Ola! We are back on my adventures again in Europe and today we’re in Barcelona, where I’m going to take you through some fun highlights of the city and share how I stayed fit while travelling! Let’s go!
First: Barcelona is technically not part of Spain, but Catalan. The Catalanians want to separate from Spain, and they feel really serious about it. In Barcelona, wherever you go, you’ll see flags hanging out the balconies of windows - a sign of people protesting their inability to be independent from Spain. The history is complex but be aware that the locals want to be recognised as their own country. It forms a big part of your experience as a tourist. As a result, you shouldn’t say you’re in Spain when you are in Barcelona - ever!
Matt and I stayed in the Gothic Quarter, right next door to the Picasso Museum. We liked the area but it was very touristy and as such a high risk for pick-pockets. Barcelona has a reputation for being very bad for pick-pockets. In fact, on arriving we saw someone get pick-pocketed right under our window. This was the one city we didn’t take any risks in and so we didn’t carry my bag but used a wallet on a string under my clothes. I only took my camera out on one occasion - otherwise, we used our camera-phones.
If you visit Barcelona, do not take anything flashy out. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Make an effort to stay safe. It can feel a bit nerve wracking at times, as you see people slipping and sliding into small streets, so do everything you can to make sure you’re on the ball.
Barcelona is a beautiful city where you can absorb a huge amount of history and culture. It is home to Antonio Gaudi, the world-famous architect, who dreamt up the Sagrada Familia Catherdral (which is still a work in progress) - a true bucket list ‘must do’ architectural site. It is also home to a great collection of Picasso paintings, which show the progress of his work from a young man to the fully fledged artist he became later in life.
In Barcelona, you can’t really get breakfast out so Matt and I tended to not eat until lunch and then have a big Paella or ‘Pintos’. Pintos are small snacks you can buy per piece in one of the many restaurants in Barcelona. These tasted amazing!
We took a taxi from the airport because we looked a bit conspicuous with our massive backpacker packs. It was a splurge but we felt more comfortable with this after all the stories we’d heard about pick-pocketing. Once settled in, we walked around Barcelona. The streets in Barcelona are either wide open boulevards or tight, winding alleys. In general, we stuck to the Gothic Quarter but we also explored the main beach and visted Parc Guell, a big garden area with landscaping by Gaudi.
People & Attitude
In our opinion, people were a little bit abrupt in Barcelona. It didn’t help that we didn’t speak any Spanish - but there are concerns about mass tourism for locals who live in Barcelona. Air BnB is a big issue, because people who live in the city are being pushed further out as the price of rents is driven up. As such, we couldn’t tell anyone we were staying in an Air BnB as our host warned us not to. This made the experience a bit strange. Perhaps next time we will return having schooled up a bit more!
Weather & Going-Out
Barcelona can be very hot during the middle of the day so we chose to take this chance in our trip to have regular siesta’s in the afternoon. When in Catalan…!!
By evenings it is usually a lot cooler, and the locals often stay out until very late at night, so you can easily still be served dinner at night as late as 10-12pm. Be careful though when you spend - some places can charge a huge amount for cocktails and drinks - especially near the beach!
Barcelona turned out to be a great place to explore on our trip and we walked a huge amount which allowed us to soak in this incredible city. This leads me to the next part of this piece: how to get exercise in while you are travelling on holiday!
KEEP IT UP! Exercise while you’re travelling!
(1) Walk Everywhere
In Barcelona, and in almost all the cities in which we stayed in Europe, we walked on foot all day, every day. Walking is free. You get to see so much of the city as you go throughout your day. Your steps also add up over time and, by the time we finished our five days in Barcelona, we felt like we were certainly much fitter. Some days we did 25,000 to 30,000 steps! (It also means you don’t have to hang around railway stations where pick-pockets lurk).
(2) Set yourself sightseeing goals which are out of the ordinary
While in Europe, Laura Jones - my personal trainer from Results Room who helped set me up for the trip by training me to boost the functional fitness I wanted before going overseas - set some great ideas up on how to tackle some more interesting sights that would help Matt and I get out sweat on. My favourite was the day that we walked up Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona.
To get an amazing panoramic view of the whole seaside metropolis, you can't do better than here. Visible by its church spire from literally anywhere in Barcelona, Mount Tibidabo is Barcelona's tallest peak at 515 meters and has some of the city's best views. It also has its own amusement park, and the church is absolutely stunning. While you can get a train up, we tackled the whole thing on foot which was a solid climb. Think Mount Victoria (which is 196 metres) - but more than doubled (515 meters!!) !
The best thing about doing this activity was we felt a real sense of achievement at the end. We were also VERY sweaty!
(3) Use your body & explore
A great way to exercise while travelling is to do basic body-resistance circuits in public parks - a round of squats, a few lunges, a few push-ups and some Russian twists for instance. You don’t need to do this every day, but incorporating some strength activities that require you to use your bodily strength can be an awesome idea. It can also provide an extra incentive to find a different park to check out in each city you visit.
Keep things simple, but consistent. Don’t do anything crazy or at any unsafe times or locations. But why not enjoy raising your heart rate and do a few reps!
(4) Take the stairs
This is a classic - but nothing beats walking up the stairs (especially when it is the Spanish Steps … and you walk up them three times (yep - I did that)). In Europe, stairs are the norm far more than elevators. In nearly every city we visited, Matt and I needed to carry our large back-packs up at least five flights of stairs. Be prepared to do this. If you want to train before going away, use sand bags at the gym - or just start seeking out every opportunity to hit the steps (p.s. stairs are scientifically proven to be a great work-out for your butt).
(5) Have a positive attitude
Embrace the journey over the destination! Use exercise as an excuse to experience another, less touristy side of the city that others may not. Our little side-trips led Matt and I to hire bikes in Copenhagen visit a roof-top exercise park, explore Regents Park, climb Mount Tibidabo, clock Versailles, climb the Spanish Steps, swim in the Greek Ocean, do lunges on the beach and bust our pedometer every single day. Next holiday, I want to incorporate even more exercise into my travel plans because it made me get out of my comfort zone which turned out to be really fun. Werk it, girl!