ABOUT THE SOLO IN EUROPE SERIES A year ago, I grabbed the opportunity to travel to Europe on my own. It was a trip that took several months to daydream about but only one month to prepare for. I will be posting an account of the trip, albeit a little late, over the next couple of weeks.
I have to admit that Barcelona intimidated me at first. Although I have been to Spain twice in the past, Barcelona was never on the itinerary. Much of what I knew about it were from what I’ve read online or heard from friends. Which were not all good—mostly tales of pickpocketing con artists who prey on unsuspecting tourists.
These wouldn’t have sounded so scary if I wasn’t travelling alone. But alas, I was and not understanding Spanish only added to my worries.
I had about 10 days to spend in Europe so I had to plan my itinerary well. Initially, I wanted to spend 3 days in Barcelona, 3 days in Madrid and 4 days in Lisbon, Portugal. (Later, I decided to extend my stay in Barcelona to 5 days and shaved 2 days off the Madrid leg. )
For Barcelona, I had a very specific itinerary in mind. Topping my list of places to visit were Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, the Picasso Museum, Plaça Catalunya and of course Las Ramblas. Researching online, I also found travel guides very useful, especially the ones where travellers get to recommend their favorite spots.
I flew to Barcelona via KLM, having managed to book a promo flight through their website. The plan was to fly to Barcelona from Manila, go to Madrid by land, fly to Lisbon via a domestic airline, then fly back to Barcelona to catch my flight back to Manila.
Europe is teeming with hotels. If you can afford it (and if you have weeks to spare), booking luxury hotels in Barcelona makes absolute sense. There are, after all, quite a number of really impressive ones worth checking out. IF I had the moolah, I would definitely stay in one of those ultra modern hotels like the completely refurbished Grand Hotel Central in Plaça Catalunya. The rooftop infinity pool alone makes up for its $195/night price tag.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have that option as I had a very modest budget. So I asked my friends if they knew anyone in Barcelona who’d be willing to put me up for a few days. Luckily, Fr. A, a Filipino priest based in Barcelona, heard about my plight and graciously agreed to host me. So with accomodations crossed out from my checklist, all I needed to do was make sure that I could go around and enjoy BCN on my own.
Fr. A owned a car and had offered to drive me to wherever I needed to go—that is, if his schedule allowed it. But I didn’t want to impose on him too much. Besides, I was determined to try BCN’s world-famous public transport system on my own.
The underground metro is still the cheapest and most efficient way to get around the city. A single journey ticket costs €1.25. One also has the option to buy a multiple-journey ticket, the T10, which offers 10 journeys and can be shared by 2 or more people. This costs €6.90.
If you don’t mind traffic jams and appreciate a little sight-seeing, taking the bus is also recommended. Most bus routes (including the Aerobus or airport bus and the Bus Turistic or tourist bus) conveniently stop at Plaça de Catalunya. A regular ticket starts at €1.25 (rate does not apply to Aerobus and Bus Turistic).
Finally, there’s the taxi… Taxi rides in Europe can get pretty expensive so I resolved to stay away from taxis as much as possible. But if the need to take a taxi arises, one should be mindful of the fare rates that differ depending on the time of day (see below).
Eats All Good
Even with a modest budget, it’s easy to find affordable restaurants or hole-in-the-wall places where one can have a fine meal. For lunch, I enjoyed menu del dia or set meals . These typically consist of 3 courses and a drink and cost between €6 to €20. But if dining out is not your style, you can also buy food from Mercat de la Boqueria and the many convenience stores scattered all over the metro.
NEXT: Delectable Tapas, Scary Mimes, Biting Cold and Borrowed Boots (or Top 5 Things to Do in Barcelona) Part 1