We usually don’t think about random facts in reference to a destination before we head there, but they are so entertaining that it has become a ritual for me. I’m sure if you were staying at one of the apartments in Barcelona you can make a crap load of local friends by sharing your random knowledge with them. Or they will just think you’re weird and you will make NO FRIENDS. Take the chance!
- Barcelona drivers are considered among the worst in the world. Approximately every 19 seconds there are accidents in the city. Holy shit! I guess that makes it safer to walk in the city rather than drive.
- Adding to the above fact, large portions of the city are specifically for use of pedestrians. The total area adds up to about 260 football fields. Over 35% of trips taken by people around the city are walked or biked and not done by car.
- Until 1992, Barcelona’s beaches were completely over run with industries. There was no sea side use for the city’s population. This changed due to the Olympic Games when Barcelona converted these industry area into one for leisure. It now contains beaches, hotels, restaurants and bars!
- Portal de l’Angel is the most walked down street in Spain. Around 3500 people walk along this street every hour!
- Although Spain is known for its flamenco dancing, it is not so popular in Barcelona. The Catalans here prefer their rock-n-roll scene.
- Barcelona attracts over one million visitors every week. That’s a crap load of tourists!
- The founding of Barcelona is disputed between two Spanish legends. One legend is that it was founded by Hercules, 400 years before the construction of Rome. The other legend is that the city was founded by Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal in the 3rd century BC.
Whether you’re just visiting or immersing yourself by staying in one of the Barcelona apartments, keep these wicked-cool facts about in mind, they may change the way you view this destination next time you’re there.
Some people want something different when they travel. If you fly into might be good for someone looking for a long stay and that is stocked with wares not normally found in a hotel room, while others don’t want to deal with other people’s stuff. Personally, I couldn’t imagine renting out my place to someone I didn’t know… seems like a recipe to get robbed.
Take the upcoming 2012 London Olympics. If they are anything like the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, people will be doing just that – renting out their abodes to out of towners with more money than brains. What a great way to make a few hundred dollars while you go stay with your family for two weeks and split the money (unless you’re a cheap bastard). I mean, he only thing more comfortable than your own home is someone else’s.
But it’s not for everyone.
If you had your first choice, would you choose a simple hotel/hostel room or an unoccupied but not empty flat? Long stay travellers would be wise to get something rentable by the week/month rather than by the day and sometimes an option can be to shack up in someone’s apartment. A friend of mine on his recent trip to London opted to do just that and it just so happened to be owned by some actors who spend a good deal of their time in Los Angeles. I mean, they’re not major celebrities. And when my friend told me their names, IMDB didn’t pull their names up without a little refining… but ooo! Still kind of exciting!
Hotels and hostels are great options, in my opinion, for a few nights – especially if you are travelling alone. It gives you your own space, it gives you a refuge from whatever is going on outside and they’re usually simple enough that they motivate you to spend as little time there as possible in favour of adventuring. This kind of private accommodation loses its charm on long stays because of not only the cost, but because they’re not the most stimulating of residences. An apartment on the other hand may offer you that.
The mooch in me sees staying in someone else’s place as a wicked way to somehow stick it to the man… even though I may not know who the man is, and the man may in fact be a woman. Nevertheless each option offers its own list of positives. So whether you’re in the market for a Tuscan villa, a NYC loft or London serviced apartments, know that they may provide an interesting alternative to hotel or hostel dwelling. After all, who doesn’t love to snoop?
I am writing to ask you to please stop allowing the hotel chains I have heard of to be in your city. I know they are names that people trust and recognize, but when I’m out of my own country I like to imagine it is a magical world where everything is exotic, and you are ruining this. Also, please build more castles. People love castles.
Have you ever been somewhere overseas and been annoyed by some chain from your home country? Restaurants do this all the time and I don’t have as much of a problem with it, but hotel chains just rub me the wrong way. Am I the only one?
Take my last trip to Venice. I’m having a lovely walk through one of the many alleyways passed throngs of people to a relatively open area where I see a canal-jam of gondolas in front of a well known-hotel chain. Really? In Venice? I’m sorry, but my vision of the ridiculous city of Venice does not include something so ordinary and bland as a major hotel chain. Every hotel should be on a canal with its own Italian name, accompanied by serenading gondolier to ferry you to your room as night. Is this too much to ask?
I know many of the hotels I see may be a part of a chain but have their own unique name, but I didn’t say I was being rational. Just please pretend to be one of a kind, for my sake. I go on vacation to see something different, not what I see at home.
Well, that’s part of it at least. The other part I guess has to do with the romanticism I have for travelling. Cities are living breathing things that do what they want and do not conform to the idealized views of a starry eyed tourist. It’s kind of like how many men seriously think women do not pass gas or defecate because they can’t imagine something so beautiful doing something so disgusting. Sexist, perhaps… but the good kind!
