Way back on April 23rd this year, I published a blog post called Vacation Planning: Amsterdam. In that post, I mentioned that there were three (3) cities at the top of my European travel wish list, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Dublin.
I proceeded to spend time in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Belgium. Then, because I had to travel for work, I was able to visit London, Luxembourg and went back to Belgium again.
It had been more than ten years since I set foot on the Continent, so visiting Europe twice in one year was an astounding opportunity.
But, as luck would have it, I have go back to Europe for work again! Since it is the end of the summer, I decided to take a week off before having to do my business portion of the trip and take a week to go to Spain.
ESPANA HERE I COME!
Originally I was thinking I would go straight to Barcelona and spend the entire vacation there, but then I remembered that six days in Amsterdam felt like too much. So instead, I’ve opted to go to Madrid and Barcelona.
Since this year has been very hectic in terms of the amount of travel I do for work, and my ability to do elaborate planning is at a minimum… I did some brief reading online and figured out a few things:
– Madrid has more museums than Barcelona
– Madrid is less costly than Barcelona
– Barcelona is known for being touristy, and probably has better nightlife than Madrid
Given these extremely basic rudiments for decision making I decided to spend four (4) days in Madrid, first, and see the city sights from a Sun to Wed timeframe, and then spend Thurs to Sun in Barcelona with my “Friday and Saturday nights” reserved for the nightlife of swingin’ Barcelona. Although it won’t stop me from seeking out mid-week nightlife opportunities in Madrid while I’m there!
Also, rather than take inexpensive high-speed-train between Madrid and Barcelona on my Thursday and lose nearly the whole day, I’ve opted to fly Iberia Air between the two cities because the non-stop flight is about an hour. It’s costing me about $100 USD, which is totally worth it vs. sitting on a train for 6 hours. Iberia offered even cheaper flights ($80 USD) but too early for me, so I splurged a bit more for the time I wanted to go.
As I already mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of time for planning and there have been just a handful of websites I used to try and figure out neighborhoods so I could pick a decent hotel in the “right spot” to enable convenient getting around.
Here are the few I used which might be helpful if you are doing similar planning:
- Barcelona Neighborhood Guide: http://www.tourist-barcelona.com/default2.asp?view=barcelona-neighborhoods/guide-to-barcelona-neighborhoods
- The Best Neighborhoods in Madrid: http://moving2madrid.com/best-neighborhoods/
- Hotels in Barcelona City Center: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/hotels/hotelmaps/ramblas-hotel-barcelona.html
In the end, I wound up using Expedia to book my hotels because I was permitted to pay for the room in US dollars (and therefore will avoid a credit card transaction fee associated with my purchase.)
This has been quite a year of travel for me, so far, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Spain for the first time. One thing I’ll be looking for on this trip are the cultural differences between Northern vs. Southern European countries. I don’t speak Spanish (just a few really basic phrases like agua fria, por favor) and will continue to rely on smiles and the good will of strangers.
Since I’ve secured the main building blocks of my trip: air travel and hotels… I will spend some time before I go trying to figure out what I can learn about local transportation, and the main sights I’d want to hit while in each city.
If you’ve had a Madrid or Barcelona experience you’d like to share, or a suggestion for a “must see” place, please add it in the comments section.
As always, there will be photos and stories to come of my Spanish adventures!