What to do in Barcelona – a solo travel guide

I’ve been to Barcelona twice before; the first time was a city break with the man and it rained a lot but we ate our weight in cheese; the second time was a relaxing pre-wedding trip with one of my besties. This time around, the plan was that I’d meet up with a US-based blogger/influencer who was stopping over in Barcelona as part of her much larger journey around Spain. Read on to find out why this turned into a solo travel guide, and what I got up to.
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As life would have it, as the day of my flight got closer, my Instagram buddy (that’s where we ‘met’) started to experience some issues that ultimately wound up with her being unable to fly out at all. I was gutted for both of us; I was so looking forward to getting to know someone new, all while exploring Barcelona and of course, taking hundreds of photographs – of the city, of each other. I’d really been looking forward to shooting some portraits.

I remember telling my mum on the day of my departure that I’d ended up spending 72 hours in Barcelona on my own. Her immediate response was, ‘but what a waste of money and time’, to which I answered, ‘why?’ I won’t lie; initially – mostly when I was lying in bed by myself at night – I was a tiny bit intimidated, but then I reminded myself that a) tons of men and women travel solo every single day, and b) a long time ago I took a flight to Dubai (solo) and ended up living and working there for two years.

Day 1
I waited until two days before I wanted to fly and managed to get business class flights cheaper than economy seats, both ways. I flew with Lufthansa and the whole experience was a breeze. Things were so breezy in fact, that I started to imagine that for once, I’d get active on my first day, maybe go for a walk to the beach with a stop off for coffee… Usually, wherever I go, I’m incredibly lazy the first day I arrive. Unless I’ve got in on an early morning flight; my usual MO is shower and food in bed. But due to how comfortable my journey was, I really thought I’d walk to the beach and go swimming.

However, as the entire length of my trip coincided with a city-wide taxi strike, the journey home took a little longer than expected. Because I was still relatively chilled after my flight, I took getting the Metro in my stride. Once you get on it, it’s air-conditioned heaven and when I came out, my hotel was less than a five-minute walk away. Once I’d stashed my luggage and had a quick shower and change of clothes, I walked down the block to what I believe was a knock-off Shake Shack (unless it’s a real Shake Shack and they changed the name slightly?). Anyway, they had no veggie options left (at 6pm!) so I ended up eating a stupidly healthy first meal of rice and beans with veggies. I told myself I would make up for it the next day…

Day 2
I woke up around 6am, changed into some joggers and took my camera to the beach. It’s just a straight walk down from my hotel, maybe around 15 minutes. Walking early is the best as you get to the see the streets super quiet (I think Barca is definitely a night owl town), and the sun isn’t too hot just yet. When I got to Barceloneta I just sat and watched the waves for half an hour. The beach wasn’t busy at all, but there were families taking a swim, and people smoking shisha; it was super chilled.

After walking back, I jumped in the shower and made myself presentable. I was determined to check out Espai Julio, a café/plant shop I’d spotted weeks before on Instagram. They opened at 10am but I got there around 930am to take pictures. Once they were open, the staff were so nice; all smiles, friendly and attentive. I ordered a bagel with cream cheese, basil and tomato (amazing), plus some chocolate banana cake and an oat milk latte. The cake was really nice and I was seriously surprised to discover it was gluten-free; I never touch anything that’s GF because it’s often dry and boring. But this was the total opposite. 
As you can see, Espai Julio is a gorgeous cavern of plants, magazines and travel books. To me it looks like one of those super popular VSCO filters, all warm and fuzzy tones.

Once I was carbed up, I decided to walk 40 minutes to Sant Pau Recinte Modernista, a former hospital with Art Nouveau interiors that was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. Although I had already paid around 20 euros for a 3-day Metro card, I wanted to get as much exercise in as possible, as there was no gym at my Ibis Styles hotel. Bearing in mind that the temperature was around 37 degrees, I was in no rush. 

It’s hard to describe the hospital itself; in some parts it’s so clean and sparse I had visions of it being a great location for a new American Horror Story series - with copious amounts of blood dripping down the white walls. Other parts are simply beautiful. Unlike Art Deco (my fave period) which was known for making even the most ordinary of objects beautiful; Art Nouveau was more about substance as well as style, so even though much of the details are intricate, the overall interior décor is one that definitely exercises a little restraint. 

