Back in October, I flew out to Asia & Europe for 3 weeks. Along the way, I stopped in Barcelona for a few days to tour the city, make new friends, and to do some yoga. With the craziness of non-stop traveling since then + moving to a new state, I finally have some time to sit down and write about my travels!
Spain has been on my Bucket list for a while, and since 2016 was apparently the year to cross off half my bucket list as complete, I thought I’d stop by Barcelona on my way from Thailand to Ibiza. I had 2.5 days before heading to Ibiza for a week of yoga, so I booked my flight, a cheap hostel, and didn’t plan one thing (!). Normally, I plan most of my trips out with a little wiggle room for spontaneity… however, I was way too busy to even think about looking for things to do – I figured once I arrived, the hostel & people staying there would give me some good tips. And guess what – I don’t think I’ll ever plan anything to do on any trip ever again! I had an amazing time exploring the city by myself, getting lost, and meeting some really bad ass people along the way. Below is a recap of my first time in Barcelona – and definitely not my last!
Arrive at Hostel One Ramblas
The hostel was a bit dingy, and it didn’t look like the pictures on their website AT ALL. However, the staff was really helpful and gave me a huge map of the city with recommendations of best places to go. They also do your laundry for a few euros – so I handed the staff a bag full of sweaty yoga clothes and left to explore the city around 10 am.
First stop: La Boqueria, because FOOD! La Boqueria is a huge open market in Barcelona, and it is easily my favorite place ever.
Just look at how amazing and delicious everything looks!
Fresh fruit, fresh baked bread, meats, cheeses, chocolate… I wish I could take this market back to the US!
I grabbed a cup of fresh fruit & walked around, then bought some lunch before I left – baked bread filled with meat, mashed potatoes, and rice. So. So. Good.
After leaving the market, I wandered down La Rambla and explored different shops + people watched. It was so busy and so easy to get lost! In fact, I did get lost. However, that is the best way to figure out where you are in a new city, right??
tourist guide groups were everywhere!
I walked through parks, learned that street names were on buildings (seriously, so confusing!), and eventually made it to the Arc De Triomf. There was a lot of construction going on around it, but it was gorgeous!
Park de la Ciutadella was nearby, so I headed over there and people watched for a while. There were salsa dancers practicing, people blowing huge bubbles, and couples enjoying romantic boat rides on a pond nearby.
Blowing bubbles, with the Cascada Fountain in the background
Another reason to visit Barcelona: Architecture. Gaudi is very well-loved in Spain, as his architecture is stunning and so unique. His work is everywhere around the city, and it was amazing to be able to see it all! **In the picture above, you can se the Cascada Fountain, which was built by Josep Fontseré, with Gaudi as his assistant.
After leaving the park, I got lost. Again. BUT – I’m glad I did, because I found something very, very important: The Chocolate Muesum.
Made entirely from chocolate!
I learned about the history of chocolate, which is something I should know about since I eat so much of it! There were a lot of displays from movies, like minions, star wars, bambi, etc, all made completely of chocolate (see above)!
Since I had been walking around all afternoon, I decided to stop by a local tapas restaurant to grab another snack on my way back to the hostel. Everything was 1 Euro – a small glass of champagne, cheese, meats, etc. So, cheese & rose it was!
After finally making it back to the hostel, I showered & got ready for the night walk. There is a morning and afternoon activity planned everyday, and that night we walked for about a half hour across the city & up a LOT of steps & hills to get to a look point over the city. (I walked 12+ miles this day!)
We grabbed a bottle of wine & some snacks, and watched the sun set over Barcelona.
This night was hands down my favorite part of Barcelona – it was relaxing, gorgeous, and the views were unbelievable! If I lived in Barcelona, I would come here almost every night.
