A European Year (So Far)

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.



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:

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!


6 Responses

  1. I am not a big fan of arts, but i remembered the Prado museum in Madrid blowing my mind off with some of the most impressive oil paintings (check out Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez).

    Barcelona? I was happy just being there!

    If you have the chance, I would have recommended skipping both 2 and head down to Andalucia, where the heart and soul of Spain lies. Granada and Seville are 2 of my favourites. Alternatively, Bilbao in the Basque county up north is extremely interesting too!

    I spent 3 weeks in Spain and explored quite a bit. Enjoy the beautiful country!

    • Thanks for your comment Lightfellow.

      I will certainly be going to the Prado museum in Madrid!

      And I hear what you are saying about Andalucia… which you could also say about Catalan too. You could have said “go to Toledo for the day” instead of staying in Madrid, or “why not Valencia?” … all these things are valid, BUT… since I have never been to Spain, I felt I must begin my adventures in that country in Madrid and Barcelona.

      If I love Spain (everybody that goes there seems to really fall in love with the place) then the next time I go, I can skip the major cities if I want to and jump into these other places you mention.

      Believe me, I looked twice at Bilbao and I wish it was closer to Madrid or Barcelona, but it’s not, so for me that was too far away (this time.)

      Can you tell me more about what you loved so much in Barcelona?

  2. Hi Carol,

    try to see this


    Yours sincerely, George.

    • I will George, thanks. I can only imagine how vast the collection is at the Prado. I hope I will have enough time to really enjoy the museums, and to see some of the city too.

      Have you been to Madrid, George?

  3. Both Madrid and Barcelona are great cities with a lot to offer. They both have wonderful museums and lots and lots of culture. But for me the best way to spend some time and see the difference between the cultures in the two cities is by sitting on a street café and watch life go buy. Both Madrid and Barcelona offer a rich café life.

    • Great point Otto, thanks for your comments. Sometimes doing people watching can be tremendous fun.

      Actually, in one of the reviews of the hotels, someone wrote that the fancier Barcelona hotels have people who “check out what you are wearing” in the lobby. Meaning, I guess?, locals may expect travelers to be well dressed when they visit the city.

      When I was in Amsterdam, I felt over-dressed since most people are extremely casual (t-shirts, sweaters and jeans) but in Luxembourg, I felt very under-dressed because a lot of people were wearing high quality, well designed clothing. You can always tell by looking at women’s shoes how fancy a place is… Luxembourg is fancy!

      I’m going to have to guess and do my best with the wardrobe I have when I pack for Spain, but I think I will try to dress up more than pack casual. I have a good friend who has spent a lot of time in Spain, and I’ve already arranged to talk to her before I leave for my trip – this is one thing I will ask her about!

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