Barcelona & Benidorm in August…

People often say ‘you never know someone until you travel with them’. And, I agree with this statement, because I think we all act a little differently when we’re taken away from the hum-drum of daily life and daily routines. There’s less distraction, there’s the excitement about being somewhere new and it’s a chance for us to relax too. But, it also got me thinking that if someone you know well ends up surprising you when you're away travelling together, then maybe you haven’t really been paying that much attention. If it’s a good surprise, then I think it adds to the friendship bond and makes that relationship an even stronger one. 

So why Barcelona…and more importantly why Benidorm?

This trip came about on a day whilst I was sat at work. I received a WhatsApp message from Tobi (@tobishinobi who I went to visit in Chicago earlier this year). We’d both spoken about visiting a particular place not too far from Benidorm. So, when Tobi said something along the lines of ‘how about we also go to Barcelona when we go to Benidorm?’ I said ‘yeah, OK, why not’.

I love Barcelona, and I already knew Tobi would too. So, once we’d set about picking dates, I started looking up flights, accommodation and trains between Barcelona and Alicante – it seemed the best way to get there. Flying would eat up too much time once you factored in getting to the airport, and I was told that even though the drive was a pleasant one, there were a few toll roads to get through. And, we just didn’t have the flexibility of time on our side, not on this trip as Tobi had to return to Chicago.

First off, let me give you a little background on how Tobi and I first met. It’s also a bit of background on how Instagram (as cheesy as it sounds) for me has been a life-changer.

I met Tobi on my second Instagram meet. The first meet was on the previous day at a Worldwide Instameet where I had very little knowledge of what the app really did or how it would change the way I view photography, my life and the world around me. I also had no idea that I would end up meeting so many people, some of who I consider close friends.

Not everyone you meet in life is going to become a friend. I think we all have people in our lives that we class in varying levels of friendship; there are ‘close friends’, ‘friends’ and then there are ‘acquaintances’. You’re not going to have that ‘close connection’ with everyone you meet, and, that’s ok. Anyway, Tobi and I have been friends ever since. It’s also a beautiful reminder to me of that day, I turned up at my first ever Instameet. I was shy, really nervous, and anxious. I didn’t know anyone, and for so many reasons, I will always be forever grateful for that day.

So, back to this trip. Barcelona is another city that I’ve grown to love visiting. This was my third visit, and I’m going to go as far as to say I could actually live in the city. There's so much to see and so much to do, and there are still places I’ve not yet visited - even after a third attempt!

If I could describe Barcelona as a woman, I'm going to say she’d be rebellious, but striking; flirtatious and beautiful. A lady who regularly neglects her beauty sleep for debauched evenings and nights out. I guess you could say that this is a city which never feels guilty about having a good time, and she doesn’t care about what she looks like in the morning.


I knew that on this trip I would see the city differently, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted to see it from a different perspective, as well as capture my style of photography at the same time. And, I did. Tobi and I walked a lot, saw a lot, talked a lot and took a lot of photos (and yet I still feel like I could have taken a whole heap more). It was exciting to be in the city with a friend who was seeing it for the first time.
Because I travel a lot on my own, when you’re travelling with other people you have to be mindful of each other. Don’t stress, have fun and it’s important that should things go wrong (which they may well do) to make the best of them. Oh, and make sure you laugh about things wherever possible. Sometimes the tiny little giggles shared between each other end up becoming favourite moments. Here’s another important tip, ‘always’ be free to talk about your wishes and expectations, or even just your state of mind. Like getting up at early o-clock for sunrise, it was something Tobi and I both wanted to do.


Whilst we were in the city, we met up with another photographer friend Jonathan (@ehovu). Jonathan and I met for the first time in Barcelona last year. We’d already forged a good friendship on Instagram, and that followed through to actually meeting in person (always a bonus!). The two of us always seem to talk a whole lot more than we shoot. The three of us have mutual friends too (another example of friendships born from Instagram).

Whilst Tobi and I were out walking and shooting, a guy randomly hit Tobi up asking if he could meet us...we said ‘yes’. We had no idea who we were meeting, but luckily for us all James (@atribecalledjames) was a cool guy and the four of us had a fun little adventure – they even got me ‘urban exploring’. And, as I’m writing this I have to chuckle to myself as I remember this day…
Note to self; if I go out with these three guys again I need to remember to dress appropriately. A floaty jumpsuit and Toms are not going to cut urban exploring. It was a giggle and it also showed me how friends help each other out; they support you, challenge you and make you a better ‘you’.

