So I spent my birthday in Barcelona.
My birthday in 2016.
I am the queen of procrastination.
It was sunny in Newcastle.
In Barcelona it was not.
However as birthday 2017 has just passed, I'd still like to share my trip as it really was wonderful and I completely fell in love with Barcelona.
It was my first time visiting the city - and indeed, Spain!
I know, I know right?
Pretty unheard of for a Brit, especially one who works in travel.
Usually when me and Claire go on our jaunts, one of us has visited before and can pretty much steer the other around.
But it was completely new for both of us, and it was so much fun adventuring.
I thought I'd share some of my favourite pictures and top tips for first timers.
Stay on Las Ramblas.
It's the tourist central of Barcelona, but also means you're so close to everything. We managed to make it through our entire stay without having to use the metro!
We stayed at Hotel Arc La Rambla
and can recommend it without hesitation if you are looking for budget, clean and central accommodation.
Overcast - wah!
But nevertheless still beautiful!
If you don't eat gelato at least once a day on holiday whatever the weather then what are you even doing with your life..?
Walk everywhere you can!
Even getting from A to B is beautiful and I loved getting lost in all the little side streets.
We stumbled across an adorable courtyard with orange trees which we would have otherwise missed!
Do the hop-on-hop-off bus tour if it's your first time.
Touristy yes, but hey - you're a tourist!
It saves fannying on with metros and buses and will take you to everywhere you need to see for your first visit. You'll most likely get discounts on other places.
Go on the open top bus they said. It'll be sunny they said.
Skip breakfast one day and eat your way around La Boqueria market.
Everything looked absolutely delicious - fresh fruit, smoothies, macarons, marzipan, empanadas and other pasties, falafel with salad, chorizo and other yummy, fatty meats and pretty much every form of seafood going.
Claire got a feta and spinach empanada (when, I pointed out, is the Spanish equivalent of a Gregg's pasty because she is common) and a fruit pot.
I had a watermelon and strawberry smoothie and some meat on a stick for €1.
Perfect for a pre-beer snack!
Frequently stop for (lots of) drinks and people watch.
This is always one of my favourite things about travelling, and Barcelona was no exception.
We saw a group performing a castell
- a Catalan tradition involving essentially building a human tower, a German stag party dressed as Minions, to a poor bloke who'd obviously overdone it on the plane and fell asleep head first into his steak.
Everybody clapped when he woke up, including the waiting staff.
Another night we we got chatting to a young guy who sat with us all evening and showed us card tricks!
Splash out on an evening of flamenco.
This was one of the most special nights of our trip and we went as a pre-birthday treat.
The one we went to was Tablao Flamenco Cordobes
on Ramblas, and I can't recommend it enough.
A bit pricey at €80 per head, but that includes a delicious buffet meal and drinks before the show, as well as a glass of Cava while you watch.
However, DO NOT
overdo it on the free bar as Claire ended up getting overemotional and crying.
Keep an eye on your belongings...but really just exercise common sense.
Las Ramblas has a bit of a reputation for pickpockets. Perhaps it was because we visited in May before the peak tourist season began, but we never had any hassle at all.
In all honesty, I've felt more unsafe in Paris, and someone once attempted to snatch my friend's bag at London Kings Cross so there you go.
And the locals really do watch out for you - at one point Claire forgot herself, leaving her iPhone out on the table (it's suggested you keep it in your bag)
and the maitre d of the restaurant we were in gently nudged it towards her and indicated to put it away.
I find a sturdy cross bag works well and when you're walking around, casually keep a hand on it.
But you really don't need to go OTT with a fanny pack or safety belts as that'll just make you stand out as a tourist. Blending in is key!
Wander down to the port.
It's absolutely beautiful. When we went there were two flea markets on as well as lots of street entertainment.
Go down to the beach.
Well, I mean I'm sure it's lovely. But when we went it was raining. Bloody Barcelona.
Prebook for the Sagrida Familia.
This can easily be done online in a few minutes. We smugly walked past a massive queue at lunchtime and went straight in.
Order oysters when Claire is hungover.
The poor lass chundered everywhere
I'm already planning on returning in March 2018 with my lovely pal Chris - I can't wait!