Monday, January 16, 2017

A New Kind of Guidebook: A Geek in China {Review}

A New Kind of Guidebook: A Geek in China {Review} | CosmosMariners.com

Part travelogue, part guidebook, and part pictorial, A Geek in China: Discovering the Land of Alibaba, Bullet Trains, and Dimsum is Matthew B. Christensen's love letter to this vast Asian nation.

While I love travel guides of all kinds (what's not to love about the winning combo of books + travel?!), there are some that really capture my imagination: ones with stunning pictures, personal anecdotes, and actionable advice for delving into the culture. As soon as I pulled A Geek in China out of the box, I was stunned--the full color cover is eye-catching and covered in pictures. It's completely different than the covers of Fodor's, Rick Steves, and Lonely Planet, and it pops out of my collection of travel guides with its vibrant colors.

Lest we judge a book by its cover, let's look inside!

A New Kind of Guidebook: A Geek in China {Review} | CosmosMariners.com

As someone who loves to read, I was delighted to find that there's so much to devour inside the book. A Geek in China isn't set up like a traditional travel guide: there aren't any suggested itineraries or lists of hotels here. Instead, you can delve into the culture, arts, and history of this rich country so that you'll feel comfortable with all things China before you even step off the plane.

Perhaps travel writing has caused me to approach my travel guides differently than I did pre-blogging career, but I tend to trust (for better or for worse) guides that have personal, tested advice and experiences rather than dry lists of suggested sites and accommodations. Not only does A Geek in China's Christensen offer up his thoughts and advice on Chinese culture, food, and museums, but he includes text boxes with personal pictures and memories.

A New Kind of Guidebook: A Geek in China {Review} | CosmosMariners.com

If you could take a travel blog, edit it, and then publish it in a traditional print format, A Geek in China would be the result. It's readable and interesting even if you're not ready to board a plane for Asia immediately: it finds a nice balance between researched pieces on history, culture, and the arts, and fun, funky personal recollections of Christensen's time in China.

While you would definitely need to purchase a more traditional guidebook to fill the logistical gaps in this book (such as hotel recommendations, ranked activities, etc.), A Geek in China is a fun, easy way to delve into the culture of this potential destination. I like to get excited about the food, culture, and feel of a place before I get down to the nitty-gritty of my itinerary, so, if I were planning a trip to China, I would grab this book to read before I began to research accommodations and flights.

With all of the changes that have been occurring in both the print and travel industries, I believe that there's a market for these types of guides. I love getting recommendations from travel bloggers when traveling, but I also like getting researched and edited suggestions in printed travel guides: A Geek in China provides an excellent product at the intersection of these two.

(If you're interested in A Geek in China, but aren't headed to that country any time soon, there are other titles in this series, including A Geek in Thailand, A Geek in Japan, and A Geek in Korea.)

A New Kind of Guidebook: A Geek in China {Review} | CosmosMariners.com

I was provided a complimentary copy for the purpose of this review. As always, all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. 
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Monday, January 9, 2017

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com

The last stop we made in Germany before crossing the border into Luxembourg was in Trier, a mid-sized town of just over 100,000. Located on the Moselle River, Trier is a typical German town, much like dozens of others you can find in the Moselle wine region. But one thing sets Trier apart: the town claims that it has been continually inhabited since 1300 BC (give or take a few years).

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com

As any long-time reader of this blog knows, I can't resist a few things in life: Wild Berry Skittles, English breakfast tea, a new book, and anything old and historic. It's no wonder, then, that my family and I decided to linger in Germany for one more night for the exclusive purpose of scoping out the extent of the town's hisTRIERy (get it?! Get it?! I crack myself up sometimes).

Here's what we found:

Porta Nigra

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com
My mom, dad, daughter, and I with the crowds of visitors around the Porta Nigra
So, Trier was founded in 15 BC by those conquering Romans. They were busy fellows, but in between building their empire and trying to obfuscate local culture, they liked to relax. Trier, in its heyday, was the happening place for the Roman emperors, who would come to the city for their R&R. Even Constantine--the emperor, not the comic book character--retreated here, the capital of the Roman Empire under his watch, to ponder his vast power. The city was walled back then and guarded by four gates, each of which was held together skillfully only with iron pegs.

