Heat Wave 2015: Spain & Portugal

I wish I had blogged about our last year’s trip to Spain and Portugal sooner but blogging wasn’t really part of my priorities back then. Now, nine months later, I am trying to gather all the photos we have taken, checking my journal to refresh my memory, and collecting our invoices from that trip for the prices of our activities to share it all with you.

Planning

At the start of 2015, and by that I mean literally on New Year’s Day, we have chosen our summer getaway destinations, picked out the dates, and booked our flights. The plan was to leave for Barcelona and come back from Lisbon two weeks later. Then we hit the maps to find some other cities between these two that we can check out along the way. So that day we had come up with these cities, and in this order:

Barcelona → Valencia → Madrid → Lisbon

That was the easy part, though. The hard part was, of course, the waiting game! Waiting seven months for a holiday was just dreadful but, on the bright side, we’ve had enough time to organise everything else like transfer from city to city, accommodation, and the like. Also, knowing you have something to look forward to has helped a LOT.

Outline

July 16-20, 2015 – left for Barcelona from Berlin SXF with EasyJet. Booked a private room via Airbnb for four nights (but ended up having the place to ourselves because our host was away). Airbnb 92 € for 4 nights / EasyJet flight – 133,58 € for two BER – BCN

July 20-23, 2015 – left for Valencia via ALSA Bus (ca. 4h bus ride). Booked a private room via Airbnb – 51 € for 3 nights / ALSA bus ride – 20,- € each

July 23-26, 2015 – left for Madrid with Avanza Bus (ca. 4h bus ride). Booked a private room via Airbnb – 58 € for 3 nights / Avanza bus ride – 29,75 € each

July 26-27, 2015 – left for Lisbon via Renfe Trenhotel (night train, ca. 10h 30m ride). Standard tourist bed in cabin for 4 people 37,80 € per person.

July 27-28, 2015 – Arrived in Lisbon. Booked a hotel room with shared bathroom for three nights – 40 € per night. Ended up canceling after first night without refund.

July 28-30, 2015 – Rented a car and drove to Sintra. Booked a private room via Airbnb (more like a suite for we had our own bathroom, and the place had a garden and swimming pool). Car: 165,- € for 3 days. Airbnb – 112,- € for 2 nights.

July 30-31, 2015 (night) – watched a movie until around 3:00 AM then went to the airport and stayed there until it was time for the first flight out back to Berlin SXF.

The highlights of each city can be found in individual post with the links below:

Barcelona → Valencia → Madrid → Lisbon

Barcelona

The first leg of last summer’s trip was Barcelona. My wife and I had never been to Spain before so this trip was pretty exciting, considering we have waited since the start of the year for this trip.

Planning out our itinerary for our stay in this city was not that difficult since Barcelona is filled with tourist spots and it’s one of those places that a lot of people had already been to. I’ve gone through different blogs and travel websites for tips and must-see’s until I had come up with a list of our chosen destinations.

July 16, 2015

We have arrived at our Airbnb home at night and we were welcomed warmly by our host, Claudia. We had only booked a private room but since she was going to be away for the time of our stay, we had the whole place to ourselves. It was literally just across the street from Sagrada Familia. Location-wise, it was perfect because from there, it was pretty easy to get to anywhere.

Airbnb private room right across Sagrada Familia for four nights: 92,- €

IMG_3706An alley behind the building of our Airbnb home, right across the street from Sagrada Familia. We’ve felt pretty safe walking around even late at night.

July 17, 2015

Mercat de la Boqueria was our first stop the next morning. It’s an old market hall that dates back to as far as the 1200’s. They sell fresh goods including lots and lots of fruits, even tropical ones but they were quite pricey and understandably so, since La Boqueria is one of the foremost landmarks in the city. Because of this, we had to stop ourselves from splurging on our very first day for some fruit we’ve been missing so much from back home (the Philippines). Instead, we did our shopping at a regular grocery store for the meals we will be having at our Airbnb home for the next couple of days.

Okay, maybe we did splurge on half a kilo of rambutan but only because LOOK AT ALL THESE FRUITS

Beach. The weather in Barcelona was, at some point, literally too hot to handle. We nearly melted during this constant 38°C temperature we’ve had during the day. The good thing, though, is that there’s a 4km long stretch of beaches right by the city! We had chosen a spot on Platja del Bogatell beach and stayed there for a few hours of siesta and a cool-down soak in some salty beach water. Unfortunately, we hadn’t found any lockers nearby so we had to go in the water individually so the other could look after our stuff but that was the least of our worries. There’s no entrance fee for the beach but you have to pay for a beach chair and umbrella if you would want them. Alternatively, you could just bring your own beach paraphernalia with you. What you should not forget, though, are drinks! The announcement from the speakers had constantly reminded us to drink some water because of the heatwave, which was very thoughtful of them. Drinks are being sold there, of course, but those were just too pricey for us.

Two benches and one umbrella: 24,-€
   I guess it’s pretty clear to everyone now that I am not in any way a beach person.
A refreshing glass of Sangria after spending the afternoon by the beach.

July 18, 2015

We have spent the day walking around the city and, when we got tired of that, we rented some bikes and toured around Parc de la Ciutadella. When we were done with the bikes, we just sat under a tree and waited until it was time to go to Font Màgica de Montjuïc, where they do sets of lights display Thursdays to Sundays from 21:30 onwards. You will find the fountain below Palau Nacional. It’s really hard to miss for there is a wave of tourists headed towards the fountain. Viewing of the lights display is absolutely free but the tricky part is finding a spot where you can actually see it.

Bike rental (per hour): 2,- €

July 19, 2015

For this day, we had planned to go to Parc Güell mostly because it felt necessary. It was our last stop since we were leaving Barcelona the next day. When we got there, we’d realised it was smarter to buy an entrance ticket online. We didn’t do this because we were worried we might not make it on time since you may only enter the park on the time you had chosen in your booking. When we got there at noon, we were told that we may only enter as early as 16:30. So we got our tickets and took the bus to Catalunya to have lunch there until it was our time to get inside the park.

Parc Güell entrance fee (per person): 7,- €

I feel really silly to not have known before that it was going to be this hot in Spain! A constant 38-40°C for a couple of days was just extreme. I had assumed that, given we’re still in Europe, it wouldn’t be so bad but was I wrong! What’s fascinating is that, whenever we go down to ride the subway, we expect to feel some cool air from the underground but, to our surprise, it was like an oven there! We were to leave the next day and we could only hope for a more comfortable temperature at our next stop → València!