Traipsing around Europe 2016 – Part 1

Traipsing around Europe 2016 – Part 1

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Calling this post Europe – Part 1 makes it seem like we covered a large part of Europe! I’ll tell you upfront, we did not. We barely scratched the surface. Some parts of the trip felt a little more rushed towards the end, but for the most part the pace was just as we liked.

The trip was born out of nowhere, honestly. My brother suddenly sprung it on us he’s getting married in Bordeaux. Sure bro, we’ll fly halfway across the world for ya! It wasn’t easy coming up with an itinerary, there are so many places we could branch off from Bordeaux as a central point! Spoilt for choice and much too little time (not a problem I foresee post FI!). For the purpose of this writing, I’ll break the trip into 2 parts – Spain & France followed by Germany and Austria.

Part 1 of the Grand Trip

Barcelona

We seem to have started off with the best of the trip – Barcelona! A fairly fun flight with CocoJr #1, in-flight entertainment and kiddy packs and lots of snacks suits the fella well. He seems somewhat accustomed to expecting in-flight entertainment now whenever we take flights, much to his disappointment on the budget airlines we generally frequent for shorter trips!

I have to hand it to Mr.C, he went all out with the research on the eateries in Barcelona. We had the most amazing meals. No other meals during our entire trip was consistently as amazing. I’ll dedicate a post to the food at Barcelona specifically, out of deep respect! Stay tuned for SippingCoconut’s Gastranomic Guide to Barcelona! 

We loved the vibe in Barcelona, we loved the beauty of the city and the friendliness of the people. I loved Barcelona so much, I was tempted to skip my brother’s wedding to stay on! I belonged in Barcelona. The 2nd night in Barcelona, while CocoJr #1 and my folks slept, Mr.C and I had walked to a nearby neighbourhood shop and got ourselves some snacks, local fruits and Cava (sparkling wine special to Spain) and sat in the apartment we had for the duration chatting with each other and checking out how much it would cost to live in Barcelona and if our FIRE plan can support it. We were smitten <3

Given we had 2 days and 3 nights in Barcelona, which a young child and 2 older folks, we decided to take the Hop-on, Hop-off (HOHO) everywhere. Brilliant idea. Took us to everywhere that is of interest, if we felt like it we got off and took a quick look-see, if not we just went to the next stop. It was perfect for CocoJr #1 and my dad, the 2 kids, to nap 🙂 For an introductory visit to Barcelona, it was all that we could have wanted. In addition to the HOHO and the amazing gastronomic trips we had, we spent an entire morning at La Sagradia Familia which was well worth the time. We stayed in an apartment which was less than a 10 min walk to La Sagradia Familia, which was a HOHO pick up point as well. I’d recommended this as a travel move!  

La Sagrada Familia
Breathtaking interior of Sagrada la Familia
Overview of Barcelona

La Ramblas is another place most tourists would identify instantly with Barcelona. It’s a bit of a maze through all sorts of street art, street shops and actual shops selling everything from food to funky art pieces. We easily spent a good 4 hours of so just wandering about and absorbing the vibe, whilst constantly eating! There’s an amazing place for brekkie here as well, I’ll share the pictures (not the greatest as I just wanted to eat, eat and eat!). La Ramblas does have a rep for pick-pocketing, so with all places you are at, be wary and exercise adequate precaution.

La Ramblas – Heavenly Food!

Bordeaux

Sad as we were, we had to leave. A short flight to Bordeaux later, we were picked up by a van and off we were headed to a gorgeous former castle that has been converted into a chateau. It was a long journey and perhaps it was a Sunday hence the tiny towns we drive past seemed lacking of life we experienced in Barcelona. 

Chateau la Gorce is gorgeous though. Sprawling property by a lake. The pictures will speak for themselves but truly breathtaking. We were housed there for a few days for the wedding festivities. There’s just no pictures that could go wrong there. Loads of fun, we have people flying in from all over the world and it was days filled with sign language, wine, fresh croissants and cheese, laughter and tears!

Gorgeous Chateau la Gorce

 

On our last day at the Chateau, we chartered a bus to the charming little town of St.Emilion which was really very picturesque. Beautiful to just sit and sip your cuppa and take it all in, not very much if you wanted to have a list of 10 things to do. Gotta learn to chill in Bordeaux! We had a picnic in the open fields near a windmill then headed to Chateau de Ferrand for a tour of the winery and some wine tasting. I know how that a light red wine is an older wine and you must swirl it vigorously to ‘wake’ it up and vice-versa for the dark red wine. My french wine connoisseur tells me that the movies are rubbish that you can tell a wine by the colour as you see it against the light. Instead it needs to be a reflection of the wine’s colour against a white surface, which is why the table mat is always white in places in the know so you can judge your wine. I’ll remember that next time as I snottily laugh at the people around me, not! I’ve a simpler approach – if it tastes good, I’ll drink it. No need for a special Grand Cru for me.