By the medieval period, the Roman Empire and its holdings in Trier were a distant dream, and all but one of the original Roman gates to the city had been taken apart stone by stone by locals. The last one, the one that still stands today, was saved inadvertently from destruction by one St. Simeon. Back in the day, he was considered a religious recluse and spent seven years inside the crumbling, drafty ruins of the gate. (Today, he probably would've been a blogger living in his mom's basement.)

The lack of social interaction, the harsh German weather, and absence of indoor heating were not kind to St. Simeon, and the seven years he spent in the gate were his last. Others were so inspired by his commitment to the cause that they founded a monastery and church in his name within the Porta Nigra. The structure survived for another 800 years until Napoleon dismantled the church (he probably would've liked those Romans so many years before).

Today, there's not much left to the gate inside, but the massive, hulking structure is still worth exploring. It's dark, ancient facade is at odds with the 19th, 20th, and 21st century buildings just steps away, but I think that's part of its charm. The layered history of Trier--from the Romans to the medieval period to the 1800s to present--is nowhere more apparent than it is standing in front of the Porta Nigra.

Fun fact: Karl Marx's childhood home is just a few steps away from the Porta Nigra. There's a museum inside if you want to learn more about the iconic social philosopher and writer.

Trier Cathedral

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com
Trier Cathedral to the left and the Church of Our Lady to the right
When you turn the corner from Trier's main square in search of the cathedral, you'll probably stop in your tracks when you see it.

The building is massive in a way that your brain just cannot comprehend on first glance. As you get closer, the cathedral looms over you. It was built by Emperor Constantine at the same time as St. Peter's in Rome, and the strong Christian faith that Constantine and his mother (Helena, who was later beatified) is clear in the cathedral's immensity. Helena, in fact, was so devoted to the idea of a cathedral in Trier, that she offered up part of her palace so that the church could be constructed in its place.

Yet, as big as it is, the original Roman structure was supposed to be four times its original size. The failing Roman empire and loss of power kept Constantine from seeing his full project through to the end.

As with all great European structures, the Trier Cathedral has had several phases to its existences: Constantine built it, the Franks let it fall into ruin, and the Normans destroyed it. It was revived once more in the early 1000s, and has been added onto over the last millenia, resulting in its Romanesque-Baroque-Gothic styling.

If you're interested in religious relics (those holy objects that the medieval churchgoers loved to collect and showcase), you'll find three here: a scrap of what is supposedly Jesus' robe, a nail from the cross, and the sandal of St. Andrew.

Church of Our Lady

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com

The oldest Gothic church in Germany--but still a baby in comparison to the Roman structures in the city--Liebfrauenkirche is a gorgeous example of medieval masonry. It's located right next to the Trier Cathedral, which causes some confusion for visitors, but a quick look at the architecture (flying buttresses and sharply detailed statues on the Gothic church vs. the rounded, less decorated exterior of the Roman one) helps orient you to the difference.

In any other city in the world (barring perhaps Rome and its massive structures), this church would be the major sightseeing highlight for its intricate detailing and awe-inspiring size. Yet, amidst the other offerings in Trier, the Church of Our Lady is often skipped over in favor of visits to the Cathedral and Basilica.

Trier Basilica

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com
Itty bitty person, giant basilica
The largest remaining Roman structure outside of Rome, the Trier Basilica is another gigantic cannot-miss spot in Trier. Constantine, that busiest of emperors, also built this behemoth, which could easily fit the Porta Nigra and 3/4ths of a football field inside. While it's now used as a church, during its heyday, it was used as a judicial center and would've been where Constantine's throne was placed.

Worship services are still held inside each Sunday, but you can also see the structure during set visiting hours.

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After we'd explored the historic sites of Trier, we retired to our hotel just outside of town. And fittingly, we'd chosen to stay in another historic spot: the Berghotel Kockelsberg. (It was one of the only places that we could find in the area that had enough room for both of my parents, my sister, my daughter, and I.) The hotel's been in business since the mid 1800s, but there's been a structure on the property since the 8th century. Before it was a hotel, it was a private residence, then one of the buildings of the St. Jakobus Hospital. 

