I was up, showered, packed, and off on another adventure – but this was my biggest one yet.
I had planned to be away for just short of 3 weeks and was aiming to cross 6 destinations off my bucket list. Up until this point, the most places I had seen on one trip was 2, so this was a massive step-up.
My basic itinerary went as follows…
Barcelona > Rome > Florence > Pisa > Venice > Croatia
Time to start living
Whilst I was at the station waiting for my train to the airport, a young man was guided onto the platform by a member of staff.
He was around 24 years old and he was blind.
As I watched him praise his guide dog and wait for the train, again, I was reminded of just how lucky I am.
I was about to set off on a mini-adventure. And no, this is wasn’t a luxurious trip. I had stretched my budget as far as I could by staying in hostels, catching buses from city to city, restricting my food spend, and pretty much walking everywhere.
I can guarantee that most people would not be prepared to travel the way that I travel because it’s not all about relaxing by the pool, staying in 5* hotels, and getting room service.
It’s real budget backpacking.
But I am going to be able to admire the architecture, look out over a city, and watch a sunset.
It’s very easy to take all these little pleasures in life for granted and this young blind man appearing on the platform was a huge reminder for me.
I have a fully able body, a conscious mind, and full sight. For these, I am truly grateful and I am trying to make the most of these gifts by seeing, experiencing, and learning as much as I can.
So, before I started my Barcelona story, I just wanted to remind you to use your gifts too.
Don’t just exist – LIVE!
Getting to the airport/runway
I boarded my train and got off as close to the airport as I could.
Although it was still about 3 miles away, I had plenty of time so I decided to walk the 3 miles.
I loaded myself up with my 10kg backpack, laptop bag, and a small kit bag, and started following the walking directions on my phone.
About halfway, I started questioning if this was a clever idea.
It was extremely hot in the UK at that time (much hotter than usual), I was starting to sweat from every nook and cranny and my backpack was starting to get heavy. But I kept motivating myself to keep going.
I was about 5 minutes away from the airport when I reached a huge set of metal gates that I could not get through.
It wasn’t until a plane took off over my head that I realized my directions hadn’t taken me to the airport entrance. They have taken me to the runway!
My heart sank inside – I was so close and yet so far.
I walked up and down the fence line trying to find a way in or a path to the main entrance. But could not find anything.
My luggage was extremely heavy by now, my t-shirt was wet through with sweat, and I could feel my face burning up.
I shot my backpack on the floor whilst inside I was having the temper tantrum of a 2-year-old.
I took a few moments to get myself together before picking everything back up and trying to find a way around. I still had a few hours until my flight and I was not going to miss it due to having a paddy just outside of the airport.
I started to retrace my steps when I met a couple and I asked them for directions. They explained that it was still quite a distance to walk, but their car was nearby and they would be happy to give me a lift.
I felt as though I had been rescued from 40 days and nights in the desert.
Now, I don’t usually go around getting into cars with strangers, but these two seemed nice and I sensed that they genuinely just wanted to help.
Plus, I approached them, they didn’t come asking me.
About 20 minutes later I was at the airport and I checked my fitness tracker on my wrist. Instead of walking 3 miles directly to the airport, I had walked 5.5 miles, had a temper tantrum, and had been driven for 10 minutes.
Not exactly the most direct route, but I was happy to be there.
At the airport
After freshening myself up (basically washing the sweat off every part of my body that I could manage from the sinks in the ladies toilets) I checked-in my big 10kg backpack and made my way to security.
I dropped my smaller bags into the baskets, walked through the metal detector, and waited for my belongings on the other end.
I then watched as one of my bags got diverted so it could be manually searched.
This was new for me….
Must just be a random thing, I thought.
Upon my bag search, the lady pulled out my 200ml bottle of sunscreen. Bugger! I had forgotten to move it into my large backpack that got checked-in.
The lady had to remove it and then do a drug swab on my bag as well as manually check my other bag.