Afterwards, we all went back to the hostel to get ready for the night. The hostel I stayed at cooked a “family dinner” every night, and you could eat a plate (or 2) if you donated some money to help pay for the food. Afterwards, we all help clean up, then begin drinking before going out. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that I had been up for almost 24 hours and there was a 6 hour difference between Thailand and Spain… so, I got ready, decided to take a quick nap, then fell asleep until the next morning… Oops! Fortunately, I had another day to explore 🙂
Day 2 was all about getting lost, trying to find the best views of the city, castles, gardens, yoga, and dancing!
Placa Espanya – picture taken on top of a shopping mall!
I started my day off with with heading west to Plaça Espanya & finding the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya + water fountain that overlooked a part of the city.
The Fountain is HUGE in person!
View over the fountain!
I am not really a museum person (unless it is about chocolate!), so I didn’t actually go IN to the museum… but, the outside + views were absolutely amazing!
Afterwards, I began to wander South to the Olympic museum & stadium(s) as well as through some gardens. Honestly, I was just trying to find my way to Montjuïc Castle Castell de Montjuïc, but I could not for the life of me figure out how the heck to get there. Fortunately, there are signs that point you there, and a LOT of hills that let you know that you are reaching a higher part of the city (where all the views are!).
You can also take a cable car up to the castle, which will definitely save you some time and miles… However, I recommend walking, as it is great exercise and you can walk through different gardens on your way!
I had to pay a small amount (I think 10-20 Euro) to get into the castle, which was really cool to explore. And the views were of course, amazing – you can look out over the city & the harbor – well worth it!
On my way back to the hostel, I got lost. Again. However, I did find a yoga studio, which I ended up going to later that night… this is why I love traveling!
I stopped at a local tapas restaurant called Blai 9 (recommended by the hostel staff) for some food + a beer, because.. Spain! There needs to be more restaurants like this in the US… It’s like a buffet, but for appetizers – 1 Euro each!
After walking around all day, I stopped by a local nail studio for a pedicure… 20 euro for a gel pedicure = best money spent the entire trip! The salon staff were hilarious, and they helped me learn a few more spanish words in the hour that I was there 🙂
After my pedicure, I finally made it back to the hostel for a quick nap… then, YOGA! The entire point of my international travels 🙂
I went to The Garage, a yoga studio transformed from an old garage from the 1940’s. It was an absolutely beautiful space, and I was lucky enough to take a class from the owner.
The class was slow, calm, and entirely in spanish & sanskrit – so I knew what was going on half the time! Chanting & breathwork followed by a simple sequence was perfect following a day of walking 10+ miles around the city.
Following yoga, I went back to the hostel for a shower and dinner… then a night full of drinking & dancing! I couldn’t tell you the places we went, as we took a train across the city and went to 2-3 different places. However, it wasn’t the places that we went that were awesome – it was the people. I met some really amazing, beautiful people traveling – for fun, on a search for meaning in their life, coming from a pilgrimage on Camino de Santiago, students, working people in their 20’s and 30’s… It didn’t matter if I’d ever meet these people again – hearing their stories and learning from them are priceless, and it’s one of the main reasons I travel. Hearing about someone else’s experience can literally change the course of your life, your passion, where you live, where you travel… it’s amazing, and I think everyone should experience & meet other travelers at some point in their lives (whether it be in a hostel, across the world, across the US, in a bar, at an airport… location doesn’t matter!).
After leaving the first bar (where an entire bottle of liquor was given to pour as much as we wanted into a glass), we went to a club and danced… until 2:30 am! Hours literally passed by in minutes, I swear. So, I left with a few other people & headed back to the hostel. After we got back, I ended up walking to the pier and talking with another girl from Germany until 4 or 5 in the morning. It was so quiet & peaceful, and it was the perfect ending to my stay in Barcelona!
The next morning, I decided to stop by La Boqueria again, because I wanted some chocolate/candy before grabbing a cab to the airport…
and, of course, some gelato and a cappachino for breakfast. Who doesn’t love being an adult?? (I swear, I don’t eat this bad everyday!)
