Barcelona, Spain

On October 13, we officially arrived in Barcelona. It was our first stop on our epic two-week trip and even though it was technically 2 AM our time I was super excited and ready to go when we landed. We had been on different flights from Salt Lake City, but all met up in Newark, NJ before boarding our Norwegian Airlines flight to Barcelona. Jess and I flew Norwegian when we went to Europe two years ago, and their planes are SO nice! Also, when they have their fare sales, their prices are some of the cheapest around.

We were in Barcelona during a very interesting time for the Catalan region of Spain. The Catalan leaders and people were voting to secede from Spain, and become their own country. When we arrived, the vote had already taken place, and they had all unanimously voted to secede. So, while we were there, it was peaceful and the people were extremely happy. Everywhere we went, there were Catalonian flags hanging proudly from balconies, in windows of homes, and draped out of car windows. Unfortunately, since then the Spanish government has decided to overrule them, and are now possibly jailing the Catalan leaders, and there’s a lot of protesting and civil unrest.

Like I said, we really lucked out with the timing of our trip! Some friends of ours arrived in Barcelona a few days after we left and none of the main touristy sites closed, and there were protests and strikes all across the city, so pretty much nothing was accessible or open.

From the airport, we made our way to our first Airbnb of the trip. We swear by Airbnb because it gives you the chance to meet locals, and have a more authentic experience in each city you stay. Plus, you cannot beat the prices! The apartment we rented was about 20 minutes north of Barcelona via train in a cute little town called La Floresta. It was nestled up in the hills that were covered in trees that were filled with parrots! The parrots in Barcelona were one of my most favorite things! They were a beautiful green color and were about as common as robins are here in Utah. I loved it! Our host’s name was Pilar, and she was so kind and welcoming when she met us. Her apartment had everything we needed, (except for 3 people the water heater was super small so at least one of us had a cold shower everyday!), even though it was a small space. But, we really weren’t there for long at night so it was fine. Poor Aly was basically sleeping in a closet! She got shafted a lot on our trip with beds, which I will tell about more as I post more about our trip. It was pretty funny to see what the third “bed” would end up being in a lot of the places!

One of my favorite things about our apartment was the outdoor sitting area. There was a small table and chairs and a swinging bench. In the morning, the birds would all be singing their little hearts out, and it was so quiet because we were away from the noise pollution of the city that it was just magical.


This staircase from the La Floresta train station was a killer leg workout!



Part of the walk to our apartment in La Floresta



Waiting for our train on the way to Sant Cugat Del Valles

Once we settled into our apartment, and took an hour siesta (the jet lag hit us HARD), we decided for the evening to take the train 10 minutes north to the town of Sant Cugat. It was a charming little town that had a Roman Monastery, and darling little streets and shops.We were pretty hungry, so we searched for a cafe to eat. Jess and I chose a bakery that had sandwiches and pizzas. I settled on a small cheese flatbread and a chocolate croissant. This would be the first of about a million croissants on our trip!


After we ate, we walked around the cute shops for a while, and then made our way to the monastery. I made a huge mistake and led us in the wrong direction for a good 30 minutes before I realized it. But, in my defense, there were like three different places with the same name as the monastery! So, we had a good long walk and lots of exercise!

Thankfully, we arrived there before it got too dark, and we were able to explore the Monastery of Sant Cugat. It is a Benedictine abbey that was founded in the 9th century, but was under construction and was not completed until the 14th century. I had to touch the walls and the wooden doors because some of them are as old as the early 900’s!



Gotta love the photobomb by Jess 🙂

Knowing we had a long day the following day, we went to a market and got some food items for breakfast, and headed back to our apartment.

The next morning we took the train back south to Barcelona. We started our day finding one of Gaudi’s most famous architectural feats: Casa Mila, or La Padrera. It was actually the last private residence designed by Antoni Gaudi. Like most of the touristy spots in Barcelona, you had to pay to go in. We decided that this particular spot was not necessarily worth paying to see. Seeing the outside of it was very impressive though!


