Culinary Adventures in Barcelona

A long weekend in Barcelona to break out from the daily routine, stay offline as much as possible, discover this beautiful city and eat a lot of yummy Spanish food. That was the plan I made with my friend before our trip to Catalunya’s capital.

Being the foodie that I’m, I was really excited about Barcelona. I’ve been to Spain before (Andalusia) and I know how good the food is. I was really looking forward to trying out the Catalan cuisine.

I usually do the homework before any trip but since we wanted to simply relax in Barcelona, I didn’t particularly look up what to eat or where. Instead, I let the city offer us all its goodness.

Here’s what the city offered:

Colourful stalls of fruit & seafood in la Boqueria

La Boqueria is a public food market , it’s also one of Barcelona’s touristic landmarks.

Despite how crowded it was, our stroll in la Boqueria was fun.

Colourful fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, spices, seafood, meats, jamon, there was something for everyone.

In addition to fresh ingredients, there are also plenty of bars and restaurants offering tapas and seafood.

It was so busy  so we opted for a takeaway. I love seafood, I couldn’t resist the beautiful display of overpriced fried seafood mix and of course I had to eat octopus while in Barcelona so I also got pulpo Al Ajillo (sauteed octopus in garlic).

I totally ordered too much food but that’s what I do for my first meal everytime I’m visiting a new city. I’m yet to learn!

Was it the best food I’ve ever had?No. Was it the best food I had in Barcelona? Also no. But I still recommend a visit to la Boqueria and a taste of its food.

 

 

 

Panet

Right on La Rambla, there’s a small gelateria called Rocambolesc.

The Rocambolesc project starts from the willingness of Jordi Roca to recover the traditional dessert cart of El Celler de Can Roca which had disappeared from the restaurant’s room just when he took care of the sweet part of the menu.

El Celler de Can Roca is a 3 Michelan star restaurant voted best restaurant in the world few times. Fancy!

We didn’t know any of this about the cosy gelateria. It just cought our attention since it was next to our hotel and looked cute. Also they have these fun- shaped ice-creams.

As we were examining what Rocambolesc has to offer, we noticed people ordering this bread filled with ice-cream then put inside a maker similar to a waffles or panini maker.

We were intrigued and wanted to try this thing called Panet.

Panet was so popular, it took us 2 days and 3 attempts to finally be able to order it.

It was so worth it! Hot crunchy brioche then melting cold tasty ice-cream, yum! I’m not a big fun of ice-cream so really trust me when I say it’s sooo good.

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Crema Catalana

“What’s Crema Catalana exactly?” I asked the waiter.

“It’s like a crème brûlée but thinner.” Or maybe he said thicker. I can’t remember.

Crema Catalana is indeed very similar to crème brûlée and is a famous Catalan dessert.

If you like the French crème brûlée then you’ll like the crema Catalana.

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Pastissos

It was really hard not to notice all the amazing bakeries in Barcelona. After hours of wandering the city on foot, these bakeries  were the perfect spot for a coffee break and a cake or two.

You don’t even have to look for a Pastelaria, they are everywhere in La Rambla and Gothic Quarter.

Croissants are available all day long which I approve of along with lemon pies, creamy sweet cakes and meringues.

 

Tapas

I may have lied when I said I didn’t do any research before heading to Barcelona.

When I told a friend I was going, she shared with me an email she got from a Barcelonian friend containing all his favourite tapas bars.

Although we didn’t go to the suggested bars, we tried but some of them were too busy. I guess they’ve been recommended to long queues of tourists we found just like they were recommended to us. We ate in the same area, the Gothic quarter and we were very satisfied with the food quality. It was all yummy!

There are two ways to order tapas in these bars. You can have some of the small tapas on the bar, most of them are a piece of bread topped with jamon, fish or veg. You can also order bigger plates of tapas like Pedron peppers and Manchego cheese (which are a favourite of mine) from the menu.

 

 

If you’ve been to Barcelona and have more culinary experiences to share, please comment on this post.

Until the next culinary adventure!

Travel Essentials: What’s in my bag ?

With all the travel I have to do in between work and my adventures, the last thing I need is to stress about packing.

