10 Money-Saving Tips for Visiting Barcelona

1. Atrapalo

Similar to Groupon, Atrapalo is an online discount service. Along with packages and special offers, it also sells discounted transportation tickets (trains, airlines, cruises). One downside is that it’s in Spanish but you can always have Google Chrome translate the entire page – it’s enough for you to make your discount purchases and save a good 30 Euros (or more) on a train ticket to Madrid.

2. Menu del Dia

Most restaurants around the city have a lunch menu during weekdays which is a 3-4 course meal for 8-15 Euros. Sometimes, tourists are given the regular menu and thus, ripped off by paying the full price a la carte.

3. Nostrum Food Chain

Unless you’re using the Buzzfeed Food newsletter for easy recipes to cook packed lunches at your Airbnb flat (which is also very helpful), Nostrum is an affordable alternative for the office break. All dishes are easily microwavable, healthy, and light. The 10 Euro/month fan club card gives you discounted prices on the various plates too so you can walk out with a bag of sustenance for under 7 Euros.

4. Barcelona Metro Card

A T-10 (10 trips) card at 9.95 Euros for 1 zone was enough to last me 2 weeks at a time because I used my feet to get around the most. The card is multi-person and you can use it on the metro and buses. It may even count as one trip if you use both modes of transport within a certain timeframe. There’s other combinations of this card (more trips, individual user, etc) as well that you can check out here. If you’re only in the city for a few days and need unlimited metro access, one of the Hola cards might be a better option.

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5. Pinxtos on Carrer Blai

Pinxtos are bar food tapas that are priced based on the different toothpicks poking through them. In bars in Born and Passeig de Gracia, each pinxto can be anywhere between 3-6 Euros. However, Carrer Blai is street packed with bars that sell pinxtos for 1-2 Euros each so you can load your plate a few times, have a few cups of cava, and continue bar hopping in the Poblesec area.

6. Free Museum Days or Articket BCN Passport

Like most cities, Barcelona has free museum days (usually the first Sunday of the month or every Sunday afternoon, it varies depending on the museum) and the Articket museum passport option that gives you entrance to 6 main museums for 30 Euros.

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7. Fly-Foot

Fly-Foot is a MENA-centric tour agency that puts together travel packages for attending football games and, for a city that is home of FC Barcelona, they are the kind of service you want to know about. The money they save you on tickets can be used to buy a Neymar Jr jersey to wear to the game. Okay fine, you can wear Suarez too.

Call their Barcelona number [+34 (625) 46-45-32] or email them at barcelona@fly-foot.com

8. Barcelona Expats Facebook Group

This is a pretty active group of expats living in Barcelona. They help share insider tips, contacts for language courses, answer questions if you’re looking for a particular shop or product – it’s a good advice column. If you’re planning on sticking around in BCN for more than a month, join the little community.

9. Barcelona Metropolitan

Subscribe to their newsletter for a weekly email on what’s going on around the city. Besides the typical TimeOut website, they’re a decent resource for events and openings all over town.

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10. Casa Lolea Sangria as Barcelona Souvenirs

And finally, when you’re ready to pack up and head back home, stop by Casa Lolea first for dinner and a couple of bottles of sangria. It’s their specialty, the packaging is beautiful, and the bottles are a steal at 8-10 Euros a piece. Who wouldn’t love a gift like that?

Bonus: If you have to choose between Park Guell and Palau Guell, go for the Palau. Very underrated and less crowded.

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Doing the Spanish Limbo

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Courtesy of Gratisography

The worst thing about temporarily setting up your life in a new city is that it’s temporary. I feel as though I’ve been suspended a foot over the asphalt for 3 months. I couldn’t get too comfortable because my  expiration date would soon come to pop the balloons overhead.

During this suspension, I’ve been partially living in Barcelona. Working as an intern, staying in an Airbnb apartment, and partying with visiting Lebanese friends. I’ve been floating just a few inches above the complete submersion into Catalonia. Teetering between tourist and expat is such a beautiful way to learn about the world but the allure can only last so long – especially for someone who doesn’t know how to live without a plan, to live without roots or some kind of routine.

Truth is, I started packing 9 days ahead of my flight (also to see if a pair of classic black & white  Superstars could be shoved into my second suitcase) and I’m ready to hit the ground running. I want to go sit in Urbanista for 6 hours drinking cappuccinos and planning AIGA ME events. I want to see the Sursock Museum and spend a Saturday in Horsh Beirut. I want to make some money and build my empire. I want to go to AUB to hang out with some affectionate cats while eating Kababji tabbouli on the Green Oval. I don’t want to be surrounded by garbage, deal with a shitty internet connection, or count how many weeks we’ve gone without a president. But I do want to start making my next move. I want to get back to my life. Real life.

Beirut, even if Putin is hijacking our airspace, I’m coming for you.

El-Tanein Diet Week #15, #16, and #17

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I did it again. I bunched 3 weeks in 1 post.