Casa Mila

Our second stop was La Sagrada Familia. This was what I was most excited about and have dreamed about seeing since I took some architecture classes in college. It definitely did not disappoint me when I saw it in person! Once the giant structure came into view, I was speechless! My bubble was soon burst as we were informed that there were NO more tickets for tours that day.



Trying a local favorite. It’s a churro that you dip into hot Nutella chocolate. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was worth trying!

We made a reservation to see La Sagrada Familia for the day we would fly back to Barcelona on October 26, since we would have about 6 hours once we landed from Lisbon. Seeing the outside of it but knowing we couldn’t go inside really hurt, but knowing we would eventually see the inside made it sting a little less.

We hoofed it up to Guell Park. Barcelona reminded me a bit of San Francisco with how steep most of the city streets are! By the time we made it to the park, we were SO sweaty and tired. It was a gorgeous 80 degree sunny day, so it made for the uphill walk to be quite hot.

Guell Park was super crowded, which made the experience a little less than special, but what can ya do? You also had to buy tickets to see the really cool and iconic spots in the park, and sadly for us, we ran into the same problem as we did at La Sagrada Familia. We had hoped that we could just get tickets the same day, but the only time they had available was at 6 PM that night, and we honestly didn’t want to come all the way back up the hill again. So, we walked around and saw what we could for free, and saw from afar the cool iconic and colorful buildings.



Gaudi’s Home



I had to take this photo from behind a fence 😦


Just hanging out with Antoni Gaudi!

After our disappointing Gaudi explorations, we decided to head down to the waterfront and see what that was all about. Barcelona is so beautiful, and it seemed around every corner was some amazing old building. We even ran into another Gaudi building that I had completely forgotten about: Casa Batllo.



Casa Batllo

We also stopped and ate our first taste of Tapas. We also discovered during this meal that lunch in Spain is the usually the biggest meal of the day, and takes about 3 hours!

Once at the waterfront we saw the Christopher Columbus Memorial, and some other impressive buildings, and then made our way up the coast to see the Magic Fountain. Once again, (although not my fault this time), we took a wrong turn and ended up take the extremely long way there. After an hour, we finally found a hotel that had a bus stop, and took the bus. The only thing was it was PACKED full! The three of us were jammed at the front of the bus and standing by the bus driver. One of the times he stopped the door smashed my foot! Luckily there was no real harm done.

We found some standing room at the Magic Fountain, and even though we had to wait an hour for the show to start, it was worth it! The show lasted about 30 minutes and was put to music. It put the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas to shame!


Barcelona is a city I would love to see more of! We saw as much as we could for as cheaply as we could in the day that we had though. When we were walking to find the Magic Fountain, we got to see an amazing view of the city at night, so that was worth the walk too.


Until next time!



The Raw Brunette


The Value of a Woman


This afternoon I sat on the soft leather sofa in my therapists office, and she was asking me what I valued most in life. I immediately listed off what felt to me like the normal things: my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my work (helping others), and my beliefs. I felt like I was done and was silently read over the list. There was a brief pause as she turned and looked at me.

“Anything else?”

“Well,” I hesitated, “can I put myself up there?”

“Heather, you should be up at the top of this list!”

She went on to discuss with me why I didn’t add myself to the list initially. I honestly wanted to add it, but decided against it because I felt like it sounded selfish. So, the question is: why did I feel selfish to value myself?

Of course I KNOW I have value, but it has bothered me all day since my appointment why that played out the way it did. Why wouldn’t I consider myself just as valuable as everything else on my list? I have been trying to peel away the onion layers of this, and although there’s still so much to understand, I think I’m on the right track.

Fake News

From a young age, girls are bombarded by the “standards of beauty”. I remember staring at the half-dressed emaciated models on the covers of magazines at checkout stands around age 6 and thinking they looked strange, but as a teenager those women suddenly became who I wanted to be and look like.

