Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Flying High... Turkish Airlines!

I have been extremely excited about going to Turkey this year as I have not been for almost three years, so this year had an extra bonus because I would be flying with Turkish Airlines from Birmingham Airport to Dalaman Airport via Istanbul's Ataturk Airport! Let’s see if my second Turkish Airlines flights live up to my previous experience with this airline. Finally TK from BHX!

Check-in flew by; our bags were interlined right through to Dalaman Airport well via Istanbul Ataturk. Having already checked-in online the previous day I had insured our seating was close to the front of the cabin. Making our way to through the security check-point without any problems we made our way to our Turkish Airlines flight TK1970 bound for the city of the Bosporus. If you like reading newspapers then you wouldn't be disappointed due to the wide array of Turkish and British newspapers, such as Hurriyet and the Daily Mail. I'm more of an Express & Star guy! Boarding wasn't too much of a stress like every other flight I've been on, whilst in the queue it was amazing to listen to the Turkish language. The cabin crew welcomed us with a smile, some were busy completing their pre-flight duties as we boarded our Boeing B737-800 aircraft. I was buzzing to finally fly back to Turkey after my absence. Let's go, TK1970!

Holidays had finally arrived even though I had been to Spain three weeks before we embarked on our Turkish summer holiday. When Turkish Airlines announced they would be commencing flights from Birmingham Airport to Istanbul it was a no-brainer to book our flights from our local airport through Istanbul Ataturk Airport. We had flown with Turkish Airlines in 2002 from London Heathrow Airport because the UK charter airlines hadn't started flights from Birmingham to Dalaman Airport yet, now we can benefit from the exceptional service that Turkish Airlines are famous for serving. With ten flights per week flying from Birmingham Airport direct to Istanbul, Turkey I have a feeling that this venture will be very successful for Turkish Airlines in more ways than one! Before we knew the heavens had opened just as I had buckled my seat-belt shut ready for take-off, now can I have a refreshment? No more would we have to make the car journey down to London to pick up a Turkish Airlines flight!

Taking to the skies the hospitality of Turkish Airlines served a selection of beverages alongside a fresh and very delicious meal. For my dinner I chose the Kofte with  a piece of grilled chicken, which was accompanied with a fresh salad, chocolate fudge cake and cheese with savoury biscuits. The cabin crew on-board our Istanbul bound flight were attentive and always made sure our drinks orders were taken care of, the selection of alcohol beverages rivaled other airlines that I have flown with. An after dinner refreshment was served in the form of Turkish tea, Turkish coffee, water or Ayran. The passengers sitting in from of us were sipping Ayran and black coffee but we weren't stupid! Our drinks were topped up on a regular basis as the cabin crew passed through the cabin with a selection of beers. wines and spirits. I assure you I enjoyed several generously poured gin and tonic's during that Turkish Airlines flight! Nice!

I must be honest the efficiency of the cabin crew onboard our TK1970 flight to Istanbul Ataturk Airport was first class regardless of our standard Economy Class ticket. Nowadays, flying has become more like a bus journey where extra hidden charges ruin the customer experience. During my three hour flight to Istanbul I didn't pay a penny for any food or drinks. I always prefer a room with a beautiful view, I really appreciated the beautiful Turkish gentleman who graciously tried to help me stow my cabin baggage during our embarkation at Birmingham Airport. I kindly declined his offer because I can do things for myself but next time I won't say no! It was a beautiful start to my holiday! As Turkey grew closer it was time for us to keep on with those holiday pre-drinks, our seats looked onto the Premium cabin but we had more than enough in Economy. After working for an airline its made me appreciate the cost of flying and the class service that divides us. Get over it already! OK?

Turkish Airlines brought the entertainment! Seat-back televisions are present for every passenger to enjoy, no matter what class of service. I for one made sure I watched as many Television programmes, movies and listened to both international and Turkish music during my three hour flight. I prepared for my upcoming trip to Istanbul with an informative documentary about Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace! Fasten those seat-belts! Touching down in the vibrant city of Istanbul brought our transit period and entry onto Turkish soil. Collecting our tourist visas and passing through passport control didn't take us a whole lot of time, our connection time was around ninety minutes, allowing us enough time without any rushing involved. In our case we were required to make our way from the international terminal to the domestic terminal for our internal flight to Dalaman Airport. No delays for us at Istanbul Ataturk!

Boarding our final flight of the night bound for Dalaman Airport we were greeted by another polite and well groomed set of cabin crew, who were at our service for the short flight to Dalaman. Our aircraft was called Eyüp, which happens to be a place in Istanbul on the European side of the city. Our sixty minute flight was smooth with some turbulence; shortly after takeoff we were served a small snack box and one non-alcoholic refreshment. This small snack box contained a chicken and cheese sandwich with a lovely chocolate desert. All in all our Turk Hava Yollari experience was faultless, professional crew and on-time departures ensure we arrived at our destination content! From check-in to transferring aircraft's we experienced a seamless process that helped start our holiday with a bang! We enjoyed two tasty in-flight meals from Birmingham and to Dalaman, better still we consumed enough complimentary alcohol refreshments throughout our first flight! Thanks Turkish!

Come On, Let's Fly! 

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Back To Birmingham... Confessions Of A Fresher!

It has been some time since my first Freshers week at University College Birmingham toasted the beginning of my university experience. It was all very much, go! Since that crazy period of time life hasn't been the same, everything happens for a reason? Let's play the ring of fire and down that dirty pint because my first days of my university experience were madness!

