Transportation around Barcelona.

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Getting around Barcelona couldn’t be easier.  You have a choice of the Metro (like the London Underground), buses, trams and on foot, all of which are quick, easy and cheap.  Depending on where you are going and how long you are there for, you can obtain travel-cards that help you get about in this magnificent City.

We opted for the five day Hola BCN! Card which, for €32, gave us unlimited travel for the five days we were there on the buses, Metro, tram, local train FGC (Zone 1) and the regional train called Rodalies (Zone 1) which also means you can use it on the train to and from the airport.  The Rodalies train takes you from the airport to the City Centre and the stop Passeig de Gracia, perfect for onward travel to your hostel/hotel via the Metro.  Please don’t do what I did on the way back to the airport… I exited out of the train station at Passeig de Gracia to get a bottle of water while I was waiting for the train to the airport, and found that my Hola BCN! Card wouldn’t let me back in again!  I managed to convince the guy at the ticket desk that I made a huge mistake and he let me through. Apparently that train station is outside the allowed zone the card could be used in.

The confusion however, is with the Montjuïc funicular as online it says you can use it there, but on the back of the card it says you can’t, so if you are wanting to use aerial cable-way then please check before you travel.

All details, and to purchase your Hola BCN! Card before you travel (you get 10% off online too), can be found here: http://www.tmb.cat/en/barcelona-travel-card

Once you have obtained your card you then just slot it into the ticket machine and you’re through.  Ticket machines operate in the same way on the Metro, in the train station or on the bus.  It’s like the London underground, you put your ticket in one end and it pops out the other.  The buses are a little different.  There is a white machine behind where the driver sits that you have to put your ticket in to, it makes a noise and pops it back out again.  If you hear a noise like an alarm, it means there’s a problem with your ticket.  It could be that the ticket was put in the wrong way round or there might be a problem with the ticket.  As we never used the trams while we were there I can’t comment on how to use them there but you can find more information on where the machines are located here: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/tram-guide-barcelona.html

480-aerobus-2To get to and from the airport, you can either use the train or the official shuttle bus called Aerobus.  This bus goes between terminal one and two of the airport and takes you to the centre of Barcelona in around 35 minutes.  There are various stops along the way and prices start from €5.90 one way.  More details can be found here:  http://www.aerobusbcn.com/

So, there you are.  A brief blog on the transport of Barcelona.  There are different types of tickets available for your stay, it all depends on how long you are staying and where you want to go.  Below is a list of websites that might come in handy for your time here, so at least you will be prepared with your travel plans before you leave for your trip.

 

A multi-person travel card valid for 10 intermodal journeys from 1 to 6 zones.

http://www.tmb.cat/en/sistema-tarifari-integrat/-/ticket/T10

The Barcelona Card for travel and free admission to some tourist attractions.

http://bcnshop.barcelonaturisme.com/shopv3/en/product/1/barcelona-card.html

Lists of all the Leisure Transport Tickets available, for example, Tourist Bus etc…

http://www.tmb.cat/en/bitllets-turistics

Guide for the underground metro and further links to maps and timetables.

http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/barcelona-metro.html

 

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The start of our Barcelona trip

View of BarcelonaI visited Barcelona back in 2007 and have been itching to get back there ever since. I had a fantastic time looking at the architecture, soaking up the local way of life and eating more food that my stomach could take, but I didn’t feel that I saw everything that I wanted to, so vowed to go back… and I did! I took my fiancé with me (this was our first “proper” holiday together) and as he had never travelled before, this was a nerve racking experience for both of us…. The fiancé’s first holiday abroad, and for me…. taking a first timer and making sure that things ran smoothly so he would want to travel again!

Just to give you a brief introduction of this beautiful city, Barcelona is in the Catalonian region of Spain, located to the North East of the country. It has two national languages, Catalan and Spanish, but don’t worry if you can’t speak either of the languages as most of the main attractions in the city have English speaking staff. Having said that, if you can attempt to speak a little of their language then that will go along way with the locals.

When looking at a map of the city, the mountains are to the North and the Ocean is to the South of the city, and you have different architecture which separates the various areas within Barcelona, for example the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is rich in medieval buildings and is the heart of the city, while the Eixample quarter is newer (built in the 19th and 20th century) with buildings built in the Art Nouveau Style. There is a street in the Eixample district called Passeig de Grácia which is a designer shoppers dream. Think about Bond Street or Mayfair in London and you’re getting the idea.