So, when I was an awkward teen in middle school, the Delia’s magazine was huge, (anyone else remember this? Or does this totally age me?). I remember scoring through its pages coveting all the clothes inside. I felt like such a loser because I didn’t have the clothes, but also because I wasn’t tall and super skinny like the models. This was during the time when my mom was hospitalized with her terminal cancer, so even was she was home, she was not able to help me with makeup and clothes. I was often depressed and some days just flat out hated myself because I didn’t feel like I was beautiful since I didn’t fit these standards.

I will give the fashion industry credit. Things have come a long way since then, but it’s still bad. With the added sources of social media, it seems that “fashion FOMO” and body issues are even worse now. I don’t want my daughter to feel like I did, but I know that navigating that with how many sources of content there are today is going to be rough.

But WHO decided that these are the set standards? I would like to have some cross words with them, or maybe just punch them in the throat for good measure. There shouldn’t be one set of these ridiculous “beauty standards” simply because not every woman is the same. The fact that everyone is different makes this world beautiful. Being the same as everyone else is not.

Me, Too

I know you’re all familiar with this campaign that went viral just a few weeks ago. It was heartbreaking to see how many women, (and men),  I know who posted the status. I am very sad to say I am also among those who posted it. I was sexually assaulted by a guy I knew my freshman year of college and when I tried to report it, I was threatened by not only him but his friends and people who I thought were my friends. He was on a football scholarship, and this could potentially “ruin his career”. It was a hot pile of garbage is what it was. Rape culture at it’s finest.

Recently Hollywood seems to be imploding with the scandals of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Louis C.K, and many others I’m sure that will come out who have all raped or sexually assaulted women. There is one thing in common with all these stories: that the women felt like they couldn’t come out with what happened to them because they were scared, or were perceived to be liars, or were quietly paid off so that they would not tell. It’s this that makes my blood boil more than anything. The fact that we as women are viewed by so many in this world to not have value. Women are viewed as these sexual objects for men to do with what they want, and then we cannot say anything about it.

The world has always exploited women. We are told to look a certain way and act a certain way. Women are praised or judged by what they look like or what they are wearing. It’s rarely for our intellect and achievements. Obviously this isn’t true for the world as a whole, and even though women’s rights have come so far, we still have such a long way to go. Have you ever noticed in tabloids it always talks about what the women are wearing? Women are constantly “flaunting” their bodies, instead of just simply walking down a street living her daily life. Magazines rarely talk about men the same way. Women are perceived as these sexual objects and nothing more.

But here’s the double standard. If a woman dresses more modestly or acts so, she’s suddenly a “prude”, but if she is comfortable with herself to flaunt it and dress a little more revealing suddenly she’s a “whore”. Why is that? Why can’t a girl or woman choose what she wants to do with her own body and let that be that? “My body, my choice” am I right?

So many guys in high school would either never ask me out again, or not even pursue me romantically because I chose to save myself until marriage and wouldn’t give them what they wanted. Since when is that bad? I hope if those boys I knew ever have daughters, that they never have to deal with boys treating her the way they treated girls in high school. Hopefully karma doesn’t teach them a hard lesson.

What’s In a Value?

Last Sunday I got to teach a group of teenage girls from ages 12-18 at my local LDS church. In this lesson, I taught them that no matter what happens, that they still have worth in this world. Despite what this world will tell us over and over, is that we (as women) have so much value. It’s more than what we wear or what we look like. So much more. So, let’s go back then to the question of why I couldn’t list myself on the list of things I valued.

I know I have value, I knew it when my therapist asked me, but I was just afraid to say it. I’m not going to be afraid to value myself now. I will no longer let the things that have happend to me in the past, or anyone or anything else convince me that I have no value.

My daughter will always be taught by me that she has value, and I will help her navigate through this world that will constantly bombard her with these ridiculous “beauty standards”. Lucky for her, she’s got an entire pride of strong women who will also guide her. Wherever she goes in this life, I know that she is going to have the confidence and knowledge to take her far.

I want to hear your thoughts on this!