All sugared up, I headed back to the hostel & said my goodbyes. Then, a quick cab ride to the airport, on schedule to fly out for a week in Ibiza (blog post coming soon)!
**Side note – I flew Ryan Air for the first time and learned the hard way that you need to print your ticket out ahead of time… Otherwise, you will have to wait in line for an hour + pay 20 extra euro just to get the ticket printed out.
Also – Spain & Ibiza is expensive. And the cost to take money out at the airport & ATMs are ridiculous – so try to take as much cash as you can before flying internationally, or you will be paying a lot of fees! I recommend stashing different amounts of cash in different areas of your luggage/carry on/clothes in the case that something gets stolen or lost.
Overall, Barcelona is amazing. I would go back and spend more time there, or even live there for a year or 2. The city is gorgeous, and there are so many things to do and explore!
Has anyone ever been to Barcelona? If so, what were your favorite parts??
Back in the fall, I attended a local speed networking event for Entrepreneurs. While there, I met Nate, founder of Oyster World Radio & Travel Education. Oyster world Radio is an awesome podcast that interviews travelers about their experiences – whether it be an amazing adventure or someone who quit their job to travel, Oyster has found a fun way to teach culture around the globe.
While chatting, Nate asked me to be on his show to talk about my solo travels around the world. We recorded a podcast over the phone last year, and it finally launched this week! It turned out amazing – I talked about my trips, fears, and how traveling has changed me.
If you are at all on the fence about traveling, just getting into it, or already an avid traveler, this podcast is perfect to put on while driving to work or hanging out around the house (I listen to it while getting ready in the morning or driving to work!). It gives you a look into the minds & decision-making of people who travel – it’s really, really awesome… You will want to drop everything and plan a trip now!
You can find it on iTunes or Stitcher! If you listen, let me know what you think!
I have been asked by quite a few people how much my 10-day trip to Europe cost. I estimated the total to be around $3,000 total, including everything. However, I never really sat down to look at how much I REALLY spent – probably because I was too afraid to see the actual cost, and I know there are things I could have spent more wisely on! With it being my first trip to Europe, alone, I just wanted everything to be easy, so I kind of just handed over my credit card/took out cash whenever I needed something! The actual total ended up being $3,865. I know, I know, not cheap. However, I wasn’t super strict about my spending – almost half was on transportation (flight + train pass), and a LOT of which was spent on chocolate and beer! No regrets. This trip could have definitely been cheaper if I booked earlier than 2-3 months in advance. Anyways, below is the cost breakdown, including information on the credit card I used, and the timeline of booking my trip.
First things first: Credit card. This was definitely a year for spending money, for a couple of reasons:
1) I wanted to travel internationally
2) I wanted to cross a lot off my bucket list
3) I wanted to get my yoga teacher certification
With that being said, I got dinged with international fees when I was in Costa Rica last year & Belize earlier this year, so I needed a card that didn’t charge me fees every time I traveled out of the country. I researched a few cards, and decided to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Card. Since I’m not loyal to a specific airline, and I already bank with Chase, the Sapphire card seemed like the most logical card to get. Below are a few reasons why I chose this card:
- No foreign transaction fees when traveling internationally
- While there is a $95/year fee, the first year fee is waived
- If you spend $4,000 within the first three months of use, you get 50,000 bonus points – which, when booking any traveling through the chase website (super easy and amazing, btw), is $625 towards airfare or hotels. I booked an impromptu trip to Florida, my trip to NYC, AND my upcoming California flights for free with those points!
- $4,000 may seem like a lot to spend in 3 months, but I put everything on my credit card – bills, groceries, my trip to europe, and every single cost for my yoga teacher training. It’s definitely doable, especially if you add an authorized user to help you spend more money!
- Add an authorized user within the first 3 months, get another 5,000 points (I didn’t use this because, well, I am single and have no one else to use my credit card ;)). However, you could add a parent or a friend to help you earn points!
