It’s still crazy to think that just a few weeks ago we were in Barcelona! I have spent the last few weeks sifting through almost two-thousand pictures and video (yikes!) and reflecting on all of the adventures that we had. I’m going to try to keep these posts from getting too long, but I make no promises!
I am a huge believer in the power of travel. You don’t have to go far, or to extravagant places, but seriously, this world is such an amazing place full of amazing people. Get out there. Traveling truly opens your eyes to how big this world is, yet at the same time makes you realize that we, as a people, really are all fundamentally the same. It’s a hard realization to describe, which is why I encourage you to go out there, anywhere, and just experience! Experience nature, and history, and culture. Go to tourist places, walk off the beaten path, try local restaurants, and have conversations with someone who’s life walk has been totally different than yours. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
With that, let’s talk about Barcelona!
Our journey to get to Barcelona was a bit obscure. Basically, we flew out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York , and flew directly to Milan, Italy. We spent a few hours exploring Milan, went to bed pretty early, and woke up refreshed to catch another flight to Barcelona.
Because I want to keep this series of posts organized by country, I am going to skip Milan for now (I’ll talk about it when we go back to Italy) and just start with our time in Spain.
How we got there
We flew Alitalia Airlines from Milan Linate Airport to Barcelona El-Prat Airport. The flight from Italy to Spain was approximately 1.5 hours, and we really had a pleasant experience. When we purchased our tickets, we were randomly assigned our seats, so unfortunately we weren’t supposed to be sitting together. However, when we checked in, the woman at the desk was kind enough to reassign our seats so that we could sit together. Our flight wasn’t long, but sitting with someone you know always makes it more enjoyable.
After arriving at the airport, we caught a bus to the center of the city. El-Prat made it VERY easy to find the bus! I found this video online before we left for Europe, which walked us through the airport to the bus pickup location. It was amazing because, as we were walking through the airport, it felt familiar. That was an amazing confidence builder trying to navigate transportation in a new country. After that, all we had to do was hop on the bus, and we were dropped off at the Plaça de Catalunya.
From the Plaça de Catalunya, we walked down La Rambla, explored the mazes of the Gothic Quarter, and found our way to our hotel. Or should I say… hostel.
All about our hotel
Yes, you read that last sentence right. We spent two, non-consecutive nights in Barcelona, and for our first night, we stayed in a hostel.
This is the first (and only) hostel I’ve stayed in, so I am in no way an expert. But, we thought that we had a great experience at the Hostel New York. It was clean, the beds were comfortable, the price for a private room for just the two of us was very decent, and, most importantly, it was right in the middle of everything we wanted to see! Seriously, we spent so much time exploring, all we needed was a bed. Or, in our case, a bunk bed. Our little room was just a ten-minute walk to the Mediterranean Sea, five minutes to the excitement of La Rambla, and one minute from what would soon become our favorite restaurant.
Where we went
La Rambla. This is Barcelona’s most famous street. Full of newsstands, flower stands, restaurants, shops, and street entertainers, La Rambla is the cities gathering place.
La Mercat de Sant Joseph de la Boqueria. Or, simply, La Boqueria, as it more commonly known. This is a huge market right off of La Rambla, so it is the happening place in Barcelona! Fish and fruit and sweets as far as the eye can see! Anywhere you go, I encourage you to visit the local market, because it is such a great place to live like a local and experience the culture. Plus, the food isn’t too bad either 😉
Gothic Quarter. This part of the city is where our hostel was located, which made wandering around the streets perfect. The buildings are old with perfect character, the cobblestone streets are barely big enough for a car, and you truly do feel like you’ve traveled back in time.
The Mediterranean Sea. Barcelona is right on the Mediterranean, which means lots of beaches! We didn’t spend much time at the beach, and didn’t go swimming, but we couldn’t miss an opportunity to step foot in the clear Mediterranean water. The walk to the beach from our hostel took approximately twenty minutes, and on the way we were able to witness streets of merchants selling everything from tennis shoes, to sunglasses, to designer handbags. We didn’t buy anything (other than some very necessary gelato) but we thoroughly enjoyed looking at everything there was to see.
We found a restaurant just a few doors down from our hostel that we LOVED! We stumbled across Momo after wandering past lots of expensive beach restaurants, and we greeted by the manager who promptly found as a table despite the crowded restaurant. The restaurant was full of locals watching a huge futbol game, and it was wonderful to be part of that excitement! We enjoyed amazing tapas, including fried cod with aioli and green olives, and shared an excellent chicken paella. Oh my goodness… my mouth is watering as I write this! It was all so yummy! Oh, and we also shared a bottle of our favorite Spanish wine!
We spent almost an hour just sitting on a hill listening to music, looking at the city on our left and the Mediterranean on our right. We spent our time just watching this beautiful culture in front of us. Our favorite thing about Barcelona, besides the food and the beautiful buildings, was simply the people and the atmosphere.
My biggest piece of advice has to do with luggage. It was a little tricky to accomplish, but we traveled for two weeks with everything in a carry-on size backpack. That made traveling at the pace we did 1000x easier. I cannot emphasize that enough. We didn’t have to check bags on flights, we didn’t have to wait on them at each airport, and we didn’t have to worry about where to put the luggage on the trains. We were able to run from the airport to the train station without dragging a heavy suitcase behind us.
Seriously, if you can travel light, then do it! I can’t even image having to walk half an hour down La Rambla with a suitcase. There is no reason to bring all your clothes and shoes and makeup and electronics on a trip like this. And trust me, this was hard for me to do at first! I like my stuff! But ease of travel quickly became my priority. Just bring enough to make you comfortable, plan on doing laundry halfway through, and eliminate unnecessary material possessions from your life for just a few weeks. Remember, in the end, travel is about far much more than how cute your shoes are.