Welcome to the June Mediterranean Achievers Blog Hop. I'm so glad you are here and thrilled to be able to team up with my fellow-achievers to share with you some of the many, many highlights of this memorable, magical trip, the 2016 Stampin' Up! Grand Vacation. Stampin' Up! really knows how to spoil us with an Incentive Trip aimed to please. Earning this trip meant I received an all expenses paid trip for 2 on a 7 Night Mediterranean Cruise originating in Barcelona. And yes, that includes the airfare! I know you will be seeing lots of cool things on this blog hop, and the main thing I'm going to share is some of my experience in Barcelona because it was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
My husband and I opted to arrive in Barcelona 4 days before we were to set sail (the altered dates still made the flights free!). We met up with some of our dearest friends in all the world--Jeremy and Chris. We spent 9 years living in the UK and still maintain many of the incredible friendships we made while there. Jeremy and Chris flew from the UK and met us in Barcelona where we shared an Air B n B. It was an outstanding venue for our few days together. Here is our street. Quiet and cozy, and our door is the very last one at the corner-I'm sorta standing in front of it as I took this pic.
We were catty corner across the street from Sagrada Familia--a perfect location! Not only did we have views of the basilica out our living room and kitchen windows/balcony, we could hear church bells ringing throughout the day, and we caught fresh views of this amazing structure every time we left our flat. This view is just outside the kitchen. Such peace and beauty! This characterized our days and nights in Barcelona.
Here's the kitchen. It was fresh and bright, modern and clean, and very serviceable. Buddy and I were so blessed that Chris and Jeremy got in ahead of us and had already gone to the store. So we were greeted with a stocked kitchen, ready for cups of tea and snacks of serrano ham, manchego cheese, and fruit. Yum!
Here's the living room where we could relax, with lovely views and church bells ringing, after going out to tour (on foot). The location of our flat meant that we could walk just a few blocks to everything we wanted to do. Obviously, we were just across from the deservedly famous Sagrada Familia. But just a few blocks away was the Hospital San Pau, another of Gaudi''s amazing creations and World Heritage Site. The one time we took a taxi was to Parc Guell. Scroll down for pics of the park.
One of my favorite places (I like simple things!) was this little cafe just below us and around the corner. Since our flat was literally at the corner, we were directly above this cafe that was always packed with locals. That meant that in the morning, aromas of freshly baked bread and cafe con leche were wafting up into our flat and beckoning us to come downstairs for breakfast!
Just a few blocks away and an easy walk, we found Hospital San Pau. Truly, the architecture of Gaudi dominates Barcelona in the best way possible. His amazing work is seemingly everywhere. This hospital is a World Heritage site and was actually a working hospital until about 5 years ago. Gaudi's vision when building the hospital was that the buildings, inside and out, the gardens, the walking areas, would all contribute to healing the patients by their beauty and intentional pointing to God. I wish this was the view of all hospitals! The 15 hospital buildings are arranged in the shape of a cross.
Gaudi wanted every part of the hospital to direct people to God, and we truly felt like we were in a church as we toured the buildings and even the small gardens. The majestic, grandiose beauty was breath-taking. Inside the hospital buildings, the beauty continued. Gaudi used mosaic tiles to add beauty inside while maintaining a hygienic environment that could be kept scrupulously clean. Below is a hallway in one of the administrative buildings. Amazing!
Here we are with Chris and Jeremy, back at our favorite little cafe. All that walking and touring called for refreshments! Old friends catching up and enjoying life together in Barcelona. All this was made possible by the Stampin' Up! Incentive Trip! I was so aware of being incredibly blessed throughout this trip.
I must share a couple of pics of Parc Guell, another of Gaudi's creations. The vision for the park was for wealthy families to be able to purchase a plot of land and have a home to stay in for part of the year outside of Barcelona (In the early part of 1900s, Parc Guell was very much outside Barcelona. It's not anymore!) The park is named for Guell who was the money behind the park as well as a collaborative partner with Gaudi. Although the original vision was not realized, it became a park for all the people of Barcelona and another "canvas" for the genius and creativity of Gaudi.
So those are my main highlights of Barcelona. I was not prepared to fall in love with the city, but I did. My husband and I would go back in a heartbeat! And book the same flat to stay in:) We took a cab to the pier to board the Norwegian Epic for the next 7 nights of our trip. I'm sure many others on the blog hop are sharing pictures of the cruise and many excursions. Buddy and I had done a Mediterranean Cruise for our 25th Anniversary (we are coming up to 38 year anniversary in August!), so we opted to just chill out on the boat, tootle around the port towns, and relax.
One of the unique and most special parts of any Stampin' Up! Incentive Trips is the daily prizes and pilow gifts. They really do spoil us with new products, special gifts, unique logo merchandise, and more. The Hospitality Room was a great place to catch up with demonstrator friends as well as SU staff, make new friends, ooh and aah over the display boards, and spin the prize wheel! It changed every day:)
When I got home and unloaded all the many prizes and gifts, I thought they would make a fabulous group pic!
The display boards were made up of the projects demonstrated during the cruise and swaps from all the demonstrators (350 on the ship from North America, Europe, and the South Pacific). Here's a pic of one of the swaps on the display board that really inspired me. And directly below is my spin on said swap. I've listed and linked the Stampin' Up! supplies at the bottom of this post if you would like to make this lovely card yourself.
Thanks so very much for stopping by here on the blog hop. You, too, can earn a Stampin' Up! Incentive Trip! People just like you and me do it:) Contact me to find out more and I'll do what I can to help you get there. I've already earned the next trip which is an all-expenses paid trip to a resort in Phuket, Thailand. And Stampin' Up! will have the entire resort to ourselves. I'm already looking forward to it.
Now head over to the next stop for more Mediterranean Cruise Highlights!