A broke girl with a bucket list

6: Sangria & sun

6: Sangria & sun

How do I even begin to summarise this week? Three countries, two cancelled flights and one insane trip later I’m finding it difficult to start writing. On account of having had seven completely packed days, this post might be a long one, so if you don’t feel like reading, check out my photo diaries on the places I went! (Barcelona, Nice and Monaco).

On Monday, after a frantic morning running errands that I should have finished over the previous weekend I spent doing nothing, Claire, Cal and I headed to the train stations to catch our respective flights to Barcelona. Everything seemed to be going fine – our three-and-a-bit hour wait between our train and our flight at Charles de Gaulle airport went pretty quickly and pretty soon 7pm (our boarding time) came…and went. Claire and I were left waiting two hours for a flight that still said it was running on time while Cal, Mehrdad and Katie flew to Barcelona without issue.

As 9pm rolled around things looked like they were getting moving – we managed to find ourselves a spot on the first shuttle bus that was going to take us to the plane. But no sooner had the doors to the bus closed we were once again left waiting without any indication of what was going on. Just when we thought we’d caught a break, we got the news our flight had been cancelled. What a great start. Four phone calls and two new flights later, Claire and I were scamming our way into a few shuttle ride and hotel at Paris Orly (the other airport across the city). Is a hotel room really free if you’ve paid an extra €40 for early flights the next morning?

All drama aside, we managed to power through three hours of sleep and a 4am wakeup to touch down in Barcelona at 9am the next morning without much time lost. The next two, magical days in Barcelona left us very glad we had paid the extra money to fly out early – from snow in Parc Güell, to the heavenly Sagrada Familia to just wandering the cobblestoned alleyways crowded with tapas bars and plants hanging from balconies. As a self-confessed lover of small towns I didn’t expect to fall in love with Barca so quickly. What really made the trip for me were two things: 1 – the incredible food we ate and 2- the people I travelled with.

1 – On food (a list because I am lazy):

  • Fresh empanadas bought at la boqueria markets, off las ramblas
  • Tapas, including:
    • patatas bravas (our favourite)
    • grilled prawns
    • fresh mussels
    • bread and tomato
    • lamb ribs
    • calamari
    • grilled vegetables
  • Paella
  • The ‘best churros in Barcelona’ bought at Xurreria Laietana, a tiny cafe with around ten seats and a lineup that ran outside the door
  • Too much sangria to count

2 – On people

Straight up, get yourself two travel buddies that are as easygoing and likeminded as you are. Claire and Cal made this trip so easy and so much fun, despite all of the travel complications (don’t worry there’s much more to come!) and little stresses that just usually accompany travel it was one of the easiest trips I’ve been on. Secondly, a huge shoutout to Owen, for taking time out of his hectic uni schedule to down half a litre of rose in the middle of the afternoon, and also to Mehrdad and Katie, who we gossiped with over drinks on the first night in a tiny little beer bar.

There’s a lot more that I could say about Barcelona and how much I loved my time there but I’ll let my photos speak for themselves. On to part two!

I guess the theme of this holiday was cancelled flights, because no sooner had we sat down at our gate in Barcelona airport our flight had disappeared from the board and we were back to square one. After an hour and a half trying and failing to book a car, we decided to bite the bullet and drop €110 each on an eight hour train to Nice that we only just made by a couple of minutes.

Four and a half hours later, by the time we drew in to the snow-covered platforms of Montpellier it was once again too late – we had missed our connection. A couple of anxious hours later we were on the last train out to Marseilles with no way to get to Nice that night. What’s more, when we got to Marseilles the TGV staff told us that if they couldn’t manage to get a bus that night, we would sleep in a train. Not a moving train. A stationary, day train that they would pull into a platform for us. How generous.

Two hasty Maccas meals (and one pretty traumatic altercation with a homeless man in the bathroom) later we were sprinting for the last bus – a three hour ride to Nice that got in at 2am. Just when we thought nothing else could go wrong we were told, standing tired, cold and covered in rain in the lobby of Cal’s hotel, that they had no record of his booking. I think at that point I laughed out loud.

Honestly, as dramatic as I have made it sound, the two stunningly beautiful days we had in Nice more than made up for the nineteen hours it took to get there. Once we’d caught up with Alessandro and Josh, who had also been held up a night on their way to Nice in London (an equally dramatic saga involving more cancelled flights, bad weather and lost luggage) things started to look up.

We spent long, lazy days wandering the beach and Old Town, hiking to the top of the lookout and attending the Carnevale. Being so close to the Italian border had its perks too: the best fresh seafood pasta I’ve ever tasted and an out of this world goats cheese and rocket wood-fired pizza, all washed down with the local specialty: rose. The highlight of our trip was definitely a family dinner by the sea: grocery store baguettes, brie and prosciutto and glasses of rose while we watched the sunset. I can’t explain how beautiful everything was so here are my pics.

On the last day we managed to squeeze in an impromptu day trip to Monaco. Despite the rain, (and the extortionate price of a €7 coke) the sea was the most brilliant turquoise I’ve ever seen, and once we’d left the casinos behind – and below – us, the city of Monte Carlo looked like a dream. We were all pretty tired from a week of non-stop travelling, so we didn’t have much energy to do anything other than stop at a parfumerie on the drive home. I crashed into my hostel bed for the last time utterly exhausted but completely content.

I guess you could look at this week in two ways: either a saga of cancelled flights, missed connections and late nights, or a week spent in beautiful places, eating delicious food and most importantly in good company. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to send a few strongly worded emails so that we get compensation (student travellers means we don’t have a lot of money to throw around), but for now, I’m going to choose the latter.