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com

We loved staying in such a storied location, and the views of Trier and the Moselle Valley were incredible. It was definitely the best place to begin and end our historic sightseeing in Trier!

What parts of Germany have you visited? Have you made it to the Moselle Valley yet?

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Monthly Blog Goals: January 2017

Monthly Blog Goals: January 2017 | CosmosMariners.com

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a fantastic start to 2017. We stuck around Charleston for Christmas, and then went to see my in-laws in the upper part of South Carolina for New Year's Eve. The best part of our NYE celebration was watching the Clemson Tigers solidly beat Ohio State: my favorite football team is now headed to the National Championship for the second year in a row. (Let's hope the Clemson-Alabama matchup ends differently than it did last year!)

In the blogging world, I've done what I could to keep moving forward. I skipped December's blog goal post since I was still in survival mode after having my son in mid-November, so it's been awhile since I sat down to look at how I've been progressing. I'm happy to report that the last seven weeks were so much better than I anticipated them being: our son is such a great baby! My day-to-day schedule looks much different than it did before he arrived (so. many. diaper changes.), but we're all managing nicely. Yay!

Because December's blog goals never made it into a post, I'll be comparing my progress to my last goals post in November.

November's Goals: A Recap

  • Freshen up my blog header. Oops. This never even made it onto my radar of things to do when I had a few moments to devote to the blog.

  • Rehab 2 old posts and share on social media. I managed one in the last two months: this one about our visit to Charleston's Bulls Island. Not perfect, but at least I'm sloooowly getting to those old posts. 

  • Write 2-4 new posts. Since the first of November, I've written 8 blog posts or 4 posts per month. This is way below my usual average of 8-12 posts, but given a c-section recovery, newborn joining the family, and two major holidays, I can live with it. :)

  • Keep pushing forward on Instagram (goal: 8400). Finally! FINALLY. I have made some progress with Instagram. After I came back from my blogging break this summer, I struggled to make headway with that social media channel, but given that it's the hot thing right now in blogging and marketing, I kept at it. I am now less than a dozen followers shy of 9300 and have greatly surpassed my goal back in November. 

  • Give my Twitter account some love. I sat down right before my son was born and scheduled out 2 tweets per day for the entire month of November. I did the same thing for all of December when I had family around to watch my two little Mariners for a bit. I can't say that I'm doing amazingly on Twitter, but I have sustained a presence there even with minimal time input. 

  • Comment on other blogs 1x/ week. This was totally hit or miss. Whenever I've had a few moments to read another blog, I've tried to do spread the love as far as it could go. I'm hoping to get back into a more consistent routine now that the holidays are over, and I want my blog commenting to come back!

January's Goals: A Look Forward

  • Add a button on my sidebar to spread awareness of my Everything You Need to Know to Add Sponsored Travel to Your Blog e-course. So far, I've had great success with the course just by posting on Facebook and sending information out to my newsletter subscribers, but I'm ready to cast a wider net. 

  • Hit 10K followers on Instagram. I'm so close. 

  • Reshoot the pictures for the next installment of my Tasty Travels series. I started this series last year but let it go to the wayside after I got pregnant and decided I hated all food other than Wild Berry Skittles. I got around to making the next recipe on my list (a delicious spaetzle recipe I picked up in Germany), but the pictures came out terribly. Normally, I would've reshot the pictures as soon as I could, but I was 8.5 months pregnant at the time and couldn't find it in myself to care. So, I ate all of the spaetzle and never got around to making it again.

  • Reach out to at least one company for a review/collaboration. I want to add in a review series on the blog this year where I test out great new travel products. I've done other reviews here and there, but I want to be more regimented with my approach this year. 

  • Update my media kit. I haven't done this in longer than I care to admit. 

  • Post 2x/week
What goals are you hoping to accomplish in January? How did you celebrate the new year?
Link up your goals post at the party over at My So-Called Chaos!

Monthly Blog Goals: January 2017 | CosmosMariners.com


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Friday, December 30, 2016

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com

Who doesn't love New Orleans? After all, the Big Easy is known for some of most famous haunts and watering holes in the world. However, the city is more than beads, cocktails, and Bourbon Street.

