As the temperatures drop and the weather gets rainier and colder, we love taking advantage of the last bit of warm sunshine to travel and explore. This weekend’s choice destination was Rosh Hanikra, a beautiful geological site on the Mediterranean coast in northern Israel.
In order to access the geological site, one must take a cable car into the site and on the way enjoy stunning scenic views. The first stop to visit is the old railroad built by the British during the British Mandate in Israel. This railroad was built in attempt to create train access from Israel to Europe that would travel from Tel Aviv to London through Lebanon, Turkey and other countries.
Last month we were in Madrid for architecture week, a wonderful series of exhibits and conventions celebrating the city’s architecture and looking towards the future of architecture. Of course we took advantage of our visit to explore this beautiful city!
Madrid has a beautiful range and mix of traditional European and contemporary, Hi-tec architecture. One of the most intriguing events of architecture week were tours exploring the city’s most prominent buildings, and seeing the progression of the city’s architecture throughout its history.
The city’s most hustling and bustling main street is filled with all the must have shops (Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear, etc) as well as some of the city’s most beautiful traditional architecture.
The beautiful geometric structure was built by architects Herzog & de Meuron. It was built on the foundation of an old abandoned electrical station and the architects incorporated the steel aesthetic into the interior design as well.
Next to the Caxia Forum is a building covered with a vertical garden: a green wall designed by botanist Patrick Blanc.
This museum underwent modern renovation and expansion by architect Jean Nouvel and now has a beautiful rooftop overlooking the city, as well as a wonderful courtyard and sculpture garden.
Beside the beautiful architecture of the palace and its lavish interiors, we loved the royal gardens.
A pleasant surprise: a modern art exhibit at the park’s gallery.
El Retiro park leads up to Salamanca neighborhood, one of Madrid’s most expensive areas.
This is a central neighborhood which has become well known for being a gay friendly neighborhood. This area has some of the coolest restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques, as well as very cool street style.
This giant market spreads along several streets and reminds us a bit of London’s Camden Market. Here you can find everything from authentic high quality leather goods to graphic T Shirts, to 3 euro shoes (!!!). We clearly had to be dragged away.
One particular must visit are the flamenco shows. We of course had to go for the best and visited Corral de la Moreria, a gorgeous traditional venue which also serves dinner and drinks and features the most prominent dancers in the country.
The smartest thing to do when traveling is to check for any special events or attractions that take place during the visit. We were lucky enough to attend a special Hermes exhibit featuring the fashion house’s luxurious leather goods.
What to wear
This time of the year the city is getting colder and starting to get more rain. The most wise thing to do is wear layers that you can peel off and pile back on towards the evening and night.
Looking for more amazing places to visit in Spain? Check out our post on Barcelona and Montserrat. Follow us as we report from more awesome destinations around the world!
Wishing you all a wonderful week!
V & R
We once heard an urban legend about a drug operation burning outside the city of Barcelona, leaving the addictive drug fumes to be dispersed in the air across the city. Another version of this story is a Coca field burning outside the city, dispersing the Coca seeds in the air, giving everyone in the city a mysterious “high”. While these may very well be nothing but silly myths, there is without a doubt something very addictive about the city of Barcelona!
Whether it’s the people, the food and drink, the atmosphere or the beautiful sights, we fell in love with this city. Here are some of our travel notes and recommendations.
One of the most distinctly beautiful things about Barcelona is its architecture. Each building has its style – whether it’s art nouveau, art deco, or gothic architecture – old architecture sits alongside modern one and many buildings are decorated with street art. The architecture varies from one quarter of the city to the next and no two buildings are the same.
It’s intriguing to see how the scenery changes so dramatically when entering the Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter. The buildings here are much older, it is apparent that they have serious heritage, the streets are narrow and irregular and the boulangeries are to die for!
We recommend visiting the Barri Gòtic Picasso museum, both for its beautiful architecture and for the art collection that tells the story of Picasso’s development as an artist.
