Wandering Around Barcelona – Parque de la Ciudadela

Wide View of the Fountain

When your in a brand new City with a plethora of places to see and things to do, there is something to be said for just getting hold of a map and following your feet.
Well it was such a scientific approach that let us through to the incredible Parque de la Ciudadela, which had so much to offer and so much to see.

Its parks like these that tend to blend the tourists and the locals and really gives you a sense of the lifestyle out here. Families having picnics, couples cwtching (Welsh term for cuddling), people reading in the shade of the trees.

And that’s without the Citadel, the Museums, the sculptures and of course the jewel in the crown (literally), La Cascada – a lavishly decorated fountain that commands attention.

There is also a lake and even a zoo, neither of which we had to the time to visit but would definitely go back in a heartbeat and would highly recommend to anyone venturing to the City of Barcelona.

Here are some Pictures of the park, I hope you enjoy and get to see it for yourself one day – thanks for reading!

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Our Material World – The recipe for unhappiness

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Human Nature

Human nature seems to put us on a constant charge toward that which makes us un-happy. The marketing machines out there are all selling products and services which we perceive WILL make us happier; the neighbors buy into this and so must we? This process means we need to work harder, work longer all the while spending less time doing the things we like with the people we love; all in pursuit of that little bit more.

So I suppose, in a nutshell, the recipe for unhappiness is this: ‘If you want to be unhappy (or a little unhappier) just spend your life chasing that little bit more: more money, more material stuff and keeping up with the neighbors’.

Just a little bit more

One of my lasting memories of school was when my teacher rolled into an anecdote and spoke of the richest man in the world who, when asked what would make him happy replied: ‘just a little bit more’. That’s a greedy sentiment isn’t it? Actually maybe it isn’t! Just ask the happiest people you know and they will always say the same thing when asked what they want: ‘just a little bit more’ another child, a pay rise, that new car; the list goes on and on.

Indeed chasing that little bit more is clearly a core part of our programming, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the intrinsic need for more has spurned us on to pioneer in all manner of human goals and through this we have achieved virtually unquantifiable attainment. However the flipside of that achievement is plain old greed, which (for example) has directly induced global warming – seriously harming our planet.

So what can we do about it if we are greedy by nature? So I suppose that as this drive for more is part of our nature, we are doomed to strive for what we don’t have and to spend less and less time doing what we value most. Not really – I mean does anyone in their winter years really advise on working longer and harder? No. Do they advise on putting in longer hours trying to gain recognition or a promotion? Nope. They will simply advise to make the most of the time you have with the people that matter and doing the things that make you happy.

Simplicity

I was recently in Madrid, traveling is a huge passion of mine, as you will notice from my blog, and took the time to visit the Prado Museum where I came across a 400 year old still life, painted by an inspirational artist called Cotan. This is only one of 6 (Cotan) paintings still in existence and the ethos of the artist was simplicity, to revel in the basic things in life over and above rich worldly goods; this is perfectly outlined in the painting below.

Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit - 1602, Museo del Prado Madrid

Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit – 1602, Museo del Prado Madrid

Shortly after completing his works Cotan became a recluse and chose the life of a monk. I am not saying for one second that this is the path to happiness for everyone; but the principle is a powerful one majestically summed up in his work. Chasing the simple things in life is a far more noble and achievable quest than the alternative; the hamster wheel approach of pursuing the riches on the horizon; anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

In conclusion

What should we do? As discussed above the simplest explanation is often the most effective and in my humble opinion, the recipes for greater unhappiness and happiness are:

To be a little but more unhappy – simply spend the rest of your life chasing that little bit more and keeping up with the Jones’s.

To be that little bit happier – spend the rest of your life chasing ways to make the most of what you have. Focus on the needs and not the wants and you wont go far wrong.

The latter point is probably more of a journey rather than a destination for many of us in the modern world, but it is surely a path to greater happiness, to greater simplicity. Should we only live once then it has to be a path worth taking!

Barcelona – Columbus Monument and The Marina

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As we leave the seduction of La Boqueria Market we head back into a steadily bustling Las Ramblas and take a right which leads us straight toward the sea.

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Along the way you are presented with the contrast of many modern cities, the history of the Columbus Monument adorned with sculptures and statues below the towering figure of the great explorer eternally looking out to sea.

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Then we are presented with the marina and shopping/dining complex adding a lavish and modern ingredient to the mix; from there you can walk along the many beaches and take in the warm sea air which compliments the sheer diversity of Barcelona.

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Is there anything better than exploring a new place and taking a fresh look at everything it has to offer?

First Day In Barcelona

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Following our First Night In Barcelona we gather for breakfast at the excellent Barcelona B&B and share a table with some fellow travellers. This provides us with an excellent opportunity to share some tips about what to see and do in and around the city. We then head out to explore what Barcelona has to offer making a bee line for the famous Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas on to The Market

Despite the bustling surroundings you kind of know when you hit Las Ramblas, which is a huge walkway through the heart of the city. Passing shops, kiosks bars and restaurants we then came across a place I had been particularly keen to explore La Boqueria – which, being a lover of all things food and drink, was a fantastic treat.

Walking among the various range of stalls presenting a tantalising mix of colours, scents, sights and flavours, I couldn’t help but take some pictures to capture the market in all its glory – I hope you enjoy!

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Brand New Road Cyclist and Hooked

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About a month or so ago, an email came through outlining the launch of a bike 2 work scheme which prompted a question, could I really cycle 20 miles into work? I am a 34 year old guy and regularly go to the gym, with a steady and safe routine of the aerobic machines about 4/5 times a week; so not in the worst shape, although admittedly at 13& a half stone (189 pounds – 5:8″ short) I am carrying a bit of timber.  I used to commute to work in my gap year as student but that was 10 miles away and over 10 years ago, so could I really double up on the distance?  The answer was to be a hopeful yes and after some degree of (extensive) research I quickly realised i would have to be (my very first ever) road bike and after more research I finally settled upon a Giant Defy 1; although selecting one bike among the unbelievable amount of options was a challenge to say the least!

Well the day finally arrived to take delivery, unbox, and set up my brand spanking new road bike and, of course, I had to take her For a test run.  Being used to mountain bikes my first impressions were, this was very very different to what I was used to: a featherlight frame, tiny slick tyres, alien gears come breaks, handlebars that seemed too far away and a saddle that was more like a razor blade than a seat!  A few circuits of my local industrial estate and that little voice in my head said “lets get out on the road”!

After a few strokes and a little uphill I rolled on to a smooth decent to a flat stretch of road and really had a chance to see what road cycling was all about, suddenly the alien gears felt like I was in control of a finely tuned instrument (shifting up and down with each change in the road) and shifting lower, putting the power down throughout the gears and pedals I realised why the wheels are so thin, why the frame was so light, and why the seat was so aerodynamic; I was absolutely flying and from the moment the wind started to hit me I was completely hooked.

 Yes my legs hurt and my backside is a little sore, but a planned 3 mile warm up resulted in 8 miles, of fun and fear in equal measure; that voice in my head is saying “I want to do this again, except further, faster and longer”, and I completely agree.  I guess it’s that voice that speaks to anyone who decides to cycle and especially amid the crazy/unpredictable traffic along with the elements on the open road and who am I to ignore it.  My early plan is to get in the saddle as often as I can over the coming weeks and then to build up to a 20 mile run too or from work and then take it from there, the way I am feeling now that won’t be too long.

 

Happy cycling everyone!