I’ve never thought I would ever be one who would weekend in Europe. It’s just so much money and bother for hauling one’s ass all the way that distance for little (or so I thought) gain. I live in the Western US and Europe is at least a ten hour flight away. It is also feels extremely capricious and frivolous. I have spent a long weekend in Paris before and what I remember from that trip is how miserable I was on both flights coming and going. Air France pilots decided to go on strike and the airport was utter chaos. I luckily managed to get on a flight to Paris, but the return involved major inconvenient delays which found me going straight to work - frazzled and jetlagged - on a Monday morning from my flight. That day wasn’t fun, trust me.
But the arrival of budget international direct flights to Europe from California (in my case, Oakland) is a game-changer. While I swore off these insane ideas of weekending in Europe anymore, an opportunity presented itself to spend a girls’ weekend in Barcelona. It was much too difficult to resist. One girlfriend was flying all the way from Manila (and I haven’t hung out with her in two years) and another from Chicago, I knew it wasn’t a question. I had to make it happen.
Thank you Norwegian Arlines; I think I may love you forever. The nexus of an extremely favorable flight schedule and a round trip direct flight from Oakland to BCN for under $500 means an insane trip like this possible. The red eye meant I slept most of the way on Thursday evening and arrived in time for tapas on a Friday.
The reality about these quickies is that it is impossible to see much of anything. Set your expectations straight. Limit your to-see list to what is realistic. Mine just came down to bonding with girlfriends over Spanish wine, tapas and paella. A slow brunch yakking in Sant Antoni, an afternoon in La Boqueria, dinner in Maria Del Mar in the Gothic quarter and at an Albert Adria restaurant, and an evening salsa dancing in Gracia was all worth it. I know I missed all the Gaudi art, and I barely scratched the surface. But I was clear in my head that that wasn’t what this trip was about.
THE PRESSURE IS OFF
The beauty about this type of trip is that you pack a bag so small, it is easy and stress-free. This minimalist approach releases me from the encumbered feeling of a big, heavy suitcase. I don’t travel like this often so it was like a weight was lifted wheeling just 20 pounds around the airport. Packing was such a breeze!
JET LAG DOESN'T STAND A CHANCE
You time traveled, yes, but you’re not there long enough to get adjusted to the local time. It is inconceivable to get up at 7am after an evening of sangrias and salsa, si, but if your body clock tells you to do so. You do it. That just means you’re up to do more things anyway. The 2pm slump is a bitch, but Barcelona has excellent, strong delicious coffee to help you through it. Otherwise, a short nap might be in order and by the time you wake, it’s time for tapas.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
I have always wanted a life where I’m able to choose and decide - and while my life has turned out unpredictably different, I am deeply grateful to have choice. I always say that that’s a significant privilege, one which is unavailable to all women around the world - and I don’t want to squander that privilege. I’m able to say yes, I’m unencumbered, and so I choose.
IF YOU GO
Norwegian Airlines flies Dreamliners to Europe from Oakland. My flight to Barcelona was direct and it only cost me $450 round trip without bags and the other perks. This was my second trip with Norwegian and as long as you have the right expectations, I actually like the "minimalist" approach to flying. Bring your quality headphones, layers to keep warm, and food. Unless you pay for these services, they come at a cost when bought on-board.
Food is so good and surprisingly less expensive than other Western European destinations. Coffee is on the strong side but also oh so cheap (relative to the US). As you can imagine, I didn't have much time to gallivant, but we did run into an intimate medieval square right by the Basilicata Santa Maria del Mar and it was super charming. For dining, I would recommend any of the restaurants of the Adria Brothers (of El Bulli fame - this is their stomping grounds after all). You have to make reservations in advance though, which you can make online. We didn't luck out on reservations to Tickets, but we did make it to Nino Viejo, which is actually Mexican-inspired. It was excellent and fair priced! If you have time and the budget, they also offer food tours and when I come back to Spain, I wouldn't mind booking one of those tours! Brunch was huge and lovely at Federal Cafe.