Category Archives: Culture Talks

Beyond the Tourism: Gaudi, Park Güell and Barcelona.

Beyond the Tourism is my new series of articles which will focus on popular places with information useful to a tourist, only with the sense and reality of a local. I aim to also provide history and tips and tricks for making the most out of your visit!

If you don’t know who Gaudi is, about 5 minutes after stepping off the plane in Barcelona you’ll get a good idea.  Heck, if you read the in-flight magazine you’ll know before you even step off! And even if you don’t know the name, you’ll certainly know the figure.

Gaudi, full name Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, is Barcelona’s most famous and notable figure. He designed or inspired the majority of the famous landmarks in Barcelona. Here’s a list for proof;

Born in 1852, Gaudi showed from a young age a great understanding of mathematics and was exceptionally talented in arts and craftmanship. This is helped to create his unique style of interesting shapes and textures, as he could easily calculate how it would all fit together and stay sturdy. Not impressed so far? Look up  La Sagrada Família and click on “images” and you’ll get a better understanding.

Gaudi’s other interests and inspiration were nature and religion. It’s a weird and wonderful fusion that creates extremely unique structures.

And speaking of unique structures, Parc  Güell certainly is one. Commissioned by Count Eusebi  Güell (where the name comes from!) it was designed in mind for a “bohemian” village, where all the art-loving aristocrats (because it wasn’t going to be cheap) could live and mingle inside it’s creative boarders. Sadly, only two houses were finished as the project couldn’t gain enough backing and funding. Güell moved into one of them, and convinced Gaudi to move into the other. Today, Gaudi’s house is now home to the Gaudi musuem, which holds some of the furniture he designed within it. Please note you’ll have to pay extra (I believe 5 euros at the time of writing) to enter this house, as it is not included in the main ticket price.

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So here’s what you need to know about visiting Parc Güell as a tourist or traveller: It can be hard to find. Seriously, whoever writes the signs to get there needs to be fired. They lead you in circles, take in into bizarre routes that confuse a non-local and can require asking for directions which isn’t always easy if you can’t speak the language or end up in a residential area with no one else around like I did.

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The easiest way to get there: is to take the Line 3 to Lessops or Vallcarca. Know that it will be a 10-15 minute walk including about 700 metres uphill. There are sign posts but they can be misleading and/or confusing. If it’s a busy day you can usually just follow others in front. You will go through a busy street first, then at one point turn left and walk up hill. You’ll know you’re heading to the right place when you’re surrounded by tourist shops selling Parc Güell postcards or merchandise and find there suddenly seems to be lots of other people!


Map by http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/ 

You can also take Bus Lines H6, 32, 24 and 92.  Just check with the driver “Es Parc Güell en esta ruta?” (Is Parc Guell on this route?). If he says yes, then say “dos entradas para Parc Güell por favor!” (two tickets for Parc Güell please!). You can also say this last one when buying parc entrances.

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Also, sometime in the past two years they have started to charge entrance for the main area of the park. The area is now roped off and heavily guarded, so they make sure you don’t sneak it. Walking around the park can be harder as you have to queue up and spend to get close enough to take decant pictures. Queues are long and if the sun is hot it’s tedious. To buy tickets at the bottom of the parc, near the main entrance, there are two queues; one for paying with cash and one for paying with card. However you can buy tickets on line, and they can even be purchased up to three months before! Rates change but currently for me, the most expensive ticket is 7 euros. Discounts available for disabled, elderly and children.

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See that dragon? Yep, that’s about how much you’ll be able to see it once you’re there too!

Most days it’s hard to get close to the famous lizard (although the Spanish/Catalans refer to it as El Drac – the dragon).

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Inside this little area are seats, this is a great spot for a break and a bite to eat… providing you’ve bought one with you!

Ice cream and water are sold just outside the parc slightly more expensive then down the street. You can eat and drink in the parc, but you’ll have to keep the rubbish about you until you can find a bin later.

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If you’re impressed with the music, there’s a high chance they’ll be selling their CD too, so you can go home and re-live that Parc Güell experience. 

The parc may seem small once you’re in it, but there’s lots of places to explore and little hidden gems, and quite a few stairs to work on your thighs. There are also lots of musicians and artists placed around the parc. This creates a great atmosphere!

