Since my last post, I have been in a desperate need of a break from my mind. I have had this trip to Barcelona planned for almost three months so when the day arrived, I could not wait. Needless to say, it ended up being the best travel experience of my life so far. I was in the heart of the city for five full days with some of my friends and it was equally crazy-packed and relaxing at the same time–the best kind of vacation.
Day One: Hitting the Ground Running
◊ Exploring La Rambla
I arrived in Barcelona after a combined 11 hours of flying and hit the ground running. We mostly walked around and explored the area where our Airbnb was located. By the way, our Airbnb was absolutely fantastic. We were in the El Poble-Sec area near the Para∙lel metro station. It was so centrally-located. We were just killing time before our friend Ksenia arrived later that evening.
After Ksenia arrived and we caught up on life, we headed out to a late Spanish dinner and a flamenco show at Casa Lola! I did not have as much to do with planning this trip as I normally like to do, but I knew I had to at least see a flamenco show. It was a Thursday night so it was not crowded at all. We got front row seating, ordered sangria, and watched the magic happen.
We actually stumbled upon Casa Lola when we were exploring earlier in the day. Normally, they require reservations (likely for the weekend), but when we called, they said it was fine without one. We received a flyer for €5 off for two options of either dinner and a show or drink and a show. We chose drink and a show and opted to get our own dinner (which ended up being at Casa Lola anyway because we left the apartment a little late), but it was a wonderful experience!!
Day Two: Sightseeing
◊ La Sagrada Familia
I forgot to disclose that I actually went to Barcelona 10 years ago. I went on an art trip in the 8th grade to Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona. I don’t remember much about the trip except for a few small things, but I did remember La Sagrada Familia. It was this out of body experience seeing it again and actually appreciating its beauty and how it has developed. It blows my mind that there are still years to go on its construction and I think it is just breathtaking to see the original influence from Gaudí and see where it has gone since the original blueprints were burned.
◊ Parc Güell
Okay, so this park was a trek to get to. We took the metro to the Lesseps station and basically hiked a mountain up to the top of the park. I was in a dress (above) so you can imagine how miserable I felt. If you decide to go, I would obviously advise taking a car/taxi unless you want to do the hike. I will say, the sights we saw while going up were very nice, but I could not do that again without proper attire, especially knowing that the park is also huge.
I did not pay to go into Gaudí’s house or to take pictures in front of the mosaics (though I kind of wanted to), but the experience of being there was not at all ruined by it. It was still beautiful and felt like an oasis. I seriously could not stop taking pictures!!
◊ Plaça de Catalunya Shopping
If you are looking for an area to get some shopping done, visit Plaça de Catalunya. It mostly has the large shops we have in the states, but it is familiar and they have things that we do not have here in the states. It is closest to the Catalunya metro stop.
Day Three: Beach Getaway
◊ Tossa de Mar
I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but I am not a beach person. I don’t like getting into water and I find it boring to sit in the sun and bake all day. But of course, I had to go explore the beach in a coastal city so we traveled an hour and a half outside of Barcelona to get to the small town of Tossa de Mar in Costa Brava.
When you have views like this, you suddenly don’t mind being at the beach. We purchased tickets for a coach bus to leave the station at 10:00 a.m. (arrive in Tossa de Mar at 11:30 a.m.), and to leave at 5:30 p.m. (arrive back at 6:45 p.m.) for €24 each round trip. We also had lunch there where I had the most delicious seafood paella–a native Spanish dish that you MUST try in Spain. They make vegetable paellas too for the vegetarians/vegans out there!!
This day trip was completely worth it and I would love to return and do a little shopping the next time around because the little boutiques were so cute.