The summer of 2010 had come to an end, signifying the beginning of my university journey. I was ready for the life changing step of moving away from home to explore Birmingham. I had no need to be apprehensive but fear is good for us and it was definitely for the best as things didn't start too badly! The drinking and mayhem would soon begin but I was finally ready to experience the unexpected, as for coming to terms with a personal revelation I wasn't so sure about! To the left is the Maltings, the halls of residence for students who attend University College Birmingham. The middle window on the first floor was my first room at the Maltings. 142 Davenport House showed me so much, a series of events that were truly blessed! Once I got over the initial feeling of 'this is finally happening' I eased myself into my fresher semester. I wasn't out on the first night, I wanted to set some clear foundations. Oh, I had time.

My friends Catherine Broad and Lucy Houghton also lived in Davenport House but in different flats, it's clear to see the all the cool kids have lived in Davenport House! Over the first three months of my first semester at University College Birmingham life changed for the better, spending time with my new uni friends showed me another way of life completely. Who knew that watching films crammed into one small room was the best thing? I know that watching S Club's Miami 7 show on YouTube doesn't sound like the most riveting thing to do but it will stand to be one of my lasting memories of my Fresher period! That Varsity night-out that happened out of nowhere for us kept things exciting! If truth be told, I was enjoying the buzz of that first semester a lot! Oh the simple things became so important to us! With many other faces that joined us on the way I'm thrilled to say that I'm still friends with Catherine and Lucy! You're my Birmingham stars for certain! B, real life would kick in.

Freshers 2010 faired to be absolutely immense, with our group together we embarked on the first chapter of our uni life! Beginning with a series of great nights out that lead to the Heroes and Villains Bar Crawl, a night that became extremely eventful indeed! My life had been turned upside down it was goodbye home and hello to the student life, I was enjoying the party so much but knew that the first few weeks were meant to be insane. Birmingham had become our playground, when the sun set we donned our best clothes and started to get crazy! Pre-drinking was our way to a cheap night out for us students don't have a lot of money to spend so its wise to get wasted before we've even got to the club. Learning how to hold my drink became so easy I was putting away a fair bit dancing juice on a night out, not so good for the hangover though! I just embraced each day and night for that first Fresher period. Let's go!

Bar One became our local during our first slice of student halls living, watching shows like the X-Factor on a Saturday night would be a regular occurrence as things started to inevitably slow down. It's human nature that not everyone can get on all the time but I have to say that the general Fresher period was such a fast paced experience it would have been only but a blur if there was any negative energy. From the very beginning and through all the pre-drinks the Freshers flu probably hit all of us, its no wonder people were feeling under the weather the amount of crazy things that were going on! It was all about being a good egg and seeing that drink off! At the end of the day we were only Freshers once for the rest of uni careers. The 'Ring of Fire' showed me a thing or two but I just couldn't get the hang of 'Fuzzy Duck!' It was all about being a good egg! Looking back I know that UCB chose me rather than me choosing it! I must be drunk? Oh, I've still got more to recount. Leave it there, J!

University changes people's lives, I had something voices in my head that needed answering! Most of the Freshers events were centered around Broad Street so they were pretty mainstream, I knew what part of town I wanted to revisit once the sun had gone down! Dressed to kill we all ventured down to Birmingham's Gay Village for a night out with a difference! The Vengaboys we're back and were performing at Nightingales, a super-club located within the heart of Birmingham's Gay Village. A little bit of physical attraction mixed with an inevitable chemical reaction sealed what I had been thinking about for a while. The jigsaw puzzled had been completed and I knew what the deal was! See I wanted my Freshers experience to have a bit of variety! The Vengaboys threw back hits like 'Boom, Boom, Boom!' and 'We're Going To Ibiza!' From that moment I was welcomed on a fabulous journey! Let's all party on!

So, now in October our Freshers programme had concluded to the final night at the Custard Factory. There was no custard involved only a crazy night grooving to the sounds of Alex Zane and Jaguar Skills, we had therefore survived Freshers and the first few weeks of uni as we knew it. Like I had been to the Custard Factory! I had settled into uni life without even realising it, I went home once or twice but Birmingham called me back for more! For all was about to change as we would be reminded of the real reason why we had all moved to Birmingham to study. From the very first moment in BarOne to the time we called it a night at the Custard Factory I knew that my Freshers had been one amazing and crazy mess! Friendship had been made but would this setup truly last? I was having too much of a good time to care in that moment. On many levels it was the tonic that I needed! I was ready for the next chapter of my first semester at UCB! Can I rewind time back? No, it was all for then.

Classes had started, initiating the beginning of my academic life at University College Birmingham, I was ready to meet a whole set of new people from my classes. Even though the serious side of things had begun it would have been simply rude not to maintain a certain level of clubbing! Our weekly routine would begin with Oceana on Monday then followed by Sports Cafe on a Tuesday, resting on a Wednesday. Returning to the party on Thursday at Walkabout for that night always fared to be eventful, especially the Varsity night that we decided to randomly join the action. Fridays would be the icing on the cake as I would finish my cooking practical and get back to halls as quickly as possible to get ready for the night to start pre-drinking. Propaganda at the O2 Academy would be what I always hurried back for on a Friday evening, it was well worth the panic! No, those double whisky's! How, I was living for those nights!