I learnt how to pack on the fly and be as effective as possible. That being said, I do struggle sometimes with packing light simply because I value my fashion 😉

Here, I’m sharing with you my packing wisdom:

The very essentials

We, travellers,  usually worry a lot about forgetting things and not packing everything we need.

The only things you should really worry about are :

  • Passport/ID: without a passport or an ID card, you can’t really go far. Can you?
  • Money/Credit/Debit cards: I wish I can tell you that your curiosity, adventurous spirit or love for travel can alone take you places but that would be far from the Truth. The ugly truth is travel requires money wether you’re travelling on budget or on a luxury trip.
  • Mobile phone: You can argue that one can travel without phone. It’s possible. But we use our phones so much these days to take photos, check maps, search for coffee shops , order an Uber, even pay with the phone. So if you depend on your smartphone, make sure you have it with you.

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Travel organisers: the life-savers

Earlier this year, I was on a two months trip to the States Where I was in cold Vermont and super hot Nevada among other places. For that, I had to pack for all kinds of weather.

I knew I wouldn’t need my flipflops in New York or Philadelphia where it was snowing. That’s when the travel organisers came in super handy. I had my clothes for separate kinds of weather in separate bags.

It’s just a great way to be more ogranised and to less likely loose items or leave them behind in hotel rooms.

You have better things to do when travelling than spending ages looking inside a huge suitcase to find that sock.

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Stay connected

If you are plannning on using your phone , tablet or laptop, you may want to consider taking your chargers with you. Also remember these chargers may not work where you’re going, make sure you have a universal adapter with you, maybe a power bank, a solar charger,etc.

It’s up to you to decide what you need and what you’re willing to take with you.

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The little things that matter

Sudden headache, cold, blisters or even diarrhea; you never really know. That’s why keeping a little first aid kit would never harm.

Also make sure you have travel size toiletteries as weight and size matter a lot when packing and travelling.

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Keep active

You may not be the exercising kind and that’s absolutely fine 🙂

I’m the exercising kind but also the foodie kind. That’s why I make sure I’m exercising and burning all the calories I’m gaining while travelling.

Running is also a great way to explore somewhere new.

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Et Voila! This is pretty much how I pack.

In my head, packing is a five sub-tasks jobs :

  1. Make sure I have my passport, money and phone.
  2. Pack all my gadgets and technology items.
  3. Make sure I have my running/gym gear with me for when jetlag wakes me early.
  4. Pack my toilettery bag.
  5. Pack the clothes and shoes I need in my travel organisers.

Obviously, things are a bit different if I’m about to take a trip with specific requirements and equipments such as a trekking or hiking trip (hint hint to an upcoming blog post 😉 ).

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Seattle: On & Off the Tourist Path

“Seattle is such a cool city”,that’s what I kept telling myself as I’m wondering the streets and neighbourhoods of this beautiful city for the second time.

The first time I visited Seattle was back in March 2016 for the Women Who Code Connect conference. This time, I’m also here for a conference, Microsoft Build ,with a few extra days to explore the city.

I know that many of the 6000 Build attendees are either first time visitors and/or only here for a short time. So I thought I write down few suggestions on what people might want to do and see in Seattle. I hope you like my suggestions 🙂

The tourist path

I like to think about myself as a traveller not a tourist but as a first time visitor, we all tend to follow the tourist path. That’s what I exactly did during my first visit to Seattle.

In no particular order, if you are visiting Seattle for the first time you may want to check:

Pike Place Market

I don’t know about you but I love a good old farmers market especially one with plenty of food options to choose from. My favourite restaurant in the Pike Place Market is the Athenian because seafood 😉

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Space Needle

Am I right in saying this is THE icon of Seattle? There are really some cool facts about the Space Needle and you get to have an amazing view of Seattle and Mount Rainier.

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Chihuly Garden & Glass

I didn’t really know what to expect when I visited Chihuly Garden but I loved it. I highly recommend that you visit this exhibition.

I’m a much better photographer now 😉

museum of Pop culture

Back in 2016 when I visited, this was called EMP museum-music+ sci-fi + pop culture. Needless to say anymore.

