Shopping Online in Spain

Hello everyone! Right now the rebajas (sales which last the month of January) in Spain are in full-swing. This is a great time to pick up items you were eyeing while Christmas shopping. Sadly, I have no rebajas budget this year because I spent all my money during the holidays and I need to save for my next trip at the end of this month.

My family and roommates already know this, but I tend to be a bit of a shopaholic if I have some extra cash. I apologize if this is an “enabling” post for some of you! I’d like to share some of my favorite online shopping sites here in Spain. Almost all of these sites have a referral system which allow you to earn money to spend on their website.

1. Amazon BuyVIP – This site by Amazon offers discounts on different brands every day (it’s a bit like RueLaLa or Ideeli in the U.S.). The brands are normally good quality such as Diesel, Liebeskind, or Nike and you can find items more than 50% off the usual price. What annoys me is you can’t mix the brands in your shopping cart. So, if you want to order something from two different brands you have to put the items in your cart for one brand, pay, and then repeat the process for the other brand. This means you pay twice for shipping.

2. Vente-Privee – This is similar to the BuyVIP site. The website is a bit stranger and tricky to navigate, but you can find some good brands and prices here. Shipping prices are normally 6€ for each order, but sometimes shipping is free. Free shipping seems to be limited to larger items.

3. Groupon  – I used this site ALL the time when I was living in the U.S. Each day there are new deals on things available in your city such as services, goods, and vacations. You buy a voucher for the deal which is good for a certain amount of time before it expires. This is how I went on the all-inclusive trip to Mallorca last year. You can also buy something from “Groupon Goods”, for example an iPhone, and it’s shipped to you without messing with the vouchers. My most recent purchase was for a salon treatment and cut for 29€ which is normally worth 190€. Not too shabby.

4. Letsbonus – This is a company run by LivingSocial, which I also routinely used in the U.S. The idea is the same as Groupon. When you find a deal you want, just buy the voucher and redeem it later. They also have goods to buy without using the voucher.

5. Atrapalo – This site is different from Groupon or Letsbonus, because you don’t buy vouchers. You can find discounts on things such as, tickets, trips, and restaurants, but sometimes you must reserve the days and times at the moment of purchase.

6. Voyage Prive – This site only offers vacation packages. You can find some good deals, but it seems to cater more towards luxury travel (not that anything’s wrong with that). I haven’t had a chance to buy from here yet, but I often daydream while checking out the options. Right now there is a 5-star hotel in the Maldives for 5 nights in a water villa for just over 2,000€ with flights. Most offers have options for all-included and flights, plus the possibility to choose how many nights you want to stay. There are also some good offers within Spain.

7. Enolobox – I pretty much love this idea. You pay 25€ a month and receive three different wines with a write-up about what you are getting. If you have already tried just about every reasonable option in Corte Ingles or Carrefour (hey, I’m guilty too) then this is a good choice. The only problem is you have no control over what you get. During the summer I received a box of three white wines when I almost never drink white wine. With Enolobox you can earn points towards a free box of wine by participating in their online panel or inviting friends to join.

enolobox red wine

8. Restalo – You can use this site to make restaurant reservations anytime, but there are sometimes special offers, such as, 70% off if you reserve online.

9. El Tenedor – This is the same concept as Restalo. Sometimes I use these sites to check out new places or to see if a restaurant I want to visit is offering discounts for online reservations.

Some Tips:

  • Check the return policy whenever you are buying online. Some brands on sites like AmazonVIP allow returns while others don’t.
  • If you are interested in booking a trip or restaurant check their main website or a site like Tripadvisor for reviews, photos and maps. The photos on sites like Groupon are sometimes different from what you are really getting.
  • Before booking a trip or hotel you should read the special conditions because some deals aren’t valid during peak travel dates.
  • Also, don’t forget to pay attention to the expiration date for your vouchers! Don’t wait until the last minute to make your appointment before your Groupon or Letsbonus voucher expires, because their agendas fill up. Some places have been nice enough to accept the voucher after it expires, but not everyone will!

Lastly, happy shopping, everyone!

Do you have any favorite online shopping sites I missed??

Spain for the Holidays

Hopefully everyone had a relaxing holiday season. Reality and work had to continue eventually, right?