New Orleans is filled with fascinating museums, saturated with art and bursting with music. If you are looking to experience New Orleans without the hustle and bustle of the usual tourist attractions, there is a wide selection of off-the-beaten-path attractions to be found...if you know where to look.

So, once you've had your fill of Cafe du Monde beignets and hurricanes on Bourbon Street (and other quintessential New Orleans experiences), lace up your walking shoes to find these hidden treasures in the Crescent City.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Whether you visit a city for the first or fortieth time, museums are a great way to understand local culture, art and history. In New Orleans, the first museums that usually come to mind are The National World War II Museum or the New Orleans Museum of Art. Although these are incredible establishments and deserve a visit, The Ogden Museum is home to the largest and most comprehensive collections of Southern art in the country.

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com
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Located in the ultra-trendy Warehouse District, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art was the first museum in Louisiana given Affiliate of Smithsonian Institute designation. Open daily, Wednesday afternoons feature Ogden After Hours, a weekly event with local music and cuisine. Don’t forget to head to the roof to see a spectacular view of the city!

Tipitina’s 

Since 1977 Tipitina’s has been a landmark for local musicians and lively music affectionately known as “Tip’s.” Located in the Uptown neighborhood, Tipitina’s name was taken from a song by New Orleans legend Professor Longhair. Tipitina’s history is intrinsically New Orleans.

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com
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Before becoming a music venue, 501 Napoleon Avenue was a gambling house, gym and brothel. Visiting Tipitina’s for a night of dancing and live music means supporting the Tipitina’s Foundation, a nonprofit that helps promote music education throughout the city. And if you know anything about New Orleans’ musical history, then you can understand the importance of Tipitina’s mission.

Historic Hotel Chateau LeMoyne 

Whenever I travel, I seek out history wherever I can find it--even in my hotels. If you like to rest your head in historic hotels, too, you won't be disappointed in New Orleans. Instead of making reservations at Hotel Monteleone, try on the Chateau LeMoyne for size.

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com

Found on Dauphine Street, Chateau LeMoyne is an off-Bourbon resort for French Quarter travelers. Dating back to 1847, the hotel has everything that a New Orleans visitor would want: a pool for those hot, summer days, live nightly jazz music in the Lounge, a hotel restaurant serving up New Orleans classics and free Wi-Fi for guests. Perfect for weddings, conferences or just a weekend away, Chateau LeMoyne’s superb service and accommodations make it a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com

New Orleans City Park 

Found in the Mid-City neighborhood, New Orleans City Park is a small oasis in otherwise bustling city. Over 150 years old and consisting of 1,300 acres, City Park is one of the largest public parks in the country, twice of the size of Central Park. A visitor to New Orleans can enjoy an entire day rambling through City Park.

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com
Take a gondola ride in the park!
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Spend the day playing putt-putt golf, take the kids through Storyland, stroll through the Botanical Garden, relax in the Sculpture Garden or wind your way through New Orleans Museum of Art. There are playgrounds, train rides, trails and tracks, lagoons, cafes, pavilions and more at City Park. Acting as home for weddings, celebrations, and even The Voodoo Arts & Music Festival, City Park is one part of New Orleans not to be missed.

Frenchman Street 

If you are visiting the Big Easy and Bourbon Street doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are other thoroughfares to enjoy the city’s lax drinking laws and ubiquitous music. Most locals don’t traverse Bourbon Street regularly but Frenchman Street is another story. Located on the outskirts of the French Quarter, Frenchman Street is home to some of the city’s favorite venues like The Blue Nile, The Spotted Cat and The Maison.  Littered with bands, restaurants, and art markets, Frenchman Street is where the locals go for a night on the town.

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com
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I love New Orleans since there's always more to see and do than I can fit into one trip. Guess I need to head back soon to discover more hidden gems! If you haven't been and want more suggestions on what to experience in the Big Easy, check out my guide to the city's literary history and 8 essential things to do in the city.

Have you visited New Orleans? What was your favorite thing to see or do? 