- 20% off travel when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- You book by logging into your chase account, then go into chase ultimate rewards and book there. The last 3 flights I booked through chase with my points was 20% less than if I had booked through an airline or travel site!
- As a side note – I had issues booking my last-minute flight to Florida back in October, so I called chase to book over the phone – they spent an hour on the phone with me, looking for the cheapest flight that fit my very limited schedule – seriously, the best customer service ever!
- If you are partial to a specific airline, you can even transfer your points to your frequent flyer travel programs! Ex: Transfer 1,000 points from your chase card to your southwest frequent flyer miles.(Participating programs: British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards® and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.)
This was the card that I used, so I am pretty partial to it. It all depends on what you are looking for in a credit card, what your travel frequency, etc is. So, I recommend looking at all your options and picking what works best for you. Nerd Wallet has a tool that you can use to find the most logical travel card for you based on monthly spend, credit score, fees, etc. Check out their comparison tool here.
Now – on to the more detailed part of the trip
Below is a breakdown by transportation, food, activities, accommodations, items bought for traveling, etc. I am going based off of credit card/debit card activity, as well as extra traveling items I purchased for the trip.
I also created a google doc beginning in June (I left the second week of September)to add misc information for my trip and to plan – I normally do this for any trip to a place I haven’t been before! It might seem a bit scatter-brained, but it was a great way to keep all of my information in one spot. I basically start out with a blank spreadsheet and add stuff as I go along – I think i edited this until the day I left! It took me a few weeks to actually create a solid schedule, and I estimated all of the costs, but that’s the fun of planning ;).You can check out what it looks like here!
I booked my flight less than 3 months before I left – so, my flights were definitely not the cheapest. I recommend booking sooner, if possible. I used google flights to find the cheapest flights based on my timeframe & where I wanted to fly into, then went through my Chase credit card rewards account to book the actual flights (it’s cheaper when booking with points!). Super easy, and all of my information is in one place.
Food: $111.07 (on credit card)
Misc (Food, Souveniers, etc): $862.38
Pre-Trip Purchases: $215.57
Total Cost of Trip: $3,865.80
You can find the actual spreadsheet here.
So that’s it! This is what goes on in my brain when traveling and planning my trips! Also, planning versus what actually happens is very different (in a good way!), so always be prepared for the unexpected 🙂
I hope this helps anyone planning a trip to Europe, Oktoberfest, or pretty much anywhere! There are a lot of traveler sites out there with much more information, ways to travel cheap, etc. I recommend taking a look at as many blogs as you can, and taking what you want from them. It’s your trip, so plan the way you want and do what you are comfortable doing! If you have any questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment below!
What you all have been waiting for… my last post on my travels to Europe! After experiencing 2 straight days/nights at Oktoberfest, I decided to actually explore the city a little bit more. And with one day left, I went on a bike tour in the morning, and a pub crawl at night – best way to end my time in Munich! Below is a summary of my last 2 days in Germany:
Monday, September 21:
After being out until 2 am the night before & coming back to my hostel with someone in my bed, I was not exactly ready for my alarm to go off around 7 am. I scheduled a last-minute bike tour for 8:30 am – 4 hours long – with Mike’s Bike Tours. It was highly recommended by quite a few people I met while traveling, and its an easy way to see the city. I am not much for museum hopping or history, but the tour guide was absolutely hilarious and made the 4 hours pass by so quick.
We toured a few churches, learned about the history of hofbrauhaus, the city, hitler, politics…
Stopped at a nude park….
and stopped at the world’s second largest beer garden for lunch (and some beer!). Yes, we all drank and rode our bikes back to the city. Total norm in Munich.
We also got to watch some awesome surfers ride a wave on a river… dangerous, but very cool to watch!
After returning our bikes, I decided to walk around the open air market a bit – basically a huge market with lots and lots of fresh food. I would go here every day and buy all of my groceries from the vendors if I lived in Munich.. this place was amazing! It’s pretty similar to a farmers market, but way bigger.
