First off, I should explain that my husband has the best job ever! It allows him to travel often, which means I usually get to tag along. Not a bad deal.
I am so fortunate to have such great blogging friends. The lovely Lauren, of Perpetually Chic, wrote the following To Stay and To Do list for Paris and Barcelona. What wonderful suggestions! As for Madrid, I will be staying with some family that live there. Saweet!
// Paris – To Stay
B&B in the Champagne countryside outside Paris, as well as their apartments in the 11th arrondissement of the city (close to the Père Lachaise). The neighborhood is very safe and has many restaurants; a Metro station is close by for easy transportation around the city. http://www.marneweb.com/sleep/ http://www.billsparisapartments.com/
// Paris – To Do
Hit the famous sights…Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, Champs Élysées, Versailles, Musée d’Orsay, Jardin du Luxembourg, Montmarte. Also Les Puces de Saint-Ouen Market — the famous Paris flea market, which is the biggest in the world.
// Paris – Tips
Check out http://ohhappyday.com/category/paris/ she has some wonderful info about Paris.
// Barcelona – To Stay
Stay in the Gothic Quarter/El Borne–this is the best area to stay as it’s walking distance to everything and surrounded by tapas restaurants, bars and shops. http://www.cocoonbarcelona.com/en/apartments/barcelona-rent-apartment-257.htm
The location is perfect, the apartment itself is very basic. Check out the Cocoon Barcelona website because it has a TON of other apartment rentals, and you can search by your travel dates, budget, etc. on their site. I would just recommend looking for a place to stay–apt or hotel–in the Gothic Quarter.
// Barcelona – To Do
1. Walk up the La Rambla and stop to check out the famous Boqueria market. For lunch, head north of the market on the same side of the street a few more blocks and eat a Café Viena for the famous Iberian ham flauta (sandwich) and a really icy cold beer.
2. Wander around the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter/El Borne, which are lined with tiny shops, museums and restaurants. Be sure to catch the Picasso museum and stop into La Manual Alpargatera, a famous espadrille shop. El Borne has tons of cool bars worth checking out after dinner (i.e. 11pm). Gelato is also a good option if you’ve already had too much wine at dinner!
3. Sagrada Familia – hop on the metro. It will take a couple hours to walk around the church and go in, but it is amazing to experience.
4. Park Güell – a short metro ride, plus a decent walk, but really cool Gaudi architecture with spectacular views of the city.
5. Shop on the Passeig de Gràcia. This is the prime shopping street, from Zara to Carolina Herrera. There are also two Gaudi buildings here – you can look at the architecture from the street, or also go in. Stop for lunch at Tapaç 24, a cute and packed tapas restaurant.
6. You should definitely eat a nice dinner at Santa Maria (on Comerç 17 in the El Born)! This was our favorite restaurant! It’s small and intimate, with a seasonal menu and phenomenal food. We just asked the staff for recommendations on several things to order, and the food did not disappoint.
7. Take a long lunch one day and eat seafood at La Mar Salada (in Barceloneta, the port area). Start with the calamari, a bottle of crisp white wine and share the seafood paella (this is the real deal). You will want to take a siesta after!
8. If you have time, take a day trip by train to Sitges, the Saint-Tropez of Spain. It’s a beautiful artsy seaside town. Fun to just hang out there for the day.
I thought this would be a good time to share with you, some of my simple travel staples. I am not joking when I say, these are the four items I always bring with me when I travel. If you haven’t already purchased a DK Eye Witness travel guide before – YOU NEED TO. These books are packed with valuable information and always save the day when I am looking for a nice meal. They have maps inside and often include info about hours of operation and common phrases when you’re in need of speaking the local language. An extra bonus is their small size, which fits nicely in a purse.
Flats. Okay, this is common sense folks. You just can’t walk around all day long in heels. You just can’t. So you really should bring along a cute pair of flats. The key here, is bringing a pair that are versatile enough you can wear with a bunch of outfits. I like to mix and match patterns, so these trendy flats by Sole Society will be in my bag! Keep in mind comfort. I don’t care what they say, but pain does not = gain.
Bring a scarf. Just do it, you’ll thank me later. You can wear it to keep you warm on those chilly nights. A scarf can act as a hair accessory and double as an eye mask for those long flights when you want some shut eye. Not to mention, they can jazz up any outfit. This geometric scarf wants to go to Paris…
Finally, bring your CAMERA! These are memories people. You should be cherishing them. I really want to try out this camera. I’ve heard a lot of great reviews and for the price why not? I always bring my DSLR when I travel, but I think this would be good for those days when you don’t want something so bulky.
I hope some of these tips will help you next time you travel, or maybe they’ll inspire you to book a trip right now!