On Wednesday June 27th we left our house with two backpacks, a stroller, and a toddler (what were we thinking). Our original schedule didn’t call for us to leave until the next day, but since Rabat was having a heat wave and our bedroom temperatures hadn’t dropped below 92 in days, no one had gotten much sleep. In a last minute decision we decided to wrap everything up that we could and take off early. The chaos and mess we left in our wake at home was worth it, since everyone but me got a good nights’ sleep in an air conditioned room, starting our trip off on a positive note, not a tired one. I on the other hand was up at 3 am thinking of all the things that might have been forgotten, (which was inevitable regardless of where we slept.)
So on Wednesday night we took the train from Rabat to Fez where we stayed the night at the train station hotel. The following morning we took a grand taxi to the airport and prepared to board our first flight in more than a year; (our longest break from flying we are likely to have for a while). This was a Ryanair flight, and our first time flying with them; but the price was right even after adding up the infamous low cost airline additional fees. Around 3 in the afternoon we arrived outside Barcelona and boarded the bus for the hour long ride into the city. This is when we started reconsidering the discount flight we opted for. This was our little one’s first bus ride, and while she was not pleased with the notion of remaining seated for over an hour she managed to fall asleep on my lap which made things much easier. From the bus station we got on the metro and from the metro we walked to the hotel. Thankfully this was to be one of our longest travel days for a while!
We finally made it to the hotel around 6:00 in the evening, just in time to be late for our scheduled dinner with some friends that completely by random chance were visiting Barcelona from the states. After three days in the taxi, (which should have been faster than the metro), we finally made it to the restaurant and started off our vacation with a couple of badly needed pitchers of sangria. After a great dinner we briefly wandered the streets of Barcelona to see a Gaudi house and then hopped onto the metro back to our hotel.
Overall a good first day; based on the requirements that we had survived and weren’t regretting embarking on this crazy adventure yet!
Guidebooks – Since we were traveling light we kept our books to a minimum. For this leg of our trip we used Fodor’s Spain and were very happy with it. We never felt the need for a city specific guide. We have now used it for five trips to Spain and never needed anything more. For European travel in general Fodor’s are my go-to Travel Books.
Ryanair – we actually had no problem with Ryanair itself, but I wouldn’t do it the same if I had to do it over. We did the math and took into account the baggage fees and the reserved seat fees, (I wasn’t going to go elbow to elbow fighting my way on the plane with a little one in my arms), and it was the best deal. That being said we did not take into account the bus fee or time and that made the difference. It was about a $25 fee per person to take the bus and an unknown amount of time waiting for the bus, (we were pretty pushy and made it on one of the first ones), and an hour bus ride into the city. I would recommend paying more and getting a flight directly to El Prat, right in the city.
Metro – Great! I completely recommend using it! It was safe, clean, affordable, and easy to use. We got T-10 packs of tickets, which is literally just purchasing a pack of 10 tickets. You can use them as a group, (you don’t have to all get your own), and they are cheaper than a single fare and more convenient. Looking at their website recently, it looks like they have gone to day passes instead. As far as using it with a stroller, I would say it’s pretty doable. Stroller accessibility – Many of the main stations have elevators, but not all of them so if you are not comfortable carrying your stroller up a flight of stairs make sure you check a map that indicates what stations are handicap accessible. It may mean that you have to walk to the next station down the line and not use the one closest one, but’s it’s manageable.
Lodging – We stayed at AC Hotel Som for $110 per night. AC is a European line of Marriot hotels. This is actually one of the nicer hotels we will be staying at. We found that there is no cheap place to stay in Barcelona unless you find a great deal; which we did not. So knowing there was not going to be a great deal we opted for something we were comfortable with to make sure we started off our trip right as we found our way. We were located outside the heart of the city so we were required to take the metro to do everything; the total travel time was reasonable enough to allow us to come back to the hotel nap/regroup and go back out again in the evening. The walk to the metro was about 10 minutes, clean, well lit, and safe; the metro station also had an elevator which was nice since we were using a stroller.