Introduction: Spring Break in Spain

Hello to my fellow blog readers, I am Maanasa, Teja’s little sister. You’ve probably read about me by now considering I somehow always make it into the complaint column on any of my brother’s blog posts. (Though to be fair it’s really not my fault half the time 🙂 ) Just a few words before I begin. Move over Teja, there’s a new sheriff in town!

Introduction: Spring break in Spain
British Airways Club World DFW-LHR
British Airways T5 Galleries South Lounge @ Heathrow
The Westin Palace Madrid
Renfe Preferred Class Madrid-Seville
Renfe Preferred Class Lounge – Seville St. Justa
Hotel Alfonso XII Seville
Strolling through Seville
Sights and Sounds of Majestic Madrid
Iberia Business Class Lounge Madrid Barajas
Iberia Business Class Madrid-Barcelona
The W Barcelona
Exploring Gaudi’s Barcelona
The Hilton London Heathrow Airport T5
American Airlines New Business Class LHR-DFW

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Teja: “I saw some awesome BA Club World fares from DFW back in October using the AARP Discount, and I jumped on the tickets since it was available during my sister’s spring break. Spain has always been on our bucket list and we were disappointed that we missed out on it last time. And plus I couldn’t find a better opportunity to embarrass my sister and her poor high school Spanish 😀DSC00119

The airport in Madrid was gorgeous and very different in terms of architecture and ambiance from any other airport we had seen. My dad was especially fascinated by the design of the ceilings and the airiness of the terminal.

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Up until this past spring break I had taken up to 4 years of Spanish in high school and always was in awe of Spain’s authentic culture and language. Although the dialect spoken in Spain is different from that taught in the United States, it is somewhat easy to follow the everyday conversations of people if you carefully listen. Before coming to Spain I heard some horror stories about foreigners getting pick-pocketed and robbed in their hotel rooms. However during our trip we experienced none of that. Instead we found Spain to be extremely welcoming of tourists and the Spanish people to be some of the friendliest in Europe.

The Spanish food on the other hand  was not as suitable for vegetarians (like me) as I hoped it would be. Spain’s most popular dish known as “Tapas” consists mostly of ham and fish, which pretty much made Spanish food a big no for us. However Spain did have an incredible selection of great Indian and Italian restaurants, so we never really starved ourselves 😀  I think it is also important to note here that Spain is perhaps one of the most affordable countries for fine restaurants. No meal cost us more than 80 Euros, which can not be said for any other place we had been to in Europe. 

Some of the best Italian food we had anywhere @ L’Oca Giuliva in Seville

Our trip was broken into three parts: Madrid (4 days), Seville (2 days), Barcelona (2 days). We planned on going to Cordoba and Segovia, but unfortunately we did not have enough time to visit  (maybe another time 🙁 ).

We stayed 5 nights at the Westin Palace Madrid using our SPG points. It was great deal considering that it was only 12,000 points/night, in addition to the 5th night being free. This essentially brought down the cost per night to 9,600 points/night, which is an awesome deal on one of the city’s best hotels.

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We took a high speed train to Seville from Madrid Atocha station the morning after we arrived, since Madrid was a bit rainy that day.

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Seville, on the other hand was clear and sunny, which made it a perfect time to stroll the streets. I had always longed to see the famous Moor influenced architecture in Spain. It was interesting to learn that many cities became heavily inspired by their creations due to their occupation of Spain for nearly 700 years. The city of Seville for one, has built many structures that have been inspired by the Moors, including the famous Alcazar, Giraldi Tower, and our favorite Plaza de España :DSC00334

In Seville, we stayed at the Hotel Alfonso XII on points. Rates exceeded 1000 Euros, so spending 20,000 points for one night seemed extremely reasonable.

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Most of Seville is extremely pedestrian friendly and almost car free and so we walked around the city rather than taking a cab. Besides all the attractions are just minutes away from the Hotel Alfonso XII. 

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After our short excursion to Seville, we spent 3 more nights in Madrid, where we visited the Prado Museum, Royal Palace, Palacio de Cibeles, among other places. We found Madrid to be a lot more expansive than Seville so we did have to take a cab to certain farther off places.