5 Off the Beaten Path Places in New Orleans You Can't Miss | CosmosMariners.com


This sponsored post allows CosmosMariners.com to bring you even more great travel content, so thanks for supporting us! As always, all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com

Castles, bridges, and cathedrals: Europe's got them in spades, and they're all historic. That's one of my favorite things about visiting the other side of the big pond. Here in America, you'll find a historic downtown that might date back to the late 1600s if you're lucky; in Europe, the "new" side of town was probably built around the same time period.

My exploration into Europe's history has taken me to many places: to Roman ruins underneath one of London's political centers, an Iron Age fort on the cliffs of Ireland, and a German city that has impressive remains of a 2nd century aqueduct.

But, on our road trip to the Emerald Isle, my husband and I had the chance to visit our oldest site to date: Newgrange. Older than both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, Newgrange was built around 5,200 years ago. When I first read about it in my guidebooks, I knew I had to put it in our itinerary, so we made some room on our road trip between Galway and Dublin and head out to discover the mysteries of Newgrange.

As we came into the town of Slane, we started to follow the historical site signs for Newgrange, but quickly found ourselves going in circles. We hoped that our GPS would help out, and it assured us that we were only a few kilometers from it. After we headed down this tiiiiny road through vast fields, we turned a corner and there it was: this massive, grass-topped mound. However, there wasn't a parking lot, and there wasn't anyone around. Both of these seemed odd for a major historical site, so I decided to run up to the tiny wooden building at the foot of the hill to see if there was someone in there who could help me.

It turns out that we were in the right place...sort of. We had found Newgrange, but we couldn't start the tour there. We had to head across the River Boyne to the visitors' center to purchase our tickets and get a scheduled tour time, then a tour bus would bring us back to the historic site.

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com
Here's the visitors' center. Finally!
We followed the new directions and found the visitors' center about 10 minutes later. If we'd visited during the summer season, we could've booked tours for both Newgrange and nearby Knowth at the center, but they were only running the Newgrange tours in late January. (One of the trials and tribulations of traveling in the off season!)

Since it was late in the afternoon of a Wednesday in the winter, we were able to book a tour on the very next bus going out. That gave us just enough time to go through the informative mini-museum onsite: here, you can discover more about the Neolithic people who built Newgrange, how they survived in the harsh Irish climate, theories on what the mound was used for, and information on the archeologists who excavated it in the mid-1900s. Even though some of this was covered in the guided tour at Newgrange, it was helpful to get a deeper context of what we were about to see.

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com
I can't think of a single instance when a diorama didn't assist in my learning. The visitors' center at Newgrange was no exception.
Getting (back) to the site was an adventure in itself: we left the visitors' center, walked across the river, waited for the tour bus, then took the bus for a 10 minute ride to Newgrange, where we met our guide. (Whew.)

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com
Heading to the bus to start our tour
As our guide was starting her spiel, the Irish weather decided to showcase its full range: when she began talking, it was sunny and 65 degrees, but by the time we were ready to go into the mound, the temperatures had plummeted and it had started to hail. Oh, temperamental Irish weather, how you always keep me on my toes.

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com
We're here! And so is the hail.
When we headed into the mound, I was more than a little anxious since I'd read that the interior was tough on claustrophobic people. As I'm massively uncomfortable in anything smaller than an elevator, I decided to hang back so I could be one of the last people entering the mound. That way, I wouldn't be rushed and could easily turn around if I started to spaz.

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com
So small. So dark. So terrifying.
With a little encouragement from Landon, I slowly made my way into the Newgrange mound. It was a tight squeeze all the way along the passage, and, in parts, I had to bend almost in half to get underneath the support beams. If it hadn't been for my determination to experience the historic site, I probably would've turned around and left after the first twenty feet. So, be warned if you, too, hate small spaces: they aren't lying when they tell you it's close quarters.

Once our group of 10 or 15 made it into the inner chamber, our guide spent about 20 minutes pointing out specific features of the structure. Surrounding the main chamber were three smaller chambers, each of which was carved with elaborate zig-zags, squares, swirls, and checkerboard patterns. They were remarkably clear considering they're over 5 millenia old!

One of the highlights of the tour was when the guide turned out all of the lights (spooky!) and then used a flashlight to show the drama of how the sunlight would filter in during the winter solstice. Many archeologists and historians believe that Newgrange was built in homage to that very thing each year, so seeing it in action (sort of) was worth dealing with the claustrophobia. And for those who are interested in seeing the real winter solstice from inside Newgrange, you can enter a lottery to be one of the lucky few who get that experience each year.

