Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a Heroine

Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a Heroine

A HEROINE’S TRAVEL GUIDE TO BARCELONA, SPAIN / BY KAYLA KURIN

Barcelona looks like a city straight out of fairy tale.

You’ll discover many secrets wandering through the streets of this Mediterranean city full of artists, architects, and rebels turned authors who tell its story.

Whether you’re transported to another world walking through Gaudi’s’ architecture or witnessing the surrealist paintings of Dali and Picasso, there’s a little bit of magic wherever you go in Barcelona.

Before you go:

If you’re like me and enjoy reading novels about places you’re traveling to, these reads will give you a glimpse into the city and the heroines of Catalonia:

  • Solitud by Victor Catala (ie. Caterina Albert) was published under a male pen name to avoid controversy. And thus enters our first heroine!
  • The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron is a novel set in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.
  • The angst-ridden executive by Manuel Vazquez Montalban is a fun who-dun-it detective story set in the streets of Barcelona!

Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a Heroine

Start the day with a hearty breakfast as we’ve got a lot of adventure ahead of us!

Like a local grab a pastry and cafe con leche from your local cafe, or if you’re craving something more substantial, find your way to El Petit Princep in El Borne to indulge in a breakfast fit for a little prince (or princess).

Get to know Gaudi.

To kick off our adventures, jump on a bus to Park Guell. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re wandering through your own fairy tale, this is the place.

Gaudi’s stunning and unique architecture gives the place a magical feeling. You can spend an hour or two wandering around this park and taking in views of the city below.

To continue our Gaudi fix, walk or grab a bus to the Sagrada Familia.

You’ll notice the construction amidst the turrets, but don’t feel discouraged, this is part of the attraction! The church has been under construction for over 100 years with no end in (near) site!

The interior is said to resemble a (forbidden) forest, and the outside boasts work from 4 different architects. It’s easy to imagine this giant gothic church as a setting in many a heroine’s tale.

Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a Heroine

Make a literary break for your cafe con leche.

Stretch your legs by wandering further downhill (all downhill roads lead to the water) until you find yourself at the Pudding Bar. If you’re short on reading material, pop into Laie across the road with a selection of books in different languages.

Then head into the Pudding Bar for a funky Alice in Wonderland themed coffee and reading break. Be inspired to break out the journal and enjoy the surroundings.

Explore the gothic quarter.

Continue down Carrer de Pau Claris into the gothic quarter. Get lost wandering around the narrow streets and enjoy the architecture. Keep an eye out for the Barcelona Cathedral, home to one of the city’s first heroines and Patron Saints, Eulalia.

Eulalia is one of the first Christian martyr’s from the Roman period. At just 13 years old she received such punishments as being rolled around the city in a barrel full of knives for refusing to give up Christianity. She is now the co-Patron saint of Barcelona.

The Rubio bridge next to the Cathedral and settled amongst gargoyles is a beautiful site.

Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a Heroine

Lunch at Barcelona’s most famous tapas bar in La Boqueria market.

When you’re ready for lunch, cross Las Ramblas to get to La Boqueria, the most famous food market in Barcelona. Enjoy seeing the variety of Catalonian foods, and then find a seat at Bar Pinotoxo for traditional tapas, fresh seafood, and a lunchtime glass of Cava.

If you have the time, wander around hip Raval, or simply follow Ramblas down to the water until you see the giant Columbus statue.

The crafty geographer may notice that Columbus is actually pointing east, the opposite direction of the Americas to which he sailed. Several theories try to explain this, but my favourite is that he’s pointing towards his hometown in Genoa, Italy.

Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a Heroine

Learn about the history of Catalonia.

Follow the main road next to the water, passing the yachts, and then swing left into the Museum of Catalonian History.

The museum houses 2 floors of exhibits, with stunning visual displays starting from ancient times and leading to the 20th century. It’s fascinating to see the different empires Catalonia passed under, and understand the unique history of the Catalonian people.

The museum also hosts a rooftop patio with great views of Barceloneta and the Mediterranean!

Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a Heroine

Sunsets, seafood, and sipping on cocktails.

Meander your way among the streets of Barceloneta, and watch the sunset on the beach.

When you’re done enjoying the sand and the waves, make your way to La Bona Sort in Borne for some traditional tapas for dinner. Ask to be seated in the garden (jardin) to feel like you’re sitting in your own secret garden. The grilled calamari and pulpo de Galicia are two of my favourite dishes!

While you may be ready to head home after a long day of sightseeing, the city is just awakening.

If you’re ready for a night fit for a heroine, head to Eldiset or Sub Rosa in Borne for some cocktails in an interesting atmosphere, or if you’re up for it, jump in a cab to Old Fashioned in trendy Gracia to be transported back to the 1920’s while sipping on one of their professionally made cocktails.

If you have more than a day in Barcelona, spend a morning in Babelia cafe, designed specially for the bibliophile. And remember that the best thing one can do in Barcelona is get lost…

Enjoy your journey!