Day Four: A Church on a Hill
We got off to a late start this day, but one of the girls on the trip, Sammiey, was recommended a place called Tibidabo which is a church on a hill with an amusement park. Weird, right? So of course we had to check it out. We took a bus from Plaça de Catalunya that was €6 round trip all the way up this mountain (which took between 30-40 minutes) where we saw this beautiful church. We explored the church and the view it provided over the city and the ocean. I didn’t learn much about the church, to be honest, but it was cool to see.
We made our way down to the ferris wheel and discovered it was an entire amusement park. You do not have to pay to get into the park, but you have to pay for a wristband to ride rides which I believe was around €23. We just walked around and grabbed some popsicles and ice cream because it was that kind of day! They also had Oscar Meyer hot dogs which I thought was funny because the line was so long, you would have thought they were something special.
If you follow the signs, it takes you around to a picnic area, a fountain area, and even a whole section of the park for children to play on playgrouds and ride their own rides. We only spent about two or three hours there, but it made for a great activity that did not require much money or effort.
Day Five: One Last Lap
◊ Mar de Bella
One of the girls, Colleen, had a bucket list item to go to a nude beach in Europe. I don’t have any feelings toward it and I have already accidentally stumbled onto a nude beach when I was in San Francisco, so I thought, “Why not?” We walked down the street to rent bikes for €7 (€5 for two hours, I believe, and €7 for the whole day until 9:00 p.m.) and headed down the coast. It was about a 20 minute bike ride, but every beach was so nice.
We eventually made it to Mar de Bella and it was so eerily quiet. It was likely due to the fact that there were no children screaming and, ya know, nudity, but we just sort of sat and listened to the ocean.
Eventually, we grabbed a small lunch, went back and packed, and had a fancy, last dinner. It was a chill way to have our last day, but I feel like I did everything I wanted to do on this trip without feeling burned out.
♦ Transportation and Lodging:
As stated before, we stayed at a centrally located (and beautiful) Airbnb that came with an elevator (major plus in Europe!). Everything like restaurants, shops, supermarkets were about five to 10 minutes walk and the metro was one block away. I will 110% be booking it again if I go back in the near future and the host is still renting. I don’t think a better place to stay exists out there.
As for transportation, we mostly walked everywhere. When we weren’t walking, we took the metro. We purchased T-10 passes which allows 10 rides for around $12 (according to what was withdrawn from my bank statement). Since we were centrally located, we didn’t rely MUCH on the metro, but it was good to have because the only trips that count are when you first enter the metro–it does not count when you switch lines or exit the station despite having to insert your card.
They also offer 72-hour passes which my friend, Blake, used for his three days in the city when he joined us on his way to Valencia. Not to mention, T-10 passes are good for buses and trams as well. One night we used Uber to get back from a night out, and in a desperation to get to the airport on the day we left, but I find that Uber is very expensive there. We also used a taxi to get from the airport to our Airbnb which cost me €26 for the 30 minute ride.
♦ Total costs (in U.S. dollars):
Taxi/metro/Uber: about $80
Casa Lola Drink and Show: $35/person
Tossa de Mar coach bus: $28/person (roundtrip)
Tibidabo bus: $7/person (roundtrip)
Bike rental: $8/person (all day)
Total (excluding food and drink): around $158, give or take with the conversion rate
From these totals, clearly you can see that we did not pay to do the ‘extras’ at the tourist attractions. We mostly spent our time walking and our money on food. We did pay for basically every meal so I only came back with €45 euros out of the €350 I withdrew, but I think that’s pretty good for five days, three meals a day!! And for anyone out there who loves wine, but is not a wine snob (i.e. wine is wine), we found wine at the local supermarkets for €0.99!!
Ultimately, this trip was incredible. It was the first time I have been to a country where I do not fluently speak the language, but could fully envision myself living there. It was something about the relaxed culture, but beauty and history woven throughout the city that drew me to it. Of course, my excitement and zest was also amplified by the amazing company I was with. The girls of this trip really helped me with some inner reflection and I appreciate them so much for helping bring some peace back into my life. I will never forget this trip for as long as I live. ❤