Courtyard of the Picasso museum.
If modern art is what you’re after, visit MACBA, Barcelona’s museum of contemporary art which was designed by American architect Richard Meier.
The museum is located in El Raval, a neighborhood that used to be crime-infested but has in recent years become safe and hip. This area is covered in beautiful street art and cute little cafes and boutiques.
El Raval street art.
From Parc Guell to Casa Batllo, architect Antoni Gaudi designed some of the city’s most beautiful architecture.
The Segrada Familia, a UNESCO world heritage site, is particularly awe-inspiring.
As architects we can appreciate the grueling work that went into the level of detail and craftsmanship; the building truly is a masterpiece. However, one doesn’t have to be an architect, religious, or Christian, to experience the exciting beauty and enlightenment of the place.
The building seems to be under never-ending construction (Gaudi passed before the project was complete), which is understandable as not even modern technology can compare to Gaudi’s level of talent and creativity.
Although the lines for tickets and entry into the church are insane, we felt they were worth it! The Segrada Familia is inspiring, unexpected and spectacular.
Home to the botanical gardens, the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), Joan Miro museum and the site of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, this green hill offers the perfect locations for a picnic and beautiful views of the city.
We loved walking around the gardens and sitting on the stairs of the MNAC and taking in the view with a nice mojito.
Mojito at the Museu.
If you’re in the mood for some authentic Catalan music, the Palau de la Musica Catalana’s concerts are a must visit! The building is beautiful as well, quintessential art nouveau on the inside and the traditional facade was given a glass exterior.
When it comes to the local cuisine, the most important advice we could impart is to steer away from tourist traps! Those are most commonly found across La Rambla, the main boulevard leading to Barcelona’s port; these eateries are not only overpriced but also aren’t a good representation of the amazing Spanish and Catalan cuisine.
Our favorite places were the tiny tapas restaurants and cafes in the Gothic Quarter, and the more chic ones along Passeig de Gracia, which is a very chic shopping area as well. A great dish to try out is the traditional paella.
Sangria and tapas for lunch.
Another great idea for tasting an assortment of Barcelona delicacies is lunch at the Mercat de la Boqueria, the city’s biggest market, located on La Rambla. One can “hop” between the different stands and taste fresh cheeses, pastries and meat.
There’s plenty to try for dessert as well!
When in Spain, shop like the Spaniards! Spain is home to some of our favorite affordable retailers: Zara, Mango, Pull and Bear, Bershka. These stores can be found on nearly every street corner. Another local favorite that we just had to visit is the cool Desigual.
Our favorite shopping spots though are the cute little local boutiques selling unique designs by local designers.
Monjuic has local artisan shops with unique jewelry and home decorations.
A very Gaudian ring from one of Montjuic’s artisan shops.
Outside the city
If you’re looking to leave the city and explore the area, we recommend visiting Monserrat hill and Monserrat monastery, a beautiful monk mountain retreat about one hour northwest of Barcelona.
Another intriguing destination is the Salvadore Dali museum and theatre in Figueras, north of the city.
Our biggest recommendation, like in every big city, is to just walk around, explore and take everything in and “get lost” every once in a while. That is the best way to discover the city’s hidden gems, the ones that no travel guides can reveal! And if you do actually get lost, the locals are absolutely lovely.
Street performers on Portal de L’Angel.
What to wear
This time of year Barcelona has the perfect warm, yet breezy weather. We love walking around in flowy, easy breezy dresses and skirts, comfortable flats and a bag just big enough to hold a camera.
Loose fitting studded dress, golden-toed flats and Ray Bans.
Loose fitting checkered maxi dress and quilted leather flats.
If you’re more comfortable traveling in pants, colorful vibrant pieces and bold accessories will do the trick.
Seafood paella and oversized jewelry.
