Swanky Barcelona Hostels: Where to Sleep in the Ciudad Condal

The benefits of staying in hostels while traveling are numerous. Hostels offer budget-conscious travellers the opportunity to indulge in affordable lodging and take advantage of cost-saving amenities, such as community kitchens for easy meal preparation. Perhaps just as valuable as affordability, these hotel alternatives also provide residents with fantastic opportunities to engage with fellow travellers in a way that broadens the travel experience and creates friendships that span the globe. Barcelona features a wide variety of geared toward many different types of travellers, as well as numerous cool apartment rentals around the city.

Alberg Pere Tarres
This hostel in Barcelona allows travellers to select a sex-specific dormitory, mixed dormitory or even private room. With 320 beds to choose from, this hostel is almost certain to have availability. Amenities include free internet access, free breakfast, and a community kitchen available for use. Residents are welcome to take meals and snacks at the  restaurant and utilize individual’s lockers to protect valuable items. The Alberg Pere Tarres also boasts 32 accessible beds for travellers who require special assistance.

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Alberguinn Youth Hostel
With both mixed dorms and a female-only dorm room, this hostel is ideal for travellers who desire proximity to football stadiums, restaurants, bars, and ample shopping. Since the hostel utilizes key cards for building access, residents are welcome to visit the wonders of Barcelona without worrying about a curfew. Amenities include free internet access, free luggage storage, free breakfast, and available reception staff at all hours of the day and night.

Alternative Creative Youth Home
Whether seeking a very short stay or a month’s long place of residence, this youth hostel in Barcelona has it all. The prime location in the heart of the city, combined with a curfew-free environment, is a boon for adventurous travellers. Free internet access with specific support for Mac users and security lockers are among the features. Perhaps the best aspect of this hostel is its friendly atmosphere and dedicated staff who are always ready to provide useful information to residents. More sedate adventurers will enjoy knowing that this hostel promotes a respectful community free from excess noise or partying.

Casa Gracia Barcelona
Also located near the city centre, this youth hostel is not just a resting place for weary travellers; it is also an art gallery. Residents can choose form shared or private lodging and enjoy free internet access, a fully functional kitchen, and a living area that is perfect for meeting fellow travellers and planning the next adventure. This hostel features an elevator and is wheelchair accessible.

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Sunshine Hostel
The Sunshine Hostel boasts many of the amenities that adventurous travellers enjoy, such as free internet access, 24 hour reception, communal kitchen access, and free luggage storage. It also provides the sight-seeing and nightlife that makes traveling so enjoyable. In fact, with its central location in Old Town near Las Ramblas, excitement can be found right outside the front door. Once a traveller is ready to relax and unwind from his or her adventures, Sunshine Hostel offers a quiet atmosphere to rest.

Sant Jordi Sagrada Familia
Of all the youth hostels in Barcelona, this hostel specifically offers accommodations and community to skateboarders and travellers who enjoy urban arts. In addition to shared dorms and private rooms, the Sant Jordi features a private terrace with mini-ramp, free internet access, and a large common area that is separate from the sleeping area. This hostel also organizes large parties to introduce travellers to the club scene and nightlife that Barcelona has to offer. Travellers who seek a hip adventure are certain to find a home at Sant Jordi.

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Travellers from all walks of life can find hostels in Barcelona that feature accommodations and amenities that will enhance the travel experience. Individuals seeking a bustling, party-filled adventure or a quiet place to rest on a journey filled with cultural sights and attractions will both find a hostel that is ready to provide a home away from home at hostelbookers.com.

The Rain in Spain

“I knew the weather was changing during my morning cigarette yesterday,” the Novio mentioned as he smoked his [fifth] evening piti.

That’s the problem with being a pilot, he confessed. You start to understand the weather patterns. His friends nodded, confident that we were about to enter the Veranillo de San Miguel. Like most moments in my life in Seville, I shrugged and gave them a puzzled look.

