Thursday, August 7, 2014

Swiss Discoveries: Cut Your Own Flowers

A few weeks ago, while walking Henry past our local Gemeindehaus (town administrative offices), I noticed a field of flowers in full bloom. Rows were labeled by flower names, photos and a prices per "stiel," (stem). Small box cutters hung from nearby cash boxes along with a comprehensive price list. Putting two and two together, I determined it was a cut your own flower field.
Cut your own flowers.
Gladiolas and Sunflowers

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Barcelona's Old City

Please accept my sincere apology for taking my sweet, sweet time filling in the details of our Barcelona trip. July has been a wet, dreary month in Zurich. But instead of writing blog posts, I've spent my rainy days binge watching United States of Tara. Bad blogger! I'm back and determined to tell you all about it before I forget most of what we did. Here goes...

Christopher Columbus, Barcelona
Christopher Columbus
In this post, I'll focus on what we discovered while wandering Barcelona's  Ciutat Vella, or Old City, which is made up of three neighborhoods: Barri Gotic, El Raval and La Ribera/El Born. Ciutat Vella was conveniently located a block from our hotel, so were were able to spend entire afternoons as well as random hours between activities exploring. Let's begin with the most touristy spot in Barcelona.... Las Ramblas.

Las Ramblas (or La Rambla, whatever suits your fancy) is a tree-lined series of pedestrian streets in central Barcelona. It begins at Placa Catalunya in the north and ends at Port Vell, where a monument to Christopher Columbus, famously points in the wrong direction. Las Ramblas divides the neighborhoods of El Raval to the west and Barri Gotic to the east. Almost every travel blog, book and website I read warned of enormous crowds of tourists, rampant crime and pickpockets on La Rambla. So we tied down our belongings, took a deep breath and dove right in. The crowded part was absolutely right. There were fanny-packed, front backpack-wearing, camera-toting, slow-moving foreigners everywhere. But I never once felt unsafe and we survived with all our belongings in tact.

La Rambla
A look down La Rambla
That being said, La Rambla wasn't that great either. We stopped at a few chain clothing stores, had our fill of the American fast food we'd been missing*, elbowed our way through famous La Bouqueria and gawked at street performers. There were interesting shops, restaurants and street vendors, all of which could be found elsewhere in less crowded areas of Barcelona. La Bouqueria was very cool, with dozens of vendors selling anything your could want to eat, but markets like it exist throughout Barcelona and we preferred the quieter, local versions. Street performers were the highlight. For a euro or two and they'd interact with the audience, wrapping large wings around your body or allowing you to accompany them in playing a Beatles song. A stroll down Las Ramblas was an hour or two well-spent and, if your time is limited in Barcelona, it's an excellent way to see a lot in a relatively short walk. But I could recommend better ways to spend a couple hours in Barcelona.