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I couldn’t even get the whole installation in the frame
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This should convince you to go check the museum

Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room/Starbucks Pike Place

Alright, I’d usually highly advise against drinking Starbucks coffee especially that there are too many great coffee shops in Seattle but I’m going to make this one little exception. I did not go to the Reserve Roastry myself but I went to the Starbucks store located outside Pike Place Market also known as Original Starbucks because it’s the first Starbucks store established in 1971.

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I wonder if Micah is still there?
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Original Starbucks!

 

Off beaten path

There are so many beautiful neighbourhoods in Seattle to explore like a local, away from the hassle of downtown.

Before leaving Pike Place Market, you may want to check :

The Gum wall

People do miss this brick wall because it’s in an alley under Pike Place Market and it’s actually as the name suggests : a wall of gum! Cool? Grim? that’s up to you 🙂

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Fremont

Thank God for the local friends who suggest cool things to do and thank you Glenn for suggesting I visit Fremont.

Fremont is funky. The first thing you see when arriving there is a sign saying “Welcome to Fremont, center of the universe”. How cool is that! It’s a laid-back neighbourhood with a funky vibe along Lake Union, you get to walk along the lake, visit all the vintage and records shops and see some cool art.

Capitol Hill

Gay clubs, hip bars, indie stores and awesome coffee shops, that’s some of the things to expect in Capitol Hill. It’s a wonderful place for a brunch and a wonder, which what I exactly did there. I can highly recomment the Oddfellows cafe .

Oh if you happen to be in the area, make sure to check out Elliott Bay bookstore.

 

Hopefully this would give you some ideas on what to do in Seattle. Make sure you enjoy the good coffee while in town and have fun!

I’m going on a US tour : Tech, Travel & Total Shenanigans

I’m currently typing these words while on board of a Delta flight heading from LHR to JFK for what should be: ONE HELL OF A TRIP.

The main reason behind this tour is one small human being, my newborn niece. When my sister told me a while back that she’s expecting a baby and that my parents would be travelling as well to see their first grand-child, we all agreed it would be nice to have a family reunion.

Being a remote worker made things much easier for me, the plan was for me to work from the States where I have already some of my colleagues.

But then one thing led to another and instead of going for few weeks to work from my sister’s couch, I will be touring the country for more than just a couple of weeks speaking and attending some conferences.

So if you happen to be attending one of these conferences, please come say Hi!

Itinerary:

 

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Is she writing code on a mirror? With a lipstick? Oui. Oui.

 

I’ll try to update the blog regularly during the trip. Stay tuned & Follow #BibiOnTour! Make me famous 😀

The myth of exclusively travelling to the Maldives with a significant other

-You should wait for Mr.Right to go to the Maldives.

-But what if the zombie apocalypse happens first?

Or

-You went to the Maldives!! Does that mean there’s someone in your life now? 😉 

I bet that if you went to the Maldives on your own and if you’re a female, you must’ve heard these lines just like I did.

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First of all, there’s no law stating that you can’t enter the Maldives on your own or with family or with friends.

Second of all, you seriously don’t need anyone to enjoy the beach, the sun, snorkling , a good book and an amazing view. Because that’s about it really.

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Sipping my Mocktail & reading Spectacles by Sue Perkins

If anything, being on my own in the Maldives in December was perfect. I got time to relax after a year of hustle, to reflect on 2017 and simply to have the very famous “Me Time”.

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Photo credit: camera on timer 😉 

I can’t tell for other resorts, but the resort where I stayed was fairly small. You can tour it all in probably 15 minutes which means that by the time you spend half a day on the beach, you have lunch in the restaurant and afternoon drink in the bar, you’ve met all the other guests.

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I stayed here in Eriyadu Island resort

It’s super friendly, I met another female solo traveller, we were actually on the same flight then same resort. I met some lovely families from Norway and France. Yes there were couples too but it wasn’t overaly romantic in the way the Maldives are sold on the touristic websites. I did not feel uncomfortable surrounded by these couples.

But honestly there were more families than couples.

I could’ve written on how beautiful it is and throw few pictures here or simply write about the top 5 <insert something here> in the Maldives but what I really want you to take away from this post is that If you are comfortable travelling on your own, the Maldives are no different to any other destination where you can solo travel.

