When traveling, electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets can make things much more convenient. However, if they are out of power they are useless. Unfortunately some hostels may not have a plug for every bed. Sometimes it can be difficult to find an outlet in an airport or train station. Not every seat on planes and trains have outlets. And sometimes you might stay out all day past the point when your device would run out of power. However, that is where portable chargers come in handy. I have found them to be very useful and have used a handful of different varieties, but the Anker PowerCore 13000 is the best one I have found and is the one I currently use. Here are my thoughts on it:
The PowerCore 13000 has, as the name suggests, has 13,000 mAh. This term stands for milliamp hours, and is just a measure of battery capacity. I have found that the PowerCore 13000 can fully charge my phone multiple times without needing a recharge itself, and can bring my iPad from below twenty percent to fully charged.
The PowerCore 13000 has something called PowerIQ, which basically means that it charges devices quickly. It seems to recharge my devices even faster than if they are plugged into a standard outlet. The PowerCore 13000 fully recharges overnight, ready to go for the next day out.
The PowerCore 13000 is not the smallest or lightest portable charger, but it is very efficient with its size. It is 3.8 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches and weighs 8.99 ounces. You would be hard pressed to find another portable battery that packs 13000 mAh into a size that small.
With two USB outputs, the PowerCore 13000 can charge two devices at the same time. If your travel partner needs a charge they can plug their device into your PowerCore 13000. Or if they have their own you can take turns using each other’s, so you can have one in use and one recharging.
When everything above is taken into consideration, the Anker PowerCore 13000 is relatively very inexpensive. It costs around $37 on Amazon, and will occasionally go on sale also.
Slow double charge-
If two devices are being charged at the same time, the charging time for each is slowed down somewhat.
I highly recommend the Anker PowerCore 13000. It has worked extremely well for me and has proven to be very reliable. When the advantages and disadvantages above are weighed out, the advantages come out on top by far. I have been very happy with my purchase and continue to use it regularly.
I have talked about speakeasies in Barcelona in a previous post, but there some other great places that are hidden in plain sight. They do not require a password to enter, you just need to know where to find them. Here they are:
Caelum looks like it is just selling candies and sweets, but they offer more than that. Once you go inside, there are stairs that lead to a cool basement area where they serve a variety of cakes, small desserts, craft beer, good drinks, and a nice tea menu. It is easy to walk past but worth stopping in.
Kælkerkold is a great craft beer spot just off La Rambla. While many people walk past the spot, they do not know that inside Kælkerkold is a quality cocktail bar called Å Bar. Just go inside, go past the Kælkerkold bar, down a few steps, and you arrive at Å Bar. If you prefer craft beer to cocktails you can grab one from Kælkerkold and bring it back with you. It’s the best of both worlds.
Located around the corner from the Palau de la Música Catalana, Antic Teatre is another place that is very easy to walk past. However, once you enter and go up the stairs it opens up to a cool garden area where you can grab a drink and a snack. The prices are very economical for bar Iberian bar snacks like olives, and in terms of drinks they offer wine, beer, and cocktails. The wine or vermouth are probably the best value buys, as the craft beer they do have is a bit pricy, while the wine and vermouth are good and relatively cheap.
El Bosc de les Fades-
Connected to the wax museum just off La Rambla is El Bosc de les Fades. With some of the wax displays it is a bit magical and can be a bit creepy, but it is very unique. They don’t have anything amazing or unique in terms of food and drink, but they do offer good wine and sangria for good prices, especially when considering the unique fantastical forest setting and the proximity to La Rambla. They operate as a cafe during the day and a wine bar at night.
Located in the Gothic Quarter not far from La Rambla, Bar Jardí is an oasis in a tourist heavy part of town. Set amongst a bunch of shops, looks for the A-frame sign for Bar Jardí, go through the stores, and follow the neon sign up the steps. Once you go up the steps the garden bar opens up. They serve various espresso drinks, vermouth, cocktails, wines, and a few craft beers.
What I did and saw:
Salvador Dali was undeniably a unique person that was born in the city of Figueres. I was previously able to see many of his works at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, but the entire museum in Figueres was actually designed by the artist himself. Dali is buried in a crypt below the museum. It is one of the more interesting art museums I have ever visited.