Halloween brought the flat parties of all flat parties, for our fancy dress alcohol fuelled night was very eventful indeed! I say with no regrets I had a great time and knew that if things all ended with this party I would be happy for the whole process up to then was out of this world! Let's just say what happened at that Halloween party I look back with an accomplished state of mind. Our nights out were still pretty relentless but when lights came back on we just wanted a snack before bed, it was easier said than done for the door supervisors at one takeaway got a reality check! I'm very grateful for the time I spent during Freshers 2010 and for the friends that I made along the way, some of which remain close to this day but others have gone their separate ways. It was a lesson in life, teaching me that the simplest series of events can stay with me forever! How did I ever report for work at the weekend?! That retail department store never knew of my hungover state! B, I'm so done!

Be a Good Egg!

Joseph Harrison

Thursday, 18 July 2013

USA: Washington, D.C, Baltimore & Boston...

From D.C's presidents to Baltimore's row houses, with Boston's green commons, I will now pay these three three city's some mind! Getting inside Washington, D.C's White House wasn't going to happen, I had to be inventive during my presidential weekend trip. Baltimore put me in my place, that Maryland city served nothing but realness! Boston brought me something!

I sensed a healthy serving of Obamarama in the air as I found the White House, it was an exciting time for U.S politics. The upcoming elections would be happening around the time that I visited Washington, D.C in 2012. Escaping from the heat of New Jersey's humidity, I found D.C surprisingly calming. My Marriott Hotel used up my US Dollars but every cent was worth the location and quality for that weekend. Hitting the National Mall after a blessed sleep I embraced it all. Taking in the war memorials and monuments I found myself staring at the impressive white statue of a former president at the Lincoln Memorial. Hopping over to Georgetown I will leave that insert for the moment. The United States Capitol building had me looking at the familiar backdrop from the nightly national news broadcast by ITV in England. The spotlessly clean and white-washed fashion of National Mall had me far removed from Newark.

Catching the Potomac River after my visit to the Lincoln Memorial I saw a sign for a little place called Georgetown. By some kind of luck I found myself walking into a whole different area, away from those memorials I was impressed by those white picket fences. The housing situation in Georgetown looked expensive, the many kitsch eateries had my mouth watering, my budget was fine for a Five Guys. Fast forwarding to the next day, I had passed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to find out the airport was actually in the state of Virginia. Checking out of my Marriott Hotel I headed to the D.C Metro bound for the Pentagon, that was all top secret information. Going the waters edge in Alexandria, the road down to the opening of the Potomac River was filled with cute old fronted shops and cafes in VA. Getting back onto the Metro I checked out the Arlington County Cemetery, where JFK had been buried! Go! Seeking two states in one weekend was worth it. D.C & Virginia!

Baltimore came into my life so unexpectedly, remembering the views from Bolt Bus from Newark to Washington, D.C, a certain Maryland stop was made. Those Maryland streets gave me a sense of realness, I knew that I needed to make tracks down to Baltimore before I returned to England! Keeping to my word I took my Amtrak train from Newark Penn to Baltimore Penn, I said 'Good Morning, Baltimore!' Getting to know those Baltimore city streets I channeled 'Tracy Turnblad' as portrayed by 'Ricki Lake' in Hairspray. Finding the U.S.S Constellation docked at the Inner Harbor, an interesting ship that acted as the perfect contrast with the newer developed Harbor East riverside area. Taking my visit down to Baltimore in December 2012 meant that the winds bit, it was a cold but bright day in the same breath. I liked the Inner Harbor and East Harbor, if truth be told I really wanted to find some row house realness! Get it B!

Before I made my way over to Fells Point I asked a nice lady who was working at Barnes & Noble where I was going to find some realness, she suggested 'Eastern Ave'. Sidetracked by Fells Point, that restored cobbled stoned waterfront outpost impressed me much. The whole area looked very authentic with a 'New World' kind of colonial feel about it. Going for some lunch, I chose to have some Indian food, finding a cheaply priced buffet was the plan. With the day wearing on, I found myself back on 'Eastern Ave', the row houses impressed me much! I won't lie, I did feel some kind of crazy energy as I got my photos, sight seen it was time to move on! Hand on heart, I was lucky to see those row houses, the ones that I saw on the way to Washington, D.C were in a questionable state. On my way to the train station in order to take my bus back to Newark, I walked through some serious streets, Baltimore wasn't going to play any games! I loved Baltimore, it was straight to the point!

Before my trips cross border trips to Canada I hadn't ventured further north than Upstate New York, that needed to change fast! Splashing out on an Amtrak train ticket to Boston South Station from Newark Penn after one of my morning shifts had to be done, I wanted to make use of that September weekend! Checking into the Hostelling International dorm room had me hostel-going for the very first time! Back to the streets, between Chinatown and Essex Street those former factory like warehouse buildings served something extra, I was well and truly in Downtown Boston! Heading towards to Boston Common after the rain had to be done, I found myself feeling closer to home. That Mass moment had me imagining I was in London's Hyde Park, it was very homely for sure! Going walkabout I was lovely my first evening in Boston, going off the beaten track I found myself walking through a rather exclusive park side area B.

