In my mind, Barcelona was going to be my perfect city. Artsy, right on the beach, that wonderful Spanish schedule to which we had become accustomed over the past few weeks, great food, and Gaudi everywhere. So when our friends at HouseTrip offered me an apartment in Barcelona to try out with my daughters, we were thrilled. We looked online at all the possibilities, from places near the beach, to places near the park, to places off the beaten path. We had been enjoying being off the beaten path, so we chose a stylish studio apartment in a neighborhood called Clot that you don’t read about in the guidebooks.
Live like a local in the neighborhood
The location of the apartment turned out to be perfect for us: directly across from a metro stop (and Barcelona’s metro proved to be one of the quickest and easiest we used in Europe), and in a not-at-all tourist-oriented part of town, with markets and restaurants and a post office nearby.
The first night, we went out in search of food around 9 pm, and found lots of bars with tables outdoors where people gathered for drinks and tapas. Around a corner we found my favorite culinary sight in the city: the 24-hour fresh seafood automat. When you just have to have fresh squid at 3am, this is the place. In fact we found a few other automats in the area: one for milk, another for groceries. A clever operation for this late-night city.
During our 5 days in Barcelona, we came “home” to our neighborhood every night, and often went to a local bar for tapas instead of staying up later for dinner. This worked well for us, because even though we had been staying up later in Spain, our constitutions were not really adapted to the late night dinners. A snack around 9 would do us fine.
Eat in to save money
The apartment was nicely decorated, with anything we might need in the kitchen, just as it had been advertised. We loved being able to have cereal and coffee and hot chocolate (that was a Spanish custom my kids were happy to adopt) in our apartment every morning, and we’d pick up bread and cheese and sausage for sandwiches, so we were able to save some money for a few special meals out in Barcelona.
Enjoy the free internet!
One thing we’ve found frustrating while traveling in Europe this fall is that it seems that the hotel industry has decided that internet access is a luxury they must charge extra for, and sometimes the fee can be as high as 20 euros per day! Not so in most rental apartments, where you can search for properties that include WiFi access in their rental fees.
Read the fine print
Be sure to read the rules of the house when you book it, because some of them may have policies that you might not expect. In one place we rented, we were required to remove our shoes at the entrance. In another, there were limits on when we could watch television and play music. In this one, there was an extra housekeeping fee.
When we went to turn down the bed on our first night, we found it had not been made. And we could only find one towel. After some quick email exchanges and a late-night visit from the owner, we discovered that due to a mix-up with her housekeeper, the unit had not been properly cleaned, so we were able to negotiate a waiver of the cleaning fee that normally would have been charged.
The day we left, we ran into another fee: the early-departure fee. This had been clearly marked on the apartment description, but when I booked it, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that our flight left at 9:30 am from an airport an hour away, and we still needed to return the rental car. So I ponied up another few euros to be sure we could get out on time, but I wasn’t happy about it.
One great feature of HouseTrip, the leading vacation apartment rental company in Europe, is that they offer a bit more security than some of the other apartment rental sites, because they collect the rental fees, and they do not distribute them to the owner until two days into the stay, to ensure that the host actually offers what they describe.
The key to living like a local in Barcelona, for us, was feeling like we had a home base there in a place where we didn’t feel the constant push of things geared for tourists. We could go down the street and buy our milk and cereal for breakfast along with our neighbors, stop for a drink and tapas nearby, and then come “home” and relax with our free WiFi while doing a load of laundry (extra bonus for long-term travelers like us!). Feeling at home on the road is a wonderful thing.
Book this studio apartment in Barcelona through HouseTrip for just €59 per night by going to the HouseTrip website: www.housetrip.com. The per night price includes WiFi, laundry facilities, two beds and a fully equipped kitchen.
Paige and her daughters were able to stay in this lovely apartment thanks to the generosity of the folks at HouseTrip.com. The opinions expressed here are all hers, though.