I was meeting up with a friend I met in Geneva/Chamonix for dinner, so I decided to head back and rest a bit beforehand. I barely got any sleep the entire trip, and I finally gave in and took a much-needed nap.
I met up with my friend at Fraunhofer, and it was seriously amazing.
I ordered some sort of dumpling dish – and you never know what you are going to get, because it’s always different at every restaurant you go to in Germany. And beer. Because, when in Germany… Also – Franziskaner Weissbier is now one of my favorite beers ever. Something about banana beer always gets me… Where can I find this in the US?!
After dinner, we hopped around a few bars, grabbing a few more drinks before heading in at midnight.
Sunday, September 22:
I got up around 7/8 am, checked out of my hostel, and headed to the airport.
I wanted to check out the airbrau brewery – a brewery at the Munich airport – before leaving. And no matter how much I travel, I always need to be at the airport 10 hours before my flight leaves, because I have awful anxiety about missing my flight.
Anyways, I was going to check in, but my flight area didn’t open until 12:30. And it was 10:30. Soooo it was time for an early lunch at the brewery… and it didn’t disappoint. I mean, who wouldn’t want beer, cheese, pickles, sausages, and bread for breakfast?? And I am being dead serious. German food forever changed my taste buds… although, I still steer clear of sauerkraut. heck.no.
After finally being able to check in around 1, I find that my flight is delayed for a few hours. I ended up sitting and chatting with a couple from DC, so it wasn’t too bad. Except I had an awful sinus infection, and my nose would not.stop.running. Luckily, I found medicine at the airport, and the 9 hour flight to Canada wasn’t awful. However, I arrived back to the states around 11/11:30, and I hadn’t slept for over 24 hours. So, you could say I was ready to sleep when I finally got to my apartment. And jet leg – you are a real thing. I felt like I was walking around with my brain in the clouds until Friday afternoon!
So that sums up my first trip to Europe – I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and that it might be helpful if you ever decide to travel to Switzerland/Chamonix/Munich! I am thinking my next trip will be Iceland – has anyone ever been? Any other ideas where to go next?
As promised, I am finishing up a summary of my adventures at Oktoberfest in a second blog post (You can find the first part here).
Sunday, September 20:
To preface: I never really thought too far in advance about Munich – I figured I would meet people and figure it out after I arrived. With that being said, my first day at Oktoberfest proved to be pretty exciting, and full of a LOT of beer. When I woke up the next morning, my body told me it needed a break. So, I kind of listened to it 😉
I had a few things to knock off my to-do list, and the olympic park was one of them. Once I drank a few bottles of water, I headed over to the train station & bought a 1-day train pass around the city – about $6 Euro. I didn’t even get lost, which is saying a lot – my directional learning disability seemed to resolve itself while traveling 🙂
I got dropped off at the station next to the BMW museum – which was cool to look at, but it wasn’t something I really wanted to see. Munich is way more spread out than the towns I went to in Switzerland, so I had to walk/travel quite a bit more to get places. Because of that, I stuck to the things I wanted to see and didn’t make any detours unless I had extra time.
I wanted to go ziplining over the olympic stadium, so I started walking towards the general area I thought the stadium was at. Lucky for me, my sense of direction was on point, and I ended up finding my way to exactly where I needed to be. There was a LOT of walking involved! Which is fine, because I had to walk off all the food and beers I had the day before. The park was so beautiful, and there was so much to look at… I could have spent an entire day there!
After arriving at the stadium, I bought a ticket for ziplining – which, when originally looking at online, it seemed a bit more exhilarating. Since jumping out of a cable car 450 feet above a lake in Switzerland… not so much. But, since I walked that far, I decided to go for it – how many people can say they ziplined across the olympic stadium in Munich?? An hour later, I was geared up, and walking up the side of the stadium to the platform. The guide asked if I was going to do a backflip – to which I laughed at – but then realized he was serious. But, like I said, after bungee jumping, i thought “what am I even afraid of??” So I ended up doing a front flip off the edge, and ziplined to the other side. Nothin’ to be afraid of.