My first evening in Boston was chilled, I went to the AMC Boston Common 19 to see 'Hotel Transylvania'. Fresh from a wonderful sleep, I headed for the starting point of Boston's Freedom Trail. Not sure where the starting point was I made my own rules up, Faneuil Hall was on my list and yes I found that just fine. Heading over the river found the USS Constitution, sided into an interesting looking neighbourhood I found the Bunker Hill Monument. As the afternoon progressed I took the metro to find the famous Harvard University, passing the library told me I had made it. The student houses from outside reminded me of the movies, they really looked just they do! Getting the train towards Salem early the following morning had me brushing shoulders with the legendary location of the Salem witch trial. Walking a little bit too far, I found a pioneers village that took me back to the early days of the new American colony. Catching the coach in time, my Boston trip was ace!

Four States, Three Trips!

Joseph Harrison

Monday, 15 July 2013

Flying High... Monarch Airlines!

Since May I have stayed loyal to one airline, an airline that offers a wide range of destinations from my local airport and faultless customer service! Monarch Airlines has been my carrier of choice on two occasions during the Spring/Summer of 2013! Fasten your seat-belts please and take a moment to refer the safety demonstration because it is now time for takeoff!

I flew on the inaugural flight from Birmingham to Bordeaux on the 22nd of May 2013. As on-time departures go by I was very impressed with this round-trip due to the early arrival into both airports! I noticed that there wasn't really a song and dance at Birmingham Airport on the morning of my Bordeaux departure for the inaugural service, maybe the golden envelope and the French flag had something to do with it? It's not a complaint, merely just a thought. Why had I chosen to visit Bordeaux, France? I was on a family visit to my paternal grandparents who live in a small hamlet that's a fifty minute drive from Bordeaux Airport. At the time of booking I saw Monarch as the best option because they had announced their seasonal service from Birmingham to Bordeaux Airports, fitting with my university semester break I just couldn't say no to that flight! It's true that I endorse my local airport, Birmingham Int'l Airport! 

As customer service goes I was very impressed with the service conducted throughout my French flight. During flight ZB5476 the crew were professional and present in the cabin throughout the whole flight. Flight ZB5477 back to Birmingham from Bordeaux departed early, which helped because everyone wants to leave early once their holiday has finished. Merci Monarch for a super inaugural flight, it was great to see the French journalists take photos whilst I and rest of the other passengers disembarked the aircraft in Bordeaux, France. I must admit that I had traveled with Monarch Airlines before my Bordeaux flight, the destination must have been Zakynthos, Greece but the livery and crew uniform were very different on that flight. To be honest I've been on numerous flights this year so far and flying now seems like catching a bus because I'm fortunate enough to be classed as a jet-setter, but Monarch you did a sterling job! Is that really the date? I better book that flight now!

I hate keeping my feet on the ground but I really need to! To the right is the entrance to Birmingham Airport, its my local airport and the ever-growing base of Monarch Airlines amongst other airlines. I have already mentioned I flew with Monarch Airlines to Bordeaux, France in May 2013 but I try to fly from Birmingham Airport as much as I can! Monarch Airlines have been expanding their route network to destinations such as Bordeaux, France and Split, Croatia so far in 2013. Monarch have increased their frequency to four flights per week to Barcelona from Birmingham Airport from May 1st 2013, strengthening the capacity from the West Midlands. Contrary to belief Monarch Airlines will be bringing new and larger capacity aircraft's to Birmingham Airport to serves Monarch's Brummie route network? Birmingham Airport is growing and is attracting new airlines to serve Birmingham and the heart of England. M!

Anyway, it's not just Bordeaux and Barcelona I have visited thanks to Monarch Airlines I have my sights set on a short trip to Gibraltar, another direct connection made possible with Monarch Airlines from Birmingham Airport. I'll have to see about that because this summer is looked really packed, at least I won't have to travel to Manchester or East Midlands Airports for a flight like that. I'm a blogger who is travelling on a very tight budget to see Europe basically on a shoestring, so I can't make any promises! Who knows I might win the lottery so I can live my dream of travelling the world? When I go to Gibraltar I really want to buy a few bits from the Morrison's Supermarket and cross over the Frontier to the Spanish border town of La Linea De La Concepcion. Maybe one day Gibraltar? So, my advice to you would be to think twice the next time you are booking flights because there's nothing better than supporting your local airport! Thanks to Monarch with its handy Birmingham routes! Yes!

I jumped at the chance to take a short break to Barcelona on the 1st of July 2013. I took to the skies for Barcelona El Prat Airport for my alternative Spanish holiday. Choosing to fly with Monarch Airlines on flight ZB962 bright and early for a 07:15 am departure. I arrived at Birmingham Airport with a considerable amount of time to spare, but all of a sudden the 'Final Call' status was visible on the departure screens! Something told me it was too early for the final stages of boarding to be active at around 06:40 am?! I ran like a crazy person, trying to find the ground level boarding gate that was supposedly boarding! I made the flight without another hitch but my experience told me the flight was called early to help alleviate the crowded departure lounge? Departure on-time that July morning was a relief to me! Soaring towards the heavens it was time to enjoy my next Monarch flight! Don't scare me, M!

It was time to board my final Monarch Airlines flight for a while from Barcelona El Prat Airport to Birmingham Airport, would I experience excellent customer service once again? Like clockwork the a outbound flight from BHX arrived with enough time to spare for an early departure, I was impressed! With the disembarkation completed boarding could begin, let's go home! I would have to say that everything was faultless on this flight, I'm not just saying all this positive chat for nothing, Monarch are fantastic so it's credit when credit is due! I only had one reservation about flight ZB963 on the 5th of July 2013, this would be about the quality of the announcements that were made by one of the cabin crew, it wasn't the purser because her efforts were fantastic. I would just say for the future, boys and girls put a bit more enthusiasm into your announcements! I was a Passenger Services Agent for Virgin Atlantic Airways so I know my announcements! Flying is the one, that will never change!