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Not really sure why I took a photo of the toilet queue but, it’s come in handy it seems!

There are some electronic portable type toilets in certain areas of the parc, that cost money. There are also some built in ones near the upper entrance to the roped off main area and food carts. These always have impressive queues. Just know that for anything other then walking around there is probably a long queue for it. If you have children they will probably tire quickly; entertain them by telling them the history of the parc or Gaudi, detailing the lizard/El Drac or bribe them with the promise of ice cream later!

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Credit to those Barcelona Bus Tours I’ve taken about 5 times with visiting friends and family, and the information I read when living in Catalunya for my sources!


Please note: Unless stated otherwise, all photos were taken by me.

Beamish (The Living Museum of the North) Review

So yesterday I went to Beamish – an “Open Air” Victorian Museum – and had such fun I knew I had to review it. For those who don’t have a clue where Beamish is (I can imagine most of you won’t…), it is in Northumberland… and for those who don’t know where Northumberland is, it is a county at the top of England.  If you like your history or cultural bites, it is a great place to visit.

Paying entry, I wondered why it cost so much for the four of us, as three of us were on discounts! Yet after a few inquiries as to who we each were, the lady presented us with a card each which granted us a years entry.

I think this is a good and a bad thing – it’s great for the locals, but as for the rest of us who travel there… yet for how much you get to do, I suppose the price is quite reasonable for a day pass anyway!

A quirky note about the ticketing area was that, while the building wasn’t decorated greatly, the staff were all dressed up!

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Once you exit the ticketing area, you enter a room that projects a map that tells a little Beamish story. Once you exit that area, you find yourself outside, looking down at a tram station. They supposedly run every 20 minutes, but perhaps on the busier days they run every 10 minutes. The 1-story (or should I say deck?) trams full up very quickly. We ended up on a double decker though! You never have to wait for the next tram if the double decker arrives for you! Woohoo!

We decided to sit on the bottom deck, and off we went for a glorious little ride through the countryside. The first stop was the stream train section, which we admittedly never visited. (The place is so big). The second stop was the Georgian house and farm, but we didn’t stop until the third stop, which was… The Town! 

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I guess now is good time to mention that all the buildings in Beamish aren’t actually from Beamish. They were all moved there, and re-built to resemble a typical life in the Victorian (and Georgian) age.

The Town is full of shops, a pub, a grand park and a few houses. We started with the houses (they were opposite the town’s tram station), then made our way to one side of the shops before stopping in the Grand Park for a picnic. After that, we made our way down the other side of the street and to the Town bank and council hall.

The first house we visited was really smoky. That chimmy needed a good cleaning. Had Alice been a boy I’m such we could have sent her up.

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That’s not light fogging up the photo, that is smoke.

The next house was the Dentist’s. I think had I been Victorian I’d have wanted to marry a dentist (if a Prince or Duke weren’t available, of course). The Dentist was the only one to have an inside toilet. He also had a house next door to his practice, so he knocked down the inside to join them. He had a lovely nursery for his children too, full of toys and white frills and high chairs and all the lovely things you take for granted until you see the next houses.

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These all look a little eerie, don’t they?

The young boy playing the dentist was really great; he was so informative in his role. He told us all about the various treatments we could get and how much they’d cost us (in addition to how much the miners got paid). For young women – around my age – he suggested all teeth were removed and replaced with dentures. Dentures were attractive for suitors, and would ensure my future husband need not pay dental fees for me. As a bonus, the procedure would be less painful than childbirth, so I’d be all set for my wifely duties. If you marry the dentist will he do that for free?. Well, those are the benefits should I survive the dentist chair anyway.

To have all my teeth removed would have cost me 10 pounds. Miners use to earn a pretty reasonable (at the time) wage of 2 pounds… so that sort of treatment was out of their budgets. They should go to their local barber or butcher for a few shillings and get their teeth pulled out with pliers, or for free if travellers were in town. Travellers would instead charge the people who wanted to watch. They may also take one or two healthy of your healthy teeth for good practice beforehand. All share a few things in common however; they sterilize the equipment once a day (or maybe that’s just the dentist), and will take your money before they treat you, just in case you don’t survive either.