Alas, not three weeks after returning to Spain, I’m putting away my summer clothes and actually sleeping under sheets. We welcomed Autumn this week with spouts of drizzle, chillier temperatures and the need for a jacket in the evening. Now is the time people start chiding you for not wearing a scarf (reason for getting a cold), for sleeping with your window open (reason for getting a cold) and walk in stocking feet in your house (reason for getting a cold).

Spanish idioms about the weather are some of the silliest I know, and I’ve made a point to put them into my speech for a dramatic effect when talking about Seville’s 300 days of sunshine, and 65 days of cold, damp grossness (for the record, the only think I like about Fall is anything pumpkin-flavored).

Veranillo de Membrillo/de San Miguel – Indian Summer

The little summer of quince or Saint Micheal is what we Americans call Indian Summer – a deceptive window of time where summer returns for just a few short days, complete with high temps and sunshine. Currently, it’s been in the low 70s, and sevillanos are hoping to squeeze out one more beach weekend.

Hasta el 40 de Mayo, no te quites el sayo – Bring your jacket

Like the Veranillo de Membrillo, the above refrán refers to just the opposite: to not be deceived by warm weather, as there will always be a burst of cold. It literally means, until June 10th, don’t take off your light jacket. This old idiom begs you to consider covering up so as not to catch a cold.

Tiempo de perros – Foul weather

The weather of dogs means nothing more than bad weather – storms, blustery winds and the like. Use this idiom with the verb hacer to talk about the weird weather that descends on the land of sunshine and siestas to impress your Spanish friends.

Tener más frío que robando pingüinos – To be very cold

There exist dozens of ways to talk about cold, including the “cold that peels” or the cold that likens you to playing with seals. My favorite is to be colder than robbing penguins, conjuring up a winter wonderland at the North Pole. In Seville, it hasn’t snowed and stuck for over 50 years, so the blue skies that are ever-present in winter trick you into thinking it’s warming up. Nope. Get your penguin-catching nets ready.

Tener carne de gallina – To have goosebumps

Goosebumps are weird sounding, but the Spaniards go ahead and make it goose skin. Even weirder.

Estar calado/a hasta los huesos – To feel damp

I didn’t realize just how cold Seville gets in winter until the Christmastime rains came. All of the sudden, my clothes wouldn’t dry and I found myself shivering under the covers with the heat on, nothing more than my eyes peeking out over the top. Because the city sits in a river valley surrounded by mountain ranges, Seville weather is damp and humid at any time of the year, prompting old ladies to admit to being damp in their bones as the walk their carritos to the supermarket.

Similarly, Spanish employs weather terms to describe people and situations.

Darse ni frío ni calor – to not matter

Spend the last weekend of Indian Summer in la playa or the mountains? No me da ni frío ni calor, really – I’ll take a weekend outside of Seville and away from my computer anytime. Anyone who is wishy washy uses this expression with a shrug to reaaaally let you know that they don’t care, and it’s translated literally as not giving you neither hot nor cold. Cue Katy Perry music.

Cambiar más que una veleta – to be fickle

Speaking of which, you probably have a friend who tells you it doesn’t give him hot or cold, but then changes his mind. Someone who changes more than a weather vane is said to be fickle, and I could easily blanket stereotype with this one, but I won’t. Hey, we’ve all got friends like this.

Llover sobre mojado – When it rains, it pours

As I listen to the rain finally pounding down on a very dry Seville, it’s easy to envision this idioms: When one bad thing happens on top of another, it’s raining over what’s already wet. I made friends with another auxiliar when she was living in Huelva five years ago. As much as she loved Spain, she got dealt one bad hand after another, finally leading her to leave spain after one year. Her reason? It didn’t just pour, it poured over what was already wet.

Pasar como un nube de verano – to be short-lived

You know what passed by like a summer cloud? Summer itself! I have to admit, I’ve never planned my outfits around shoes, but when you haven’t got many options for Fall shoes on a sudden rainy day, it happens. Anything short-lived is remembered nostalgically as a summer cloud. The only problem is, in Andalucía we’ve got either zero clouds or sun protection, or the icky grey skies known as borchorno.