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We found Madrid to be extremely organized despite the chaotic look one gets from the lookout above the Cibele Palace. The streets were extremely clean and we never felt unsafe or out of place at any point.

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My brother just had to have me take a jumping photo outside in front of the Royal Palace. Luckily there weren’t too many people watching 😀

The last 2 days of our trip were spent in Barcelona. We ended up flying because train tickets were extremely expensive at the time. And besides Barca was only a quick hour long flight from Madrid. We used 9000 Avios/ticket to book this flight in Iberia Business (economy wasn’t available).DSC00494

As soon as we landed, I felt like Barcelona was very different from Madrid and Seville. It had more of a modern side to itself as compared to the other two . The city itself was in a bit of disarray whether it was because of the Gaudi architecture or the organization of the streets. 

We stayed at the iconic W Barcelona for a night. Rates were fairly reasonable at under 200 Euro a night, and we were able to upgrade to a suite owing to our SPG Platinum status. The beach alongside the hotel borders the Mediterranean Sea and is often crowded during the weekends. (Luckily since we hadn’t visited during the peak season it was for the most part very calm.)

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If you are a fellow photographer like my brother, the major hotspots are: Park De Guell and the Sagrada Familia. Park de Guell is a huge park and cannot be covered in one entire evening and it is recommended that you take a taxi since it is outside the city’s center. Views of the city are extraordinary from the park due to its location on the hills above the city. 

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Inside the monuments park and a few stairs up from the entrance is low and behold the perfect spot to take you iconic Barcelona pictures. The view encompasses the scenery of the city and a few of the park’s most famous structures. It is definitely worth it to get your picture here, you just have to be patient and wait for your turn. (There are also more photo spots in the no fee area of the park, which I will talk about later)

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The second hotspot for photographers in Barcelona is the church, Sagrada Familia, a structure that will not be finished until 2020. As a note: it is important that you buy your tickets online for you visit, otherwise you will be spending too much time in the lines and not enough time inside the church. And believe me you will want to see it! In comparison to other well known churches in Europe such as the Notre Dame or St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sagrada Familia brings forth the prevalent Gothic architecture in Spain and adds colorful extensive windows that truly exemplify awe and wonderment.

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Since we had time left over after our visit to Sagrada Familia, we went to Pablo de Espanol, a small square a few kilometers outside of Barcelona’s city center that is a great place for kids to play and have fun. (Note: Even though it was easy to get a taxi to go here, it was very difficult for us to catch a taxi back to the  hotel. Be prepared for a long wait.)

The square also contains many stores that showcase exquisite glass works and handmade jewelry that are for sale. (If you’re like me and you are fascinated with jewelry this is definitely your place to explore.) Most of these places however only take cash, so if you’re wanting to buy some of these things make sure to have some Euros on you. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to go to Camp Nou for the FC Barcelona match, tickets were sold out well in advance :(. We did get Barcelona jerseys though to take a few pictures in the city (we are huge Lionel Messi fans).

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Our week went by faster than I could’ve realized, it was difficult to say goodbye to Spain. The people, the culture and language are different than any other place we have ever visited. Furthermore, we found Spain to also be one of the cheapest European countries we had been to with most museums and attractions offering large discounts or free admissions for students. I highly recommend everyone to take the time to explore this beautiful country, because you will not be disappointed. It was now time for our flight back to London and onward back to the U.S 🙁

On our way back home we spent a night at The Hilton London Heathrow Airport T5. We had dinner at the awesome Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen, which was supposedly one of the best restaurants in London. The ambiance of the restaurant and the decor was especially unique and we thoroughly enjoyed our time catching up with a few friends who live in the UK.

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Our flight back the next morning was on one of American Airline’s new 777W aircraft, which featured the new reverse herringbone seat. It was nice that I didn’t have to jump over a fellow passenger to get to the aisle 😉 My brother will talk more about the flight later on this series.

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Have you ever been to Spain? If so where and what are your thoughts? 

I’ll turn it over to my brother for a short while now for his review of BA Club World.