Explored the city-
Thanks in large part to Dali and those inspired by him, there is some interesting art around the small town of Figueres. It is a nice small town to walk around with, like many Catalonian cities, a nice “Rambla” to walk down and many interesting side streets.
What I ate and drank:
Bocam is a very good restaurant that serves excellent local food with a unique flair. They even serve a dessert molded into an egg in honor of the nearby Dali Museum.
I stopped for a cappuccino at Dalicatessen, in view of the Dali Museum. I’m not typically a fan of espresso drinks, and it wasn’t the best cappuccino I’ve ever had. That being said, it wasn’t horrible and it was very conveniently located.
Casa Ribas is a nice play to go if you want to buy some wine. They have a very nice selection of local products.
Where I stayed:
Located a 15 minute walk from downtown, Hotel Emporda was a very nice place to stay in Figueres. It was very clean and comfortable, and the surrounding views were beautiful.
How I got around:
I reached Figueres by train from Barcelona through Girona. Once in Figueres I walked to get around the small town, and took a bus to visit Cadaques and Portlligat.
My favorite thing:
The main reason most people visit Figueres, and the reason I went, was to visit the unique Dali art and museum in his birthplace.
My least favorite thing:
As it is a small town, Figueres doesn’t have all of the options and amenities that a bigger city will offer. Don’t expect to find craft coffee or an excellent breakfast, but do expect to see some interesting pieces of art.
For next time:
If I am in Figueres again I would like to try out more of the local restaurants. I would also be interested in seeing more of the Emporda area.
Traveling by train can be a great way to get around the Iberian peninsula. The main train company in Spain is Renfe. They will usually open tickets up for sale about three months in advance, and their website is fairly easy to use. In addition to the Renfe website, Renfe trains will also show up on Loco2 and Google flights. If you find tickets through Loco2 you can book the tickets directly through them, but if you find them on Google flights you will need to be redirected to the Renfe website before you can purchase them. However, using Google flights allows you to compare the train times and prices to flight times and prices. I have traveled by train a handful of times, and here are my thoughts on train travel in Spain:
Trains give you freedom to move that busses, cars, and planes cannot provide. I don’t have to have my seatbelt on at all times, and I can get up and move around on trains. I can sometimes get carsick in cars and busses, but trains are smoother so I don’t run into that issue. Also, I can get move around, dont need seatbelt. The seats on long distance Spanish trains also tend to be more comfortable than most seats on planes.
No liquid limits and less waiting-
When going through airport security you cannot bring liquid in containers larger than 3.4oz (100ml). However, on trains you can bring a massive bottle of water (or wine) with you. Also, you don’t have to worry about arriving hours in advance to go through security, because you can usually get through train security in just a couple minutes, making for a less stressful travel experience.
Better for the environment-
Trains do significantly less damage to the environment than other methods of travel such as cars and planes. Riding on trains is one way to minimize your carbon footprint.
Seat not always assigned-
On some train routes seats are not assigned, and there may be a lack of open seats available. Also, the seats on trains where the seats aren’t assigned will usually be less comfortable than the seats on the trains with assigned seats.
Can be more expensive and take longer-
Many times train tickets in Spain can be significantly more expensive than a flight or a bus. Also, depending on which cities you want to travel between there may not be a direct train route between them, making other methods of transportation much faster (in addition to a plane already traveling at a higher speed).
No Priority Pass lounges-
If you have airport lounge access, you can sit in a relaxing area and get a free bite to eat and a free drink in many airports around the world. While there are some train lounges in Spain, they are not affiliated with a program like Priority Pass. Lounge access at train stations in Spain is typically only available if you have purchased a full price first class ticket.
Trains are my preferred method of travel when price and time are relatively equal to or better than other methods of transportation. However, when a flight will get me there much cheaper and quicker, it makes more sense to fly.