When I saw that flights home would cost about 1,000 euros I decided to stay for my first Christmas and New Years in Spain. This was the first year I spent Christmas without my family, but I really enjoyed my time here, so this holiday season was a bit bittersweet for me. Some things were exactly the same in Spain as in the United States, but other things (such as an extra holiday) were completely different. The length of holiday vacation was much longer than I am used to having. It began the afternoon of December 20th and I didn’t have to go back to work until January 8th. Of course, this is also because my holiday period is the same for school children, but when I was working in the U.S. I only had two days off; Christmas and New Years Day.

I spent the first part of my vacation and Christmas in Alicante, Spain. Even though I didn’t have very much time to relax, I really enjoyed being there! Also, the weather there was much warmer than the normal Maryland temperatures for December.

alicante oranges

Warm enough for oranges

At Christmas in the United States I normally devoured cookies and egg nog (every student thought this sounded disgusting). In Spain some popular sweets are polvorón and turrón. The national lottery is huge in Spain during the Holidays. On the 22nd of December, many people tune in to watch children “sing” off the drawings and prizes. Now, in the United States, I don’t believe children could play a role in the lottery. I guess it’s seen more in line as something like using children to promote tobacco or alcohol. Even though it seemed unusual to watch children take part in the national lottery, there doesn’t seem to be anything “wrong” about it to me. In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t win anything.

I rang in the New Year in Tarragona, which is in the northeast coast of Spain and a bit south of Barcelona. The city wasn’t very big, but there were some interesting spots to see such as the Roman amphitheater from the 1st and 2nd centuries.

Tarragona Roman amphitheater

 

statue in Tarragona

We stopped for some food at a place called Lola Tapes Platillos & Gins. I tried ortigas, a type of sea anemone, for the first time. They also had delicious small fried shrimp which you could eat whole and like chips. At night we watched the New Years Eve celebration in Sol and ate 12 grapes. The tradition is you must eat one grape for each midnight bell toll or you will have bad luck for the year. My students were shocked when I told them, in the U.S., we don’t eat grapes or anything special on New Years Eve.

On the first day of the new year we traveled to Andorra in the north. Before the trip a few people mentioned that Andorra was a great place for cheap electronics because there is no IVA tax there. I was sad to discover the prices seemed just about the same in Andorra and Spain. I thought the food would end up a bit cheaper, but that also seemed the same price. Restaurants seemed hit or miss. The places near the more touristy areas had horrible service. We were tired from the trip and just wanted a fast and relaxed dinner and a couple of beers, but we waited in two different places for at least 40 mins and were never offered to order food. The next day we picked up our ski rental equipment and made our way to Grandvalira. The place is huge and ski passes were 44 euros a day.  I was surprised by the amount of Russian tourists in Andorra. Those of you who know me probably know I’m accident prone. Towards the end of the first day I took a “heavy metal” spill/tumble and ended up spraining my wrist which put me out of commission for the rest of that day and the next.

Grandvalira Andorra

The second night in Andorra we tried a pizzeria listed as #1 in the town. L’Escenari de Pizzes was good but expensive for what it was. A plus was that almost all of their products are ecological. The wait times were a bit long and they only had one woman working as waitstaff.

My favorite restaurant we found in Andorra was Borda del Tremat. When we arrived the family was finishing their dinner. Then, the whole family pitched in to set up the restaurant for the night and they gave us olives and bread with garlic, tomato and meat. We ordered onion soup, salad, filet mignon, sirloin steak, apple pie for dessert and wine for only 70 euros. I really loved how it was decorated. It seemed to be an old barnyard or farmhouse.

A more luxurious, but expensive, place was Celler D’En Toni. The meat was delicious and tender, especially the mignon with cognac. The quality was a step up from Borda del Tremat, but it felt more cold and distant. There was a delicious chocolate coulant dessert for 9 euros.

The day before leaving we made a stop in the caldea, a giant thermo spa. The general admission for 3 hours was 37 euros. There is another ticket for 46.50 euros and 4 hours which gives you access to the top floor of the spa. Paying a bit more may have been worth it to escape the crowds. It was a bit difficult to relax with all of the people and children playing, but I enjoyed it.

Spanish children have a holiday that I didn’t have when I was growing up. Reyes Magos is a holiday on January 6th where the three wise men of the nativity bring gifts instead of Santa Claus. Many people eat some Roscón de Reyes, a round cake with a surprise hidden inside, and hot chocolate on this day. There are parades where the wise men throw candy to the children. I polled several students and They told me Christmas is becoming more popular in Spain. Most received gifts on either Reyes Magos or Reyes Magos AND Christmas. Few students only received presents on Christmas.

What holiday traditions did you celebrate this year?