After an unconventional sleep in the Barcelona Airport, we picked up our car rental and drove into town. Had to take a second or 3 to recalibrate to driving on the right side. Picked up a nifty little Fiat.
Francisca was our tour guide (very spunky but also very passionate and well knowledgeable. We had a group from all over (Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, USA, Germany etc).
Some information I learned from this walk:
-1 man designed the whole outer city grid
-He tried to keep it all even and uniform but people started building taller and well, Gaudi,
-El Raval – gentrified – use to be red light district
-La Rambla – New city – chic local designers
-Barcelona was walled in – the king gave the land to the soldiers who used it to party, drugs and sex.
-There are 7 beaches – all artificial with sand from Egypt
-The Olympics made the city get visitors and they had to clean up
-The square with execution – The executioner was the local butcher and chosen. His family would inherit the business. The executioner couldn’t live in or outside the wall in fears of being murdered so they would literally live in the walls and climb down each time to perform an execution and then climb back up. The perks of being Executioner was that they could keep the body parts. Hands and feet hung on the door were good luck.
-The steps where Christopher Columbus met the king and queen of Spain is in that same Square.
-Agata – breast cut off – a pastry is named after this and feature a cherry on top
-The cathedral face of Eulalia of Barcelona (also known as Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia also known as Barcelona Cathedral) was a facade getting ready for Olympics. You can also see a image of Darth Vader if you look close enough.
-Geese live in Eulalia of Barcelona as the Saint was a goose herder. They punished her for being Christian. There her into a barrel with sharp objects and threw it down a hill. She survived. They burned her at the stake. She survived. They stepped her down naked and starfish her on a cross to shame her but snow fall covered her. They cutt off her head.
-The main Plaza Reica was cleaned up and pushed all the red light district to La Raval to prep for the volume of people coming for the Olympics
-Sport – the tower – 26 ft when a little cold at the very top. Sculpture.
-The New city uses Jewish tombstone pieces in they’re walls from the Jewish mountain where they bury the dead. It was faster and cheaper than digging up the Jewish Mountain.
-The Jewish, Muslim and Catholic lived relatively harmonious together in Barcelona until at one point, the Catholic and Muslim people started to perish rather quickly to some unknown disease at the time. They thought it was a plot to kill them as the Jewish were seen to not be suffering from loss as much. From outrage that such a thing could occur, the Jewish were murdered almost wiping them all out. Turns out because of their faith, they must wash their hands before every meal which in return kept them healthier as hygiene was also a major cause of the deaths.
Francisca also gave us a link to her website that can be helpful finding many attractions and places for food she recommends seeing in Barcelona.
After the tour, I met Winnie and off we went into the mountains. We drove over to Montserrat. Windy roads up but the environment was lovely. We had originally planned to hike Sant Jeroni but we realized late that we needed to take the funicular up to do any of the hikes and we wouldn’t have been able to finish that hike before the last train down. – GET THERE EARLY IN THE DAY!
With the time we had with the car rental, we decided to drive over to Sitges. This coastal town is known for the beaches, nightlife and being very LGBT friendly. We went midday in the off-season so it was dead and we walked Passeig Marítim and admired some of the beachfront homes.
Took it real easy in the evening and bought groceries and made our own tapas.
Since Winnie had already been to Barcelona earlier on the trip, she had also set up appointments for herself upon her return which left me to explore on my own. I had a very early start to get free admission to Park Güell‘s Monument section of the park. If you get in before 8AM or after 630PM it’s free! If you make it in before 8AM, you can technically stay all day if you really wanted. It took awhile for me to get out of this massive park but I continued on and walked over to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Crazy amount of tourists and also this place is forever under construction.
Not too far away was Parc de la Ciutadella. I got a little turned around and didn’t realize that the entrance to this park was only on the North side as I continued along the east side of the wall of the park and ended up walking around the whole park but on the outside as the only entrance I saw on that side was to the Zoo (connected but not connected to the park). I did eventually make it into the park but since it was such a long walk, I quickly walked through. There is a apparently a mini Arc de Triomphe.
And not too far from that park was La Boqueria – Mercat Boqueria Barcelona in La Rambla. 1€ fruit cups and smoothies, much needed after my morning walk. As I was crossing the street, it just so happened out of all places, I just so happened to bump into a familiar face from back home who was also on vacation.