Thanks, M!

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Sitges, España: Reina De La Playa!

I wanted that good good so I chose Sitges for my last two days of my Spanish summer trip, a fabulous choice that I don't regret making! Watch out for the rainbows as I present Sitges, its a seaside town fit for a Queen! Bow down because Sitges only wants those guys with style! Brit was unleashed for a little while! If you know what I mean? Santa Maria, Gloria Dios! ¡Venga!

Sitges welcomed me with a friendly greeting, the sun was shining and the beautiful people were out to play! Finding my hostel wasn't too difficult, well maybe that wasn't so! I had chose to stay in 'Sunny Sitges Flat' which was close to the railway station, getting to and from Barcelona and back to the airport was the easy part! I found it on hostelworld.com for more information. I had come to Sitges to have some fun and finish my holiday in style! Sitges isn't difficult to navigate around because I pretty much saw all I needed to in perfect time. This friendly beach town showed me a wide array of coffee shops and cute restaurants dotted around the winding picture postcard streets, things were looking very kitsch indeed! Sitges had something to show me, I knew exactly what I wanted to see! With those Spanish men I knew that I would love Sitges! With my day done in Tarragona I was free to soak up all of what Sitges had to offer!

Sitges is known for its Gay friendly attitude and welcomes everyone from the Gay community to come and enjoy themselves, so my first impressions were exactly how I imagined them to be. If truth be told I saw a mix of couples, singles and families go about their business during my time spent in Sitges. Lots of city slickers call Sitges their weekend home as the Rodalies train service connects Sitges to Barcelona Sants Station within thirty minutes. Judging by the picture captured on the right Sitges is a town thats made up of cute little winding streets that ooze Spanish sophistication. The men were gorgeous, as I walked past the cafes it was a sight to see them chatting and sipping their mixed drinks! I was being served all kinds of 'Old San Juan' realness with those cobbled historical Spanish streets! I was ready for the night time, I was down for whatever! I would need to be careful with my words, family weren't about to find out about my nasties! Me gustan los hombres Espanol! Exactamente!

When the sun sets the party starts in Sitges, something told me that my two nights spent by the seaside were going to be a blast! By a stroke of luck I met Chris who was staying in the same hostel as I was. We hit 'Carrer Bonaire' at around 11pm to find things hadn't really got started yet. 'Carrer Bonaire' is one of Sitges' main Gay party streets, lined with many Gay nightspots. Myself and Chris found ourselves in Prestige Strip Club, it was still quiet but we saw Rylan Clark's identical twin making his way around the club, he had a figure that many women would envy! It was a relief to be out on the town after three days of intense sightseeing, cheers to that Sitges! We discovered Queenz on Carrer Bonaire a little earlier but we saved that place for later. Did I have any plans for the evening ahead? I can't divulge such information! Who was I kidding I wanted to have a shameless night in Sitges! Yes, she was ready!

As the clock struck midnight it felt right for us to go back to Queenz, we had heard that things get crazy there on a Wednesday night. Queenz was an absolute scream! The bar staff were lovely and they certainly do know how to make the perfect 'local' Vodka and Coke! You've got to ask those questions because more liquor for your Euro is always a good thing in my book! Queenz was serving carnival night that night so things got pretty crazy, we met a Drag Queen who was so fabulous and for some reason the bar staff thought I looked a little bit Spanish! I loved Queenz so much I went back the next night and even though Chris had moved on to somewhere new, I still had a great night! The DJ played all the songs I adore so I was living! So, thank you Queenz for two super nights out in Sitges! If I do come back to Sitges in the near future I'll be there for a 'local' drink! I've already told you I'm not revealing anything of that kind! I'm no Bougie Queen! Perra, yo era escandalosa! Yes!

When the hangover hurts bad get to the beach, its what I did! I knew exactly where I was going because I made a detour from club to club the previous night so it was perfect! Making my way to the Rainbow flag section of the beach, I bathed in the sun and took a little swim in the sea. Clocking the talent wasn't a difficult task at all! I wasn't feeling in such a pretty state so I just stayed within the Rainbow flagged area, the weather was beautiful and I couldn't complain about the view! The beachfront was busy with all kinds of people so let's not be the hypocrites and discriminate! Sitges can be my baby! Forget the families for one moment because the hombres were serving body, body and more body! I did feel like 'I need to hit the gym!' but I'd rather bronze my skin and not care what the plastics think! I'm not usually a beach bum but I I took a chance on Sitges's 'platja'. My hangover was right hideous! Oh, no!

Sitges has a lovely beachfront with numerous restaurants that looked lovely, but I did my own thing because I was on a tight budget. Sat on the left corner of the beachfront is 'Sant Bartomeu' church, which looked perfectly placed besides the rocks. I had made the right choice to visit Sitges as I don't think I'll forget this place in a hurry! I made use of the supermarket by my hostel as most of my money was spent enjoying myself when the sun went down. Brit was let out for sometime, she caused absolute carnage! My liver needs a holiday because she was abused! From the countless little kitsch streets, designer boutiques, super nightlife and a beautiful beach I couldn't fault Sitges for one second. This seaside town also had a great vibe that I felt completely accepted at all times, from dancing in Queenz Bar to sunning myself on the beach I'm sure that I'm not alone in that notion. Here's to the all of the scandal Sitges served suring that July sejour! Gracias por todo Sitges! Terminado!