In the United State alcohol was made illegal from 1920-1933. During this time, know as prohibition, there were a number of speakeasies that served alcohol illegally. They were known as speakeasies because patrons needed to keep their existence on the down low, and they usually had a secret entrance and/or password required to enter. I was able to visit an original speakeasy that is still open in New York City. Although alcohol is currently legal in most parts of the world, some bars have brought back the concept of secret bars and opened them up to many parts of the world. I have visited hidden bars in places around the world, from Chicago to Montreal to Berlin. Barcelona also has some of these clandestine bars, and here are a few I have been able to visit:
Rooftop Smokehouse is one of the best places to get a deli-style sandwich in Barcelona, but they have a not so well kept secret inside their location in the El Born neighborhood. If you enter through what appears to be the door to the refrigerator, it opens up into one of the best bars in Barcelona. Unfortunately the secret has gotten out a bit and there will usually be a line and a wait to get in (which takes away from the fun of the speakeasy a bit), but once inside the taste of the drinks and their presentation are both world class. Their glasses are custom made to fit the unique style of their different drinks. They even have an extra secret room inside the speakeasy that you can access by renting it out for a few hundred euros, or if you happen to be lucky enough to be there when it is unoccupied they might let you in for a bit.
It may look like a barber shop, but I was told that they only cut hair there in “emergency” situations to maintain their cover. A password is required to enter, which can be found on their social media pages and changes monthly. After successfully delivering the password, a hidden door will open and lead into an excellent bar with tasty drinks with great presentation.
Tuxedo Social Club-
Tuxedo Social Club list their GPS coordinates on their webpage, but not their address. A membership card is required to enter, but you can sign up for a free membership on their website. Once you’ve registered, you can find the bookshelves on a small street near the Santa Caterina market and enter through them. There are a few rules to maintain the vibe of the speakeasy, so phone calls, photos, loitering at the entrance, an impoliteness are not permitted.
What I did and saw:
Spinola Bay and waterfront-
The island of Malta has some beautiful coastline to walk along. I walked along the water from St. Julian’s to Sliema, and the views were beautiful. There are also some nice places to sit and take in the views with a cup of coffee as well. I also stopped along the way to check out Saint Julian’s Tower, which was built in 1658 and has now been converted into a restaurant.
Victorian bathing pools-
Along the Sliema coast there are some small pools that have been cut into the rock coastline. It would be a nice place to go for a dip, but it was unfortunately too cold when I was there. Still, it is a great place to sit and relax even if you don’t go for a swim.
Where I ate and drank:
Pastizzi are light and flaky Maltese pastries that are typically filled with either mashed peas or ricotta cheese. Champs is a nice place to try them, and they are open all day and night.
Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters-
In addition to their spot in Valletta, Lot Sixty One also has a location in St. Julian’s. There are a handful of interesting restaurants in the same building, and there is also a nice outdoor seating area where you can enjoy the beautiful Maltese weather. They served me the best coffee I had while in the area.
Manouche Craft Bakery & Bistro-
At Manouche there are a handful of healthy food options and a large amount of tasty (but not so healthy) options. It is located close to Lot Sixty One in case you want a great coffee before or after your meal.
Pure Living is an excellent cafe. It is set in a basement with a layout than can be conducive to working or to relaxing. In addition to a number of delicious, healthy food and drink, they also sell a number of other products like Dr. Bronner’s soap and bamboo combs.
Coffee Circus Tigne-
Coffee Circus Tigne is a small, cozy little place that serves espresso drinks as well as filter drinks. While I was there I was able to get an Aeropress to go and take it to go enjoy more of the Maltese coastline.
Like their location in Valletta, Cafe Jubilee is a nice place to grab a bite to eat or a drink. They serve good food at good prices. While I was there I was able to try the Fenek Imtektek Bil-Hwawar U L-Laring, which was rabbit that is slow-cooked in spices and orange zest. I also was able to try a bit of their Nanna’s (Grandma’s) Ravioli.
Where I stayed:
Overall, Luma Residence was a nice place to stay. They do not have a 24 hour check in desk, but they can leave your key in a lock box if you are set to arrive at a late hour. The rooms were clean and comfortable, but there would be some noise late at night from the surrounding bars. It was a good jumping off point for day trips to places like Mdina and Valletta.
How I got around:
Due to its small size, Malta does not really have a train system. However, also due to its small size, many places in Malta are relatively easy to reach by bus or ferry. They offer a “tallinja” card that gives 12 rides for 15 euros, but if you travel at certain hours or on certain routes it will count as two rides. I was able to use the bus system to get to and from the airport, Mdina, and Valletta.