V & R
Tel Aviv has a growing number of boutique hotels, each one with its own unique style and chic version of urban accommodation. We had the great privilege of staying at one of the city’s coolest new boutique hotels – Artplus Tel Aviv.
This hotel was named 2013 top Israel hotels by Traveler’s Choice, and rightfully so. It is located on Ben Yehuda street in central Tel Aviv, a two minute walk from Tel Aviv’s famous strip of Mediterranean shoreline.
We have both visited big cities around the world, whether in the US, Europe, Canada, or South America (not to mention that Vera grew up in St. Petersburg and Rony in Boston), and we often feel that we’ve seen it all – all the hotels are the same with their own little twists here and there, there’s rarely a surprise. Artplus, however, is a breath of fresh air in what seems a jaded sector of architecture and design.
The main façade of the hotel, on busy Ben Yehuda street, is a gentle and understated play on glass, shading, and graphic art. It is a modern take on Tel Aviv’s famous Bauhaus architecture that immediately, although very subtly, draws attention and lures visitors.
This hotel celebrates art and design on every level. The lobby holds a gorgeous library filled with art and design books and is of course decorated with fantastic pieces of furniture.
Each floor of the hotel is painted and decorated by a different local artist, which places the hotel perfectly in its surroundings – a beautiful take on street art, except the art now becomes part of the interior design. The hotel also hosts exhibit openings for young and upcoming artists.
A wood mural by artist Nivi Alroy decorates some of the hotel’s walls.
The rooms are absolutely lovely, and besides vast windows and clean minimalistic design, each have unique dramatic lighting fixtures. The hotel offers a great breakfast with a surprising amount of choice, which one can enjoy indoors or in a beautiful garden.
Another one of the hotel’s main pluses is that the beach is just a minute walk away!
For more on Tel Aviv’s Artplus hotel visit the website.
Travel is one of our all time favorite activities; to us it is life’s most amazing luxury! We love traveling abroad but we also love leaving the city every once in a while in search of our country’s hidden gems and most beautiful locations.
This time we travelled two hours north of Tel Aviv to the city of Acre, or Akko as it is called in Hebrew.
Rony recently returned from an amazing trip to South America. Here she shares some of her travel diaries from three main destinations – Ecuador, Galapagos and Peru.
Ecuador is home to the Andes mountain range, which includes some of the tallest active volcanoes in the world.
What to wear
Horseback riding gear while riding horses through the mountains: traditional poncho and chaps.
Comprising more than half of the world’s remaining rainforest, the Amazon rainforest is home to an incredible variety of animals, trees and plants that seemingly only exist in fairy tales.
What to wear
Wear your jungle pants and lots of insect repellent to keep from getting bitten by the hundreds of species of insects!
Being a city girl at heart, Rony was of course drawn to Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and its rich culture, history and architecture.
Made famous by Charles Darwin’s studies and consequent theory of evolution, this archipelago is well known for its diversity of endemic species and how well preserved the wildlife is.
What to wear
Always have your wetsuit at the ready in order to explore the incredible wildlife under the sea, such as dolphins, penguins and the world’s biggest sea tortoises who just swim by you as if you were another fish!
Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru
The sacred valley of the Incas in Peru spans from mountaintops to beautiful valleys in rural Peru and includes some of the most important sites in the history of the ancient Inca Empire.
What to wear
Explore the valley and the mountains in your most comfortable clothes and get ready to do some serious hiking! Don’t forget to bring your sunglasses and apply lots of sunscreen, at +3000 km altitude radiation can get pretty intense!
To young Israelis travelling in South America, Cusco is Peru’s Tel Aviv. The city is rich with history, culture, explorers from around the world and a vivacious scene.
At times the city seems very modern, but it’s never a surprise to run into a llama walking down the street.
From a fashion and textile design standpoint, it was intriguing to see the indigenous women’s traditional clothing and how they hand dye and weave their clothes using different natural materials.
We highly recommend visiting, and very much look forward to exploring the rest of South America’s countries in the future!