I had no idea who James was three hours prior to climbing through trees and what-not, and yet he took my hand and helped me when I was having a girly-struggle in my not so suitable shoes, and surprising lack of upper body strength!


The next morning saw Tobi and I heading for the train station, and for a four-hour train journey to Alicante. It was a shame we didn’t have more time on this trip as the drive from Barcelona to Benidorm would have been amazing. Little did I realise we would be passing through some other Spanish cities that I really wanted to visit…although that's reason for a next time ;-)


Once we got to Alicante, we set about hiring a car. After a little bit of confusion with the car hire company guy, we set off, excited for the next leg of our adventure. The drive to our home for the night was a pretty straight forward one. Our apartment wasn’t so exciting. Maybe, I was a little hot and grumpy, but the owner of the apartment creeped me out a little; he was very strange, and the apartment wasn’t the best place I’ve stayed in. But, hey-ho, luckily, we were only staying there one night and I’m glad I wasn’t staying there alone…

Ok, I mentioned it was a hot day –  so, it was more than hot (it was actually hotter than I remember it being in Morocco); it was sticky and we were sweaty, it wasn’t a great look, especially as we were heading to the place both of us were super excited to see.

Designed by Ricardo Bofil in 1973, at first glance this labyrinth structure with its Eschersque interlocking stairs, platforms and bridges evoke the most complex impossible architecture. You can’t help by be wowed by the design and colours. It’s strange, but beautiful, and oh-so photogenic. I found myself thinking what it would be like to live there…and decided it would be like living in a trippy, modern Escher painting. It’s peaceful and dreamlike. It’s the most unusual three-dimensional geometric arrangement whose walls are stunning shades of pink and red, and jewel-like hues of blue and indigo; all complemented by an unspoilt vista of blue sea and sky horizon. Every angle and perspective is so well composed, and despite the fact that it’s over 40 years old, the building looks more contemporary than ever. I’d love to know what the locals thought about the place when it was first erected, because I thought it was beautiful. I’m a little annoyed at myself though, I don’t think I took enough photos of this architectural gem…


The next day, we woke up early ready for our drive back to Alicante airport. The aim was to catch sunrise in Benidorm first. I have to admit, I’ve always been secretly fascinated with this bucket ‘n’ spade resort. Benidorm is one of those places that most people who know of it have an opinion about, and usually it isn’t good…never dull, sunburnt and drunken Brits abroad, mobility scooters, over-crowded beach, antics of the sitcom ‘Benidorm’ springing to mind…

Having worked for an airline that sent tourists to Benidorm and having written about this slice of the Costa for many years I’d created an imagine in my mind that I was intrigued about. I was threatened many times over the years by my manager who said she'd happily arrange an educational trip for me to Benidorm "so I could see the sights and further my knowledge". And, at the time I really didn’t want to go. Heck no, not when there were far more exotic places I could be sent!
But over the years, I became interested about this beach resort. I wondered whether everything i'd written, seen and read about was true, so it was about time I went to check it out...


And, ok it was early when Tobi and I arrived into the resort. It was quiet and peaceful, albeit for a few early morning joggers and people strolling along the beachfront. I stood taking in Benidorm’s famous skyline; the skyscraper buildings and hotels behind us; the sun was rising; the beach was bathed in golden light and there was not one mobility scooter in sight! It seemed alright!

I know had we arrived much later on in the day, we both would have experienced a totally different Benidorm…and, then we had ice-cream for breakfast before heading home to the airport.


Barcelona in December

Last year, at the end of December I took myself off and spent a few days exploring Barcelona. I’ve been to Barcelona before a couple of years ago, but one of the things about this city is that it’s got a great mix of culture, friendly people, art and so much interesting architecture that one trip wouldn’t be enough. It even has easy access to a beach any time you like.

A highlight for me whenever I go away is simply wandering the streets and getting lost. For me it’s how I get to best soak up the atmosphere. I love people watching in any city and seeing as much of the city as I can. I never put any pressure on myself to cram in everything a city has to offer – if I don’t get around to seeing something, I like to think it’s a reason to go back :-)

Wandering and getting lost in the Gothic quarter of the city was a perfect day for me. The hidden streets and interesting architecture are perfect for getting your camera out. You can’t help but to think back to centuries past of the people who walked the same streets. The cobbled lanes and hidden alleyways hold many secrets. The area of El Born and Es Ravel were also quite simply enchanting.