My favorite thing:
Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters is an excellent spot to get coffee and Pure Living is an excellent cafe with some great options. My favorite thing in Sliema, Gzira, and St. Julian’s was the walk along the beautiful Maltese coastline.
My least favorite thing:
St. Julian’s is a big party destination for many European tourists, and which turns some areas of town into dirtier places that stay loud into the morning. That being said, it really wasn’t that bad while I was there.
For next time:
Next time in Malta I would like to go to the Plaza shopping center and see the craft beer selection they have for sale there. I would also like to visit some beaches and see much more of the island including St. Paul’s Bay and Gozo, among others.
If you are looking to spend money in Barcelona, there are some excellent places to do so. However, if you are on a tight budget it is still possible to enjoy this beautiful city without spending too much. Here are a few of my tips for enjoying Barcelona on a budget:
Explore the parks-
Barcelona has some nice parks throughout the city, the biggest of which is the Parc de la Ciutadella. They are great places to go for a jog, have a picnic, or just hang out. When buying food for a picnic, grocery stores like Aldi, Lidl, and Mercadona can be great places to get lower-priced food. Also, Barcelona has some excellent local market that can allow you to taste some Catalonian delicacies for a fraction of what they would cost at a restaurant or bar.
Unlike restaurants in the United States, restaurants in Barcelona (and much of Europe) do not serve free water. However, they do serve inexpensive, quality wine that can sometimes be even cheaper than the water. While there are some places to get quality craft beer in Barcelona, wine will give you the most value for your euros by far. To get you fill of water you can bring a refillable water bottle with you and fill it up at the many fountains around city. The tap water doesn’t have a great taste, but it's free from fountains and there are plenty of other tasty things in the city.
Eat the menu del dia, pintxos, and tapas-
Monday through Friday many restaurants in Barcelona will offer a “Menu del dia.” It is a fixed price menu that will usually be between 9-15 euros and will usually include an appetizer, and main dish, a glass of wine, and a dessert or an espresso. Pintxos are small pieces of food on top of a piece of bread that are held together by a long toothpick. They will be displayed buffet style, and you pay per stick which range in price from one to a few euros. In Barcelona, tapas are small dishes that are meant to be shared, but unlike much of Andalusia they unfortunately do not usually come with a free drink. For tapas it is best to go as a group and order a handful of different tapas so you all try a variety of Catalonian cuisine. Also, when choosing a restaurant it is typically best to avoid restaurants located on main streets like La Rambla.
Take a free walking tour-
As I have recommended before, free walking tours can be a great way to begin to explore a new city. The tours usually last two hours or so, and at the end of the tour you pay whatever you think the tour was worth. My favorite free walking tour company is Sandemans, but there are a number of different good ones in many cities throughout the world. And if you want more freedom with your tour times and locations, GPSmyCity is a great app to use. You can customize your own walking tour and go on the tour at any time you please. They have both a free and a premium version.
Use hostels or points-
Barcelona has a ton of different hostel options throughout the city. I will usually use HostelWorld or Booking.com when looking for and booking hostels. In the low season (winter) the accommodation prices will typically be much cheaper than the high (summer) season. Also, using hotel program or credit card points (like Chase Ultimate Rewards points) can be a great way to stay on budget with accommodation.
Walk and use public transport-
Unlike much of the United States, the public transportation is pretty good in Barcelona. For most Barcelona visitors a T10 will give you the best value. It offers ten rides at slightly more than a euro a ride, and can be used by multiple people (as long as they each scan the card). Barcelona is a very walkable city (although be aware of pickpockets), and walking around can allow you to see the beauty of the city. If you don’t want to pay the entry fees to Barcelona’s famous landmarks (although the Sagrada Familia is definitely worth it), you can at least walk by and marvel at them from the outside. There are also some mini hikes you can do, such as Tibidabo, Montjuic, Bunkers, and Parc Guell, that offer some excellent views of Barcelona.
Take advantage of free museum days/times-
Many of the museums in Barcelona are free on certain days. Some you can just show up to, but with others you may need to reserve a time during the free period. The museums will list their free times on their websites, which could be weekly or monthly. Also, in front of the MNAC museum is the Magic Fountain, which is impressive in its own right during the day, and even more so when it is lit up at night.