Why wouldn’t you survive? Urgh, the details were just appalling. Simply put, you could die from the gas, blood loss or “post-operative shock” (pain). I’m sure another is inflection, but that will take a few days of pain as opposed to the length of your doctor’s appointment. 3% of patients – so 3 in 100 – would die from one of the first three. I won’t spoil the other interesting (and painful) facts I learnt… so you’ll have to visit Beamish or read on Dentistry if you want to find them out!

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A few honourable mentions in the town are the paper shop, park and of course – the favourite of children and adults alike – the sweet shop! 

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After a good hour or two in the town (it’s easily possible to spend far more here), we moved onto the next place – the pit village and Victorian farm. On the way, we passed a Victorian carnival field. Note to self in future; check out the map in more detail. You have to walk to the Victorian carnival from the Town.

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 We choose to see the farm area first, which is honestly probably the best way to see them. The pit village is much bigger, although both share great amounts of detailing. I noticed in the smaller farm houses, although you can’t enter, they leave things like bread by the window. (Actually, come to think of it, maybe people live there? It is a working farm!)

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There was lots of animals, and the main farm house was beautiful! There was a woman dressed up sewing by the fireplace, all of which were lit with real fires. In the farm house, they were drying some sort of cakes (Mum knows the name!) on a rack above the fire place. There is so much detail you must be sure to look out for it all!

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The Pit Village is the main attraction (other then the sweet shop I hear…), as it is the only original aspect of Beamish. Alice, my sister, and my granddad went into the mining shaft and saw the drill, but mum and I stayed outside. Apparently – and easily understood – the conditions were awful. Honestly, everything seemed out to kill people back then.

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If the miners put up with the conditions however, they earned themselves a free house. The free house measured two rooms down, and one room upstairs. Parents would sleep in the front room, and the toilet would be like a cupboard outside. No bathroom. For a bath, they would fill up a tin one, and take it in turns to wash themselves. The eldest (or youngest) would go first, so if you’re last, in a family of 14, you get the cold and dirty water. Nice. It’s a hard knock life indeed!

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A good perk to the houses would be the front gardens, which go on quite some length. They allowed space for growing plants and herbs, and one ‘family’ even placed birds at the top of them! The down side would be that, if you were too ill to work in the mines, you would have a week to move out your house. I can imagine men would prefer to die in the mines then admit they were ill, with those sort of conditions.

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On a more cheery note, the Georgian house was our last stop, and was just as beautiful. There was a woman making fresh bread in the kitchen, which everyone was welcome to try. This house was by far the most… interactive? There were no ropes to limit your entry in the room, and only the cupboards were closed off/locked. There are plenty of walks around that house too, but we just didn’t have any time!

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All areas are well equipped with toilets, picnic benches, and a food/snack shop of some sort, so are really family friendly. There was also staff placed well around each area, usually involved in some sort of activity relevant to their character. They were all really friendly and full of jokes and information for everyone.

If I didn’t live so far away, I’d love to go back for their Christmas Fair!

Entry Costs:

Adult  £17.50 
Senior (60 years) / Student* £13.00
Child (5 – 16 years) £10.00
Child (Under 5) FREE
Family (1 Adult + 2 Children) £32.00
Family (2 Adults + 2 Children)   £46.00

Address:
Regional Resource Centre,
Beamish,
County Durham
DH9 0RG

Phone Number:
0191 370 4000

Website:
http://www.beamish.org.uk/

Opening Hours:
10am to 5pm, open all week during main season (Summer).
(Last entry 3pm)

Weather Dependency:
While there is plenty to do indoors, a lot of the outdoor beauties would be missed in heavy rain. Light rain, with rain coats, would be manageable however.

Seoul Bakery Review

So before I brought my new iPad mini, I went to Seoul Bakery in London with Min. Why does it matter that I went before I brought my new iPad mini? Well, my iPad mini has a camera on it. My old iPad did not, so I couldn’t use my iPad to take photos.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. It means that, my photos look great but, my blogging website doesn’t like them. It means I had to spend hours re-sizing a photo, which on my travels, thankfully I won’t have too. This also means however, that on my travels I cannot upload the most amazing photos right a way. But look at it this way; at least you get photos on-the-go!