The Raw Brunette



Portuguese Dirty Bathroom Floors

As I sat in the bathroom stall with unbearable pain stabbing at my stomach, I knew that I was about to be extremely ill. We had literally just sat down at a table outside of the nice French Restaurant in Sintra, Portugal and were looking over the menu when I suddenly was overcome by “that” feeling of oncoming sickness. You all know the one – the oh-so-lovely  “number 2” kind. I bolted for the restroom, and there I sat on the toilet with my head in my hands to try and stop my head from spinning. Sweat was pouring down my face and neck making me even more uncomfortable. I had my coat on and another two layers underneath it since it had gotten chilly as the sun went down, and those layers were all just sealing in all the juices.

I badly wanted to take off my coat to help relieve me from some of the heat, but I didn’t want it to come into contact with the dirty floor in the bathroom. Granted, it was a nicer restaurant, so it was cleaner than most places but it was still a public bathroom in the middle of Portugal. I was determined to release these demons, and be on my merry way. Unfortunately for me, my body had other plans. All I’m gonna say is  it was a good thing that no one else was in the bathroom because once the floodgates opened, it was ghastly. Had it not been me, I would have been laughing, because it sounded like a professional sound board of flatulence and diarrheal explosions used in a movie. It was really bad. So bad in fact, that I  started to get really dizzy and quickly recognized that I was going to pass out. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and even though I could barely see what I was typing I managed to text my sister:


Finally succumbing to the fact that I was indeed fainting, I figured it would be better to lay down myself than fall down. Feeling so awful to the point that I just didn’t care anymore about the aforementioned dirty floor, I plunged from the toilet head first. I did however, manage to place my hat on the floor so my face was not in direct contact. It was there, in all my post-diarrhea glory with my pants still down, that I finally blacked out.

Within moments my sister dramatically flung the door of the bathroom open, (I imagine her kicking it open with her fists in the air). She told me later she thought my text message meant I was being kidnapped, (I mean, obviously if I was being abducted I would be able to text), and she was fully prepared to fight off whoever it was. I was brought back to consciousness by her pounding on the bathroom stall door. I was able to lift my arm and unlock it, and she knelt down by me to assess the situation.

After telling her what happened she ran to fetch Jess. When the two of them returned, he knelt by my side and the first sweet thing that came out of his mouth was:

“Why are you so sweaty?!”

Had I not been incapacitated I would have busted up laughing. This whole situation was crappy – pun intended – but it was hilarious. The bathroom smelt horrendous from the ungodly things that had just come out of me. I was aware I was extremely sweaty – I had a river flowing from my neck to my backside- but I can only imagine what I looked like to everyone else. I was not only riding on the hot mess express, I was the conductor. Toot toot!

Along with Aly and Jess came a waitress, who was super freaked out and wanted to call an ambulance. I was mortified. First of all, my pants were STILL down around my ankles so, first order of business was to get those suckers back up. I was so glad they would come back up! You know after you go swimming and if your legs are a little wet it’s impossible to get clothes on? It was kind of like that. Secondly, I would be damned if I had to get in an ambulance because of a little diarrhea! What would they have done anyway, wipe my butt and give me some tums? Nope. That absolutely was not happening.

After drinking some water and sitting up for a few minutes – still on the bathroom floor mind you – I assured the waitress that I would be alright, and we headed back to our Airbnb which was thankfully about five minutes away. Once there, I stripped all my clothes off and put them in a plastic bag to be washed at our next stop, showered and went straight to bed. I was so relieved to be laying on a soft bed and not a dirty bathroom floor.

What would a European vacation be without an epic diarrhea story, right? Well, I would prefer it not to be me who was sick, but I took one for the team. My husband Jess, sister Aly, and myself traveled to Spain and Portugal for two weeks this past October. It was a dream trip that we planned for about a year, and even as we got on the plane to leave it didn’t seem real. The thing about traveling, especially with long trips like this one, is that nothing will ever quite go as planned. That’s just a given!  The mishaps and adventures along the way are what make a trip so memorable. Kind of like the hilarious example below where Jess and i could not nail this jumping photo!


Besides this little diarrhea debacle, our trip was amazing, and I cannot wait to post more about it! I took SO many photos so get ready!




The Raw Brunette