I decide to walk back to the hotel, hoping to stumble upon something solid for dinner, but, like I said, Barca is more of a night owl town, and it’s not like all of the shops and restaurants are open at exactly the same time. I decide to seek out a place I’d visited last year, El 58. My bestie and I had epic memories of the meals we’d had there, so I was hoping it lived up to the same standards.
Mostly it did, but my first grilled shrimp was undercooked and while my salad was very pretty, they’d dumped a whole load of sprouts on it – which I hate! However, the vegetable risotto was still very, very good. 
Once I got back to the hotel I fancied that I’d get changed, dress up and go out for a drink at Solange; a truly beautiful, decadent-looking place. The interiors are truly to die for and the bar staff seriously know their stuff.
But I fell asleep.

Day 3
It’s a Sunday, which basically means you should feel free to stay in bed for as long as you like, as, in Barcelona (most of Spain in fact) Sundays are still a rest day. Yes, many shops are open but many (I’m looking at you Sephora) are not. That makes Sunday a great day for the beach or just mooching around. I decided to head straight to the Gothic Quarter, and this time, I used my Metro card. Honestly, it makes things so much easier, and of course, you don’t sweat anywhere near as much. The Gothic Quarter is the perfect place for vintage shopping – in fact it’s where I picked up my second wedding outfit (a red tango dress). You mostly pay by weight so you can get some beautiful pieces a lot cheaper than you’d have to pay in London, for instance. From cowboy boots to eighties denim, Barca’s vintage offering is solid, but you should be prepared to do a lot of digging. 

Once I’ve wandered around taking pictures of skateboarders and tourists long enough, I decide to head to Chok, a shop that’s housed in a former chocolate factory, and uses chocolate in everything, from crisps to tea to doughnuts. I sit down with a blueberry doughnut (I eat half), a mini lemon meringue one and an oat milk latte. The coffee is okay, but the doughnuts make it better. 
I head back out to wander around and take in the sights. There’s a woman singing opera right there in the street and she has the most beautiful voice, it almost brings me to tears. Next up, an old man with very shaky hands asks if he can take my picture. I say yes, because I have exactly nowhere to be. Which I love!
I quickly pop onto Instagram to ask a friend who used to live in Barcelona if she has any suggestions for food and people-watching. She tells me to check out Kino Café, a grungy place that has a loose Hollywood movie theme to it – I love it. There are mugshots of Jimi Hendrix and other celebs on the walls, as well as blown-up shots of Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper. The staff are tatted-up and lovely and it's the perfect place to people-watch. I order a Vermouth and just chill. Then I order another one…

When I’m ready to head home, I decide I need some gelato, and only the best will do. I encountered Gocce di Latte on my first trip to Barcelona, but this time, I stumbled upon it at a different location. The lady behind the counter told me this was a newer store, selling only vegan options. I was totally taken aback; everything looked amazing, and knowing that it was dairy-free definitely made my skin happy. However, I thought ‘sod it’, and headed to the original Gocce di Latte instead. I tried the pistachio, hazelnut and lemon curd flavours in a cone (dairy). And then asked for a scoop of turmeric (also dairy). Everything was packed with flavour, and so smooth and creamy. And the lady behind the counter was kind and friendly.

I walk home through the stunning Parc de la Cuitadella – it’s like something out of an old Sinbad movie and has to be seen to be believed really.

Last day
The next morning I head back to Espai Joliu; I really wanted to shoot the portrait of one of the waitresses there; she has such an amazing smile. Unfortunately for me, she’s not working that day. So I just sit and enjoy my feta, olive and sundried tomato bagel and iced matcha. I decide to head to Sephora to get some last minute beauty buys and mentally prepare myself for the journey to the airport. The taxi strike isn’t over; in fact, it’s spread to many other Spanish cities. I try not to moan about the thought of the heat plus my luggage plus public transport, and I do pretty well, until my lack of Spanish leads me in the opposite direction to the airport.

Nevertheless, I make it – thank God I left myself a two-hour journey time! An older man takes pity on me in some random station, and tells me exactly how to get to the airport. It’s a bit of a trek to get into the airport from the Metro, but that’s because of the taxi strike – it’s heaving with holiday-makers. I remind myself that I’ve had an amazing experience, all to myself and take everything as it comes.

