After the short bus ride to Paris Beauvais airport, and after the hour long flight, we touched down in Spain and quickly learned that Uber is banned. This was different since we were so used to using Citymapper and finding other ways to get around, but an easy change of pace and we settled for an expensive taxi, called with the app Cabify. Barcelona ended up being our trip of surprises and you’ll find out why. It was dubbed our relaxation part of the trip for the hot beaches but we stayed pretty active the entire time.
Over the first few days before our activities, we decided to cool it and spend time getting to know the beaches of Barcelona. We spent time Platja del Bogatell, Platja de la Barceloneta, and Platja de Sant Sebastià. It was extremely hot of course, with regular announcements made over the loud speaker to stay out of the sun as much as possible and to wear sunscreen. It felt as though I was buying a new bottle of sunscreen every other day.
We found a nice little convenience store by the beach that was also selling hot food. So even though the heat was enough to incapacitate us, we got some hot food, covered ourselves in sunscreen and went to relax on Platja del Sant Sebastià until sundown. Most beaches in Barcelona don’t close, so the party continued on for other people. There was music being played loudly from far away, giving beach day an awesome vibe. There were people going around selling their wares; beach blankets, trinkets, cold water, and massages.
Barcelona was very diverse and nearly everyone that we encountered spoke at least enough English to hold a conversation with us. I did my best even though my Spanish is a little rusty, but we ran into problems when they tried to speak English to us. So before taking anything from them, such as massages or anything that you cannot just give back, make sure that they take the form of currency that you are carrying, or you’ll be leaving the beach to find an ATM.
We woke up one morning wanting to see more of Barcelona besides the beaches, and needing a little break from the heat, so we decided to take a Big Bus tour and sit up top to catch some breeze and see some historic site such as, La Sagrada Familia. Along with the most famous and beautiful church in Barcelona, we saw Park Güell, Port Vell, and various other Gothic structures.
Kayaking & Snorkeling
We met our tour guide at Port Olìmpic early in the day and took an hour long car ride to Costa Brava. On the way there we got to get to know the others in our group a little better. When we stepped out of the van, we got blasted by the heat as well as the beauty of the coast. I was almost out of sunscreen and I continued to go without because the shops there by the beach were selling sunscreen with a 25 euro price tag for a tiny bottle that would have only been enough to cover one of my legs. I used what I had left, sparingly because we would be out on the water for at least 4 or 5 hours.
Our valuables got put away, along with anything else that could be lost to the beautiful waters of Costa Brava, then headed to the beach. We got a quick lesson from JB, our guide, on how to properly paddle and how to get in and out of the kayak without flipping it over (which my friend and I almost did). Got all our gear on and moved over to the water. We got in while the staff held the kayak and then pushed us out into the water. It started out slow because a couple of members in our group needed to be towed.
We paddled out into open water, careful to watch for swimmers, until we got to more narrow areas behind small cliffs that beach goers were jumping off of and into the clear water. We found a few, sort of hidden caves that we could squeeze ourselves into and see all of the life there. Tiny crabs and the like. After seeing a few cave dwellers, it was time to snorkel. We tied our kayaks together to one huge rock and put or masks on. The water wasn’t too chilly but colder than I expected. I saw little fish feeding on the coral there, and even an eel upon further investigation of the reef. It was massive and we turned right around and swam in the other direction.
The only downer to this, the BEST part of my trip, was seeing the reef and how it appeared to be dead and dying. Every thing was brown and beige and dull., not the vibrantly colored reef that JB told us used to live there. He told us that the reef was slowly dying because of pollution in and around Barcelona. Pretty sad if you ask me.
We got back into our kayaks and paddled out of there and back to shore, careful not to get in the way of any yachts or speed boats that were zooming by. We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the beach with sea breeze, beer, and lunch prepared by JB himself. A day that stood out for me and I’m glad that I made this memory.
