Exploring Europe: Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Since the pandemic happened I realised just how much I missed writing about travel so I'm bringing it back. It might help you get some ideas for when it is fully safe to leave the country again and explore cultures different to our own, I'm not ready to leave the UK just yet (even if we could) but I am excited to see the world again soon.

Five years ago I was too hungover to make it to the Sagrada Familia so this time I made sure it was top of my list when I visited Barcelona back in February. The queues to buy tickets are insane so I fully recommend being organised and buying tickets online before hand. It costs around £17 for a fast-track ticket with a timed entry. I follow recommend paying a bit more and buying the audio guide as the information offered is invaluable. It can get confusing as to what section they're talking about so pay close attention.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is famous for being unfinished, by the time all construction has been completed in 2026, it will have taken 146 years to build. It will be completed on the centenary of his death. At the time of Gaudi's death less than a quarter of the cathedral was finished. As you stand outside in awe, you can clearly see exactly why it has taken this long. The detailing is absolutely insane and I find it so hard to comprehend how an idea as intricate as this has come from someone's head. One side of the cathedral is based on the Nativity section of the bible which is the New Testament and the other side is the Passion, the Old Testament of the bible.

It's not very often that I feel blown away by a building as I've been lucky enough to see some pretty spectacular architecture. But the Sagrada Familia really is on a whole other level. The amount of dealing really does blow your mind away. Oh to have that amount of creativity! If you only see one sight in Barcelona then this is the only place to buy tickets for. You'll be thinking about the cathedral long after you have left. It stays with you forever!


5 things I'm looking forward to when this is over

Red leopard print midi dress: Zara (similar)
Brown and gold sliders: Matalan (similar)

I've mentioned in my previous post that I have been finding things pretty tough this month. It feels like we have been in this situation forever and I'm struggling to remember what life was like pre-Covid-19. So I've been thinking a lot about what I'm looking forward to doing once we get back to life before. It may never be like life before, and let's be honest some things shouldn't go back to how they were before, but here are the somewhat mundane things I can't wait to do. Without a shadow of a doubt hugging family and friends is top of the list.

1. Popping over to our best friends house
Our best friends live at the end of our road and we're often popping in and out randomly. In fact during the summer months we just let ourselves in the back gate without knocking! Although we have been meeting up in the garden for a socially distanced beer in the evening, it doesn't quite feel the same. When it gets too cold or starts to rain we have to wander home. It'll be so nice to move into the living room without a second thought and carry on with the conversation.

2. Sitting in the cinema to watch a film on the big screen
We both have Cineworld unlimited cards so are fairly regular cinema goers. I have really missed the whole experience, It's just not the same on your sofa watching Netflix. It's so easy to be looking at your phone and be easily distracted whilst at home. I just love everything about going to the cinema. I love the snacks, the massive chairs and the loud noises making you jump when something scary is about to happen!

3. Going to a spin class
Last year I joined the gym and got really into my spin classes. I mean I absolutely hate it during the lesson but it makes me feel so good once it is all over. I really enjoyed it becoming part of my routine and looked forward to it every Monday. I didn't think it would be something I would miss but stranger things have happened!

4. Being able to aimlessly walk around a food store
I may be in the minority in this but I absolutely love food shopping. I often joke it's the highlight of my week. Food shopping has been pretty militant since lockdown as it isn't the time to aimlessly wander. I try to be in and out as quickly as possible. With queues whatever time of day and the social distancing required, food shopping hasn't been the most enjoyable experience. I really miss popping in random food stores and taking a browse. If you look in my cupboards you'll find a whole array of different spices and tins from all over the world. I love picking up new-to-me ingredients and researching how to use them.

5. Hanging out in an airport
I'm one of those odd people who really loves the ritual of going to the airport before a holiday. I feel quite relaxed in an airport. I even love getting up at the crack of dawn to make the journey to the airport. It excites me because I know I'll be jetting off to somewhere new. We are that couple who always gets to the airport a good few hours before our flight - never one to race through praying to make it. We're lucky we only live 20 minutes from Stansted so it's no bother to there early. We have a little mooch around duty free before heading somewhere for a leisurely breakfast to help us get in the mood for our holiday.

What are you most looking forward to doing?

What I've been cooking #14: Tin Can Magic by Jessica Ellis Dennison

Since we went into lockdown, back in April, I have been trying to keep a well stocked store cupboard. Those first few weeks when I struggled to buy anything in the supermarkets will forever be ingrained into my brain. It was awful and made me feel glad I often used to buy random tins so that we could have a nourishing meal. Now I have made sure I keep a larder stocked with things that are actually useful. Hannah had been raving about Tin Can Magic for a while and as we went into lockdown I took the plunge and ordered it. Jessica is the founder of 27 Elliotts in Edinburgh championing seasonal ingredients. Her book is full of recipes detailing how to jazz up store cupboard tins including tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, anchovies and sweetcorn. I love that each recipe comes with a list of substitutions so you can mostly always make the recipes based on what you have indoors. Everything is so simple to make and has tasted delicious so far. I can't quite believe what she is able to make to a humble tin of tomatoes!

Spiced lamb and tomato flatbreads
I think this is my favourite recipe so far. I subbed the mince lamb for some beef as that's what we had in the freezer. I also defrosted some homemade naan from the freezer for the flatbread. This was so simple to put together and the flavours were utterly delicious. The slight heat from the mince paired perfectly with the cooling mint yogurt. I left the yogurt slightly chunky to help add some texture. It hardly took any time at all so would be great for a midweek dinner.

Indian-style creamed corn with naan, coriander and toasted spices
After eating this I think there is such a thing as too much sweetcorn. A can of sweetcorn each seems like a mountain, It was nice but it didn't blow me away. I think it was a little bit too sweet for my tastes. I did really enjoy the Indian-style flavours though.

Chilled chilli tomato noodles with crispy garlic and sesame
Anything that uses miso and I am there holding my bowl out for it to be filled up. This was so good. All of the flavours went together perfectly. I wish I'd used thicker noodles to help soak up the sauce better. This is such a quick dish and takes less than 20 minutes before you're sitting down and scoffing every last scrap. The toppings really do make it so make sure you do them all.

Carrot and thyme sausage braised lentils
Ah this was the best! The leftover dijon aioli is great in a sausage sandwich the following day. We bought some caramelised red onion sausages from our local butcher and they were superb in the dish. I've recently become a massive fan of tinned lentils as they only need to be warmed through. Great if you're a bit time poor and starving hungry!

Tomato and chilli lentil Dahl with quick tomato and lime pickle
I loved the pickle and wished I had doubled the recipe. It was delicious! Once again such simple tins (coconut milk, tomatoes and lentils) made such a flavoursome meal. I'll definitely make this one again as it was so simple. It says it feeds two but we got four portions out of it so it will be good for prepping lunches for the week. It reheats wonderfully!

Tomato and red wine braised aubergine
This was another great dish! I loved the richness the red wine added to the aubergine. I served it with some homemade sourdough which was perfect for mopping it up. Make sure you proper char your aubergines to get them extra smokey as this really does make a difference to the dish.

Roasted pepper, tomato and lentil soup
There was way too much smoked paprika in this for my personal tastes. I think I would reduce to use a tablespoon because my poor taste buds can't handle it! I used a jar of mixed yellow and red roasted peppers to help make the process a bit quicker. The portions are pretty big and I think you'll get at least five bowls out of this, making it great for meal-prepping!

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