I am going to be an au pair in Vilanova, Spain (very near Barcelona) during the summer of 2004. I will only be working 25 to 35 hours per week and will have the rest of the time to explore and sight see. I want to make some plans to do things before I get there so that I don't waste the opportunity because this may be my first and last time to be in Spain! If anyone has any tips/suggestions about what I should see and do please let me know! Also, if you know how safe it is there. I've heard the people there are really friendly, obviously I'm not going to go bar hopping or anything by myself, but I would like to know. I don't need to know everything before I go as my host family will help me a lot also. Any advice would be fabulous! Thanks!
I spent about 10 days in Spain over Christmas 2001. (4 in Barcelona, the rest in Cullera) Basically, the further south you go, the cheaper it is to live. In Barcelona, I would recommend seeing the some of Gaudi's archetecture while you are there- it is incredible, even if achetecture isn't your greatest interest. You will see his work on postcards everwhere- a enormous, intricate cathedral .. . a very unique building that looks like it is dissolving right before your very eyes . . .. Also, remember it is an Olympic city, so seeing where they were held may not be a bad idea, too. There is good shopping there too- Barcelonians have great fashion-sense. There is SOOO much to do there. If you have time, spend at least a week.
Barcelona is a pretty safe place. I had no problems when I was there, and people are pretty friendly.
It does help if you speak Spanish, though, because I didn't run into many people who spoke English.
A man did approach us and offer free cover and a first free drink at his disco (bar) when we were there, though we didn't take him up on it. I later found out that often they do that and then once you're in break it to you that there is a 3-drink requirement . . .. or something like that. So beware of that. You may plan on buying at least three drinks, though, so maybe you won't mind . . . BTW, their beer is fairly strong.
If you go, stay in the old town, as it is less expensive, though not too glamourous, always . . .. People might just walk up to you in the Barcelona train staion and offer you a place to stay. We did that and stayed in a pension, which is like renting a room in someone's appartment. The "owners" let us use their kitchen and fridge and the showers were shared among all the people who were staying there, and were cleaned daily. We spent most of our time outside of the pension, though, so our accomodations weren't a big deal to us . . .. It cost us roughly C$20 per night (That is about 2000 pestas, which is their old, now obsolete, currency). And it was very central.
Have fun in Spain!
Sound like you have some experience in Spain. I have never been there, but I guess sooner or later I'll have to do it. What do you suggest for some one like me who come from the US and can only spend no more than 3 nights in Spain. My plane will land in Madrid. What is there to do and see? Is there any chance to go to other city in that little time. I don't drink, but like to take pictures and watch what I spend (because, my wife complains that I spend too much money on trips).
Leah - I've spent a fair amount of time in Catalunya, and it is one of my favourite places. There is huge amounts to see and do just within the local area, and Barcelona is an amazing city. I can give you a few general suggestions to see/do, but if you tell us what sort of thinks your most interested, that might help give us a point of reference.
With regard to safety etc, it's more or less as safe as anywhere else. The ramblas (main street in Barcelona) is a wonderful place but extremely notorious for pickpockets generally on tourists, but normal precautions should be fine. There are a few neighbourhoods (as in any other town/city on the planet) where you don't want to be alone after dark, but other than that nothing specific to worry about. Barcelona is also a big tourist destination (and in contrast to Steph) i've never had a language problem there in maybe 15-20 visits, even though my spanish/catalan only runs to about 7 words.
Iloveflyin - 3 days is enough to see the major parts of Madrid and possibly do a day trip to somewhere like Toledo or Avila as well. If you can, it can be worth being there on a weekend (when museums are free, for example). And you'll be fine just wandering around looking and taking pictures. Another city is not really that viable in only 3 days as you risk missing most things. Some are possible, but as distances are quite big, can be expensive. But smaller towns like Toledo are certainly worth aday trip and easy to get to. One question - do you have to fly out of Madrid as well or...?
If either of you want to ask anything else, feel free and enjoy your stay/au pair-ing and quick visit respectively.
Thanks for your reply Rich.
Yes, I will return from Madrid as well. I am a furloughed American Airlines agent. Therefore I can only travel on AA. We have flights from Miami to Madrid. Chances are I might take off friday and monday from my other job and combine with the weekend to travel. How is the public transportation from Madrid to other out-laying cities?
I have heard that Madrid is quite similar to Barcelona, and I think it is less expensive, too. Unfortunatly, though, I have never been there, so I can't give you any advice about what to do or see. Sorry . . . Have fun, though!
Hi again iloveflyin,
Not sure i realised you were planning a tranatlantic weekend break, but seeing your job you obviously know all about jetlag etc. etc, so it should be fine.
You can easily spend 3 days just in Madrid as there is more than enough there for a weekend depending what you like. Personally disagree with bluewaav about Madrid being quite similar to Barcelona -
To me they feel completely different, and amongst other things, Madrid feels spanish whilst Barcelona really doesn't (and isn't). Architechturally, politically, lifestyle wise they are very different to my mind, although there are some similarities. For a feasible day trip, i would recommend Toledo or Avila (1hr 20-35). For somewhere further out Cordoba or even Sevilla (1 hr 50 and 2h 30 by high speed AVE) are more expensive but possible, although you won't really be doing either justice in just one day. The journey itself though is not bad though.
Public Transport to outlying towns and cities is generally good. The railway system is very efficient. HOWEVER - for all non purely local RENFE journeys (Spainsh railways) you must have a seat reservation in advance, so there is always the possibility that some trains to some places will be full up and you won't be able to go at your chosen time. Also, be aware that some places aren't served with any great regularity, so you do need at least a minimum of planning in advance.
As they generally won't sell tickets without a seat, your only way around that tends to be a rail pass where you can buy reservations once on board (at a higher price) or sit in the restaurant/bar car - providing you are drinking/eating something (preferably something bouught on board) or smoking they will normally not bother that you don't have a resv.
The best place on the web for train times tends to be german railways:
(i use them even for internally services in UK as they are more reliable than the english site), but for reservations/tickets on line for Spain, you will need:
If you need any help with them or advice on where to go, just post/msg me.
Be aware that Spain is quite a big country to cross with the mountains/plateau's etc, so long distance buses and even trains from Madrid take time, and the lowcost flight options aren't yet that big for internal destinations. As such, Barcelona/Valencia/S de Compostella/Bilbao-San sebastien etc aren't yet really that viable for a day trip - only if you head straight out to one of them and ignore Madrid completely might that work.
Thanks Steph and Rich.,
I might come in Madrid, spend one or two nights, take some sort of transportation to Bacelonia, spend one or two nights and return to Madrid, before getting back on the plane to go home.
I don't get jet lag. I love long flights anyway. My favorite one is from Dallas to Tokyo, 13 1/2 hour flight. I might take this flight in March with my father. I might get to Spain before the summer sets in. In April I plan to go to Vietnam with my mother for about 10 days.