Barcelona, Spain / Fit for a HeroineKayla is a chronic traveler, writer, and flying (yoga) instructor for Lumos Your Life! Currently bunkered up in Europe, but originally from Canada, she’s visited, lived, and worked in over 40 countries. Read more about her adventures working & traveling on her websiteTwitter, and Instagram.

Xandra Recommends > try adding Kayla’s 15-minute Yoga for Sleep routine to your evening ritual.

Is your hometown the perfect fit for a heroine? I’m always looking for fabulous locals to contribute to this Fit for a Heroine travel guide series. If you’re interested in writing for Heroine Training, read the guidelines and get in touch.

London’s Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

London's Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

A HEROINE’S TRAVEL GUIDE TO LONDON, ENGLAND’S HAMPSTEAD / BY HEATHER BLANCHARD

Welcome heroines, to the charming village of Hampstead in North London.

Here we venture to an area of London famous for its artistic and literary heritage. Start your tour on a Sunday late morning; for I think a heroine should be allowed a lie-in, an extra rest from all of her adventures!

I hope you have on some comfortable shoes, because Hampstead is a place for walking. There are self-guided tours available, and some say that Hampstead has the highest number of blue plaques in the capital, as it has been home to so many notable people throughout history.

London's Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

We start on Hampstead High Street, a busy main road, lined with boutiques, alfresco cafes, and patisseries.

It’s tempting to take a seat here and watch the world go by, and you can see all manner of dog breeds pass, as their owners take them towards Hampstead Heath for ‘walkies’. It is also not uncommon to see the odd famous face here!

Begin at Melrose and Morgan grocery, which is a perfect if you plan on having a picnic later on the Heath. They stock fresh fruit and vegetables, and a delicious choice of artisan breads and cakes, as well as hot drinks to send you on your way if there’s a chill in the air.

London's Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

Our first port of call is Keats’ House and the Keats Community Library.

It’s here where John Keats wrote many of his romantic poems, and fell in love with his neighbour Fanny Brawne. It’s said that he wrote his most famous poem, Ode to a Nightingale, under the plum tree in the garden.

The library often hosts talks by prominent authors as well as other events. Rather than being a council-owned public library, it is charity-run by passionate volunteers.

It is also a wonderful place to write, and given the many writers who have lived in Hampstead, I like to think I’m not the only writer who has crafted stories under this roof.

Continue on to Hampstead Heath…

While strolling through this vast park of natural beauty, it’s quite easy to forget you’re in the city at all. It covers 790 acres with rolling hills, lakes, swimming ponds and woodland.

Here is where Wilkie Collins’ gothic novel The Woman in White is set, and movies such Labyrinth were filmed here during the days when Jim Henson’s Creature Shop was based in Hampstead.

A walk up to Parliament Hill is rewarded by a sprawling vista of London’s skyline, and on a clear day, it is easy to spot the capital’s famous landmarks.

London's Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

Visit the stately Kenwood House

Walk through ancient woodland, rich with wildlife to reach Kenwood House, which was featured in the film Notting Hill, and was a setting in the recent period film Belle. It also made an appearance in Zadie Smith’s novel, Swing Time.

There are lovely gardens, which in spring are bursting with colour from the various blossom trees, and the air is scented with honeysuckle. The house overlooks a lake and a folly bridge, and is the ideal spot to lay down your picnic blanket, sit back and read for a while or daydream.

In the summer months, open-air concerts and craft fairs are common features in the grounds.

London's Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

From here we will leave the Heath and walk down to The Spaniards Inn.

A spot of lunch here would satisfy any lover of history, as the pub dates back to the late 16th century and was once a haunt of the highwayman, Dick Turpin.

The pub also has a rich literary history, having featured in the famous Gothic novel Dracula, by Bram Stoker and in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. Poets such as Lord Byron and John Keats were also regulars here.

The food here is delicious and there are veggie options available. This cosy pub this the perfect place to relax after all that walking!

London's Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

A short amble away is the Hampstead Pergola and Hill Gardens.

This enchanting place is tucked away and is a real hidden gem. It dates from 1904 and is filled with twisting vines and wisteria.

To walk here is to feel lost in time, and the faded grandeur of the place certainly makes it atmospheric.

When I wander here, and perhaps take a seat to read or write, I can easily see myself as a Gothic heroine, haunted by my own imagination and by the lonely splendour of this pergola.

London's Hampstead / Fit for a Heroine

End the day at Hampstead Everyman Cinema

Our final stop is at the Hampstead Everyman Cinema, which shows new releases as well as independent films, world cinema, and classics. Sit on a cosy sofa to enjoy the film, and press the button at your side to order a glass of wine, pizza, snacks, or a dessert.

They often host events such as preview screenings and Live Q&As with film makers and stars. This is luxurious escapism at its best.