Charming St.Emilion

San Sebastian

Post wedding festivities, it was time for a family holiday at San Sebastian so back to Spain we headed. While San Sebastian is in Spain, it has Basque cultural influence whereas Barcelona has Catalan influence. That changes the landscape when it comes to food, however we still managed to find some yum Pintxos bars (thanks to Mr.C once again!). San Sebastian is a gorgeous place to be at – the pictures below is proof! If we take the beach as our focal point, on one end was Mount Igeldo which we went up to on the funicular (cable-car). An ageing amusement park, spectacular views and the best damn sangria I’ve ever had in my life made by Igor so really, something for every age group! That sangria though is a must have! There’s only one stall so you won’t miss it.

Charming St.Emilion
Ol’ Skool Charm!
The ingredients to the BEST Sangria ever!
Fishing for Love

On the other end of the beach is another mountain that you can hike up all the way to the famous statue of Christ that overlooks San Sebastian. Relatively easy hike and again, breath-taking views! That was San Sebastian for us really – we went from the beach to the mountains and had local pintxos and this 1 Michelin star dinner (wasn’t our idea, we were with a large family), which was not great really. The food was rather painful and worse was the ambiance as the walls were bouncing off everyone’s conversation so it was really loud! Much better off with local food really.

The Michelin meal that I don’t recommend but made for nice pictures! 🙂
The famous statue of Christ overlooking San Sebastian
Pintxos Bar – so easy to over-eat here!

Bordeaux

Our last stop before leaving Part 1 of our trip was Bordeaux town as we were flying out of Bordeaux to Munich. There was no direct flight from San Sebastian to Munich and we were afraid if we headed back to Barcelona that I wouldn’t leave 😀

The Water Mirror @ Miroir d’Eau

Bordeaux town was again more muted compared to their neighbours in Spain. We arrived in time for brunch at the market – Marche des Capucins, which was extraordinary! Nothing like the markets here in Asia as you have the wet market under the same roof as eateries with the freshest of ‘em seafood! The market didn’t stink which was another stark difference with the wet markets here. There was such an array of cheese and fruits as well. It was actually difficult finding a seat as the place was teeming with people but we did not manage in the end and had such amazing seafood. We couldn’t get everything we wanted as we just took the first available seats (hungry!) but the mussels in a bucket we got were heavenly. The bread and cheese – to die for. Good stop!

Just our standard holiday yacht

Come evening, we walked the town to the water and there we saw this massive yacht that had this resemblance to a submarine or a large missile, very sleek and quite unwelcoming really. I didn’t like the design at all but Mr.C was so taken by it that he engaged Google and found out it was Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko’s £300m super-yacht (sorry I called it yacht!). It was massive! I spotted a gentlemen looking out the window wearing a white sweater and waved to him. Yea, nothing. No invite in for a drink, not that am sure if that’s a good idea. Go into that massive thing and I may not come out (paranoia!). Also turns out that the yacht was designed by the French designer Philippe Stark, who has designed a boutique hotel in Singapore called M Social!

I must mention that it was Sunday night once again. Was that the reason Bordeaux town looked a lil’ lackluster or is that any other night in Bordeaux? We had a tough time finding a place that was open for dinner and I was freezing (doesn’t take much for me to freeze!). The first place we found and managed to get seating without reservation turned out to be just amazing – L’ Embarcadere. The food was great, we sat beside these 3 elderly ladies from the UK who was having their annual reunion trip (how awesome is that?!). Chatted with them for a bit and spend some time eyeing this massive boat the table in front of us ordered. Yes, a massive boat filled with seafood. 2 hours of gastronomic pleasure later, we stumbled out and walked back to our hotel. We needed a walk after that meal!

The Massive Boat

Part 1 of our trip was extraordinary! Next up, off to the airport and to Munchen!

Author: Ms.K

Ms.K is everything that Mr.C is, without the natural interest in investing and company financials! The activity planner for the family, the driver of random ideas and soon to be ‘retiring’ in to full time motherhood – Ms.K has no idea what she’s in for but remains super excited!

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2 Replies to “Traipsing around Europe 2016 – Part 1”

    1. What a fun blog you have Daddy B! You certainly do good photography as well, I enjoy reading your posts. I do feel there’s so much more to explore within Asia that’s affordable and beautiful!

      For our Europe trip, we mostly booking apartments via booking.com as we like the space layout better and apartments give us the opportunity to do our laundry, therefore travelling lighter and not having to source out a launderette. When we had the family, it was also cheaper to get a 3 bedroom apartment vs. 3 hotel rooms! We did 1 AirBnB night in Munich on the day we left, which was nice as we had a lovely host and it was very affordable (SGD72).

      Hotels in Europe though I find pales in comparison to the new and shiny hotels in Asia, which cost a fraction of the price.

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