Again, contradicting myself, certain places don’t really bother me. Maybe it’s because it’s in an English speaking country, but it doesn’t seem as out of place as one in Milan or Bangkok. If hotel chains need to operate in foreign lands, I would prefer they remain out of my sight so they don’t ruin the sights. I have that to look forward to once I get home.
Do you want to be in the heart of it all or away from the craziness? What about easy access to public transit or freedom to drive your own vehicle? Sadly, if you are looking for London accommodation these are the choices you have to make – or really any giant city for that matter – because unless you are splitting up your time between a variety of locations, you can’t have it all.
Cities are confusing enough without all the names of the different boroughs the locals reference without thinking, so unless it says ‘city centre, stupid’ you may unwittingly end up in a great sounding place but really out of the way. Thankfully though, most places do say that – not because you’re stupid but because they really are that confusing. Okay, maybe a little bit stupid.
Take Tokyo for example. Unlike London and New York City that have much of their main tourist attractions relatively in one area, Tokyo has theirs spread across several downtowns, from Shinjuku to Shibuya to Ueno to Harajuku, just to name a few. Thankfully, their public transit system is incredible and you can get from one end to the other with ease, so long as you follow the signs and aren’t intimidated by the crowds.
Now, when it comes to your accommodation, where do you set up shop? Sure, there are places in every area, but if your goal is to see national treasures and you’re there for a few days, you’d be better off getting a place in the city centre than a place that requires a few train transfers and time. Why spend more of your time in transit than you have to?
If you want to check out the countryside, you’d be advised to stay away from the city centre, as there is nary a major city on the planet that makes parking a convenience in their downtown core. When staying in London you may opt to stay on the edge and use your accommodation more as a hub for sleeping after road trips, which works best if you’re a long-stay traveller and if the Crown Jewels or Westminster Abbey are already crossed off your list.
Best idea? Do a little of both. While not ideal for the spontaneous types, plan out your time so you are staying near the downtown when you want the downtown and on the outskirts when you are ready for the day trips. It can be a bit of a hassle in the initial booking and then packing up, but it makes the best use of your time when you’re there. Of course the beauty of getting apartments in London is that if you do need to get to some nearby site and you are willing to pay a little extra (or sometimes less!) there are hosts of tours and buses accessible in the downtown.
By: Zoe Sedlak
I’m from Ontario, and I’ve always lived in the same city, so I’m a pretty white-bred, Anglo-saxon suburbanite with a car and a cat and a retail job. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that I might have any semblance of a cultural bone in my body, so when I think about Spain, a little chill runs through me as I imagine living in on of the apartments in Madrid going to salsa parties every night, running with the bulls, and drinking the tequila with the worm at the bottom. That’s about the extent of my very narrow and pretty inaccurate understanding of a place like Spain from a cultural standpoint. But then I thought about my own city, and what it means to live in a place like Toronto, and I realized that, if you really wanted to go beyond that simplistic understanding of somewhere else, you need to live there.
The way I see it, going to somewhere like Spain if you’re from anywhere but Spain is like going to Quebec if you’re from anywhere else in Canada. And since it’s the closest I’ve gotten to culture shock in my still fairly un-travelled life, this is how I relate it. First, you can go to Quebec City, or you can go to Montreal, and it’s great there. There are tons of things to do. There are art galleries, and universities, and coffee shops and theme parks and hotels. There are resort towns like Mont Tremblant where cute little shops are cut into the side of a mountain so you can shop for souvenirs while enjoying a stunning view at the same time. In my road trips across Canada I’ve done all of these things in Quebec, and it didn’t faze me, because all these places still felt very much like Canada. But it wasn’t until we went to eastern Quebec and to places like Gaspe, where there’s less and less tourist traffic, that I got my first hint of culture shock in my own country.
In places like Quebec City or Montreal, you get a lot of Francophones, but most people are bilingual, or at least very familiar in communicating with people in English. But on the way to Gaspe, there are towns and large areas where we found ourselves miming to locals and making sad attempts at employing our meagre high school French to try to ask for directions, because in places like that, there are few to no English speakers. You can walk into a Poissonerie (where they make the most delicious cod I’ve had in my entire life) and find yourself surrounded by language you don’t know, and for the time we spent in this part of Quebec, it was like we were in a different country. And it was fascinating.
This is the kind of travelling experience I want. Since I’ve had to limit myself to my own continent, these kind of experiences have been hard to come by. But I’ve realized if you’re going to enjoy your time in a new culture, whether it’s camping in Gaspe or couch surfing at Madrid apartments for several weeks, you can get culture shock. And if you embrace it instead of trying to hide from it, this culture shock can be a refreshing experience.