Although our experience at Newgrange started off a bit confusing what with the visitors' center mixup, I am so glad we made the effort to put it in our Ireland road trip itinerary. Plus, how often can I say that I've spent part of an afternoon inside an earth mound that dates to 3200 BC?!

We ended our day with a dinner at Conygham Arms on Slane's main street, then retired to our adorable little AirBnB cottage about 10 minutes outside of town. It was the perfect last day before we dove into the next few busy days in Dublin!

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com

What ancient historic sites have you visited?
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry}


6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

Just as we were thinking about our 2017 travels (which includes a trip to Spain), Samara from TinyFry.com is here to share her best tips for visiting Barcelona with your favorite tiny traveler.

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com
Originally from New York, Samara has lived in Spain for the last 16 years, and she's given these tips a test run with her own little girl.

Read on for 6 fantastic places that your kids are sure to love in Barcelona!

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Heading to Barcelona with your family? You’re in luck! Barcelona, like most of Spain, is extremely child-friendly, so you can expect to see kids at all kinds of places, at all hours. They’re welcome everywhere. 

This isn’t that surprising, as Spain is a wonderful country with very warm and friendly people. It’s got stunning architecture, an amazing culinary culture, and history abounds around every corner. 

There’s no shortage of things to do in Barcelona, but here I’ve highlighted my top six sights to see with kids, just to give you the inside scoop. I picked these places because, for the most part, they’re fantastically unique, they’re fun to visit, and they could definitely spark some interesting conversations with your children. 

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

Get a good dose of culture, architecture, and fresh air by visiting this fairy-tale like park in the city’s Gràcia district. This extremely unique park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was designed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí, whose distinct style is visible throughout Barcelona and who’s considered to be the leader of the Catalan Modernisme movement. The colors, the tiles, the intricate designs—it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. 

Lounge around on the colorful benches and soak up the sun and the atmosphere. The views are pretty awesome too. 


2) La Rambla and La Boqueria

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

Two places you just can’t miss are right in the center of the city. La Rambla is a main avenue stretching almost a mile long, connecting the Placa de Catalunya and the Christopher Columbus monument. What’s special about this street is all the performance art—people dressed up in incredibly imaginative costumes, standing around for everyone to see—creativity and imagination at its best. Kids will absolutely love it. 


6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

And while you’re on La Rambla, don’t forget to pop into La Boqueria, Barcelona’s most famous food market. Take a walk around and marvel at the wide variety of colorful, delicious and different food on display, and if you’re daring enough, try something!

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

Tibidabo is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, which makes it an attraction in itself. It’s on the smaller side, with just 25 rides, but it’s also spectacularly located on a mountain of the same name, which offers incredible views of the entire city. 

The adventure begins with the journey to the park, which involves a tram and a funicular up the side of the mountain, and the old-school attractions include the airplane ride Avió, which has been flying since 1928, and Talaia, an emblematic ride opened in 1951 and which reaches a height of 1,500 feet above sea level. 

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

It’s probably safe to say that your kids have never seen anything like this incredible architectural masterpiece, also by Gaudi. While it’s true that Europe is chock-a-block with cathedrals, this Roman Catholic basilica is one-of-a-kind, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

From the spires to the façade to the towers, this is one building that will surely leave an impression, and if you can climb the stairs and make your way to the top, you will be richly rewarded with views of the city. Tell your kids the story behind it—about Gothic architecture, about how construction was put on hold because of the Spanish Civil War, and about how it was consecrated in 2010.

5. Ciutadella Park

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

This is definitely the city’s greenest park, but it offers a lot more than just a place to escape the bustling streets of Barcelona and take a breather. It has, on its grounds, a tropical greenhouse, a waterfall, a stunning fountain, sculptures, the Catalan Parliament building (where you can take a guided tour), the Modern Art Museum (located inside the Parliament building), the Zoological and Geological Museums, a small lake where you can rent a rowboat, and a winter garden pavilion, just to name a few attractions. Grab some snacks to refuel and have a picnic, or wander around and enjoy the fresh air. 