Que te parta un rayo – to go to hell

Straight out of Greek mythology? Damning someone means wishing they get halved by a lightning bolt. I like it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Got any other to share? Leave them for me in the comments – I love learning Spanish idioms almost as much as teaching them in English!

Seville Snapshots: Paseo de Espolón, Burgos

 Nostalgia is a funny thing for anyone who’s resided abroad. Just one whiff of cous cous sends you back to the souks of Marrakesh, the notes of a strained tango to Buenos Aires. A crush of happy memories and the angst of longing for that moment. At the same time, thinking of your favorite place can be an end-all cure for homesickness of a place that may have just been your home for a brief wink of time.

This picture is of the Paseo de Espolón, a tree-lined path that winds along the bank of the Rio Arlanzón in Burgos, Spain.  Despite frigid winters and blistering summers, Burgaleses can be found strolling the Espolón year round.  This photo was taken in the dead of winter and, if you look closely, you can see how the knotted branches have grown together over time.  When I’m feeling homesick for Spain I just look at this picture and am taken back to a cold winter day, outside of my favorite cafe in a little town in Northern Spain.

Kayla is an avid traveler with a love for photography, adventure and all things Spanish.  She has spent time living in Spain, Costa Rica and Argentina and currently resides in Chicago, IL.  You can see more of her photos at http://kaylachristensen.weebly.com

Love taking shots? Been to Seville or Spain? I’m looking for travelers with a good eye to capture beautiful Spain and contribute to my weekly Snapshots section. Send your photos to sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com with your name and a short description of the photo and look to be featured on Monday.

Rocking the Vote in Spain

 

Only a teacher would think to bring a map of the United States, a blue marker and a red one, to an Election Day party in Spain.

“Ok, everybody! Teacher’s here with the electoral map!” Lindsay called out as I hung it on the wall under the TV, and I had miniature US flags waved in my face as a show of solidarity in the upstairs bar of Merchant’s Malt House in Seville. I don’t remember if it was a blustery sort of November that we tend to have In Chicago on Election Night, or which states I colored in, tallying up the electoral votes for each candidate. I do remember the elation of knowing the small team, spearheaded by an incredibly savvy and forward-thinking American woman, had registered dozens of study abroad students and American residents to vote from sunny Spain.

For someone who is not overly patriotic, voting is one of the most important responsibilities I feel I have while overseas. In fact, it’s the only ONLY right I don’t have as a resident in Spain, which makes my voice all the more important when every first Tuesday in November rolls around.

Voting abroad is simple, so there’s no reason to not do it! Here’s how to easily cast your ballot from abroad:

First: Make sure you’re actually registered to vote!

Remember all of those civics classes you had to sit through in high school? By now you should know that no one counts as 2/3 of a person and you can vote as a woman, so there’s absolutely no reason on this big Earth why you can’t do it (unless you’re under 18). Registering to vote is an insanely simple process that can be done in person at a local election office, by heading into the DMV, or even by soliciting this information through the mail. If you’re currently abroad, you can print off these forms and mail them back Stateside to your local office.

If you are already overseas, you will have to print out the forms listed on your state’s election website and mail it to your election office, or complete the online registration at the Federal Voter Assistance Program. You’ll need to provide basic information, including your driver’s licence number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Second: Educate yourself, duh.

I don’t like no stupids, so please be a good person and do your research (this article is strictly non-partisan, so make sure your candidate’s ideals are lined up with your own! It’s all about knowledge, friends!)

Third — Request an Absentee Ballot

Click to the FVAP’s site, choose request an absentee ballot and click on the state you are registered to vote in. Using the Wizard, carefully fill in your pertinent information about where your ballot should be sent. You can request the ballot by email, fax or regular mail. Do note that, using this method, you can mail in the registration and the ballot at the same time.

You’ll receive a PDF with all of your information. This must be printed, signed and dated, then sent to your local election office. I faxed my request into my local office and received my write-in ballot not 12 hours later.

Finally – Cast your ballot and enjoy elections parties around Spain on November 6th!

Your local election office will send you the PDF form of a write-in ballot. your state will have its own regulations about how to return the ballot and whether there is additionally information (Illinois, for example, requires a secrecy waiver). Send it certified and let your voice count!

