I have always had the travel bug, but I never really traveled until my 30’s. Sure my parents took us on road trips around the US when we were young, and to Mexico for beach getaways, but we never want ‘over the pond’. Don’t get me wrong, I highly enjoyed seeing the US by car, and as a teenager, running around a hot and sunny beach. The travel I’ve done most recently, has been completely different!
For starters, I’ve traveled overseas twice for solo adventuring! My very first time to Europe was in 2017 when I visited London, Scotland and Ireland. The second time was in 2020 when I traveled to Spain!
Oh Spain, ever since I returned, you’ve felt like the boy that got away.
Let me back up…I am a Thrifty Traveler premium member and in July of 2019 a deal to Spain came through my email that I could not pass up. Round trip from Minneapolis for $450? Uh, yes!
Spain was not a country that was top of my list to visit, but I had been told that I would love it, Barcelona, specifically. I booked my ticket and spent the next eight months researching and planning what was going to be a pretty epic adventure.
I would fly into Madrid and travel to Barcelona by AVE, spend a few days exploring before taking another train to Seville, where I planned to wander down narrow streets getting lost while eating my way through the city for two days. Finally I would take the train back to Madrid, take in a futbol game, a tour, explore, and finally, fly back to the US after nine days in the country.
Now that we are caught up, let’s get to the fun stuff – traveling!
Flying out of Minneapolis to Chicago O’Hare in early March is risky business. It’s when we historically get some of our biggest snow storms. Minneapolis International airport is known for getting flights out on time during a snow storm, O’Hare, not so much. In fear that my connecting flight was going to be delayed, I gave myself a six hour buffer from when I landed in Madrid, to when my train to Barcelona would depart. Wouldn’t you know it, there was no snow! Which meant I had six hour to spend in the train station.
As a solo traveler with very little Spanish under my belt, I decided to just hang out at the train station. Looking back on that now, what a silly choice that was. But, if I was going to spend six hours in a train station, I’m glad it was Madrid’s Atocha Station. This place was so so so beautiful! From the large open sky light that extended from one end to the other, to the lush and tropical gardens, just wow!
I was able to get my bearings a bit and the small things, like learning how to use the public bathrooms in Spain, was learned in this station and helped make this experience later on in the trip feel less intimidating. In the US, where you can walk into nearly any establishment and use a free, probably dirty bathroom, Spain’s public restrooms were a dream!
After feeling comfortable with the Spanish public bathroom system, I continued to people watch, window shop, and snack until it was time to board the AVE and head off to Barcelona!
I love traveling by train if given the chance. Although it was mostly countryside, the views never stopped amazing me – especially when we came upon Montserrat.Simply breathtaking!
Coming up next – my first day in Barcelona!