I’m sure many of you are aching to hear the details of my recent Spanish and Portuguese adventure after (probably) seeing some of my Instagram photos.
So, alas here it is….at least, the beginning of it.
Two of my fellow English assistants and I started our adventure in Barcelona (did you get that Friends reference in the title?!) , after having slept in the Charles de Gaulle airport overnight (our flight left at 7am, and there was no other way to get the airport in time for our flight from Laval). I’m sure those whom have traveled have done that a time or two.
Anyways, because of our time spent in the airport, after landing in Barcelona and getting to our Airbnb, nap time was number one on our list. Afterwards, we set out to explore, for we only had two days in Barcelona.
Now, because of how little money I earn and because I tend to consider myself a thrift snob (I have a hard time paying for things if I know that I can get them for cheaper or even free), I, along with my fellow assistants, made it our way to spend our time just exploring the streets and doing all of the free things that we could think of in Barcelona. This mostly consisted of walking around, exploring the streets and the different monuments, and just soaking in the culture and the scenery around us.
For my fellow travelers out there who are also living on a tight budget or just don’t want to spend that much money while traveling, here are the FREE things we did in Barcelona while still having a fantastic time!
FREE ACTIVITY NUMBER ONE: Just spend some time exploring the streets. Barcelona is a beautiful city with some rough edges as well. You have the beach on one side and the mountains on the other, with some rich, diverse culture in the center. Thankfully our Airbnb was in the Gothic quarter of the city, so we were able to spend time just exploring this beautiful part of the city. We happened by some, of course quite Gothic, architecture, which is always beautiful to see (I’ve lived here for almost 5 months, and I’m still astounded by the beauty of all of these hundreds of years old buildings). There’s a cathedral (which is, of course beautiful on the inside and FREE!), the most adorable tiny cobblestone streets ever, and even some of the buildings are gorgeous just by themselves. Plus, something that really surprised me was how colorful everything is, with orange, yellow, blue, and even some reds. It was so different than anything I’d ever seen in France! Plus, just walking around gives you the perfect opportunity to people watch, which outside of all of the tourists, is a great way to start learning about the locals and their way of life! Don’t forget to check out some of the street art as well!
FREE ACTIVITY NUMBER TWO: Spend some time exploring La Boqueria, the local food market. This food market is packed with people, which let’s be honest, is probably mostly tourists, but there are definitely some locals there as well. Now, technically this is not free if you want to buy food. However, it is free to look around and just see what it’s all about. I really loved going here because it was the first time that I saw what kind of cuisine one can find in Spain. Plus, food markets have the best vibes. Of course, meats, chili peppers, seafood, etc. were all things that I expected to see and did. What I did not expect was the variation of seafood that I saw! Sea urchins (sea urchins!!!), swordfish, squid, cuttlefish (which I had no idea that that even existed/even knew what that was until I ate it in some Paella), the list goes on and on. It only makes sense that there was such a wide variation because of the proximity of sea life, but honestly coming into my vacation with no idea or expectations of what Spain would be like made this discovery a nice surprise for me! I had never seen sea urchins in person before, nor would I have ever imagined that people actually eat them (I’m still trying to figure out how). It was at this point that I started to see different aspects of Spanish culture, and I have to admit that I’m very thankful that I was surprised!
FREE ACTIVITY NUMBER THREE: The beach! Of course. Now, February is not necessarily the best month to go to Spain or the beaches there, because it’s not actually that warm, and you never know about the weather. However, the sun shined a smile for us, so we were able to check out the beach in Barcelona. I really enjoyed the vibe there. Palm trees everywhere, people surfing (or at least attempting to anyways), people playing frisbee or just sitting and enjoying the atmosphere. Feeling the warm sun on our faces for about an hour while digging our toes in the sand was what I would consider time well spent.It did my soul well. Also, it was my first time ever actually seeing the Mediterranean! The beach is a great place to people watch as well. I don’t think I could ever get bored of people watching. I fully support the idea that people are intriguing creatures. Plus, if it is actually warm enough, swimming is always an option.
FREE ACTIVITY NUMBER FOUR: Explore the different monuments and famous buildings. Now, not all of the buildings, such as La Sagrada Familia and the bullring are free to go inside, HOWEVER, they are FREE to look at! I’m sure there are more monuments and buildings than this. These are just the ones that we happened to stumble upon.
- La Sagrada Familia, aka the more famous cathedral in Barcelona, is a womping 15€ to go inside, but I can say from personal experience that it is absolutely worth going to at least check out the outside of it if you can’t afford/don’t want to pay the 15€. La Sagrada Familia is extremely different from all of the other cathedrals that I’ve seen across Europe. It almost has an earthy feel to it, with much of the structure having birds and plants carved into the different parts of it. There was even a tree carved into the structure. I’m sure that going into is worth the 15€, however, living on a tight budget means you have to make sacrifices. Unfortunately not going inside means that we did not get to learn much about the actual cathedral and its history, but you can find that information online before you go to see it and enjoy the view from a small park right across from it, which is FREE to walk through. Plus, as I’m such a huge fan of it (can’t you tell? I’ve already mentioned it twice), it’s a great place to people watch! This time, you get to watch all of the tourists! Tourists are actually quite intriguing in their own way. The tourist vs. traveler struggle is always there (I definitely struggle with it), but you can always tell when someone is definitely more of a tourist rather than a traveler. I must admit that I’m quite entertained by observing such people.