I love experiencing the less touristy aspects of a city, especially if I get to see locals going about their daily life. But, you could not visit Barcelona and not visit some of Gaudi’s sights. Antonio Gaudi is responsible for dreaming up some of the most famous sights in Barcelona. I chose to visit the Sagrada Familia…..It’s incredible from the outside, but to really admire it property, you need to go in. The interior is really stunning with its stained glass windows and light fixtures.

What you can’t fail to notice in Barcelona is that there are so many quirky shops and cool bars – literally, so many bars that you’d need a good month, if not more to get around them all. Dotted all around the Gracia neighbourhood, Barrio Gothic, Ravel and El Born, you’ll find a bar to suit all age and taste and many in between. Gracia is probably one of the trendiest neighbourhoods, and it’s got a great street life vibe. I spend most evenings walking around the different districts, but I’d always end up in Gracia and Plaza del Sol where I’d sit and enjoy an ice cream.

A must visit to the La Boqueira market

A must visit to the La Boqueira market

Las Ramblas Barcelona, has got to be one of the world’s most famous streets!  In London they say “when a man’s tired of London, he’s tired of living” and I reckon the same could be said about this elaborate and lively boulevard which runs through the heart of Barcelona. It’s usually the first port-of-call for Barcelona tourists and when you see the sheer amount of activity crammed in, you can see why.  Many of Barcelona’s famous landmarks are situated just off Las Rambla, so it’s a great landmark to head to if you find yourself getting lost, and it really is a perfect place to sit and absorb the atmosphere.

One of my favourite places to wander around during both the day and evening was La Boqueira market. The noise, smells, life and colours made this such an interesting market. It’s one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets, and you can literally spend hours just walking around feasting the senses and watching both locals and tourists as they buy fresh fish and sampling the myriad of dried fruit and tasty morsels that the stall holders hand out. The floors are slippery with melted ice and fruit skins, and the stall holders loud, but this all adds to the experience. You can find all food of all variety, and you can try everything from Catalan sausages, to Jamon, fresh fruit juices, tasty plates of tapas, chocolate and fruits.

My favourite spot to stop and people watch was the famous bar of El Pinotxo. Everyday I came to watch people as they queued up to utter the words “café con leche, por favour” whilst the affable and always smiling friendly owner Juanito – one of the cities best loved figures - decked out in his pressed stripped vest, waistcoat and dapper bow tie gave the thumbs up and moments later coffee was served. Everyone seemed to know Juanito and his cheeky smile. You really do need to get here early morning if you’re thinking of taking a seat to sit and eat. Always busy with locals grabbing their takeaway café con leche and tourists wanting to sit and linger, the food served here no matter the time of day looked and smelled delicious and fresh, and the pastries and coffee were a real morning treat and highly recommended!

The always smiling Juanito at El Pinotxo bar

The always smiling Juanito at El Pinotxo bar

The beach! Despite it being December and a few days before Christmas, the weather, albeit a torrential downpour on my first day – seriously it rained hard! – was pleasantly agreeable and Barceloneta Beach is a great spot to people watch and walk along the promenade – sunset from here had an almost California vibe to it.

Day trip to Sitges…If you fancy stepping outside of the city for the day, the other great thing about Barcelona is its easy to visit to other interesting day trip options. Whilst I was in Barcelona, I found out a friends’ parents were staying in Sitges, so that sealed the deal on me making the short and easy trip on the train to spend the day with them and I loved it. It’s close enough (a 30 minute train ride), but far enough to feel like you’re visiting a different part of Spain. The first stop was the beach – which is beautiful and long - and standing on the beach in the warm winter sunshine was perfect. We sat in the sun, explored parts of the old town, had a lovely lunch, and then headed to an ice cream parlour on the promenade. All-in-all a pretty perfect day, and I would so go back!

But really, unless you’re here for an extended stay in the city (and lucky you, if you are) it’s impossible to see everything in Barcelona. I didn’t make it to Parc Guell, so my next trip to Barcelona will for sure this famous landmark, and take the trip to Monserrat too!

The beach!

The beach!