The first thing to do was to decide how many days we wanted to go and when. I used Skyscanner (www.skyscanner.net) to check on flight times and prices. There are cheaper tickets available if you fly early in the morning, but think about how long it will take you to get to the airport and also bear in mind that airlines like people there two hours before check in closes, so be realistic on your flight times and pay a little extra if it means you’re not getting up at the crack of dawn to get a flight. We flew out with Norwegian Air and Ryan Air on the way back. Tip: Norwegian Air only allow Boarding Passes to be printed 24 hours before your departure but you can get your Boarding Pass at the airport via a kiosk. Ryan Air wasn’t as bad as I thought they would be, but be warned, if you are traveling with just a cabin bag… get there early!!! Their aircrafts only have room for 90 cabin bags so if you are there late and are at the end of the queue, be prepared to have it check in the hold instead. This would be free of charge but anything in there that you need for your flight will be checked in. Also be aware there is a handbag size allowance too (mine was too big but managed to sneak past.. shhh!). More details can be found on their websites: www.norwegin.com/uk and www.ryanair.com

We only had four days to explore this vast city, so when I was planning this trip I thought “where I do start?” My first thought was to find a good base to start off our trip and that was in the Sant Antoni region at a hostel called Centric. I say a hostel, it’s more like a two star hotel with the most helpful staff you could ever wish for. Based on Casanova, 13 and less than a two minute walk from the metro station, the staff gave us directions and good places to eat so we didn’t fall in to the tourist traps, mostly down La Ramblas, (but I’ll come to that on another blog soon). If you want to find out more about Hostel Centric, you can visit their website: http://www.hostalcentric.com/en/ and they are also on TripAdvisor. We stayed in room 503 which was the top floor, but it was peaceful and only had two other rooms so we were never disturbed by people walking up and down the stairs or getting in and out of the lift at all times of the night. It is open 24 hours and there is always someone at the desk. Just a quick note about this hostel, it’s step free so if you are in a wheelchair or have difficulty with stairs then this would be a great place for you to stay.

The next thing to do is to decide on where you want to visit. Look on the internet and Google “top 10 things to do in Barcelona”, get a map of city, and most important of all… get booking!!!! Most places you’ll want to visit will require a ticket with a timed entry on. I looked at the places we wanted to go to, and the areas they were in and tried to make sure that we crammed enough in each day for the area we were in. We had a couple of tourist books with us, one was by the AA and the other was a Marco Polo book….. We will NEVER use Marco Polo books again! Personally for us, the book was poorly laid out and difficult to find what we were looking for, whereas the AA guide book was superb. We tend to use the AA guides for most places we travel to, but I’m keen to see what the Lonely Planet guide books are like, as I’ve heard good things about them. If you have used any of these books, or would recommend one for us to try, then please let us know.

That’s all the basics covered. I could go on about travel insurance, and the EHIC card (which is always free, so don’t get fooled by websites charging for them) but you should all be smart enough to take that out for your trip.  I’m not going to make this any longer than it already is, so the next blog will be day one of our Barcelonan adventure.

My blog, and what it’s all about

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A friend of mine said to me “I couldn’t do what you do, booking separate flights, accommodation and travel… I just go to a travel agent and let them do it, as I wouldn’t know where to start!”  This got me thinking, what if there are other people out there who think exactly the same thing?

So with that in mind, I’m writing this blog as a kind of step-by-step guide to tell you how our holidays were booked and how we did things so hopefully it helps anyone who has never travelled before understand the process of booking holidays, and also give a little insight into pitfalls that can happen along the way. I want to take the fear out of travelling for the first time traveller and also to prove that if I can do it, then anyone can!

I know there will be things that we could have done better or things that will make people scratch their heads and think “why?” but we are learning with every trip we take, so if you can suggest better ways of doing things or booking places etc, then please let me know and interact with everyone reading…. You never know what we will learn!