But anyway…

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Seoul Bakery is an awesome Korean dig in London. It’s really, really small though. Luckily, I worked out that when they just opened (12 o’clock Mr Wolf!) would be the best time to visit. Why? Because the place is so popular, about 1 o’clock people start queuing outside. And why do they queue? Because there’s about… 14 seats in the restaurant in total.(Told you it was really, really small!)

But if you don’t mind the possibility of rubbing elbows with a stranger or are up for making some new friends (possibly… depending on the friendliness of those next to you…), the food is so worth it. For me, the atmosphere really made it as well. That’s not because I’m  somewhat of a K-Pop fan (they do blast K-Pop out of their tiny speakers, but I recognized one song in the hour we stayed there), but because it was just so cosy and unique and… great! On the walls, you’re allowed to doodle or leave messages, and everyone more or less has. We of course, left our mark too. I wrote a confession on the window in a yellow sharpie (good luck trying to find and read it), along with a post-it note declaring my love for 비빔밥 (BiBimBap) and a typical “WE WERE HERE!” post-it note. Min kindly wrote many messages about her love for Kris, leader of the Chinese boy band EXO*.

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 Embarrassingly, I wrote the wrong “and”. Go home Hana, you need to practice Korean.

As for the food, along price range, it was amazing. We paid £1.50 for 김밥 (kimbap) which is  probably easiest to describe as the Korean Sushi. We got two rolls for £1.50 people! That is amazing! Usually you get charged around £3 for half a roll.

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True to Korean culture, we pretty much shared our food. I ordered (as already stated) the egg 비빔밥 (BiBimBap) which I believe was around £3 – £3.50? The most common 비빔밥 (BiBimBap) is made with beef instead of egg, but being a vegetarian I obviously choose the “egg”. There was 3 other choices for meat you could have in your 비빔밥 (BiBimBap) but I’ve forgotten them. I have to say though, I was in no way limited for choice. Min ordered two dishes and a side of rice, and while I can’t quite remember them, she allowed me to try some and eat the eggs. Her dishes tasted super, super yummy too!

It is also probably worth noting, you get a cold, tall glass bottle of water, and tiny silver cups for free. Instead of the £1.90 I got changed for a small glass of water at Maison Blanc. 

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After piggy Hana ate some.
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This isn’t even all of the food! Obviously I didn’t waste any time as I don’t have any photos of all of our food.
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Had to take at least one 셀카 (Selca!) in there! 
셀프 (Self) + 카메라 (Camera) = 셀카 (Selca)

Lastly, we ordered their special 아이스녹차라떼 (Iced Green Tea Latte!). It costs about… £2.50, but was so good. So good I’ve been dreaming about it since. I actually wanted to order a special tea they sold there, but the lady told me it was sold out.

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SHINee and Siwon from Super Junior have visited! I heard EXO have too, but they didn’t leave their signatures. Maybe it’s just a hopeful rumour or they weren’t important enough at the time
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Odd angle because I didn’t want people to think I was photographing them eating! Haha…

Speaking about their staff, I think it’s important I write a little about them too! I’ve read a review that they didn’t speak English, which was not true when I was there. Our waitress was a Londoner, who was learning Korean. She spoke to us in English obviously, but would shout the orders in Korean. Behind the bar, they spoke in a mixture of Korean and English. They’re all really friendly too, so need to feel intimidated!

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I didn’t write the two above messages, but I thought they were both super sweet messages.

I guess the last thing to add is; No, it’s not really a Bakery. Why? No idea. Ancient legend has it the store before was a Bakery, and the new owners couldn’t be bothered to change ALL of the sign. Realistically, who knows. Whooooo knooooows.

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Seoul Bakery; 55 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LH.
07763 278681.
Opening Hours; (Mon-Sun) 12:00 – 23:00
Price Range: £!

* There are two branches of the “EXO” boy band; Chinese and Korean. Both are produced by the Korean Entertainment company SM. Just to explain why she’s professing her love for a Chinese boy band in a Korean restaurant.