DA is planning a massive tri-city simultaneous party for the big night, meant to be a sort of gala fundraiser.  I’ve been speaking with the president of the Seville organization, but plans are not finalized. Get in touch with me through my Facebook page for more information, or to help out (possibility of a paid position!).

Details and Street Art in Porto

“Maggie?” I had to run to catch up with our fast-talking and fast-moving guide. “What does this mean?”

Showing her a photo I’d just snapped, she held her head back and roared with laughter. “Why, Rui Rio is the mayor of Porto, and this person has said he’s a son of a bitch!”

Lauren and I arrived to the Sheraton Oporto hotel in the city’s business district, Boavista, only a few hours before, running to catch a taxi and check in before the free tours and workshops started at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference. She got into a photo editing workshop, whereas I was rushed through the Oporto Cool tour. I imagined I’d have time in another moment to see the UNESCO World Heritage sites that crown the Duoro River, but blog conferences offer little time for anything more than social media.

No matter, though, as our tour of Fundação Serralves and the artsy backstreets of one of Iberia’s hippest cities provided the glimpse into tripeiro life I was looking for – the graffiti and details of urban living said it all.

Maggie, a native Angolean who has resided in Oporto for the better part of her life, had us disembarking in front of a stone house, once used as a farm house for a wealthy family. This was the Portugal I already knew – the exploration that gave way to commerce and a small yet fiercely proud people.

Thankfully, a quick pivot to our left and we were on Rúa Miguel Bombarda, a street with galleries every two steps and graffiti resting in between them.

Elders silhouetted the bright graffiti, hunched and making their way to nearby Alimentação for onions and water, and we followed suit. The stuck out just as much as we did, clustered next to graffiti depicting poetry and Oporto’s famed heart symbol. The warm day’s morning clouds had cleared, making us squint as we moved along the rúa.

The tour led us to a small mall, the Centro Comerção Bombarda, with bonsai gardens, chalk drawings on the floor and windows and artsy cafés. Used to the regal districts of Lisbon, seeing a city so alive with art and off-beat culture was refreshing. Named for a revolutionary who led a resistance against the long-standing monarchy, Rúa Miguel Bombarda is slowly starting a revolution of its own.

The street art even took the form of laundry, which Maggie pointing out as a way of life in Iberia: “We even think our garments are art. can you see? No secrets here. We are starting something new out of something old.” For someone who hangs her own laundry out to dry (both literally and figuratively), I had to laugh.

The rúa is also home to a number of interesting shops, displaying everything from rare sports cards to out-of-print books and even a curious shop with recycled goods. We sifted through old tiles, shoe horns and corsets. Hidden treasure was just begging to be found, but Maggie moved us right along, up towards the university and its nightlife hot spots.

Maggie led us past bookstores and bars carved out among government havens, speaking of the students’ revolution and their quest for all things bohemian. We tucked inside one of Porto’s oldest shops on Rúa Galerie da Paris, converted from a textiles mart into a gift store. I ignored everything on the tables and instead ran my hands along the worn wood of the old postal office and admire the crown molding on the second floor before being hurried out and onto a franchesinha sandwich. Old meets new when it comes to food, anyway.

Have you ever been to Porto? What were your impressions of the city?

How to Survive a Blog Conference as a Newbie

Bridging my current knowledge gap with those who know far more.

It seems that I can confide in my blog designer (let her know how great of a job she’s done!) about all of my blog-related qualms. When I told her my site needed some work done before attending Travel Bloggers Unite earlier this month, I also blurted out, OMGIHAVENOCLUEWHATIMDIONGTHEYREGOINGTOHATEME .

Staring down the list of all of the big names in the industry and all of the other delegates, I was immediately intimidated and glad I would be with my friends and fellow Spain bloggers Lauren of Spanish Sabores and Liz of Young Adventuress. We schmoozed, we had silent freak out moments (ok, mostly me) and we traded business cards with some big guns, all in the name of self-promotion.