My blog is also about another passion in my life… food. I love food, who doesn’t? I want to share my food experiences with you all and also recipes I discover or create.  I only really started being adventurous with food when I moved in with my fiancé.  I can even remember the first thing I cooked for him, a chicken stir-fry.  Ever since then my culinary skills have improved, along with my confidence to just think “you know what, I’ll give it a whirl”.  Granted, not all things go to plan as in the case of my slow cooker Spanish Chicken dish which ended up looking more like yellow rice pudding than something you would get served anywhere in the Mediterranean.  In fact, it just fell out in one go, kind of like a jelly falling out its mould but minus the wobble.

So, I hope you enjoy my ramblings and find my blogs useful, informative, interesting and fun.  Please feel free to share, like, comment and join in as much as you want, it would be great to hear from you.

An Introduction

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Hello. I’m Claire, aka travelstodge.

I decided to start a travel and food blog as they are two of my passions in life, and I wanted an outlet to combine both of these together, so travelstodge was created.  It was actually my fiancé who suggested I started blogging and helped me come up with my blog name.

Here is a brief introduction to who I am and the places I have been to so far in my life.

I’m 34 and have always loved traveling but unfortunately I haven’t done as much as I would have liked, so I decided a few years ago that I would change that and at least go somewhere every year and experience new and exciting adventures, whilst absorbing cultures and food I’ve never seen before.  I have been to Dénia in Spain back in the 1980’s which my parents won on a KitKat competition, and Florida twice with my family, once in 1995 and again in 2007, which was superb but it was very “touristy” and whilst I loved it there, I don’t think I would want to go back again, unless I was going off the beaten track. I have also been to Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands in the 1990’s on a school trip.

After that, I went to Paris, France to celebrate my mum’s 50th birthday, which was nice.  I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower (I hear you all cry out in disbelief) but vowed to return one day to see it.

Then in 2007 I did something very uncharacteristic for me, I had a phone call from a friend in the February saying he’d booked a holiday to Barcelona and asked if I wanted to join him… so I said yes!  I booked the flight and travel insurance and off I went in the April.  I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fantastic!  It was my first adventure into the unknown without the safety net of my entire family. Ever since then I’ve wanted to travel and see the whole world.

I started properly in 2012 and went to one of my favourite places, Sorrento in Italy.  It was breath taking and made me realise that traveling isn’t as scary as I thought it would be.  Sure, I can’t speak the language nor have the foggiest idea where I’m going, but I was soaking in another culture, and it was stunning.  It was also the first time I went with just my mum too, which was an adventure in itself but we bonded more in that week than we ever did living at home.

Then there was a cruise in June of 2012 across Scandinavia, namely Oslo in Norway, Gothenburg in Sweden and Aarhus and Copenhagen in Denmark.  I had always wanted to go on a cruise and this seemed perfect for me, as not only do I get to try new foods on board (different types of fish that even now I forget the name of) but I get to “try out” three new countries that I had never been to before.

I then met my fiancé in October and that was when the food part of me flourished. Being part Italian, he loved his pasta and I began to get creative in the kitchen.  Pasta turned to rice, and then turned to a slow cooker and casserole dish and now I try anything and everything as I just love cooking.  I’m also lucky that my fiancé will try anything too and is always honest if he doesn’t like something or will tell me if something isn’t quite right, as I’ll tweak it for next time. He also has a sweet tooth, and as I’ve always been a good baker, cakes and biscuits are now just the norm in our house.

My fiancé revealed to me that the only time he went abroad was to France on a uni trip, and he ended up with gastric flu, so instantly I was thinking where could I take him that would be good for us both and somewhere I think he would enjoy…. Barcelona it was!  I know I went years ago, but as it would be our first holiday together, I wanted it to go as smoothly as possible so he would want to go abroad again.  I can honestly say that was the most stressful, but enjoyable holiday I’ve ever been on as I wanted to make sure he had a good time.

So…. where to next?  Well, the world is our oyster and I have many places marked on my TripAdvisor map to visit, so we will see where the time (and money) will take us.  This year we are planning a trip to Copenhagen in Denmark, as I only spent a few hours there previously, and my fiancé is also sold on the idea.  His dream location however is New Zealand, and mine… well, I have so many but if I had to say one place it would be Japan.

Well, that is me! I would love to hear from you, the person reading this now, and let me know where in the world you are, where you have been, and where your dream location is.

So, until next time, happy travelling and eating!