Sitges... Estoy Enamorado De Ti!

Joseph Harrison

Tarragona, España: Un Secreto Para Compartir!

Take me to Tarragona! I chose Tarragona as my next target, Spain had be under a spell!! It's a damn good job I have a sense of direction, my journey from Barcelona to Tarragona via Sitges proved to be rather problematic but ended well. It's no secret that I'm missing Puerto Rico, damn right I wanted to get lost in this gem of a Spanish town! Vamanos! Me refiero ahora! Yes, T!

Roman, Roman, Roman, you say? Yes, Tarragona has a Roman flare about it. Captured to the left is the Amphitheatre that I found at the top of the hill, close to Rambla Vella. It was amazing to see such a contrast between locations as that very morning I had left behind Barcelona for the seaside town of Sitges, to then discovering this Roman marvel so it was a pleasant surprise. I decided to admire this ancient point of interest from a distance as I had so much to see in such a short space of time. Being so far up from the sea was great as I could gaze into the distance, the Mediterranean sea on a sunny day is a view that can't be complained about! I despise maps so I half followed the street signs but my heart wasn't prepared to compromise, you already know that Tarragona was giving me life! The Roman vibe shined through the chilled streets of this Spanish town! Things were looking like the PR! Los mapas son tontos! Si!

Did I forget to mention that Tarragona is really easy to access by train from Barcelona Sants Station by using Renfe Media Distancia trains, doing it all independently was the one! After my stressful journey I was completely satisfied that Tarragona was definitely serving Mediterranean realness! The train station was small but boasted electronic departure and arrival screens so I was in the know for my return journey back to Sitges. I didn't worry about walking lots, this town is centred around small sections that are accessible without a map. I was hungry for Tarragona, the pace of Barcelona led me wanting something sweeter with out the crowds! Barcelona seemed so faraway! Serving hot couture the Roman Amphitheatre looked just how it should have with its semi-crumbling facade I knew Tarragona was the trick for me! I wasn't paying no admission fee, taking my photos from a distance I'm paying my contribution in this blog. Oh no she better don't! Changing trains? No, no!

Tarragona's old town took me back to somewhere that I loved good, somewhere that I visited in September 2012. I felt like I was back walking through the streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico! With the 'Plaça De La Font' in front of me and the alfresco restaurants dotted along the street I was in heaven! Forget any preconceptions you had about Spain because this town breaks the mould, leave the buckets and spades for later! Taking a few moments to take in the scene I had encountered I was down right in love with Tarragona's 'Plaça De La Font!'. I do suppose that invasions can eventually be beautiful, it all looked like a stunning blueprint for a new territory! That part of town showed me a maze of quaint side streets that I didn't question like I had done in Barcelona. I respected the foundations because Tarragona served something legendary. No pierdas ni un momento en T! Te amo España! Get it, Tarra!

The weather was beautiful, not to hot but just right so all my worries had gone! Tarragona's old town was just mystifying, I want to go back their now! From the hustle and bustle of Barcelona it was bizarre but super to feel the calm that Tarragona's old town brought to my trip. I decided not to eat at one of the restaurants pictured as I wanted to walk a little bit further to discover more, but I know if I didn't find anywhere better I would have been back to the 'Plaça De La Font'. Anyway, I must tell you a secret because I never originally intended to visit Tarragona, due to family recommending this town I just couldn't resist a jaunt to this sensational town! My family recommendation paid off, so next time your nearest and dearest advice a place to visit just go for it! I appreciated the council building that stood before at the end of the parade of restaurants, I would love something like that in Bilston! For Spanish colonial chic I needed to see Tarragona! No, that wasn't a question! Oy!

I embraced Tarragona's 'La Rambla Nova', giving it my full attention! A formidable yet charming street that runs through the centre of Tarragona's town centre. It's the centre of the 'Nouveau Riche' with posh designer shops and a pedestrianised walkway. The abundance of trees accentuated the breeze as it cooled down the heated afternoon. La Rambla Nova De Tarragona had such a lovely vibe, chilled yet the local people still went about their business without a fuss. I didn't really notice the tourists, something that I love because some of us can be a rowdy and shameless bunch of folk! Not me for I'm good like that, don't test me though! By this time I was so hungry, so much so I nearly ate a Dominos Pizza, such a no no! When in Spain it's always best to be adventurous and enjoy the local cuisine. Choosing another chain would have been an absolute sin, McDonald's was only allowed once in Barça! Ay, dios mio T!

Captured above stands Tarragona's 'El Balcón del Mediterráneo', another reference to the Roman Era. 'The Balcony of The Mediterranean' stood in the far distance, interlinking with the Roman amphitheater that I had visited during my first moments in Tarragona after stepping from the train. Trust and believe, Tarragona will forever be in my heart and mind! Onto the subject of food, I certainly love a bargain and to eat well without feeling guilty about the bill, Tarragona ticked all of those dreaded boxes. As the time grew closer for me to get my train back to Sitges I found a lovely little street-side restaurant that had special deals on their food and beer, a perfect combination! I ate two delicious courses and drank two ice cold 'Mahon' beers for as little as £12.00! I was loving the arroz Cubano! Tarragona served Roman and Mediterranean realness in all the right places! Ready for my train, I looked towards the night ahead in Sitges, my day of culture needed turning up higher! Bye!

