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Our most expensive hotel yet!
Our options to get to Barcelona from Almeria were not great. It boiled down to a 12 hour overnight bus or, for about the same cost, we could take the rental car all the way to Barcelona and sleep in it. While sleeping in a small hatchback is not the most comfortable, we figured it was better than sleeping upright in a moving bus!
I discovered that the toll roads would be as much as €40. We had the time so we figured we’d try to avoid them. We successfully navigated our way along the free roads but ran into a snag when it came time to find a truck stop to park up for the night. They were all on the toll roads!
We drove down a rather sketchy forested service road the map suggested led to the back of the services. Terry was waiting to hear banjos the whole way! Luckily it dropped us at what we took to be the staff parking for the service station with a turnstile to get through the fence to the restaurant and gas station.
After a rather restless night, we awoke to a fancy Audi with no oil. Not a drop. It turns out oil is crazy expensive so we reluctantly bought one litre to last us the 2 hour drive we had left.
Arriving in Barcelona, we dropped the car off and after a huge hassle trying to find the rental office for paperwork, got on the Metro to downtown. The end was in sight!
Honeymoon-crashing in Barcelona!
Getting our bearings
We had rented a room in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona and the location couldn’t have been more perfect! It was literally one block behind the Mayor’s Office and the Parliament building.
Our first day was spent wandering through the alleys to the Parc de la Ciutadella, basically Barcelona’s Central Park, and to the beach.
For a Monday, everything was insanely busy and we soon discovered why when we stumbled upon a parade. It turns out it was a local holiday called Whit Monday!
Putting in the Miles
Our visit was timed to meet with Canadian friends, Dina and Mike, who were spending 2 days in the city before their honeymoon Mediterranean cruise. By lunchtime of our second day we were planning to meet outside McDonalds (yep, I know, but it’s a landmark no one can miss) to begin exploring.
Fresh off an overnight flight from Toronto and too early to check in to their hotel, we made our way to the Sagrada Familia with stops for a couple of beers. How else do you begin your honeymoon?
From there, we continued the walk uphill to Parc Guëll. We skipped the paid section in favour of the free areas and, honestly, were happy with our choice. The park is still lovely and has an even better view. Sure we missed the classic Instagram picture with the mosaic tiles but judging by the crowds we saw, it wasn’t happening anyway!
Next, we headed up the El Carmel Bunkers. Now this is the best view of the city! We were too early for sunset but it was still worth the climb. Without jet lag it would have been a great place to take a snack and drinks and hang out for a while.
Discovering Downtown Barcelona
We got an early-ish start as I had signed us up for a free walking tour of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.
Our guide was very animated and led us around the area telling historical facts mixed with quirky stories and jokes. Two hours well spent.
From there we grabbed some lunch and then headed to the beach. After so much walking it was time to enjoy the Mediterranean! Of course, this included a few beers and lots of laughs. Especially when we found ourselves crossing an invisible line and suddenly in the middle of a whole lot of naked sunbathers!
That night we booked tickets to a Flamenco show, one of the things Dina really wanted to do in Spain. From there we rushed to the rooftop bar of their fancy hotel to enjoy sunset. We even caught of a glimpse of the cruise ship they would be leaving on the next day!
Our Last Day in Barcelona
Our time in this city flew by. On our final day we spent the morning with Mike and Dina before packing them into a cab to the port.
We decided to head up to Plaça de Catalunya in the afternoon and accidentally discovered the one thing I had heard about but hadn’t found. The street leading north from here is filled with super expensive stores and Gaudi architecture. You can look up for a whimsically-designed gingerbread looking building, and look down to the Jimmy Choos, Christian Louboutins and Rolexes in the ground floor windows!
We left one set of friends and headed to the airport to find another. After a long day on the road with two flights and a 3 hour layover in Istanbul, we arrived in Tirana, Albania Friday night!
We met Chip while teaching in Mexico and this will be our first reunion in 8 years! He is now coming to the end of his third year teaching in Durrës, Albania. We had never met his fiancée, Aleisha, before although thanks to social media it kind of feels like we’re already friends.
As luck would have it, our friends had come down with a bout of food poisoning the previous night. Coupled with an open air concert right below what would be our bedroom window, they thoughtfully booked us into a hotel for our first night!
A Memorable Weekend in the Albanian Riviera
The next morning we were on the road southbound to the Albanian Riviera – who knew there was such a thing! The mountainous drive was beautiful enough but the cabins across the road from a lovely little beach was the icing on the cake.
The decision was made to drive to a different beach the next day after checking out. We hiked down a rocky trail in our flip flops to a stunning beach at the end of a gorge. Definitely an excellent decision! We swam, snorkelled, relaxed and chatted for a few hours before making our way back up to the car.
Entering into civilization, we discovered 11 missed calls on their phone and a message threatening to call the police! Albanian jail? That could be an interesting blog post…
Not having been given a bill, we assumed the cabins had been charged through Booking.com. Apparently that was not the case! We detoured back to our accommodation and straightened everything out so jail does not seem to be in our future…
I can’t wait to see what else Albania has in store for us!
Read about our adventures from the beginning (or middle, or end, or wherever you feel like) here!
Find information on many destinations here.