Visit the beaches-
There are a number of beaches in the Barcelona area. In the city the beaches are lower quality, but they are more convenient and offer multiple free workout areas with basic equipment like pull-up bars. If you want to relax on a beach that is a bit nicer, Castelldefels, Sitges, and Vilanova i la Geltru are great options and just a short train ride away.
TouchNote is a great service I heard about from a friend while I was traveling in Austin. It sends postcards or cards from anywhere in the world (as long as you have an internet or data connection) to almost anywhere in the world using pictures you can upload into the app. It is an excellent resource for anyone that wants to send personalized letters or postcards, and it is especially great for travelers that want to stay connected for afar. When I used it I found it convenient and very easy to use. Once the app is downloaded, you select the type of card you want to send. Once you have selected your card you can select a layout, upload one or multiple personal pictures, and add a note to the card. Then you address the note and send it is printed and sent to whomever you want from one of TouchNote’s shipping centers. The prices are very affordable, usually just a dollar and change depending on the options you select (and they will often offer free premium trials!). It is great for many different occasions, including holiday cards, birthday cards, or just to say hello. I highly recommend giving it a try!
What I did and saw:
Valletta City Gate and The Triton Fountain-
Entering Valletta feels a bit like going in a weird time machine that mixes a variety of cultures. Due to the influence of the countries surrounding the island of Malta and the countries that have ruled over Malta, it has produced a unique mix of culture and history. It is a cool experience to walk into and through the old city of Valletta, which was founded in 1565, and take in the different cultural influences displayed there.
Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens-
The Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens are both free to enter, and it is well worth the trip. It provides great views of the island and the sea. Also, there is a display showing the filming locations for a variety of popular movies and TV shows that were filmed on the island such as Game of Thrones, The Count of Monte Cristo, Troy, Risen, Gladiator, Captain Phillips, World War Z, and a couple James Bond movies.
Siege Bell War Memorial-
During World War II Malta was attacked by the Axis forces due to its strategic importance in the Mediterranean, and it was one of the most bombed areas during the entire war. After being under siege for over two years, the Allied forces prevailed in a major victory. This monument is built to honor the siege and victory.
Where I ate and drank:
Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters-
Lot Sixty One serves up some excellent coffee in the old town of Valletta. They also offer some tasty pastries and bread. Also, I was also a fan of the simplistic, sturdy design of their coffee cups. It was the best cup of coffee I had during my time in Valletta.
The food at 67 Kapitali was unique and absolutely delicious, and they also had a nice selection of local beers. I had the “Bruna” sandwich, which contained Parma ham, creamy Brie, and homemade banana and almond chutney. It may sound strange but it tasted delicious. I also had a bit of a platter with some local Maltese cheese.
Theobroma Raw Cacao Collective-
If you are looking for some tasty chocolatey treats, Theobroma Raw Cacao Collective is a nice place to get them. Also, they are focused on sustainability and will give out a free chocolate if you bring your own container.
Cafe Jubilee is a nice place to grab a bite to eat or a drink. They serve good food at good prices. While I was there I tried their homemade cinnamon ice cream.
Nenu the Artisan Baker-
I had to opportunity to get some “Ftira” from Nenu’s which is a great place to get it. It is somewhat similar to a heartier version of a pizza, and it was very tasty.
The Beer Cave-
I was only able to spend a short time in The Beer Cave because I had to catch a bus, but it was a very cool place. It looks very inconspicuous from the outside, but after going down the stairs it opens up into a very nice space. They have a very nice beer selection, and I would definitely go back again next time I am in Valletta.
Is-Suq Food Market-
Is-Suq is a great place to go to try different Maltese foods. A number of different restaurants have stalls inside the market, and there is also a grocery store where you can buy a variety of Maltese food items.
Where I stayed and how I got around:
I visited Mdina via public bus on a day trip from St. Julian’s on Malta’s northern coast, where I stayed at Luma Residence. I would typically prefer to take a train over a bus, but Malta does not have much of a train system. However, because it is such a small island, the bus journeys from city to city are fairly short.
My favorite thing:
The food and drink in Valletta was excellent, but my favorite thing about Valletta was the mix of cultures and the history.