Before coming to Barcelona, I was told I should book a paella cooking class – so we did. We booked with Airbnb experiences and booked with the lovely Helina (she’s originally from Belarus and learned how to make paella the true Catalina way from her husband’s family). We were a group of 14 from all over the world (Scotland, Korea, Ecuador, South Africa, New Zealand, USA & Brasil). Helina took us through La Boqueria and explained more about jamon, fresh seafood and spices. We purchased fresh seafood and went back to her mother’s condo nearby and that’s when all the magic began.
It was a team effort as each person had a different task in the prep. We made a Spanish classic – pan con tomate (literally garlic, tomate Para pan, olive oil, a good baguette and slices of Jamon Serrano or Iberian if you want meat), sangria and seafood paella. It was such a wonderful experience and so tasty! Depending on where you had positioned yourself at the table, you were assigned a different task. My spot was in charge of cleaning the mussels, others had prepping the sangria, making pan con tomate etc.
After that wonderful cooking experience Winnie and myself parted ways as I went to Carmel del Bunkers (also known as El Turó de la Rovira, or simply The Bunker) to take in the sunset above the city. During the Spanish Civil War, this was the bunker where anti-aircraft guns were installed. I took the train to a certain point then it’s all about walking. There is a sign to a pair of stairs that leads to a lookout point and you think that this is the bunker but it is not – keep going up. I got to the top of those stairs and there is a great view up there. You think that this view is the bunkers, keep going! From these stairs, you go left and follow the bend and over the bridge. The bridge isn’t the end. Keep going up. You will definitely know that you are at Carmel del Bunkers. There will be people climbing and sitting all over the place on cement structures. You will also have a 360 view above the city and there will be people selling cervezas if you didn’t bring any to enjoy the view. The sunset wasn’t the best but for the moment, the sky opened up with a large slash across the city and that was lovely. My phone was dying and I wanted to make sure I got back to the Airbnb before it died since my phone was my lifeline so I didn’t stay until the sun went fully down. There is another alternative to get to the Carmel Del Bunkers and it is a bus route that will drop you off closer to the top and then you walk up. I walked down the street and hopped on the bus to get me home.
We had looked into going inside Sagrada Familia early morning but there weren’t anymore tickets online. Many of our friends had recommended that we go inside but since we had a short period of time, we just searched up videos of the interior since we couldn’t go in. Also, we would have to wear clothing that covers our shoulders and almost to our knees and well, it’s hot weather for us and tights we’re a no go for us.
We went to Brunch & Cake to start the day. I got the Acai bowl with peanut butter and Winnie got the brekkie board. There are multiple locations.
As we were walking to brunch, we had started to see people walking the streets in costumes and we got curious. October 12th is Spain’s Fiesta Nacional de España – Hispanic day. It is the day Christopher Columbus discovered the America’s in 1492. It is a national holiday and obviously a huge parade with so many people dressed up in colourful costumes dancing their hearts out in the heat.
The sun was finally out majority of the day so we made our way to the beach. Platja del Bogatell had beach volleyball and some cute restaurants on the beachside. We decided to just lie down and take in the sun and do nothing else. The clouds did roll in after a few hours so we left and walked around. Since it was the weekend and also a holiday, the streets were filled with so many cute families and people going to the movies.
We went to Xemei for dinner (early celebration of my birthday). My friend had recommended this Italian restaurant in Barcelona and it did not let us down. We got the Fish assortment to start and I got the Pappardelle with beef cheek ragu and Winnie got the Grilled octopus tentacle with eggplant. We finished off with Almond and orange ice cream and tiramisu.
The original plan was to go to Australia & New Zealand for Sept/Oct 2019 with my friend Winnie. We were hoping for a flight deal to come along. Unfortunately no deal came by the deadline we gave ourselves so we decided to go to Europe together instead. Our itinerary is all over the place zig –zagging all over Europe. We narrowed down our top 10 countries we wanted to visit in the time period we had and researched where we could fly to for a bargain. From there, we chose to go to the warmer destinations first to extend our summer. The last leg of the trip was originally going to be staying in London/UK but we decided during the trip to go somewhere warm because let’s be fair, the heat makes things happier especially being in chilly and wet weather for awhile.
Now, before you get to the itinerary (all the way at the bottom), I am posting some (hopefully) helpful tips and information that came up during our trip.
Money – STACK (Pre-paid Mastercard)
36 days of travelling to multiple countries with different currencies takes a lot of organizing. When I travel, I usually carry a good amount of cash on me and pay that way so I don’t incur high conversion fees using my credit card. I made sure I knew what countries I was going to and calculated roughly how much I would be spending per day and got cash for certain countries I knew I would be in for a longer duration.