Excuse: I’ve been in hermit mode ever since my roommate left because we went into overdrive before her departure from BCN. I’m a little burnt out in a good way. I came home each night last week wanting to catch up on blogging but would end up bingeing on How to Get Away With Murder. Damn you and your writers’ storytelling skills, Shonda. Then, the weekend rolled around and I realized that my time in Spain is also running out. Overdrive continued and I museum hopped and ticked off more stops on the “must-see” list before I return to Beirut in the time of cholera.

SERIO, I’ll post every Monday from now on since I’m down to TWO MORE WEEKS here. Gotta make them count! *presses play on 8th episode in a row*

Workout Tally

Walking everywhere for 21 days

Outdoor Activity

See above or below.

Fitbit Flex

I’m starting to give up on this accessory. I hardly ever sync it and forget to charge it most of the time too. It hasn’t been doing its job to motivate me and I only remember it’s there when I hit 10K which is rare during the week when I max out at 7-8K come nightfall. It used to be more effective when I was moving less. My walking here is more out of necessity than planned fitness so the counting doesn’t matter as much. We’ll see how I feel when I go back home.

Best Meals of the Weeks

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Before I crown the winners, let me say that Barcelona is a designer-who’s-a-foodie’s dream. The restaurants are beautifully designed from interior to menus AND the food is usually delicious as well. Did I mention how much I love cava?

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Week 15: Tapas and sangria at Casa Lolea, a sangria factory located down the street from Palau de la Musica Catalana. I liked 3 things about this quaint little eatery: the cheese section on the menu, the sangria bottle design, and the truffle risotto.

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Week 16: Sunday brunch at Hotel Barcelo in Raval. For 25 euros/person, you get open buffet with a cocktail on the roof. Great view of the entire city and then you can go check out the stands on Rambla de Raval selling handmade goods.

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Week 17: Carrot Cake at Pudding, a cafe right out of Alice in Wonderland. The actual food is mediocre but the setup is great for coffee and carrot cake. Order the carrot cake.

Other Highlights

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Bibo and my leather obsession: I wandered into this brand’s shop in Born only to want everything. Turns out they’re all over Barcelona and they’re very fairly priced considering they’re selling Spanish leather goods. Sniff.

Working on my Barcelona clip: I’ve been trying to take some quick clips using my Polaroid Cube. Hopefully, something worthy will come of the footage. Otherwise, I’ll just show you some pigeons in Plaça Catalunya.

Being the oldest people at an R&B club: No one warned us that Otto Zutz is full of prepubescent hormones but they played some decent R&B so I danced my face off and didn’t care. Pretty sure some of the songs were older than the people dancing to them.

Going through McDonald’s Drive Thru in a cab at 3 am: I don’t know how this happened. Okay, I do. We told the cab we wanted an open McDonald’s and he didn’t tell us it was drive-thru only until we got there. We weren’t going to go home after going all the way down to the beach with BigMac anticipation. Ain’t nothing like heart-attacks in a box at 4 in the morning.

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Dressing up for Halloween:
First time since I was 12 maybe? I was La Calavera Catrina, an icon of Mexican dia de muertos. My roommate (dressed as The Joker) and I walked through the Gothic Quarter and danced to R&B (again) in a hole in the wall somewhere in Born. But all that was only after we walked back home to make sure my carved pumpkin was not a fire hazard. Oops. Apparently, Halloween isn’t really a thing in Spain but La Castanyada, a popular festival that occurs around All Saints Day, is a big deal in Catalonia.

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I was one of those losers in line for H&MxBalmain: 
But in my defense, I was fully aware of the idiocy of doing such a thing. In my normal life, I would not have done such a brainless act of pure consumerism but seeing that I’m living a semi-life here, I figured I’d see what it’s like to be a fashion lemming for a brand that I wish I’ll be able to afford one day. It felt like I was a Huffington Post Snapchatter covering the event; I was there for shopping but I felt like an observer because the whole thing was an outer body experience. I have never seen people behave like that for clothing. I’d always heard of people lining up for Apple products or new releases but it was truly fascinating to see the crazy come out. From an advertising perspective, the entire campaign leading up to the launch was genius. They gave us free coffee!

Workout Track(s) of the Weeks

Week 15:

Not a new track but I’ve had it on my playlist forever and I’ve been using it to put a spring in my step during the morning walks. Ever had a song that makes you strut a la John Travolta? This is my BeeGees groove.
Week 16:

My German colleague returned from a holiday spent in Bali. Doesn’t this tune sound like you should be in a hammock in Bali? Or working out at the gym…for your beach body. Right.
Week 17:

Can Ed Sheeran ever go wrong? Best leprechaun ever. I say that with love.
Cheese(s) of the Weeks

Some science for all you cheese lovers out there:

From Beirut to Barcelona

Courtesy of Gratisography

Courtesy of Gratisography

The last time I ate McDonald’s was when I was at the Frankfurt Airport on my way to NYC. Had you told me that I was going to be back here 4 months later while on my way to Barcelona, I would’ve given you a high-five, done a victory dance, and also been in awe that I managed to steer clear of Big Macs for that long. I was going to use the “I’m traveling” excuse to be reunited with the classic but it turns out there’s no McDo in this terminal. Instead, I’m stuck with a pathetic 10-Euro Thai chicken sandwich. Boo.