London's Hampstead / Fit for a HeroineHeather Blanchard is a witchy author, writer, and bibliophile. Her debut novel Dark is the Sea is out now and she is currently working on her second book. She blogs at www.inkcoffeeandgolddust.com about magic, fairy tales, Gothic, and pop culture.

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Is your hometown the perfect fit for a heroine? I’m always looking for fabulous locals to contribute to this Fit for a Heroine travel guide series. If you’re interested in writing for Heroine Training, read the guidelines and get in touch.

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

a heroine’s travel guide to London, Ontario / by Kerry Hishon

Welcome to London! No, not that London…

I’m writing about the “other” London, here in lovely southwestern Ontario, Canada. I’ve lived in London for over a decade, and although I wasn’t born here, I’m happy to call London my home.

London has a small-town feel in a big city (it’s the 11th most populated city in Canada).

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

On its surface, London may seem like a stereotypical Canadian city.

On Friday nights, the downtown area is a sea of green as we cheer on the London Knights hockey team, but it’s not all just toques and poutine.

Yes, we love our winter sports – London is home to Olympic ice dancing champion Tessa Virtue, and where Olympic champion speed skater Christine Nesbitt grew up – but we are more than just sports! London has a bustling arts scene and a great sense of local pride.

Budding thespians can look to Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls, The Notebook) and Amber Marshall (TV’s Heartland).

All these women are proof that with hard work and perseverance, you can achieve anything you set your mind to, and that’s definitely a mark of a heroine to me.

If you are an artsy soul, embrace all things geek-chic or are obsessed with food (or like me, and all three apply), you’ll fit in just fine here.

Shall we begin our tour? Meet me at the corner of King and Talbot Streets, and we’ll get going!

Everything on this is within walking distance, so be sure to wear comfy shoes (or good, thick boots if you’re visiting in the winter!) and bring a bag to carry any treasures you pick up along the way!

 

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

Start with a hefty breakfast at The Early Bird

Every heroine needs a hearty breakfast to begin her day of adventures (and to keep her from getting hangry). I love The Early Bird, a cozy setting with its tiki bar and kitschy décor, featuring an awesome set of busts decorated like the members of KISS.

I recommend the Fat Elvis, a monstrosity of a sandwich smothered in bacon, peanut butter, honey, panko, maple syrup, and powdered sugar. Bring a bag; you’ll need it to carry your leftovers with you.

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

Peruse the shelves at City Lights Bookshop

What’s a heroine without a good book? A bored heroine, that’s for sure.

Enter City Lights, which describes itself as “a living collage, crossed with a circus that was frightened by a Dadaist” and I couldn’t agree more.

Its two floors are packed with books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, vinyl, sheet music, play scripts, postcards, and more. Everything is reasonably priced, and a heroine could while away hours exploring its depths.

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

Explore Covent Garden Market

I spend a lot of time at Covent Garden Market for my work with Original Kids Theatre Company (we present over twenty productions a year!), and there’s just so much to do!

In the winter, you’ll find a free skating rink outside; and in the summer, there’s an outdoor farmer’s market on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Inside the Market is a ton of local vendors – if you’re not still stuffed from breakfast, I recommend visiting Petit Paris and ogling their massive array of sweets and goodies, and The Salad Bowl for amazing and healthy wraps and soups (Andrew somehow remembers everyone’s specialty order and it’s awesome).

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

Take a walk through Victoria Park

London is known as the Forest City and it’s not hard to see why. During the winter holidays, Victoria Park’s trees are lit up with thousands of beautiful lights.

It’s a lovely place to take a walk with a cup of hot chocolate, or go skating (again, it’s free!). In the summer, it’s host to tons of festivals (such as the Home County Folk Festival, Sunfest, and London Rib-Fest) where there are live bands to listen to, local vendors to peruse, and of course, fabulous food and drinks to be sampled.

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a Heroine

Take in a show

London has a thriving theatre scene, and the downtown area is the heart of it. The Grand Theatre has tons of amazing shows and even its own ghost (look up Ambrose Small for more details!), while The ARTS Project hosts local theatrical projects, as well as a free, ever-changing gallery, and various art classes.

In the summer, London is host to the London Fringe Festival, where theatre artists from all over Canada and abroad bring together an amazing selection of theatrical delights. Take a chance and see something that sounds intriguing – you never know what you’ll get at the Fringe!

Budweiser Gardens is right across the street from the Covent Garden Market, and offers tons of concerts and touring theatre shows. This year alone I’ve been able to catch Metric and Our Lady Peace, and I’ll be seeing Green Day there soon too!

London, Ontario, Canada / Fit for a HeroineKerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant. She blogs at both Kerryhishon.com and Theatrefolk.com. When she’s not immersed in theatre, Kerry enjoys reading, knitting, and travelling.

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Is your hometown the perfect fit for a heroine? I’m always looking for fabulous locals to contribute to this Fit for a Heroine travel guide series. If you’re interested in writing for Heroine Training, read the guidelines and get in touch.