various restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops. Furthermore, if you love shopping and culture, there is also a range of clothing and jewellery shops as well as a few art studios and theatres.

Other places in and around Toronto which are well worth a visit include the Casa Loma, an 18th century castle with tours and beautiful gardens, Nathan Phillips Square (pictured right at the top of this post), a public square in front of city hall which turns into an ice skating rink in the winter, the Rogers’ Centre (pictured below), home to the Toronto Blue Jays and the CN Tower (pictured below), a 553-metre landmark with beautiful panoramic views, but maybe rethink it if you don’t like heights!

The main thing I wanted to see whilst I was there was the beautiful Niagara Falls, which I managed to do with the family I was staying with on a lovely day out. A collection of three waterfalls on the Canada-US border, Niagara falls can either be seen in New York State or in Ontario, Canada. The three waterfalls are individually known as the Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls and they are unbelievably breathtaking. Reaching more than 165ft with an average annual flow rate of 85,000 cubic feet per second, Niagara Falls is also a important source of hydroelectric power. I was lucky enough to be able to walk behind the waterfall through some tunnels, where it got incredibly loud and wet. My photos definitely do not do this marvel justice, and it is a bucket-list attraction which needs to be visited and seen to really be able to take in its power.

I was so so happy to be able to tick “Niagara Falls” off of my bucket list and it was everything I imagined it would be. I was also really lucky to have the loveliest family to show me around the beautiful city of Toronto and they have my eternal gratitude and thanks.


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Crete Greece Beach cofcof

I went to Crete for my most recent family holiday. The weather was beautiful but incredibly hot. I was really looking forward to this trip because I have a lot of interest in Greek (and Roman) mythology. Crete did not disappoint when it came to historical places of significance that had links to mythology, and I have included some below.

We stayed in Crete for two weeks up in the mountains and hills of the island, in Axos, in a villa which was part of a twin complex called Oros Villas. It was such a beautiful place to stay and was very traditionally designed and decorated. As a family of four we stayed in one of the villas and there was a different family in the one next door. However, you can rent them both if you are visiting Crete with a bigger party. It is also incredibly secluded right on a hilltop with beautiful views and a private shared pool. The villas themselves are close to a local town/big village where there is a church, a few walking routes, restaurants, a supermarket selling typical produce as well as Greek cheeses and meats and a convenience store, where you can buy products for the bathroom and kitchen.


The Palace of Knossos (pictured below) is the biggest Bronze Age architectural site in Crete. The site contains many original ruins as well as some recreations, and was the site of the first Neolithic settlement in Crete. It was so amazing to walk around the old palace and be able to see the beautiful pieces of art and scenery. All around the site, there are various information boards where you can learn about the different areas. Near the entrance of the site, there are so many little trinket shops where you can buy Grecian themed products and decorations for your home. About a 20 minute drive away, is the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, where you can learn even more about the palace as well as other aspects of Grecian history and culture.


There are some notable beaches on and around the island which are well worth a visit. These include Balos beach, Elafonisi, Gramvousa, Vai beach and Chrysi beach.

Other places of interest include Lake Kournas (pictured below), which is the only freshwater lake in Crete with bright turquoise waters where you can rent a little pedal boat and glide serenely on the water (avoiding the ducks), as well as various monasteries including the Eastern Orthodox Arkadi Monastery (pictured below), with its gorgeous gardens and nearby restaurant and shop, the Agia Triada Monastery, and the Chrysoskalitissa Monastery, situated on a cliff with gorgeous sea views.


I absolutely love visiting waterfalls, lakes and places where the water is beautifully turquoise. Two places in particular which are unforgettable are the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, with beautiful views, caves and natural springs, and the Cave of Zeus, named after the Greek God and is said to be his birthplace.

I also found that being up in the hills and mountains was just as good as relaxing on the beach in the hot sun. The views you get looking down on the island through the sunset are some of the best I have ever seen. If you’re lucky, you might also get the chance to see some beautiful birds flying over the hills whilst sitting out and having a drink at a local restaurant. It really helped that our villa was situated in the hills and there were little walks available to various small towns and villages – each one with different restaurants, trinket shops and beautiful terraced houses.


