2014 is my year of independent travel:  At the end of December (almost 2014) I spent 3 days in Barcelona and at the end of April, 4 days in Florence.

I enjoyed both, although in their way were quite different.  I’m used to travelling in the UK and working away from home and prior to 9/11, I regularly worked in the States but for the last 7 years I have become accustomed to the commuter shuffle, in and out of London on the train.  It surprised me then, that packing my case and arriving at Gatwick to go to Barcelona, I found myself feeling quite nervous and wondering why I was travelling alone.

Barcelo RavalI chose an uber cool hotel, a circular tower covered in mesh but with spectacular views across the city.  It’s in the Raval district, which is a bit like King’s Cross and Paddington with a chequered past but it was just a short walk from Las Ramblas and I felt completely safe – what was I worrying about.

I think the hotel tried a bit too hard to be cool and ended up just kitschy; I was waiting for Austin Powers to leap out!

My family call me a turbo tourist, I have to see everything all at once and this trip was no exception.

I went to the top of the towers at Familia Sagrada and then had to walk down, stopping to admire the view and the detail of the work still going on.  I also re-discovered that I’m still no better with heights and spiral staircases without a hand rail should be avoided at all costs…but the experience was worth the effort.

Florence was just wonderful, all of the buildings and the atmosphere just as I have always imagined it would be, but…it rained.  None of my day-dreams included wet pavements and cold, grey skies but it’s what I got.

IMG_0534On the wettest day, I took refuge in the central market and what a place!  Similar to Borough Market but somehow more colourful, more aromatic and louder.  I resisted the urge to bring back sun dried tomatoes and fungi – can you imagine customs…

Typically, my last day was warm and sunny and I rewarded myself with an over-priced coffee in a piazza.