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If you are thinking about it and you can afford it but simply intimidated by the idea of being on your own in the Maldives, trust me, GO FOR IT.

Yours Truly,

The traveller inside me

 

 

 

Colombia: Don’t listen to what they say. Go see!

Let’s first  agree on one thing: we all have our own biases and prejudices. The only difference between one human to another is some acknowledge those biases and try to get past them while others take biases for facts.

The truth is, it’s hard to get rid of biases especially when travelling. You can’t simply leave them outside the airport door.

So like most humans, when travelling to Colombia I took with me a suitcase and a bag full of biases. Watching the last season of Narcos in the airport doesn’t particularly help.

Two Decades ago, Colombia badly suffered from all sorts of things but that was two decades ago. People  tend to remember the bad news, it doesn’t matter when the bad news happened, people seem to freeze in time, in those bad moments.

My parents, my friends, my boss, they all were not very enthusiastic about me travelling to Colombia because, you know, “It’s dangerous”. The Internet didn’t help either, the horror stories no matter how infrequent or minor they are, they showed up first.

It felt almost like Colombia is a battlefield between gangs and police, cocaine is floating in the air (you wish right 😉 ) and all taxi drivers are kidnappers.

I do my research before any trip to see what’s the best way to explore a city and what to see. It’s when I was doing this research that I started worrying. Hailing a taxi from the street as you’d do in most cities could end up badly in Colombia.

Even though this is not common , it’s common enough to have a name “The millionaire ride”.

That was about the only thing I needed to be extra careful about in Colombia other than the usual stuff I do in any country like being careful of my surroundings, not waving my fancy camera in the air, not looking lost or ending up in dodgy areas. To be clear, every city had dodgy areas.

Now, let me tell you what happened to me in Colombia. I HAD AN AMAZING TIME.

My trip to Colombia was one of my best trips ever, the people there were so friendly and helpful and the country was simply beautiful. I can’t highlight enough how much I loved my time there.

I’ve never been to South America before and Colombia is definitely a good introduction.

I guess the reason why I fell in Love with Colombia is because it has some of my favourite things :

Coffee

I’m not sure I ever mentioned that on the blog, but everywhere else on the interweb, I made sure everyone knows I’m a coffee snob. I love a good cup of coffee or two, maybe three…

Colombia is one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, I believe the third biggest . But just because they produce coffee, doesn’t mean they know how to roast it. Luckily for me, they do.

That’s why Colombia was heaven for me.

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Catación Pública coffee shop in Usaquén, Bogota  
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Catación Pública coffee shop in Usaquén, Bogota
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They have a lab in Catación Pública where they offer workshops

Visiting a coffee farm in Colombia is one of the experiences I will never forget in my life.

If you are visiting Colombia and would like to go on a coffee farm tour, pretty much all tour companies have one. I went with Toucan Cafe in Medellin and we visited Luna farm in Fredonia where the lovely family who owns the farm spoilt us to some yummy organic food and coffee and showed us the full process of making coffee from picking the cherries to roasting them.

It was such a fun day!

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Luna LLena is also home for some interesting animals and plants!
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The coffee life cycle
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The farm
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Me, working hard and picking coffee cherries.
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I planted my own coffee tree in Fredonia ^^
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Coffee cherries
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We hiked in the farm and saw some amazing waterfalls as well

Graffiti

They say South America is home for the best Graffiti in the world. They are probably right.

In Colombia, you don’t even have to look for it, it’s everywhere.

 

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Graffiti in Bogota
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Graffiti in Bogota
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Graffiti in Bogota

Another awesome experience I had when in Medellin is the Graffiti walking tour in Comuna 13.

Comuna 13 used to be the most notorious dangerous neighberhood in Colombia but now it’s seeing amazing transformations through art. Being able to stroll its streets, enjoying the art with my camera hanging in my neck without being worried about my safety was proof how far this area has come along.

 

Breathtaking nature

I truly feel blessed to be able to travel , to walk for miles and to hike. I do love my vitamin green and I got plenty of it in Colombia. Whether you are in the city or completely in the countryside, the scenery is simply breathtaking.

Bogota city center is dominated by the beautiful Monserrate mountain which adds to the charm of the city.

