Which of the following is your favorite kind of accommodations when you go away on holidays – hotel, B&B or apartment? My vote is for the apartment because of convenience of having your own kitchen (and coffee maker) and the B&B for connecting with the locals.
I have found, in my experience, that many hotels feel somewhat faceless, if you know what I mean. Having said that, however, on our latest trip to Spain we stayed at the Regina Hotel in Madrid. It was in an excellent location (so close to all the museums!) and it wasn’t overly large. I’d recommend it as a fuss-free kind of place where you’re not stretched outside your comfort zone. This means that all the food you get in their dining room and bar are familiar and everyone speaks English. In fact we did not hear Spanish spoken by anyone except the house maids!
Although comfortable, such hotels, in my opinion, often insulate you from experiencing the true flavor of a place. Contrast our hotel experience in Madrid with that of Barcelona. We stayed in two different apartments, both in the residential neighborhood of Eixample. Both places were close to all the Gaudi sights including the Sagrada Familia. (This is the famous architect’s church that is expected to take up to 50 more years to complete.)
The first apartment was in a modest apartment block, about six stories high. This was a slightly more working-class part of the Eixample. The apartment was furnished Ikea-style but it was clean and spacious. Of course, when you are living in a true residential neighborhood you also hear the sounds of real life – like dogs barking, people talking, and occasionally, music. The tenant who lived directly below us even had a German Shepherd in his apartment – and he wasn’t the only one!
Most apartments in Barcelona are multi-story built around a courtyard-like center area. Some people create little gardens in their space – but regardless of what they do, everyone who lives in the complex (and often neighboring complexes), looks out onto their “yard”. Forget about privacy!
One thing you see a lot of in the residential areas are clothes being dried outside on balconies. Because of the way the older buildings were constructed there is no outside wall on which to place vents (at least that’s what I think). There are washers in the apartments but the drying is done on clotheslines that are attached to cords on balconies or or on free-standing drying racks in the apartment itself.
Natural light (apart from the light of windows that face the street) comes from what I would describe as a “window well”. This appears to be an old way of constructing buildings but I have no idea whether they still do this for new construction. Picture a square building with apartments on each floor. Now picture an elevator shaft in the middle of this building – but without the elevator. Top this tube-like space with a clear “roof” above it so as to let the light in but bad weather out. Now add windows on every floor facing this space. This is the way light is brought into the “back” of the apartment. People keep these windows open a lot so it is very easy to hear, and sometimes see, what is happening in your neighbor’s suite.
Our last apartment in Barcelona, which is also pictured here, was the nicest because it was a mid 19th century building with wonderful architectural details. It was located in the midst of other fabulous apartments in this more upscale part of the Eixample. The price of the room included a breakfast that was decidedly Spanish and delicious. If you’re curious about this place google “The Chimney Room” in Barcelona.
What about the price you ask? Both apartments cost us $90 Euros per night – which is approximately $125 per night US or Canadian. This was less expensive than a “Motel 8″in Drumheller, Alberta! So next time you travel consider some different types of accommodations – you’ll be glad you did.