Whilst I waited, I remembered going through airport security on my first solo travel trip to Budapest (Read here – My Budapest Story) and how nervous and overly prepared I was. Now I’m getting drug swabbed – oh how times have changed!
Later, when I got to the gate, I was stood in the queue with my boarding pass and passport ready when the guy in front of me turned around and asked, “Where are you off to?”
I replied with a slightly blank expression.
I couldn’t tell if he was trying to make small talk or if he was being funny. We were boarding the same flight, so obviously I was off to the same destination as he was – Barcelona.
…unless at some point the plane was going to split in two and head off to different destinations (kinda like what they do with trains) which would be a totally new experience for me!
Got to love a free window seat!
The more I get to travel the more I love flying! And every time I have flown with RyanAir I have been given a free window seat – which makes it even better.
As we were taking off I excitedly pressed my nose up against the plane window to take in the amazing views below.
As the plane left the ground, the first thing that I noticed was a large set of metal gates below – the same metal gates that I was stood next to a few hours previously after having some directional issues.
I did smile and have a little chuckle to myself.
As we got closer to Barcelona I gazed at the peaks of the Pyrenees from above and it was super exciting to see the beach and coastline as we came into land.
Two trains and more sweat later, I had reached my hostel, checked-in, and headed straight for the shower.
This had already been some adventure, and I’d only just got there.
After my shower, I started to meet some of the other people in my room.
I was in a 10-bed mixed dorm and other people seemed to be coming and going rather quickly – only staying a night or two before moving on.
I was there for three nights, which pretty much made me a lifer.
On the first night, the room was so hot and humid. You constantly felt sticky. Then one of my roommates, Jay from Korea, start to play around with what looked like a fuse box.
I got slightly worried for his safety.
…but then BOOM – the air conditioning started working.
We had a mini celebration in the dorm and I had to give Jay a full-power high-five for his commitment and success.
Sadly, he checked-out the next day, but to avoid being stuck without air conditioning again, we stuck a note on the box saying, ‘If you want to live, do not touch’.
Whilst preparing myself for my first day exploring Barcelona, I realized that I had left the battery for my DSLR camera at home.
I had brought my camera and lens…
…I had even brought the plug contraption that charges the battery…
…I even fully charged the battery at home before I left…
But I forgot to bring the actual battery.
This was an epic ‘hold-hands-in-head’ fail.
I’m not much of a photographer and I usually just use my iPhone for photographs and my camcorder for videos. But this time I wanted some higher quality images for my blog posts.
Well, I guess that’s not going to happen this time.
If the pictures on this post are of poor quality, you know why.
Surviving the sun
It was my first day of exploring and the top item on my list was to find some suntan lotion since I lost my previous bottle to Liverpool Airport Security.
I have very fair skin and can burn in just 20 minutes in UK weather. Whilst I was in Barcelona the temperatures were forecasted to be 30C+ (85F+), therefore, sun lotion was a necessity.
I found a bottle of factor 30 at a local convenience store (I would have liked a higher factor since I burn easily, but this had to do).
Guess how much it cost?
Talk about cashing in on the tourists! …I could have bought a bottle for less than half of that price back in the UK.
On the other hand, if this little bottle was going to prevent me from pain due to being sunburn, and potentially prevent me from getting skin cancer, then €12.00 doesn’t sound so bad. I bought it and continued my day exploring Barcelona.
To find out more about all the places I visited and the tourist stops I made, check out my other post, Tourist Guide: The Best Things to Do in Barcelona – With Handy Google Map
TIP: I’m not sure if I have mentioned this already, but Barcelona is hot at the end of June! If you are planning on visiting make sure to get your sweat glands ready and it’s best to avoid any form of makeup. After about 10 minutes of walking around, your perfectly placed foundation is going to be streaming down your cheeks. Just lather on the sun cream and you’re good to go.