Calm, Sunset Boat Ride on the Mediterranean
We walked through Port Olìmpic and met our host at the boatyard after walking past all the boats at the dock. Marc and Paola were super welcoming and as soon as we were on board, drinks were served. Beer, white wine and tapas, but even so, I knew from the start that the boat ride was going to be the best part of the trip to Spain. Before we even left port, Marc created a relaxing atmosphere with his great taste in music, playing a little Bob Marley here and there. We loved the music enough to ask Marc for the song names and he was nice enough to send his Spotify playlist. After we got our drinks, Paola brought out some awesome tapas for our group. Different cheeses, salami, carrots, humus and chorizo.
We enjoyed the gentle swaying of the boat until we were far out enough for a good swim. I have never had a swim out in open water like that before, so jumping off the side of the boat into the blue nothingness was a bit of a terrifying rush! But I loved it and I jumped a few more times with our fellow boat mates. We climbed back on board for more music and snacks, and as we continued to sail, we looked back to see tuna!
They were amazing to see and very fast. I was happy to be back on the boat at that point. Our sail took us out and around in front of the beaches, making for an awesome sunset view of Barcelona before heading back into port. If you haven’t already, book a sunset boat ride in any city where it is possible. It was one of most relaxing evenings of my life and I can’t wait to do it again.
The next day we decided to take in the city and walk around as locals on what we thought was going to be our last day in Spain. We walked past shops and restaurants and got more tapas. We made our way back to the airport, checked in, went through security, and headed for our gate. All boarded and waiting for take off.
Then everyone was taken off of the aircraft and told to wait by the gate.
So we waited…
and waited some more…
Then finally after a ton of prying, it was announced that our flight had been canceled. Everyone was instructed to go back down to check in, where it took forever for us to get any answers. After walking up and down Barcelona airport, we were told that we would all be boarding a bus to a beach town that was an hour away from the airport.
We were the first ones on the bus and not held up like everyone else because they couldn’t get to their checked luggage which wasn’t being handled because of airport strikes. At that moment we were very happy that we decided this should be a backpacking trip and I was very happy for my bag that held all that I needed for 15 days in Europe.
We arrived, aggravated, at Hotel Mar Blau, at around 3am. Thankfully we were checked in quickly and went straight to our room. Norwegian covered our room, every meal for 5 days, and transportation to and from the airport. Our re-booked flight was much smoother after feeling like we would never leave Spain. But it was a fun and interesting few days in Calella.
While stranded in Calella, we decided to make the best of our stay by visiting the beach every day, visiting local bars and restaurants, and eating tapas. Our first day on the beach there, we didn’t think to bring cash with us and the men renting beach umbrellas only took euros. He was kind enough to let us enjoy our day and umbrella and let us get the money for him later. The next day we had our cash ready for him and he was happy to see us. Later on, we realized that we were tired of seeing all the trash on the beach and we cleaned up a large area. The umbrella rental guy came over with a bag to take the trash from me, told us how awesome we were for wanting to see the beach clean, and gave us a free ticket for the next day.
I would like to point out that the waves that we experienced in Calella, were nothing like the calm and gentle waves of the beaches Barceloneta and Olìmpic that we had enjoyed a week prior. In Calella, I got scorpioned pretty hard by one particularly aggressive wave. We did our best to swim but repeatedly got the wind knocked out of us. Eventually we gave up and retreated back under our beach umbrella to simply enjoy the SOUND of the waves.
If you ever visit Calella, I encourage you to try some tapas. We stopped at Cantinflas & Grouchos for a bite and found a small restaurant being run by a happy little family.
On our last morning in Spain, it was calm and serene with the waves in the background and the sun starting to peek over the horizon. We left early, so no shops were open, no one was walking about and as we drove down the coast back to Barcelona airport, the beaches were empty except for one or two early morning fishers. It was a nice morning but still bittersweet. We had been so ready to go because we missed home, but ending a trip is always so hard for me. All the more reason to book my next trip. The flight went by smoothly with a 3-hour layover in Copenhagen. Not enough time to leave the airport and explore BUT we did find out that Copenhagen airport is HUGE! Like a mega mall but still very easy to find your way around. After finally touching back down in the U.S., I was very happy to make it to my own bed.