Tarragona ... Seguir Sirvendo 'Mediterraneo Estilo!

Joseph Harrison

Friday, 12 July 2013

Barcelona, España: El Cor De Catalunya!

Barcelona is a city that is super cool, sophisticated and crazy in many respects, I couldn't just publish one blog I saw so much! Catalonia happens to be the region that Barcelona belongs to. I've been very lucky recently to discover a whole new side of Spain, an area that's far away from the buckets and spades of the tourists resorts. Anem a arribar al cor de Barcelona! Go, B!

Barcelona has a special heart, it's a city that has a crazy cool vibe. Let's take this to the streets! La Rambla presents a whole host of classy restaurants and cafes for all to enjoy. La Rambla has lots of quirky side streets that have personality and edge, its not just a pretty and predictable tourist area. I didn't get lost whilst discovering this part of Barcelona's city centre due the clear signs. I walked so far that I found myself in Vila De Gracia, a super swish neighbourhood that boasts some of Barcelona's top shopping boutiques. I wasn't fooled by the facades of the high-end stores! Barcelona really owns its past because I didn't see many new buildings that were super charming! From the swish to the sketchiness I learnt that Barcelona is like a rabbit warren with many corners that can be explored from the polished avenue of La Rambla but I endorse any sign of urban craze! Tingueu confiança en l'alternativa! Si!

Barcelona is a big bustling city that has so much going on, but let me dispel a common fear about the tales of Barça's pickpocketing woes. Throughout my time in Barcelona I did not have anything stolen at all and I felt quite safe if truth be told. It's all about staying vigilant and trusting yourself. That popular promenade or whatever its referred to really impressed me much but I was already crazy in love with the vibe of Barcelona I took each sight in my stride. I was too impatient for my own good so dinner was out of the question because like each trip I was desperately seeking that adventure! La Ramblas as a whole took me to another dimension, I recognised that Barcelona is a city that serves something different with its timeless architectural wonders and its defiant to dance to the beat of its own drum! Oh, I ate tapas for the first time in a restaurant along La Rambla! I really didn't know what to think but the Sangria kept on flowing so I was very happy with that! Vamanos B!

Welcome to the Plaça de Catalunya! This place took me to the centre of Barcelona's old Spanish vibe. A hype of activity can be felt whilst at the centre of the square with people walking to work, meeting their friends or just taking things slow. As I stood in the middle of the square I gazed at the surrounding grand buildings in amazement! I had a feeling about this sight, the whole atmosphere of the place fitted perfectly with the Barcelona energy. I found this point of interest on the second day I spent in Barcelona. If you have the chance to see this great place I would seriously recommend a visit! Think Piccadilly Circus without the stress and neon lights because the Plaça de Catalunya is a meeting of minds with a busy but relaxed frame of mind it can get confusing. I have such an affinity with Spain and Spanish culture so I being a part of such a moment was all I wanted to do! Barcelona té cap estrès! Well a little bit!

The meeting point for many and the avenue that accesses seven other directions to seven other streets including Passeig de Gracia and La Rambla. De debò B? I found that walking from my hostel along La Rambla brought me straight to the Plaça de Catalunya, well give or take a ten minute walk. If you want to be at the centre of action this square is the best place! I felt that there was a wide variety of people going about their business in the plaza, even though a main road circled the area there was still a feeling of calm and energy at the same time. I found Plaça de Catalunya simply by chance, I really need to start taking more chances! Have I mentioned Barcelona's got an amazing metro? Well, its amazing once you get your bearings because its got way more lines than the London Underground! Give or take a few wrong turns I always found my way back to where I needed to be whilst in Barcelona. I am certainly not a fan of pigeons, so I did some ducking and diving! Ay déu meu!

Obviously Barcelona doesn't do Tesco so the market was the best place to find some tasty Catalan delights. Mercat St Josep La Boqueria showcased top quality market trade! This market pleases the locals and tourists alike. I could not believe the amount of colourful stalls selling sweets and chocolates that looked absolutely fantastic! I must add that the fishmongers were selling a wide array of produce that looked amazing. Talking about fish, I jumped at the chance to try some local market food. My lunch consisted of a piece of beautifully fried Tuna with a large glass of beer. The crazed atmosphere at the market during that hot July afternoon infused the intense array of colours, smells and conversations! Per descomptat jo volia més! Straight up, the markets energy gave me life, the smells and vibes were just right! I found Inka Kola, a Peruvian soft drink that was introduced to me by my Peruvian sister friend in NJ! 

The hustle and bustle of this colourful Catalan market was perfect, I need to be back there now! I have a sweet tooth so I treated myself to some fudge, it was delicious! I had recently watched the UK reality show 'Geordie Shore' before my Barcelona trip, capturing the poultry and cold cuts section for myself felt great. This market is open from morning until night so there's no wrong time to visit! Be ready for the madness of this market its a fast paced hype of entertainment, trust! I feel blessed that I had the chance to experience a place like Mercat St Josep La Boqueria because its super cool! I found yet more urban craze on my unplanned diversion from the market but I was living! That being said I can now see why Barcelona is one step closer to being the heart of Catalonia! Això no era una pregunta! No! Barcelona brought some amazing smells and sights into my heart and mind, it was lovely! For me to leave Gaudi out of the equation didn't mean I lost any love for Barcelona! 