I tried to average about $60CAD/day. Prior to setting off on this trip, we tried to book our Airbnb’s, car rentals and flights in advance so at least those costs were covered.
My brother told me about this card called STACK, which is a conversion fee pre-paid Mastercard. With this card, you Interac transfer money from your bank account to the card account via the app using the special custom question and answer the app provides you with. Say you decide to transfer $200 to the card, if the card gets stolen, the card is not linked to your actual bank account and if say only $200 is on the card that is the limit that can be used. This card comes as a physical card but is also a virtual card via the app.
What I liked about using this card is that it was a very fast and secure way of paying for things abroad and the app also notifies you when a transaction has been made and will convert it automatically to your main currency so you don’t have to calculate the conversion yourself. And it is conversion fee free!
I used this card more so in the Scandinavian countries because they have started to adopt the cash-less transactions method but I still used cash in many of the other countries we travelled to.
Use my referral link and you’ll get $5 in your account when you activate your card.
Download STACK now: https://getstackco.app.link/fuqEmfMNH1 (this link only works on your phone via the app once its downloaded)
Yes Ryanair has super cheap flights BUT many hidden costs or steps. We decided to go to many countries because of how cheap the flights were (12£ one-way to go from London (Stansted) to Copenhagen (CPH) is a real good price). We also booked early. These cheap tickets have many drawbacks. First off, many of the airports you fly out of or into are not usually the main airports and are usually smaller airports outside of the city centre which adds more travel time.
More recently, Ryanair changed their luggage requirements from what use to be a free carry-on (still smaller than regulation size on other airlines) and now the only free luggage you can have must be 40x20x25CM. Depending on the airport and the staff, they don’t really check the size of your bag. I got the size compliant bag (Swissgear – https://www.shopbentley.com/en/escape-collection-travel-tote-swiss-gear-1016684.html) and it sits under the seat no problem with room to spare. The staff didn’t really check so you could get away with a slightly larger bag or a bag that can squish.
REMEMBER TO ALWAYS CHECK IN ONLINE. You can do this up to 48 hours. For non-EU passengers, you must print your documents, as they will not issue you a boarding pass. I found that with flights not connected to the UK, the boarding pass will be issued to your Ryanair App however, if you are flying out of or into UK, you must print your boarding pass to get a Visa check and stamp. I have heard that if you don’t print it and ask at the check-in desk, there is an expensive fee for them to print for you.
Car rentals – International Driver’s License
As a Canadian, you are required to have your International Driver’s License to rent a car in Spain.
Travelling throughout many countries in Europe for over a month, trying to find a SIM card plan that works in all the countries and for that period of time was a challenge but there are definitely options out there beside “roaming” with your phone plan back home as that can be costly.
For my 36 day Eurotrip, I purchased this 30 day SIM card that works throughout 71 European countries with 12GB + 3000 minutes + 3000 texts. You are also able to top up this plan when in the UK by purchasing in-store.
Photo & Video Storage – SSD & USB – I brought an external to back up my photos from my DSLR and my phone every night. I also bring a USB for back-up to the back-up of the external for peace of mind since my phone internal storage is not large enough to store all the photos from the trip for the entirety of 36 days. I would suggest bringing another USB (64GB should suffice) to be the back up to the back up for the phone photos so you can clear space.
You can also use cloud storage but I am not a fan of that so these are my alternatives.
Alltrails is amazing for finding hikes around the world. People review or comment on each hike and also you can see the difficulty and lengths. You can also download the app.
To be honest, we ate out a lot this trip. When we could, we tried to make some meals with friends. We also stocked up on snacks like fruit and breakfast (skyr, yogurt, granola etc). You will find that there are many grocery stores but some are superior to others in terms of quality for the price. Budget friendly grocery stores you should be on the lookout for are Aldi & LIDL.
Spain – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)
Eating times Different times for eating. They take siesta very seriously and will take hour long lunches where the kids will go home as well to eat with family. Dinner usually starts around 8PM.
Desayuno – breakfast – 7-9AM
-a Spanish classic is a toasted baguette with olive oil and crushed tomatoes
-other breakfast foods consist of churros and chocolate or pastries like croissants.
Almuerzo – Mid-morning snack – 1030-11AM – Coffee with a muffin or a croissant with ham and cheese
La Comida – Lunch – 2-330PM – Most important meal of the day.