My least favorite thing:
Due to its geography, there are not many public transportation options in Valletta with the exception of a bus system. I tend to get carsick on long bus rides, but fortunately Malta is a small island so no bus ride is extremely long. Also, once inside Valletta it was very walkable.
For next time:
Next time in Valletta I would like to dive further into Maltese history. I would also like to check out Wild Honey, which was closed while I was there, and I would be interested in taking the ferry from Valletta to Sliema.
Wine is the typically drink of choice in Barcelona, and they do it very well. Typically if you order a beer in Barcelona you will be served an Estrella, which is a mass produced beer in Spain. However, much like the growth of craft coffee in Barcelona, there are a number of great places to find craft beer in the Mediterranean city. Here are a few of my favorites:
Mikkeller Bar Barcelona-
Mikkeller is a Danish nomadic brewing company with an outpost in Barcelona. The have a great selection of beers, great service, and some great rotating food offerings. They usually have a few different stouts (my favorite style) on tap, but always have plenty of good choices of a variety of different styles.
Brewdog is a Scottish brewing company with a location in Barcelona. They offer some excellent beer choices with excellent service. They also offer a beer school (free and paid versions) where they will explain the brewing process and let you sample different styles of beer. Brewdog also has an “Intergalactic Beer Visa,” which can be stamped at their various locations throughout the world to document your travels. It is free to obtain, and I got my first stamp at the Barcelona location.
Abirradero is a great location for craft beer with a variety of styles and 40 taps. They even offer styles such as mead and Gruut that can be harder to come by than other styles. In addition to some excellent beer, they also serve kombucha and have a great food menu and great service.
Ølgod and Kælderkold-
Ølgod and Kælderkold are great places to find a variety of different craft beer. Ølgod is located in the Raval neighborhood and has a more food options, while Kælderkold is just off La Rambla in the Gothic Quarter and has a whiskey bar located inside as well.
My favorite bottle shop in Barcelona is OKasional Beer. They have an excellent selection at good prices to purchase for later, and they have also recently expanded their space and offer a few beers on tap as well.
Edge Brewing is an excellent brewery started by American ex-pats. Although their brewery is rarely open, you can find their beers at many craft beer spots in the city. Ale&Hop has a nice beer selection and some super tasty sweet potato bravas. Cat Bar serves craft beer along with the best vegetarian burgers I’ve tasted. Olofson has a great beer selection and a variety of smoked food (they even smoke their whipped cream!). Garage Brewery is one of the more popular craft breweries in Barcelona, although they don’t tend to have an extensive selection of darker beers. Cerveseria La Mes Petita, like their name suggests, is a small place that serves some high quality brews from Ratpenat. Barna Brew has a limited selection of beers, but what they have is very good. BlackLab Brewhouse & Kitchen serves “Beer cocktails” in addition to their beers. Bodega Fermin my favorite place to get local tapas and craft beer. El Drapaire De La Cervesa Artesana has a great selection and is located near Placa Catalunya in the center of the city. Lambicus Bar and Lambicus Bottle Shop are the best places to get Belgian-style beers in Barcelona. Caravelle offers craft beer and some excellent food (they have even started selling the Impossible Burger), and they also offer good coffee and an excellent brunch. Rosses i Torrades only has a couple beers on tap, but they have an excellent bottle selection, and La Beata is another nice bottle shop that also has a bar in the Gràcia area. Chivuo’s, Bar Centro, La Central Hamburgueseria, and La Menuda are all great places to get good food paired with a craft beer. CocoVail Beer Hall was started by locals that went to university in Arizona and wanted to bring the American beer hall culture to Barcelona. They have a wide selection of craft beer on tap (although not usually any high gravity), and is a great place to watch sports. Some other great places to get craft beer in Barcelona are Kraftank, BierCab, La Bona Pinta, Beer’linale and The Growler. I would also like to check out Local Beer Barcelona, but their hours are fairly limited.
My name is Billy. I am a personal trainer and teacher. I love traveling, and wanted to share some of my experiences. I hope to inspire you to see, taste, and experience more of the world. Feel free to take some of my recommendations for your own travels. I also blog about health and fitness at CustomizeMyWorkout.com/blog