Medellin is in a valley surrounded by mountains, the drive from the airport to the city is an adventure in itself.

Antioquia , especially Guatape was a real treat for an outdoorsy person like myself.

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I spotted these cool creatures on the way from Medellin to Guatape
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Antioquia is of such beauty!
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Guatape Lake
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Guatape Lake as seen from the top of the Guatape Rock
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Bamboo
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Bananas

Colourful Guatape

I feel like I keep telling you facts about myself through out this post. Brace yourselves for the next fact.

I love bright colours. And when Colombia offered me a whole colourful little town, it had to go on the list of my favourite things about my trip to Colombia.

Ladies & Gents, without further due, I present you colourful Guatape.

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Colourful Guatape
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Colourful Guatape
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These colourful Tuk-Tuks are very popular in Guatape
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More Tuk-Tuks

Another amazing thing about Guatape and just before reaching the town is the Guatape Rock aka El Peñón de Guatapé aka  La Piedra or El Peñol.

The rock looks like something thrown from the space , standing tall in the middle of the countryside.

There are about 700 steps on the rock to climb. I’m really scared of heights but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to climb the rock so I did. I climbed 400 steps and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Also the view is totally worth it.

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Friendly People

I felt so silly when I was finally in Colombia interacting with its people using either my almost non-existent Spanish or their non-existent English. After all the horror stories I read online, all I saw in Colombia was kindness. People were so friendly and willing to help in any way.

I even like the taxi driver who made fun of me and how I said “Englaterrrrra”.

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She was so pleased with herself winning the race
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This is a very normal way to commute for farmers

 

This is only a taster of what to expect in Colombia. I will definitely go back to explore the rest of the country, drink more coffee, eat more yummy food and dance more salsa. Of course I salsa-danced when in Colombia 😉

Yours Truly,

The traveller inside me

Dear Friends, Stop Telling Me I Go To Weird Places

Dear friends,

If I wanted to go on a sunny holiday to relax, I would go to my charming mediterranean country, stay for free in my parents house, use dad’s car, get fed by my mama and be spoiled by my friends.

I like to think of myself as a traveller who wants to hang out with locals, find out about hidden gems and go to places with not so much selfie sticks.

PS: I have nothing against selfie sticks unless they are taking 3/4 of your photos or when they are taking up my personal space.

I know that you love me and do worry about me but stop freaking me out with your “Ohhhhh! Isn’t that a dangerous place?” every time I tell you about my travel plans (You too mama! Especially the places you’ve never been but so sure it’s dangerous for me to be there).

Dear readers, who do not necessary know about my travels ( It’s OK, I do forgive you), ‘dangerous’ places I’ve visited include Lebanon, Serbia etc.

As if Beirut was more dangerous than Paris this past year ( *Sarcastically rolling my eyes*).

Back to you, dear friends.

It is really harsh to base your judgement on news from ten years ago. The Lebanese civil war ended in 1990 but yet some people only have this image of a very beautiful country and its friendly lovely people, same applies on Serbia.

I get the fact that your perception is most of the time fed by media and I’m no exception. But for that exact reason, it’s important that we leave our comfort zones, couches and TVs and go out into the “wild”.

Let’s face it, we live in hard times and it’s important to try to get to know each other, it’s important to open up to others.

People are nice, most of them. During my travels to the States, Lebanon, Serbia, etc. I met some amazing strangers with whom I had in common just one thing: our humanity. But that was enough.

If what you consider as weird place is a place with no resorts, junk food or similar experience to your homeland, then yes I love visiting weird places.

Places where I can learn something new, where I can open up to a different culture.

Weird is good.  The world is worth the risk.

PS: I have nothing against resorts, it’s just not my type of travel.

 

Yours truly,

The traveller inside me

 

 

 

 

So I Went On My First Ever But Not Last Solo Trip

My first ever solo trip dates back to March 2015, I’ve been to another 5 trips after that one ( 6 as I’m writing while waiting for a flight to Istanbul then Tunis), which may explain why I didn’t find time to write about it along with the fact I’m a lazy blogger (I’m so lazy that it’s been a month now since I started writing this post but yet it’s not ready and my 7th trip of the year is booked! Yay! ).

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