Crete was a truly stunning island. It had the perfect mix of history, current culture, beaches, cliffs and mountains as well as having enough shops and restaurants and things to do. I missed a few things off my list when I went last year and I do hope to return and tick them off.

It is honestly the most perfect place for any kind of holiday and has lots of different things to do and see to suit everyone.




Places Visited/Mentioned: 

Previous blog post: https://ariaesmeralda.com/2018/07/05/travel-diary-lisbon-portual-april-2017/



I visited beautiful Lisbon over the Easter of 2017 with both of my parents. It has everything – culture, beautiful sites and shopping as well as some of the most stunning hilltop views. Even visiting in April, the weather was gorgeous – sunny but cool.

Lisbon is well known for its colourful buildings and some huge hills. However I did not expect it to be as diverse as it was. There are so many parts of Lisbon to explore, including the busy Bairro Alto district filled with bars and nightclubs, the beautiful plaza of Praça de Comércio, one of the biggest plaza squares in Europe lined with little cafes and shops, and even the old São Jorge castle, a Moorish castle built on a hilltop which overlooks the city.


There are lots of ways to see the city. You can walk, drive, cycle (beware of the fluctuating hills!), go on a moped or catch a tram. The latter was my absolute favourite, and I stayed on the tram for a whole circuit, just taking in the sights, sounds and smells.

Some notable landmarks and sites in Lisbon which are well worth a visit include the Belém Tower (pictured below), also known as the Tower of St Vincent, which is a medieval fortified tower and UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its role in maritime discoveries during the Age of Discoveries era. There is a little café right next door to it which is floating on the Tagus River. Its a lovely place to sit out with a drink and a classic pastel de nata, Portuguese’s famous egg tart pastry.

Other places of significance include the Church of Santa Engrácia (pictured below), a 17th century monument, National Pantheon of Portugal and former church which was so awesome and huge that it did not completely fit in my camera’s shot, the Jerónimos Monastery (within walking distance from the Belém Tower), a world heritage late Gothic-Manueline-style monastery which is also an archaeology and maritime museum, and the Santa Justa lift, an iron elevator with beautiful views over the city.


Another notable place to visit is Eduardo VII park which is Lisbon’s largest public park. If you head to the top of the park you get some stunning views across the park and over parts of the city. There are also some beautiful stone statues nearby as well as the Pavilhão Carlos Lopes museum (all pictured below).


In addition to architecture, museums and sculptures, there are also other forms of art all around the city of Lisbon in the form of graffiti. I know that some people can be against graffiti, however I consider these particular pieces to be some inspiring works of art that really add to the diversity of the city. Feel free to judge for yourself and make up your own mind!


Like all the other places, I would love to return. It will be interesting to see what has changed, and whether new graffiti art has been added. But for now, I am content with relaxing here in England whilst dreaming of the Portuguese delicacy of francesinha (a large ham, sausage and steak sandwich, coupled with a fried egg, melted cheese and a spicy tomato sauce). It is a heart attack waiting to happen, but so so amazingly delicious!



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In February 2017, I visited Seville with my mum for a quick girly getaway. I definitely need to go back at some point – the city completely consumed me. Seville is the capital of the Andalusia region of southern Spain and is known as the birthplace of Flamenco dancing. Even in February, the weather was sunny and warm and it is such a “convenient” city to travel round in – the various modes of transportation it provides are so easy and simple to use, including buses, trains, trams and even horse and carriage rides!

We stayed in the gorgeous Hotel San Gil Sevilla and were greeted straight away by friendly and helpful staff. The hotel itself has an outdoor pool, restaurant and bar (I had a mackerel and pesto starter one afternoon and it was so good!).