Whilst wandering around, one of the first things I noticed was how beautiful everyone was. They must have a seriously strong gene pool in Barcelona. And nowhere was this more apparent than at the beach.
Beautiful people everywhere.
…and lots of boobs.
People were totally comfortable sunbathing topless or wandering nude. I’ve never seen so many boobs in one place before – and I’ve worked as a Stripper! – and I don’t think that I was on a specified nudist beach.
One lady had an amazing pair of boobs. I couldn’t quite work out if they were real or not. They looked real, but they were so perfect that I wouldn’t have been shocked if she told me they were bought and paid for.
I almost wanted to go up to her, shake her hand and congratulate her on a fantastic pair, but I thought that might have been a bit creepy.
As you may be able to tell, I have no problem with nudity, so none of it phased or bothered me, but it did make me compare this culture to my own.
In Barcelona, people were comfortable with ladies going topless or the odd person wandering around nude on a fully packed beach. And yet back in the UK, people were getting offended by a mother breastfeeding her child in public.
Makes you think, don’t it?
Whilst I was on the beach there was something even more shocking.
In midday heat of around 30C (86F), there was a group of crazy people taking part in a full-on circuit class.
For those that don’t know what a circuit class is, it’s a form of high-intensity fitness class. It usually runs along the lines of completing an exercise for 30 seconds, then recovering for 30 seconds, then another exercise for 30 seconds. But the exercises are hard and include things such as jump squats and burpees.
Well, these fitness fanatics we’re going for it! There was no easing up due to the heat.
I was trying not to faint just walking around, and here these people were running drills in the sand.
I stood in shock whilst trying to work out how they weren’t dying.
Going for a dip
On that day of admiring boobs and fitness machines, I was just walking up and down the beach to check it out.
I had planned my beach day to be the following day, but coming from the UK, I had never sunbathed on a beach before, and I had never swum in the sea.
I had paddled loads of times, but it’s never been warm enough in the UK for a full-on swim.
The next day I went back to the beach, laid my towel out, stripped down to my bikini, and just took a few moments to take everything in.
Being a newbie at this, I wasn’t sure if there were any unspoken rules or etiquette that I had to follow.
After getting the gist that it is basically a free-for-all, I made my way to the water.
It was cold at first, but when the waves were up to my neck it became really refreshing and I loved it!
I would have liked to swim up and down the coast, but I had to keep an eye on my belongings back on the sand – this is one of those times where being a solo traveler sucks!
One thing I did note is that saltwater tastes rank! …I thought that it would just be a bit salty, but it was wayyy more than that.
Some of it went up my nose and down my mouth and it felt as though my throat was burning.
All good fun!
Barcelona is the winner
As I’ve been ticking places off my travel bucket list, Budapest has remained a strong favorite of mine.
Up until now.
I must admit that Barcelona has slightly trumped Budapest to become my new favorite city.
Architecture, castles, beaches, parks, city views, art, culture, paella – it really does have it all!
I could have written so much more in this post. I have many more stories to tell from this short trip – speaking Spanish, hanging out at the Marina, speaking to the locals. I could bore someone for hours chatting about my Barcelona story.
…and these 4 days cost me less than £100 / €114 / $130 (not including the flight out, which from Liverpool Airport direct to Barcelona with a 15kg check-in bag was £55.07)
My time in this fabulous city finally came to an end and I packed my bags and headed to the docks where I was catching a ferry to Rome.
From the top deck of the boat, I watched the sunset over Barcelona one last time whilst reminiscing about some good times.
I waved goodbye to more new friends, new experiences, and another part of the world as we sailed away.
I’m currently still on the ferry, floating somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and I’m writing this post after finding a plug socket near some luggage storage.
I’ll have Wi-Fi as soon as I reach my hostel and will upload it to my blog then. So, if you are reading this post online, I’ve successfully made it to Rome.
Stay tuned, the adventure has just begun.
To find out what happened next check out My Rome Story – Dirty, Crowded & Feeling Unsafe.