Have you ever travelled alone? What are your solo travel tips?

 

What happened when I tried a three day water fast

First up, I decided to do this water fast for quite a few reasons, but losing weight wasn’t one of them – if you want that kind of info there’s tons on Google… Below I explain the why and how of what happened.
 Image: charissekenion.com

Image: charissekenion.com

Why did I decide to do a three day water fast?
I like to eat. I work out five or six days a week, and I’d be lying if I said that the reason I commit to so many sweaty hours is because I want a six pack. I really don’t – if anything I really want to feel strong, but also… I like to eat, and nobody can tell me that what I eat, or when I eat, or how much I eat, doesn’t affect not only my weight gain/loss, but also how I feel
Because I like food, and because I had just spent three days exploring Barcelona on my own, enjoying gelato and risotto and cheese of course, I decided it would be a good idea to clean up my system. For the longest time I have known that I have crappy digestion. I definitely try and improve upon it where possible – I am an intermittent fasting convert (look it up), meaning I don’t eat after 6pm, and I try to drink at least three litres of water a day.

Due to this ‘sluggish’ digestion, I often (though less and less) experience bloating, water retention all over, and spot-prone skin. In the past I also suffered from IBS, which is no fun at all. But a lot of that was attached to the fact that I was dating a horrible person – seriously, the minute I left, my IBS left too.
Also; I’m dire when it comes to discipline. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to the gym I have got consistency nailed. But when it comes to food, I’m all about enjoying it. I know my weaknesses – cakes (I love to bake) and chocolate, and I’m not good with deprivation at all. For me, food is a part of life that can be enjoyed and I don’t need to police myself. However, because I’m vain, I would love to wake up one morning without a single zit on my face, so the thought of a cleanse tempted me – even though I’ve heard that a water fast can make your skin go bad, before you see any ‘good’. 

Here’s how my water fast went
Day 1 Tuesday
 
840am
I wake up and have my first drink of water, 450ml.
Usually I have 400/500ml of water first thing. If I’m going to the gym that morning ( I only do mornings – it just won’t happen otherwise) I’ll follow it with a cup of coffee, plus two teaspoons of Coffee Mate and coconut sugar ( can’t give it up, sorry) and I’m good to go. For the duration of the three-day water fast I decide to give the gym a miss. I’ve already missed out on three days as I’ve been travelling in Barcelona, so now seems the perfect time to start a fast, rather than jumping back into the gym only to stop again after a few days. At such an early stage, all I’m worried about right now is missing my coffee. I have two cups a day, three if I’ve baked that day because coffee and cake is a no-brainer. 

850am
I’ve already decided I would take today off – I’ve backed-up my social client work and my next deadline is six weeks away. So, I decide to catch up with some trash TV; Real Housewives of Potomac (probably the worst one in the franchise but that’s why I watch it) and Basketball Wives. Just as I get comfortable I feel a pang of sadness - my usual trash TV behaviour always, ALWAYS involves coffee.

9am
500ml

130pm
I nap for an hour. I don’t nap!

430pm
500ml
My hubby goes downstairs to make some food and of course I can smell every single ingredient wafting up the stairs to our room. What do I do to distract myself? I look up recipes for mac and cheese because that’s what I plan on eating on Friday when my water fast ends. I find a Gordon Ramsay recipe that blends cauliflower cheese with mac and cheese, and decide to give it a go instead of my usual family favourite. The rest of the day passes without incident. You know what – not eating is way less challenging that cutting calories. Who’d a thought it?

Day 2 Wednesday
610am
I wake up with a stabbing headache that lasts about two minutes. I drink 450ml of water and stay in bed for an hour. This was a day when I thought I’d get on with some work but instead it’s turned into us having to quickly book a hotel for two days (seriously, do not ask). I cannot tell you how dizzy I feel on zero food, so having to find a hotel at the last minute, at a non-extortionate price, then pack a bag and ensure all my work bits are in there has been stressful to say the least. Even writing this I feel a bit fuzzy. And annoyed. But hey, gotta get on with it, fast or no fast.

2pm
It's late afternoon and I’m sitting in a hotel lobby waiting for our room to be ready. I cannot tell you anything apart from the fact that once I enter that hotel room I am going to BED.