Puc Obtenir un Amén?

Joseph Harrison

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Barcelona, España: Ciutat De Gaudí!

Is Barcelona the city of Gaudí? Barcelona is home to a collection of architectural wonders, all of which were created by Antoni Gaudí. I traveled to Barcelona, Spain in July 2013 to see what all the fuss was about. So, what's so special about the Sagrada Família or Parc Güell? What's the furore about a stately home called Casa Batlló?! Què té d'especial l'obra de Gaudí? B, really?

Standing before me was a truly remarkable sight, a cathedral that towered above me from where I stood. It's like with anything that attracts attention its going to be busy, a huge queue of fellow travellers waited in line to see inside this marvel of architecture. Juggling my schedule, I knew the wait would be worth it! I had only a short time in Barcelona so I decided to take my time to focus on the top three Gaudí landmarks, taking the views from outside in I aimed to come back to this sight the following day. It was crazy to think that construction of this cathedral started in 1882, Gaudí had an immense task on his hands that he never saw to be completed. 2028 stands as the anticipated date of completion, now that's some project to manage! Will it make that deadline? I had my deadlines to make, the interior would have to wait! Les aparences poden ser enganyoses, però ella és una bellesa! Let's go, B!

I returned the next day to see what all the fuss was about the previous day. Getting in line early was what needed to be done, visiting this landmark did not have to break my finances because it only cost me 18 Euros! The inside of the Sagrada Família basilica blew me away. I took some time to walk around to take in the shear beauty of the high ceilings. Taking some time for reflection was something that had to be done, that wonder needed to be visually appreciated. Visiting the Sagrada Família took my breath away, of course I was respectful when I took my photos within the basilica, I am a very responsible and mindful traveller. I can wholeheartedly say that visiting the Sagrada Família was a once in a lifetime moment, a bit like when I caught a glimpse of the Cinderella's Castle for the first time at Disney World in Orlando, USA! My whistle-stop trip to Spain was in its infancy, I had a lot to see in such a short space of time! Seguir construint alt, mantenir la sagrada família! Entès, B?

Sat on the top of Barcelona's hectic cityscape was Parc Güell. Gaudi's crafted an infused park with breathtaking views of Spain's alternative city. Reaching Parc Güell was an interesting experience, I took several sets of escalators to reach the gates of this majestic park. Built on the hill of El Carmel in the Garcia district of Barcelona from 1900 to 1914, time has tested this park but it looked so beautiful to me on that hot July afternoon. Like with every popular landmark that I have been to the masses of tourists didn't phase me, you just have to push through and make sure you see what you want to see. I saw everything that I wanted to see at Parc Güell that day. How I got there I'm not too sure because the Metro station was in an awkward location, but I quickly found the ascending escalators that took me near the top. The weather was beautiful with a constant beam of heat that warmed the breeze. Oh life!

Parc Güell had the most endearing features, from the winding paths that twist up and around the main park area. The panoramic view that can be seen from the very top is just like being in a postcard, it's truly amazing! The cave like structures were something else, located below the mosaic viewpoint of the park stands the cool and dark area that takes the heat away from the midday sun! Now, I did mention that there was a lot of people at the park when I visited but it didn't take anything away from the truly exceptional architecture that I saw all around the park. To make everything even better there's no admission fee to access the ground that make up Parc Güell! The best things in life are free! Right from the entrance to the top of the viewpoint the attention to detail was effortless! Parc Güell showed me that Barcelona has a rich past that will satisfy many more visitors into the future! Parc Güell, em va impressionar molt! A view better than a postcard! B, molt millor!

My final crusade in the city of Gaudi was to Casa Batlló, a former stately home to Barcelona's most richest family. Located in the heart of Barcelona stands this formidable building that boasted a clever design that date back to 1877. I'm not one to venture inside museum type places but I jumped at the chance to experience the grandeur of the Casa Batlló. Listening to the audio trail that took me back to the heyday of this mystifying work of art was out-of-this-world. I learnt that Antoni Gaudi never had a firm construction plan for this project. The Casa Batlló made its way into the genre of Art Nouveau, a design type that I would have no problem to be associated with. When I saw that house I wanted that fine piece of real estate! The area around Casa Batlló was rather boujee! Barcelona, yes it was! I didn't waste my time, I loathe museums but that casa had me transfixed! Keeping it up, I needed to get my train!

Barcelona had shown me the Sagrada Família and Parc Güell, but was Casa Batlló the best Gaudi orientated sight I saw during my Barcelona trip? I must admit that the Sagrada was amazing and that Parc Güell took me to new heights, but Casa Batlló gave the opportunity to tread the boards of a former Barcelona stately home that was built in such a fashion, I just couldn't believe how amazing it looked in real life motion! I do wonder if a building of such stature and design would be able to be built today? From the artsy opening mechanism of the windows to the intricate tiles that reflect the different shades of light I was blown away by the surprises that this house showed me! Not bad for a house made of bones?! Barcelona got lucky with such a genius, so thank you Antoni Gaudí for your craft! Barcelona, a city made from many minds but Mr. Gaudí brought his fire! Yes, I packed up my things to board my Rodalies de Catalunya train service to Sitges the next day. Barcelona, let's get it!

Yes, Antoni Gaudí!

Joseph Harrison