Driving in Spain

It pays to know how to drive a manual car because in Europe it is much cheaper to rent one than an automatic. We don’t have our own vehicle in Madrid so we rent from Europcar. Zipcar hasn’t added Madrid to the map yet but they are in Barcelona. If you only want to rent a car for a couple hours every now and then in Madrid then you should check out Bluemove Carsharing. I haven’t tried it myself but I know a few friends who really like it.
There are a lot of car rental agencies out there with tempting cheap prices online but we always stick to Europcar. For a while there was a glitch in their websites between their US and Europe sites where you could rent a car with unlimited miles from the US site much cheaper than the Spain site but unfortunately they figured it out and corrected the glitch. Tip: always shop around. Also, renting from the airport and train stations usually adds on an additional cost.
When we rent we always use an American Express card. They have an auto insurance plan that costs $25 per use and covers more than the “packaged Europcar insurance”. Once we even had an accident where the frame was damaged, it would have cost us a lot without insurance (I can’t remember but it was over $400). But American Express covered it all, it just took a long time and some communication on our part to connect the 2 companies to settle the issue.
If you do rent a car, it doesn’t hurt to get your international driver’s license from AAA; It only cost $15. I’ve rented cars without one but you can never be too sure what to expect if you get pulled over.
Driving in European cities can be really annoying, there are a lot of roundabouts but don’t be intimidated. The roads and highways are fairly easy to navigate and it is worth the cost because you have more freedom to travel and can explore all the hidden places off the beaten path that Spain has to offer.


Barcelona Bus Tour

barcelonaWell, you know how we love our bus tours (with our old knees and all), but I’d have to say skip the Barcelona City Tour.

We took this tour by accidentally purchasing the wrong bus tickets in advance.  If you buy your tickets in advance online you can usually get a discount but make sure you are on the right website.  Apparently there are 2 Barcelona Tour Bus companies.  The tour we had meant to buy was the Barcelona Bus Turistic, which seemed to have the better routes for the same price.

The Tour we took was pretty much an expensive taxi ride (but we used it all day as mode of transportation).  The guide wasn’t particularly interesting and we spent most of the tour parked outside the football stadium (not something I find fascinating).  And unfortunately, the part of the tour that takes you along the beach is unavailable during the winter months.  So all in all not worth the money unless you are a senior citizen and can use it as a taxi with your discount.

We had little time in Barcelona on this trip but the best parts were exploring by foot.  Here are some sites we had time to check out:

-Park Guell

-La Sagrada Familia

-Parc de l’Estació del Nord

-Parc de la Ciutadella

-The Arc de Triomf

-Montjuïc (we wanted to go inside the Poble Espanyol but had no time)

-La Rambla

-Gothic Quarter (by night is a must)

-a walk along the shoreline at sunset

-and just wandering around different neighborhoods


What are your favorite spots in Barcelona?




calabazaWhen in Barcelona you must visit Calabaza on Sardenya, 240 (cantonada Diputacio).  It is the best lunch for your money in Barca and they have vegetarian options!

toms phone 235It’s a cozy place with friendly staff and the owners are always working.  You can eat in or take out buffet style homemade delicious food.  And the empanadas are to die for!  Open from 11:00 a 16:00 Saturday -Monday and 11:00 a 21:00 Tuesday -Friday.  Also available for caterings (#93 531 33 67).