Merienda – Mid-after snack – 530-730PM – More about socializing – more drinks than food. Churros are popular at this time of day or a small meat and cheese sandwich.
La hora del aperitivo – Tapas Hour – 830-10PM
La Cena – Dinner time – 9-11PM – Dinner is usually much lighter than a standard dinner meal. Traditional Spanish dinners are shared plates.
-Try Clara – beer with lemonade or lemon Fanta
-Try Tinto de verano – Red wine with Sprite or Fanta (very popular in Spain) – very similar to sangria
-Hola – Ola – Hello
-Adios – bye
-Si – Yes
-No – No
-Pardon or Disculpa – Excuse me
-Por Favor – Please
-Gracias – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Lo SIento – Sorry
-Factura – Bill
-Salud – Cheers
-Camamos – Let’s eat
Portugal – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (5-10%)
-You need to try some pastel de nata (Portugese Egg Tarts)
-Ola – Hello
-Oi – Hi
-Tchau – Bye
-Sim – Yes
-Nao – No
-Por Vaor – Please
-Obrigado – Thank you
-De nada – You’re Welcome
-Desculpe – I’m Sorry
-Perdao – Pardon me
-Saúde – Cheers
-vamos comer – Let’s eat!
Sweden – Stockholm – SEK – Swedish Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Physical cash transaction is not common here.
-Tap and Swish (E-Transfer) is the common transaction types
-Stockholm is made up of many little islands connected by bridges
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip.
-Access is their tap transport card – I got the 72-hour card. You can take all the forms of transportation ranging from bus, train, tram and ferry.
-Fika – an important part of Swedish culture. Fika – coffee break
-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nej – No
-Ursäkta – Excuse me
-snälla du – Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Varsågod – You’re welcome
-Förlåt – Sorry
-räkningen – Bill
-Skål – Cheers
-låt oss äta – Let’s eat
Denmark – Copenhagen – DKK – Krone
-Open drinking on the streets is not allowed.
-Tipping is not common however, it is common to round up the total to the nearest big number as a tip
-Biking is taken very seriously and has its own road rules just like driving a car.
-Copenhagen Card – You can use the calculator on their website to see if it is worth it to purchase this card. We purchased it but mainly for the unlimited travel. We purchased the 72 hours card. It’s sort of an honour system in a sense as you have to write in your start date and time on the card. You don’t tap it when boarding trains/buses etc but there may be a fare/ticket checker on some of your rides and must show your card. I wish we used the erasable pen we had instead so we could adjust it as we were in Copenhagen for a little bit more than 72 hours and it would have been nice to not have to purchase a day pass for the last few hours. The card gets you into many attractions and discounts on many other things.
-Make sure you check if certain attractiions are open on specific days
-Hej – Hello
-adjö – bye
-Ja – Yes
-Ingen – No
-undskyld mig- Excuse me
-Vær venlig (vair-vin-lee)– Please
-Tack or Tack tack – Thank you
-Selv tak (sell tack) – You’re welcome
-Beklager (bi-clay-er) – Sorry
-regning – Bill
-Skål (skuul) – Cheers
-Lad os spise- Let’s eat
Germany – Euro
-Tipping is not common but you can tip if you want (10%)
-Drinking is allowed in public
-Many flea markets on Sundays!
-Many stores are closed
-Grocery stores are closed Sundays however the ones in bus/train stations are exceptions
-Hallo – Hello
-Tschüss – (choose) bye
-Ja – Yes
-Nein – No
-Entschuldigen Sie – Excuse me
-bitte – Please
-Dankeschön– Thank you
-Bitte – You’re welcome
-Es tut uns leid (astudentslight) – Sorry
-Rechnung – Bill
-Lass uns essen- Let’s eat
London – Pound – £
-Oyster Card – train/subway/bus system is very intricate but can get you everywhere.
-Tip is around 10%
Scotland – Pound- £
-Similar to Quebec to the rest of Canada, Scotland is the United Kingdom’s counterpart whereby at a certain point, they wanted to separate to become a country of their own.
-It doesn’t really snow here but the temperature remains an average low of maybe 5C
-Edinburgh seems to be a popular for international students to study
Congratulations, you have made it to the piece de resistance – My Itinerary for 36 days in Europe. We did move around things we did on certain days in certain cities but for the most part, this is what we did and they are grouped by areas in each city to maximize your days.