Welcome to this week’s “Where Is…?” – a weekly feature where I get to speak to fellow wanderers about where they are in the world. This week I am excited to talk to Lauren India Rote about her first solo trip to a place I am soon to visit myself – Barcelona!
Lauren is a solo female traveller and blogger at What Lauren Wrote (love the play on words there!). Since she fell in love with travel at aged 11, she has travelled around the world to explore some amazing places including India, Africa and the Arctic!
Hi Lauren! So what made you decide to head off to Barcelona for your first solo trip?
At the end of last year, my 3 year relationship ended and I suddenly felt the need to reassess my life. I had been comfortable in my relationship and happily stuck to the status-quo, but now I had the opportunity to do the things I had always wanted to do. So in January this year I decided to book my first solo trip, and go to Barcelona. I had been there for a long weekend a few years ago and it seemed like the perfect place to test the waters of solo travel.
I booked a super cheap airfare, one of the other reasons I picked Barcelona, and booked into a hostel. My extended family kept questioning my decision “Can’t you find a friend to go with?” but for me it was a chance to test my independence.
What hostel did you stay in?
I stayed in a great little hostel; Factory Gardens, in an 8 bed female dorm room. The hostel was right in the middle of Barcelona, between the Sagrida Familiar and Gaudi House and only 20 minutes from the Ramblas. It was great for exploring the city on foot and wandering around the beautiful Spanish streets.
I loved staying in the dorm room, it was a great way to meet new people from around the world, and super cheap!
What was the weather like during your stay?
I went at the end of April for 5 nights, just over the Easter weekend, and I expected it to be quite cool- although hopefully warmer than the UK. I made sure to pack plenty of layers so I could be prepared for any weather- there was one really nice day when I went to visit the Gaudi Parc. But for the most part I needed a jumper on while walking around town.
What activities did you get up to? What was your highlight?
The highlight of the trip was spending the day at the Gaudi Parc. It is free to get into, although there are parts that you need to pay for but I honestly don’t think it is worth paying for. There are spectacular views over the city and wonderful wooded areas to discover, along with some amazing local musicians and performers who play in the park.
My favourite thing to do when travelling is to discover the ‘real’ areas of town- the areas away from all the tourist sights, where the locals go. I walked around some of the back streets and discovered coffee shops and children’s play areas filled with local residents – in my opinion this is the true Barcelona. As I was there over the Easter weekend, I came across a beautiful memorial service for Jesus Christ taking place in the streets. A local woman sang Christian hymns as a statue of Jesus on a cross as slowly walked through town with throngs of mourners behind them. This was these hidden moments, that I could have so easily missed, that made the trip special for me!
Do you have any tips for travellers visiting Barcelona for the first time?
Although I loved the Gaudi Parc the food there; sandwiches purchased from a small kiaosk, are extortionate! It cost me 10 euros for a baguette and a bottle of coke- the baguette was not very good! I would recommend getting some food from one of the small grocery shops on your way to park and having a picnic. There are also people around the park selling water for 1 euro, on the hot days they freeze them and it’s the best thing ever!!
If you are trying to stay on a budget while you’re in Barcelona, there are some great small cafés and restaurants in the back streets where you can find a meal for very little money, and if you go at lunch time you can often find 3 course meals for about 10 euros! However it is worth noting that all the restaurants in the city have a 10-20% surcharge if you eat outside, so to keep you meal cheap sit inside!
My top tip is to ignore the main sights and go and explore the back streets and the less touristy parts of the city. Its lovely to get a feel for what Barcelona is really like away from the ramblas and tourist traps.
Where are you off to next? Why have you chosen to go to that destination?
Barcelona was my first solo trip, I wanted to stay in Europe to make it somewhere more familiar; and wasn’t too much of a culture shock. It went so well, and I am not one to do anything by halves so last week I booked my next trip; 3 month overlanding through Nepal and India. I visited India for 2 weeks about 4 years ago with my dad but only got to see some of the biggest sights so I can’t wait to go and explore the country for longer, and Nepal has always been on my must see list.
Let’s be honest with my middle name; India has to be one of my first big trips
Haha love that connection! What three must-have items do you always take with you on trips?
Sleep mask and ear plugs – these are a must if you are staying in a hostel in my opinion, You will never be on the same sleeping pattern as everyone in your room so anything that can help keep you asleep is key. While I was in Barcelona I had some room mates coming in between 1-2am and another room mate waking up at 6am to start her day. Luckily with my sleep mask and ear plugs I could just turn over and go back to sleep.
Neutral clothing – If you are backpacking I think neutral clothing is key, that way everything goes together and you don’t have to look back at your beautiful pictures and wonder why you were wearing clothes that clashed! There is something eternally fashionable about a monochrome outfit.
Packing cubes – If you are on an extended trip I love using packing cubes as a way to organise your bag. You can have a container for tops, jumper, bottoms, undies etc. and easily find all your clothes. Otherwise I find that I end up wearing the same 2 outfits that are at the top of my bag everyday! Thank you to my step-bro for buying me these for my birthday (best present ever!)
And finally, what has been your favourite destination so far?
My favourite trip so far has been the Arctic, I went there when I was 18, and was one of the youngest on the boat by far! I flew into Svalbard and spent 2 weeks gliding through the ice heading north. We got to see some amazing glaciers, polar bears and walruses.
My best memory was sitting on one of the small RIB boats and watching a glacier calving what felt like a few meters away. We then raced back to the large boat, through the choppy water created by the ice falling into the sea- that was the best day of my life! We even saw a Polar Bear up close too!
If you’re a travel blogger and would like to take part in this guest interview series, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org