The hotel is a relatively short walking distance to one of the many shopping precincts, plus its a really scenic walk where you can take in the local architecture and walk past the various (great-smelling) restaurants. The precinct itself contains many well known stores and chain restaurants, but also a range of nik-nak stores with homemade gifts – I remember walking out of H&M and then walking straight into a little shop which sold different styles of Spanish folding fans for Flamenco dancing.

When it comes to things to see and do, there are a lot of places of interest around the city within walking distance.


One of the first sites which is definitely worth seeing is Seville Cathedral (pictured above). It is a Roman Catholic cathedral consecrated in 1507 with beautiful Gothic architecture. A phenomenal size, it is the third largest church in the world and in 1987 it was registered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Two additional places of interest in Seville are the Plaza de España, a prominent plaza originally built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and the Parque de María Luisa, in which the Plaza de España is set. The Plaza is full of beautiful architecture, contains many fountains and has various pop-up shops and stalls around it for people to buy trinkets and souvenirs. The Parque de María Luisa is Seville’s principal park which runs along the Guadalquivir River and it is breathtaking. Both places are on the “visit list” on the horse and carriage ride tours.


We also managed to have a tour of the Maestranza (pictured below), a baroque bullring, and were able to visit the Basílica de la Macarena (pictured below), a church famous for housing “The Virgin of Hope” (a jewel encrusted statue). There are many places around Seville which serve delicious tapas and Spanish food. One of my absolute favourites was Iberian ham on toast or in a roll, its like a mildly spicy ham pâté and it is amazing.


Other places which are well worth a visit include the Alcázar of Seville, a stunning Moorish royal palace with beautiful gardens and architecture, the Giralda (pictured below), a renaissance-style minaret with a Gothic bell tower, the Torre del Oro, a defensive tower with views over the city and Barrio Santa Cruz (pictured below), an area which contains the earlier mentioned cathedral and royal palace and also many shops and restaurants.


Seville is an absolutely breathtaking city with beautiful architecture, delicious food and super friendly people. I’m definitely going back, but will revisit during the summer when there might be more things happening – five days was not enough time!


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My trip to Venice was a 21st birthday getaway from my other half, and even though we were only there five days, it was such a gorgeous experience and I am really hoping to return and visit for longer. Even in the middle of October, the weather was still sunny and beautiful, the flights to and from Venice Marco Polo Airport were easy and transport from the airport was simple.

We stayed on the island of Lido, an 11km long sandbar and home to the Venice Film Festival, in the Marea Hotel Petit Palais, right on the beach and took a little boat to the main island each morning. Lido is full of various shops and restaurants, and one we kept returning to was the Pizzeria Ai Do Mati which does amazing mozzarella balls as well as a fries and pepperoni pizza (the fries being a topping on the pizza alongside the pepperoni – trust me, its the best!).

Even though we weren’t in Venice long, we managed to see quite a lot just through walking everywhere (bringing up those steps!). We visited the Piazza San Marco, the main public square in Venice dating back to the 12th century and overlooked by Saint Mark’s Basilica which is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice and connected to Doge’s Palace, a Venetian Gothic palace which was home to the “Doge” or Duke of Venice. We also saw the San Marco Campanile which is the bell tower of Sant Mark’s Basilica at 323ft tall and is one of the most recognisable structures of Venice (pictured below).


We also managed to see the Grand Canal (pictured below), a major water channel with public boat transport and the Bridge of Sighs, a bridge over the Rio di Palazzo (Palace Channel) and nicknamed after prisoners sighing at their final view of Venice whilst crossing the bridge from the interrogation rooms at the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison.

Finally, we checked off Santa Maria della Salute, which is a phenomenal 16th century baroque-style Roman Catholic church and the San Zaccaria, a 15th century Gothic-Renaissance church filled with beautiful artworks (pictured below).

The main tourist attractions were pretty close together which made it so easy to visit the majority of places just by walking and only needing a short boat ride to and from the various islands.


This is one of my shortest blogs in the travel diary series as unfortunately we weren’t able to see the more further out places such as Murano, Torcello and the San Giorgio Maggiore, but that will be something to tick off next time.



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Places On the List for Next Time: