The Spanish Conquest, as Sonali had dubbed our Whatsapp group, was well and truly on. And ours was happening in the virtual space!
By mid-February we had already booked our air tickets.
Booking.com was the main site where our search for accommodation was centred around and it seemed like the ‘deals’ were disappearing at an alarmingly fast rate. Every day we would check in, only to have an ominous message blink back at us: “One spot remaining” or “last three spots left”.
Deciding that we needed to close the deals before we were forced to book more expensive accommodation we split the search for each of the cities among us. Each of us would try and shortlist some hotels/apartments based on price, location, ease of access to bus/train/metro stations and main tourist sites besides of course the comfort factor. She would then send the others the links and we would take a joint call on which ones would work best for us. Once that was done the same person who had initiated the accommodation search for that particular destination would make the online booking.
Online reservations, to our great relief, didn’t mean that we were locked in to our decision. If we found a better place we could always change our selection without any cancellation fee being levied. There was only one condition: reservations would attract charges if a booking was cancelled less than 7 days prior to the stay. Incidentally, online booking also did not involve paying any upfront deposit. We did have to provide our credit card numbers but the card would be charged only after we had checked in to the hotel.
We ended up booking apartments in all four cities as they were budget-friendly and came with a host of amenities, including a well-furnished kitchen that would enable us to rustle up a quick meal if we were in the mood for it. And, wonder of wonders, the apartments more than lived up to the “pictures” on the website.
Handy Tip: Google Maps is your best friend when it comes to figuring out distances and locations.
Bookings done, we thought we could go about researching the rest of the trip in a more leisurely fashion. After all, each one of us could focus on one city. And it would be done in no time at all. Right?
Organising a multi-city trip can be a nerve-wracking exercise. The big question that stares you in your face is where do you begin!
Random Google searches will throw up a multitude of city-specific not-to-be-missed sites that can make your head spin for hours! Strangely enough, it seemed like the universe was conspiring to unravel our holiday planning efforts. Sunday supplements would invariably pop up about Spain as a preferred destination. While you would think that it would make our life easier, it only complicated matters. Because many of these articles would focus on cities that we had left out of our itinerary. Suddenly we were wondering whether our selection of cities made any sense at all. Should we have dropped Sevilla from the itinerary and gone to La Mancha instead? What about Malaga? Or maybe Costa Brava? Random travel sites on the Internet ended up confusing us even more.
Finally we came to a decision. We were going for a 10-day trip. And we couldn’t cover all of Spain in that period. So let’s just focus on the South of Spain and the cities we had selected. We didn’t want the trip to be ‘a blur’ but a memory-making one. In an effort to help us focus, we bought a copy of the Lonely Planet’s Spain for the Indian Traveller. And decided to loosely follow some of their suggestions regarding places to visit. For instance in Barcelona, we simply had to make a trip to Sagrada Familia. And a visit to the Boquiera (which is considered to be a hot spot for foodies) couldn’t be missed. Besides, Barcelona with its beaches and bad boys on bikes held a different kind of promise! 😉 In Sevilla, how could we miss out on the Old Jewish Quarters and the Cathedral? And then, Granada with its Moorish legacy would be a highlight. Among the to-do’s in our rapidly growing list was a Flamenco show and a wine tour.
Deby’s research threw up a fantastic all-day tour, just 60 km from Barcelona. It included a visit to a centuries old monastery in Montserrat and a trip to a local winery. Before long we had booked ourselves on the tour.
All the big-ticket items were being checked off our list. Booking the train ticket from Madrid to Sevilla was done without a glitch. To keep the accounting simple, we had decided that each of us would pay for our own tickets. The Granada to Barcelona overnight train booking however took a bit of effort. Especially since we all wanted to travel together, and it was only after a couple of online chats with the Rail Europe people that we figured it was possible to book ourselves a T4 couchette (equivalent to a four-person coupe of Indian Railways). This was the only offline purchase we made before we left for Spanish shores.
For city-related travel sightseeing too, we decided to book in advance as far as possible. That would not just help us to beat long queues at ticket-counters at the various monuments/sites but also help us to defray the expenses of our trip, thus ensuring that we need not carry a whole bunch of cash while traveling.
Every adventure needs an attitude and ours was turning out to be a bit like that of Leonard Nemoy! Oh…and lest I forget, every milestone achieved involved a lot of sharing of Emoticons…. High Five, Victory Sign & the Dancing Girl were the ones that were used most often!!
To be continued…..