Somewhere to stay in Spain
Spain is not a new country for us. We spent a week in one of the Costas many moons ago (Brava or Blanca, I can’t recall), and weren’t terribly impressed. The place was set up for – and heaving with - Brits, so we didn’t really get much of a feel for the country at all. The highlight of that holiday was a day spent driving through the Pyrenees Mountains, so we knew there were authentic Spanish experiences to be had – the Costa Whatever-It-Was just didn’t provide it, is all.
This time we decided we would do a two-centre stop, trying to limit our time in the popular British tourist spots. First we stayed in Barcelona for a little over a week, and then we headed south towards Seville, where we’d booked an apartment for a month.
One of the problems we have had travelling on a whim has been finding affordable last-minute accommodation. As you may recall from my last post, we’d only decided to come to Spain a couple of days before, so had left it horribly late to find a hotel. Add in the fact that it’s high season, and you can find yourself making a huge hole in your budget. Pete’s mum and dad had generously given him with a Hostelling International card for his birthday, but our experience has been that these places are usually booked solid, so you have to make your reservations well in advance.
This left us with a dilemma: a) pay extortionate prices in the city centre, or b) head for the outskirts and put up with the extra travelling to and from the main tourist spots. We chose option b), as this had worked out wonderfully for us in the past.
We ended up in an area called Sabadell, in northeast of the city. It meant that we had to take a train to get to the centre, which took a little under half an hour, but as we noted at the time, it’s not like we’re in any hurry! The trains in Spain are cheap, fast, frequent and air-conditioned, so the journey was quite pleasurable (especially with a good book or a fully-charged MP3 player!) Also, to make up for the (minor) inconvenience of longer travel times, we ended up in a very affordable 3-star hotel. The rooms were gorgeous, the Wi-Fi was free, they had a bar downstairs, mini-bars in the rooms, and would deliver pizza to you any time of the day or night, even on a Sunday when everything else was closed. What more could we ask for?
The hotel was also conveniently located for bars and cafes (at least one on every corner, it seemed!), there was a supermarket next door, and if you wanted a more serious shopping experience you could walk into Sabadell centre in about 25 minutes.
One other downside to our location was that we were outside of the tourist areas, so the merchants weren’t really used to dealing with English-speaking patrons. We got a few funny looks as we sat and ate our I-dunno-what-I’m-ordering-but-I-hope-it’s-edible lunches outside the cafes ‘cos we so obviously didn’t belong there, but we had few problems making ourselves understood. (Pete is very good at combining sign language with a few words of the local lingo and getting results!)
Our first proper excursion into Barcelona proper confirmed that we had made the right choice. The centre is crowded, noisy and expensive, and we would have ended up paying upscale rates for a downscale room had we chosen to stay there. Our long-distance solution isn’t for everyone - we found that many people criticised our hotel’s location in the online reviews - but it works well for people like us who value peace and quiet over convenience. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes ‘nice’ hotels but can’t afford city centre prices.
So, on to Seville!
Here we decided to do something a bit different and stay put for a month. It was a good move, as the cost of renting an apartment is way cheaper than booking a room in a hotel. (Pete actually worked out that it'd be cheaper to live here permanenntly than go back to New Zealand. Interesting idea, hmmm?)
The apartment itself is lovely (combined bedroom/living area, separate kitchen and bathroom, plus outside terrace area), and in a quiet area of town. I’m going to be lazy and let someone else provide the photos today. Have a look at this website for pictures of the apartment and more information about booking, etc.
The owners (also lovely) live in the apartment downstairs, although they are actually away on holiday themselves at the moment, so we are having noisy parties every night and terrorising the neighbours. (No, we’re not. We’re being good... ish.)
We are situated next door to a monastery, so we do hear bells throughout the day (though thankfully they don’t start at 4 o’clock in the morning or anything silly like that!) For the first couple of weeks the bells were barely audible, but I reckon Quasimodo has moved in recently ‘cos the ringing has become increasingly enthusiastic. I shall have to see if I can see anyone swinging from the ropes and shouting, “The bells! The bells!” (Or “Les cloches! Les cloches!” Well, we are in Spain, after all.)
I shall do a more typical 'out and about' type of entry very soon, complete with pictures.
Ding dong from Julie & Pete