Last Minute Tapas Run
Planning and booking a trip with less than 24 hours until planned departure was always going to be tricky, but a challenge I willingly accepted.
The criteria was simple:
- Somewhere we hadn't been before
- Somewhere within 3 hours
- Heathrow or Gatwick departure
Straight on to flights.google.com - somewhere I've become familiar with since reading GodSaveThePoints advice on his website. I use Google Flights to track prices over the year, to understand when best to book a trip, but also to open up potential routes I wouldn't naturally think of.
In this instance, I put LHR and LGW in my departure airports, and the options started opening up. We travelled to Madrid in October 2019, and loved it - so Spain was definitely on our list again. Being price conscious, the deal that stood out was Barcelona. Now we had flights in our mind, it was time to look at hotels.
Most of the time, booking.com is my friend - but I was keen to see if I could bundle in flights & hotels, and take advantage of any promotions airlines have. I'm massively loyal to BA, but the flight timings didn't quite work for us... I was sad.
EasyJet - a low budget airline, that in my experience delivers a very solid product. For a total of £367.45 - it was a pretty solid price for a last-minute booking. We were off!
Hotel: Vincii Maritimo
Price PP: £183.73
** an additional cost of £55.00 for 2 x days parking at Gatwick North Valet Parking
With only a matter of hours to try and plan as much as possible, I resorted to my a walking-tour provider I really enjoyed using in Madrid - Sandemans New Europe
With tickets booked for the free walking tour, we knew that we would get a heck of a lot of Barcelona in a short time. 10h00 the following day, we were sorted for a 3 hour walking your. The great thing about Sandemans New Europe tours, is that you get exceptionally passionate, knowledgeable and unique tour guides. This was no different.
Things to see:
- Gothic Quarter
- El Born District
- Santa Maria del Mar
- Plaça Sant Jaume
- Jewish Quarter
- La Sagrada Familia
A real bonus on our tour was Leon Parris - worth having a check of his Wikipedia - who was quite easily the most enthusiastic, passionate, hyped-up tour guide I've ever had. The sheer volume of facts, dates and witty jokes that came out of him in 3 hours was impressive. As a trained performer, he likes to finish his tour off with a self-written poem - that I hopes gives you a flavour of the tour.
An 'authentic' trip to Spain is not complete without attending a Flamenco performance, so that's exactly what we did. We booked tickets to see a show at Tarantos, located just off of La Rambla, in Plaça Reial.
The show was fine - nothing much to write home about, but it gave a warm feeling of appreciating a dance that is steeped in historic importance, but at the same time sitting with a group of selfie stick wielding tour groups, we knew this was show was just catering to the droves of international groups that come to Barcelona. The next challenge for me is to find a show that locals would go to - do they even go to these sort of shows?
After walking all day, it was time to get some food in my belly - and what's better than Tapas when in Spain?
Although, something I learned in Madrid, Tapas is only Tapas when it's a snack that comes with an alcoholic beverage... but, for an Englishman like me, this would do the trick! A beautiful glass of Rioja, some cheese, plenty of ham and some seafood, I was a happy man!
And like that, all we had to do, was get our heads down in the hotel, pack our hand-luggage (literally just socks and underwear at this point), and get ready to head home and back to reality.
Barcelona is an exceptional city, which cannot be fully experienced in a whirlwind 36 hour trip, with minimal planning. There's so much to learn about the troubled history of Spain/Catalonia, the cultural and artistic impression that the city has had on the world, and some of the most welcoming people out there!
With Europe, physically so close (although politically, we are drifting further away), a quick city-break is just what the soul needs at times. We are blessed with where we can get to with a few clicks of a button - and I'll be doing exactly that in the near future.