Bring Business Cards

Not three days before leaving the US for the conference, I realized I hadn’t had business cards made. For many, seeing this little card will give them your first impression of your blog, so it’s important to have them on hand and ready to dole out. When meeting people, I often jotted down something that we’d connected on, like bikes or fundraising, and made sure to tweet them right after the conference.

Moo and Vistaprint can get you fast cards with a professional look for just a few dollars, plus shipping. Having made this mistake, I’d really take a look at your brand and what message you want to send to another blogger or PR rep. Black and white for a country as vibrant as Spain? Sure, it fits the picture I used, but it doesn’t really tell the story of just how colorful a place it is.

Research Who Will Be There and Reach Out to Them

Conferences of this calibre often have a list of delegates who will be attending, along with the keynote speakers, chat givers and organizers. I was shocked when Lauren checked in and the conference organizer said, “Right, you’re the American married to a Spaniard in Madrid!”

My designer told me to talk to a few people in particular, many whose blogs I’ve read, so I did a little research to find out something we had in common, or a particularly interesting anecdote to comment on. As Gary Arndt put it when we met last week in Seville for tapas, “Someone never makes themselves visible to me until they’ve got something to say.” My connection with Gary?

We’re both Green Bay Packers fans (and he even owns stock!).

Introduce Yourself By Way of an Interesting Anecdote

On a sunset cruise of the Duoro with Liz and Lauren

Speaking of which, use the “elevator pitch” technique when introducing yourself. Think about your blog as a product, and imagine you’re in an elevator with someone. You’ve got maybe 45 seconds to present yourself and your blog, the product, so how do you package it up?

Just like a speed dating event, blog conferences allow you to rub shoulders in buffet lines or cramped into a lecture hall. The first questions people tended to ask was, “So, what’s your blog?” and I had to think fast to tell them about me and Sunshine and Siestas. Nerve wracking, maybe, but I have sorority recruitment practice!

I had conversations ranging from how to swear in Spanish (with tutorials), to the bedbugs I caught at the hostal, to my missing laptop. I immediately hit it off with the duo from As We Saw It over my strange pareja de hecho marriage business, and we spent an hour talking about dozens of topics. Once I felt comfortable enough to do more than observe, I could let my voice shine through and connect with people – even if it was about bug infestations.

Have Any and All Gadgets on Hand (and their chargers!)

I had to laugh when we rolled up the magnificent Palacio do Freixo on the Duoro. I was ready for a glass of port, but the first thing handed out to us was a sheet of paper with Internet passwords. I realized I had left my iPod at the hotel charging, so the paper was no use to me. Many blog conferences have a special hashtag, so you’ll see people social media-ing away between chats, over coffee and when they’re up thinking at night (maybe that’s just me).

Roll out the ipods and smartphones!

I sent many tweets to people I was interested in meeting, and used instagram to show people what I was eating and seeing on the day of our city visits.

Be a Fly on the Wall Until you Have Your Bearings

My designer told me it was normal to feel overwhelmed and out of place. Thankfully, the first day’s pre-conference tour introduced me to a small group of people as we toured Porto’s artsy haunts. There were a mere six of us, but we all got on well enough to talk travel, products and marketing. Don’t feel the need to start doling out cards the second you arrive – ease into it, and speak out when you feel comfortable.

Ask All of your Questions

I went into TBU without a clear idea of what it was. Thanks to research and my training as a communicator, I soon found that the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed, and that most people were willing to help. Look at the conference site and map out what talks you’d like to attend. Note what you like on other blogs and write down questions on how to do it. Stay in contact afterwards.

I’m extremely happy that I made the decision to attend a conference, as I left feeling inspired and ready to tackle a new design and more ideas for content. With more preparation, I could have probably squeezed even more out of it, but we’re just taking baby steps for now!

should be applauding, but this crème burlee is so, so good!

Upcoming events:

TBEX: Girona, Spain. September 21-22   http://www.travelblogexchange.com/

World Travel Market: London, England. November 5 – 8   http://www.wtmlondon.com/

ITM: Berlin, Germany. TBA March   http://www.itm.org.uk/

Have you ever been to a conference of this nature? What was your experience?

 

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