Monday, 12 September 2016

Guest Post: What I Love about Barcelona by Zara Stoneley

Sadly I haven't been away on holiday anywhere this year and don't currently have any plans (or finances!) to so the only way I'm going to visit places is through books.  So I decided to do a shout out to authors on a author/blogger FB page that I'm onto see if any of them fancied doing a post about places they love or places they have featured in their stories.  Today it's my pleasure to welcome Zara Stoneley to the blog with a post about Barcelona which features in her new book The Holiday Swap

One of the brilliant things about books is that they can transport you anywhere. I’ve always loved being able to curl up on the sofa on a miserable day in the UK and find myself immersed in a story set on a sunny beach, or being able to experience a magical snowy Christmas as the rain pelts against the windows in December!

I think the setting of a book plays such a big part in any story. I read for escapism, and as well as loving to immerse myself in the lives of the characters, I enjoy the feeling that I’m there with them in the dreamy locations.

It’s great to be able to write about the places that mean something to me. My Tippermere books were all set in Cheshire (which I love), but being able to travel to Barcelona to create The Holiday Swap was brilliant!

In the story, I’ve let Daisy take you to some of my favourite, and sometimes off-the-beaten-track, places. But here are a few more things I love about the city …

Window shopping – Barcelona is full of contrasts. I love to wander up the two main shopping streets Passeig de Gracia and Rambla de Catalunya. These are really easy to find, they’re just off the main square Placa de Catalunya. The streets themselves are amazing – wide avenues with gorgeous old buildings (like Gaudi’s Casa Batll├│) mixed with modern architecture – and there are lots of designer shops. There are also lots of great tapas bars along the way so you can give your feet a break!

Head in the other direction from Placa de Catalunya and you can explore all the small boutiques in the narrow streets of the Barri Gotic, or (and I love it here more) El Born. The building are old, so most of the shops are small and unique, with lots of craftsmen. If you want leather shoes or handbags, clothes you won’t see anybody else wearing, or silver and gold jewellery (often made on the premises and sometimes very reasonably priced) then this is where you should go! One day, we even discovered a workshop where they were making guitars.

Cocktails on the roof terrace – there are lots of bars in Barcelona, but I do like a treat every now and then for a special occasion, and there are some bars with incredible views! Try Hotel Casa Fuster which has a view down Passeig de Gracia, or  Hotel Duquesa de Cardona which overlooks the sea, or Museu D’Historia de Catalunya where you can sip a drink and imagine you own one of the super yachts that are moored below in Port Vell!

Food – there are two types of food that I’ve discovered in Barcelona. Tapas – or more precisely pintxos - and botifarra. Tapas are small dishes of food. You can eat them as a snack or have a variety as a meal. I love to snack on these at lunchtime. My favourite tapas are patatas bravas (fried potato chunks with a spicy sauce), croquetas (which can be really melt in the mouth gorgeous), and chipirones which are amazingly crispy baby squid.  I’d never heard of pintxos until I came to Barcelona – but you really should try them if you get the chance. They are slices of bread, with a topping held in place by a skewer or toothpick! Most bars have an amazing and very colourful selection of them lined up for you to choose from – you collect the skewers and they’re counted up to calculate your bill when you leave. Toppings include stuffed peppers, tortilla, ham, anchovies, seafood, mushrooms… the list is endless! A perfect shared meal for me is a couple of tapas and a selection of pintxos. And the botifarra? These are traditional Catalan sausages which are often served with white beans (mongetes).

A trip to the beach – in the summer the main beach in Barcelona is often packed with people. If you’re there for a few days, and would like to escape the crowds, then it’s easy and cheap to jump on the metro. Take the Rodalies R1 line towards Ma├žanet-Massanes and it’s only a short trip to Badalona (which has some lovely cafes and restaurants as well as a great beach) or stay on the train for a couple more stops and get off at the village of Montgat Nord. If you go any further you are out of zone 1 and the ticket costs slightly more. In The Holiday Swap, Javier took Daisy up to Montgat Nord so that she could see the hippy cats that live on the rocks, but there is far more to the place than that!  It’s hard to believe you are so near to the city (just a two euro trip away – or one euro if you buy a T10 ticket) – the air is fresher, the beach peaceful and you can totally chill!

There are so many great places to visit in Barcelona, I really do think there is something for everybody. From museums (the Picasso is free entry from 3pm every Sunday, free all day on the first Sunday of the month), monuments, the Olympic Stadium (free entry and well worth a visit), Las Ramblas, tapas bars, and of course lovely beaches! 

Yes, as you probably guessed, I love the place ☺

If you ever get the chance to visit, then I’d love to know what you think – if not I hope I’ve helped transport you to a place with blue sea, golden sand, amazing buildings and tapas that are hard to resist.

Zara x

Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak!

Tucked away in the idyllic English countryside, Daisy Fischer’s cosy little cottage has always been her safe haven. But when her completely dependable boyfriend issues her an ultimatum, Daisy realises there’s a whole world out there she’s missing out on.

Florence Cortes’s life couldn’t be better – gorgeous apartment right on the beach, fabulous job and dreamy boyfriend, or so she thought. Suddenly, Flo’s life isn’t so perfect after all.

When the girls house swap for the holidays, it’s not long before Daisy is being distracted by sun, sea and sexy Javier while Flo finds herself snowbound for Christmas with only handsome neighbour Hugo and a house full of animals to keep her company.

Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas, but in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it… 

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