- Secondly, the bullring in Barcelona is a beautiful structure to go and see. I believe the museum is about 10€ to go inside the ring, however, the outside is structured with beautiful tiles. Now, bullfighting is a major part of Spanish culture, so I’m sure that you would be interested in going into the museum and learning all about it. However, I saved my money to go see the bullring in Sevilla (which actually ended up being cheaper. I’ll talk more about that in my Sevilla post). So, if you want to save some money, I say save it for a different bullring in a different city, where it might end up being cheaper anyways.
- Thirdly, Barcelona has its very own Arc de Triomf, which is actually quite different from the one in Paris and which I would say is quite worth seeing. Plus, it’s, of course, FREE. Also, the Arc de Triomf is a hot spot for street performers, which if you’re into that sort of thing, is a great activity to do as well and technically free if you don’t feel like contributing.
- There’s also the cathedral in the Gothic quarter that I mentioned earlier in the post that is, I will repeat, FREE to go inside, unlike La Sagrada Familia.
- Check out the monuments and statues in Plaça Catalunya and Plaça del Portal de la Pau, both squares have beautiful statues to gaze at and enjoy if you enjoy architecture and sculptures. Plus, both places are great places to (you can probably guess), people watch!
FREE ACTIVITY NUMBER FIVE: Do you enjoy nature? You can definitely take advantage of it here!
- Make sure to go check out Parc de la Ciutadella. This park is massive and gorgeous. We just simply walked through it, actually having stumbled upon it, and I would’ve spent more time there if we weren’t already on our way to somewhere else. Also, it’s right across from the Arc de Triomf, so I would recommend it while on your way there. Park’s are my favorite. They are great places to relax, get some exercise, and just enjoy nature. Plus, it is, of course, FREE!
- Secondly, if you really love nature and if you are really looking for a good workout, take a hike up Mount Tibidabo. Now, I must say that this was my absolute favorite part of our trip to Barcelona. The weather hiking up the mount was rainy and cloudy, but it wasn’t too bad. So, we powered through.
We took the metro just to the base of the part of the city that starts to incline, and then we hiked from there to the top. There’s a trolley that you can take up to a certain point in the middle of the mount, but keeping on the free/cheap trend, walking is a better option (and a fantastic workout!). Once you get to a certain point in the mount, there is a path with gravel that you can actually take to the top, however, where’s the adventure in that? So, there are little paths, made by people walking through them of course that will take you to the top. They are much more scenic, as you are actually hiking up steep inclines with trees and cacti (yes, cacti!) that you can view. Plus, the further and further you get up the mount, the more breathtaking the view of the entire city and miles and miles of the coastline and other small towns you can see. This is why it was my favorite part of my trip to Barcelona. I felt so astounded by this experience. The last few weeks before my trip I was feeling down in the dumps and really depressed, but seeing this view made me realize, yet again, (God is always showing me that throughout my travels) of just how blessed of a life that I have, that I am living right now. I was especially shown this on our way down the mount, when the sun decided to shine on us again. The sunshine does crazy things to my soul. It has the power to lift my spirits 100%.
At the top of the Mount, there is also a gorgeous basilica that I believe is FREE to go inside. Just stop at the top of this Mount to soak in the beautiful architecture and the astounding view of Barcelona.Not only is all of it breathtaking, but seeing such beauty when you’ve finally made it to the top gives you a sense of deep satisfaction, at least it did for the three of us.
It was also hiking up this mount that I got to see some of the Spanish culture and learn more about Spain. I started to see that being physically active is an important part of Spanish culture. People were hiking, running, biking, etc. It was really quite inspiring to see. I don’t even think the French are that active, and I know for a fact that Americans aren’t that active. My hike, seeing how worth it was and feeling how great I felt after exercising, inspired me to want to actually seriously continue making hiking apart of my life. Exercise and enjoying nature are two things that I definitely need more of in my life. Plus, hiking up Mount Tibidabo is FREE, and I actually got to check out a landmark that is used in one of my favorite tv shows, Friends. It made me really excited to actually see what the heck Joey Tribianni was talking about. Now, I know! That made for a good laugh!
Anyways, now that I’ve talked your ear off, I just want to end this with. I am extremely thankful that our trip started out in Barcelona. I feel like I got a really good first taste of Spanish culture that left me wanting more and aching to learn more. I hope you fellow travelers will consider putting it on your list, and if you are a budget traveler like me, considering these alternative options to spending money but still enjoying the experience!
Until the next post….
A plus mes amis…