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As you can see above, Barcelona’s been on the travel list for a while. I’ve heard good things about the Spanish coastal town and its art, architecture, and ham. All summer, friends who’ve been have told me that I will fall in love with the place. I’m hoping that they haven’t set my expectations too high; there’s a lot of pressure to make the most of this temporary move.

And that’s another thing – it feels strange leaving Beirut when there is a chance for change back home (too optimistic?). There is so much uncertainty in the months ahead but I can’t tell if that’s me or a symptom of the lost millennial generation of global opportunity, information overload, and goldfish attention spans. How the heck do you navigate through all the possibility? Maybe no one’s got it figured out and it’s actually about learning to be at peace with the idea that we’re all just winging it as we go.

I came across this video about the “origin of x” and its relation to Arabic and Spanish. It was comforting to see that I’d be learning more about the Arabic script in a non-Arab country that still had linguistic ties to it in some way. Maybe Spain will be the intersection of foreign and familiar. Only time will tell.

Follow my adventure via #BambigoestoBarca on Instagram.
I’ll be blogging as much as I can too.

P.S. – Maktoub 3 Loubnan has NOT been put on hold. My sister will be checking the mail periodically in my absence so please find a cool postcard for your memory. Check out the ones that have made it over so far here.

For the Love of Airports

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Although the 3-hour cab rides through the heart of Moscow and the layovers in Istanbul are not always thrilling (not to mention the malfunctioning digestive system side effects of cabin pressure), there was one aspect of travel that you admired in a detached way as if you were a narrator of a Woody Allen film. An outer-body experience that made it feel as if this was the kind of thing you would be explaining to your grandkids one day because they would be of the public space-shuttling generation and they would find these transatlantic journeys so primitively historic. Then again, you were supposed to be of the flying-car generation so who knows what travel will really mean in the decades to come.

You want to roll through an airport and have the narration in your head begin as you people watch, where are they from? Where are they going? A father asks you to photograph him and his daughter in Frankfurt Airport. The little girl has a fabric bracelet with the Jamaican flag colors. What language are they speaking? It’s not French. Where is her mom? Maybe they’re divorced. You try to go Sherlock on them and read their story through their mannerisms and nonverbal behavior, appearance, and clothing. A group of high-schoolers are lining up. Their teacher is screaming who’s on the waiting list and passing out passports to kids in oversized hoodies emblazoned with various college acronyms and university crests. What a strange and fascinating place an airport can be. A stopover where all people abide by a system as if there is a guidebook of rules as to how one is to internationally travel. It’s the one ritual that all citizens do in the same way: carry-ons, portables, chargers for our devices, check-in counters, baggage claims, money exchange. Don’t even think about packing the cosmetic scissors.

And then you observe a foreign city from the air. Residents going about their days because your existence does not relate to theirs. Where are they driving to? All these people living their lives completely unaware that you’re flying over them heading to some plant nursery in Bucharest. I wonder if the driver in that white sedan on the highway is happy. I wonder if he looks up at my plane climbing overhead and thinks, ‘I wonder where that plane is heading. I wonder if the girl on that plane is happy.’ Lives continuing simultaneously while we throttle across the sky and into the clouds. Parallels physically and figuratively.

You spend hours next to strangers, at gates or in lounges or even onboard budget flights that make you feel like you’re flying in a recycled Pringles tube with wings. You judge your neighbor by whether or not they’ve heard of your home country, the notorious troubled Lebanon, that exotic sliver of hedonism and resilience hidden in the bosom of the Arab and thus, conservative Middle East. Beirut usually gets more recognition, although not knowing that it’s a capital (not a country) doesn’t exactly sedate your fears of where the education system is heading. Either way, bonus points if they show geographical knowledge not just polite interest in your brief exchange before either one falls asleep or puts on headphones. Another internationally recognized symbol for travel for please leave me alone, thanks. 

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You find yourself missing cities as if they were people you know. With all of your friends relocated to opposite ends of the earth, you’d think you were not looking for more to miss – the roster should be full by now. And yet, you are longing for breakfast on Brooklyn rooftops, a walk through Gorky Park, and a lazy cappuccino before the Dubai Mall fountains start their sunset dance. You’re homesick for places that were never home and wishing that you didn’t find comfort in those washed-out Tumblr photos with the word wanderlust scribbled in handwritten font across the center.

But maybe, it isn’t wanderlust. Maybe it’s just curiosity and the need to see beyond your balcony or border. Maybe it’s embracing another place’s magic and your own home’s chaos. Maybe it’s just about feeling like you’re part of humanity. That every place can be part of your story that some other person at an airport is trying to read off of you.