730pm
Hubby comes home after eating a meal outside (so as not to tempt me to eat anything) and we spend the rest of the evening watching old films.

Day 3 Thursday
7am
Daniel has to go to work, so I figured I’d do some work before I have to check out at 12pm – to check into a different hotel (sigh). I get up out of my hotel bed and boy do I regret it. Instantly I am seriously, perhaps dangerously, wobbly. I throw myself back onto the bed and decide to take a drink of water before I try to get up again. I sip 400ml, take a few deep breaths, and get out of bed again. Again, I’m super wobbly – it’s such an alien feeling. Like brain fog has taken over my entire body. Again I sit, and again I get up and it’s still the same. I notice I’m sweating a lot, as if I’m hungover, or have the flu. My forehead is hot and sweaty. I start to read up about water fasting again and remember that a while back, I’d heard Tim Ferriss (one of my favourite podcast hosts) say that when he does a three day water fast he starts the first day with three or four hours of walking, to push the process along. It’s way too late of course, but I start to wonder if that’s what I should have done. I tell myself fresh air will do me good, so I put some clothes and sunglasses on and head outside. 

9am
By now the area that my hotel is in is buzzing with office types grabbing coffee, catching up or having a quick cigarette before work. I decide to walk along the canal instead of through them as I swear my co-ordination is seriously off-kilter. I start to think people must assume I’m drunk, because hungover would definitely describe how I feel. I check my Fitbit and see that my heart rate is pretty high considering I’m walking so slowly. I guess it makes sense. After 20 minutes of profuse sweating I decide to head back to my room; I’m going to need to gather all of my strength to make the trip to the next hotel, which is another 20 minute walk away. I drink a litre of water before I do anything else.

12pm
200ml
I’m on my way to the other hotel and the sun is beating down. I feel like I’ve been travelling 24 hours straight, and can only assume that I smell the same (hub says I don't so I'll take that...). I wait in the lobby for Daniel to finish work. When he arrives he can see I’m wilting. He tells me he's impressed that I've done 24 hours, let alone 72. I start to wonder if I should end the fast early; the following day I have an important doctor’s appointment early in the morning. I feel that if I don't end the water fast soon, I will have to cancel the appointment and wait goodness knows how long for another one. I decide to finish my fast eight hours early. I'm sick of feeling sick. I think if we were at home, things might have been different.

1pm
I’ve made my decision; I’m going to break my fast. Daniel works in a cool café that does the most amazing sourdough toast, and that’s all I want. I walk (wobble) there and tell his colleague that I need toast with a latte at the exact same time and why I need it. She’s very understanding and while she prepares my order she asks me what made me do a water fast. I explain, all the while sweating politely. I realise that I’ve done pretty damn well. Especially after reading that your first fast should be ‘just’ 36 hours…
Eating that sourdough feels like my taste buds are tasting food for the first time. I chew more slowly – I can taste every nuance of the bread. I spread on jam and the sweetness of the strawberries is so intense, I scrape some of the jam back off. My coffee tastes rich and creamy. I start to feel like all the cells in my body are waking up, as if they’ve been in hibernation. I can literally feel the food fueling my entire body.

4pm
Daniel went out to get Nando’s and brings me back some Peri Peri chips. Again, my tastebuds burst with flavour. Have Peri Peri chips always tasted this good? 

My feedback during:
Some of you might find this TMI, but I did not go to the toilet for anything other than a wee between 9am on the first day and 9pm on the third. And I'm someone who goes every single morning at 6am. Sorry!
My resting heart rate was the lowest it has ever been during the water fast, putting me in the ‘very good’ category according to my Fitbit.
I didn’t really have any crazy hungry moments, although I definitely got a little hangry when the hotel stuff happened. 
Excess bloat around my middle disappeared. I start to imagine myself as a surfer chick...
My skin didn’t go crazy, as expected.
I maintained 2.5 to 3 litre water consumption each day.

My feedback now:
I am 100 percent going to do a three-day water fast at least once every few months. It’s made me look at food differently, as in, I don’t have to have all the cookies right away. It’s also made it far easier to stick with my intermittent (10am-6pm) eating. I’m also going to incorporate 36 hour fasts every six weeks or so.

What do you think? Have you ever tried fasting? How long for? Let me know if you have any questions below...