After I left the park, I walked back to the train and decided to make a detour. Which, knowing me, I would totally get lost. Luckily, I am a smart girl, and I ended up exactly where I wanted to go: Hofbrauhaus! (Funny side note – I met a few more people from Ohio on the train there – Buckeyes are everywhere!)
I didn’t stay and eat, but I wandered around and explored all of the rooms – the building is huge! So much music, drinking, food… just an overall happy place to be on a Sunday at 2 in the afternoon. It was raining a little bit off and on the entire afternoon, AND it was pretty cold. So, I don’t blame people for staying indoors and having a fun Sunday!
After I left, I ended up exploring more of the area, finding a ton of gorgeous buildings and fun shops.
Also, I walked. A Lot. And then walked some more. My feet were tired and I had not eaten anything since I woke up, so I headed back to my hostel around 3 pm. I was hungry, and the receptionist at my hostel recommended a local restaurant, so I headed back out, thinking I was going to grab a bite to eat and take a nap afterwards. Fortunately, adventure seemed to always be around the corner for me, and I ended up meeting some new friends at the restaurant I went to.
A group of friendly guys from England & Australia were having a beer before heading off to Oktoberfest, and they invited me to join them. What other answer would be acceptable besides “of course!”?? After getting changed, we headed to the Oktoberfest grounds – to Lowenbrau Tent, which is known to be the friendliest tent at Oktoberfest! We made friends and sat down (you need to be sitting at a table in order to get a beer), but ended up getting kicked off the table… the people who reserved and paid for the table showed up, and they were not very happy with us. Luckily, we found another table, and were able to drink and eat until the tent closed down at 11. I did handstands on the table, someone bought me a hat, we ate pretzels and german food, and danced on the tables from 5-11. Also, keeping in mind the 4-5 liters of beer I drank the night before, I stuck with 2 liters on my second night – more than enough for a tiny girl like me 🙂
My overall review of the tent can be summed up as this: families, younger kids (think age 16-22), mediocre beer and pure craziness. There were a lot of things that I witnessed in this tent that I wish I never saw (lewd men, male nudity, etc). Don’t get me wrong – I had an absolute blast! But I will say that the Armbrustschützenzelt tent was hands down my favorite tent (of the 3 I went to).
After the tent closed, the we hung out and went on the bumper cars, and the guys went on a few of the rides (I watched – I don’t know how anyone could go upside down after drinking that much beer?!). While watching everyone on the rides, I was given a rose…. I could definitely get used to this in the states 😉
We all headed back to the hotel/restaurant, grabbed a drink, and danced some more. I finally decided to call it a night around 1 – I had a bike tour to catch at 8:30 the next morning and needed to get a little bit of sleep!
Upon arriving at my hostel, I was very quiet, as I did not want to wake up any of my roommates. To my surprise, there was someone sleeping in my bed! I felt like I was in the story of Goldilocks & the 3 bears – except there was a dude sleeping in his underwear in my bed instead of a sleepy, blonde-haired girl (me!). Needless to say, I was not happy. So, I turned on the lights, and told him to get the heck outa my bed. It was pretty comical watching him stumble across the room and into the top bunk, so I couldn’t be too mad! I woke up to a few guys getting up at 7 am to head back to Oktoberfest – and the guy who had been sleeping in my bed couldn’t find his phone OR his pants… The Oktoberfest struggle was real! LOL
My spontaneous second-day at Oktoberfest ended up being an awesome addition to my trip (I had only planned on going 1 day) – so for anyone else heading out to Munich next year, just plan on 2+ days. The experience and the people you meet are totally worth it – you will never regret german beer & new friends!
For anyone that has been to Oktoberfest – what was your favorite tent? Do you have any other tips/info that I didn’t talk about?