6) Bosc Urbà (Urban Jungle)

This last sight is only for the adventurous types. This is a fantastic adventure park for families with children ages 3 and up. With more than 50 attractions, you can banish boredom by spending some time bungee jumping or on the zip lines, suspension bridges, segways, rope swings or the log rolls. The park is arranged by color-coded circuits, and offers everything from low-key activities for the little ones to high-adrenaline thrills for older kids. There’s plenty to do for the whole family, and the park is covered, so you can still head out here if it’s raining. This is a unique place that’s sure to add a whole lot fun into your mix of vacation activities. 

Well, there you have it: six not-to-be-missed sights in Barcelona. Hopefully you found this list useful and it provided some new ideas for your trip!


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Friday, December 16, 2016

Our 2017 Travel Wishlist

Our 2017 Travel Wishlist | CosmosMariners.com

As the new year looms, I've started doing one of my favorite things: picking out where we might go in the coming 12 months. 

Since we traveled far less in 2016 than we did in 2015 (due to my 2nd pregnancy), I'm excited to have so many possibilities open to us. No more worrying about the Zika virus! No more wondering how I could travel without panicking about being so far from my doctor! No more waddling and being tired!

Our son is still really little--one month old as of last weekend--so we're going to have to ease him into a few of the trips that are mentioned below. We'll probably start out with a few easy road trips to nearby places and see how he does. Our 3 year old, Britton, was an awesome traveler when she was a baby (and still is), so I'm hoping her little brother follows in her footsteps. 

Below, you'll find the destinations that we're hoping to see in 2017. We probably won't get to all of them since our budget and Landon's time off only goes so far, but we can dream big. Right?

My picks

    Our 2017 Travel Wishlist | CosmosMariners.com
    Cinque Terre, Italy

  • Italy. I'm all about Italy lately for some reason, and it's been my #1 choice for our next travel destination for a few months. However, this probably isn't going to happen this year since Landon and I have talked about Spain (see below) being one of our major trips in '17. 

  • Crystal Springs, Florida. There exists a place where you can swim in incredibly clear water with manatees, and that place is Crystal Springs (you can probably guess how it got its name). Back in August, I was playing on StumbleUpon and found this video of a couple paddleboarding down Crystal Springs while manatees swam underneath them. Ignore the fact that I've never paddleboarded in my life: I have a new bucket list item that needs to get check off this year.

  • Our 2017 Travel Wishlist | CosmosMariners.com
    Shenandoah Valley

  • Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Way back in late elementary school, my parents took my sister and I on a road trip through Virginia, and the Shenandoah area was the major high point of that trip for me. I'd love to take a trip there again to explore a few of the caves and relax amidst the gorgeous scenery.

  • Somewhere island-y. I start getting antsy for beaches and 90 degree weather around March 1, so I'd love if we could fit in a trip to an island. Aruba, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Florida Keys--I'm not picky. Just show me the beach.

Landon's picks

Our 2017 Travel Wishlist | CosmosMariners.com
The Alhambra, Grenada, Spain
  • Spain. Landon minored in Spanish in college and has long wanted to visit Spain. In fact, we were in the early stages of planning a trip there in 2012 when we found out that we were expecting Britton; we decided that we probably should save the funds for our first kid. Since then, we've gone on several international trips, and all have been my picks. I think it's only fair that Landon gets to pick our destination for once! Right now, we're thinking of going to Madrid, Barcelona, Grenada, and Seville (and maybe Cadiz if we're there during Carnival). If you've been, send over your best advice and can't miss spots.

  • Hiking on the Appalachian Trail. He and one of his long time friends have been wanting to do a few sections of the AT for a few years now, and they're finally going to get around to it this spring. I've read way too many scary stories about creepers in the woods to want to go with them, but I know they will have a great time sans kids and wives for a few days.

  • A cruise. While I like cruising every few years, Landon would be happy doing a cruise every 6 months or so. We might be able to pull off one of those short cruises to the Bahamas...which would hit two of our destinations at once since I'd get some island time in there, too!

Britton's picks


What travel plans do you have for 2017? 

Our 2017 Travel Wishlist | CosmosMariners.com

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